Coming Up in AOPA Pilot Archive

Flight planning ’70s style.

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Despite forecasts of rain for this late March Sunday, the weather turned out to be mostly sunny and warm. But instead of being outside enjoying the weather, flying, or even inside watching the NCAA March Madness craziness, I was sitting at my kitchen table planning a flight–the old fashioned way. I spent a couple of hours referring to old flight training text books, digging out my broken and bent plastic plotter, and downloading the Sporty’s E-6B app for my iPad. All this to show the South African authorities that I know how to plan a round-robin flight. It’s a long story, but the video explains more. And you will undoubtedly hear more about the trip in upcoming videos and in AOPA Pilot.

Here’s the video

Historic Tuskegee Stearman makes final flight

Monday, August 8th, 2011

After arriving at the Udvar-Hazy Center, the Stearman gets an engine swap.

Matt Quy, right, helps pull the Stearman's engine.

Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport on Friday would have seen this: the first half of an engine swap on the Spirit of Tuskegee, a PT-13 Stearman biplane conveyed to the Smithsonian by Matt and Tina Quy. After buying the airplane as a wreck, they discovered that it had been used in 1944 and 1945 to train Tuskegee Airmen at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Ala. Since its restoration was completed, they’ve been using the airplane to honor the airmen; a number have flown in the airplane and dozens have signed the inside of its baggage hatch.

The Spirit of Tuskegee flies over refurbished World War II hangars at Moton Field, Ala.

The Spirit of Tuskegee over Moton Field, Ala.

Less than a week earlier, Quy took the plane to Moton Field in Tuskegee, revisiting its first duty assignment after being built by Boeing in 1944. His passengers included Leroy Eley of Atlanta, an 84-year-old Tuskegee Airman who drove to Tuskegee to see the historic aircraft.

Matt Quy flies the Spirit of Tuskegee over the Alabama countryside.

Matt Quy pilots the Spirit of Tuskegee.

For the past month, Quy–a captain in the U.S. Air Force–has been making his way to Washington with the airplane. On the trip his stops included the Air Force Academy in Colorado; EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh; Moton Field in Tuskegee, Ala.; and Andrews Air Force Base, the latter for the 7oth anniversary reunion of the Tuskegee Airmen. Quy discussed the airplane and his journey with AOPA Live during AirVenture. Dik Daso, a National Air and Space Museum curator, accompanied Quy on the flight from Tuskegee to Washington, and blogged about the experience.

The Spirit of Tuskegee flies past an Alabama sunset.

The Stearman punctuates an Alabama sunset.

The Spirit of Tuskegee made its last flight on Friday, Aug. 5, when the Quys flew it to Washington Dulles International and taxied to the Udvar-Hazy Center. Even then, however, the airplane continued to make history: It’s the first artifact to be worked on in the museum’s new Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, a just-opened, 235,000-square-foot facility where visitors can watch restoration projects from elevated viewing areas. Among other details, Quy and the Smithsonian crew are swapping engines and brakes on the airplane, to return it as closely as possible to its original appearance.

The Spirit of Tuskegee will be displayed temporarily at Udvar-Hazy; in 2015, it will move to the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in downtown Washington, D.C. It will be the only aircraft displayed in the museum. Look for a story on this historic airplane in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot.

Sully’s ride takes last ride

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Catching an Airbus for the road

Sully's Airbus makes its way west.

The US Airways Airbus A320 that Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger ditched successfully in the Hudson River Jan. 15, 2009–when both engines failed after ingesting a flock of Canada geese–is making its last journey. And this time, it’s a road trip.

The airliner’s 120-foot-long fuselage is being trucked to the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C., following a circuitous route dictated by low bridges along Interstate 95. It’s heading west on I-70 and I-68, and then will head south on I-79 and I-77. Goes to show that GPS direct is not always the best route to file.

The airliner left Harrison, N.J., on June 4. The oversized load (the wings and tail were moved separately) is being hauled by J. Supor and Son Trucking and Rigging, which also helped to lift the aircraft from the water following the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing. Although the schedule is subject to change, the jet should arrive in Charlotte sometime Friday. 

You can follow the progress of the unusual movement online, and the airplane also has a Facebook page.

AOPA Pilot goes digital

Monday, January 31st, 2011

It’s been exciting to bring AOPA Pilot into the fold of magazines that offer digital editions, in addition to printed copies. A digital edition is an electronic version of the magazine that you read online, or download to a portable electronic device.

The February 2011 edition is available to read online now. The link will work on personal computers, Androids, and BlackBerrys.  There’s a non-Flash version that should automatically be delivered to iPad and iPhone users–but don’t judge the digital edition based on that; you’ll want to wait for our apps to be completed and approved (we’ll let you know through AOPA ePilot and AOPA Online as soon as they’re available).

The printed magazine is not going anywhere; the digital edition simply provides other ways to access your magazine’s content, with the added bonus that videos, audio podcasts, slideshows, and additional multimedia content are built in. AOPA members can add the digital edition to their memberships, or switch their print subscription to digital, online.

Check out the digital edition. Let us know what you think. And please resist the temptation to read it while flying, especially if you use your mobile device to display approach charts.

The sound of 48 radial engines

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Arrived in Oshkosh last night after covering the DC-3 fly-in held last weekend at Sterling, Illinois. It was a fantastic event–yes, there will be a story in a future issue of AOPA Pilot–but the most memorable aspect was watching two dozen DC-3s and C-47s fly overhead yesterday afternoon on their way to Oshkosh.

Did you happen to hear that music as they arrived at AirVenture, or perhaps as they passed overhead somewhere along the way?

It was a concert that I would love to hear again, but nothing like that is on the schedule–and such a gathering may never take place again. If you missed it, there’s a slide show on AOPA Online.

Going three wheeling

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Where are you landing this weekend? Somewhere other than pavement, I hope. Last week we quietly introduced a means to help you find new places to land. The AOPA Airports section on AOPA Online now includes the ability to search for “unpaved” runways. As I wrote in my Waypoints column in the July issue of AOPA Pilot, my most memorable and rewarding landings have occurred on other than paved runways. I think you’ll find that to be true too.

Other than pavement, grass runways are most prevalent, but there are many other options, including gravel, coral, sand, and water. It’s hard to believe here on this 95-degree day in Maryland, but snow and ice are other options in parts of the world.

To use the new AOPA Airports search feature, go to the AOPA Airports page and click on the Advanced Search option. From there, click the “unpaved” box and then in the Query window type what other search criteria you might like to include–your state, for example, to show all of the unpaved runways in your state.

Poke around among the airport options to find some interesting locations and try them this weekend. I look forward to hearing about your experiences back here on these pages. And if the heat is getting to you, you can always go back and revisit our feature from the January 2010 issue of AOPA Pilot about the ice runway at Alton Bay in New Hampshire. Happy flying.

Editor in Chief Tom Haines ready to launch for skiplane flying in a Cub at Cadillac, Michigan.

Wounded Warrior Becomes Sport Pilot

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

U.S. Marine Sgt. Michael “Bulldog” Blair successfully passed an FAA checkride Monday in the AOPA’s 2010 Sweepstakes Fun to Fly Remos GX and is now a Sport Pilot.

“I can’t believe I can finally say I’m a pilot,” Blair said after a checkride with Bill Nelson, a veteran FAA examiner based at Chester County Airport (MQS) about 35 miles west of Philadelphia, Pa. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

The checkride itself was the last of many hurdles Blair has overcome to accomplish his goal. Blair, 35, was severely wounded during his second combat tour in Iraq in 2006, and he is an out-patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington, D.C.

The married father of a 4-year-old daughter began flight training in the AOPA’s Sweepstakes Remos GX in January but his progress was slowed by unprecedented winter snowfall, the airplane’s busy travel schedule, and his own participation in a series of athletic contests for wounded veterans.

After about 30 hours of dual and solo flight training, Blair successfully completed his checkride on a hot, humid day with the wind gusting to 20 knots.

Thanks to fellow AOPA staffers and to AOPA CFI Alton Marsh for joining me in guiding Bulldog through ground and flight training. He’s a smart, talented, irrepressible person who has sacrificed a great deal for his country. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to getting to know him, and he’s a great addition to our aviation community.

System overload–Meridian training days three and four

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

One difference between a single-engine piston airplane and a pressurized turboprop is the level of sophistication among the systems. While your average piston airplane has a simple electrical system and basic hydraulic system if any at all, a turbine airplane is likely to have multiple electrical busses, hydraulics driving numerous systems, and, of course, the pressurization system itself and redundancies.

While I knew all of this at a certain level, it wasn’t until going through the SimCom course for the Piper Meridian that I understood how sophisticated the systems are in the turboprop. Day three of the training was mostly spent wading through the systems. The thick training manual includes colorful system outlines, diagrams, and schematics. But it was instructor Bill Inglis who made it all come alive and made it relevant. Along with discussions about the systems, Inglis included right from the start points about how to deal with failures of those systems and the consequences. While checklists are stressed, there is also emphasis on cockpit flows–ways to move through checklist procedures in a logical path in the cockpit. Pilots can more easily move through flows and then follow up with the checklists to make sure no items are skipped.

In addition to the deep dive into systems, we spent time in the flight training device (FTD) practicing for failures. A Garmin G1000 trainer–basically a panel with the system installed just for practicing using the system–also proved helpful.

By day four–last day–it was time to go flying again. For that, we set off from Vero Beach, Florida, to Florence, South Carolina. The climb to FL270 gave me time to run through normal checklists and manage the systems. While en route we practiced running through checklist flows for a dozen imaginary problems. Of course, there were multiple approaches at each end.

Day five is the long anticipated flight home. Piper’s Bob Kromer handed me the keys to the $2.2 million airplane on day four. The plan is to fly it home solo today. Stay tuned.

Saving an amphib of another kind: Meridian Day Two

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I saved a toad today. Actually, Bill Inglis, SimCom instructor and center manager at the Piper facility saved the toad. And then the little guy peed on Bill! Just as we were about to close up the right side cowling of the Meridian during the preflight I spied the critter. He was just hanging out, unaware that he might be about to be launched to FL250 to be freeze dried! Bill tried to gather him up, but he jumped farther into the cowling among the Pratt & Whitney’s innards. Eventually he was scooped up and sent to the grass behind the airplane.

Meanwhile, we launched this evening for some approaches at Melbourne. The GFC 700 autopilot is amazingly capable, but learning all its tricks will take some time–especially the Vnav modes. Check out the varied missed approaches MLB handed us for ILS, GPS, and VOR approaches–always to the south:

We spent the morning in the classroom further looking into the Pratt and details about the pressurization system. In the sim, I roasted about $1 million worth of simulated engines, but then just flew away–hot starts, hung starts, wet starts.

Tomorrow promises more emergencies and other maladies to haunt me in the sim and perhaps in the airplane too. Follow N6101G at FlightWare.

Still looking for your G1000 and Meridian operating tricks.

Mastering the Meridian: Day One

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

I watched the Pratt & Whitney turboprop engine’s Ng stabilize at about 15 percent and then I lifted the fuel control lever up and slid it forward. The Piper Meridian’s engine lit and within a few seconds it was clear this was going to be a “good” start. It doesn’t always happen that way. A miscue or a few seconds inattention can turn that $400,000 engine into an expensive conversation-starter coffee table.

With the Pratt spooled up, SimCom instructor and center manager Bill Inglis and I were soon launched into the steamy Florida sky over Vero Beach. After some introductory maneuvers we came back to KVRB for some stop-and-go-landings, a fitting and rewarding end to a challenging day of training that had started 11 hours earlier.

 Ground school on systems and then a pass through the Meridian FTD led up to the late-day flight.

Tomorrow is day two of this five-day initial course. At the end of it, I hope to be able to fly away in a new Meridian with its flashy Garmin G1000 panel.

More ground school and sim sessions tomorrow and then back in the airplane for some approaches to Melbourne.

Do you have any Meridian or G1000 tips and advice to pass along? All input welcome.