Archive for July, 2008

Thanks for all the good times

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

This is my last posting for AOPA Pilot as I am moving on to new things. I’d like to thank everyone I’ve worked with from AOPA President Phil Boyer on down. For 7 years I got to work alongside the supremely talented staff of AOPA Pilot as I watched and learned from some of the best in the business. I’ve gained more than I thought possible. I’d also like to thank every single AOPA member who took the time to contact me during my stint as AOPA Pilot’s associate editor and resident A&P mechanic. Your feedback and requests for clarification made me a better writer, and, I hope, a better person. I’ll always remember my days at PILOT as the time of my life when I got paid to do things that I had previously only dreamed of. Be safe, Steve Ells

De-hyping of the Jetpack

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

The Martin Jetpack has been hyped by one and all, including me. Now it’s time to go the other way.

First, as fellow Senior Editor Dave Hirschman notes, it can’t fly as high as Michael Jordan can jump. I wanted more altitude today during the demonstration at EAA AirVenture. Second, it seems a bit wobbly, difficult to control. It came to airshow center with two people assigned to hover by its side during the flight, grabbing training handles on either side to steady it should that be necessary. So if you buy a Martin Jetpack (really it’s a ducted fan), my question is this: Do you have to hire two people to follow you as you scoot just above the ground? Would I pay $100,000 for one? A better investment is to get in shape like Michael Jordan, and learn to jump. Or as Dave Hirschman says, “Buy a trampoline.”

Aw, how cute

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

I didn’t appreciate how cute stuff like this was until I became a father.

150 marks UND’s 40th anniversary

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Surrounded by much newer–and, except for the Cessna 162 Skycatcher, much larger–airplanes in the Cessna Aircraft exhibit at Oshkosh is a meticulously restored Cessna 150. Even the interior plastic looks brand-new, and the glareshield proudly sports the as-delivered pilot’s rear-view mirror (remember those?).

In September 1968, N50405, a Cessna 150H, was one of the first two airplanes delivered to the University of North Dakota. UND was just launching its aviation program, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. UND sold the airplane in 1973, and the UND Aerospace Foundation purchased the airplane in April 2007. The two-place Cessna had spent the intervening 34 years only 150 miles away from UND’s Grand Forks campus. The 150 was refurbished over a 12-month period.

Today UND Aerospace operates a fleet of more than 120 aircraft, including a Cessna Citation Mustang. The restored 150 won’t be used for primary training, however; a UND representative said the airplane might be used to provide spin training for CFI candidates, and the university’s flight team would no doubt love to use the airplane for precision landing competitions.

The Fly Market

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

One rather unique Oshkosh feature is the Fly Market. It’s row after row of unique, largely independent exhibitors. Think part flea market (get it?), part county fair, part warehouse of parts. Because the exhibit rates are cheaper in this area, the goods are usually cheaper as well. But it’s also where you usually find the U.S. Air Force, thanks to the discounted rates. Some of my colorful favorites from this year include gold chain by the inch, numerous hammock exhibitors, and all the unique and crazy windsocks. It’s a fun place to get lost for awhile.

Engines make funny sounds over open water

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

It’s amazing what a little water crossing like, say, Lake Michigan will do to heighten
your sense of awareness to engine performance.

You did check the oil right? Actually, twice. Is that the right fuel pressure reading? Yep, it’s normal. Is it just me or did the engine suddenly change pitch? Nope, it’s just you. AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and I made the pilgrimage to Oshkosh in AOPA’s company Piper Archer (not to be confused with the sweepstakes one) on Tuesday.

The questions I was asking myself and my own answers to them were bouncing around in my head as we made the crossing. We were heading for Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, and over the radio we heard a P-51 Mustang requesting an overhead pass into the airport.

Although I’ve made water crossings before, my mind shifted back to World War II. Both of my grandfathers worked as engineers, building fighter planes. Another relative of mine was lost in a storm in a P-51 during a raid over Iwo Jima. Anyway, one of my grandfathers told me once how they gold plated engine parts in the P-47 in case pilots ran out of oil. It would give them a little extra burn time.

What’s astounding to me is how pilots flew tremendous distances over open ocean water to find enemy ships. Then they attacked. It’s also hard to imagine dog fighting without land in sight. As it turned out, though, the Archer did just fine and the only enemies we saw were phantoms.

Let’s help the Dominican Republic

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

As happened at Sun `n Fun, aviation officials–heck, top government officials–came to a major air show to ask all of us to consider flying to the Dominican Republic. And, as happened at Sun `n Fun, few reporters came to hear their plea. In fact, I may have been the only reporter there. But still you sit before your TVs eating Baskin Robbins, or whatever it is you do, and fail to go. Put it on your to-do list, or your bucket list, and flog your aircraft towards paradise.

The top three cities for your visit should be Constanza, Santiago, and Punta Cana. The best part? By decree, user fees have been eliminated at those airports. And they have 70,000 hotel rooms waiting.

The Dominican Republic Secretary of State, Jose Tomas Perez, came in person to Oshkosh to ask as nicely as possible for just a single visit. Put the lid back on the ice cream carton and see the Dominican Republic before you kick the bucket.

That’s one big airplane

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Wow. The Boeing Dreamlifter is a HUGE airplane!

Front and center in Aeroshell square

When are you going to deliver my airplane?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

The question on everyone’s mind as they come see the Big Yellow Tent at Oshkosh is when we’re going to deliver their airplane. The answer: sometime next January or February.


Manning the sweepstakes airplane at shows is a lot of fun. Members ask all sorts of great questions that we usually have answers for. Although sometimes there are questions like, “Why is the stabilator so big?” Unfortunately I don’t know.

Clearly you’re all reading the magazine because the questions have gotten better and better over the year. Instead of, “What’s that big thing in the panel?” the question becomes, “Are you happy with the Aspen?” So keep those questions coming, either at Oshkosh or through the sweepstakes homepage. See ya around.

TPA quiz

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Someone asked me: “How do you know the pattern altitude at a given airport?” Hey that’s easy, it’s probably in AOPA’s Airport Directory.

But, the question sparked my interest and I went on to see how the government defines pattern heights at airports.

I checked the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), which suggests that traffic pattern altitudes (TPAs) at most airports for propeller-driven aicraft generally extend from 600 feet to 1,500 feet agl. The AIM goes on to say 1,000 agl is recommended unless established otherwise.

But then I looked at the FAA Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD), which specifies patterns generally at 1,000 and sometimes at 800 agl. Interestingly many airport listings (both towered and non-towered airports) in the little green books don’t even include a TPA.

What gives? Shouldn’t the FAA publish that stuff for each airport?