Archive for June, 2010

Flying lean of peak: Such heresy!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

It seems that at least in some parts of the world, advocating for flying lean of peak is like advocating for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, in the seventeenth century. You’re going to be persecuted, and perhaps running out of town or worse.

Massimo Levi, secretary general of AOPA Italy, is living proof. During the IAOPA World Assembly in Tel Aviv in mid June, he related to the crowd how he successfully flew lean of peak a few years ago for several hundred hours in a Cessna 172. But whenever he spoke to other pilots about the fuel savings and other benefits he was scoffed at to the point that he finally quit flying LOP, feeling that he must be wrong.

I assured Massimo that pioneers are often persecuted before they are proven right. Hang in there!

While the tide has turned somewhat in the United States, especially with Teledyne Continental Engines and now even Lycoming Engines endorsing LOP flying, there are still plenty of uninformed skeptics who believe old wives tales. The truth is that, a properly equipped airplane flown by a well trained and careful pilot can successfully fly LOP in almost all cases, saving significant fuel and making left easier for the engine.

Massimo wants to learn more. How about you?

For more on busting the LOP myth, see the feature and video we did in AOPA Pilot.

One pilot sparks GA in an entire country

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

You don’t know HaeWoon Lee’s name, but he is to Korea what instrument flight pioneer Lawrence Sperry or pilot extraordinaire Frank Kingston Smith is to general aviation in the United States. Lee isn’t a pioneer in general aviation in South Korea, he is the pioneer. He literally brought GA as we know it to his country, and only a dozen years ago.

Lee, an electronics entrepreneur, brought a ragtag, crashed Cessna 210 into the country in 1998  and through sheer willpower and a lot of cash and determination, rebuilt it and convinced the authorities to set up a means by which he could register it in the country. That task alone took nearly five years. Prior to Lee’s intervention, the only thing close to GA flying in the South Korea was that done by ultralights. The ultralights could not fly higher than 500 feet agl or more than 3 nm from the airport. With his introduction of the 210 and a Cessna 172 a friend of his bought to start a flight school, they launched what is still a fledgling and fragile GA industry in the country.

Today there are 18 rental aircraft in Korea. Lee, determined to grow GA in his nation, is the president of AOPA Korea and was a speaker at the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Association’s World Assembly in Tel Aviv in mid June. He is just one of many pilots from around the world who told tales of overcoming remarkable odds to promote general aviation.

Aviation as a diplomat

Friday, June 11th, 2010

I’m sitting in the Sheraton Hotel on the lovely Mediterranean Sea beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, as delegates to the IAOPA World Assembly debate resolutions. This part of the biennial meeting is like watching paint dry, but it’s just a small part of the meeting that brings pilots together from around the world. This assembly, the twenty-fifth one for the group, includes representatives from 18 of 68 AOPA’s around the globe and four continents.

Throughout the week we have heard presentations from the delegates on their successes and challenges. As I listen from the perspective of a U.S. pilot, I am relieved to know that we, at least as yet, don’t face any where near the hurdles to aviating as do many of those from other countries. Ridiculous bureaucratic challenges and extreme fees hassle pilots from some of these countries in a way that those of us from the States can’t imagine. Many of the European pilots, for example, must take English language tests on a regular basis at fees from around $40 to several hundred dollars. In Japan, for example, we have learned that while hangar fees at public airports are only about $220 a month, there is an annual airwothiness fee of about $6,500 for an aircraft the size of a Cessna 172 and fuel costs $10 per gallon.
While there are differences among the group, it is amazing to watch as pilots with such diverse backgrounds and cultures come together seemingly as old friends because of the one thing they have in common–aviation. That common bond seems to trump any differences, causing strangers to become instant friends.
One of the aviation successes in Africa is Botswana–mostly because the president of Botswana is an active, enthusiastic general aviation pilot. Perhaps we should seek out a U.S. presidential candidate who is an active GA pilot.
Aviation is a wonderful diplomatic tool. Let’s deploy it worldwide.

Here comes the sun…Oh, no!

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Yesterday a pesky warm front trudged through the Mid-Atlantic states, heralded by low stratus. Morning temps were in the 60s in central Maryland, and it was plenty humid, of course. Things heated up by late afternoon, but not by much. A sole, random break in the clouds sent a shaft of sunlight earthward, and for a moment all seemed cheerier.

But no! As I’ve seen many times–from above and below–that sunlight warmed up the lower atmosphere and destabilized the air. The shaft of sunlight disappeared, only to be replaced by dark skies and heavy rain. A check of the satellite and radar imagery showed that that bit of sun kicked off a modest buildup. Yet more proof that sunny skies may not always mean good weather!

Behind the Stearman roll-over at DCA

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

By now, millions of people around the world have seen the ghastly video images of the gorgeous Stearman biplane locking its brakes and flipping over onto its back at Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

The high-profile gaffe took place during the promotion for Legends of Flight, a 3-D, IMAX movie that premiered Wednesday at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum in downtown Washington, D.C., and provides an amazing, behind-the-scenes look at building the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner.” Although the movie promoters wanted to get attention by bringing the legendary Stearmans to DCA, this wasn’t the kind of attention that anyone who loves aviation was looking for.

Still, there are a couple of bright spots that no one who sees the infamous video should miss.

First, make sure the sound is turned up so that you can hear the voice of pilot Mike Treschel.

His gorgeous, lovingly restored aircraft has been severely damaged, and he’s gone through a stunning, wrenching experience himself – yet his sole concern is the safety of his passenger, Ashley Halsey, a Washington Post reporter. Treschel calmly helps Halsey out of the damaged airplane and escorts him to safety.

There’s no feeling sorry for himself, or cursing, or blaming – just a stand-up guy doing his best to salvage what has to be one of the worst moments in his life.

And Halsey distinguished himself, too.

He wasn’t pointing fingers, or exaggerating the dangers of the roll-over accident. He complimented Treschel, sympathized with him, and said he would fly with him again tomorrow if given the chance.

Some have been critical of Halsey for letting his camera roll and posting the video online, but as much as we all regret the painful images, he’s a reporter with a job to do. When news happens – in this case an aircraft accident that shuts down DCA’s main runway for two hours – he’d be negligent to ignore it. The fact that instant media spreads the images around the world at such incredible speed is a fact of life for the age we live in.

Treschel was flying the second Stearman in a group of eight – and I was a passenger in the seventh airplane.

For those of you who ask, “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the movie?” I can tell you Legends of Flight is extraordinary. It captures the excitement, wonder, and grandiosity of Boeing’s grand endeavor of building a radically new airliner in a way that’s accessible and even joyful.

I hope and trust Treschel’s airplane will be rebuilt and made as good as new. Within hours of the mishap, plans were being made to get the aircraft to a repair facility and return it to the air.

Red Bull-inspired Extra coming to USA

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

When Walter Extra designed an airplane for the Red Bull pylon air races, he had no idea that his “go-fast” airfoil on the racer would have general aviation applications.
But, as it turns out, many buyers of Extra’s aerobatic airplanes – particularly U.S. buyers – want greater speed and range, and they’re not necessarily interested in competitive aerobatics where participants must stay in a 1,000-square-meter “box.”
Extra’s answer is a new aircraft known as the Extra 330 LT (the L is for “low wing,” and T is for “tourer”). The LT has a non-symmetrical airfoil optimized for speed, range, and strength.
The airplane cruises at 190 KTAS and has a top speed of 205 KTAS, holds 58 gallons of fuel giving it a range of 580 nm – and it’s rated for plus or minus 10 Gs. The LT comes with digital, IFR-capable avionics (Garmin GNS430W and Aspen PFD/MFD) and it is powered by a 315-horsepower Lycoming AEIO-580 “Thunderbolt”engine. The LT is now undergoing a certification test program in Germany and is likely to make its debut at EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisc., this summer.
I recently had the opportunity to fly the LT in Germany and it’s an animal. Details to follow in AOPA Pilot magazine . . .

Hurricane watch

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Pay attention to your coastal flying this summer. Weather Services International (WSI) is calling for 18 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes (category 3 or greater) in its most recent tropical update for 2010. Those forecast numbers are well above long-term averages.

Fly in the northeastern United States? According to WSI’s hurricane landfall forecasting model, the Atlantic coast from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to Maine is twice as likely as normal to experience a hurricane this year.

“The El Nino event is steadily weakening,” said WSI Chief Meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford. “More importantly, however, eastern and central tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently at record warm levels for April, even warmer than the freakishly active season of 2005.” For more, see the WSI website.

The 2010 hurricane season began yesterday.

Ready to go to Alaska?

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I know I am. It’s been two years since I flew a modified Texas taildragger in Juneau, and ever since then I daydream about going back. In fact, I’ve pretty much decided that no place but Alaska will do to get a seaplane rating. There’s no time and funds to make that happen this year, so this image will have to tide me over. It was taken by professional photographer Laurent Dick, who rode in the back of a Piper Super Cub with Elwood Shapansky. Want to see more of Laurent’s work? Go here and here.