Jill Tallman Archive

Watch the human-powered helicopter lift off

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

As Al Marsh reported this week, Gamera took flight. The human-powered helicopter, named for the giant flying turtle in Japanese horror films, is the project of the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering. (Full disclosure: My daughter attends UMd, and I freely admit to using the hashtag “#goTerps” in my Tweets on the event.)

Pilot Judy Wexler, looking poised and competent (while the engineering students jumped around out of nervous excitement, I’m guessing), was able to get the craft off the ground and hover for several seconds–long enough that the team has filed for a world aeronautical record. View the video here.

Miracle plate for a miracle approach

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

We’re coming up on the second anniversary of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger’s infamous water landing in the Hudson River in an Airbus A320. Sullenberger, who will forever be known as “Sully” to you and me, landed in the water after both engines failed when the USAirways flight to Charlotte, N.C., hit a flock of geese. Here’s the FAA transcript of Flight 1549’s ditching.

In recognition of Sullenberger’s achievement, Jeppesen created a special approach plate that commemorates the landing, and Robert “Robin” Duggan was kind enough to share it with me. Robin says, ” Notice the waypoints named for crewmembers…I also liked the name of the transition located at the northermost part of the flight path.” (Click the image to make it larger.)

A one of a kind approach--and NOT for navigational purposes

Nate Foster back home after epic flight

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Nate Foster is back home.

Foster is the 17-year-old Maryland pilot who departed on a flight from his home state to California on Aug. 23. Flying a 1975 Super Cub that he helped to restore, he was considerably wet behind the ears–he’d taken his checkride the previous Thursday. But, according to Childs Walkers’ blog for the Baltimore Sun, Nate made out just fine, and I was glad to read that he sought out the advice of more experienced pilots all along his route.

As a parent, whenever I come across young people like Nate, my heart is always in my throat at the thought of what they’re about to attempt. As a pilot, I’m proud when their pioneering spirits see them safely through to the other side.

25 years and counting

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

My friend Dan took note of a date last week. “It occurred to me this morning that 25 years ago today I took my private pilot checkride.”

With only nine years under my belt, I was curious about the changes he’s seen in a quarter-century of flying, and so I asked. And he didn’t hesitate. “Technology, of course. Cost increases. Complicated new layers of certification and regulation–most of it intended to make things simpler.” (Is this ringing anyone’s bell?)

But Dan was just getting started.

“Putting someone in the pilot seat and giving him or her (especially her) an intro flight is still one of the most fun things I can do. Landing an airplane is next.”

“My next takeoff will be just as thrilling as my first one was.”

“My being a CFI in a rural area taught the wolf how to open the door.” (Is that a Maine-ism? I should have asked.)

“Lots of changes [in the regs] such as the shortening of the ritual long x-c. I don’t think that was a good idea. Nor was the reduction in total solo time. I think those changes must have been drafted by a government lawyer taking flying lessons.” But, “Maybe the changes in instrument flying requirements were good.”

“If you can fly a good NDB approach you can do anything. Be sad that you don’t have to anymore.”

“GPS is obviously immensely helpful (but subject to abuse because it shuts down the pilot’s brain). Access to internet weather and airport info and images is great, as is computer-based flight planning.”

“I remain aware how little the general public understands GA and how deeply entrenched are the preconceived notions about aviation in the public and mass media, despite all we have done to ‘educate’ them. But of course everyone is clamoring for the public’s attention.”

“Distracted driving could be almost eliminated if drivers had to worry about examiners introducing ‘realistic distractions’ on their road tests.”

“Want to get more people flying? ‘It’s the economy, stupid.'”

What changes–good or bad–have you seen since you started flying? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section.

‘Mythbusters’ taking on balloons?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

We have it on very good authority (and by “authority,” I mean the folks who can ruin your weekend with a ramp check) that an upcoming episode of “Mythbusters” will be devoted to the creation of a home-made balloon. The gang will set out to prove (or disprove) whether a hand-crafted hot air device can be flown. The inspiration for the project apparently is a 1979 incident in which two families in East Germany created a balloon out of shower curtains, inflated it, and flew over the Berlin Wall.

This being the United States and not East Berlin before the Wall came down, a Flight Standards District Office is said to be helping the guys out with the project. We can’t tell you which one, and we don’t suggest you start calling them to find out, lest you get an unexpected Saturday morning ramp check.

‘Can you hear the rain?’

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Abby Sunderland

The news this week is full of reports of 16-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland’s round-the-world solo attempt, not to mention international rescue attempts after she got lost and stranded in the Indian Ocean. Coming so closely on the heels of last month’s news that a 13-year-old boy had become the youngest to scale Mount Everest, the blogosophere is drawing connections between these kids and 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff.

Jessica, you’ll recall, died in 1996 while trying to set a record as the youngest child to fly cross-country. That quote in the title of this blog is reportedly what Jessica asked her mom over the phone, minutes before she, her CFI, and her dad took off in a heavily loaded Cessna Cardinal. They encountered bad weather and possibly wind shear before crashing shortly after takeoff in Cheyenne, Wyo.  The crash killed all three.

Jordan Romero

That was a dark day in April. I wasn’t yet working here, but I can get a sense of the tragedy from looking at our files. Then-President Phil Boyer spent hours and hours talking to television and radio news reporters and made appearances on CNN’s Larry King Live and ABC’s Good Morning America, and other staff members provided almost 100 media interviews in the 48 hours following the accident. Technical Editor Mike Collins recalls that day very well; he and AOPA Air Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg had been monitoring the news coverage of the Dubroffs leading up to the crash, and shared a concern–which turned out to be unfortunately well founded–that the father seemed to be in it for the publicity more than anything else.

Now we have this most recent onslaught of record-setting attempts by youngsters. Sailing around the world… climbing Mount Everest? Who or what is driving these kids? In Abby’s case, she has an 18-year-old brother who recently made the same trip. In Jordan Romero’s case, he wanted to scale seven of the highest mountains in the world, and his father was a part of the Everest climbing expedition. Still, was I the only parent who got chills watching news footage of Jordan huddled in a tent after his record-setting attempt, telling his mom he loved her by satellite phone? Recall that he still had to make the perilous descent down the mountain.

Jessica Dubroff

I’m all for teens taking on challenges that will broaden their horizons and make them stronger and more confident individuals. That includes learning to fly airplanes and gliders under the watchful eye of a good instructor.

But there’s a line somewhere, and too many children are crossing it–or being shoved over it. And for what?Fifteen minutes of fame in our 24/7 news cycle? A possible reality TV show on a basic cable TV network? (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Richard Heene.)  Let kids be kids until they can’t be kids any longer. They will have their entire lives to set the world on fire.

Ready to go to Alaska?

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I know I am. It’s been two years since I flew a modified Texas taildragger in Juneau, and ever since then I daydream about going back. In fact, I’ve pretty much decided that no place but Alaska will do to get a seaplane rating. There’s no time and funds to make that happen this year, so this image will have to tide me over. It was taken by professional photographer Laurent Dick, who rode in the back of a Piper Super Cub with Elwood Shapansky. Want to see more of Laurent’s work? Go here and here.

Coast to coast in a Cub

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

“Pilots return year after year to see familiar faces, including a San Diego pilot who flies a J-3 Cub. It takes him two weeks to get to Sentimental Journey and two weeks to fly back to the West Coast.” That’s what I wrote for “Color Me Yellow,” my article on the Sentimental Journey Fly-In, which was published in the June Flight Training.

Len Buckel knew I had to be talking about him and his 1945 J-3, even though the Sentimental Journey folks who told me about him never mentioned him by name. After all, how many pilots go coast to coast in a J-3 Cub, year after year, to the Sentimental Journey Fly-In at Lock Haven? He e-mailed me to set the record straight: “The most time it ever took was seven days going there in 1986. We had bad weather that year and sat on the ground a lot. We had headwinds in both directions in 1986. We put 80.7 hours on the tachometers for the round trip. Two J-3s went from San Diego the first year.

“In 1987 I had tailwinds both ways. I put 70.7 hours on the tachometer that year and got to Lock Haven in three LONG days. I had a 50-mph tailwind for the first two days out of San Diego. It was hard to believe that the same route would be 10 tachometer hours shorter because of the winds. The least amount of round trip time of my 13 trips was 62.3 hours in 1995.”

Consider yourself vindicated, Len. And as for your question about whether I’m related to Frank Tallman, well, that’s a blog for another week.

Saving the animals, one flight at a time

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Some people love dogs, some people prefer cats. I happen to own three dogs and one cat, so draw your own conclusions. Two were rescued; two were adopted from animal shelters.
   I’m thankful for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of animal rescue groups around the nation. They do the work–pulling dogs and cats from shelters and keeping them in foster homes–that most of us will not. They advocate for creatures that cannot speak for themselves.
   Animal Rescue Flights and Pilots ‘n’ Paws are among the volunteer pilot organizations that help to transport rescued dogs and cats to new homes. (And I can’t leave out Ted DuPuis and Cloud Nine Rescue Flights. Ted and his Piper Aztec routinely make 700-nm trips to rescue animals.) (If you know of any other pilot groups doing animal rescues, please tell us all about them in the Comments section.)
   David Jack Kenny, my colleague in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, has spent many weekend hours flying as many dogs as he can fit in his Piper Arrow to new homes. On Sunday he flew the second part of a two-leg flight that originated in North Carolina in which he transported two English setters from Westminster, Maryland, to Columbus, Ohio. Michele McGuire, the pilot of the first leg, had to fly an approach to minimums to land at Person County in North Carolina.
   The year-old dogs are litter-mates. Their owner decided that they weren’t good prospects to be trained as hunting dogs. And, in leaving them at the shelter, he effectively signed their death sentences. Perhaps this man wasn’t aware (or didn’t want to believe) that purebred dogs get put to sleep just the same as mixed-breeds do. Perhaps he thought surrendered dogs aren’t put down. Unfortunately, because of the overcrowding and lack of funds at  shelters in many states, that’s exactly what happens–unless the rescue groups can reach them in time.
  The Animal Protection Society of Person County pulled these setters and worked with Susan England at Ohio English Setter Rescue (shown here with the happy new arrivals) to place them. “They were beautiful young dogs,” David said. “It was worth going to some trouble to get them to safety.” If you have a fondness for English setters, Susan’s rescue has more waiting for forever homes. And if you can’t get to Ohio, there’s this volunteer organization that might be able to help…

So long, ‘Oklahoma Aviator’

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Lots of people look forward to getting their monthly copies of AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, EAA Sport Aviation, or what have you in the mail. It’s like the welcome arrival of a dear friend who stays only as long as you want them there. You settle down with that friend over a cold drink or a cup of tea, and for the next hour or so everything else goes away.

For me, that friend was The Oklahoma Aviator. This 12-page newspaper (honestly, it was printed on newsprint) came out once a month. Each time it arrived in my mail slot here at AOPA headquarters, it took me back to September 2004, when I went to Oklahoma to get some taildragger training. My instructor was Earl Downs, publisher of The Oklahoma Aviator, and we flew in his immaculate Aeronca Champ, Youfi. He and his wife, Mimi, welcomed me to their home in Cushing and treated me like family. While I was there, not only did I get my first taste of “real” airplane flying, but I also learned about oil pipeline patrol, and I got to watch a farrier shoe Mimi’s horses. (Every girl loves horses, donchaknow.)

In Oklahoma, I learned a lot about Earl, who has been involved in flying since he and his twin brother first bought a Cub when they were teenagers (or was it a Champ or a Chief? Sorry, Earl). I learned a lot about Mimi, a spiritual person who loves flying (she used to own an Ercoupe!) and horses and dogs and, most of all, Earl. I discovered the unexpected pleasure of  flying in a part of the country where they don’t have to worry so much about busting airspace and looking down the wrong end of an F-16. The Aviator reminded me of all of this, not to mention the fact that  there is a vibrant aviation community beyond my little corner of the world sandwiched in between P-40 and the Special Flight Rules Area.

So I’m sitting here with my friend for the last time. After 29 years (Earl ran things the last six years), the little newspaper is folding. I’m not going to get all pontificate-y about the state of publishing, or print versus online, or the state of GA. I’m just going to wish Earl and Mimi all the best and hope I can get back out to Oklahoma one of these days so we can catch up for real, instead of by newsprint.