Jill Tallman Archive

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.

Designs from a new generation

Monday, June 10th, 2013

A week from today, two teams of high school students will be rolling up their sleeves to start putting together two Glasair Sportsman 2+2s. The teams, from high schools in Saline, Mich., and Canby, Minn., were the winners of a nationwide aviation design challenge competition sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Build A Plane, a nonprofit organization that promotes aviation and aerospace education (and does so through a wide range of activities—which I will discuss in a future blog).

The kids won the challenge by creating an airplane design and test flying a virtual airplane. Lest you think these kids simply plugged some numbers into a program, they went through a monthlong curriculum to get to the design portion. And the software recorded parameters such as time, distance,  fuel efficiency, and more. And their designs were judged and analyzed by a team of aviation engineers.

I thought you’d like to see what these students came up with. Here’s Saline’s design. Can you guess which Experimental airplane served as the inspiration? Extra points if you can name the exact model of that Experimental:

SWWC plane

and a view from the cockpit:

Redies cockpit

 

And here is Canby’s design:

Lutgen rear view

It’ll be fun to see how these kids bridge the gap from the virtual world to the physical process of assembling an airplane. I’ll be there for the first part of the two-week build to bring you the action, and I might even get a chance to do some riveting myself.  Look for more blogs on Reporting Points, plus an article in a future issue of AOPA Pilot.

Five things you didn’t know about Rinker Buck and ‘Flight of Passage’

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Rinker Buck and his brother Kernahan flew from New Jersey to California in a Piper Cub in 1966. Kernahan, the pilot in command, was 17 and Rinker was 15—and the trip was done with their parents’ full consent. (And flown solely by pilotage and dead reckoning—Rinker’s job was to be the navigator.) Rinker Buck’s memoir, Flight of Passage, has become available in eBook format. I talked with him yesterday for an interview that will appear in the August issue of Flight Training magazine, but here are some extras from that very interesting conversation:

  • He doesn’t consider Flight of Passage an aviation book. “I consider it a memoir in the truer sense. It’s about life.”
  • He was surprised when people wrote to tell him the book inspired them. “The biggest surprise of the book was getting emails from people saying ‘I’m so inspired by this, I’m going to learn to fly, I’m going to go take a flight.’” Many current pilots told him the book inspired them to make a coast-to-coast trip–and several did, including a pilot from Rhode Island who conducted the trip in an L-19.
  • He and his brother are still flying, but not as much. Buck has been busy working on his latest book, which chronicles a trip by horse-drawn wagon over the Oregon Trail, but says that he still enjoys flying with friends. Kernahan is an attorney whose Boston practice keeps him busy.
  • When researching Flight of Passage, he re-flew most of the routes in a Cessna 182. “It was amazing that I just remembered our old routes, that’s why the book could be so accurate in terms of landscapes.” The brothers landed at 30 airports. “Twenty-seven of them are still there and they look exactly the same.”
  • He thinks you need to read Stick and Rudder, if you haven’t already. “The principles have not changed. You might be flying along in a Cirrus with a glass cockpit but it’s all still subject to all the same laws that [Wolfgang] Langewiesche wrote about.”

 

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 dsnell@grandecom.net.

 


Reel Stuff releases schedule for upcoming film festival

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

As AOPA’s unofficial aviation movie critic, it’s my solemn duty to inform you that the Air Force Museum Foundation’s Reel Stuff Film Festival of Aviation announced its lineup for the upcoming festival, April 12 through 14 in Dayton, Ohio. And it looks good.

Friday, April 12:

  • The Restorers, presented by Director Adam White and Producer Kara Martinelli. The one-hour documentary tells eight stories of warbird restoration folks. Produced in 2003, it recently became available in a tenth-anniversary commemorative edition; a new television series is in the works.
  • First in Flight, presented by Producer Tara Tucker and Director Brandon Hess. View the trailer for this film about the Wright brothers here. Tucker is the daughter of Sean Tucker.
  • High Flight and Uncle Jack, a pair of films presented by Producer/Director Jon Tennyson. High Flight is narrated by Gary Sinese (also a pilot), and it chronicles his 2011 preparation and flight in a U2 spy plane. Sinese financed the project and proceeds from its sales on DVD benefit the Gary Sinese Foundation.
  • Wings, presented by William Wellman Jr., son of the film’s director, William Wellman. I saw Wings accompanied by live organ music, and it is a beautifully made film for its time (1927). No wonder it won an Academy Award for best picture, and another for best effects. And no CGI!  I’ve heard bits and pieces of what production was like and it’s certain Wellman will have fascinating insights into how the film was made.

Saturday, April 13:

  • Air Racers 3D, presented by Producer/Director/Writer Christian Fry and Steve Hinton Jr. Hinton flew a P-51 Mustang in this documentary, which explores the Reno National Championship Air Races.
  • Memphis Belle (1944 documentary), presented by Catherine Wyler, daughter of director William Wyler.
  • Memphis Belle (1990 feature film), presented by Catherine Wyler.
  • Top Gun 3D, presented by Clay Lacy and Barry Sandrew, founder of Legend3D. I missed Top Gun’s 3D debut when it arrived in Frederick, and from all accounts it was worth seeing, even if you (like some pilots I know) can recite the dialogue in your sleep.

Sunday, April 14

  • Steve Canyon, presented by historian John Ellis. This appears to be the live-action television series from 1958-1959 based on the popular comic drawn by Milton Caniff. Ellis has been restoring the original 35mm prints for release on DVD.
  • Honor Flight: One Final Mission, presented by Producer Kmele Foster. The documentary focuses on a Midwestern community’s efforts to give four World War II veterans “the trip of a lifetime.”
  • Encore screening of Top Gun 3D

For more information, including ticket prices and where to stay, see the website. And yes, I’ve plugged Moraine Air Park into the flight planner and am making tentative plans to point Miss J west.

‘Charlie Victor Romeo’ goes from theater to 3D

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Charlie Victor Romeo

Mention the Sundance Film Festival to most pilots, and you’ll get a blink or a shrug. That’s because Sundance, which yearly showcases new work from U.S. and international independent film makers in Park City, Utah—and attracts large numbers of Hollywood types—doesn’t usually screen films with a lot of aviation content.

Until now, that is.

Charlie Victor Romeo (Cockpit Voice Recorder) was named an official selection in the New Frontiers category at this year’s Sundance. The film is based on a play in which all dialogue is taken directly from the cockpit voice recorder transcripts recovered after six airline emergencies. The show’s message was so non-sensational that it was filmed by the U.S. Air Force as a training video for pilots. According to the website, one-third of the production’s audience have been members of the aviation community.

Charlie Victor Romeo comes from 3-Legged Dog Media and Theater Group, and was directed by Bob Berger, Patrick Daniels, and Karlyn Michelson. We reached out to the production on Twitter for information about when and where you can expect to see it. Answer: “Looking forward to screening at film festivals and other events this year. Announcement soon. Thanks!” In other words, keep checking the film’s website, or follow Charlie Victor Romeo on Twitter (@CVRPerformance)…or follow me (@jtallman1959) and I’ll do my best to post updates.

The $50 Cherokee

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Darrin Carlson took a 1964 Cherokee 140 from this…

One of the great joys of writing for AOPA Pilot is when I hear from members after an article is published (no, really!). They often write to remark on some aspect of my article, and then let slip some fascinating detail about their airplane or themselves.

In Darrin Carlson’s case, he asked a specific question about the seatbelt installation I described in the December 2012 issue of AOPA Pilot (“Ownership: Buckle Up). In a follow-up email, he added, “When I purchased my 50-dollar Cherokee, it was abandoned and in very poor shape. I started on small simple projects and worked my way up to overhauling the engine. This allowed me to get the experience to get my A&P/IA, then once it was airworthy it helped with my private and IFR rating now I am working on my commercial and CFI ratings.”

It turns out Darrin wasn’t joking about that $50 airplane. He really did buy a $50 Cherokee and rebuild it himself, step by painstaking step. He attached photos (which you see here) and a copy of an article that originally ran in the Nov.  27, 2007, issue of the Clay Center Dispatch. (Clay Center is in Kansas, which is where Darrin lives.) He bought the ’64 Cherokee 140 in 1993 after noticing it sitting in a scrap area near the Air Museum at Forbes Field in Topeka. He wrote the owner (who at the time was working in El Salvador) with an offer to buy it and sent him a check for $50 to cover the cost of processing the paperwork. The owner sent him a sales receipt, and a $50 airplane was his.

…to this. He replaced practically everything over four years.

It took four years, but he redid everything–not just the engine and the avionics but also the wiring. He even did the paint job, and it’s prettyspectacular. Don’t you agree?

Well, but an airplane owner is always looking ahead to that next project, and Darren’s considering installing shoulder harnesses. Not knowing the story behind his extra-special Cherokee, I told him I didn’t think he’d have a problem doing it himself. Turns out I was more than right!—Jill W. Tallman

Cloud Nine suspends operations

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Back in 2010 I wrote about Ted DuPuis and Cloud Nine, a nonprofit organization he created to conduct animal rescue and other types of humanitarian flights (“GA Serves America: The More the Merrier,” January 2011 AOPA Pilot).

Ted had recently acquired a windfall in the form of Sugar Pop, a donated Cessna 310 that would enable Cloud Nine to conduct more far-flung missions with its better range and weather equipment. (The photo shows Ted with Cloud Nine’s Piper Aztec, which he is in the process of selling.) Unfortunately, Sugar Pop was close to needing overhauls when she came into Cloud Nine’s fleet. Now she absolutely must have them, to the point that she is grounded and Cloud Nine has ceased operations until it can acquire the funds.

At least $55,000 is needed to do the work. For more information, see this page, or go to Cloud Nine’s website.

Want to help launch a graphic novel about a WWII-era crop duster in peril?

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Duster has a little bit of everything: a Stearman Kaydet, a tenacious lady crop duster, World War II baddies, and Texas. But before you can order a copy, it needs some financial help.

The 215-page book takes place in the closing days of World War II. A widowed housewife-turned-crop-duster struggles to rescue her daughter from a band of war criminals who crash near her small Texas farm.

Duster’s writers and artists have put the project on Kickstarter, which is an online funding platform for creative projects. In other words, they’re looking for people who would like to back the book–become “early adopters”–and help fund the creation of the art that they want to see. The campaign launched June 18 and needs to raise $26,000. As of today, 277 backers had kicked in a total of $18,433. The campaign closes on July 24. You can download a free 40-page preview of the book, including the first part of the air battle between Joanna Kent in her Stearman Kaydet and a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-290. If you choose to back the project, the creators are offering a number of incentives (not unlike the public television pledge drives) based on the amount you contribute.

Duster’s writers are Micah Wright, creator of the Wildstorm Comics series Stormwatch: Team Achilles; and Jay Lender, writer and director of animated television shows SpongeBob SquarePants and Phineas and Ferb. The artists are Jok Coglitore (rough layouts) and Cristian Mallea (pencils and inks).

Since you don’t come across a lady crop duster very often in fiction, I asked Wright whether he’s a pilot. He’s not, but the character of Joanna Kent is loosely based on his grandmother, who was a cotton farmer’s wife in West Texas during World War II. “The pilot aspect of Jo was inspired by real-life aviation pioneers like Jackie Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love, the two commanders of the Women Airforce Service Pilots,” he said. “Although this isn’t a story about the WASP, Jo was definitely informed by the struggles those real female pilots went through in a very rigidly gender-defined world.”—By Jill W. Tallman

Taildragging fun in Tennessee

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Do taildragger pilots have more fun? Well, yes, that’s pretty much a given. So, put together a bunch of tailwheel pilots and you’re in for an  especially good time.

Savannah-Hardin County Airport in Savannah, Tenn., hosted this year’s Ladies Love Taildraggers fly-in, held June 1-3, and boy, do these folks know how to throw a party. Airport manager Montille Warren must have been an event planner in another life, because she pulled all the stops for the event: a fuel discount, a huge hangar that served as a dining hall and later a stage for a country band; and a huge Southern-style spread each day. Organizer Judy Birchler (the driving force behind Ladies Love Taildraggers and the proud owner of a bright-yellow Rans) and her crew of volunteers rounded up door prizes, freebies like keychains (and you know how pilots love freebies) and nightly entertainment.

 What kind of entertainment? Well, Friday featured a Zumba class and a comedic poem by Kelly Jeffries about the trials and tribulations of building an airplane with her pilot-husband. Saturday was capped with performances by cowboy poet Woody Woodruff and country singer Ash Bowers.

Amazingly, there was no registration fee for the event. Judy and crew took donations–but 100 percent of the money collected was designated for Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that supports the families of service members and wounded warriors. AOPA Regional Manager Bob Minter told the crowd Friday night, “I’ve organized a lot of events, but I’ve never seen one like this one that had no registration fee and is entirely volunteer run.” The group ponied up more than $4,000, I was told.

Airplanes? Aeronca Champ; Taylorcraft; Cessna 140; Cessna 188; Bellanca Cruiseair; Super Decathlon; Citabria; Luscombe; Twin Beech; Cessna 195, Piper Super Cubs (at least three); Maule M5, Stearman, and a few I have yet to identify. (If you were there and I didn’t mention yours, apologies!)

The Homebuilt/Experimental category was well represented with several RVs, a Sonex, and a few I couldn’t identify. There were some 25 or 30 airplanes on the field for the event, and they came from 23 states. My trek from Maryland was a spin around the pattern compared to the trips by Kelly Jeffries, who brought her RV8 from New Hampshire; Cathy Page, who piloted her RV6 from Arizona; and Anne-Marie LaPointe, who rode a motorcycle from Ontario, Canada.

The variety of taildraggers was mouth-watering. There were some tricycle gear aircraft, too. (I imagine the pilot of a King Air that arrived mid-afternoon Saturday was scratching his head just a bit.) While it was definitely a taildragger-oriented event, Judy purposefully opened it to all lady pilots “and their friends,” so all of us could appreciate them. And I am very glad she did. I’ve been a fan of tailwheel airplanes since getting some stick time in an Aeronca Champ. There’s just no better way to fly low and slow, but if you want to fly far and fast, a tailwheel airplane can do that for you, too. Just ask Kelly and Cathy.

Ladies who love taildraggers at the LLT fly-in at Savannah, Tenn.