Archive for August, 2011

Trump forced to tighten belt

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Here’s proof of the seriousness of the present economic downturn. Donald Trump of “The Donald” fame has been forced to buy a narrow-body Boeing 757 as his personal airplane, rather than a widebody. We all have to cut back–maybe not like the 13,000 aerospace workers sitting at home unemployed in Wichita–even if our name is Trump. At least the seatbelts are gold-plated–a small reminder of past glories. But sleeper seats? How exhausting!

‘Maple leaf’ drone has only one wing

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Why fly a two-wing airplane when one will do? Lockheed Martin is using its own funds to develop a hand-launched, or self-launched, one-wing surveillance drone called Samarai that whips itself into a frenzy of flight. So far it has had only test flights, says Lockheed Martin’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratories. It was discussed at the convention of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in Washington, D.C., this week.

How Jeppesen is transitioning to digital

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Jeppesen Digital Presses

With its new Mobile FliteDeck iPad app, you might think Jeppesen has only recently begun a strategy to move away from paper charts, but you would be wrong. During a recent visit to Jeppesen headquarters in Denver, I was once again reminded of a strategy put in place a decade ago by the company’s leadership to transition away from paper.

While the true paperless cockpit is just now arriving, the transition has been successful, if not complete. Not many years ago, Jeppesen printed some 8 billion (that’s with a “B”) pieces of paper–paper en route charts and terminal procedures. This year it will only be about 1 billion. An even bigger difference is that now, most of that printing is done as print-on-demand instead of offset printing on mammoth presses.

The digital print-on-demand process is much more efficient and cost-effective. Today, if you special order an approach book, for example, chances are it will come off the digital press today and be in the mail today. No longer must Jeppesen guess how many people will want that book and then print extras on the offset press.

Take a look at the video link at the top of this post for a quick look at how the print-on-demand presses work and stay tuned as Jeppesen continues to work with its customers to transition to an all-digital world.

A more indepth video look at Jeppesen’s charting operation is on AOPA Live.

The best replacement yet for paper charts is the iPad. A look at Jeppesen’s new FliteDeck Mobile app is also on AOPA Live.

Bob Stangarone resigns from Cessna

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Saying he wants to stay ahead of change, “…to make things happen rather than wonder what happened,” Bob Stangarone has resigned as vice president of communications at Cessna Aircraft. Stangarone was, as “Aviation Week” noted today, popular with the media who cover Cessna for his straight, fast, and honest answers. He worked with fromer Cessna CEO Jack Pelton at Fairchild Dornier–who brought him to Cessna–and also worked with Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney, and Safire Aircraft. He maintains a home with his wife in Washington, D.C., and yesterday he returned from his Wichita commute for good. It is unlikely his talents will be idle long, as he plans the next step.

Historic Tuskegee Stearman makes final flight

Monday, August 8th, 2011

After arriving at the Udvar-Hazy Center, the Stearman gets an engine swap.

Matt Quy, right, helps pull the Stearman's engine.

Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport on Friday would have seen this: the first half of an engine swap on the Spirit of Tuskegee, a PT-13 Stearman biplane conveyed to the Smithsonian by Matt and Tina Quy. After buying the airplane as a wreck, they discovered that it had been used in 1944 and 1945 to train Tuskegee Airmen at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Ala. Since its restoration was completed, they’ve been using the airplane to honor the airmen; a number have flown in the airplane and dozens have signed the inside of its baggage hatch.

The Spirit of Tuskegee flies over refurbished World War II hangars at Moton Field, Ala.

The Spirit of Tuskegee over Moton Field, Ala.

Less than a week earlier, Quy took the plane to Moton Field in Tuskegee, revisiting its first duty assignment after being built by Boeing in 1944. His passengers included Leroy Eley of Atlanta, an 84-year-old Tuskegee Airman who drove to Tuskegee to see the historic aircraft.

Matt Quy flies the Spirit of Tuskegee over the Alabama countryside.

Matt Quy pilots the Spirit of Tuskegee.

For the past month, Quy–a captain in the U.S. Air Force–has been making his way to Washington with the airplane. On the trip his stops included the Air Force Academy in Colorado; EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh; Moton Field in Tuskegee, Ala.; and Andrews Air Force Base, the latter for the 7oth anniversary reunion of the Tuskegee Airmen. Quy discussed the airplane and his journey with AOPA Live during AirVenture. Dik Daso, a National Air and Space Museum curator, accompanied Quy on the flight from Tuskegee to Washington, and blogged about the experience.

The Spirit of Tuskegee flies past an Alabama sunset.

The Stearman punctuates an Alabama sunset.

The Spirit of Tuskegee made its last flight on Friday, Aug. 5, when the Quys flew it to Washington Dulles International and taxied to the Udvar-Hazy Center. Even then, however, the airplane continued to make history: It’s the first artifact to be worked on in the museum’s new Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, a just-opened, 235,000-square-foot facility where visitors can watch restoration projects from elevated viewing areas. Among other details, Quy and the Smithsonian crew are swapping engines and brakes on the airplane, to return it as closely as possible to its original appearance.

The Spirit of Tuskegee will be displayed temporarily at Udvar-Hazy; in 2015, it will move to the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in downtown Washington, D.C. It will be the only aircraft displayed in the museum. Look for a story on this historic airplane in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot.

What’s an AOPA photoshoot like?

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Here’s a partial answer to what we do when we photograph aircraft for AOPA Pilot magazine. The clock isn’t faked. I woke up 15 minutes early on Aug. 4 and decided to videotape the wakeup call from the hotel desk with my Flip camera. Mike Fizer and I stayed in Racine, 15 miles from Rochester, Wisconsin, and left the hotel at 4:30 a.m. for an air-to-air session with American Champion’s new Denali Scout. It has a 210-hp engine and a larger tail to handle all that power. It’s top speed is 155 mph, and it climbs at 1,000 to 1,600 fpm. It’s so new it’s not even on the American Champion Web site yet. Two have been sold. You’ll see the article in an upcoming issue. We got lucky with the photos–lots of ground fog for a beautiful sunrise.

Thanks, Harriet

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Like me, Harriet Quimby worked in newspapers for awhile and became intrigued by aviation through the pages of a magazine. That’s pretty much where our similiarities end.

Quimby was writing for something called Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly in 1910 when the magazine published an article promoting an upcoming international “air meet” at Belmont Park in New York. She went, watched the pilots, decided that flying didn’t look too difficult, and started taking lessons. On Aug. 1, 1911, she became the first U.S. licensed female pilot.

It sounds so cut and dried, but I find myself thinking about what she must have experienced to earn that title. Start with the clothes. She couldn’t wear pants, nor would she wear “harem-style” skirts that French female pilots favored. According to Eileen F. Lebow’s excellent book, Before Amelia, Quimby designed her own flying costume: a plum-colored wool suit that converted from knickerbockers that could be tucked into boots to a full skirt by undoing some buttons. If I had to design a completely new type of clothing for something I wanted to do, I’d probably take up knitting instead.

Some things Quimby experienced will sound very familiar to today’s aviators. Interviewed by the New York newspapers when she earned her ticket, she was asked about “the months of predawn rising, the inconvenience of weather, the expense”–was it worth it? Apparently so. She later became the first woman to fly across the English Channel, and would have been the first woman to participate in air mail delivery had she not died in an airplane accident 11 months after she earned her license.

I didn’t know a lot about Quimby before writing this blog. My own aviation role models are the women who ferried military aircraft during World War II–the WASP. Whenever I struggled with a concept or worried that I wasn’t up to the flying task at hand, I pictured those women in their flight suits, climbing into  B-26s, and B-29s, and drew inspiration from their strength. Now I wonder who their aviation heroines were. Could one of them have been a petite woman in a plum-colored wool flying suit?