Archive for June, 2008
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.
Seeing an airplane 35,000 feet above you is one thing. Getting a chance to climb inside a cockpit and see everything up close is a whole lot better. And the smallest visitors to AOPA’s eighteenth annual Fly-In and Open House are getting plenty of opportunities to climb into airplanes big and small, crawl under the wings, or fly a foam bird of their own.
This year’s Fly-In is introducing kids to a sky full of aviation. Not only can they see GA airplanes of every shape and size at our static display, but they can also check out gleaming model radio-controlled airplanes, see exactly how wide the wingspan of a glider is, and climb into the front seat of a weight-shift-control trike. Many of the kids who stopped by to check out the trikes on display stayed to meet Kiwi. She’s the 3-year-old parrot that belongs to Terri Sipantzi of Precision Windsports. She rode on Sipantzi’s shoulder as he explained the nuances of weight-shift-control aircraft to a fixed-wing pilot. “She enjoys the activity,” he said.
But speed is still an eye-catcher for many. Nine-year-old Cole Gibson, visiting Fly-in with his dad, Duane, and his younger brother, Owen, said he liked the Eclipse 400 best. “We saw that fly at Oshkosh last year,” Duane Gibson, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, said of Eclipse Aviation’s single-engine jet.
That’s perhaps the most common type of radio call I made during the the AOPA Fly-In. My duty was to serve in the ground control tower cab from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. This cab has some history to it. During World War II, when the Frederick airport was a military training field, the cab really was a control tower. Now it sits atop a squat building that houses the airport restaurant–the Airway Cafe.
I showed up a 7 sharp, and it was low IFR–200 feet vertical visibility, and the AWOS was broadcasting visibilities of 1/4 mile in fog. So my equipment–a VHF air band transceiver (for talking to arrivals), a Nextel phone (for calling the temporary FAA control tower across the field), and a portable transceiver (for talking to other AOPA staffers)–was pretty silent. There were two missed approaches, however. By 8:30 a.m. the fog burned off, and it was show time!
You get a real insight into the world of air traffic control doing this job. Incoming pilots call me up after leaving the runway, then I give them directions. Twins park at the ends of the hangars, Mooneys park in front of the Frederick Flight Center ramp, all turbine aircraft park on the Landmark ramp, and the rest park on the grass. Even though it’s fairly tame up in the cab, there’s no denying a touch of nervousness when each airplane calls you up. Working with me was Toni Mensching and John Collins from AOPA’s member services division.
I only screwed up once, and I think I got away with it without there being a federal case. I sent a display airplane–a Diamond TwinStar–to a visitor parking area. Realizing my mistake, I had him do a 180, and he followed a golf cart to his site.
Some times it got confusing. Marshallers also have transceivers, so sometimes they jump on ground control duty too. Other times incoming airplanes simply wouldn’t call up at all! Which is OK, as long as they spot the marshallers and follow directions to parking. You see a lot of pilots not wanting to taxi on the grass, but they shouldn’t worry. AOPA has checked out the grass areas and the surfaces are pretty bump-free. Low-slung airplanes–like Mooneys–get their own, well-rolled and maintained grass parking so they don’t have to fret about prop strikes.
In all, I worked about 20 airplanes. By the end of my tour temperatures were heading for the 90s, and more and more airplanes were on approaches to runways 30 and 23. Time to leave the relative cool and breezy tower cab and cruise the displays!
The smell of SPF-50 wafted by as crowds dressed in sun hats, shades, and shorts started to arrive about 7:30 a.m.
A few early aircraft arrivals were stymied by low clouds and fog. The visibility at 7:30 a.m. was about a quarter-mile, and ceilings were down to 200 feet. I heard at least two single-engine piston planes attempt the ILS approach to Runway 23 and execute the missed approach. (OK, maybe it was the same plane twice.)
But the clouds parted by 8:30 a.m. and the forecast was VFR, but hot and hazy throughout the rest of the day.
My first assignment was dolling up the Sweepstakes Archer–and N208GG was getting plenty of attention.
AOPA members were full of questions about “their” airplane. The most common inquiries are:
1) Why black seats? (Because they look great.)
2) What are those sharp things on the leading edge? (Vortex generators.)
3) Do they work? (Yes. Stall speed is reduced about 4 kts.)
4) How do you like the Aspen Avionics PFD? (We love it.)
5) Do you have to get special training or a sign-off to fly with the PFD? (No.)
6) When can I pick it up? (January–and we’ll deliver it to you!)