Archive for 2011

One hundred years of transcontinental flight

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

This morning I am in Long Beach, California. Situated right on the water, it’s a major port as well as a great place to fly. I am here to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the first transcontinental flight.  Cal Rodgers launched from Sheepshead Bay, New York, determined to cross the continent. It was no easy task. He suffered multiple crashes and serious injuries, and before all was said and done, he lost the sponsorship that had allowed him to undertake the flight.

Cal Rodgers flew the "Vin Fiz" from New York to California, landing in Long beach 100 years ago.

But Long Beach leaders had the foresight to recognize that completing a transcontinental flight was important and could, some day, change the way we travel. They offered Rodgers, who was recovering from injuries suffered in one of his many crashes, $5,000 to complete his flight in Long Beach. And so he did, landing in the Pacific surf and making history.

I don’t know if Rodgers and the Long Beach leaders who helped him complete his dream could have imagined where we would be today, 100 years later.

Today flying across the continent, and even around the world, has become routine. Thanks to modern air travel, we can cross vast oceans, trackless deserts, and the tallest peaks without any of the dangers or hardships travelers have faced throughout human history.

If you are reading this, chances are you are a pilot, or at least have a strong interest in aviation. But for millions of Americans, aviation is something more abstract—and many of them have never even heard of “general aviation.”

Fifty thousand people greeted Rodgers when he landed in the surf at Long Beach.

But here’s an idea to keep in mind, and share with the non-pilots in your life. Even Americans who never set foot in an aircraft depend on general aviation. Anyone who has received an overnight package has benefited directly from our general aviation system. Law enforcement, fire fighting, emergency medical transport, traffic reporting, disaster relief, search-and-rescue operations…all of these things are made better and more efficient through the use of general aviation.

One hundred years ago, powered flight was brand new. There was no GPS to help you find your way; no weather services to help you avoid storms; and no air traffic controllers to monitor the skies. There weren’t even any airports. Back then, aviation was reserved exclusively for the most daring among us.

That is no longer true. In fact, today almost anyone can become a pilot. I have met individuals who learned to fly in their teens and others who learned in their 80s.

Rodgers suffered multiple crashes and serious injuries along the way, but he ultimately completed his transcontinental flight.

Learning to fly can be challenging and earning a pilot certificate is a big accomplishment. But you don’t have to be a genius to do it. You don’t have to be a math wiz. And you don’t have to be rich to be a pilot or own an airplane—in fact many wonderful, reliable airplanes can be had for less than the price of a new car.

And there’s something else everyone should know about flying, something that drove early aviators like Cal Rodgers, and something you can only fully experience when you are at the controls. FLYING IS FUN. Really fun! Taking off and climbing effortlessly above the Earth is one of the most joyful experiences you can have. The spirit soars and you are free.

Humankind has dreamed of flight since we first looked up and marveled at the birds. Today, the power of flight is within the grasp of each of us.

I encourage anyone who has ever dreamed of flying to take action.

A map of Rodgers' flight. Note the number of crashes along the way.

Getting started is easy and AOPA can help with the tools and information you need. Visit our website at Then come to the airport, talk to pilots, and take an introductory flight. You’re sure to discover that the joy of taking flight is as powerful and transformative now as it was 100 years ago.

Speaking and shopping in Atlanta

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

So far, this has been just about a perfect day. Why? Because I got to fly a little, talk with some of my fellow pilots, and do a little shopping for, what else, aviation supplies at Aircraft Spruce.

I started my morning in Frederick, where we loaded up the airplane and were soon headed south toward somewhat warmer weather and a truly warm welcome from the members of the Atlanta Aero Club. At the club’s luncheon, I spoke about the big issues and accomplishments of the year—and there have been some great ones, starting with no user fees and no new state taxes. I also talked a little about the challenges likely to face us in the 2012 elections.

It was no surprise that the club members were well informed about local and national issues—and that they’re ready to get engaged in the election process to help protect our freedom to fly.

Aircraft Spruce

If you're ever in the Atlanta area, you won't want to miss a visit to Aircraft Spruce. You can find just about anything you, or your airplane, could ever need.

After lunch, I headed outside Atlanta to Aircraft Spruce. This place is a wonderland for pilots and aircraft owners and business was booming. With everything from pilot supplies to the latest technological innovations and aircraft parts, it’s the perfect place to do a little holiday shopping for the pilot on your list—even if that pilot is you.

I had a great conversation and tour with Don Arrington, who manages the facility, and several other members of the Aircraft Spruce team. They clearly care about delivering the best products and service to their customers.

Over the next few days I’ll be heading west for more meetings and the chance to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the first transcontinental flight. Stay tuned….

A visit with Don Arrington (left) and some of the team at Aircraft Spruce.

Someone Called Today “Gray Saturday”

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

So, I heard that the day after Black Friday (yesterday) is considered to be “Gray Saturday” (today).  And, on this day, we are supposed to stay out of the giant malls and shop at small, independent stores.

While I know not who comes up with this, it was all I needed.

While others were stuck in traffic, I traveled to my chosen retailer in a relaxed environment.  Upon arrival, the fine people at this establishment had a parking space just feet from their front door and someone actually was out to assist with parking.  On top of this, they served hot dogs and fueled my vehicle while I shopped.

Yes, today was a day for taking out the Bonanza and making a trip to Sporty’s!

It was a nice VFR flight and fun to see our friends there.  It was a short visit for me as I promised to be back in time to catch a movie….but, it was great to see so many people out enjoying their afternoon at an airport.

Of course, there are a few pictures….this first one shows me crossing into Ohio….

The folks at Sporty’s were parking planes near the entrance (and the hot dogs) as we arrived…..

The trip home was definitely faster with a nice tail wind and a 190 kt ground speed.  Crossing from West Virginia into Maryland, there are more and more hilltops with windpower…

A Lot More than “Infrastructure”

Friday, November 25th, 2011

I know they call it black Friday, but all we had here in the Frederick area was blue sky.  So, I headed out low over the West Virginia mountains for a late lunch at The Greenbrier Airport KLWB).  It is a beautiful flight any time of the year.

On the way back, I spied the Point of Rocks Bridge.  This bridge crosses the Potomac and I travel it frequently.  I shot several pictures and then got curious about it’s history.  Wikipedia tells a fascinating story below….

Point of Rocks Bridge

Several ferries crossed the Potomac River at Point of Rocks before the first bridge was constructed there in 1852. This wooden bridge was constructed to carry a double-track narrow gauge railroad from a junction with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to a blast furnace to process the area’s iron ore.  This bridge, which also carried wagons and horses, was destroyed on June 9, 1861 by Confederate forces under General Turner Ashby, the same day the bridge at Brunswick was destroyed.  The second bridge at Point of Rocks was an iron bridge constructed in 1889.  US 15 originally followed Commerce Street and Canal Road, which is now used to access the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, through an at-grade crossing of the B&O Railroad to the Maryland end of the bridge, which crossed the river immediately to the east of the modern bridge.  The 1889 iron bridge was swept away in the March 1936 flood that also destroyed the Potomac River crossings at Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, and Hancock.

In November 1936, MDSRC put together a plan to replace the Potomac River bridges at Hancock, Shepherdstown, and Point of Rocks.  The Point of Rocks Bridge became the first of the three crossings to be started when construction began March 25, 1937; the bridge’s concrete piers were completed and the piers of the old bridge were removed from the river by September of that year.  The new bridge and its approaches, which crossed over the B&O Railroad on the Maryland side, opened December 26, 1937. The camelback truss bridge spans 1,689 feet (515 m) and has a 24-foot-wide (7.3 m) roadway and a pair of 3-foot-wide (0.91 m) sidewalks. US 15 followed a temporary approach to the new bridge along Commerce Street that remained vulnerable to major floods. The U.S. Highway was moved to higher ground on Clay Street when the highway was reconstructed and widened from Point of Rocks to Tuscarora in 1949.

Flying A Route of Early Settlers

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Thanksgiving morning here in Frederick, Maryland was, well…picture perfect!  There was the promise of some wind, but it was a great day to launch my Husky.  Since the day has everything to do with our early settlers, I thought a trip along the Potomac River might be appropriate.

Anyone who has visited Washington, D.C. knows the Potomac runs right through our Nation’s Capital out to the Chesapeake Bay.  But, traveling just a short distance from Frederick, you can reach the Potomac and head away from Washington (a far better idea unless you enjoy military aircraft off your wing). 

The Potomac heads out to historic Harper’s Ferry.  It is at this point that the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers come together. 

There you find a National Park that is described by the Park Service as follows: THE HISTORY OF HARPERS FERRY HAS FEW PARALLELS IN THE AMERICAN DRAMA. It is more than one event, one date, or one individual. It is multi-layered – involving a diverse number of people and events that influenced the course of our nation’s history. Harpers Ferry witnessed the first successful application of interchangeable manufacture, the arrival of the first successful American railroad, John Brown’s attack on slavery, the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and the education of former slaves in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States.

To view the complete story from the National Park Service, CLICK HERE.

As you follow the Potomac further West, railroad bridges cast shadows on the water.

Looking for a place to land for a cup of coffee, I noticed I was not far from the community of Bedford, Pennsylvania.  This community is the site of the Bedford Springs Resort.  Originally, the resort offered guests in the 1800’s healing waters from the natural springs.  Today, guests have many more options, including golf and other types of liquid enjoyment.  It is a beautiful resort and one we have visited when the Fall colors are at their height and that is a wonderful time to be in Bedford!.

I did get my coffee at the Bedford airport, but no one was around.  So, N24HU departed and climbed to 5,500 where the air was smooth and the tailwind provided a ground speed above 150 knots.

All this, and I was home in time to stuff the turkey!

We have much to be thankful for and this flight reminded me of just how many have toiled to establish and protect the freedoms we enjoy today.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you would like to see a short slide show from the flight, CLICK HERE.

Redbird Skyport in San Marcos — Something We All Agree is Exciting!

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Just a few weeks ago, Jim Campbell from Aero-News Network and I sat down for a good long conversation that focused mostly on what we agreed about.  Leading that list is the exciting new development at the San Marcos Airport outside of Austin, Texas.  There, Redbird Flight Simulations has created from scratch The Redbird Skyport and an innovative approach to all things general aviation, especially flight training.

Unfortunately, a long term commitment kept me away from the facility I’d visited while underconstruction. However, our AOPA team was on hand and Editor-in-Chief Tom Haines addressed the gathering.

Today, Jim Campbell’s coverage tells the story of the Redbird Skyport Grand Opening on Aero-TV.  They have provided exceptional coverage and Jim invited me to share it with our readers….I know you will enjoy watching and learning what our friends at Redbird have created!  CLICK HERE TO WATCH ANN-TV’s coverage of the Grand Opening.

Here, too,  is our AOPA Online story from the event by Ian Twombly….CLICK HERE.

This is real innovation in general aviation that all of us should celebrate…and, on that, we really can agree!

Taking advantage of technology

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

The weather around FDK, the blue dot on the map, kept me on the ground Saturday.


I was looking forward to spending Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina, at the Southeast Aviation Conference. Unfortunately, the weather had something different in mind.

Snow, ice, and gusty winds in Frederick kept me and N4GA on the ground. But the innovative folks at the South Carolina Aviation Association, which sponsored the event, hooked up their Skype system and gave me the opportunity to make a “virtual” trip to the show.

Of course, I would much rather have been there in person, but I was impressed by how quickly and effectively the folks at SCAA pulled it all together on very short notice. I was able to give attendees an update on the big issues of the day as well as AOPA’s key initiatives. I even had the opportunity to answer audience questions. Not bad, under the circumstances!

This was one day when I was on the ground, and wishing I was in the air. But the old cliché is true—better to be on the ground and wishing I was in the air, than to be in the air and wishing I was on the ground.

Huskies in the Northeast

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Our AOPA team that spent the weekend shooting pictures of the 2012 Sweepstakes Tornado Husky and my Husky is back in Frederick.  However, the images of the weekend are great memories!

Look for the professional shots in the future…but, for now, I hope you enjoy my short slide show of the trip from Frederick, to Old Acton (02ME), Wiscasset (KIWI) and Bar Habor (KBHB).

CLICK HERE to see the slide show…..

Enjoying the freedom to fly

Friday, October 21st, 2011

I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of protecting our freedom to fly. Well, this weekend, I am doing more than talking—I am thoroughly enjoying the unique sense of limitless freedom that only pilots know.

With the Husky in Maine

A perfect day of flying in my Husky brought us to this peaceful backcountry strip in Maine.

When you work in Washington, D.C., as I do much of the time, you tend to spend your days buttoned up—literally confined to a suit and tie. So I was thrilled to be able to throw on a pair of jeans and climb into my Husky for a weekend of fun flying around the northeast.

I left Frederick in my plane, accompanied by our own Dave Hirschman flying the 2012 Tougher Than a Tornado Husky. We planned the trip with the help of John Nadeau, the Recreational Aviation Foundation’s representative in the northeast. He pointed us to enough great backcountry airstrips to keep us busy for a month. We only have the weekend for this trip, but all those other airports are calling, and I know I’ll be back.

Backcountry flying

Now this is a lifestyle I could get used to!

Our flight took us through New York. There’s nothing quite like flying over the Hudson River at 1,200 feet. Then we stopped in Hartford, Connecticut, to refuel with our friends at Atlantic Aviation—the FBO that did such a great job during AOPA’s Aviation Summit last month. Now we’ve arrived at 02ME in Maine.

With blue skies above, a tailwind behind, and all the colors of autumn below, it was just about a perfect day of flying. I hope you’ll take some time this weekend to really enjoy what it means to fly. Visit a new airport, go to a favorite airport restaurant, of just poke some holes in the sky. There really is nothing else quite like it.

Flying west

Flying west toward Sanford (KSFM).

Harrison Ford Interview with Senate GA Caucus Co-Chairs

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Just after Harrison Ford spoke to members of the General Aviation Caucus yesterday, I had the chance to sit down with Harrison along with co-chairs Senator Begich (D-AK) and Senator Johanns (R-NE).  This strong bi-partisian caucus that now numbers over one third of the Senate with 36 members contains some powerful supporters of general aviation.