Archive for June, 2011

EAA electric airplane challenge delayed

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

It had been hoped to offer a $60,000 electric airplane challenge this year during EAA Airventure, but that has been delayed until AirVenture 2012. Most of the airplanes, except one, had not completed the required 40 hours of testing. Many of them fly only 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Here’s the EAA announcement:

“Despite a strong influx of applications, EAA announced today that the $60,000 Electric Flight Prize has been postponed until EAA AirVenture 2012 to allow viable candidates to complete Phase I flight certification according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

 Aircraft designers and innovators submitted nearly a dozen entries into the $60,000 Electric Flight Prize, which is designed to elevate the accomplishments and viability of flight powered exclusively by electricity through three flight competitions and an innovation evaluation.

The Electric Flight Prize, sponsored by AeroLEDs, Aircraft Spruce & Specialty, Dynon Avionics, and Wicks Aircraft Supply, was scheduled to be held during EAA AirVenture 2011, July 25-31 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

Phase I is the normal, designated period in which the pilot completes 40 hours of flight testing, certifying that the aircraft is controllable throughout its normal range of speeds and throughout all maneuvers to be executed. Additionally, the pilot certifies that the aircraft has no hazardous operating characteristics or design features, and is safe for operation. Completing this test period and properly documenting its success is a normal process for every new amateur-built aircraft.

 “As with any new, emerging technology, time is an essential element to ensure advancements are made effectively,” said Tom Poberezny, EAA and AirVenture chairman. “After discussions with the prize candidates, it was evident most would not be able to meet the FAA requirement by AirVenture 2011. Let’s be clear that the era of electric flight is drawing closer every day, and it will be showcased at Oshkosh.”

How realistic should impossible turn practice be?

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Last month, I practiced Barry Schiff’s maneuver for the impossible turn at altitude and recorded it on AOPA Live. As expected, many pilots wrote in offering their own advice.

The most common suggestion was to make the practice maneuver more realistic. Schiff recommended turning 270 degrees and noting the altitude loss. That’s because in a real emergency, a pilot is going to turn 180 degrees, then 45 more to end up over the runway, and back another 45 degrees to line up on the runway. It totals 270 degrees of turn. Others suggested practicing at altitude over a straight road to simulate a runway.

So I went up with my instructor, Sandy Geer, again and tried both scenarios in a Cessna 172, same model as before. I also applied some of what I had learned from practicing Schiff’s maneuver the first time.

First, I made sure that I added pitch-up trim during the maneuver (yes, I’m a weakling). I’ve been trained to do this in other practice emergency scenarios (pitch for best glide and trim), but I had forgotten to do this for the impossible turn maneuver. By using trim to relieve some of the control pressures, it was easier for me to maintain the 45-degree bank and airspeed while looking outside. Last month, each time I did the maneuver, I looked only at the instruments.

Setting up on a westerly heading, I climbed to 3,000 feet msl, pulled the throttle to idle, held the pitch-up attitude for five seconds, and then started the turn to the left. After turning 225 degrees, I immediately rolled out and into a 45-degree-bank turn in the opposite direction for another 45 degrees. After stopping my sink rate, I noted my altitude loss: 400 feet. That’s 100 feet more of altitude loss than when I practiced the maneuver with a constant 270-degree turn. But, Schiff also said that after doing the turn he described, add a 50-percent margin. After losing 300 feet with a constant 270-degree turn, that safety padding would put the minimum altitude to turn back in an emergency at 450 feet. With the more realistic 225-degree left turn and 45-degree right turn back to the imaginary runway, my altitude loss was still within the limits set by following his checklist.

Next, I decided to make the scenario a little more realistic by setting up the maneuver above a straight road simulating a runway. The first time, not so good: I lost 600 feet. But, I had let my airspeed slip from best glide (65 knots) to 80 knots. So, I tried again, focusing my attention outside, and lost about 400 feet. Now, I still did all of this at altitude, so I didn’t have the rush of the ground coming up.

I think Schiff’s recommended 50-percent cushion to altitude loss is wise and encompasses a number of factors that can crop up. However, I know my personal comfort level, and I still wouldn’t feel confident making 450 feet my turn-back altitude. However, I would keep the 750-foot mark that I established as my personal minimum after practicing Schiff’s maneuver the first time. Perhaps I will lower that altitude as I gain more practice, but I will probably never lower to it 450 or 500 feet agl.

One reader commented that he had practiced the emergency maneuver earlier in the year at an airport and learned a lot of useful information. That’s not something I’m comfortable with, so I will draw the line at practicing over a road at altitude.

Other readers pointed out the effect that wind could have on the maneuver, which Schiff addressed in his article, and that altitude loss will be greater with a dead engine than one at idle power. Readers also discussed the difference in aircraft loading, whether you have passengers or not. If you haven’t read Schiff’s article, I recommend it—he addresses many factors as he describes the maneuver.

They key is to set your own personal minimum. Practicing Schiff’s maneuver, or one of the others described above can help you establish that minimum, which may be never to turn back to the airport.

Hopefully an engine out after takeoff isn’t something I ever experience. But if it is, I am glad that I am practicing for such an emergency—whether I land straight ahead or turn back. None of my other emergency training had included that, and I would have been horribly unprepared.

So how realistically have you practiced turning back to the airport? Do you prefer Schiff’s 270-degree turn, do you use a road or other straight reference, or something else?

Sully’s ride takes last ride

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Catching an Airbus for the road

Sully's Airbus makes its way west.

The US Airways Airbus A320 that Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger ditched successfully in the Hudson River Jan. 15, 2009–when both engines failed after ingesting a flock of Canada geese–is making its last journey. And this time, it’s a road trip.

The airliner’s 120-foot-long fuselage is being trucked to the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C., following a circuitous route dictated by low bridges along Interstate 95. It’s heading west on I-70 and I-68, and then will head south on I-79 and I-77. Goes to show that GPS direct is not always the best route to file.

The airliner left Harrison, N.J., on June 4. The oversized load (the wings and tail were moved separately) is being hauled by J. Supor and Son Trucking and Rigging, which also helped to lift the aircraft from the water following the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing. Although the schedule is subject to change, the jet should arrive in Charlotte sometime Friday. 

You can follow the progress of the unusual movement online, and the airplane also has a Facebook page.

Amanda Franklin honored in video

Monday, June 6th, 2011

EAA has published this tribute video to Amanda Franklin, who died of her injuries after a March 12 accident.

Are you flying less? Just wondering.

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

In the past week I’ve seen a newspaper story from Kansas about a Cessna 152 owner who says the price of fuel is limiting his flying activities. Then a story appeared in a Seattle paper indicating it isn’t just fuel, but the recession that has a flight school “hanging on by its fingernails.” A quick trip to Tennessee a week ago turned up a Cessna 182 pilot from Connecticut who said he might not keep the airplane if fuel prices remain where they are, and added, “None of my friends [airplane owners] are flying much.” Is this typical?

After I wrote the above, AOPA came out with a new partnership program to help share ownership costs.