AOPA Fly-In 2008 Archive

Fly the Zeppelin!

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Flying a Zeppelin is, well, a gas. Now you can experience it yourself. When I wrote the feature article in the February issue of AOPA Pilot , pricing and details of the pilot experience program hadn’t been finalized. Now Airship Ventures has the details on its Web site about how you can fly America’s only Zeppelin. For about $3,000 you can spend a day learning about the big airship and then climb aboard and fly it around the San Francisco area. Now, there’s a Father’s Day gift dad will appreciate more than that paisley tie. And don’t forget, Valentine’s Day is even sooner….(note to self, send URL to Brenda!).

Yes, Ma’am!

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Wow, it was hot, sweltering hot. I think I’ve finally recovered.

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!

NOAA pushes beacon transition

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

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

Taking in the view

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Photographer Chris Rose found welcome relief from the heat by gaining altitude–he took an aerial tour of headquarters in a Robinson R22 helicopter. You can see the massive exhibitor tent here in the foreground with the AOPA buildings behind; the aircraft display; and the rows of visiting aircraft three deep. It’s been a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Weather report

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

When staff takes a break to rest or eat midway through a Fly-In day, the talk inevitably turns to the weather–this year’s, last year’s, and the “I-remember-when” years. Today will go down in our history as one of the hottest. It’s got to be reaching well into the 90s, if not 100 degrees out there–yes, I’m inside working on the blog. Good duty this.

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.

Light sports more than hold their own

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

In the past the AOPA ramp was dominated by the big players, the major manufacturers, during the annual June AOPA Fly-In. But today is different, and light sport aircraft manufacturers and flight schools are all over the very crowded ramp. Chesapeake Sport Pilot is a light sport flying school and rental business at Bay Bridge Airport across the Bay Bridge from Annapolis, Md. They had six light sport airplanes in their inventory today, but tomorrow, make that seven. They are getting a new Tecnam model to join several models in the fleet and already have some Sky Arrow aircraft. They have 55 students and 40 renters and are nice people to do business with if you live in the Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Annapolis area. Remos is here along with Fantasy Air, Jabiru, the Zodiac CH601, and Flight Design that makes the CT, the German-based best-selling light sport aircraft in the United States. That’s not to say they overshadow the big companies. Piper is here in force with a 6X and a Malibu Matrix. Cessna has several of its most popular GA models here and lots of representatives to handle the crowd. And Beechcraft has a Baron G58, a Bonanza A36 like the one AOPA owns except it is decades newer, and a King Air C90 GTi. Companies on the move include Liberty with an XL2 on the AOPA ramp and Quartz Mountain Aerospace with a QMA 11E (think Luscombe with a nosewheel). The gang’s all here–with important new members.

Sales are hot on the ramp

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Sorry for the continued reference to heat, but it’s hot in Frederick, Md., today, the day of the AOPA Fly-In. Maybe that is why there are actual sales taking place right at the show. People are making quick purchases to get out of the heat. If you are reading this after visiting AOPA today, do you remember the decked-out Diamond DA-40 XLS with synthetic vision? It’s sold, the one that burns only 9.5 gallons per hour yet goes 145-150 knots true airspeed. It was sold at the show but the dealer said it was sort of set up in advance. Two nice gentlemen who met on a Diamond Web site designed to bring group owners together just purchased the aircraft you drooled over for $363,193. Although theirs is a two-owner partnership, is designed to bring three owners together. Each (in a three-way deal) will pay $25,000 to $30,000, and each will then have an $800 per month payment and a new airplane. If that isn’t enough (do I sound like a salesman?) Diamond feels your financial pain and offers help with the first year of ownership. That is to say, if you are one of the next 30 Diamond customers, you’ll get $3,500 towards insurance the first year of ownership, free oil changes and a free annual inspection, $5,000 towards fuel, and $2,000 towards training. That’s only for the first year and only for 30 aircraft. Miss either one of those targets and you’ll miss out on the one-year-ownership-free (well, almost, you still have to hangar it, don’t you?). There. Hot news from a hot ramp, but I already covered the hot part.

Jet-A and Sales

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

The buzz on the turbine airplane static display sites is all about fuel prices. Are skyrocketing fuel prices affecting sales? You bet, says a Socata official standing by a TBM 850. “This burns 60 gph in cruise,” he said. “We’ve heard about a lot of Cessna Mustang buyers selling their delivery positions. We don’t have that problem … yes, the customer for a $3 million airplane isn’t as affected by fuel price escalations, but that may be changing. We’re seeing more prospects coming from light jets that burn 110 or more gallons per hour.”

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.

Thielerts on tenuous flight status

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is on the AOPA ramp today with a Diamond DA-42 Diamond Twin Star powered by two Thielert diesel engines. The school has nine of them flying 16 hours a day each, and if you know the background on Thielert, you know the engine company is in bankruptcy in Germany. Diamond is hoping to certify its own diesel engine in Europe in two weeks, but it will take much longer for certification in the United States. Will Diamond end up buying Thielert? Don’t know, but that’s the rumor from the super-hot ramp at AOPA headquarters. You know how the heat can make people talk. There’s a plan, however, if diesel engine problems continue. Embry-Riddle has 10 Piper Seminoles scattered about the country, and they can all be called back to the flightline if necessary.

Gossip from the AOPA Fly-In

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

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.