Archive for January, 2009

So long, Kutztown

Friday, January 30th, 2009

It wasn’t the easiest place to land or take off, thanks to a dip in the paved runway that could catch you unaware if you weren’t expecting it. But Kutztown Airport (N31) in Pennsylvania nonetheless was a favorite of area pilots. Sadly, it’s destined to become another shopping center. The airport closes tomorrow. The property (which includes an adjacent diner and mobile home park) has been sold.

Two winters ago I landed at N31, enjoyed a gut-busting brunch at the diner, and watched Amish families in horse-drawn buggies and Amish teenagers on bicycles hurry along Kutztown Pike, presumably on their way to Sunday service. Here’s a YouTube video of another pilot in a Cessna 172 making a much better approach and landing than I did. So long, Kutztown; wish I had known you better.

Fly the Flight Design CTLS!

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Take the Flight Design CTLS for a flight above Sebring, Florida. This airplane dances to Latin music, so if you’re at work, turn down the volume control. If not, congratulations and enjoy!

If the video does not start, click here.

Turns About the Sun

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

A Remos did turns about the sun, as opposed to turns about a point, during the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo last week. The video was made two days prior to a fatal accident involving a Remos that is still under investigation. One of the pilots now recovering from that accident helped us get these scenes, and we thought you ought to see them. Our sympathies to the family of the photographer who died. Check it out here.

Pictures from the Light Sport Expo

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I attended the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring and took these shots of the newest models. Some of you are aware that there are 2,000 Rans Coyotes flying or in construction, but now it is an approved light sport aircraft. If your’re at work, this could be a little loud. I’m still learning the technology. A light sport plane has two seats and is limited to 1,320 pounds and 120 knots in cruise. But you can fly it on a driver’s license. Take a look.


Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

It used to be that reporters used 4 X 8 inch spiral-bound notebooks to jot down information. But after a trip to Border’s, I’ve been trying out Moleskines. (Still don’t know how to pronounce it). The Moleskines have 192 pages to the spiral-bounds’ 70, and they’re built tough. And there’s some neat extras. They have black leather covers, an expandable pocket for holding recipts, business cards, etc., and an elastic band that keeps the Moleskine closed when not in use. There’s a place where you can record your name and address, and even offer a reward if you lose it. At 3 1/2 X 5 1/2 inches they’re also more compact than the old standbys, so you can shove them into a pocket without it sticking out–or the spiral binding snagging. People who see mine ask all about it, then go off and buy their own. A new trend? At about $10 a pop, they ain’t cheap, but they do grow on you. Just a little too small, sometimes.

Bessie Coleman: a life less ordinary

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Today is the birthday of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot. Born in 1892, the tenth of 13 children, Coleman got the idea of becoming a pilot while reading newspaper articles about World War I pilots. No flight school in the United States would train her, but Coleman didn’t let that stop her. She took a French language course in Chicago, then, using her savings and the help of some influential friends, she traveled to France. She learned to fly and got her license in 1921 from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. When Coleman returned to the United States, now a celebrity, she performed in airshows and raised money to open her own flight school. She died in 1926 in an aircraft accident, apparently while flight testing a Curtiss JN-4 (I say “apparently” because there are differing accounts of what exactly happened). Coleman, riding in the rear seat, was not wearing a seat belt. (She may have been unable to see over the cockpit when strapped in.) Her mechanic was flying from the front. A wrench may have fallen into the controls and jammed them; the mechanic lost control of the aircraft, and Coleman fell out. Her mechanic also died in the ensuing crash.

Racial barriers failed to keep Bessie Coleman from taking her place in the sky. What might she have accomplished had she lived to a ripe old age? 

Fly the Zeppelin!

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Flying a Zeppelin is, well, a gas. Now you can experience it yourself. When I wrote the feature article in the February issue of AOPA Pilot , pricing and details of the pilot experience program hadn’t been finalized. Now Airship Ventures has the details on its Web site about how you can fly America’s only Zeppelin. For about $3,000 you can spend a day learning about the big airship and then climb aboard and fly it around the San Francisco area. Now, there’s a Father’s Day gift dad will appreciate more than that paisley tie. And don’t forget, Valentine’s Day is even sooner….(note to self, send URL to Brenda!).

Managed maintenance–the next big thing?

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

My 2009 prediction: This will be the year that “managed maintenance” goes from curiosity to mainstream for single-engine piston airplanes. Turbine aircraft owners for years have enjoyed the convenience of “Power by the Hour” maintenance agreements that cover all maintenance issues for engines and airframes. Such programs may not be cheaper than paying for individual maintenance items as they crop up, but the owners of expensive airplanes are willing to pay more for the convenience of being able to budget for maintenance with an assurance that some major gotcha won’t crop up.

Because of such maintenance programs and good maintenance tracking in general, the service life of parts for turbine aircraft is well known and understood. That’s typically not been the case in lighter airplanes. As a result, few companies have been willing to underwrite such programs and owners have typically not been willing to pay more for such convenience.

But that’s changing. Managed maintenance is starting to show up in various forms in the GA market. Cirrus Design, for example, just last week announced its CMX program that at least partially mirrors the turbine programs. Cirrus owners can sign up by paying between $2,900 and $3,900, depending on the model, and then pay between $3,179 and $3,667 for 100-hour blocks of essentially spinner to tailcone coverage for airplanes up to two to three years old. That may sound like a lot, but once you’ve paid the initiation fee it amounts to between $32 and $37 per flight hour for maintenance. Remember, you’re going to be paying something close to that for maintenance one way or another, so those are not all new costs.

SAMM takes another approach. The Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Manager was established by maintenance guru Mike Busch who has forgotten more about how to maintain an airplane than most of us will ever know. Under his program, owners pay his company a fixed annual fee that varies from about $500 for a simple fixed-gear single to $750 for a complex single, to $1,000 for a piston twin and up to $2,000 for a very light jet. For that fee, SAMM staff will manage your maintenance for you, intervening with the shop to make sure you are getting the best deals, hunting down parts, deferring what it determines to be unnecessary maintenance, and generally working on your behalf to assure you are getting a good value for your maintenance dollar. You’re still responsible for the maintenance bill, but in most cases SAMM oversight will reduce your costs enough over the course of the year to pay for itself.

Eastern Cincinnati Aviation, a sister company to Sporty’s Pilot Shop, recently announced a series of concierge services to simplify the life of an aircraft owner. Among them is the review of aircraft records and the creation of a maintenance schedule meant to maximize safety and minimize down time. Other services include such helpful items as putting the airplane into the hangar after flights and looking it over for maintenance squawks to making sure navigation data subscriptions are current and installed.

As a long-time aircraft owner, I have mixed reactions so such programs. I would enjoy the convenience of such services and the ability to budget for maintenance expenses. On the other hand, after all these years of being heavily involved in managing the maintenance–which is time-consuming, for sure–I think I would miss not being so involved.

What do you think? Will such convenience services catch on in a big way?

Fishing for an A320

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Go flying in a Tecnam light sport aircraft!

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Visit a sport pilot school via the video below. This one, Chesapeake Sport Pilot, happens to be 90 miles from Frederick, Maryland (AOPA headquarters), at Bay Bridge Airport on the Chesapeake Bay. Get this; the chief flight instructor in the video, Helen Woods, is a marine biologist with a master’s degree in marine science. Her students can identify from the air a school of manhaden, a porpoise, and cow-nosed rays. There are tons of rays in the bay next to Bay Bridge Airport. Here she describes the Tecnam P92 models. They rent for $90 to $100 per hour and include a low-wing model. Up you go! Click here if the video does not play.