Archive for August, 2009

When is a rock a piece of cake?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The answer to the riddle above is, “When the rock is a helicopter landing pad for an experienced pilot.” Thanks to the “FlightAware Weekly Aviation News and Photo Update” for this link to an amazing series of landings on a narrow rock by a Utah rescue pilot.  “Just a piece of cake?” You decide.

‘Closer to heaven’

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Today was a spankin’ good day for a student solo at Frederick Municipal. Winds nothing to speak of, clear below 12,000, and not too hot–not yet. Density altitude 1,200, but that’s an August morning in Maryland for you.

It was also a perfect morning for a 102-year-old Frederick, Maryland, lady to take her very first airplane flight.

The white van from Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center rolled into the parking lot promptly at 10 a.m. carrying Helen Hape and her very good friend Dave Violette. He’s a City of Frederick employee who volunteers at Citizens. A pleasant-faced man in blue jeans and cowboy boots, Violette has a ready smile. Miss Helen hung onto his hand as he chatted with her while they waited for their ride to commence.

Violette made this day possible for Miss Helen. Celebrating her 102nd birthday in July, she told him she’d like to get a chance to fly “up with the birds and closer to heaven.” So he made it happen, with the help of the folks at Frederick Flight Center.

Miss Helen sat patiently in her wheelchair, trim and petite in a white sweater and slacks, while CFI Michal Mishal preflighted the Cessna 182T. Mishal introduced herself, saying, “We’re going to have a good time.” She asked if there was any place in particular that Miss Helen wanted to see. Miss Helen thought about it and replied, “Thurmont [where she was born] and Hagerstown.” Well, the president isn’t scheduled to be at Camp David until Friday, so thank goodness for small favors.

From all acounts, Miss Helen had the ride of a lifetime. Margie Weaver, director of marketing for Citizens, rode along with Violette and Miss Helen in the 182. “MISS HELEN,” she asked loudly, “if you’re having a great time and are OK, raise your right hand and wave.”

“That hand popped right on up there,” Weaver told me.

No proper introductory flight is complete unless the passenger gets to take the controls, and Miss Helen was no exception. At 3,000 feet, she helped to fly the airplane, and even got to help with the landing, Weaver said.

What did Miss Helen do for her 101st birthday? She took a ride in her friend Dave Violette’s convertible. There’s a lesson here for the rest of us.

Happy National Aviation Day!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Did you know that today is National Aviation Day? It wasn’t at the top of my mind, either, until I heard it mentioned on the radio while I was driving to work this morning.

August 19–the birthday of Orville Wright–was designated National Aviation Day by presidential proclamation in 1939. Don’t confuse it with Wright Brothers Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the brothers’ first successful powered flights on December 17.

While National Aviation Day hasn’t captured as much of the nation’s attention as, say, Labor Day, we as pilots should celebrate the occasion in an appropriate manner. Let’s go flying! And what better occasion to introduce our passion to somebody unfamiliar with general aviation?

Song Writer 2, United Airlines 0

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Especially don’t break the neck off, as you’ll see at the end of this video. Nova Scotia song writer Dave Carroll has launched round two–his second video–in his battle against United Airlines after baggage handlers broke his guitar. The woman portrayed in the video fiddling on her tuba is United customer rep Ms. Irlweg who gets credit for being friendly while refusing to pay. (A third video is coming.)  Watch it here.

United called Carroll 24 hours AFTER the first video and offered $1,200 in flight vouchers plus $1,200 it cost to repair his Taylor guitar. But it was too late, and United couldn’t buy him off. Now he wants nothing less than a change in United policy about slinging guitars around so hard it breaks the instrument in two, and then claiming it isn’t the airline’s fault. If United reforms its policies, Carroll will include that in a song he will write for video three. If not, watch out!

Garmin G500 keeps it simple

Monday, August 17th, 2009

While in Canada at the Diamond Aircraft factory I got a short flight in a two-seater DA20 equippd with the Garmin G500 glass cockpit. The G500 is a stripped down PFD/MFD (meaning $16,000 retail or $10,000 as Diamond has it set up) but you can load it up with options including synthetic vision and traffic advisories. Yes, it does weather. Garmin kept it simple.

The G500’s simplicity is most noticeable on the lower left corner of the primary flight display. (CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE) Located there is the familiar inner and outer knob combination used on so many Garmin displays, but above it are five buttons. Push one of them, and that determines the function of the knobs. If you push the BARO key, then the knobs will only set altimeter settings. There are soft keys along the bottom, but mercifully most of them are blank. Move over to the multifunction display and start wandering through “chapters” of information. Again it’s simplified; most of the chapters have two pages, three at the most.

You’ll find the G500 only on smaller certified aircraft, light sport aircraft, and even Experimental aircraft. The DA20 cockpit is much more comfortable now that the instrument panel has been inclined forward, and the stick has been moved forward as well. The new seats are amazing. You can be 30 pounds overweight like me and still keep your dignity.

For $185,000 you can get a DA20 with the G500 plus, for a limited time only, a free upgrade to the Garmin 430 (an upgrade from the GNS 420 that provides data to the G500 display) and free synthetic vision. Not going with glass? A straight analog ready-to-go DA20 is $175,000. You can also get one with an Aspen primary flight display. Learn more about the G500 and other new systems here.And here is a short video I made at Oshkosh on the G500/600.

eAPIS is confusing

Monday, August 17th, 2009

I spent three frustrating hours trying to fill out an online eAPIS passenger manifest report to Customs and Border Patrol before flying to London, Ontario. Here’s why.

It seemed logical to list fellow writer Tom Horne as the pilot, and me as crew, since we would share pilot duties. The form blocked that entry, saying general aviation can have only one pilot. And there I sat, trying one fix after another for three hours.

By the way, I was frustrated by the question, “Address While in the United States.” I was going to Canada so why would I stay in the United States? Finally I entered my home address in Maryland. That made the form happy. Below is the actual form and the response I WISH I had filed. Click to enlarge it:

Once I arrived in Canada I phoned Canadian customs authorities, and at first they were concerned that they weren’t hearing from the pilot. I explained that I was sitting beside the pilot. (Next time I’ll make sure it is the pilot who calls.) They approved our arrival over the phone and we got out of the aircraft. Simple! Coming back, Horne was coached through the eAPIS filing by an official of Diamond Aircraft. Horne said something about “…reaming them [Customs] a new one.” Watch for his article. By the way, Diamond company pilots don’t like eAPIS either, and they frequently fly to the United States.  Here is an AOPA Air Safety course you can take to help understand the system.

Reason #1 to fly GA

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Not being forced to sleep in my airplane.

Three cheers for the volunteers

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Let’s hear it for the volunteers at EAA AirVenture. These folks are tireless and they are everywhere. Friday’s group was tasked with basically changing around the layout of AeroShell Square, and if you’ve ever been to AirVenture you know that’s not accomplished with a couple of tugs and towbars. Here’s what they accomplished on Friday afternoon all within a two-hour time frame:

  • Moved WhiteKnight2 out so that it could fly in the pattern (to the extreme delight of onlookers);
  • Got out the Airbus A380 so that it could depart.
  • Brought in a C-5, a C-17, and a C-130.
  • Brought back in WhiteKnight2.
  • And kept the huge crowds safely out of the way, but still close enough to enjoy the spectacle.