Archive for April, 2011

Vegas Viper Update

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

The “pimped” Vegas Viper, featured in the May issue of AOPA Pilot, won best custom airplane during judging at Sun `n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, this year. Congratulations to the proud owner, David Lessnick. Here’s a recent video on the aircraft.

Take a Teton Glider Ride

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

See what I was talking about in the April AOPA Pilot article on Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Ride along during a Teton Aviation glider flight out of Driggs, Idaho. It’s available to tourists, but this was a solo flight. See places other visitors to Jackson Hole will never see. On a sad note, the video was shot in 2010 and the towplane pilot is Blake Chapman. On April 8, 2011, Chapman died in a Husky crash. This video is dedicated to him for helping thousands of tourists explore “The Grand,” the biggest peak in Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton video brings AOPA story to life

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

The truth is that we’re having a battle inside the AOPA computer with MP4 files, and that is preventing these two videos from making it to AOPA Live. So here is a preview of a video about Soaring, Balloons, and Paragliders near Grand Teton National Park–all of them are rides you can take if you visit the area–and another that is strictly a briefing for pilots on flying the Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole Airport.  A park ranger plus the Jackson Hole tower chief explain it all. The aerial video in the safety video suffers from something called a rolling shutter, but that’s a technology battle for another day.

The not-yet jetpack

Monday, April 11th, 2011

The Martin Jetpack has now reached 100 feet, under radio control and with a dummy aboard, in New Zealand. By now, the goal it should have reached is the one where depositers get their machine. When it was shown in 2008, it could rise only six feet. The pilot (the inventor’s son) said he didn’t want to go higher because in his words he didn’t want to crash, meaning the craft didn’t have the stability it needed. Now, a computer keeps forward speeds and climb speeds low to prevent a loss of stability, but it does climb to 100 feet. It’s always been a bit of an odd duck. It uses the term jetpack, yet it is a ducted fan driven by a gasoline engine built with advice from the outboard engine industry. It even sounds like one of those Mercury motorboat engines, although the inventor says he built it himself. Deliveries were to start in 2009 according to my 2008 story, but didn’t. I recall the “managed” press image this machine enjoyed when it was shown at Oshkosh. There were few straight answers for reporters who didn’t have the inside track. I wasn’t allowed to fly it because a CNN reporter was promised the scoop. I couldn’t see a preview flight because only the New Zealand press was invited. Now, I can wait.

More Steam Powered Airplane

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Just discovered a video of the Jackson, Wyoming, band that accompanies our story on “Flying Yellowstone and the Grand” (April issue). You can see the band here, and see a link to the article here where the band accompanies a slide show. If you take our AOPA Pilot digital edition, there’s yet another song near the end of the article by the band, which brings the authentic sound of the West and the Jackson, Wyoming, area to our story. Going there? See if they are performing in the area when you are in Jackson.

You have to hear this one to believe it

Friday, April 8th, 2011

I’m still scratching my head over the 24-year-old pilot who landed a Piper Archer on New York City’s Rockaway Beach–about three miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport–on Monday night, and then reportedly told authorities afterwards that “It happens all the time in Alaska!” They apparentlyweren’t amused.

His conversation with air traffic control is downright bizarre, and the controller seemed to do everything he could to discourage the landing. The pilot was very careful not to declare an emergency.

The FAA is still looking into the incident. If you were the investigator assigned to this matter, what would you do?

3D audio: HD for the ears

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

When HD came along, everyone wanted to switch from traditional or standard-definition TV because of the better resolution. Well, the audio world is offering an HD experience for our ears. At Sun ‘n Fun, Garmin set up a demonstration center for its digital audio panel that has 3D audio processing. I tried it out after a press conference to see if it was really that spectacular. It is.

First, I listened to normal ATIS broadcasts, intercom communications, and ATC clearances with a Bose headset (that alone was a step up from the $150 headsets I’ve been using for the past 10 years). Then, I listened to the same communications, with the same headset, in 3D. I was shocked. Each communication was clearer and easier to process.

With this technology, the audio comes from different directions (based on which comm it is streaming through), as if you were listening to your passengers, ATC, and the ATIS carry on a conversation in a room with you. ATC clearances came in through my right earpiece, while the ATIS broadcast came in through the left. Although both were broadcasting at the same time, the ATC clearance came through clearer. Initially, I thought the volume was louder for ATC than ATIS, but the Garmin representative explained that they were the same volume–my brain had picked which transmission to prioritize. In that case, ATC won. Without the 3D audio, however, I just heard a jumble of ATC and ATIS, making it difficult to distinguish the clearance.

Now for the intercom communication. When talking to your pilot or co-pilot, you’ll hear him or her clearly from the respective side. For example, if I were flying with my flight instructor in the right seat, I’d hear him predominately through my right ear. And if I had passengers in the back, their conversation would sound as if it were coming from behind me…just as it would if I weren’t hearing headsets.

The directional audio makes it much easier to process information by eliminating the strain of trying to separate multiple transmissions that are given equal weight.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case a short audio clip is worth a thousand words. Check out the sample Garmin has posted on its website. Listen to the 2D before the 3D. Make sure you are listening through earphones or have two speakers hooked to your computer in order to get the experience.

An EF-1 for LAL

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The supercell thunderstorm complex that hit the Sun ‘N Fun grounds at Lakeland, Florida’s Linder Airport spawned an EF-1 tornado on the field. The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed the tornado touchdown, as well as downburst gusts as high as 75 mph. That’s well above flying speed for most of the airplanes tied down at Sun “N Fun, as can be seen in the storm coverage on AOPA’s website.

Meteorologist Theodore Fujita developed his Fujita scale in the 1970s, then refined it again in the 1990s to the current “EF” scale. The “EF” stands for ‘enhanced Fujita,” and it’s a damage scale. An EF-1 tornado has surface winds between 86 and 110 mph. The NWS adopted the EF scale, and assigned the following types of damage to EF-1 tornados: Moderate damage. Small barns and outbuildings damaged. Rooves ripped, mobile homes overturned, loss of exterior doors, windows and other glass broken.” All of that happened at Lakeland yesterday, plus a lot of downed trees and power lines.

The EF scale damage descriptors might also be expanded to include, “Tied-down airplanes may be flipped and destroyed, tents crushed, Porta-potties overturned, and signs uprooted.”

Though an EF-1 may sound like it’s low on the totem pole of tornado damage (and it is–the scale goes up to 28), its damage is awe-inspiring. It’s not something I want to ever live through again!

For storm track information, see the Tampa Bay NWS report.