Archive for June, 2013

First to respond to the call on 9/11

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

first responder smallerThis F-15 was the first fighter to answer the call as two airliners under the control of terrorists headed towards the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. It was discovered by the Pacific Coast Air Museum located in Santa Rosa, Calif., just before it was to be destroyed. Museum board member Craig Schulz aided in purchasing the aircraft and getting it to Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport where visitors can view it. Museum officials said the pilot was cleared to use guns to bring the airliners down but couldn’t get to them in time. This was taken on Monday June 24, 2013.

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Didn’t it use Jet A fuel? Residents in Lagos, Nigerian suburb Igando came out in droves to take photos of a Aero Commander 1121B jet mysteriously parked at a pump at the Dapsey Oil gas station, reports the Guardian Nigeria. The aircraft was allegedly last owned by Gabriel Oduyemi World Crusade Ministry.

Iron Maiden vocalist’s new venture takes off. Iron Maiden front man and licensed pilot Bruce Davidson has received $8 million to help fund his new venture: an aircraft maintenance business, Cardiff Aviation Limited, reports  Dickinson has also flown the heavy metal band’s tour jet.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a bicycle? The FBike, a proof-of-concept hybrid bicycle/multi-copter, has flown for the first time via radio control, reports AvWeb. The aircraft, which has lithium-polymer batteries powering six electric motors together capable of producing 50 kW of power, was created by Czech engineers and designers.

An amazing helicopter rescue. Two teens stranded on a 8,600-foot-high cliff in California’s Sierra Buttes had to be rescued by a helicopter operated by the California Highway Patrol’s Valley Division Air Operations, reports the Sacramento Bee.

A not-so-amazing helicopter rescue. High winds in Waiehu, Hawaii, stopped a helicopter from completing the salvage of a Piper Cherokee that had landed in the brush, reports the Maui News.  With winds of up to 25 mph, the damaged aircraft was cut from the helicopter’s line and fell into the ocean.

Emergency landings. Pilot Joseph Burch found himself stuck in brush and small trees after he was unable to stop his aircraft after landing at Cavanaugh Bay Airstrip in Coolin, Texas, reports the Bonner County Daily Bee. A small aircraft was forced to do a belly landing at Fresno Yosemite International Airport, causing five airplanes to divert to Bakersfield Municipal Airport, reports the Fresno Bee.

Build a Plane builds two planes: Arlington is go for taxi

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Moving airplaneI packed my bags and left the Pacific Northwest in the extremely wee hours of June 21, but the work at Glasair Aviation on two airplanes hasn’t slowed down a bit. Today, the teams saw the fruition of all their hard work: The first airplane was fired up.

“The beast has a heart,” Saline High School teacher Ed Redies told me. Taxi had been tentatively planned for June 26, and he said they could’ve made that deadline had they pushed into the early evening. But it was raining—as it is wont to do now and again in Washington state—and rather than stand out in and get wet, the teams opted to wait until today in the hopes that the skies would lighten up a bit. They did—sort of, as you can see from the photo.

The important thing is, the airplane conducted its first taxi test, and an FAA inspection is set to take place on June 28. A first flight could happen on June 30.

Congratulations to the students: Aidan Muir, Kyle LaBombarbe; Lee Lewis Luckhardt; Wyatt Johansen; Julia Garner; Leah Schmitt; Brandon Stripling; and John Deslauriers. Congratulations to their teachers, Dan Lutgen and Ed Redies, who heard about the Build a Plane competition and got their students involved.

If you’re headed to AirVenture 2013, you’ll likely see this airplane on display and you might even meet some of the intrepid young builders. And I guarantee you’ll be as impressed with them as I was.

Propulsion Pushback

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Many pilots are early technology adopters and push the bounds of the possible – so it’s a cruel irony that we, as a group, have been stuck for so long with ancient air-cooled engines that are largely unchanged from the middle of the last century.
The first in our Propulsion series in AOPA Pilot magazine is getting lots of response from pilots eager to move forward.
Commenting on the AOPA Facebook page, Paul Roper puts it bluntly: “One of the most disappointing things I experienced during my foray into general aviation was the ludicrous prices manufacturers would charge for crappy, low-tech, Flintstones-era, underpowered, thirsty, boring engines. Well, not only the prices, but the whole head-in-the-sand attitude to anything invented after about 1950. Carburetors? Pushrod valves? Are we in the Victorian era?”
Others, like AOPA member Terry Welander, have written to take issue with the likely future elimination of leaded avgas:
“Most of the environmentalists have knee jerk reactions whenever the word lead comes up; which is highly ignorant; based on the below facts on the lead and other toxins in the atmosphere from volcanic emissions. There will never be a rational reason to remove the one part per million lead from avgas. Worse, as with practically all past fuel transitions, the increased costs and hidden safety hazards of new fuels not evident until substantial use has been accomplished will likely result in a temporary to intermediate degradation of aircraft safety which is completely unnecessary.”

In case you missed it, here’s the link to the July kickoff article in AOPA Pilot.
Share your thoughts by commenting here.

Dave Hirschman
Senior Editor
AOPA Pilot magazine

Solar Impulse adds D.C. visiting hours

Monday, June 24th, 2013

The Solar Impulse—the manned, solar-powered airplane currently making its way across the United States–has added some additional public visiting hours during its stopover at Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia.

The historic aircraft, which arrived at Dulles early Sunday, June 16, is parked behind the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center. It will be open to the public Tuesday, June 25, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. If you’re in the area and have the opportunity–go! Additional public visiting hours could be added as the team awaits suitable weather conditions for departure.

Solar Impulse will launch on the last leg of its transcontinental journey, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, in late June or early July. Plans call for its successor, already under construction in Switzerland, to fly around the world in 2015, making one stop on each continent.



Wings Over Afghanistan

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Do we have great AOPA Sweepstakes winners, or what? If you recall, airline pilot and AOPA member Eric Short won 2011’s “Crossover Classic” Sweepstakes. He’s now the proud owner of that terrific airplane–a fully restored, totally modernized 1974 Cessna 182M. But Eric’s son, Allen, also flies the airplane. But probably not as much as he’d like.

That’s because Allen is a Captain in the U.S. Air Force. He’s based at Offutt AFB in Nebraska but deploys to Afghanistan, where he flies RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft. The RC-135 is a highly modified variant of Boeing’s C-135 Stratolifter. The Air Force gives Allen’s ships the “RIVET JOINT” handle. They perform signals intelligence and electronic warfare missions. Here’s what a RIVET JOINT looks like:


On one of his missions, Allen took along an American flag. Just yesterday, a package was resting against my front door. It was from Offutt, so I knew it had to be from Allen.

Inside was the flag, a certificate, and three patches. One patch bore the logo of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, one represented the USAF Central Command, and one was for the 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. As a weather nut, I especially liked 763rd’s patch. It says “Always On The Hunt,” and has a sun with two sundogs. Sundogs–or parhelions–are halos in the form of a colored spot, at the same angular elevation as the sun.

When I delivered the Cessna to the Shorts, it was to an airport near Offutt. I gave checkouts to both Eric and Allen, and on Allen’s ride I happened to look up and see sundogs. “Hey, look, sundogs,” I said, to which Allen responded “that’s our unit’s nickname.” And now I have a Sundog patch. Cool.

Ther certificate reads:

“This American flag was proudly flown for AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION aboard an RC-135 RIVET JOINT Reconnaissance Aircraft, tail number 62-4132, over the hostile skies of Afghanistan in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM on the 5th day of June, 2013, by the men and women of the 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Allen E. Short, Captain USAF

Aircraft Commander”

Now here’s a look at the flag, certificate, and patches:

Part of Capt. Short's payload over Afghanistan

Part of Capt. Short’s payload over Afghanistan

Thanks so much Allen, and here’s hoping we meet you and your father at AOPA Summit this October in Fort Worth.


Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, June 21st, 2013

A simple limousine pales in comparison. High school senior Adam Ventimiglia felt a plain old limousine wasn’t quite good enough as transport for his prom date, Adrianne White.He took her for a pre-prom ride in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, reports the Windsor Star.

Flying and drinking just don’t mix, part one. Pilot Phillip Yves Lavoie is facing up to 15 years in prison after being arrested for flying while intoxicated, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Lavoie was flying a Cessna 210 on a cargo mission for Flight Express from Charleston, S.C., and managed to land at Tampa International Airport.

Flying and drinking just don’t mix, part two. Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee has ruled that the crash of a helicopter that killed three was caused by its pilot, who was drunk, allowing one of his drunken passengers to fly the aircraft, reports the Daily Mail.

You would think they’d find a better place for this.  Some residents in Denton, Texas, are upset with a new business that’s moved into the neighborhood —, reports KEYE-TV. The company allows customers to take 15 minutes to test and challenge their marksmanship skills by flying through various obstacles while shooting from a helicopter.

I guess an axe just didn’t cut it. Power company Entergy Arkansas rented a helicopter air saw, a giant, 10-blade saw connected below a helicopter, to cut trees away from power lines knocked down in storms, reports KARK-TV.

We love a good landing!  A pilot and his passenger managed to walk away from the emergency landing of a Diamond Eclipse while practicing takeoffs and landings out of Ohio’s Bellefontaine Regional Airport, reports WHIO-TV.  The aircraft lost power and performed a soft field emergency landing.

The fine art of safety wiring

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

WireSome of the teens who are assembling two Glasair aircraft here in Arlington, Wash., come from a farming community. They’ve had their hands dirty working with tractors and other types of equipment for years.

So when they got their lesson in safety wiring, they made a connection between that and repairing fences. They soon learned that the “safety” in “safety wiring” carries a lot of meaning. It’s there to keep all those moving parts from shaking themselves loose (that’s a simplified explanation, but bear with me, builders, please).

Glasair’s Ben Wat carefully safety wired–and then rewired—the bolts on the propeller hub for one of the Build a Plane aircraft, explaining that aviation mechanics take pride in doing this correctly—no loose twists, no sloppy “pigtails.” Just as pilots endure scrutiny from other pilots, mechanics grade each other’s work, I’m guessing.

This is just a tiny taste of the education the GAMA/Build a Plane crew are receiving as they craft two four-place Experimental airplanes. The pride of workmanship will stay with them long after they return home to Minnesota and Michigan.

Build a Plane builds two planes, Day 4: Ready for the wings

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Photo courtesy Dustan Muir

Photo courtesy Dustan Muir

The gleaming wings for the first Build a Plane Glasair are laid out on trestles, waiting to be installed, and that is on today’s agenda.

Every artist signs his work, so it makes perfect sense that the high school students participating in the GAMA/Build a Plane project should sign theirs. That’s what they did, affixing signatures beneath the inspection covers. The operators of these aircraft will see these names at every inspection and recall the two weeks spent here in Arlington, Wash., with a great crew of young people. 

I’m wondering if this is a tradition that every builder shares, much like cutting a shirt tail or dumping water on a student pilot at solo. When you’re building your aircraft, there’s more opportunity to personalize or customize it. What could be a greater source of pride than your own signature affixed to your own handiwork?

The NHL, aviation…or both?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Aiden Muir gets an airplane ride with Build a Plane's Lyn Freeman. Photo courtesy Dustin Muir

Aiden Muir gets an airplane ride with Build a Plane’s Lyn Freeman. Photo courtesy Dustan Muir

One of these days, if you happen to see Aidan Muir, he may be wearing a National Hockey League uniform. The 6-foot-3-inch forward has been playing since he was 8 years old and is ranked 108th in North America.

This week, however, his heart belongs to general aviation, and hockey has been relegated to the background while he helps to assemble a Glasair Sportsman.

Aidan joined three classmates from Saline High School in Saline, Mich., as well as four students from Canby, Minn., after the two teams won an aviation design competition sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Build a Plane. Their prize: an all-expenses-paid trip to Arlington, Wash., to help assemble two airplanes at the Glasair Aviation facility.

After a jam-packed first day working with Glasair mechanics in the company’s Two Weeks to Taxi program, Aidan got an airplane ride yesterday with Build a Plane President Lyn Freeman.

“He loved his ride,” says Aidan’s dad, Dustan, who showed me a cell phone photo his son had sent him. (Dustan is on hand as a chaperone.)

The NHL may lay claim to Aidan some time in the near future. This week and next week, GA is his main focus. And the seed planted this week in Arlington will undoubtedly benefit GA in the future.