Archive for March, 2010

Radio-controlled glider reaches 391 mph

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Here’s the news (at least to me), 15 years late. Turns out hobbyists have done something called dynamic soaring using radio-controlled (RC) gliders since the late 1990s. The current record (unofficial) stands at 391 mph. You can learn more about it here.

Here is a video of an actual successful speed record attempt. The gliders pull high Gs and use composite construction to take the load. I wonder what the G load would be on a full-size, piloted glider doing the same thing on a larger scale? I doubt there are any built that could take it, assuming first that the pilot could stand it.

Are most fog-related accidents fatal?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Roughly three-fourths of the time, aircraft accidents in fog are fatal, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation (ASF) has discovered. There is no clearcut “fog” category in the accident statistics studied by the AOPA ASF, so the term “fog” must necessarily include “obscuration, ” and “below minimums.” Included in the AOPA ASF review were pilots on IFR flight plans, those on VFR flight plans, and those not on a flight plan. Here’s what David Kenny, the AOPA ASF researcher for accident statistics, discovered.

Those on no flight plan who had an accident that included the above weather conditions between 1998 and 2007 led the fatal category with 203 fatalities. But those on IFR flight plans came in second with 106. Those on VFR flight plans were much lower, with only 49 fatalities over the nine-year period.

Part 91 operations in fog, obscuration, and below minimums conditions led the statistics with 340 fatalities. In second place were charter operators with only 38 fatalities.

What’s the conclusion? Kenny has these observations: “The relatively low number of fog accidents [for aircraft] on VFR flight plans–and the high number on flights that didn’t file any–probably says something about the risk attitudes and flight practices of the pilots involved. IFR pilots are expecting low visibility, so reports of fog won’t necessarily deter them from trying the approach, but it [fog] will make things get bad in a hurry if [the pilot] gets off course or goes below minimums.”

If reality TV called, would you answer?

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Jake the pilot bachelor

Even if you don’t watch “The Bachelor” (and I don’t know anybody who admits to watching “The Bachelor” ) you may have heard that last season’s contestant was a pilot. A commercial pilot named Jake. He’s since joined the latest group of contestants on “Dancing with the Stars” (along with astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was profiled in the April issue of Flight Training).

Now we hear that pilot shows are being shopped. Reportedly there’s a show about an Alaskan female bush pilot in development, although I couldn’t find any more details. More recently, however, a rep for a company called Lion TV posted this invite on the Pilots of America message board. Lion TV’s credits include “Cash Cab” and “History Detectives.” So is this a good idea? Bad idea? Horrifically bad idea? None of the above? Given reality TV’s spotty record for crafting what it thinks makes for compelling TV, I know what my answer would be–but what do you think?

TV Show Seeks Aerobatic Pilots & Freight Dogs

Emmy Award Winning Production Company Seeks Aerobatic Pilots, Race Pilots and Freight Dogs!

We’re looking for dedicated, passionate pilots with big personalities to star in an upcoming documentary TV series about the professional life and times of aviators: we’re particularly interested in hearing from aerobatic competitors, race pilots, and cargo pilots. Interested applicants: tell us a little about yourself and your work, and include any photos or links to relevant videos/websites.

The chopper pilot pays a call

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Those of you who liked the March AOPA Pilot’s story–and there were a lot, judging by my inbox–on the Virginia Beach, Virginia police helicopter unit may be interested to know that the pilot featured in the article (“Eyes in the Sky”) paid a visit to AOPA headquarters. David Cook was taking some time off, and flew from his home field in Norfolk to FDK. And no, he didn’t fly the Bell 407 he flies on duty. Instead, he flew his personal Cherokee 140.

MPO Dave Cook, Virginia Beach Police Dept.
MPO Dave Cook, Virginia Beach Police Dept. (center),
with ‘AOPA Pilot’ Editor in Chief Tom Haines (left) and
‘AOPA Pilot’ Editor at Large Tom Horne (right)

I gave Cook the “dollar” tour, which included the chance to meet with all the AOPA Pilot and Flight Training staffers, plus stops at each of AOPA’s divisions. He was an especially big hit in the Membership Department, where a few staffers postively swarmed Cook. “I’m not a celebrity!” Cook protested. But never mind. In the end, he lent his autograph to staffer Kim Lee’s copy of the March issue.

Then it was over to the “Airway Inn”, the airport restaurant. He had a club sandwich. I had a burger. Then he was off to Kentucky to meet his relatives, taking with him the extra magazines we gave him–and a couple of poster-sized covers of the March issue. A half-hour later I called up his N-number on He was over Martinsburg, WV, doing 107 knots and no doubt wearing a smile.

Welcome aboard, it’s 1953

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

YouTube has a 48-minute movie made by the late television and radio star, and U.S. Navy pilot, Arthur Godfrey, showing a flight in an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed Constellation. Appearing with him is Eddie Rickenbacker, a fighter ace of World War I but in 1953 the president of Eastern, who casually tells Arthur he recalls climbing to 20,000 feet in an open-cockpit French SPAD biplane fighter to await the enemy in World War I. Famed aviation pioneer Dick Merrill, the highest-paid airmail pilot, the first airline pilot to fly a round-trip transatlantic flight, and Dwight Eisenhower’s pilot during the presidential campaign, is Godfrey’s co-pilot. After reaching cruising altitude Godfrey announces it is time to relax and light up a Chesterfield cigarette. Merrill lets him know that he doesn’t smoke. The pilots shout to one another in the cockpit, and seem to shout into the handheld microphone as well. Eastern’s disptach office has a guy who writes the aircraft’s radioed position on a blackboard. As one observer notes, much of the basics of flying remain the same today. This is how the airlines flew in 1953, kids, exactly 50 years after the Wright brothers first successful powered flight.