AOPA Fly-In 2008 Archive
Fly-In morning, 7 a.m., the staff van plunked me down at Hotel and Alpha intersection for a six-hour shift guiding aircraft, rolling out on Runway 23. It was not bad then…still cool…but it was lonely in the fog. I could hear other staff talking just a quarter mile away, but I couldn’t see them.
We waited for the fog to lift. Then, at the first engine drone everyone jumped to attention…incoming…get to your positions! The sun burned off the rest of the scattered muck, the tower got busy, so were we. And it got hotter by the minute. The staff van came by regularly to replenish us–lots of water, more sunscreen, and more water.
I got company in the form of two young female Civil Air Patrol cadets, who braved the heat in their uniforms. Top job! Very polite, too. “Ma’am, can we be excused for a moment to use the latrine?” “What? Oh, yes, of course,” I replied. “Thanks, Ma’am!” came the response.
It’s Monday morning, two days after the AOPA Fly-In. The grass parking area is empty, a couple of static display aircraft remain on the AOPA ramp. The tents are gone. From my office window I can see several large cooling fans awaiting pickup. Icons telling the tale of Saturday’s heat. Even now, the fan blades turn lazily when a light waft catches the right angle.
It’s still hot. Yes, Ma’am!
Lt. Jeff Shoup of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came to the AOPA Fly-In with a mission: To remind GA pilots that search and rescue satellites will cease monitoring 121.50 MHz emergency locator transmitter signals on February 1, 2009.
What GA pilots need to do now, he said, is to embrace the idea that the 406-MHz ELTs are the new standard and are here to stay, and just because the FAA does not require them, they should have one for their own safety.
“Even if they don’t go all out and buy an FAA-certified unit, even the smaller personal locator beacons [PLBs] are better than the old 121.50 [MHz] ELTs,” he said. “The price is coming down on the certified units though, and buying one shouldn’t be too painful.”
Two other messages from Lt. Shoup: If and when you do acquire a 406 MHz device, be it an ELT, PLB or EPIRB, be sure to register it with the NOAA. This way, the moment your unit is activated, SAR personnel can immediately get on the phone to confirm your whereabouts. This allows quicker rescues and reduces false alarms.
Lastly, he wants to remind pilots disposing of a 121.50 ELT to kindly remove its battery before tossing the unit into the trash. “We’ve been getting quite a few false alarms lately, from units sitting in landfills,” he said.
Have you had a recent experience with an ELT, PLB, or EPIRB? Your fellow members would like to hear about it. Please click on the comment tab and let us know what happened. For further information on distress beacons, check out www.sarsat.noaa.gov.
But I did man the Sweepstakes Archer in the morning and it was sweltering then. I’m hoping my 84-year-old dad went home, although he loves looking at the aircraft and hoping to run into old WWII vets like him. There are less and less at the airshows these days.
But about that weather–Rod Machado just stopped by. “It’s like a terrarium out there,” he said. “Last time I was sweating like this, it was my first solo.” Aviation’s funny man is always on. We looked out my office window to observe Phil Boyer walking by. “Now why does Phil never break a sweat?” wondered Machado.
Heat, sun, rain, or any combination doesn’t seem to deter Fly-In visitors. So regardless of the temperatures, we’re having another banner day here. Wish you were here.
At the Eclipse static display, representatives were also singing their product’s praises. “The Eclipse burns a lot less fuel than a Citation II, for example. A lot of people seriously interested in the Eclipse are downsizing. They’re retired, maybe have second homes, and don’t have to carry their kids and a lot of baggage around. So they don’t want a bigger cabin. They figure, ‘why should I pay for the hefty fuel burn when I fly a big, empty airplane around?’
Speaking of fuel issues, another one is beginning to crop up as the temperatures now reach the mid-nineties. Fuel is expanding in the tanks, causing fuel vents to drip raw gas on the ramp. Ah, summer in the mid-Atlantic.
There’s news on the AOPA ramp today during the Fly-In, but what you really want is gossip. I have it for you. Item one: lawsuits. Sometimes they can be helpful, like when AOPA files one, and sometimes they are nuisances, like when they block general aviation activities. The LoPresti Fury folks had hoped, and still hope, to build the Fury in Belen (not Berlin), New Mexico. But a Berlin citizen, a fine one I am sure, didn’t like the idea of constructing a new runway that had nothing to do with the factory. His lawsuit blocks all construction, including the LoPresti Fury factory. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has at least two other cities, maybe three, that are willing to benefit from the economic stimulus an aircraft factory can bring, if the fine citizen of Belen (not Berlin) is successful in his so far year-long quest to stop progress at the airport. But this is a rant, and I’m not through. Item two: Want to know why Cessna so quickly changed the name Columbia to the Cessna 350 and the Cessna 400? There was on ongoing dispute over the name “Columbia” when Cessna bought the factory. That’s why priority number one was to eradicate everything with the name Columbia on it, where possible, so that there would be no further reason to associate the company with Columbia now that it is under Cessna’s leadership. There’s a Cessna (not a Columbia) on our ramp today that will indicate 150 knots at 25,000 feet, but will actually deliver a true airspeed of 235 knots. It’s priced at $620,000.