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Strange But True General Aviation News

Friday, December 7th, 2012

But it looked so real!  WGN-TV news anchors Larry Potash and Robin Baumgarten were just doing their job when they went live and began reporting on what appeared to be an aircraft accident in Chicago, reports the Herald Sun.  The problem was, the accident was fake, having been staged for the NBC television series “Chicago Fire.”

Rocky Mountain Low.  Pilot Carl Steven Gruber’s excuse that he flew 55 pounds of pot into Boulder Municipal Airport to provide medical marijuana didn’t fly with Judge Thomas Mulvahill.  Gruber was sentenced to two years probation and a $10,000 fine, reports the Daily Camera.

Those were expensive airplane rides!  Among the gifts Inland Waters CEO Tony Soave gave former disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was private jet flights totaling nearly $400,000, reports WXYZ-TV.  Soave, who also gave Fitzpatrick and his family an all-expenses-paid trip to Naples, Fla., says he did it because he didn’t want to lose the city’s business.

From private to commercial.  Juan Manuel Marquez, who will fight Manny Pacquiao on Saturday in Las Vegas, arrive six hour later than expected.  Why?  The private jet he was using had to make a U-Turn after the pilot discovered a problem with the tire right before taking off, reports Yahoo Sports. The pilot determined the aircraft would not be able to fly, so Marquez ended up catching a commercial airline flight.

We’ll end the week with this blog post from Huffington Post: The Emily Post Guide to Flying Private. Enjoy!

Want to help the DC-10 tankers survive?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

The two former DC-10 airliners modified for use as aerial firefighters by 10 Tanker Air Carrier (see “The New Rainmaker,” May 2012 AOPA Pilot) have seen a good bit of use during this year’s busy wildfire season–several of you have mentioned personally seeing the distinctive orange-and-white jumbo jets at low levels, battling blazes in the western states. (If you haven’t seen the “10″ in action, you can catch the video on AOPA Live.)

However, the company has been unable to secure an exclusive-use contract from the U.S. Forest Service, which it says is required for continued operation of the aircraft. There were reports during the summer that absent such a contract, the company might ground the aircraft before the end of the year. Now, the company is calling on supporters–through its Facebook page and an email campaign–to sign a petition to the Forest Service supporting use of the aircraft.

 The Forest Service is assessing which aircraft it will use to fight forest fires in the future, the company said. “This is our chance to persuade the USFS of the DC-10s’ unique ability to contain forest fires. But we need your help to show USFS Chief Tom Tidwell that we have widespread support.” The efficiency of the flying supertankers certainly is impressive–one can cover about the same amount of ground as four C-130s.

You can learn more, and sign the petition, by visiting this website. I was impressed by what I saw, both during my visit to 10 Tanker and on news videos. They’ve got my support.

Remembering our veterans, and Herbert Carter

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

 As we pause to remember and give thanks to our veterans, this year I am reflecting particularly on those who served in World War II, a population that sadly grows smaller every day. Few members of that modest “Greatest Generation” have a more compelling tale than the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military pilots, who had to fight for the right and privilege to serve their country in combat from the pilot’s seat of a warbird.

That small group lost one of its leaders last Thursday with the death of Col. Herbert E. Carter (Ret.). Carter, 95, was one of the original members of the 99th Fighter Squadron and flew combat missions during the North African, Sicilian, Italian, and European campaigns of World War II.

The Tuskegee Airmen trained at the Tuskegee Institute–now Tuskegee University–in Tuskegee, Alabama. After the war Carter returned to the campus, where he served as a professor of air science and commanded the Air Force ROTC detachment from 1950 to 1955; he was a professor of aerospace studies from 1965 to 1969. When he retired from the Air Force, he served at Tuskegee as assistant dean for student services and associate dean for admissions and recruiting.

Carter was married for more than 60 years to Mildred L. Hemmons Carter, also a pilot who was counted among the Tuskegee Airmen. I once had the pleasure of hearing him describe their courtship during early 1942. They would arrange to meet over a lake near Tuskegee, she in a Piper J-3 Cub and he flying a much faster North American AT-6 Texan. They married before Carter deployed for combat; CNN ran a touching story on the couple after Mildred died in October 2011.

I believe the last time I saw Carter was during the summer of 2011, when Matt Quy visited Tuskegee’s Moton Field in his Stearman–one that was originally assigned to training of the Tuskegee Airmen–on its way to the Smithsonian Institution (you can see the video from that story here).

Godspeed, Mr. Carter–and thank you to all our veterans.


Strange But True General Aviation News

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Wait — this *isn’t* a runway?  A pilot in Michigan thought he was landing at St. Cloud Regional Airport, but in fact landed on a country road, reports the Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch. The pilot, who said it was raining, noted that the weather was “less than ideal” for flying.

Look up – you’re being pulled over! The Wisconsin State Patrol reports it has given out 1,324 speeding tickets, 1,662 citations and made 2,197 traffic stops using three Cessna Skyhawks, reports the LaCrosse Tribune.  The patrol called its aerial enforcement program, “a valuable traffic safety enforcement tool,” and plans to bring it back in 2013.

This time, the plane was not to blame.  Officials at Philadelphia International Airport say an aircraft was not to blame for a tire that smashed a hole into the roof of a local building, reports NBC Philadelphia. Instead, the damage is being blamed on a truck that lost a tire.

It was the accident that wasn’t, part 1.  Residents in the Wildomar/Murrieta/Temecula, Calif., region reported an aircraft accident after hearing a “loud bang” around 7 in the morning, reports the Temecula Patch. A search by the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was called off after it was determined the residents just heard a loud noise.

The accident that wasn’t, part 2.  On the other side of the country, the Warwick, R.I. Fire Department called off the search for a airplane that appeared to drop off the radar at the air traffic control tower at T.F. Green Airport, reports the Boston Globe.  No calls about a downed aircraft were made and searches by the Marine Task Force and the Coast Guard came up empty.

Airplane meets deer. A pilot and his student are fine after their single-engine airplane hit a deer while trying to take off at Ohio’s Carroll County Airport, reports WTOV-TV.  The owner and student pilot, Tom Erb, had just bought the aircraft.

Taking some air out of the campaign.  A blimp being used for advertising by the Mitt Romney presidential campaign was forced to do an emergency landing in Davie, Fla., because of high winds, reports the Washington Post.  The pilot and passenger were unharmed.

Looking for a few good aircraft owners

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

A British outfit is looking to profile a few good aircraft owners. See the note below.

Dave Hirschman
Senior Editor
AOPA Pilot magazine

Hello, I work for UK-based documentary production company NERD TV (http://www.nerdsite.co.uk).

We’re making a TV series for a US network about people with interesting collections of aircraft. The important thing is the collections cannot be entirely comprised of gleaming, pristine museum pieces.

An ideal candidate would be someone with a couple of airworthy planes and a few other projects that are in various stages of completion (the messier the better). They could be unfinished projects, once-loved specimens that have fallen into disrepair, or just rusty shells in a barn. The more the better.

We would also need the subjects to have other (non-aviation) items in their vehicular collections; a classic car gathering dust, a pile of disassembled motorbikes, a boat sitting on a trailer, or maybe even an old bus in a field.

At this point, we’re just trying to speak to people – nothing will be broadcast. The idea of the show is for our restoration team to help bring fading collections back to their glistening best. This could be a chance for people to finally complete projects that have been on-the-go for years, and may even add significant value.

If you, or someone you know, might fit the bill (or are just curious about the idea), please email me at oliver@nerdsite.co.uk or call 0207 043 0080.

Many thanks,

Oliver Good
NERD | www.nerdtv.co.uk
T: + 44 (0)207 043 0080
M: + 44 (0)7877 287 919

Strange But True General Aviation News

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Yes, you just got pulled over — because of a plane. The Florida Highway Patrol has begun using a Cessna SkyHawk  to catch speeding drivers in the Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Broward counties, reports the Palm Beach Post.  An officer pilot tracks speeders from the skies and transmits the informantion to a patrol car on the ground, who then issues a speeding ticket.

I guess he wanted a certain look. Embattled Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries has been embarrassed by a set of rules required for the actors and models that serve as flight attendants on the company’s Gulfstream G550, reports Bloomberg. According to a 40-page document released as part of an age discrimination lawsuit filed against the company by a former pilot, Jeffries insisted on rules including: black gloves had to be used when handling silverware and white gloves to lay the table; males required to wear a belt, hat, gloves, boxer briefs and a “spritz” of the retailer’s cologne; and specific seating arrangements for the CEO’s three dogs.

He had a ticket to ride. Ultimate Fighter Champion Stephen Bonnar had a problem — he had to be in Rio de Janeiro for a championship, but his wife was in Las Vegas about to deliver their first child. UFC founder Dana White came to the rescue, offering Bonnar a ride home in his Bombardier Global Express, reports Flying magazine.

Speaking of tickets to ride… Amber Nolan is hoping to visit all 50 states…by hitching rides on general aviation aircraft, reports the Seattle Times.  So far, she has visited 11 states and flown in planes ranging from a Piper Lance to an Eclipse 500.

Nice haul.  The Australian Federal Police seized nearly $100 million in luxury goods from criminals in the past year, nearly double that of the previous year, reports CQNews.com. Among the items seized was a Beechcraft A36 and “multiple” Rolls-Royces.

The accidents that weren’t. An alleged aircraft accident in El Reno, Okla.,  turned out to be a controlled burn, reports KFOR-TV.  Fire companies and a helicopter searched an area in Fredericksburg, Pa., for a reported accident that turned out to be  plane doing a smoke show, reports the Lebanon Daily News.

Amazing! 90-year-old pilot and World War II veteran Vernon E. Bothwell Jr. managed to land his 1986 Woody Pusher when it went down after experiencing engine failure, reports WTHI-TV.  Bothwell was treated for a ankle fracture and a head laceration.

Hayley Brown’s Inspiring Comeback

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Many of those who read the harrowing “Tragedy in Mexico” story in AOPA Pilot of a June accident that killed a volunteer pilot and injured three passengers want to know how the survivors are doing. The answer is better than expected. In fact, miraculously better.
Hayley Brown, 18, was the most seriously injured. As you’ll see in this video, she’s making great progress in her recovery and will begin college early next year (about five months later than originally planned). These images of the aftermath of an aircraft accident aren’t easy to watch, but look closely and see the triumph of this young woman’s incredible spirit. It’s a will not just to survive — but to live fully.
We’re with you, Hayley . . .


To read the AOPA Pilot “Tragedy in Mexico” story and see photos and a video about the accident, follow this link: http://www.aopa.org/members/files/pilot/2012/august/f_mexico.html

Found — Waco in Sam Lyons painting

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

It wasn’t really lost, but the 1993 Waco used for Sam Lyons’ painting of a Waco flying past a home on Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway was recently discovered in Uvalde, Texas, where it is owned by Sierra Industries. The home in the painting belonged to the owner at the time who lives on Florida’s east coast. Thanks to LyonsStudio.com for use of the photo of the painting.

Last F-22 Raptor Delivery

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Here’s a report from Lockheed test pilot Brett Luedke about his final production test flight in an F-22.

Bret Luedke flew most of the F-22 Raptor fleet, starting with Raptor 04 through Raptor 195 as a test and production pilot for Lockheed Martin. Luedke flew his “fini” flight in Raptor 195 on April 25, 2012. Below is his recollection of that flight.

How do you describe the last flight in an airplane that has been your life for the past 19 years? It is a flood of emotions, sensations and memories.

The unique, deep-throated rumble during engine start of the Pratt & Whitney F119 engines brings a sense of confidence and strength as they breathe life into the Raptor.

The multiple “deedle deedle” warning tones of the Caution and Warning system during engine start gives you a sense of assurance the Raptor is awaking as normal. Later, in flight, that same sound can bring an instant rush of adrenalin as you scan the cockpit to determine the severity of the malfunction.

Giving a friendly wave for the last time to the fire trucks, security guards and the Raptor Mobile truck brings a sense of sadness and a feeling of thanks for the hundreds of times they have patiently waited – just in case they were needed.

Lining up on the runway for that last takeoff, flashing back to the very first time you lined up on a similar runway more than 30 years ago for your first jet flight, and thinking in the next instant, “Please don’t let me screw this up.”

Once airborne, the feeling of pure enjoyment as the Raptor responds to your every whim. The smile that crosses your face and the sense of pride you feel in the hard work of everyone on the Raptor team as you hear the air traffic controllers ask passing traffic if they’ve ever seen a Raptor and call you out for a fleeting glimpse.

The chuckle you get when air traffic control asks you to give your “best rate of climb” or “best rate of descent” and then shortly thereafter asks what altitude you are passing because their radar can’t keep up with Raptor.

Sitting at Mach 1.5 and 44,000 feet with a feeling of quiet calm knowing the Raptor is at home here.

Rolling into an intercept, remembering the feeling of frustration of the F-16 pilot unable to find the Raptor, knowing it was out there, playing with you and getting ready to blow you out of the sky.

Enjoying the simple fun of watching the clouds go whizzing by as you maneuver around and over them marveling at their simple beauty.

As you come up initial for the last time, glancing over at “Trigger” tucked in tight on your wing and remembering the fighter pilot motto: “Better to die than look bad.”

As you are “beating up the pattern” for the last time, hoping all the folks out on the flight line are enjoying the heart pounding exhilaration that is the F-22 as you pull seven Gs in the closed pull-up and watch out of the corner of your eye the white vapor trails generated off the leading edges of the wings.

The sense of sadness you feel as you hear “Betty” say, “Bingo Bingo,” and you know the ride of your life has come to an end.

The pride you feel as you taxi back in for the last time looking at the smiling faces and waving hands of the people there on the flight line to celebrate with you, knowing that in some very small way you had a small part to play in nurturing and developing the F-22A Raptor into the unequaled master of the sky that it is.

That was my last flight in the Raptor.

Bret “Lowkey” Luedke
“Raptor 26”

The Dreadful, Wonderful RV-1

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

The RV-1 is a simply dreadful airplane – and that’s what makes it so important.
Had it been fast, comfortable, efficient, well engineered, and good looking, there would have been no incentive for aircraft designer Richard Van Grunsven to address its many shortcomings by inventing the RV line of kit planes – far and away the most successful ever produced with more than 7,600 examples currently flying.
The RV-1 has few admirable qualities. It’s primitive, painful to sit in, and ergonomically awful.
Even with the improvements Van Grunsven made from the time he built the airplane in 1965 until he sold it three years later (he replaced the 65-horsepower engine with a 125-horsepower model, added a bubble canopy, and a cantilevered aluminum wing) he couldn’t transform the sow’s ear into a silk purse. So he sold the RV-1 and designed and built the RV-3 in 1971 from a clean sheet. And that single-seat airplane, and the two- and four-seat designs that sprang from it, are phenomenal.
The RV-1 languished largely forgotten for decades until Paul Dye, an RV pilot and builder, discovered the remnants in a hangar in Houston, Texas, and swung into action. The NASA flight director recognized the RV-1’s unique place in aviation history, and he put together a group of volunteers to make the RV-1 airworthy again. They also flew it, promoted it, and this summer (the 40th anniversary of Vans Aircraft) they will deliver it to the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for permanent display.
Until then, the RV-1 is touring the country, and a few fortunate, curious, and – if they know what’s good for them — short pilots (like me) get to move it Pony Express-style from one location to the next. (My 100-mile leg was from AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, to Pottstown, Pennsylvania, on May 6.)
Flying the RV-1, it’s easy to imagine the young Van Grunsven thinking about ways to address each fault in subsequent designs. From the seating position to the construction materials to the baggage compartment, trim system, and redesigned tail, little was left untouched. The RV-1 and the RV-3 are about the same external dimensions and used the same engine. But where the RV-1 is crude, ungainly, and uninspiring – the RV-3 that immediately followed is sleek, relatively roomy (once you’re actually in the seat), a model of efficiency, and an absolute delight.

Intro flight
My intro flight in the RV-1 took place on a mild spring evening with clear skies and light winds – ideal for getting to know a new airplane.
Preflight inspection showed the airplane has been carefully brought back to airworthy condition with a Catto fixed-pitch prop, new tires, new wiring, a Garmin SL40 radio, and an unscratched bubble canopy. The airplane hasn’t been restored to as-new condition, however. Its fabric is worn, the paint is faded and chipped, and the wings have scratches and dents from decades of accumulated hangar rash.
The RV-1 has a rudimentary fuel system (a single 22-gallon fuselage fuel tank and on on/off valve), a 14-volt electrical system (single battery and alternator) and minimal VFR avionics (no attitude indicator, gyros, or nav radios). Double-puck hydraulic brakes seem like overkill on such a light airplane, but they work. The steel-tube fuselage is fabric covered, and the aluminum wings with manual flaps appear quite similar to the RVs that followed. The wire-braced tail has manual elevator trim (ground adjustable tabs provide aileron and rudder trim), and the steerable, full-swivel tailwheel is solid rubber.
Climbing into the cockpit requires stepping on the seat with both feet and lowering yourself, carefully, into the non-adjustable, straight-backed seat. I’m barely 5 feet 8 inches tall, and the rudder pedals seem absurdly close with my shins and knees nearly banging on the fuel tank and instrument panel. The instrument panel also appears far too close to the pilot, and the throttle and flap handle are awkward to manipulate. The swing-over canopy locks into position in two places when the single lever is pushed forward, and a fresh air vent on the right side of the canopy provides almost no ventilation.
Engine start for the carbureted O-290 is normal, and taxiing requires S-turns to clear the path ahead. The pre-takeoff checklist is short: Fuel pump on, elevator trim set, canopy locked.
On takeoff, the tailwheel feels like it’s sliding on ice as the airplane accelerates through about 25 miles an hour, and it remains somewhat squirrely as long as it’s on the ground. Fortunately, aircraft acceleration is quick, and the RV-1 is flying before the lack of positive steering causes too much consternation.
Once in the air, the RV-1 has refreshingly light ailerons, its elevator is somewhat heavy, and the rudder is heavier still. The climb rate at 90 mph is 1,200 fpm (with full fuel), and the airplane had no trouble joining and maneuvering with the photo ship (an A-36 Bonanza with the rear doors removed) which was flying at 2,000 feet msl and 120 kias. Significantly faster speeds are possible, but the RV-1 runs out of nose-down trim at about 140 miles an hour, and higher speed requires constant forward stick pressure.
The RV-1 handled well enough during our 45-minute photo flight that I almost forgot the cramp in my left thigh, the contortions required to manipulate the throttle, and the discomfort of the straight-backed seat.
Approach and landing weren’t difficult as the RV-1 flies solidly in the landing configuration. There’s a nose-down moment when the manual flaps are deployed, and the flap handle itself makes the elevator trim difficult to reach. With two-thirds flaps and an approach speed of 70 mph there was no more nose-up trim available, so I made a main-wheel landing at that flap setting and kept the non-trustworthy tailwheel off the pavement as long as practical. Once the tailwheel touched down at about 20 mph, the RV-1 decelerated quickly to taxi speed.

Constructive dissatisfaction
The RV-1’s shortcomings are many – and they mostly serve to highlight the amazing progress experimental aviation has made in the nearly half-century since this airplane first flew. We take for granted that speed, efficiency, control harmony, superior construction materials, and brilliant avionics were somehow inevitable. But such extraordinary advancements only came about because a few visionary and restless people (Van Grunsven chief among them) believed they could do better.
The rest of us are beneficiaries of the fact that they were right.
Hopefully, there are some similarly gifted future designers out there flying today’s best airplanes with the same sense of constructive dissatisfaction.
We all look forward to the wonders they produce.

To follow RV-1’s tour: