Archive for April, 2010

My favorite sneakers…with wings

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Do you have a favorite airplane that you absolutely love to fly—not just because it’s fun or exciting, but because it is so familiar, like a pair of ratty, worn sneakers that are extremely comfortable but you can’t wear in public?

For me, that’s a Cessna 172. It was my training airplane of choice for the recreational, private, instrument, and part of the commercial. I feel more at home in that aircraft than any other. But, I haven’t flown it very much this year. Most of my time has been divided between an Arrow and a Remos. I enjoyed flying both, but it wasn’t until I recently went up in a Skyhawk with a CFII to get instrument current that I realized how much I had missed it.

I must have missed it big time. I was as happy as a clam running my hands over the bug-crusted leading edges and greasy landing gear. I cherished the smelly cockpit (it’s a trainer, so it gets lots of sweaty students). And I loved checking all 13 fuel sumps! Pure joy…and that was just the preflight.

Flying it was so easy. My approaches came right in line even though I hadn’t done any hoodwork for seven months. My speeds were right on. My instructor and I had fun shooting an approach and landing at a 1,840-foot-long, 30-foot-wide runway that sloped downhill (yes, that’s excitement for someone based at a flat 5,220-foot-long runway).

Part of the fun was flying purely for pleasure, not training toward a certificate or for business, which has accounted for 90 percent of my flight time this year. But most of the joy came simply from being in a Cessna 172, my favorite sneakers with wings.

Take 45 seconds to play with G-AIRMET

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The weather guys are very proud of their new AIRMET graphical weather interface for pilots. Select a few of your highest-priority weather concerns by pressing buttons at the top of the page, then hit play. You can select and de-select weather products while the AIRMETs continue to play on a national map. Spring through time to see what is happening over the next few hours.

See the F-35B fighter hover

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

The new F-35B STOVL (short takeoff, vertical landing) fighter has hovered in mid-air March 17 as part of its test program.  See it on the Lockheed Martin YouTube page here. It is listed on the right side of the page.

Notice all the little doors closing in the “First Vertical Landing” video.  (There are three F-35 videos.)

Yes, the Harrier hovered, too. But it wasn’t stealthy, Lockheed Martin says, it couldn’t go supersonic, and had half the payload and a little more than half the range. Flight controls of the F-35 are digital and the pilot can hover hands off, while the Harrier controls were analog and the pilot had to have the right stuff.

The F-35B engine drives a counter-rotating lift fan located behind the cockpit, which combines with engine thrust via a vectored rear nozzle, and two bleed-air roll ducts under the wings to produce more than 41,000 pounds of thrust without the use of an afterburner; the Harrier essentially diverts engine thrust down or aft.

A “mission systems” F-35 flew for the first time April 7 carrying 5.5 million lines of never-flown-before computer code.