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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.

Build a Plane builds two planes, Day 1

Monday, June 17th, 2013

“Get ready to drink from the firehose.”

Can they build an entire airplane in two weeks? Build a Plane is betting they can.

Can they build an entire airplane in two weeks? Build a Plane is betting they can.

If you’re in aviation, you’ve probably heard that phrase before—particularly if you did an accelerated rating or a type rating. Today I heard that phrase applied to the process of building an airplane.

“Building an airplane” and “drinking from the firehose” are generally not concepts that you hear in the same conversation, but when you consider that we’re talking about assembling an Experimental kit in two weeks, it all makes sense.

The kids who took their first deep drink from the firehose today are eight teenagers from high schools in Michigan and Minnesota. They are the winners of an aviation design contest sponsored by Build a Plane and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. School’s out, and they’re here in Arlington, Wash., to spend some quality time with fiberglas, rivets, and bucking bars.

learning about wingsThe day began at 7 a.m. with a briefing at Glasair’s Customer Assembly Center at Arlington Airport. (We should all have hangars this immaculate and organized. Talk about a place for everything and everything in its place!) By the first morning break, the students had begun mounting rudders and installing rudder cables, and mounting the main landing gear and tires. In another corner, fuel lines were being threaded along a wing.

Glasair’s Two Weeks to Taxi program has several years under its belt, and the level of preparation that goes into it is evident. To the casual observer, today looked a little like “organized chaos,” as one observer put it—but it was also apparent that a lot of progress was made. That’s good, because the plan is to get the first of the two airplanes ready to taxi on Wednesday, June 26, and an FAA inspection on Saturday, June 29.

tire on rimWill they make it? Stay tuned as I post updates from Arlington and the progress of the Build a Plane/GAMA projects.

Want to run a flightseeing business like David Snell?

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

David Snell, the entrepreneurial soul who runs Starlight Flights in Dallas, Texas–and that’s just one of his three businesses—says he knew AOPA Pilot readers would be interested in what he does. And he was right.

Since my article on Snell (“2,000 Feet Over Dallas”) was published in the March 2012 issue, I’ve received numerous emails from members wondering how they, too, could get started in the flightseeing business without owning an airplane. Snell, you’ll recall, rents a Cessna 172 (so no operating expenses), and meets clients in the lobby of the FBO from which he purchases fuel (so no brick-and-mortar expenses). He has commercial and flight instructor certificates but has logged thousands of hours without having to, you know, actually flight instruct.

I’ve forwarded all your emails to David since the article ran, but he has graciously consented to provide his email address on this blog for anybody else who wants more details. He warns that April is the busy time for his crawfish business, but I’m pretty sure that his enthusiasm for what he does and his genuine desire to share his knowledge with fellow pilots means he’ll get back to you. And if you’re in the Dallas area, you just might want to hit up one of his crawfish boils, because I’ve seen photos–and they look delicious. Email Snell at [email protected].


Strange But True General Aviation News

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Sequester forces a move to the rails.  Yet another victim of the sequester is the military jet used by Vice President Joe Biden.  FOX News reports that the vice president made the decision to ground Air Force 2 and take Amtrak to his home in Delaware.

I hope he yelled “fore.”  The pilot of a twin engine Aero Commander was forced to make an emergency landing on the Omni Interlocken Golf Course in Broomfield, Colo., after reporting a loss of power, reports the Denver Post. No one was injured.

He’s a talk show host, he’s an aircraft investigator! Late night talk show host Carson Daly recently expressed concern about a photo that his friend Adam Levine, lead singer for Maroon Five, posted of the band boarding a private jet during a snow storm in Minneapolis, reports CBSLocal.com. Daly reportedly looked up the aircraft’s tail number, and discovered it had been described by a pilot as being “dangerously unsafe.”

Sure I’ll loan you my jet! The Chicago Bulls found themselves flying on the private jet of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban after the team’s own aircraft experienced mechanical problems on a flight from Chicago to Indianapolis, reports Yahoo Sports. The Bulls management used Cuban’s jet for a  flight to San Antonio.

“Pilot Getaways” iPad app

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013


Pilot Getaways, a travel and destination publications that features great fly-in destinations, has a new iPad that shows the current issue of the bimonthly magazine and offers back issues for sale. Pilot Getaways has been featuring recreational destinations accessible to general aviation for 15 years. “Readers have been demanding an easy way to reference our extensive travel information without carrying 73 back issues weighing more than 30 lbs. By the end of the year, we expect to have our complete library of more than 500 destinations available,” said editor-in-chief John Kounis. An annual subscription costs $19.99 and back issues are available for $4.99. For more information, visit www.pilotgetaways.com, or call 877-PILOT-GW.

Vote for Great Lakes paint scheme

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Waco Classic wants you to select the paint scheme for the first Great Lakes biplane the Michigan company is producing.
The first aircraft is nearing completion, and there are five contenders for the paint scheme.
I know which one I like. What’s your favorite?
You can see them (and vote for one) using the following link: http://www.wacoaircraft.com/great-lakes/voting/

Now hear this….

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

The following could ONLY come from a federal agency:

If you have recently had or if you will have an FAA Practical Test using a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) or a Designated Mechanic Examiner (DME), you may be contacted by the FAA for a survey. The questions will be limited in scope to the conduct of the ground and flight (if applicable) portions of your Practical Test.
This is part of an emphasis program by the FAA Designee Quality Assurance Branch, AFS-650. This program interviews recent applicants tested by a DPE/DME and also observes the DPE/DME conducting an actual Practical Test. The purpose is to observe the DPE/DME, not the Practical Test Applicant. The goal is to eventually check all DPEs/DMEs. These checks are prioritized based on, among other things, the type and amount of testing activity conducted by the DPE/DME.
What is a SEED? Special Emphasis Evaluation Designee Inspection.
For more information contact your local FSDO.

Translation: If you have recently taken a check ride or earned an A&P certificate, you may get a survey from the FAA.