Archive for April, 2008

Tales of two rides

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Early? With all of the delays and cancellations at American Airlines, just being on time would do, but the Southwest 737 bus dropped me off 25 minutes early at Albuquerque last evening. Two more stops for the bus before the West Coast. The flight attendant quipped upon landing, reminding us we were nearly a half hour early: “Next time we’re late, we’ll just call it even, OK?” At least they don’t take themselves too seriously at Southwest.

The smooth airline flight was a stark contrast to my return flight from Sun ‘n Fun on Saturday in my Bonanza. With copilots and senior editors Paul Richifield and Dave Hirschman on board we blitzed northward Saturday morning, enjoying a 15-knot tailwind most of the morning. After refueling at Florence, North Carolina, we could see by the XM Weather datalink on the Garmin 530 that our plan to fly near the coast to Richmond, fly up the Chesapeake, and hang a left across Baltimore to Frederick wouldn’t cut it. The strong storms had already reached Richmond–the top end of a cold front stretching all the way to Louisiana.

Instead, we found a thin weak area in the line near Greensboro and headed northwest. We punched through just barely in IMC and with only a little light rain. Popping out the back side of the front, we turned northeastward toward Lynchburg, Virginia, and watched groundspeeds climb over 200 knots–about a 30-knot push.

But soon the bumps–big bumps–kicked in. We climbed from 7,000 feet to 9,000 feet to 11,000 feet to just barely make it on top of the scattered clouds. Groundspeed jumped to 231 knots, but alas ATC asked to immediately start our descent, nudging us down 2,000 feet at a time through the roily air. At times I had the power so far back to keep the airplane below maneuvering speed that the gear horn was about to go off.

But soon, we were under the clouds and enjoyed a relatively smooth few miles back into Frederick in time to have part of the weekend to ponder the wonders of Sun ‘n Fun and the most fun part–getting there and back by GA.

Read AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg’s eJournal describing his flight back to headquarters.

Sensenich ground adjustable prop for LSA market

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Sensenich Propeller Manufacturing, Inc introduced its first ground adjustable propeller to hit the market in more than 50 years at Sun ‘n Fun. Unlike the ground adjustable propellers of yesteryear–where the pilot attempted to align marks on each blade with marks on the hub–the Sensenich prop uses steel cartridges that are pushed into a slot in the hub, locking each blade into the angle specified on the cartridge.

The new Sensenich cartridge system allows the pilot to select whether the blades are set to flat pitch (high rpm) to shorten take off runs or for coarse pitch (low rpm) to increase cruise speeds.

The blades are of hollow composite construction and feature a bonded metal leading edge. This construction technique–also known as internal pressure molding–lessens the overall weight of the propeller system. The weight of the propeller for the O-200 is 17 pounds.

These design features are also being implemented on propellers designed for the Continental IO-240 and the Lycoming O-235 engines, which are slated for release later in 2008. Retail price for the propellers is $3,195. A video of the pitch change process is available on the Sensenich Web site.

Common questions

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Some of the questions about AOPA’s sweepstakes airplane are the same from year to year, regardless of the make and model in question. Associate Editor Ian Twombly (shown hard at work in photo), who is documenting this year’s Get Your Glass Sweepstakes project for AOPA Pilot and AOPA Online, is the target for many of these questions–but all the AOPA Pilot’s editors attending shows like Sun ‘n Fun get their share.

Those most frequently asked are: (more…)

Thank you

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Thank you cool-space. Standing in front of you just made my day.

Pitching their products

Friday, April 11th, 2008

If nothing else, Sun ‘n Fun and other shows throughout the year are a great place for me to meet the fledgling entrepreneur. Thus far I’ve spoken to three different pilots (and members) who are working on the next big thing in aviation. The most amazing part–each is trying to break into a flooded section of the industry.

But I give these folks a huge amount of credit. Good product or bad, they have poured their heart and soul (and money) into these products. In most cases, they simply have a love affair with aviation and they hope to make a little cash in the process. What’s better than doing what you love and getting paid for it, after all?

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Sure, I can do that

Friday, April 11th, 2008

There’s something about every activity with which we involve ourselves, that around the period shortly after becoming certificated or being allowed to do it alone, we feel like we can do anything. Invincible.

I remember as a kid being just fascinated with airshows, as I’m sure most of us were. I remember Sean D. Tucker hanging vertical on his prop sliding back and forth for the crowd. Amazing stuff. But then I became a pilot. (more…)

Airshow vittles

Friday, April 11th, 2008

All winter my wife and I watch what we eat, but all that resolve and co-discipline flies out the window during my first exposure to airshow food. Every year this takes place in Lakeland, Florida, at Sun ‘n Fun, the first big airshow of the year. There are just some foods that mark the beginning of the airshow year. This year I kicked off the show with an Italian sausage sandwich smothered in grilled onions and peppers. Not bad.

Airshow Food

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Sweepstakes Archer duty, day 4

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Sweepstakes ArcherWell, the members have had a few days to consider the sweepstakes Archer, and I’m noticing more observations than questions. Two men told me its paint scheme is the best they’ve ever seen; two others asked me what we were thinking. It’s hot here in Lakeland, Florida, so it’s not surprising that people are wondering if the airplane’s black leather seats will be “hot.” Some have questioned our decision to install vortex generators–I’m convinced of the safety benefits and pass that information on to everyone who asks about them. Mechanics are weighing in as well. Most compliment us on the work done forward of the firewall, although two have pointed out what they view as minor discrepancies, or departures from established practice. These recommendations are certainly under consideration. There are a lot of judgment calls in aviation maintenance, however, and I’m past the point of taking all A&P/IA opinions at face value. There’s safe and legal, and then there’s the method that ensures a healthy revenue stream for a shop. There’s often a significant gap between these two perceptions, and owner/pilots shouldn’t be afraid to keep mechanics “honest” as the need arises. Beware of this statement from an IA: “I always replace [part x] at [x hours], even though there’s technically no time limit on it.”

FAA, Sun ‘n Fun award Boyer for advocacy

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Phil\'s awardJohn Burton, president and convention chairman of the Sun ‘n Fun fly-in, and Doug Murphy, regional administrator of the FAA’s southern region, took the stage at the Sun ‘n Fun museum amphitheater to present AOPA President Phil Boyer with an plaque for being, “a champion and advocate for general aviation” minutes after Boyer was introduced to a packed crowd at the fly-in.

Burton cited Boyer’s, “unending commitment to aviation,” during his term as AOPA president as reason enough for the tribute, then added that AOPA’s recent request for a clarification of Florida state’s use tax laws as they apply to general aviation pilots as being an important step in keeping pilots free to fly their airplanes to Florida and to Sun ‘n Fun.

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SMA celebrates 10 years; looks to the future

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Societe de Motorisations Aeronautiques (SMA) celebrated a decade of diesel- fueled engine development at Sun ‘n Fun today. CEO and President Luc Pelon said that 42 of the SR305-230 engines are now in service around the world. (more…)