Uncategorized Archive

F-22 pilot tells Iranian F-4 pilots, “You really oughta go.”

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, son of an Air Force combat veteran and father of an Air Force pilot, likes to brag on his personnel. At the Air Force Association convention in New Harbor, Md., this month he described what happened when Iranian pilots intercepted a remotely piloted vehicle doing surveillance over the Arabian Gulf. The encounter was first reported in “AvWeb,” and you can see the actual speech here. Change the quality to the lowest possible to help stream the video. (Click on the gear symbol at lower right and choose the bottom setting.)  The comments concerning F-22 pilot Lt. Col. Kevin “Showtime” Sutterfield occur at 18:25 into the video.

Welsh described the March incident this way: “You guys see the news clip not long ago about the Iranian F-4 that intercepted a remotely piloted aircraft over the Arabian Gulf, and then they were warned off? This is the guy that warned them off…after he rejoined on them, flew underneath their aircraft to check out their weapons load without them knowing he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and called them and said, ‘You really oughta go.’” They left.

ATC predictions from 25 years ago; Pilotless planes and empty control rooms

Friday, September 13th, 2013

There was a conference at the U.S. Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass., 25 years ago attended by representatives from Japan, Europe, the USSR (it was 1988, three years before the USSR dissolved) and the United States. They made predictions of what the future held. Let’s see how they did.

Tatiana Anodina of the USSR predicted a fully automatic system in which controllers would act as supervisors. We don’t seem to be moving that way. She also said the future system would be heavily dependent on satellites. Absolutely correct.

MIT professor Robert Simpson said the U.S. could lose its dominance of aviation manufacturing, and its monopoly on commercial air services, to Asian countries. That one remains an interesting prediction.

William Rouse of Search Technology said a computer he named CAL could instantly revamp the entire air traffic flow based on a flood of travelers, such as a sporting event in one city. He also said politicians delayed on their flight could address a banquet crowd from their seats (creating a new hell for fellow travelers). Fortunately those predictions failed, but a speaker late to a speech could combine Skype with onboard wi-fi. (Don’t tell them.)

Fred Singer of the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed unmanned supersonic freighters carrying 20-ton payloads at Mach 2 and 3 over the ocean. Command destruct capability, a switch that would blow up errant unmanned aircraft, might be necessary so the flights would be mostly over water. Cargo shippers probably wouldn’t like the odds, but unmanned aircraft are here, growing, and they aren’t over water.

Paul Muto of NEC Corp. of Japan said aircraft with satellite navigation would be cleared onto minimum time tracks, while aircraft using conventional navigation tools would still use airways. Ground-based navigation aids would be retained only as long as users want to pay for them. Sounds like he was on the right “track,” making the part about “paying for them” a little scary. But we have AOPA.  He also said, “We will not forsake our controllers. Both pilots and controllers will have their jobs.” Good call–so far.

A final thought: What if an unmanned aircraft that has been programmed to go one direction finds itself in conflict with an unmanned control room that wants it to alter course? Would there be a cyber argument leading to overheated circuits?

The man behind the real ‘Propwash Junction’

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Billed as coming “from above the world of Cars,” Disney’s Planes gives an imaginative glimpse into the world of general aviation. And while the animated film, which hit theaters Aug. 9, takes a few liberties with the story of a cropduster turned international air racer (it is, after all, an animated children’s film), it’s grounded in the real world of small airplanes.

I wrote an article for the August issue of AOPA Pilot about the research that went into the film and the airport, Leaders Clear Lake in Minnesota, that inspired Dusty’s hometown of Propwash Junction. Bob Leaders, the owner of the airport, hadn’t known that the airport he carved out of a farm would help shape filmmakers’ portrayal of small airport communities. Recently, Craig M. Lieberg wrote to me after reading the article to tell me more about the man behind the real-world Propwash Junction.

“We had just walked home down one of the two driveways of the airport, which has been our home for the last 35 years,” he wrote. “We looked at the picture of the old gas truck, which was the inspiration for ‘Chug’, we are very familiar with that sight.”

Lieberg shared the impact that Leaders has had on pilots in the local community:

The human interest side of your article, is a story of a man who selflessly has dedicated his life to his love of aviation, and helping his fellow man find pleasure in their love of flying. In my opinion, Bob Leader has done more for GA than anyone else I know of in this area. He has spent his life helping the common man find a way to pursue their passion of flight. Bob is now over 80 years of age and is on the job 7 days a week, living just west of the runway, on the property, with his wife. Having bought the original farm property around 1968, he carved out this little airport, which is privately owned, but publicly used, averaging about 60 aircraft on the ground year around. Currently operating the business with the help of two of his sons, and a hired A&P, they maintain aircraft from J-3 Cubs to [Beechcraft] Queenairs, float planes, ski planes, spray planes, all matter of anything that flies. At one time years ago, a DC-3 and a C-47 sat under the windsock. Many a poor man has come, swept floors, stripped paint, plowed runway and taxi-ways, repaired equipment, and got his pilot’s license. Only to go on and help the next guy do the same. I wouldn’t be flying today if it weren’t for Bob Leader.

Planes may help get the next generation excited about aviation; translating that excitement to a new generation of pilots will likely involve the pay-it-forward attitude of pilots like Bob Leaders. Disney’s Planes tells the story of a small-town airplane with a dream. How fitting that an inspiration for it offered many future pilots a chance to follow their own dream.

Postal Service to issue ‘inverted Jenny’ collector stamp

Friday, July 19th, 2013

(c) 2013 U.S. Postal Service

(c) 2013 U.S. Postal Service

Philatelists, start your engines: The U.S. Postal Service plans to issue a collector stamp commemorating “the most famous error in the history of U.S. stamps”: the 1918 misprint that produced an upside-down Curtiss-Jenny biplane.

The reprinted inverted Jenny stamp will be issued Sept. 22 for $2. The original inverted Jenny was issued in 1918 and cost 24 cents. The postal service is using the original engraved dies of the 1918 stamp in the design of the 2013 edition.

If you happen to own one of the originals, good for you. The Postal Service says collectors have accounted for nearly all of the 1oo inverted Jennys that were produced. One recently sold at auction for $625,000.

The 1981 original. (c) 2013 U.S. Postal Service

The 1918 original. (c) 2013 U.S. Postal Service

Propulsion Pushback

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Many pilots are early technology adopters and push the bounds of the possible – so it’s a cruel irony that we, as a group, have been stuck for so long with ancient air-cooled engines that are largely unchanged from the middle of the last century.
The first in our Propulsion series in AOPA Pilot magazine is getting lots of response from pilots eager to move forward.
Commenting on the AOPA Facebook page, Paul Roper puts it bluntly: “One of the most disappointing things I experienced during my foray into general aviation was the ludicrous prices manufacturers would charge for crappy, low-tech, Flintstones-era, underpowered, thirsty, boring engines. Well, not only the prices, but the whole head-in-the-sand attitude to anything invented after about 1950. Carburetors? Pushrod valves? Are we in the Victorian era?”
Others, like AOPA member Terry Welander, have written to take issue with the likely future elimination of leaded avgas:
“Most of the environmentalists have knee jerk reactions whenever the word lead comes up; which is highly ignorant; based on the below facts on the lead and other toxins in the atmosphere from volcanic emissions. There will never be a rational reason to remove the one part per million lead from avgas. Worse, as with practically all past fuel transitions, the increased costs and hidden safety hazards of new fuels not evident until substantial use has been accomplished will likely result in a temporary to intermediate degradation of aircraft safety which is completely unnecessary.”

In case you missed it, here’s the link to the July kickoff article in AOPA Pilot.
Share your thoughts by commenting here.

Dave Hirschman
Senior Editor
AOPA Pilot magazine

The fine art of safety wiring

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

WireSome of the teens who are assembling two Glasair aircraft here in Arlington, Wash., come from a farming community. They’ve had their hands dirty working with tractors and other types of equipment for years.

So when they got their lesson in safety wiring, they made a connection between that and repairing fences. They soon learned that the “safety” in “safety wiring” carries a lot of meaning. It’s there to keep all those moving parts from shaking themselves loose (that’s a simplified explanation, but bear with me, builders, please).

Glasair’s Ben Wat carefully safety wired–and then rewired—the bolts on the propeller hub for one of the Build a Plane aircraft, explaining that aviation mechanics take pride in doing this correctly—no loose twists, no sloppy “pigtails.” Just as pilots endure scrutiny from other pilots, mechanics grade each other’s work, I’m guessing.

This is just a tiny taste of the education the GAMA/Build a Plane crew are receiving as they craft two four-place Experimental airplanes. The pride of workmanship will stay with them long after they return home to Minnesota and Michigan.

Build a Plane builds two planes, Day 4: Ready for the wings

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Photo courtesy Dustan Muir

Photo courtesy Dustan Muir

The gleaming wings for the first Build a Plane Glasair are laid out on trestles, waiting to be installed, and that is on today’s agenda.

Every artist signs his work, so it makes perfect sense that the high school students participating in the GAMA/Build a Plane project should sign theirs. That’s what they did, affixing signatures beneath the inspection covers. The operators of these aircraft will see these names at every inspection and recall the two weeks spent here in Arlington, Wash., with a great crew of young people. 

I’m wondering if this is a tradition that every builder shares, much like cutting a shirt tail or dumping water on a student pilot at solo. When you’re building your aircraft, there’s more opportunity to personalize or customize it. What could be a greater source of pride than your own signature affixed to your own handiwork?

The NHL, aviation…or both?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Aiden Muir gets an airplane ride with Build a Plane's Lyn Freeman. Photo courtesy Dustin Muir

Aiden Muir gets an airplane ride with Build a Plane’s Lyn Freeman. Photo courtesy Dustan Muir

One of these days, if you happen to see Aidan Muir, he may be wearing a National Hockey League uniform. The 6-foot-3-inch forward has been playing since he was 8 years old and is ranked 108th in North America.

This week, however, his heart belongs to general aviation, and hockey has been relegated to the background while he helps to assemble a Glasair Sportsman.

Aidan joined three classmates from Saline High School in Saline, Mich., as well as four students from Canby, Minn., after the two teams won an aviation design competition sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Build a Plane. Their prize: an all-expenses-paid trip to Arlington, Wash., to help assemble two airplanes at the Glasair Aviation facility.

After a jam-packed first day working with Glasair mechanics in the company’s Two Weeks to Taxi program, Aidan got an airplane ride yesterday with Build a Plane President Lyn Freeman.

“He loved his ride,” says Aidan’s dad, Dustan, who showed me a cell phone photo his son had sent him. (Dustan is on hand as a chaperone.)

The NHL may lay claim to Aidan some time in the near future. This week and next week, GA is his main focus. And the seed planted this week in Arlington will undoubtedly benefit GA in the future.

Build a Plane builds two planes, Day 3: Nonstop learning

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Ben Rauk (he’s one of three Bens at the Glasair Aviation factory in Arlington, Wash.), starts each day of the Build a Plane/GAMA marathon with a briefing and a “lesson of the day.” Today’s was on safety wiring.

Glasair Aviation's Ben Rauk gives a morning briefing to the Build a Plane participants.

Glasair Aviation’s Ben Rauk gives a morning briefing to the Build a Plane participants.

It might have been totally new territory to the students, but Rauk’s tutorials also proved enlightening to observers who have spent many years in aviation. “I learned something on drilling I didn’t know,” said Mark Van Tine, chief executive officer of Jeppesen, who has been helping to build one of the airplanes. “That’s a nice way to start the day out.”

Glasair and Build a Plane cooperated on the construction of a Sportsman in 2008 with four teens who went through the Two Weeks to Taxi program. This is the first time, however, that the organizations have shepherded eight students working on two airplanes simultaneously. What’s more, a privately owned Sportsman has been in and out of the main hangar while the owner flies off the 40 hours required under the regulations governing homebuilt/experimental aircraft. The near-constant activity in the hangar is a happy soundtrack for general aviation.

A student pilot principal

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

The teens who came to Arlington, Wash., this week to work on two Glasair Sportsman aircraft did not come alone. The students from Saline, Mich., brought their teacher, Ed Redies, and a parent chaperone. The teens from Canby, Minn., brought their teacher, Dan Lutgen, and their principal, Bob Slaba.

Canby High School Principal Bob Slaba (in blue) is a student pilot.

Canby High School Principal Bob Slaba (in blue) is a student pilot.

Slaba is not standing on the sidelines. He’s a student pilot with about 25 hours logged, and he freely credits Dan Lutgen’s passion for aviation as a primary reason why he found himself learning to fly. He soloed in May, and hopes to take his checkride on Aug. 1. So the opportunity to immerse himself in the actual construction of an airplane has been a valuable learning experience for him, as he sees the airplane take shape in front of him. He’s also extremely busy documenting the build for his school’s website.

 He’s obviously a supporter of Saline’s aviation ground school class, but not just because he caught the flying bug. “We have to have kids doing things in life, learning something and having a goal,” he said.

Slaba is proud of the students who have completed Canby’s program and gone on to become private pilots. Soon he’ll join their ranks.