Archive for February, 2012

GA to the rescue of stranded cruise ship

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The powerless cruise ship Costa Allegra is still under tow on its way to a port in the Seychelles Islands, but general aviation has come to the rescue. A twin-engine Vulcanair is coordinating helicopter support for the ship. Eurocopter Colibri EC120B helicopters have dropped hundreds of flashlights, since there is no electricity, and lots of fresh bread plus communications equipment. All the aircraft, including the Vulcanair, are owned by Zil Air in the Seychelles. The company provides transportation among the islands.

On final in Tahiti (bottom), and New Zealand

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Matevž Lenarčič of Slovenia  landed safely in Tahiti on his quest to circle the world to the west in a Pipistrel aircraft, but do it by zigzagging  clear to Antarctica for environmental research and photographs for the photographer’s new book. This is what final looks like in Paradise. He had engine vibrations and leaking carburetors, and was stranded in Tahiti while Rotax engineers arrived from New Zealand. There were worse places to be trapped. Once repairs were made he flew on to New Zealand where additional engine work could be done. Then it was on to Australia where he experienced a serious in-flight structural failure.

Photos by Matevž Lenarčič 

(Click to enlarge.)


Pipistrel rounding the globe, the long way

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Matevž Lenarčič of Slovenia is flying a modified Pipistrel Virus with a turbocharged Rotax engine around the world westward, taking pictures, ecological measurements, and gathering material for a book. You can see the details in a story by AOPA”s Jim Moore. He has already flown enough miles to circle the globe, but he is only halfway. When he is done he will have flown the lightest aircraft ever (640 pounds) around the world to the west, will have a record for gas mileage (he is getting 28 statute miles per gallon), and will have enough material for his 12th book. He’s a photographer. And a scientist. He is measuring soot in the air every inch of the way, and is going to show the world that fresh water, not oil, may be our next real crisis. Is it all going smoothly? Not always. Here is his report on a recent flight over South America:

“Amazing views were spoiled by engine problem, loosing [sic] some RPM and power so turned to Calafate. After several looong minutes engine sound got back to normal so I continued toward the glaciers Perito Moreno, Upsala, Viedma and Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy which were clear of clouds in almost no wind. Great views but a lot frustration as I was not confident with engine run and had a strong smell of fuel when I opened the window. “

He decided to push on and landed safely. He has flown thousands of miles in the 10 days since then.

Could you fly for three days and nights?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

 (Click images to enlarge.)

UPDATE: He’s out of the simulator and proved that he could function using relaxation techniques and “micro-sleep” periods 20 minutes at a time. Next up–long-duration flights with two pilots above the Mediterranean. They will not sleep when over land and during those times, will use only relaxation techniques.

The Twitter postings of Swiss pilot André Borschberg–now in a simulator in preparation for longer Solar Impulse flights–could get pretty funny soon. The Solar Impulse will fly nonstop around the world in 2014. He has been in the simulator as of this posting for about a day, and has two days to go. His entries on Twitter may change as he gets exhausted–but they simulate making reports to his control center. He is wearing enough sensing hardware on his head and body to make anyone uncomfortable. The idea is that two pilots will fly day and night at very slow speeds, drifting downward at night when no solar energy is available, and climbing during the day, to circle the world.This was a single-pilot experiment. It could take weeks. Keep track of these guys. They are going to make it…my prediction. The aircraft has already made it to Paris and back.

What would you do for a Thunderbird flight?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

They’re sleek. They’re fast. They’re precise. Their airshow performances put pilots in awe. They’re the Air Force Thunderbirds. After watching a show, who hasn’t thought of what it would be like to be in the cockpit during one of those routines?

I’m hoping to find out what it’s really like. I’ve been fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to apply for a media flight in the Thunderbird No. 8 fighter during Sun ‘n Fun. My chances aren’t bad either. The Air Force accepted five applications for two media flights.USAF Thunderbirds Media Ride Forms

The application process wasn’t difficult, but it was a little, well, revealing. The Air Force now knows more about my physical dimensions than my friends and family. Age, height, and weight weren’t enough. I also had to provide my waist and thigh sizes, measured from the largest point, and my butt-to-knee and butt-to-head measurements. The measurements had to be precise because, if I am lucky enough to be selected for the ride, the aircrew flight equipment must fit properly or my chance is gone. The Air Force was so exact that they provided a diagram about how to take the measurements. Needless to say, getting my butt-to-knee and butt-to-head measurements with the help of a coworker one morning in my cubicle made for some interesting conversation with the rest of my group!

The requirements didn’t stop there. I also had to provide my jacket, pant, and shoe size … in men’s sizes. So, I made a quick trip to Walmart one evening to try on clothes. I must admit, I felt rather odd shopping in the men’s section and then going to the women’s fitting room to ask to try on the clothes.

Even though the application was rather detailed on my measurements and medical history (certifying that I have no heart or back problems), it’s actually you, our members, who were most important. Part of the purpose of the media flight is to increase the Air Force’s exposure. AOPA’s 400,000 members pack power on Capitol Hill, and I’m hoping that strength in numbers will also help me get in the cockpit of the Thunderbird No. 8 jet.

Still, I wanted to add a note that if I didn’t meet their specifications, I would do anything in my power to meet their requirements by the March 30 flight. Lose weight, gain weight, add muscle—anything that I could control. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a spot for begging on the application.

If you had the chance to fly with the Thunderbirds, what would you be willing to do to make it happen?

Hawker chief gets bonus to avoid bankruptcy

Friday, February 10th, 2012

UPDATE: A Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, has predicted bankruptcy will be difficult for Hawker Beechcraft to avoid.

New Hawker Beechcraft CEO Steve Miller gets a nice bonus if he can keep the company out of bankruptcy. Called “incentive interests,” they amount to six percent of the value of equity holdings held by sponsors, and six percent of the increase in the value of the company’s bonds held by sponsors. However, his three-year contract also warns, if the company enters bankruptcy the incentive interests will be canceled. Aside from that bonus, Miller gets $1.5 million per year for three years as his regular salary, and a 100 percent bonus if he meets financial targets. He makes up to a 200 percent bonus if financial targets are exceeded. Also, it was agreed by the board of directors that he was to get an additional $5 million cash payment upon joining the company to reflect his surrender of comparable value when he left MidOcean Partners. He has to give it back if he gets fired in the first nine months. After that it will be prorated if he is fired. You can read the SEC filing on the contract here. (Click on; “Entire Filing Including Exhibits.” Don’t worry, it’s not that big.) As you probably have read, Hawker has retained Kirkland and Ellis for advice on bankruptcy, according to an unconfirmed report in the Wall Street Journal. Here is a link to a story by AOPA’s Jim Moore containing the link to the WSJ story. So Miller’s work is cut out for him, with bankruptcy attorneys waiting on the other line.

F-16 video shows pilot’s courage

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Years ago during Desert Storm and the initial attack on Iraq, this F-16 pilot was attacked not once but six times by ground-fired missiles. All too often we thank returning service men and women for their service without really wanting to know the details. Here are the details. Thanks to the Flight Aware newsletter for linking to this.

Boeing 787 used as skywriter

Friday, February 10th, 2012

A Boeing 787 test crew from the Boeing factory is landing at this hour (11:30 a.m. EST Feb. 10) with a strong sense of accomplishment. Not only did they get all the data the engineers need, they amused themselves by following a path that, once retained on flight tracking software, forms a perfect “787” and the logo. (Now that the crew has landed, you may have to click on the map to see the drawing their route makes. This is not the first time Boeing test aircraft have written things in the sky with their routemap.) Thanks to Flight Aware for discovering this.

Red Bull leap from space is on again

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

It isn’t quite the edge of space (it’s about 50 miles short), but the jump from 120,000 feet was all set to be an extreme Red Bull extravaganza in 2010 until someone brought legal action, saying the idea was theirs first. That issue is settled, and once again preparations are in progress for the jump. Natasha Stenbock, a pilot, TV weather forecaster, and reporter during AOPA Live broadcasts from AOPA Summit, is the official Red Bull blogmaster for the jump. You can see her reports here. The flight will be the highest manned balloon flight, the highest jump, the longest freefall, and the first time anyone has broken the sound barrier with their own body. The record, if achieved, will best Joe Kittenger’s 1957 mark of 102,800 feet (19.5 miles) above the earth. He was also the first to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic in a gas balloon. Shot down while a fighter pilot in Vietnam, he spent nearly a year in a North Vietnamese prison camp. He is an advisor to Felix Baumgartner, the base jumper who will make the attempt. Red Bull always plays these events with great secrecy, never confirming in 2010 that New Mexico would be the site of the attempt, and never confirming the day (it was to be in late summer). The only great unknown is what happens to the human body when it passes through the sound barrier in nothing but a David Clark helmet and pressure suit. There’s one way to find out.

Adding to the ranks of aviatrices

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Women comprise a small portion of the total number of active pilots: only 42,218 of 627,588 active airmen certificates are for women, according the latest U.S. civil airmen statistics from Dec. 31, 2010.

We can help change that statistic and boost the pilot population by introducing more women to aviation and encouraging women who are currently in training. From my narrow perspective, 2012 seems to be getting off to a good start.

I met Jennifer Mastoris, a 17-year-old high school senior, shortly before Christmas. She was eyeing her private pilot certificate while I worked toward my flight instructor certificate. Both of us were training at Mad River Air at Grimes Field in Urbana, Ohio. She earned her private pilot certificate Jan. 8.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a winter survival clinic in Marion, Mont., and bunked overnight in an icy fuselage with private pilot hopeful Donne Rossow, a student at Rocky Mountain College in Billings. She’s working toward her private pilot certificate and hopes to someday fly F/A-18s.

When I learned of Jennifer and Donne’s new accomplishments, I couldn’t help but look forward to March 10, the Women Fly It Forward event AOPA is participating at its home airport in Frederick, Md., to see how many women we can take flying that day. It’ll be a chance to perhaps introduce some women to general aviation flying for the first time. Hopefully the bug will bite so we can continue adding to the number of female pilots and pilots overall.