Archive for December, 2010

Tales of a logbook

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

At the end of each year, I like to take a long look at my logbook and flight receipts for the previous 12 months, calculate how much money I spent, how many hours I flew, and what type of flying I did. That tradition also brings with it a flood of memories, as various flights filled with special meaning grace the pages of my logbook.

Road and Runway RallyThis year was a mixed bag. I spent less money per flight hour, but I also flew a lot less—only 53 hours in my logbook this year. However, I had many opportunities to do different types of flying.

The year started out on a high note, with earning my commercial pilot certificate in January. In April, I had the opportunity to race in AOPA’s Road and Runway Rally, driving a Smartcar and flying AOPA’s 2010 Sweepstakes Fun to Fly Remos GX from Maryland to Florida for Sun ‘n Fun. The highlight? Opening the show April 13 with a low pass. I experienced flight in a couple of new aircraft—a Helio Courier and a hot air balloon.

But the year also brought my most difficult moment in aviation, the death of my boss Chris O’Callaghan. Chris was killed in a midair collision during a soaring competition in Texas in August. (See AOPA’s tribute to Chris). Losing someone I had worked with for two years and saw more often than my family was extremely painful. In addition to the personal loss, the fact that he was a fellow pilot and was killed in an aircraft accident made the situation even more difficult. The first few weeks after the accident, I lost all interest in flying. When I would force myself to fly, I would get nervous if more than one aircraft was in the traffic pattern at once. However, I continued to go flying, whether with my father or with my friend and flight instructor I worked with to earn the commercial certificate, until I once again felt comfortable in an aircraft. I knew it was what Chris would have wanted.

Chris O'CallaghanAfter that, I tried to honor Chris in my own way by taking others up for their first flight in a general aviation aircraft (Chris was very passionate about introducing people to aviation). Sharing the gift of flight—with a sixth grader, my grandmother, and a nonpilot coworker—helped to bring back the joy of flying.

This fall, I experienced a new high—aerobatics—while working on an upcoming feature for AOPA Pilot. After each of the three lessons—filled with loops, hammerheads, rolls, Immelmans, Cuban eights, snap rolls, spins, and the split-S—I walked away with a grin almost as big as the one I wore after my first solo.

As I reflect on the year, I can’t help but look forward. I’m already planning  for the challenges I hope to face next year.

Loops and rolls have proven so enticing that I want to work toward my tailwheel endorsement and sharpen my aerobatic maneuvers so that I can rent the Citabria and introduce some fellow friends and pilots to aerobatic flight.

I also plan to earn my flight instructor certificate next year. The first step—passing the Fundamentals of Instructing written exam—is already complete. My hat goes off to all of you flight instructors out there. I’ve been lucky to work with professional instructors who inspired me to go further in aviation, and I plan to work my tail off to make sure I do just as well for my future students.

What were your highs and lows in aviation this year? What are your aviation-related end-of-year traditions? And most importantly, what do you hope to add to your logbook in 2011?

A day of firsts

Friday, December 17th, 2010

We all remember that on this date in 1903, the Wright brothers made their first powered flight from Kill Devil Hill on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

December 17 also marks the first flight of the iconic Douglas DC-3; 75 years ago today, its wheels left the runway at Santa Monica Airport in California.

While no original Wright Flyers are flying today, a remarkable number of DC-3s remain airworthy and take flight regularly. See some recent AOPA Live videos featuring the DC-3.

UPDATE: More what to watch for in 2011

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture has reconfirmed to employees that a decision will be made by the “end of the first quarter” (by March) on whether to substantially move the company to Louisiana, or remain in Wichita. His comments came at a mid-December employee meeting and were reported in the Wichita Eagle. Employees voted earlier this year to reject a package that included a pay cut but kept the company in Wichita. UPDATE Dec. 20: The state’s Department of Commerce came up with $40 million–much of it training money–and as a result Hawker Beechcraft will stay in Wichita for many years with at least 4,000 workers. Sorry, Louisiana.

Miracle plate for a miracle approach

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

We’re coming up on the second anniversary of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger’s infamous water landing in the Hudson River in an Airbus A320. Sullenberger, who will forever be known as “Sully” to you and me, landed in the water after both engines failed when the USAirways flight to Charlotte, N.C., hit a flock of geese. Here’s the FAA transcript of Flight 1549’s ditching.

In recognition of Sullenberger’s achievement, Jeppesen created a special approach plate that commemorates the landing, and Robert “Robin” Duggan was kind enough to share it with me. Robin says, ” Notice the waypoints named for crewmembers…I also liked the name of the transition located at the northermost part of the flight path.” (Click the image to make it larger.)

A one of a kind approach--and NOT for navigational purposes

Calling all Citation II pilots!

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

I’m in the process of researching an article on the Citation II/IISP/SII series–for publication in AOPA Pilot’s Turbine Pilot section. Anyone out there care to share their experiences owning/maintaining/flying any of these bizjets? With some 1,000-plus out there, the II series was one of Cessna’s most successful lines. And now, it’s possible to own one of these aging classics for less than a million dollars! True, the engines may be high-time, and the panel dated, but the thought of a 350-plus-knot, 8-10 seat jet as an alternative to, say, a new Baron must be tempting….. over to you….

What to watch for in 2011

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Korea Aerospace Industries says it will have a prototype of its single-piston-engine airplane, the KC-100, ready to fly early in 2011. The company will release an announcement and pictures next year, or you can look here for clues if you can’t wait. The information about the prototype comes from Richard Yun of the company’s Aircraft Business Development Section.