Archive for October, 2009

Cherokee Six aids ocean research

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Eddie Kisfaludy of San Diego uses his Cherokee Six for oceanic research. With the help of his fiancee, freelance television reporter and pilot Natasha Stenbock, Kisfaludy is marketing an aerial video surveillance system he developed. His external camera mount doesn’t require a hole in the cabin floor. His day job is to support research at the Scripps Institution of Oceanic Research, University of California San Diego. Several of the researchers there have endorsed the system, not to mention scientists outside of Scripps. On another note, watch for Natasha’s airshow video soon on AOPA Online. You’ll see more about them in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot.

Both Eddie and Natasha led my formation flight from San Diego to French Valley Airport to photograph the Cessna SkyCatcher. The article appears in an upcoming issue of “AOPA Pilot.”

Hello Winter!

Friday, October 30th, 2009

For the past two days Colorado and Wyoming have been hammered by the first real snowfall of the season. The wx geek in me took over and I was a clicking fool, capturing images and data of this remarkable weather event. A HUGE, very elongated trough dug southward over the mountain and central states. The snow came from an equally long frontal system at the eastern fronges of the trough. Meanwhile, east of the snow action, winds were out of the south at 60+ knots–at 5,000 feet! This is a low-level jet stream folks, and it’s sending juicy Gulf air inland. That’s what caused the tornadoes and flooding rains in Louisiana and Arkansas. Yikes–snow next to tornadoes. The accompanying water vapor image from yesterday says it all. Anybody want to go flying in the lower Mississippi valley today? I didn’t think so.

Thrills, chills, and a black Cessna Skymaster

Monday, October 26th, 2009

With Halloween in just a few days, I was reminded this morning of perhaps the only horror movie made that features vampires, creepy reporters, and general aviation. That would be the 1997 film “The Night Flier,” based on a short story by Stephen King.

The bizarre tale focuses on a reporter for a Weekly-World-News-ish type of rag who uses his Bonanza to take him all across the country chasing sordid stories. (I know, already it strains credibility–a reporter owning a Bonanza? Maybe those pulp rags pay a lot better than we know.) He travels to a tiny field in Delaware where a brutal murder has been committed. As the story progresses, he finds himself tracking a vampire who flies a black Cessna Skymaster. Yup, a black Cessna Skymaster.

I won’t give it away, but if you’re squeamish you should know that the final scene is, in keeping with Stephen King’s reputation, pretty gory. The vampire in question isn’t one of those Twilight/True Blood pretty boys. But as far as I can tell, no Skymasters were harmed in the making of this film.

SATSair forced to halt operations

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

SATSair, an air taxi operation based in Greenville, South Carolina, has halted operations “due to circumstances.” A recorded message indicates operations are unavailable “…October 24, 25, 26 and beyond.” The company had a fleet of 26 Cirrus Design SR22 aircraft. The suspension of services was not totally unexpected. Reports from sources in the Greenville area indicate five of the aircraft had been repossessed and did not have engines. Some of those may have been sold. Another report  indicates 10 additional aircraft are sitting on the ramp without engines.

Callers to the company’s maintenance operation were referred to the SATSair office which did not answer. A third source said many of the aircraft had “timed out,” referring to the engines, and were awaiting not only engines but an upgrade to the newest aircraft systems now available in newer SR22s. Company officials were not available to confirm the information.

AOPA Pilot reported in 2006 that SATSair had placed 50 firm orders for SR22 aircraft, and held options for an additional 50 aircraft.

Mystery buyers plucking recession-stessed firms

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Seven people who represented high rollers or were themselves high rollers patrolled the aisles of the National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando this week looking for companies to buy. I met one of them at breakfast. His particular area was aircraft manufacturers and he said the others represent avionics buyers and other specialties. He wore a badge naming him an official of a firm that does not employ him. I checked later and found he was a guest of that firm’s CEO. I didn’t determine whether he was working in conjunction with the other six buyers or just working for himself.

I mentioned this to a woman staffing an exhibit for a small firm that builds infrared cockpit displays for aircraft. Five months ago during an aerospace show a seemingly hot prospect made an appointment with her for a briefing on the firm’s products. After she finished her presentation he said, “Now I can make you an offer for your company.” She explained she was an employee, and selling the firm out from under her boss did not sound like a good idea. She later called the owner and said, “I think I just sold your company.” The offer was rejected.

Hawker Beechcraft chief comments on recession

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

The recession will end well after the general economy recovers, says Chairman and CEO Bill Boisture of Hawker Beechcraft. He has pushed an aerospace recovery off to 2012 or later. Bonanza and Baron production will continue as long as the aircraft appear to be a “good business decision.” Check it out here.


Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I’m not going to get into details about the economy. There’s no need to waste electrons doing so. Let’s just all agree it’s bad. Despite that, work still has to get done. Goods and services are still being sold, and luckily for Brad Pierce, people still need to eat.

Pierce is the owner of a restaurant supply and consulting company in Orlando. He also owns a Cirrus and is profiled in the November issue of Pilot as part of our ongoing series explaining how GA serves America. Although the story is familiar to many members, the rest of the American public doesn’t understand the benefit of GA. Surveys show while they may know they have a local airport that’s somewhat smaller than O’Hare, they don’t understand who flies in or out, or why.

I first heard about Pierce at Sun ‘n Fun earlier this year from the folks at Cirrus, who wisely used a letter he wrote to tout the benefits of the airplane for business travel. But as we know, the airplane doesn’t even matter in the end–it’s almost always better than the airlines.

Pierce got a chance recently to explain that fact to a Senate subcommittee on a non-aviation topic. Since the Cirrus allows him to quickly travel to his state capital and lobby his state legislature often, Pierce has made relationships that resulted in an invite to talk about trade export in Washington. As part of his testimony, he plugged GA as a great technological benefit to his business.

I think the impact of actions like Pierce’s can’t be overstated. AOPA clearly has significant clout in Washington’s aviation circles, but getting beyond that is always difficult. Pierce was able to capitalize on his opportunity and mention the positive benefits of GA to senators that likely don’t know the story. It’s an opportunity we should all grab whenever possible. AOPA’s ranks of CEOs, company owners, and influencers has the chance to do this type of thing often. So make sure to help the cause whenever possible and keep GA strong.