Archive for November, 2012

Remembering our veterans, and Herbert Carter

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

 As we pause to remember and give thanks to our veterans, this year I am reflecting particularly on those who served in World War II, a population that sadly grows smaller every day. Few members of that modest “Greatest Generation” have a more compelling tale than the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military pilots, who had to fight for the right and privilege to serve their country in combat from the pilot’s seat of a warbird.

That small group lost one of its leaders last Thursday with the death of Col. Herbert E. Carter (Ret.). Carter, 95, was one of the original members of the 99th Fighter Squadron and flew combat missions during the North African, Sicilian, Italian, and European campaigns of World War II.

The Tuskegee Airmen trained at the Tuskegee Institute–now Tuskegee University–in Tuskegee, Alabama. After the war Carter returned to the campus, where he served as a professor of air science and commanded the Air Force ROTC detachment from 1950 to 1955; he was a professor of aerospace studies from 1965 to 1969. When he retired from the Air Force, he served at Tuskegee as assistant dean for student services and associate dean for admissions and recruiting.

Carter was married for more than 60 years to Mildred L. Hemmons Carter, also a pilot who was counted among the Tuskegee Airmen. I once had the pleasure of hearing him describe their courtship during early 1942. They would arrange to meet over a lake near Tuskegee, she in a Piper J-3 Cub and he flying a much faster North American AT-6 Texan. They married before Carter deployed for combat; CNN ran a touching story on the couple after Mildred died in October 2011.

I believe the last time I saw Carter was during the summer of 2011, when Matt Quy visited Tuskegee’s Moton Field in his Stearman–one that was originally assigned to training of the Tuskegee Airmen–on its way to the Smithsonian Institution (you can see the video from that story here).

Godspeed, Mr. Carter–and thank you to all our veterans.


Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, November 9th, 2012

It’s a highway, it’s a runway! An unnamed pilot carrying two passengers flying a single-engine aircraft were forced to make an emergency landing on a stretch of I575 in Kennesaw, Ga., reports the Marietta Daily Journal.  The aircraft experienced engine problems.

It wasn’t a field of dreams. Pilot Charlene Fulton and her passenger managed to walk away after an emergency landing of her Cessna 172 in an alfalfa field outside of California’s Modesto City-County Airport, reports the Patterson Irrigator.  The accident happened when Fulton and her passenger were taking pictures and the plane lost power.

The only one missing was President Obama!  Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport found itself at the center of the presidential campaign when aircraft from Mitt Romney, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Vice President Joe Biden all landed at nearly the same time, reports Reuters.  The visits were part of last-minute campaigning in the battleground state of Ohio.

Blommberg Businessweek: how to de-Romneyize an airplane.  Now that the election is over, the McDonnel Douglas MD-83 that presidential candidate Mitt Romney used for his campaign has been returned to USA Jet Airlines, reports the magazine.  The aircraft will get a thorough cleaning, a new livery and reconfigured seats. Romney also used a Hawker 400, a Learjet 35, a Cessna Citation, and an Embraer Phenom 300 during the campaign.

He’s now a hall of famer.  Former Livonia, Ohio, police officer Jim Work has become the latest inductee into the White Castle Hall of Fame after he used a helicopter in the late 1980s to deliver the chain’s addictive hamburgers to a fellow retired officer, reports Michigan Live.  More than 700 people applied for entry into the hall for 2102, but only 11 were selected.

Can’t she afford to buy her own aircraft? Singer Lady Gaga took to Twitter to rave about the Boeing 757 given to her by her concert promoter Live Nation, reports ABC News Radio.  She waxed poetic about the 757’s Internet acces and custom seats.

AOPA members weigh in on GA prospects under second Obama term

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

As one of the administrators of the AOPA Facebook page, I thought it would be interesting this morning to ask members the following question:  “so, the election is over. What do you think the prospects for general aviation will be in a second Obama term? And please — let’s just stick to the GA issue.”  We’ve already had 58 comments this morning.  Below are some of them.

“It’s not ideal for GA growth, but I’m not convinced user fees are inevitable either. I fly for a living, but also for pleasure thanks to a flying club at half the rates of a FBO. With over 10k pilots retiring from US carriers in the next 8 years, something is going to have to give. The pilot shortage finally coming to fruition should have a positive affect. Support AOPA and similar organizations. They are our voice.”

“General aviation will suffer… we pilots won’t have the money to fly! And it’ll be regulated to the point where it’s pointless to fly anyhow.”

“I don’t think the political climate is what GA needs.. what GA needs is a much lower cost of entry to new participants (Next generation training) and new certified airplanes that are capable of at least some useful load which don’t cost $300K new (I’m looking straight at you, Cessna and Piper).”

“Not good. Good thing I have a professional pilot job, because I can’t attract a single student as a part-time CFI due to the overwhelming cost of learning to fly.”

“$20 per Gal AVGAS.”

“It will be the same. Administration proposes user fees, GA rallies its membership with advocacy efforts, and Congress dispenses with user fees.”

“Costs have got to come down. This includes everything from hangar rent, insurance, to aircraft purchases. The days are gone of flour drops and pancake flyins at local airports. Those days need to come back. Also, airports need to be public friendly and appear inviting, not restricting. The FAA needs to push back expensive equipment installs (ADS-B appliances) timeframes and increase training for controllers to handle “flight following requests.”

” I feel for those who are in aircraft manufacturing…. No reason to expect Obama will stop demonizing business GA aviation.”

” In my opinion, the US economy is in such bad shape that either candidate would have had difficulty coping with it. I’m not a fan of user fees – particularly since it already costs so much to fly. However money for economic recovery has to come from somewhere.”

“Hopefully people will start buying airplanes again and get down to the great business of flying again. Lets hope our leader stops criticizing business jets as well!”

” User taxes, higher gas taxes, greater penalty for being successful enough to buy an airplane.”

” It’ll be just fine. Obama is not one dimensional and he sees the economic benefits GA provides. The time for politics is over and we just need to work together for the greater good.”


Strange But True General Aviation News

Monday, November 5th, 2012

It’s a runway, it’s a highway. Pilot John Wright found himself making an emergency landing on I-95 in Georgia’s McIntosh County, reports WTVM-TV.  He was not injured.

The timing for this purchase was bad. Nigerian Gov. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is getting some flak after taking delivery of a new $45 million Bombardier Global 5000 right after thousands of residents in his state have been displaced by the worst flooding crisis in the state’s history, reports the Osun Defender.  He traded in an Embraer Legacy 600 to buy the new jet.

Talk about the frozen tundra…A Cessna 207 enroute from Emmonak to Kotlik, Alaska, ended up making a tundra landing after developing engine problems, reports KTUU-TV.  The pilot and his passenger were uninjured.

Do the crime, do the time.  Jerry Edward Kuwata, a former executive at Lincoln-based aircraft parts company WECO Aerospace Systems Inc., is facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to endangering aircraft, reports KSWT-TV.  He used uncertified parts and falsely certified that the FAA approved their use in aircraft repair.

Glad this one got caught.  Adam Gardenhire has pleaded guilty to pointing a laser at aircraft including a Cessna jet and a police helicopter, reports the Sacramento Bee.  He could get up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

China sets up a no-fly zone.  The Chinese government has started to clamp down on the sale of radio-controlled helicopters and planes, reports the Globe and Mail.  The government made the move as it tightens security as the Communist Party begins a major transfer of power starting on Nov. 8.

We’ll end the week with this cool time-lapse video by Duncan Aviation on the painting of a Gulfstream GV at its new facility in Lincoln, Neb. Enjoy!

Debonair Sweeps: Flying D’Shannon’s tip tanks

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Time for an update on the Debonair Sweeps’ progress–and the news is big! After buying the airplane at Hartford’s Brainard Airport, I flew it to AOPA headquarters at the Frederick, Maryland Municipal Airport–a flight of two hours. From there, I flew it another five and a half hours to Buffalo, Minnesota (stops were made at the Muncie, Indiana and LaCrosse, Wisconsin airports). Buffalo is D’Shannon Aviation’s home office. At Buffalo, D’Shannon went to town, installing its 20-gallon tip tanks, a new “Speed Slope” windshield, tinted side windows, and aileron and flap gap seals.

For those who may not know, D’Shannon is all about fixing up Bonanzas, Barons, and Debonairs. They have Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs)–98 of them!–that run the gamut. If you want your Debonair, Bonanza, or Baron to look better and go faster, then D’Shannon’s the place. Scott Erickson is D’Shannon’s president, and he’s your point person. He’s at 800-291-7616.

D’Shannon’s more aerodynamically-shaped windshield replaces the stock windshield, which has a kind of bubble shape. But the main advantages of new windshields and side windows have to do with visibility and noise reduction. The old windshield and side windows were scratched and milky. Believe me when I say that flying into the sun made forward visibility a challenge. The new windshield and windows are also thicker than the originals–3/8-inch thick versus the original 1/4-inch thick glass. So there is also a noise reduction factor.

The tip tanks come with two methods of determining fuel level. First, there’s a clear slot in the side of the tanks, so you can directly observe the fuel level. There are fuel quantity markings–1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and full–and each corresponds to five gallons’ worth of fuel. In the cockpit there are digital fuel gauges that give both numerical and graphic fuel quantity indications. The gauges are on the same small panel that contains the transfer pump switches. To use tip fuel, you burn down the main tanks first, to make room. Then you turn on the transfer pumps to move the fuel from the tips to the mains. It’s an in-flight fill-up!

I first got a chance to check out the tip tanks on a flight from Buffalo to Wichita’s Jabara Airport. The takeoff from Buffalo was definitely sporty, with direct crosswinds out of the west gusting to 27 mph. And the turbulence on  climbout was a solid moderate–if aviation had a Richter scale, it would have rated a seven I’d think.

I hear you asking about the effects of all that weight out on the wingtips. Yes, I was busy in the turbulence, and even with just five gallons in each tip tank, there was a noticeable moment-arm from those 30 pounds sloshing around out there. How would it be with the full, 120-pounds-worth of fuel in each tank? I’ll find out one of these days, and I hope it will be in smoother air!

The tip tanks certainly have benefits: seven- to eight-hour endurances, for example. And the tip tanks come with a 200-pound hike in max gross takeoff weight. It’s now a 3,200-pound airplane, which helps in the useful load department.

The Debonair’s empty weight now stands at 2,028 pounds; useful load is a decent 1,172 pounds. But fill up all the tanks and useful load shrinks to 488 pounds. So for two people and light bags, the Debonair Sweeps is ideal for long trips or tankering lower-cost fuel. Of course, the airplane’s weight will change during the refurbishment process, and  by “change” I mean increase in weight. So the winner will probably need to modify the fuel load on typical flights.

That’s it for now, with some 20 hours logged on an airplane that has yet to experience its biggest work packages.

In the next post I’ll show you a photo and a drawing that’ll give you a fair idea of the goings-on at the Debonair’s current stop–at Santa Fe Aero Services, where its avionics will get a complete do-over. Stay tuned!