Al Marsh

“Doc” is ready and waiting…and waiting

May 3, 2016 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

A dataplate for Doc, the friendly Wichita B-29 bomber, was affixed to the aircraft this week symbolizing the volunteer team’s declaration that restoration is complete. One of the women chosen to help rivet the dataplate to the aircraft was 92-year-old Connie Pazacioz whose job during the war was to rivet together aircraft like Doc–she’s one of the original Rosie the Riveters. What’s needed next is FAA airworthiness approval, and so far that has taken months. You could write it off as the FAA just being careful until you look at a special requirement just for Doc, not the nation’s other B-29 Fifi. The volunteers have been told they must use a certified flight engineer, while Fifi can use any trained and “approved” flight engineer. There is only one certified flight engineer in the country, and he will be busy with Fifi flights in June and July. Doc must fly 20 hours before beginning its mission to honor those who sacrificed, including women like Connie. Having a second set of eyes from the FAA helps assure Doc is safe, but a requirement just for Doc? Meanwhile there will be lots of activity at McConnell Air Force Base Friday as Doc runs its engines for dynamic balancing of the propellers–the final step to fly. Someday.

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Al Marsh

German airport uses robo-bird to scare birds

April 29, 2016 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

To little birds calling Weeze Airport home in Germany across the border with Netherlands it must seem like the Terminator. A group of students and former students from the University of Twente in Netherlands 54 miles northwest are coming to fly their peregrine falcon drone that flaps its wings and looks like the real thing. It is carried aloft on its own wings, not propellers. They have flown their lifelike birds for at least three years, but now it is time to test it. Weeze Airport agreed. You can see the robo-bird here. The students formed a company called Clear Flight Solutions, but they aren’t selling the robo-birds and aren’t marketing to airports. They are just testing. If you absolutely need a robo-bird that is unrelated to the university and too small to scare anything, you can get one for 100 bucks. Shown is Dutch guy Nico Nijenhuis of the University of Twente with the Weeze robo terminator.

Robird foto 26-04-16

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Al Marsh

`Bitchin Betty’ retires from Boeing; Who knew?

April 28, 2016 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Her name is not Betty at all, it’s Leslie Shook and she’s anything but a complainer. She is the voice, even after retirement, of the cockpit warning system in the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and she loves the plane and the people who fly it. Boeing employees and Navy pilots came to see her off. She recalls on a Boeing video of one pilot who thanked her for her warning that saved his life. She wasn’t the original Bitchin Betty. That honor fell to someone who recorded warnings for the F-15. But new commands were needed, new urgency that only Shook could provide, and she took on the role. See her story here.

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Al Marsh

Boeing 247D makes last flight

April 27, 2016 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Boeing247D About to Land copyTwo Boeing test pilots flew a rare United Air Lines 1933 Boeing 247D April 26, 2016, from its site of restoration at Seattle’s Paine Field to Boeing Field where it was manufactured to go in display at The Museum of Flight. It was a 15 to 20 minute flight. The two pilots signed the wheel well after the flight as is tradition for the final flight of an aircraft. It was successful and lost its job to the DC-2 followed by the DC-3.

 

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Al Marsh

Solar Impulse above Golden Gate in hours; Will land at Moffett Field tonight

April 23, 2016 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Bertrand Piccard will arrive above San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge tonight, Saturday April 23, in two to five hours and will do  holding patterns until past sunset before heading south to land at Moffatt Field in Mountain View, California at about midnight PDT. He should be above the bridge around 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. PDT. He has spent his time talking with media live over the cockpit TV link and earlier in the week spoke live with the United Nations in New York City in front of nations attending a Paris Climate Agreement meeting.

Solar Impulse has no fuel whatsoever aboard. Solar cells charge batteries by day and the aircraft climbs, slowly descending at night while it uses the stored electrical power for its electric engines. Picard has taken 20-minute naps during the three-day journey.

You can see him live here:

http://www.solarimpulse.com/leg-9-from-Hawaii-to-Mountain_View_CA

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Al Marsh

Solar Impulse on its way to U.S.

April 21, 2016 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Solar Impulse, following a months-long delay in Hawaii because it was burning up its batteries, is rounding the backside of O’ahu on its way to Mountain View, California, south of San Francisco. http://www.solarimpulse.com/

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Al Marsh

Air France tribute to last 747

February 23, 2016 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Beautiful French tribute to the last of the Air France 747 fleet. You can almost imagine the commands going out for the flight–“Smoke on!”

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You read the story of how SAM 27000–one of two customized Boeing 707-353Bs delivered to the United States Air Force; designated as a VC–137C; and served 28 years, often carrying the president and using the “Air Force One” call sign–was disassembled, moved to the top of a California mountain, and reassembled in the Reagan Presidential Library (“Affecting the Course of History,” December 2014 AOPA Pilot). And you probably saw Senior Photographer Mike Fizer’s excellent video that accompanied the magazine story.

Now, Joel and Michael Cohen want to produce a documentary, Air Force One: The Final Mission. It will take viewers on the airplane’s final flight, and through its transformation to the museum fixture you saw in AOPA Pilot. Using two cameramen, an assistant cameraman, and a crew of five, they shot thousands of photographs; some 100 hours of exclusive, never-before-seen video tape; and extensive time-lapse footage.

To properly produce the documentary, they’re working to raise $110,000 online through Kickstarter. Contributors at many levels will receive a copy of the completed documentary. For more information see their Kickstarter page.

 

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Tom Horne

Rio to Grenada, In Style

April 2, 2015 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Let’s see, where did we leave off? Oh, at Iguacu Falls, Brazil. But with Air Journey the goal is to explore, and so after three days we departed Iguacu for Rio de Janeiro. It was an early departure, in order to beat the worst daytime convection. Typically, Mike Williams and I would depart first in Williams’ CJ1+, followed by Joe Howley in his PC-12 or Ian Runge in his TBM 700. This way, the CJ could relay info about any huge buildups along the route to the rest of the airplanes.

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Howley and Runge, who typically flew at FL250, 260, or 270, often found themselves on instruments, in the clag, and working their radars to wend they way through buildups. What a difference up at the CJ1+–at a majestic FL370 (or higher!)–cruising altitudes. We could look down on the undercast.

A typical sight over the Amazon region--if you're at FL380! It's easy to avoid the worst convection up there, but if you're in a PC-12 or TBM you'll need radar to pick your way around.

A typical sight over the Amazon region–if you’re at FL380! It’s easy to avoid the worst convection up there, but if you’re in a PC-12 or TBM you’ll need radar to pick your way around.

Rio, like most every destination we visited in Brazil, featured a 2,000-foot broken sky with good visibility for our arrivals, which were usually around noon. But by late afternoon, we had torrential rain in Rio. “It’s like Florida weather,” one pilot observed. In Rio, we did the tourist thing and had a great guided tour of the sights.

The famous Christ teh Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado Mountain. And yep, it was IMC for a while. But it did nothing to dampen our spirits.

The famous Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado Mountain. And yep, it was IMC for a while. But it did nothing to dampen our spirits.

Aerial tram cars took us to Sugarloaf Mountain, where there were great views of Rio de Janeiro.

Aerial tram cars took us to Sugarloaf Mountain, where there were great views of Rio de Janeiro. That’s Copacabana beach on the far left, and if you squint hard enough you can see the Christ statue–now in VMC–on the peak at the far right.

Air Journey does it up right, from the flight planning to the hotel transfers to the hotels. We stayed at the Copacabana Palace in Rio, for example. Here's the view of the hotel pool from the outdoor restaurant.

Air Journey does it up right, from the flight planning to the hotel transfers to the hotels. We stayed at the Copacabana Palace in Rio, for example. Here’s the view of the hotel pool from the outdoor restaurant.

Leaving Rio, it was another early departure for the next stop, at the coastal city of Salvador de Bahia. On this leg, there were few buildups coming from the soggy undercast, and all three airplanes had uneventful trips. By this time, Howley, Williams, and Runge had gotten pretty proficient at working and interpreting their radars.

Mike Williams uses the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 as his primary FMS in his CJ1+, but installed a Garmin GTN 750 as a backup. Here, the moving map shows us enroute to  Salvador de Bahia.

Mike Williams uses the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 as his primary FMS in his CJ1+, but installed a Garmin GTN 750 as a backup. Here, the moving map shows us enroute to Salvador de Bahia.

 

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On approach to the Salvador de Bahia airport. No more ugly overcast here--just some high cirrus clouds and light winds.

On approach to the Salvador de Bahia airport. No more ugly overcast here–just some high cirrus clouds and light winds.

The lodging at Salvador de Bahia was unconventional–literally. The Convento do Carmo was built in the 17th century as a convent, but now it’s been restored and converted into a landmark hotel in the oldest section of the city. Some say there are ghosts, but I never felt anything out of the ordinary. Well, except that floor that creaked for about a half-hour around 3:00 a.m.

The pool at Convento do Carmo occupies a central courtyard.

The pool at Convento do Carmo occupies a central courtyard.

A guided tour took us to historic churches and other locales around the old city’s steep, cobblestoned roads.

Christine Howley contemplates a life of monastic silence at a Franciscan monastery.

Christine Howley contemplates a life of monastic silence at a Franciscan monastery.

From left to right, Ruthanne Ruzika, Christine Howley, and Sue Runge take a break from strolling Salvador de Bahia.

From left to right, Ruthanne Ruzika, Christine Howley, and Sue Runge take a break from strolling Salvador de Bahia.

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The next leg would be a long one, to Belem, Brazil, about 930 nm away and almost four hours of flying for Howley in his PC-12. Once again it was an early takeoff and the weather was uneventful. The Belem stop was for one night only, and positioned us for a final push to the last destination on the trip–Grenada. The original plan was to break up the Belem to Grenada journey with a fuel stop in Cayenne, French Guiana. But by this stage in the South American trip the group had grown somewhat tired of Brazilian airport bureaucracy, and was eager to press on. So it was non-stop from Belem to Grenada (TGPY), some 1,145 nm away. Howley, with six hours’ endurance, could make it easily. Williams’ CJ1+ promised we’d land with 600 pounds of fuel in reserve (about 90 gallons), but that was only if the winds aloft stuck to the forecast. Long story short: a direct-Grenada clearance let Williams land with just under 700 pounds of Jet A. Howley celebrated his arrival in Grenada with a sporty, “chop and drop” short-field landing into gusty headwinds on Grenada’s 8,967-foot-long runway 10.

Somewhere slightly northwest of Belem, we simply had to document our crossing the Equator.  Williams and I waited and watched the Pro Line's screen for the Big Moment. And missed it! But not by much. Here, you can see we're a mere 21 minutes north.

Somewhere slightly northwest of Belem, we simply had to document our crossing the Equator. Williams and I waited and watched the Pro Line’s screen for the Big Moment. And missed it! But not by much. Here, you can see we’re a mere 21 minutes north. Notice the advisory to “check fuel at destination.” That alert went away somewhere off the coast of Surinam.

After a stay in Grenada, I returned to the U.S., having experienced another outstanding Air Journey adventure. But the rest of the group lingered at Grenada’s LaLuna resort before making their way home. Can’t say I blame them.
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The beach at sunset at Grenada's LaLuna resort.

The beach at sunset at Grenada’s LaLuna resort.

This may the end of the story for now, but don’t forget to look for an upcoming feature story on this South American journey in the pages of AOPA Pilot–as well as video coverage in our digital editions and AOPA Live This Week.

Some have asked about flying in South America after reading some of my posts on the trip. I say, check with Air Journey. You don’t need to fly a full-blown escorted trip to take advantage of their expertise. Air Journey offers what they call a concierge service that’s tailored to the legs you want to fly–in South America or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

The Next Big Thing from Air Journey? Their around the world trip that begins in May. Take note, potential globe-trotters: A couple slots are still open for this one-of-a-kind odyssey. Don’t own a jet, or not rated in one? The company can even set you up with the training and the rating you’ll need to fly one or more legs of this trip in the left seat of a Cessna Mustang. Sound good?

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Jill Tallman

WWII B-17 pilot does a Reddit “Ask Me Anything”

March 24, 2015 by Jill W. Tallman, Associate Editor

Carl Estersohn, second from right, top (photo from Imgur)

Carl Estersohn, second from right, top (photo from Imgur)

World War II veteran and Boeing B-17 pilot Carl Estersohn appeared on Reddit on March 22 to participate in one of that board’s “Ask Me Anything” sessions. The 90-year-old, who says he still flies “when I get the chance,” fielded hundreds of questions and comments with the help of a Redditor named Victoria.

Here are some of the top questions and answers.

Which has been your favorite airplanes to fly?

“It’s called a Bonanza. It’s made by the Beechcraft company. And I owned four of them in my lifetime, 3 of ’em in California and one of ’em here in the New York area. And it’s a single-engine propeller-driven airplane that I like very much. It goes very fast for its size and for its power, and I enjoy flying almost anything, but particularly the Beechcraft Bonanza. That’s my favorite airplane.”

What movies are most accurate about your experiences?

“Well, there was a movie called THE MEMPHIS BELLE, which was made, I dunno, 20-25 years ago, which was very accurate in its interpretation of what the average mission to Germany was all about. It showed the takeoffs, the landings, the bombs dropping, people getting hurt, and it was an all-purpose film that was very good.

“It’s available through Netflix, I think.

“It’s a very good film for those that want to know what happened during WWII over Germany.”

Carl Estersohn during his Reddit AMA. (Image from Imgur)

Carl Estersohn during his Reddit AMA. (Image from Imgur)

What came first, your interest in flying or your entering the service?

“I was always interested in airplanes. And when I had to go into service—because war broke out, I had to do something, I was 19 years old and I decided to go into the air corps because I liked airplanes and I liked the idea of becoming a pilot, so I made my choice.

“I would’ve done what they told me to do in the war. When you’re a soldier, you do what you’re told. If you’re trained to do something, you’re left where you are. At least, that’s the way it was in that war.”

Estersohn concluded with this: “I hope that the conversation that I’ve participated in does something to give anyone the choice of making a choice, and to put things in perspective. There are priorities. And you have things that are important, and things that are not important. And you just have to get your head squared away about what things that ARE important, and put the things that aren’t important in their proper place.”

The entire Reddit AMA can be found here.

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