Archive for March, 2012

See spectacular Sun `n Fun photos

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Scott Kelby, president of an association devoted to improving everyone’s photos, visited Sun `n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., Thursday and got some amazing shots. See them here (and click the pictures to enlarge). The National Association of Photoshop Professionals, run by himself and his wife Kalebra, is much like AOPA–a membership organization with magazines, a national convention, a spectacular Web site, training videos–and like AOPA, managed by a pilot (click “Kalebra” above).

Could you put it down for $10,000?

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I’ve heard of spot landing contests before, but this one must surely take the proverbial cake.

Grand Forks International Airport will host a spot landing contest on Saturday, July 28. Each entrant gets just one shot. The one who puts it down closest to the target line takes home bragging rights–and $10,000. 

“No catch and no obligation,” says the website. You must be at least a sport pilot or higher to enter (too bad, Jacob Barson of Allentown, Pa., else my money would be on you), and the competition won’t be held if visibility is less than two miles and the ceiling is lower than 1,800 feet.

Brian Siefert, president of GFK Flight Support, says the event is being held to promote general aviation and encourage people “to visit our great airport.”

So how about it, hotshot? Are you in? Even in today’s economy, $10,000 buys a heckuva lot of avgas. See the website for more information.

Thanks and a tip of the aviator’s cap to Judy Birchler at, who came across this contest first.

Flight planning ’70s style.

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Despite forecasts of rain for this late March Sunday, the weather turned out to be mostly sunny and warm. But instead of being outside enjoying the weather, flying, or even inside watching the NCAA March Madness craziness, I was sitting at my kitchen table planning a flight–the old fashioned way. I spent a couple of hours referring to old flight training text books, digging out my broken and bent plastic plotter, and downloading the Sporty’s E-6B app for my iPad. All this to show the South African authorities that I know how to plan a round-robin flight. It’s a long story, but the video explains more. And you will undoubtedly hear more about the trip in upcoming videos and in AOPA Pilot.

Here’s the video

Read from bottom up, please

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Click on picture

Or, for a sort of Yoda effect–the character from “Star Wars” who always spoke backwards–“from top down read.” Thanks to David McVinnie, a master CFI, for sending this during his travels in Melbourne, Florida.

Bucket lists, new adventures

Monday, March 12th, 2012

On March 10, I had the opportunity to fly in my first aviation event geared toward taking as many as possible on their first general aviation flight. Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland (AOPA’s home base) can get busy, but it’s not often that I see six aircraft waiting to take off. That’s the way it was for much of the day as pilots volunteered to take girls and women aloft in aircraft ranging from Experimentals to helicopters to twins. The effort was part of Women of Aviation Week’s Fly it Forward Day.

My first passenger was Martine, whose curiosity in airplanes and my piloting credentials kept me on my toes for answers and explanations.Fly it Forward event I let Martine know that I was a flight instructor before loading her into the left seat. Even though Martine knew many aviation terms, much of the experience was new, including learning that a Cessna 172 is steered on the ground by our feet. With so many people in the traffic pattern, it gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss radio communications and point out aircraft in the sky.

By the time we took off and leveled at 2,500 feet msl, she was ready to try her hand at straight and level. By the time we landed, she was ready to learn to fly! Martine promptly picked up a flight training packet at the flight school on the field, and I gave her a couple of CFI recommendations after I made her first entry in the logbook she had just purchased.

A few hours after the flight Martine had her husband, Bill, come out to the airport. He wants to learn to fly too. Apparently, learning to fly is on their “bucket list,” and they want to accomplish their dream while they still have time to enjoy flying. He had many of the same questions as Martine, which she proudly answered to prove she remembered much of our conversation during flight.

Martine and Bill’s enthusiasm for aviation matched that of two of my other passengers that day–Brownie Troop girls young enough to be their grandchildren. Each of the girls shared bonding time with her mom while looking over the patchwork farmland below. They were equally thrilled when their moms got to “drive” in the air. One girl was so excited she just started giggling after takeoff. (That’s such a precious sound to hear coming through the intercom!)

I hope the new adventure for these girls will leave a lasting impression and inspire them to learn to fly. And, I hope Martine and Bill get “pilot certificate” checked off their bucket list so they can travel together by GA.

World-flight Pipistrel suffers structural damage

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

UPDATE MARCH 24: He is now in India.

UPDATE MARCH 19: The aircraft structural damage is repaired and the journey continues. After a five-plus-hour flight, Matevz Lenarcic is on the West Coast of Australia in Broome.


Pipistrel says world-flight aircraft is of different construction.

This press release was received from Pipistrel in Solvenia on March 12 concerning the structural failure of the World Green Flight  Pipistrel in Central Australia:

“Follow up on structural repairs during the World Green Flight 2012:

On March 6th, Matevz Lenarcic, flying his Virus 914 Turbo from Jacobs Well to Ayers Rock, Australia encountered severe turbulence, which resulted in airframe vibrations. Matevz commented it was the worst turbulence he had ever encountered in his life. When the vibration settled, the pilot found that the aircraft was still normally controllable, so he continued the flight. After landing, a crack was discovered in the lower vertical tail area on his aeroplane. Upon closer examination and discussion with Pipistrel engineers, it was decided that it was safer to repair the issue before continuing the around-the-world flight through tropical regions of south-east Asia, difficult conditions of Mount Everest and deserts of Africa. 

Pipistrel quickly dispatched a team of two people, a highly skilled composite-technology specialist and an aircraft mechanic to fly from Slovenia to carry out the repair on site at Connellan Airport in central Australia. The team is already with Matevz and together they will also prepare the aircraft for the continuation of the journey through difficult tropical, Himalayan and desert conditions.

The Virus SW 914 Turbo, the aeroplane which Matevz is flying, has a specially modified airframe which is different from the serial-production Virus SW 80/100 aeroplanes. It has a different structure, a completely different fuel system with fuel tanks of 350 litre capacity, avionics with airframe-integrated antennae, turbocharged engine with intercooler and over 100 other modifications and improvements over the standard aeroplane.

Matevž will set off on his flight again sometime during the weekend.”

Matevž Lenarčič of Slovenia is writing a book about his journey west around the world–his third photographic book. Included with this news item are some of the pictures he captured above Australia just before the vibrations started. Click to enlarge.

The Olgas

Here is his description of what happened: “Suddenly, terrible vibrations have shaken the aircraft, and first I thought that it will fall apart – autopilot off, throttle back, pitch up, stop the speed and terrifying vibrations. I carefully checked controls and found out that aircraft is still flyable. I made some pictures with my iPhone through the window to find the cause of flutter. Everything looked like it should be. After short flight over the Rock and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National park, I’ve put the aircraft very carefully down to the runway, because I was not sure in what kind of condition it actually is. I checked everything in details and found two minor cracks in tail section, I sent pictures to Pipistrel and then got an answer that it is probably serious. I soon got instructions to remove rear wing, elevator and rudders. This took me the whole next day on the hot apron, strong wind and with very limited tools.”

Photos by Matevž Lenarčič with permission

Drones attack musical instruments

Monday, March 5th, 2012

As AvWeb plus more than two million people have seen or reported, the University of Pennsylvania scientists of tomorrow have created a fleet of computer-controlled flying drones that can “bomb” piano keys hooked to an artificial trumpet, guitar strings or a cymbal to play a song . You can see this brief, entertaining and scary performance here.

The return of Microsoft Flight Sim?

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Microsoft reentered the flight sim market Wednesday with the launch of Microsoft Flight. The new product features the still-in-development Icon A5 Light Sport amphibian…and the game itself is free. Of course, add-ons are available; a North American P-51 Mustang is $7.99, a Maule M-7-260C is $14.99, and a Hawaiian adventure pack–with a Vans RV-6A–is $19.99. The website promises that more aircraft and terrain will be coming.

Fans of the previous Microsoft Flight Simulator product line, which ended almost a decade ago with the release of Flight Simulator X, should keep in mind that this new product is being marketed more as a game–it is a new product, not an evolution of what existed before. Initial user comments emphasize the entertainment focus of Flight.

Some enterprising student pilots–and instructors–used the previous Flight Simulator to enhance and accelerate flight training. Will Microsoft Flight be able to do the same? I don’t know; I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. Have you?

Paper airplane distance record broken

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

How far can a paper airplane fly? The new record as of Sunday is 226 feet, 10 inches using a design by John Collins, thanks to help from college quarterback Joe Ayoob who threw for Collins. The launch was the key, and he threw it flat, like he was trying to get a football to the other end of the 747 hangar he was in. The airplane climbed by itself, giving it the altitude to go 19 feet past the old record distance.