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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Tom Horne

Time Out in Iguacu

March 23, 2015 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

The members of the Air Journey South American self-piloting tour group have been on the road together for about four weeks now. On average, the three pilots and their passengers fly about 500-700 nm every two days. No one’s complaining, mind you, but there does come a time for “something completely different” as they say in the Monty Python shows.

With this as a motivator, all hands signed up for a ride through the jungle in the national park surrounding our hotel near Iguacu Falls, Brazil (I’ve also seen it spelled “Iguassu,” by the way), followed by a jaunt upstream in a huge Zodiac-style boat. Upstream, as in breaching rapids. And actually entering the Iguacu Falls! The helmsman steered us right into the water, which came from, oh, maybe 500 feet up. One minute you’re looking up at the water as it rolls off the cliffs above, the next you’re getting a hydraulic pounding. And a thorough soaking.

Good thing Mike Fizer, AOPA Pilot’s senior photographer, was along. He took photos and videos–using his cell phone. His $6,000 Canon would have been a write-off after that dunking. He bought Go-Pro videos from the boat operator, as well as some watery stills.

You’ll have to wait to see the waterfall-inundation stills and videos in an upcoming article in AOPA Pilot and a segment in AOPA Live This Week. We couldn’t upload the files as we were in a rush at the time, and Fizer was preoccupied with trying to dry out his clothes. Seems he tossed his wet gear in his suitcase before the next leg of the trip. When he next opened it, all his clothes were wet, thanks to osmosis. And as the humidity here runs as high as 94 percent, air-drying is useless.

 

The Iguacu Falls, photographed by Mike Fizer at 4:30 a.m. A time exposure allows both stars and the falls to be seen--even though it was a pitch black night.

The Iguacu Falls, photographed by Mike Fizer at 4:30 a.m. A time exposure allows both stars and the falls to be seen–even though it was a pitch black night.

The falls at dawn.

The falls at dawn.

A stop along the jungle trail. My personal best moment here came when a toucan landed near by.

A stop along the jungle trail. My personal best moment here came when a toucan landed near by.

That’s it for now. I’ll get in a couple more posts in before leaving the Caribbean and re-entering the U.S. As always, stay tuned!

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Tom Horne

On to Iguassu Falls

March 21, 2015 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Yesterday the Air Journey group flew from Buenos Aires’ San Fernando airport (SADF) to Iguassu Falls (SBFI), where there is a luxury hotel hard by a much-visited set of waterfalls–both within a national park. In retrospect, the departure from San Fernando had a comical air. Our airplanes were towed, one at a time, from the local FBO to the ramp in front of the tower. There, the police made us empty the contents of each plane for screening. After that, it was more cacophony on the frequency as attempt after attempt to secure permission for engine starts and clearances as communications dissolved into badly broken English. Seems that Spanish is the dominant language of aviation in Argentina. Oh, well, at least we could hear the controllers.

On this leg, I flew with Mike Williams in his CJ1+, along with Larry and Cathy Wilke. Williams owns a metal fabricating business in La Porte, Indiana, and Larry is his shop manager. Wouldn’t it be nice if all our bosses took us on a tour of South America? The CJ spent most of its time at FL370 and FL390. About 45 minutes into the flight, thunderstorms cropped up, forcing us to dodge their tops.

The first part of the enroute segment was on top at FL370. Below, IMC reigned, and thunderstorms began cropping up on the horizon.

The first part of the enroute segment was on top at FL370. Below, IMC reigned, and thunderstorms began cropping up on the horizon.

Eventually, the undercast broke up, and the storms were behind us. But behind us, at FL270 Ian Runge was in the soup, and so was Joe Howley in his PC-12.

Ah, that's better. The view out the front of Williams' CJ1+ . At this point we were about 75 miles from the destination.

Ah, that’s better. The view out the front of Williams’ CJ1+ . At this point we were about 75 miles from the destination.

Iguassu Falls tower cleared us to circle the waterfalls, with the restriction that we stay at or above 4,000 feet.

Iguassu Falls, Brazil, from 4,000 feet.

Iguassu Falls, Brazil, from 4,000 feet. Our hotel, the Hotel das Cataratas, is in the small clearing on the other side of the falls.

The CJ1+ lands on Iguassu Falls' runway 14.

The CJ1+ lands on Iguassu Falls’ runway 14.

We’re getting into Amazon basin territory now, so afternoon convection is becoming a regular event. The next leg, from Iguassu Falls to Rio de Janeiro, will probably start early in the morning to avoid the worst weather. Stand by for more…..

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Tom Horne

Bariloche to Buenos Aires

March 17, 2015 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

After a nice stay at the Llao Llao Hotel (http://llaollao.com) in Bariloche, Argentina it was time for the nine people in our travel group to launch once more. This time, to Buenos Aires’ San Fernando Airport. It would be a huge understatement to say that all of us fortunate flyers were sad to leave Llao Llao. Take a look at this and you’ll see why:

Llao Llao Hotel and grounds

Llao Llao Hotel and grounds

Nevertheless, on a trip that lasts six weeks and rounds the entire South American continent, someone has to beat the drum and keep the tour on the move. So Mike Williams, in his CJ1+, along with passengers Larry and Cathy Wilke; Joe Howley, in his PC-12NG with his wife Christine; and Ian Runge in his TBM 700 with wife Sue, fired up this morning at Bariloche and headed out for Buenos Aires. Here’s a couple of slides from the preflight briefing to give an idea of some of the route particulars:

The big picture--the route from the Argentinian mountains to the coastal lowlands.

The big picture–the route from the Argentinian mountains to the coastal lowlands.

Today's route basics. A 725-nm trip, complete with flight plan waypoints and expected procedures

Today’s route basics. A 725-nm trip, complete with flight plan waypoints and expected procedures

Once again, I flew with Joe Howley and got to see the great capabilities of the PC-12NG. I used to dislike the NG’s Honeywell Apex avionics, but I now think I can come to terms with it having spent four-plus hours in the right seat. If only someone would just give me a dozen hours or so more flying the NG and I’m sure I’d be able to make it sing. Someone, please help me here!

The takeoff from Bariloche's runway 29. And no, the PC-12's prop doesn't fling itself around like this. It's distortion caused by the iPhone's shutter--or something... I don't know. You tell me.

The takeoff from Bariloche’s runway 29. And no, the PC-12’s prop doesn’t fling itself around like this. It’s distortion caused by the iPhone’s shutter–or something… I don’t know. You tell me!

Mid-way through the flight we topped a large layer of building cumulus clouds beneath our FL250 crusing altitude. Some of the cumulus (cumuli?) were rising in isolated towers, and the NG’s stormscope and radar showed thunderstorm activity off our left. So we climbed to Fl270 and made a 10-degree deviation to get around the area. After about 100 nm, we were in clear skies. But get a load of the situation approximately an hour after landing:

Today's widespread convection, superimposed on our flight track. An end run around the right edge of a weak line of buildups was the perfect solution. There wasn't even any turbulence!

Today’s widespread convection, superimposed on our flight track. An end run around the right edge of a weak line of buildups was the perfect solution. There wasn’t even any turbulence!

The storms weren’t really the biggest problem we had. That award would go to the extraordinarily faint, garbled, and indecipherable transmissions from ATC. What does it sound like? Imagine a man in a fully-tiled bathroom, back to a microphone, and speaking into a tiny megaphone. It’s an echo-y, build-and-fade sound, with some static thrown in for good measure. And it seemed like every pilot in every sector stepped on each others’ transmissions. That’s international flying for you.

After a hard day fighting thunderstorms, plus landing and other fees, Joe Howley rejoices at his post-flight fillup--$4.40 a gallon!

After a hard day fighting thunderstorms, rotten radio transmissions, customs, general declarations, immigrations, and fees, Joe Howley rejoices at his post-flight fillup–$4.40 a gallon!

I would have taken some photos of the building cumulus, but somehow my iPhone fell down between my seat and the sidewall, and I couldn’t retrieve it in flight. Sorry about that. Tomorrow, AOPA Pilot senior photographer, Mike Fizer, will be joining the group to provide some world-class photos and videos of the goings-on in the air and on the ground. So be on hand for that. OK? I hope you said ‘yes’–I mean “correcto” as is the habit of South American controllers.

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One way to avoid the annual

March 16, 2015 by Mike Collins

Shiny valve covers adorn the new Lycoming on Sean Tucker's Oracle Challenger III.

Shiny valve covers adorn the new Lycoming on Sean Tucker’s Oracle Challenger III.

Sean D. Tucker, the highly regarded aerobatic pilot, is practicing two to three times every day as he prepares for the start of the 2015 airshow season. This week, he plans to test-fly his primary airplane, which last weekend was still being rebuilt in his Salinas, Calif., hangar.

Rebuilt? Yes. The airplane is stripped down, taken apart, and rebuilt every year. The job–including new fabric, paint, engine, and prop–requires about 6,000 man-hours to complete. Overkill? No, especially when you consider the number of Gs, spins, and snap rolls the airframe endures in the course of a year.

While his mechanics complete the rebuild, Tucker practices in his older backup airplane. “This airplane is a little under-powered,” he said of his temporary steed. “If I can master the routine in this airplane, it will be easy in the other one.”

Another benefit of his regularly scheduled rebuild? He doesn’t have to worry about whether the airplane is in annual.

Will Tucker and his Challenger be performing near you this year? Check his airshow schedule online.

Sean Tucker's nearly rebuilt Oracle Challenger III sits in the late-afternoon sun. His mechanics called it a day a few minutes earlier.

Sean Tucker’s nearly rebuilt Oracle Challenger III sits in the late-afternoon sun. His mechanics had called it a day a few minutes earlier on Saturday.

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Tom Horne

Cruising through South America

March 15, 2015 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

People often ask me about one of my titles on the AOPA Pilot masthead. “What’s an editor-at-large” do? Or, for that matter, “what does editor-at-large mean?” I’d say it means a couple things. One, I work out of my home office. Two, I travel a lot. I mean, a lot. So, I’m “at large”–in a state of more or less perpetual wandering. Sometimes I get really lucky. Like right now. I’m on an Air Journey trip through South America. Over the next few days I’ll keep you updated on the goings-on.

Today started in Puerto Montt, Chile, a resort town in a region that’s been called South America’s “little Switzerland.” Here’s a shot from our hotel this morning–the Hotel Cumbres in Puerto Varas.:

Hotel Cumbres, dawn

Hotel Cumbres, dawn

Today I flew with Joe Howley and his wife, Christine in their PC-12NG. Joe, by the way, is president of the Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association. It was s short hop from Puerto Montt to Bariloche, Argentina. We cruised at 17,000 feet and saw 265 KTAS along the way, and saw lenticulars as we passed over the mountains:

Joe and Christine Howley

Joe and Christine Howley

The lenticulars, and a shot of the approach we shot into Bariloche–in severe clear, but the drill is to file IFR:

Lenticulars--or are they rotor clouds?--as seen from 17,000 feet

Lenticulars–or are they rotor clouds?–as seen from 17,000 feet

Bariloche

Bariloche’s VOR DME ILS DME rwy 29 approach–what a mouthful!

More to come. The next leg takes us to Buenos Aires, then it’s on into Brazil. Stay tuned…..

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Al Marsh

Piper to announce new aircraft

March 12, 2015 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Actually Piper will “announce” two new aircraft. The more secretive of the two is the Piper Meridian M600, unearthed by Australian aviation writers after a tip from a reader about a new trademark that Piper filed. The betting is that this latest Meridian will have a 600-shaft-horsepower engine to make it fly closer to 300 knots, and maybe an extra seat. The competition has that sort of speed and that extra seat. The other announcement is already on the Piper Web site and has been there for quite some time, just waiting for its diesel engine to be approved. It’s the Archer DX, and it will use the same Thielert/Continental/Technify (take your choice) CD155-horsepower engine as the Cessna 172. The Piper Archer DX is close to getting its supplemental type certificate, but the process must begin anew for the Cessna 172. Industry sources believe it will be “days” before the Piper STC is approved (the owner buys it separately from Thielert/Continental/Technify), which means it could be weeks in FAA time. With Cessna, the STC comes with the aircraft.

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Al Marsh

Welcome, drone pilots!

February 15, 2015 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Think you have all the ratings? If newly proposed FAA rules on drones get approved–it will take two years–as written, there will be a new type of “pilot” certificate (only required for commercial drone use) called Unmanned Aerial Systems Operator. (Can “Rocket Pilot” be far behind?) Most rule comment periods are 60 days, but apparently that limitation has been tossed away. Here’s the good news. An early draft of the regulations says you need to go to a Knowledge Test Center to take the written test. No previous flying experience, medical certificate, or pilot certificate is required. It must be repeated every two years. If you are already a pilot, you still have to get a UAS operator certificate. First there is an application process. You have to be 17 or older. Following that applicants must visit a flight instructor who signs them off for the written test. All this means we have a pool of potential pilots coming to the airport soon, since that is where many Knowledge Test Centers are located. Do you suppose if we treat them as one of the pilot community, they might actually become private pilots? How many will there be? We can be a lot more optimistic than the FAA. The FAA thinks there will only be 7,500 commerical-use drone pilots in the United States five years after the drone regs take effect. I just checked a Web photography site called SLR (single-lens reflex) Lounge Beta, and I believe the estimate I found there that there are 100,000 wedding photographers out there who want to be competitive, so could there be 20,000 who might want to get a certificate? Now then, the National Association of Realtors said in 2007 there were two million real estate agents in the United States working for 109,000 firms. A few thousand firms may want their own drone, or at least sign a contract with a local drone pilot. So, another 10,000? We’re leaving out a bunch of industries here that may send people to the local Knowledge Test Center. Welcome to aviation, folks.

Editor’s note: You can get more details about the proposed rule and AOPA’s position on safely integrating drones into the National Airspace System in the story, “Proposed rules set limits on small UAS.”

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Al Marsh

Where are our future pilots?

January 30, 2015 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

12 14Look at the general age group in these DJI (a company that makes drones) photos posted on the drone company’s Web site. Aren’t these the youthful crowd we wanted in general aviation? And where are they? In drone pilot school. Should be a snap for those of us who are already pilots, right? You too can attend drone pilot school. It’s only one day. Select “North America” in the link above under “Select A Region” to see the schedule. DJI, the largest drone maker in the world which manufactured the drone that ended up in a White House tree, offers the school. They want to sell drones and they want to make sure you know the rules, one of which is, don’t drink and drone. If sober, you are more likely to remember you can’t fly a drone in D.C. Classes are worldwide, but  classes for the United States include Boston and Riverdale, Maryland on Feb. 7, and classes later this year in Miami; Englewood, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina; Philadephia; and Salt Lake City. Remember, friends don’t let friends drone drunk. Ok, so drone enthusiasts worldwide are stampeding toward drones. And what do we do to get them to stampede to the local airport?

 

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Al Marsh

Crazy formations

December 15, 2014 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

You can see Jetman Yves Rossi in formation with an aerobatic airplane flown by aerobatics champion Veres Zoltán while it is performing stunts here. In 2015 Rossi will fly in formation with Zoltán, who will swap out his airplane for a wing strapped to his back with jet motors on it that were built for model airplanes like Rossi has, and you will see that they have already practiced their new act at the end of this video. Or, in an unrelated event done by a different set of pilots, you can see an aerobatic airplane fly in formation with a parachute guy here.

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