Editors Archive

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!

Last year’s RTW, Day 24–almost home

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

The Yukon River winds below us as we climb out of Fairbanks.

The Yukon River winds below us as we climb out of Fairbanks.

It’s been an incredible, fantastic trip–but after 24 days, we’re both ready to be home. We take off from Fairbanks before dawn, heading southeast toward Ketchikan, Alaska. That’s the broad Yukon River curving through the landscape below.

Distant peaks draw our attention--from 25,000 feet.

Distant peaks draw our attention–from 25,000 feet.

As the sun rises, it dramatically lights snow-covered, distant peaks before reaching into the valleys. Alaska’s vastness never fails to amaze me.

Sunrise seems like a good time for a selfie of us on the flight deck.

Sunrise seems like a good time for a selfie of us on the flight deck.

Just after sunrise seems like a good time to shoot a cockpit selfie. Mike and I are glad to be back in “civilian” clothes; our pilot uniforms are no longer needed.

We climb through low clouds as we leave Fairbanks.

The sun climbs over low clouds.

Ketchikan is 820 nautical miles and a quick 3.1 hours, and our refueling there is lightning quick thanks to a fuel truck with dual refueling nozzles–which significantly speeds the process of refueling an MU-2. We’re on the ground less than half an hour, and it may have been only 20 minutes. The next leg, across Canada to Minot, N.D., is our longest of the trip at 1,232 nautical miles. Thanks to persistent headwinds, it’s also one of the slowest, with a groundspeed of only 246 knots. But it’s nice to arrive at our destination before dark. Did you know there’s a great Mexican restaurant in Minot? More details and additional photos are on the original Day 24 blog, available here.


Last year’s RTW, Day 23

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Day 23 of our trip, one year ago today, sees our return to the United States–but not until very late in the evening. Also, today feels like the longest day of them all–by far.

And it is, for a couple of reasons. First, we cross the International Date Line, so for us it’s Sept. 15 all over again. Second, our two legs–from Petropavlovsk to Anadyr, Russia, and then to Fairbanks, Alaska, total 1,930 nautical miles and 6.9 hours of flight time. While this is not our longest day, it takes the most time, because things in Russia seem to move only so fast. Lots of waiting, especially at our fuel stop.

Mostly, however, it’s the short days we’ve been experiencing. We’ve been flying northeast, and while most of the trip has seen us cross one time zone a day, on average (no jet lag!), we lose 11 hours between Nagoya and Minot, N.D. Inevitably, these hours are made up by sleeping less.

Anadyr, Russia, "Where the day begins."

Anadyr, Russia, “Where the day begins.”

There’s only one photo today (a few more appear on my original Day 23 blog, available here). I loved this mural on the airline terminal at Anadyr, and I must have snapped this frame as we parked. I ignored it, figuring I would get a better one from outside the airplane. That was not to be, however; I asked our handler if a photo would be OK and the stern man in the green military jacket said no. Then she offered to take a photo for me, and the answer again was “Nyet.” I didn’t see this frame again until reviewing photos for this retrospective blog series, and I’m glad the photojournalist in me kicked in early, before I was told no.

I don’t like the angle or the crop (or the fact that the tip tank is in the way), but the mural shows a Eskimo girl spreading her arms beneath the sun, and I’m told the inscription reads “Where the day begins.” This is a very apt description, because it would be hard to get much further east in Russia than this.

We’re late for our scheduled arrival time into Fairbanks, but the Customs man is waiting for us at the airport–it’s clear we aren’t the first airplane to arrive late from Russia. It’s also clear that we’re the last Customs customers of the day.

But there’s one more curve ball. Our hotel is oversold, so we’re put on a cab for a different hotel. The rooms are fine, but it’s nearly 11 p.m. and no nearby restaurants are open, so dinner ends up being beef sticks and Clif bars–probably just as well; we need the sleep.

Last year’s RTW, Day 22

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Leaving Japan, we find that our arrival made the newspaper's front page/

Leaving Japan, we find that our arrival made the newspaper’s front page.

When we arrived at the Nagoya airport a year ago today to fly north, our hosts presented each of us with copies of the previous day’s newspaper. Turns out our arrival was front-page news! I wish I knew what they said about us. They certainly couldn’t say we bounced the landing–Mike made a greaser here. More photos from Nagoya and more detail on this leg can be found on my original Day 22 blog post.

Climbing through the outer bands of a typhoon as we leave Japan.

Climbing through the outer bands of a typhoon as we leave Japan.

Alas, we couldn’t linger. The light rain that was falling was from the far outer bands of a typhoon that had been following us since we left the Philippines–stopping for a day in Japan allowed it to close with us. Like Bill Murray says in Caddyshack, “The heavy stuff won’t be coming in until later”–but a scheduled departure later in the day, and especially the following day, would have assured a delay (or a departure ahead of schedule). Besides, Russia was waiting, and we’d heard that things don’t happen quickly in Russia.

Turns out our overnight stop, Petropavlovsk, is surrounded by mountains.

Turns out our overnight stop, Petropavlovsk, is surrounded by mountains.

Our fuel stop in Yuzhno takes longer than average, but in comparison to tomorrow’s fuel stop, it’s like hitting the pits at a Nascar race. We’re flying along the Russian coast pretty much all day, and much of the trip is above a low cloud layer. As we approach Petropavlovsk, those clouds dissipate, and we see more of the mountainous terrain.

The sunset races us to touchdown at Petropavlovsk.

The sunset races us to touchdown at Petropavlovsk.

It turns out that Petropavlovsk is almost surrounded by mountains, and we’re racing the sun to the Earth’s surface. It’s not that we can’t fly at night, but we were hoping to see some of the landscape from the ground. By the time we landed and refueled the plane, it was beyond pitch dark. Guess there’s always tomorrow’s ride back to the airport.

Our fueler in Petropavlovsk.

Our fueler in Petropavlovsk.

I’m not sure what the rules are regarding photography in Russia. I do know that if I asked to take a photo, the answer usually was “Nyet” (no). Except after dark at Petropavlovsk, coaching the fueler through the complicated process of refueling an MU-2. Only a couple floodlights and the man’s headlamp lit the scene. When I had his attention I pointed at the camera, and then at him–he struck this pose, which must be Russian for “yes.”




Last year’s RTW, Day 21

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

My hotel room in Nagoya looked down on the tracks used by Japan's "Bullet Train."

My hotel room in Nagoya looked down on the tracks used by Japan’s “Bullet Train.”

A year ago today was our fifth and last nonflying day of the around-the-world trip, and we spent most of it sightseeing around Nagoya. We considered riding the high-speed bullet train to Tokyo–the station was under our hotel–but ultimately decided to stay local.

The fish adorning the castle are talismans, intended to prevent fire.

The fish adorning the castle are talismans, intended to prevent fire.

Most of the morning was spent touring Nagoya Castle, rich in history and a prominent local landmark. The castle is adorned with Kinshachi–gold-plated fish, each wearing about 44 kilograms of 18-carat gold.They were said to be able to summon water, and were used as charms to prevent fire–a very real consideration in all-wood structure of this size.

These tiles comprise part of the roof of the Nagoya Castle.

These tiles comprise part of the roof of the Nagoya Castle.

Tiles make interesting patterns on one of the castle’s lower roofs. More photos of the castle can be seen on my original Day 21 post, online here.

Ross Russo, at right, surprises Mike Laver in Nagoya.

Ross Russo, at right, surprises Mike Laver in Nagoya.

A high point of the day came late in the afternoon, when Mike was surprised by longtime friend Ross Russo waiting in the hotel lobby. Ross, who I’ve know for many years as well, actually was responsible for drawing me into the around-the-world flight. Mike originally had asked Ross to accompany him on this trip–but Ross’s daughter had planned a wedding in the middle, so he deferred…and suggested me as a possibility. It turns out that after the wedding, Ross and a cousin flew to Japan to climb Mt. Fuji, and the day after they got off the mountain, they rode the Bullet Train from Tokyo to pull off the surprise, deftly (I think) arranged through text messaging.

We enjoyed the company of our hosts from Mitsubishi, and appreciated the down time. The next two days will see us cover more than 3,500 nautical miles as we fly up the Russian coast to Fairbanks, Alaska. In four days, we’ll be home!

The reason for last year’s RTW flight

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

A cargo ship sails on the East China Sea.

A cargo ship sails on the East China Sea.

Today’s the day we landed in Nagoya, Japan, a year ago today. This is where our airplane was built 40 years ago–and the model made its first flight a year ago tomorrow. While this was a trip Mike Laver had long wanted to do, being in Nagoya on Sept. 13 for that anniversary drove the timing for the trip.

The photo above, of a cargo ship crossing the vast East China Sea, may be one of my favorite from the trip. (This is a different image from the one in last year’s Day 20 blog post, available here). We saw quite a few vessels, both cargo ships and fishing boats, on this leg from Taiwan to Japan–quite different from the vast emptiness of the Indian Ocean several days earlier.

Mike Laver is greeted by Mitsubishi officials after our arrival in Nagoya.

Mike Laver is greeted by Mitsubishi officials after our arrival in Nagoya.

Our reception in Nagoya, where Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ aircraft division is headquartered, was fantastic. A large group, primarily comprised of Mitsubishi managers and employees, greeted us.

N50ET, our ride for this epic flight around the world, returns to its birthplace--50 years after the model first flew.

N50ET, our ride for this epic flight around the world, returns to its birthplace–50 years after the model first flew.

Shortly after this photo was made, some of the welcoming committee (I’m guessing most were engineers) swarmed the airplane, studying and photographing specific components–things like the landing gear, which most of us who fly airplanes usually take for granted.

Touring Mitsubishi's private aviation museum in Nagoya. That's a Zero in the background.

Touring Mitsubishi’s private aviation museum in Nagoya. That’s a Zero in the background.

After lunch we tour two aviation museums, including Mitsubishi’s private aviation museum. Mitsubishi’s includes an MU-2 that the company used as a corporate aircraft in Japan until only a couple of years ago. The other museum had one of three prototype MU-2. Dinner was very traditional Japanese–and fantastic.