Editors Archive

One way to avoid the annual

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Shiny valve covers adorn the new Lycoming on Sean Tucker's Oracle Challenger III.

Shiny valve covers adorn the new Lycoming on Sean Tucker’s Oracle Challenger III.

Sean D. Tucker, the highly regarded aerobatic pilot, is practicing two to three times every day as he prepares for the start of the 2015 airshow season. This week, he plans to test-fly his primary airplane, which last weekend was still being rebuilt in his Salinas, Calif., hangar.

Rebuilt? Yes. The airplane is stripped down, taken apart, and rebuilt every year. The job–including new fabric, paint, engine, and prop–requires about 6,000 man-hours to complete. Overkill? No, especially when you consider the number of Gs, spins, and snap rolls the airframe endures in the course of a year.

While his mechanics complete the rebuild, Tucker practices in his older backup airplane. “This airplane is a little under-powered,” he said of his temporary steed. “If I can master the routine in this airplane, it will be easy in the other one.”

Another benefit of his regularly scheduled rebuild? He doesn’t have to worry about whether the airplane is in annual.

Will Tucker and his Challenger be performing near you this year? Check his airshow schedule online.

Sean Tucker's nearly rebuilt Oracle Challenger III sits in the late-afternoon sun. His mechanics called it a day a few minutes earlier.

Sean Tucker’s nearly rebuilt Oracle Challenger III sits in the late-afternoon sun. His mechanics had called it a day a few minutes earlier on Saturday.

Cruising through South America

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

People often ask me about one of my titles on the AOPA Pilot masthead. “What’s an editor-at-large” do? Or, for that matter, “what does editor-at-large mean?” I’d say it means a couple things. One, I work out of my home office. Two, I travel a lot. I mean, a lot. So, I’m “at large”–in a state of more or less perpetual wandering. Sometimes I get really lucky. Like right now. I’m on an Air Journey trip through South America. Over the next few days I’ll keep you updated on the goings-on.

Today started in Puerto Montt, Chile, a resort town in a region that’s been called South America’s “little Switzerland.” Here’s a shot from our hotel this morning–the Hotel Cumbres in Puerto Varas.:

Hotel Cumbres, dawn

Hotel Cumbres, dawn

Today I flew with Joe Howley and his wife, Christine in their PC-12NG. Joe, by the way, is president of the Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association. It was s short hop from Puerto Montt to Bariloche, Argentina. We cruised at 17,000 feet and saw 265 KTAS along the way, and saw lenticulars as we passed over the mountains:

Joe and Christine Howley

Joe and Christine Howley

The lenticulars, and a shot of the approach we shot into Bariloche–in severe clear, but the drill is to file IFR:

Lenticulars--or are they rotor clouds?--as seen from 17,000 feet

Lenticulars–or are they rotor clouds?–as seen from 17,000 feet


Bariloche’s VOR DME ILS DME rwy 29 approach–what a mouthful!

More to come. The next leg takes us to Buenos Aires, then it’s on into Brazil. Stay tuned…..

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