Editors Archive

Piper to announce new aircraft

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Actually Piper will “announce” two new aircraft. The more secretive of the two is the Piper Meridian M600, unearthed by Australian aviation writers after a tip from a reader about a new trademark that Piper filed. The betting is that this latest Meridian will have a 600-shaft-horsepower engine to make it fly closer to 300 knots, and maybe an extra seat. The competition has that sort of speed and that extra seat. The other announcement is already on the Piper Web site and has been there for quite some time, just waiting for its diesel engine to be approved. It’s the Archer DX, and it will use the same Thielert/Continental/Technify (take your choice) CD155-horsepower engine as the Cessna 172. The Piper Archer DX is close to getting its supplemental type certificate, but the process must begin anew for the Cessna 172. Industry sources believe it will be “days” before the Piper STC is approved (the owner buys it separately from Thielert/Continental/Technify), which means it could be weeks in FAA time. With Cessna, the STC comes with the aircraft.

Welcome, drone pilots!

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Think you have all the ratings? If newly proposed FAA rules on drones get approved–it will take two years–as written, there will be a new type of “pilot” certificate (only required for commercial drone use) called Unmanned Aerial Systems Operator. (Can “Rocket Pilot” be far behind?) Most rule comment periods are 60 days, but apparently that limitation has been tossed away. Here’s the good news. An early draft of the regulations says you need to go to a Knowledge Test Center to take the written test. No previous flying experience, medical certificate, or pilot certificate is required. It must be repeated every two years. If you are already a pilot, you still have to get a UAS operator certificate. First there is an application process. You have to be 17 or older. Following that applicants must visit a flight instructor who signs them off for the written test. All this means we have a pool of potential pilots coming to the airport soon, since that is where many Knowledge Test Centers are located. Do you suppose if we treat them as one of the pilot community, they might actually become private pilots? How many will there be? We can be a lot more optimistic than the FAA. The FAA thinks there will only be 7,500 commerical-use drone pilots in the United States five years after the drone regs take effect. I just checked a Web photography site called SLR (single-lens reflex) Lounge Beta, and I believe the estimate I found there that there are 100,000 wedding photographers out there who want to be competitive, so could there be 20,000 who might want to get a certificate? Now then, the National Association of Realtors said in 2007 there were two million real estate agents in the United States working for 109,000 firms. A few thousand firms may want their own drone, or at least sign a contract with a local drone pilot. So, another 10,000? We’re leaving out a bunch of industries here that may send people to the local Knowledge Test Center. Welcome to aviation, folks.

Editor’s note: You can get more details about the proposed rule and AOPA’s position on safely integrating drones into the National Airspace System in the story, “Proposed rules set limits on small UAS.”

Where are our future pilots?

Friday, January 30th, 2015

12 14Look at the general age group in these DJI (a company that makes drones) photos posted on the drone company’s Web site. Aren’t these the youthful crowd we wanted in general aviation? And where are they? In drone pilot school. Should be a snap for those of us who are already pilots, right? You too can attend drone pilot school. It’s only one day. Select “North America” in the link above under “Select A Region” to see the schedule. DJI, the largest drone maker in the world which manufactured the drone that ended up in a White House tree, offers the school. They want to sell drones and they want to make sure you know the rules, one of which is, don’t drink and drone. If sober, you are more likely to remember you can’t fly a drone in D.C. Classes are worldwide, but  classes for the United States include Boston and Riverdale, Maryland on Feb. 7, and classes later this year in Miami; Englewood, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina; Philadephia; and Salt Lake City. Remember, friends don’t let friends drone drunk. Ok, so drone enthusiasts worldwide are stampeding toward drones. And what do we do to get them to stampede to the local airport?


Crazy formations

Monday, December 15th, 2014

You can see Jetman Yves Rossi in formation with an aerobatic airplane flown by aerobatics champion Veres Zoltán while it is performing stunts here. In 2015 Rossi will fly in formation with Zoltán, who will swap out his airplane for a wing strapped to his back with jet motors on it that were built for model airplanes like Rossi has, and you will see that they have already practiced their new act at the end of this video. Or, in an unrelated event done by a different set of pilots, you can see an aerobatic airplane fly in formation with a parachute guy here.

You can own the first Hasselblad in space

Friday, October 31st, 2014

You could own the camera that captured this iconic image.

You could own the camera that captured this iconic image.

Photography 52 years ago didn’t mean whipping out your iPhone, or even grabbing for a digital single-lens-reflex camera. It was the early days of the space program, and even 35 mm film cameras weren’t considered up to the challenge. So as Wally Schirra prepared to orbit the Earth six times on Mercury 8, which would be the country’s fifth manned space mission, he had to think carefully about how to document the nine-hour flight.

Astronaut Wally Schirra, center, with the Hassleblad 500c camera he carried into space.

Astronaut Wally Schirra, center, with the Hasselblad 500c camera he carried into space.

Ultimately he chose a Hasselblad 500c camera for the Oct. 3, 1962, flight. Schirra reportedly purchased the medium-format Hasselblad from a Houston camera shop, and brought it back to NASA to be modified for the mission. In conjunction with fellow astronaut Gordon Cooper, the camera received a 100-exposure film magazine, and an aiming device mounted on the side. The camera’s original bright metal facing was painted black to minimize reflections.

Square photos are a hallmark of the Hasselblad, which made negatives of about 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 inches.

Square photos are a hallmark of the Hasselblad, which made negatives of about 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 inches.

The camera proved so successful on Mercury 8 that Cooper used a Hasselblad—and the same Zeiss lens—on the next Mercury mission.

Don't let the perspective fool you. This is not a wide-angle lens; the Sigman 7 spacecraft had very small windows.

Don’t let the perspective fool you. This is not a wide-angle lens; the Sigma 7 spacecraft had very small windows.

“It was not until astronaut Wally Schirra—a known camera enthusiast—naturally sought the finest camera available at the time to accompany him on his MA-8 mission that NASA’s photographic identity began to take shape,” explained Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction.

Schirra's photography paved the way for images we've seen from later Apollo missions, the space shuttles, and the International Space Station.

Schirra’s photography paved the way for images we’ve seen from later Apollo missions, the space shuttles, and the International Space Station.

On Nov. 13, the Boston auction house will auction the first Hasselblad camera used in space. A 600-lot space and aviation autograph and artifact auction will follow. For more information on the auctions, see the website.

Your flying car will be ready soon

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

AeroMobile 3.0UPDATE 3/17/2015: AeroMobil says it can deliver this flying car in 2017.)

Original article 10/2014. Yeah, right. The Sovakian AeroMobil 3.0 flying car has made another splash in the news by appearing at another trade conference, the most recent one being the Pioneers Festival at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace. The first public presentation was in 2007 at Aero-Friedrichshafen in Germany.  You can see a video about the car here  (four minutes, cue the eerie music). The prototype actually works, doing 100 mph on the ground and a promised 124 mph in the air. The price (you can’t get one yet) is said to be like that of a super luxury car, which leaves one guessing. A 2014 Lamborghini is $200,000 if you get the one intended for poor people, or $548,800 if you get the Lamborghini Aventador which of course would be first choice for most of us. I’ll bet the AeroMobil would fit aboard your private luxury Boeing 747, which actually WILL be ready soon (April in Hamburg). Anyway, good luck AeroMobil, and while I’m at it, good luck to the following flying car companies: Terrafugia, Maverick, Parajet SkyRunner, Pegase (from Vaylon in France), Krossblade AerospaceMoller Skycar, and Fresh Breeze  (flying motorcycle) of Germany. And an additional shoutout to the good folks at Martin  Jetpack in New Zealand. Best of luck to everyone.

Your private Boeing 747 will be ready soon

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Lufthansa Technik is the Cadillac of interior design when it comes to lavish, wildly over the top luxury interiors for private airliners. There are two of this particular $480 million aircraft (including interior) in progress at Hamburg, Germany, and will be completed by spring. Don’t miss out!

Red Bull race in Las Vegas is this weekend

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Takes awhile to figure out this publicity photo for the Red Bull Race in Las Vegas this weekend. The lower half of the photo is a reflection of the formation. Kirby Chambliss, Nigel Lamb of England, Pete McLeod of Canada and Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic flew above Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir.  Click on it to enlarge.

Pete McLeod (CAN), Nigel Lamb (GBR), Martin Sonka (CZE) and Kirby Chambliss (USA) - Recon Flight

Gulfstream set to announce new jet

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Aerospace consultant Brian Foley of Brian Foley Associates predicts Gulfstream Aerospace will be the “talk of the town” next Tuesday Oct. 14 when the company summons aviation reporters to its Savannah headquarters for a major announcement. That announcement will be the mysterious P42 project, the Gulfstream 450 replacement. The current 10-year-old 450 program is a 4,350 nautical mile, 16-passenger, Mach 0.88 aircraft with a maximum weight of 74,600 pounds. If Foley is correct, Gulfstream promises to be the star of the upcoming National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando starting Oct. 21. It won’t be just about the new jet but how the jet is made using modern technology.

There are good reasons to assume Foley is correct. J.P. Morgan’s Joseph B. Nadoll III said last year that Gulfstream would put off a launch of its G450 replacement (code named P42) until next year. It did. Gulfstream execs began hinting in August of 2014 at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference that they might unveil the P42 project soon. It will be a family of jets. Pre-announcing is a break with the “big surprise” theory of public relations still followed by most jet companies that wait for NBAA or some other major conference to reveal the news.

What will all the other companies be doing? Foley gave this rundown. Cessna (owned by Textron Aviation to include Beechcraft) is working on previously announced jet programs, as is Dassault. Bombardier seems caught up by internal turmoil and changes in management, and may not even finish some of the projects previously announced. Embraer has its “work cut out for it,” Foley said, building previously announced aircraft. (Gulfstream, the stage is yours.)

Something to look for is a coming transformation in engine fuel efficiency (15% improvement) based on technology already in use by the airlines, Foley said. He predicted one of the airframe companies will “grab the technology and run with it.” Whether it’s this year or five years from now, it will happen, he said.

Last year’s RTW, Day 25–homecoming

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Over North Dakota, we prepare to fly into the final sunrise of our eastbound around-the-world journey.

Over North Dakota, we prepare to fly into the final sunrise of our eastbound around-the-world journey.

A year ago today–well, I guess technically speaking it was a year ago yesterday, Sept. 17 (thanks to that whole international date line thing, and our “groundhog day” on Sept. 15)–we concluded our epic around-the-world flight in Mike Laver’s MU-2. Again we were off before sunrise for the 1,196-nautical-mile hop back to Frederick, Md., which would require 4.2 hours of flight time.

And there it is, the sunrise.

And there it is, the sunrise.

The photographer in me really appreciated the thin, growing line of impending dawn (as in the top photo), both because of the delicate colors and also because it provided an infrequent opportunity to balance the lighting outside the cockpit with the colorful glow from our Garmin avionics…which we’ve been watching for some 94 hours over the past 24 days. It was a rare opportunity. In many countries we could not depart before the appropriate offices opened, usually well after dawn. A couple of times when we did, the sunrise was obscured by clouds. A few more photos of the sunrise can be found on my original Day 25 blog post.

Sightseeing The Olgas--and nearby Ayers Rock--by twin-engine turboprop was a highlight of the trip.

Sightseeing The Olgas–and nearby Ayers Rock–by twin-engine turboprop was a highlight of the trip.

On the final leg back into Frederick–well, my final leg; Mike then has to retrace his route to his home airport in South Carolina–we reflect on the trip. I record much of the interview using a GoPro video camera, which is a first for me. Mike enjoyed the chance to fly around Australia again, and I enjoyed the vistas of the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, and the adjacent Olgas (above). There’s a published aerial tour procedure here, not unlike that for the Grand Canyon in the United States.

Like that girl with the slippers in the movie says, "There's no place like home."

Like that girl with the ruby slippers in the movie says, “There’s no place like home.”

While it was a fantastic trip, I’m very happy to get home. Most of my business travel is a week or less, and 25 days is a long time to be on the road. Without the steadfast support of my lovely wife and family, and encouragement and support from the media team at AOPA, it would not have been possible. And the interest by others in the trip was more than I ever could imagine (and this goes beyond my dad, exchanging text messages with me via satellite while we’re crossing the vast Indian Ocean, even though the clock in Kentucky shows small, single nighttime digits–he still claims he “just woke up” for a few minutes, but I also know he always powers off his PC overnight). Thanks for flying around the world with us–again!