Archive for September, 2008

Man-jet crosses English Channel

Monday, September 29th, 2008

He did it. Yves Rossy, known as “FusionMan” and “Jetman,” jumped from an airplane wearing two folded eight-foot wings, extended them from his shoulders, fired up four little jet engines, and crossed the English Channel to the UK where he landed by parachute. Watch him land here.

Vertigo on the rocks

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

I am climbing a cliff in Mesa Verde, Colorado. My goal is to reach the exit gate of Balcony House before I panic and fall. The cave that accommodates Balcony House–a spectacular cliff dwelling built around 1,200 AD by Ancestral Puebloans and located about 1,000 feet below the 7,000-foot mesa top–was created by rivers and oceans eons ago. I find the façade’s first foothold (not OSHA approved) after having climbed a relatively short ladder from the “house.” While hanging on to the slightly swaying chain-link that’s anchored in the cliff at vertical spots, it dawns on me I’ve got nowhere to go but up. My husband coaches, “Look at the next step.” I am worried about hyperventilating–losing my grip. I acquire shin bruises clamping onto and leaning into the last rungs of the final ladder to safety. Then, I reach the ranger, nonchalantly sitting at the top gate, dangling his legs freely over the cliff’s ledge. It scares me to look at that. My breathing is now so loud I figure everyone can hear me.

The group stands at the cliff’s edge looking down at the path. Not me. I cower and hide low to the ground as far as possible from the ledge, shaking for the next 10 minutes. I did it! And–although proud to have ventured beyond the edge of my envelope–I will not do it again.

Just another checkride
The climbing adventure happened last week, several days after I passed my commercial multiengine checkride. With the new ticket fresh in my pocket, I felt quite boisterous, even confident about conquering my fear of heights. But when I climbed the cliff an unreasonable fear took hold of me–one I could not dispel.

Prepare and conquer?
While visiting another dwelling (Cliff Palace) the night before, I had explained my anxiety to the ranger. Would he recommend Balcony House considering my fear? “Climb this exit ladder and two-thirds up look left. How you doing?” he asked when I got there. “OK, that’s enough,” I thought while I looked into the abyss. But apparently it was not–I needed to push that personal envelope a little farther–and we both knew it.

Got similar experiences? Please share them, I’ll feel less silly and know I’m not the only pilot with this phobia.

All aTwitter about new media

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

I’m at the FOLIO publishing conference this week in Chicago (I visited the Garmin store–very slick and just up Michigan Avenue from the Apple store). What’s interesting about publishing conferences the last few years is that there are almost no seminars on putting ink on paper. It’s all about e-media–blogs (we’re there!), video, and social networking. Lots of talk about Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and others. Do you think AOPA should be putting content out through these channels? Do you participate? I recently set up profiles on Twitter and Facebook. Take a look. Let me know how and if you use such media. We’re anxious to know how to best communicate with you.

Reason Number 458 to become a pilot*

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

From a Spirit Airlines press release: “Ultra low cost carrier Spirit Airlines has launched its latest innovation—customized onboard advertising…Where else can you find an average three-hour gaze time? Advertisers can choose from a variety of customizable media options including seat backs, window shades, overhead bins, tray tables, drink carts, and more.”

’Nuff said.

*…as if you needed 457 other reasons.


Bryan Regan stands in for Aeroshell team

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

The formation biplane Aeroshell team will have a new temporary leader, Bryan Regan, who is standing in for Alan Henley, founder and leader of the Aeroshell team. Henley was injured in an accident at his home last summer.

In this video, which I personally shot, you can see Regan briefing the Red Barons a few months before that team was disbanded by the sponsor. He leads a rehearsal and then leads them through a loop. Be warned, this is noisy, unrestrained engine and air blast noise. Get that volume down if you are in the office.

Explanation: Regan waits to feel the lift from air off the accelerating airplane beneath him as his signal to start the loop. If the slot airplane, the one I was in, does not accelerate, it will finish behind the team because it is on the outside of the loop and must travel farther. You’ll see us rush beneath Regan as the group dives to gather speed for the loop. The air off the top wing lifts Regan, signaling our presence.

The most inspiring pilot . . .

Monday, September 15th, 2008

The most extraordinary thing about Logan Flood is that he doesn’t see himself as extraordinary at all.

In his mind, he’s just a regular, work-a-day pilot from the middle of the country who knew what he wanted to do and was lucky enough to get to do it.

But Flood, who was nearly killed in a 2001 aircraft accident that left him with disfiguring burns covering most of his body, has overcome unimaginable obstacles to reach his life goals of becoming a husband, a father, and–perhaps most astonishingly–an airline pilot.

I met Flood several months ago at a hotel near Washington, D.C., while the new first officer was on an 18-hour layover. It was hard, at first, not to stare at his scars or become distracted by them. I’m sure he’s used to seeing people study him. It happens whenever he’s in a public place.

But it doesn’t take long to see beyond Flood’s appearance to the sparkling character that lies beneath it. His colleagues recognize it, as do family members, friends, and an ever growing number of passengers. I’m sure fellow pilots like you will see it immediately.

Aviation has been blessed in its short history to have attracted more than its share of determined, visionary, courageous participants. Inventors, aviation pioneers, and warriors have all accepted risk and overcome obstacles to advance the science and art of flying. Listening to Flood tell the story of his loss, heartbreak, dedication, and triumph makes me believe that same spirit is alive and well, and that flying has a bright future.

Who is the most inspiring pilot you’ve known? And what have they taught you?

Please share your stories here . . .

Aviation trivia

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Here’s a question I just learned the answer to–who was the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic? I didn’t know the answer, do you?

The timeless appeal of flying . . .

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

The aviation crowd has always been a forward-looking bunch. We’re always looking ahead and trying to anticipate what’s next. But a colleague, Craig Spence, recently brought a copy of a letter from Van B. Foster (his wife’s grandfather), then a young Army flight student in California, and some of his descriptions and motivations are as true today as when the words were put to paper on June 25, 1918:

My Dear Mother,

The red letter day of my life has come and gone–I have driven an airplane through the sky. I have done banks, spirals and straight flying. It is great and glorious and worth all the efforts I have (made) to attain it, and when I cross the great divide, I will do so knowing I have toyed with the clouds and frolicked in the skies; that I’ve raced through space with a joystick in my hand.

I know now what “pockets” in the air are, how they make you skip, toss and rock, and I want you to know that, sitting there 5,000 feet above ground, nothing matters much; you feel as secure as if in a rocking chair. You ride easier than the most luxurious limousine. I repeat, it’s great!

Driving an airplane is more like a combination of swimming, steering an auto, scenic railway riding, and roller skating than anything else. You have three controls: directional, longitudinal, and lateral, and the first time an instructor turns them over to you some 3,000 feet above the earth, you love so well a strange and lonesome feeling that comes over you. But there you are. He signals what to do, say it is for a bank, your heart comes up into your mouth, and then if never before you realize you’re helpless–and all you have learned seems one tremendous pile of ignorance, but dauntlessly you lower your right wing and shove your right rudder–then, mother of mine, that right wing goes to the bottom and your machine turns practically on its side, your left wing nearly straight up and you seem to turn around in the length of your ship, which you don’t.  Then still alive and happy at your success, you bring her out, and once again you’re tearing through great gobs of atmosphere at 75 m.p.h. And you’ve done your bank.

About my commission, I’m not terribly interested in it. It’s a secondary thing, not the primary. The great and only thing is to fly. Being a flyer naturally brings a commission, but you’re not a flyer until you’ve done 75 hours in the air. I have been up four times, each time with an instructor, so you see I am not just on the verge of being haled as an “ace,” but just the same, an accident is the only thing that can keep me from being a pilot . . .

Fortunately, no accidents were in store for Foster, the enthusiastic young writer. But the end of the war cancelled his military flight training less than five months after he penned this letter–and that brought an end to his flying.

Does the joy of discovery Foster described so vividly 90 years ago still exist today?

If you’ve got insights or artifacts that relate to the fliers who preceded us, please share them here. Flying has changed so much through the years, but pilots, evidently, have not . . .

TBMOPA’s Convention

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I just came back from my first-ever TBM Owners and Pilots Association convention. Located at a resort in Traverse City (TVC), Michigan, the event drew 78 TBM 700s and 850s, along with their owners. A Socata official said that this assemblage accounted for one-third of the US TBM fleet.

The five-day schedule involved seminars every day, and there was even an exhibition hall with booths representing Garmin, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney, and many other companies. I went to give a talk about large-droplet icing and ice-induced tailplane stalls. Even at 7:30 a.m. I had a good crowd.

AOPA ASF’s Bruce Landsberg gave a talk about ASF’s initiatives, such as their popular online safety courses.

The trip up and back was memorable, too. The trip from our home base at Frederick, Maryland, to TVC included a flight through a large patch of clouds–some of them featuring moderate rainfall–and an ILS approach to TVC. Flight Service put a huge convective sigmet around most of Michigan, but all I could see on Tom Haines’ Bonanza’s Garmin 530 datalink view was some yellow in a sea of green returns. With no contouring cells, and no Stormscope strikes, I decided to keep on truckin’. There were a couple of bumps, but mostly it was rain–and an 800-foot ceiling in rain for the arrival at TVC.

Coming back, I caught a 20-knot tailwind and saw groundspeeds as high as 194 knots. At last–a decent tailwind! Of course, the trip would have been even faster in a TBM, but that’s another story.

Bottom line: TBMOPA is an impressive organization, full of dedicated owners. I’ll be back for next year’s convention, at Tuscon.

Need a good aviation quote?

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Do you make speeches about aviation? Ok, maybe not. Some of you do, and if you are in need of interesting quotes you might want to pick some from the guote garden. My favorite is, “If God had intended man to fly, he would have made it easier to get to the airport.” One to avoid, however, is by the greenest of environmentalists, Henry David Thoreau. “Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” But Hank! (I call him Hank.) We’ve got carbon offsets!