Archive for June, 2013

Build a Plane builds two planes, Day 3: Nonstop learning

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Ben Rauk (he’s one of three Bens at the Glasair Aviation factory in Arlington, Wash.), starts each day of the Build a Plane/GAMA marathon with a briefing and a “lesson of the day.” Today’s was on safety wiring.

Glasair Aviation's Ben Rauk gives a morning briefing to the Build a Plane participants.

Glasair Aviation’s Ben Rauk gives a morning briefing to the Build a Plane participants.

It might have been totally new territory to the students, but Rauk’s tutorials also proved enlightening to observers who have spent many years in aviation. “I learned something on drilling I didn’t know,” said Mark Van Tine, chief executive officer of Jeppesen, who has been helping to build one of the airplanes. “That’s a nice way to start the day out.”

Glasair and Build a Plane cooperated on the construction of a Sportsman in 2008 with four teens who went through the Two Weeks to Taxi program. This is the first time, however, that the organizations have shepherded eight students working on two airplanes simultaneously. What’s more, a privately owned Sportsman has been in and out of the main hangar while the owner flies off the 40 hours required under the regulations governing homebuilt/experimental aircraft. The near-constant activity in the hangar is a happy soundtrack for general aviation.

Build a Plane builds two planes, Day 2: The engine has landed

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

On Day 2 of the Build a Plane/GAMA project, the builders from Saline, Mich., and Canby, Minn., kept up the same teen-fueled pace that they had set on day one. But it wasn’t all work and no play.

All eight of the students got to take breaks in the form of airplane rides today, and the weather cooperated beautifully. (I’m told that “when it’s nice here, it’s really nice.” With scattered to broken clouds at 10,000 feet, nearly unlimited visibility, and temps in the 70s, “really nice” seems about right.)

Glasair's Chris Strachan with a happy Brandon Stripling after an airplane ride.

Glasair’s Chris Strachan with a happy Brandon Stripling after an airplane ride.

Glasair’s Chris Strachan split the flying duties with Build a Plane President Lyn Freeman. Strachan, who is director of marketing and sales, took his passengers up in a jazzy red-and-black Sportsman sporting oversize tundra tires. Freeman flew the Build a Plane flagship, a bright-red Sportsman that four teens helped to build a few years ago.

Brandon Stripling, who hails from Minnesota, has flown before as he has completed a private pilot ground school course taught by instructor Dan Lutgen. Climbing out of the red and black Sportsman, Brandon was asked how he liked it. An ear-to-ear smile was his answer.

“It was awesome,” he said. “That’s a great plane.” Brandon had spent much of day one placing rivets and had enjoyed it quite a bit, but, he said, “Nothing beats flying an airplane.”

logbookJohn Deslauriers, also from Minnesota, is a student pilot and so had brought his logbook in the hopes of getting a fresh entry. He got one after flying with Freeman.

Build a Plane's Lyn Freeman signs John Deslauriers' logbook.

Build a Plane’s Lyn Freeman signs John Deslauriers’ logbook.

Interestingly, the team from Saline, Mich., had been enrolled in a computer assisted design class and do not have the same frame of reference about aviation. (By the end of two weeks, of course, they’ll be pretty darn familiar with the airplane they helped to build.) That hasn’t stopped them from taking airplane rides. For Julia Garner, today marked her first ride in a small general aviation airplane and only her second airplane ride ever. Her first was on Sunday when she flew out to Washington state with the rest of her team.

Lycoming IO-390 engine is mounted in the Build a Plane aircraft.

Lycoming IO-390 engine is mounted in the Build a Plane aircraft.

While their colleagues slipped out one at a time for an aerial break, the rest of the kids worked diligently on their airframes. By 4 p.m., an engine had been mounted in the GAMA/Build a Plane ship. A twin of that Lycoming IO-390 was removed from a gigantic box and likely will be getting its baffling tomorrow. At the rate these kids are going, the Two Weeks to Taxi program may have to change its name.

A student pilot principal

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

The teens who came to Arlington, Wash., this week to work on two Glasair Sportsman aircraft did not come alone. The students from Saline, Mich., brought their teacher, Ed Redies, and a parent chaperone. The teens from Canby, Minn., brought their teacher, Dan Lutgen, and their principal, Bob Slaba.

Canby High School Principal Bob Slaba (in blue) is a student pilot.

Canby High School Principal Bob Slaba (in blue) is a student pilot.

Slaba is not standing on the sidelines. He’s a student pilot with about 25 hours logged, and he freely credits Dan Lutgen’s passion for aviation as a primary reason why he found himself learning to fly. He soloed in May, and hopes to take his checkride on Aug. 1. So the opportunity to immerse himself in the actual construction of an airplane has been a valuable learning experience for him, as he sees the airplane take shape in front of him. He’s also extremely busy documenting the build for his school’s website.

 He’s obviously a supporter of Saline’s aviation ground school class, but not just because he caught the flying bug. “We have to have kids doing things in life, learning something and having a goal,” he said.

Slaba is proud of the students who have completed Canby’s program and gone on to become private pilots. Soon he’ll join their ranks.

Got a minute? (Plus eight seconds.)

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

The Patrouille de France aerobatic team has a one-minute trailer here advertising a new DVD that is available from Amazon France for $27 plus whatever shipping it takes to get it to the United States. Adds hours of enjoyment to your day in only 68 seconds.

Build a Plane builds two planes, Day 1

Monday, June 17th, 2013

“Get ready to drink from the firehose.”

Can they build an entire airplane in two weeks? Build a Plane is betting they can.

Can they build an entire airplane in two weeks? Build a Plane is betting they can.

If you’re in aviation, you’ve probably heard that phrase before—particularly if you did an accelerated rating or a type rating. Today I heard that phrase applied to the process of building an airplane.

“Building an airplane” and “drinking from the firehose” are generally not concepts that you hear in the same conversation, but when you consider that we’re talking about assembling an Experimental kit in two weeks, it all makes sense.

The kids who took their first deep drink from the firehose today are eight teenagers from high schools in Michigan and Minnesota. They are the winners of an aviation design contest sponsored by Build a Plane and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. School’s out, and they’re here in Arlington, Wash., to spend some quality time with fiberglas, rivets, and bucking bars.

learning about wingsThe day began at 7 a.m. with a briefing at Glasair’s Customer Assembly Center at Arlington Airport. (We should all have hangars this immaculate and organized. Talk about a place for everything and everything in its place!) By the first morning break, the students had begun mounting rudders and installing rudder cables, and mounting the main landing gear and tires. In another corner, fuel lines were being threaded along a wing.

Glasair’s Two Weeks to Taxi program has several years under its belt, and the level of preparation that goes into it is evident. To the casual observer, today looked a little like “organized chaos,” as one observer put it—but it was also apparent that a lot of progress was made. That’s good, because the plan is to get the first of the two airplanes ready to taxi on Wednesday, June 26, and an FAA inspection on Saturday, June 29.

tire on rimWill they make it? Stay tuned as I post updates from Arlington and the progress of the Build a Plane/GAMA projects.

Strange But True General Aviation News

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Release the crabs!! The New York Police Department’s aviation unit used a helicopter and night vision goggles to pursue four men trying to take 200 horseshoe crabs out of Sheepshead Bay, reports the New York Times.  The police arrested two of the four suspects.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Two unusual landings. School children at Brevard Elementary School in North Carolina got quite a show when a Cessna 182 made an emergency landing on their soccer field, reports the Rocky Mount Telegram. The children at Chairville Elementary School in Medford, Pa., got a similar thrill when a Marine CH-46E helicopter landed at their school, reports

Good thing no one was home. A pilot was forced to make an emergency landing right at the door of a home in Eatonville, Wash., reports  The pilot said he was trying to avoid a rain squall.

Any landing is a good landing.  The pilot of a Beechcraft BE55 was forced to do a belly landing at John Wayne Airport reports the Newport Beach Patch. The pilot was was uninjured, but the airport was forced to close a runway for about an hour.

Drugs and rock ‘n roll? I’m shocked (not)! The original members of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath recently admitted that during their heyday in the 1970s they had cocaine flown to them via private planes, reports The List.

We’ll end the week with this new Embraer video — Legacy 500 – “The Unbelievable” — starring action star and company ambassador Jackie Chan. Enjoy!

Designs from a new generation

Monday, June 10th, 2013

A week from today, two teams of high school students will be rolling up their sleeves to start putting together two Glasair Sportsman 2+2s. The teams, from high schools in Saline, Mich., and Canby, Minn., were the winners of a nationwide aviation design challenge competition sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Build A Plane, a nonprofit organization that promotes aviation and aerospace education (and does so through a wide range of activities—which I will discuss in a future blog).

The kids won the challenge by creating an airplane design and test flying a virtual airplane. Lest you think these kids simply plugged some numbers into a program, they went through a monthlong curriculum to get to the design portion. And the software recorded parameters such as time, distance,  fuel efficiency, and more. And their designs were judged and analyzed by a team of aviation engineers.

I thought you’d like to see what these students came up with. Here’s Saline’s design. Can you guess which Experimental airplane served as the inspiration? Extra points if you can name the exact model of that Experimental:

SWWC plane

and a view from the cockpit:

Redies cockpit


And here is Canby’s design:

Lutgen rear view

It’ll be fun to see how these kids bridge the gap from the virtual world to the physical process of assembling an airplane. I’ll be there for the first part of the two-week build to bring you the action, and I might even get a chance to do some riveting myself.  Look for more blogs on Reporting Points, plus an article in a future issue of AOPA Pilot.

Strange But True General Aviation News

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Do the crime, do the time.  Stephen Paul Riley of Olney, Texas, is facing 10 years of hard time for shooting several times at a crop-dusting aircraft that flew over his property, reports WFAA-TV.  Olney had threatened to shoot any aircraft flying over his ranch.

Maybe a catching a ride on a different private jet might have been wise. Costa Rica’s President Laura Chinchilla has found herself in hot water after taking trips to Venezuela and Peru on the private jet of Gabriel Morales Fallon, a Colombian who is suspected to be linked to drug trafficking, reports the Raw Story. She blamed the flight on a “chain of lapses.”

Somebody needs to write a check.  The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says two hoax rescue calls cost $20,000 and wasted resources, reports the Herald Sun.  The first call was about an aircraft crashing off the coast of Perth, while call two was about a pilot crashing into a tree.

Let’s go to the video tape! A botanist who experienced a serious leg injury during research had to be rescued by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s helicopter crew, reports LA Observed. One of the helicopter’s crew recorded the rescue.

It’s always good when you can walk away.  And 84-year-old pilot walked away with minor injuries after an emergency landing of his Cessna 170, reports Livermore Patch.  Another pilot survived after his Tiger Moth biplane crashed just short of the runway at Lyden Airport, reports KBOI-TV.

Strange But True General Aviation News

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

I guess that’s one way to get rid of bees.  A helicopter in Pima County, Ariz.’s Search and Rescue Deputies was used to rescue hikers being attacked by bees, reports KVOA-TV.   The helicopter flew down to 50 feet to blow the bees away from the hikers.

Here’s a novel way to save your crops from frost!  Canadian apple farmer Phil Lyall paid a helicopter to fly over his grove of 10,000 trees to keep temperatures above freezing during a recent cold snap, reports the Telegraph.  He told the CBC that he could have lost 10 percent of his harvest if temperatures fell below 32 degrees F.

He went from high to low.  Police in Albuquerque, N.M., arrested Steven Acton at Double Eagle Airport after being caught with 41 lbs of very high-grade marijuana, reports KOB-TV.  The drugs were valued at $205,000.

Bison vs. helicopters. As soon as Montana’s Department of Livestock began its annual bison-hazing operations west of Yellowstone National Park using helicopters, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies asked for a temporary injunction to stop the practice, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

That toy could have done some damage.  The FBI questioned a Chinese student studying in the U.S. after he crashed a radio-controlled airplane near the Public Service Electric & Gas Bridgeport Harbor Generating Station, reports UPI.  After asking to retrieve his plane, a security guard said no and called the FBI.

Just carry a current driver’s license! Troubled actress Amanda Bynes was not allowed to fly on a private jet from Teterboro to Los Angeles after not being able to produce identification, reports the New York Daily News.  She allegedly told the pilot to Google her after she tried to show him an expired driver’s license as ID.