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

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

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:


Solar Impulse on its way to U.S.

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

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/

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

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

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.

Where are our future pilots?

Friday, January 30th, 2015

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?


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.