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Catching up with…Victoria Neuville Zajko

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Victoria Zajko (left), holds Turbo; Kelly Kennedy is shown with Olive. Zajko and Kennedy have written a children's book, "Turbo the Flying Dog."

Victoria Zajko (left), holds Turbo; Kelly Kennedy is shown with Olive. Zajko and Kennedy have written a children’s book, “Turbo the Flying Dog.”

 

After successfully managing several events aimed at introducing girls and women to aviation—some local, some worldwide—Victoria Neuville Zajko was looking for a new project. She didn’t have to look far, because the source of inspiration was gnawing on a toy in her home.

Zajko and friend Kelly Kennedy have written a children’s book, Turbo the Flying Dog, loosely based on her own dog’s adventures. She and husband Bob adopted the pup in 2012 and brought him home in their Glasair. Since then, Turbo has become a familiar sight at Frederick Municipal Airport, and if the Zajkos are flying somewhere, he almost always can be found in the backseat of the Glasair, sporting Mutt-Muffs.

Co-author Kennedy owns Olive, the little Schnauzer-Poodle who is Turbo’s friend, both in the book and in real life.

“We were just talking about how we’d rescued Turbo, and how he’d logged 10 hours of time” in his first year, when the idea of creating a children’s book quickly came together, Zajko said. Turbo, who has his own logbook as well as a Facebook page and Instagram account, has many followers on social media who have responded enthusiastically to the project. His younger fans have sent him crayon drawings.

Turbo the Flying Dog focuses on Turbo’s adoption and how he has to overcome his fear of flying so that he can go to his new home, Zajko said. Future titles include Turbo Learns to Fly and Turbo Flies into History. The series is targeted to ages 4 to 8 and will include themes of general aviation, animal rescue, and diversity.

Zajko and Kennedy have created a Kickstarter campaign to get the books off the ground. If you’d like to support the project, go here. The first book is slated to arrive in December.  The campaign ends Nov. 2.

Oshkosh and pilots take care of their own

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Kate (left) and Judy at the Women in Aviation Connect breakfast at AirVenture 2014.

Kate (left) and Judy at the Women in Aviation Connect breakfast at AirVenture 2014.

For many of us, heading to Oshkosh, Wis., in July is a yearly ritual. It certainly is for Judy Birchler of Indianapolis, Ind. Judy and her niece Kate departed Indiana Sunday in Judy’s Rans, looking forward to a week of fun at EAA AirVenture.

The trip went great until Judy realized that she had left her wallet at her first fuel stop–White County Airport in Monticello, Ind. She didn’t discover the missing wallet until they stopped at East Troy in Wisconsin for more fuel. No wallet–no credit cards–no money! And niece Kate hadn’t brought along any scratch, either.

You’d think that would have been a showstopper, but it wasn’t. A Luscombe pilot named Bill Coleman topped off the Rans’ tanks at East Troy.

At that same fuel stop, Judy also discovered that the Rans’ exhaust pipe extension had fallen off. She flew around the pattern at East Troy, and decided continuing to Oshkosh without it wouldn’t be prudent.

To the rescue came another pilot–”a cool guy named Lucas,” Judy said—who created another exhaust pipe for her Experimental aircraft. And off they went. They landed uneventfully at Wittman Field.

Judy, who runs the LadiesLoveTaildraggers website, had been steadfastly tweeting and blogging her trip. She put it out on social media that she was flying without funds, and people here at Oshkosh have given her cash to tide them over until they can get back to Indianapolis. (Another pilot friend has since retrieved Judy’s wallet.)

I’ve always known the aviation community is a special one–and when you include Oshkosh in the mix, you’re talking about something really special.

 

The beautiful B-17

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

B17  Waiting to DepartLast week I mentioned that Irma Ward and her husband, Hugh, came to our regional fly-in. Hugh wanted a ride on the EAA B-17 Aluminum Overcast, and Irma, a painter, had set up an easel to capture the beautiful bird while it waited for clear skies and eager riders.

I was impressed at how rapidly Irma was committing the majestic lines of the B-17 to canvas with oil paint. She hadIrma painting completed a pencil sketch and had moved on to the actual painting when I talked with her on Friday morning.

Irma kindly sent me a photo of the finished painting. Isn’t it beautiful? She has a website, where you can see more of her work.

Land Rover debuts technology aimed for cars that’s meant for aviation

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

The name Land Rover is synonymous in the automotive world with luxury utility. It’s the ultimate SUV for the aristocracy, whether officially recognized as such or just self appointed. It’s never been considered the most innovate, or even the most reliable brand. A recent announcement may change that. The company is developing a forward-looking camera system that creates the illusion of a see-through hood. The off-road applications are obvious when you think of the large rocks, gullies, and other obstructions these vehicles are meant to handle. But where a technology like this has real promise is aviation.

Describing the technology doesn’t do it justice. Watch the video below and the use in aviation becomes immediately obvious. 

It’s a bit of a misnomer, but what’s most impressive about the see-through hood is that you can still see the hood. Having a full view of everything in front of you would be useful, but it’s invaluable to know where the machine is in space. Imagine what this would mean in an aircraft. Judging the flare would be a non-event. Those nose-high full-stall landings would be easy and routine. Forget all that talk about how far down the runway to look. All the pilot would have to do is look out the front, through the cowling and to the runway stripes below. Or maybe off to the side a bit, through the door and tire until it touches the pavement. Even a helicopter, with its characteristically great view angles, would benefit from a system like this. The ability to look below and slightly ahead would be great in an off-airport landing, or even a normal touch down on pavement.

There’s only one problem with all this–it’s unlikely to ever happen. Given aviation’s glacial pace of innovation and strict regulatory environment, the hurdles are large. Which is unfortunate because Land Rover has proven that technologically it’s all within our reach.

Night comes quickly in the Bahamas

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Sunset in the Bahamas

Going…going…gone. The sun drops below the horizon in what seems like seconds. Night-time VFR flying is prohibited in the Bahamas.

As our group of aircraft approaches the Out Islands on Feb. 1, the pilots go in different directions. You must land at an airport of entry and clear Customs, and if you plan to travel to other islands, you must obtain a cruising permit first. Some of our group head to Grand Bahama or Andros, but most of us plan to land at New Bight Airport on Cat Island, where we’ll be staying.

The rescue mission to pick up two stranded VFR pilots pushed our departure from St. Lucie County Airport in Fort Pierce, Fla., to the afternoon. As we head toward Cat Island, the sun is beginning to sink lower on the horizon. In the United States, this wouldn’t be a problem. In the Bahamas, it’s a cause for concern. Night-time VFR is prohibited, and with good reason. There are very few lights to be seen on the islands, and when the daylight ends, it ends rather abruptly. The dark sky blends seamlessly into the ocean, providing no artificial horizon. And there are very few airports with instrument approaches.

When we land at New Bight just before sunset, we realize that one of the airplanes hasn’t made it to Cat Island. After a few anxious moments, we learn that the pilot decided to land at Rock Sound Airport on Eleuthera so as not to push daylight. It was a smart decision. He and his passengers cleared Customs and were able to locate a one-night apartment rental. They enjoyed a meal of fresh grouper and a good night’s sleep, and joined us the next day. And this chapter caused a CFI in the group to coin a new phrase: “Bingo daylight” as opposed to “Bingo fuel.”

The best-laid plans

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

 

Flying into New Bight Airport on Cat Island.

Short final, New Bight Airport, Cat Island, the Bahamas.

 

When you travel GA—and VFR pilots know this better than anybody—flexibility is the name of the game.

The launch of 12 aircraft from Northern Virginia to the Bahamas by way of Florida (see Reporting Points, “Bahamas Bound”) commenced the week of Jan. 26, with most airplanes set to depart Jan. 31 and a few making their cautious way down south earlier in the week to navigate around unseasonable snow- and ice storms in North and South Carolina and Georgia. (One airplane launched from Stearman Field in Kansas.)

On Friday, when conditions were severe clear (if exceptionally cold) in Virginia, all aircraft but one were under way. The pilot of a Cessna 182RG had postponed his departure because his wife was suffering from a fever.

Stopping for fuel and a BBQ lunch at Low Country Airport in South Carolina, we check the weather that lies between us and St. Lucie Airport in Fort Pierce. Some sizable chunks of green with some red and yellow mixed in are in our path, but moving off to the east. This weather doesn’t pose much of a problem for the nine instrument-rated pilots. It’s another story for the three who are flying VFR—and one of them is piloting a Light Sport aircraft.

Sure enough, when we land at Fort Pierce, we discover that all three VFR pilots are stranded at various points along the East Coast—and a fourth, instrument-rated pilot experienced radio failure at her fuel stop in Savannah, Georgia. What’s more, the weather-stranded pilots are in different locations: One got as far as Fernandina Beach in Florida; one is on the ground in Savannah; the third—the LSA pilot—is in St. Simons, Georgia. The clouds and precipitation keeping them on the ground threatened to remain well into Feb. 1, when all aircraft were set to depart Fort Pierce for New Bight Airport (MYCB) on Cat Island.

What to do? Could anything be done?

If this were 12 separate airplanes just coincidentally headed to the Bahamas, probably nothing. But, that’s not how things work when you’re traveling with Aviation Adventures in Manassas. Owner Bob Hepp, who is coordinating this trip and toting me along in the flight school’s 1964 Piper Twin Comanche, puts together a rescue mission: The group’s sole Bonanza will carry two of the group’s instrument-rated pilots to Fernandina Beach and Savannah, and they’ll fly as PIC back to Fort Pierce. (Sadly, no such option is available for the aircraft with radio problems, nor the Light Sport aircraft.)

And that’s what happened. More on our trip in a future post.

Bahamas bound

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

We’ve been having a pretty miserable winter here in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s been weeks of a seemingly endless cycle: snow followed by frigid temperatures followed by winds howling out of the northwest, followed by more snow. Or maybe ice, just to shake things up a little. Somehow, when nobody was looking, Maryland got yanked up by the roots and deposited next to Wisconsin. And those smug Facebook posts from people in the Sunshine State aren’t making things any easier. (You know who you are, people who keep posting that “I love watching winter…from Florida” photo.)

On Friday, 12 airplanes are leaving the extreme cold behind for a few days and going south. But they’re not stopping at the Florida coast for long. They’re headed for the Bahamas.

This is the third Bahamas fly-out organized by Aviation Adventures, a flight school based in Manassas, Va. I’m riding along with Aviation Adventures’ owner Bob Hepp and Ronnie Hepp in the flight school’s Piper Twin Comanche. The rest of the group are making their way in a Diamond DA42, a Cessna 206, three 182s, three 172s, a Piper Arrow, a Beech Bonanza, and a Tecnam Sierra.

We’ll depart Virginia, stop for fuel in South Carolina, and continue to Fort Pierce, where we’ll overnight. AOPA photographer Mike Fizer is joining us there. The next day, we launch for the southern Out Islands, and we’ll stay at Fernandez Bay Village on Cat Island. Its owner, Tony Armbrister, is a pilot.

I’ve been studying the procedures for flying internationally, and between required forms, equipment, and survival gear, it’s a little daunting—but it’s also telling that many of the pilots on this fly-out are repeat customers. I’ll be sharing their experiences and tips for enjoying a stress-free trip to warmer weather in the Reporting Points blog and in a future issue of AOPA Pilot.

In the meantime, stay warm and, yes, I know, I’ve just joined the ranks of those people on Facebook.

The importance of a washer

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Now, how important can one little washer be?

Pretty important, as it turns out. While this is not a general aviation incident, the lesson here is dramatically applicable to all of us.

The FAA prepared an analysis of what happened to a China Airlines Boeing 737-800 on August 20, 2007, after landing at Naha Airport on Okinawa, Japan. Watch these two short videos. The first is an animation that explains what happened. Then, watch the second video, which shows the consequences of one missing washer.

That’s about a $90.5 million washer, based on average 2013 Boeing list prices. The 165 people on board were evacuated with no casualties, even though it appears to take about three and a half minutes for fire trucks to arrive. Thanks to my friend Bob Punch for calling this to my attention.

 

Airline’s interesting Christmas video

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Disclaimer: This is not general aviation-related. But it’s aviation-related, and it’s worth watching.

Canadian airline WestJet apparently has a tradition of doing something big at the holidays–last year, it was a late-night flash mob in an airport terminal. This year, it’s…well, if I give away the story line, it’ll be a spoiler (and I don’t want to be accused of spoiling Christmas). Watch the YouTube video here.

Not only is the video well-produced, but it’s gone viral–with more than 6.5 million views on YouTube as of this writing. (The video’s only been online for three days.) If you want more, there’s also an outtakes and bloopers reel here.

Merry Christmas!

 

Around the world for eight by private jet

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

hong kong

Hong Kong

Every holiday season it seems one company, usually Macy’s, captures media attention for the most luxurious gift. This time, it may be Flexjet. If you really loved your family and friends this holiday season, you would buy them the new Abercrombie and Kent offering–a $1.5 million trip around the world for eight aboard a Flexjet Challenger 605. Hotel rooms, granted they are luxury accomodations, are double occupancy at that price. So what did you expect for only $1.5 million? The leather seats transform into beds if the pace wears you down.

Yes, excess, I know. I’m just the reporter here. For the record, I am a lot more likely to go around the traffic pattern at Frederick, Maryland, in a rented Diamond DA40 than I am to go on this trip.

The price includes private showings and events at every stop that the rest of us will never see. The two-week grand tour includes a visit to Japan to see the Toji Temple and the emperor’s private retreat, both of which are closed to the public. There are two nights in Beijing, two nights in Hong Kong, and two nights in Agra, India, near the Taj Mahal. There are also two nights each in Turkey and France.

Challenger 605 aircraft

Challenger 605

Trips start after the current travel season ends in February. The Challenger will repeat the trip as many times as there are millionaires who are willing to pay the price. Or, at least they were millionaires before the trip began.