Archive for August, 2013

Final stretch

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

When I talked with Mike yesterday, he said that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan is planning several activities around the 50th anniversary of the MU-2’s first flight. We’re also anticipating a factory tour, as well as a tour of the company’s aviation museum. Both will be fascinating.

Because of this, we’re tweaking the schedule again. We had a buffer day scheduled in the Philippines for Thursday, Sept. 12, to help assure an arrival in Nagoya on Sept. 13 in case we took a delay because of weather or a mechanical issue. Now Thursday will be a flying day, and we’ll spend the night in Taiwan (previously only a “technical” stop, where we would refuel and not formally enter the country–think Snowden in the Moscow airport, except that we wouldn’t be making a habit of it). Friday will then be only one flight leg, which should get us into Nagoya before noon local time. I had thought about posting the original itinerary, but parts of it would be unrecognizable now–I hope you agree with that call.

I will say that I’ve never been so focused on packing for a trip before. I’m not sure why, because once you leave town, you’re gone–whether you’re going across the state or across the globe. Maybe it’s the lenght of the trip. Regardless, I’ve got packing to…and grass to mow…and I think I better get a haircut, too.

Strange but true aviation news

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

A human photographer might have been the better choice. This Gizmodo video shows what happens when a bridal couple chose a quadcopter and a GoPro video camera to shoot a scene at their wedding.

Speaking of drones… The Washington Post offers this story about how drones have become part of the movie making process. Films including “Skyfall,” “Oblivion,” “Man of Steel,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” and “The Hunger Games” have used footage filmed by drones.

Interesting stunt. WGN9 News took footage of a stuntman who jumped from an aircraft — while locked in a coffin.  The full story is here.

This is a test. This is only a test. Comux, British Columbia’s fire department recently did a training exercise that simulated a small aircraft crash, reports The exercise was done in advance of the Comux Air Show, which happened Aug. 17.

Helicopter rescue. Two women were rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and a Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue crew from a cliff after getting stuck on a cliff at Oregon’s Chapman Point, reports the Daily Astorian.

Hard landings. Two people aboard a Beechcraft BE76 walked away after the nose gear of their aircraft collapsed when landing at San Diego’s Gillespie Field, reports UT San Diego. An 85-year-old man from Bay City. Mich., walked away after making an emergency landing in a cornfield near Zehnder Airfield, reports

The beginnings of an adventure

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

N50ET Mike Laver's Mitsubishi MU-2

Interesting things always used to start with a phone call. Today it’s usually an email. And it was an email from an old friend, Ross Russo, that kicked off the discussion that led to an invitation to fly around the world. Mike Laver, a native of Australia, has been flying Mitsubishi MU-2 turboprops for some 30 years. He owns and operates the Air 1st Aviation companies in Aiken, S.C., which buys and sells the model, runs a repair facility, and operates the largest MU-2 fleet in the world.

While Mike has done a lot of international flying, he had never flown around the globe. So, why not combine that with the 5oth anniversary of the model’s first flight, on Sept. 14, by flying into Nagoya, Japan? He had invited Ross to document the the trip, but Ross’ daughter is getting married in the middle of the adventure, so he reluctantly passed. He suggested me as a worthy aviation journalist who would be up to the task. So I’ll be joining Mike aboard N50ET (above), his pristine 1973 MU-2B-25, for the adventure. If we stay on our current schedule, we’ll be on the airways for 25 days.

Mike has done most of the planning, working closely with BaseOps, which he’s contracted to provide handling services on the trip. The schedule has evolved; for example, a planned stop in Egypt was moved because of the political climate following the recent coup. We’re flying eastbound, from Frederick to Goose Bay, Greenland, Iceland, England, then Germany and Austria. After a couple days of business there, we’ll transit the Middle East and make a fuel stop in India on the way to Australia. Following several days down under, we’ll make our way to the Philippines, stop for fuel in Taiwan, and land at the MU-2’s birthplace in Japan. Then it’s the home stretch: Russia (three stops), Alaska (two stops), North Dakota, then home. All told, it will be about 85 hours of flying.

Connectivity permitting, I will blog daily during the trip. I also will be doing several stories for AOPA Pilot that you’ll see over the coming year. Finally, I will be evaluating DeLorme’s InReach SE satellite tracker–check the map at the top of this blog any time to monitor our progress (it should update our position every 10 minutes while we’re in flight). We hope you’ll follow along.

Cessna’s test 182 JT-A lands in field

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Cessna has confirmed its 182 JT-A powered by an SMA diesel engine landed in a field 30 miles west-northwest of Wichita Aug. 21. It is used for research and development of the diesel-powered 182. No details as yet but a local television station reported an engine failure. The pilot onboard was not injured and apparently was alone in the aircraft. Television news footage shows the aircraft intact amidst tall grass. The aircraft was on a certification flight. It was one of the steps needed to complete certification before deliveries can begin. Congratulations to the pilot for a great emergency landing.

Volts to the Rescue?

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Let there be no doubt: Anti-noise and anti-carbon-footprint forces have teamed up with escalating fuel prices to make for challenging times. The future of general aviation may well depend on a new, cleaner, renewable source of power–electricity. Today, electrically-powered aircraft are in their infancy, but this is bound to change. As newer generations of lithium batteries continue to boast longer flight times, shorter charging times, and the ultimate in green technology–charging via electricity generated by solar cells–takes hold, it’s time to take electric aircraft seriously.

Tian Yu, Chairman of Shanghai-based Yuneec International, parlayed his fortune as a manufacturer of electrically-powered, remote-control toy airplanes, helicopters and cars into real airplanes such as the GreenWing International eSpyder and two-seat e430. Now, the eSpyder has been certified in Europe under Germany’s expansive ultralight rules as set out by the Deutscher Ultraleichtflugverband (DULV)–a branch of tthat nation’s Federal Ministry of Transport. U.S. Light Sport Aircraft certification is on track to follow, and more European and other nations are bound to reciprocate as well.

For a complete report on the state of the electric-aircraft movement, be sure to check out AOPA Pilot’s latest report on engine technology entitled “Electric Instead” in the September issue–and already released in digital form.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Are electrically-powered aircraft a passing fashion, or do they hold real promise for what could be a new technology that helps preserve general aviation’s future?


Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, August 16th, 2013

That was close. An RAF fighter pilot flying a Tornado missed hitting a glider by a mere 100 feet only after executing an inverted loop at 500 mph, reports the Independent. The pilot was doing refueling and weaponry exercises.

Do we pay for the fuel too? Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko plans to ask the U.S. Export-Import Bank for financing to buy 11 business jets, reports Reuters. He reportedly wants to place the jets in his Finland-based luxury jet charterer, Airfix Aviation Oy.

Amazing landings. Pilot  Fred Newman Jr. was able to walk away from an emergency landing 900 feet short of the runway at Tupelo Airport, reports the Lee County Courier. John Principe landed his Cessna Skyhawk on New Hampshire’s Interstate 89 after experiencing engine problems.

Up in smoke. Two gentlemen building an ultralight aircraft in his Jefferson, La., garage saw their work completely destroyed after their garage caught fire, reports WGNO-TV. The fire department is investigating the cause of the blaze.

You play, you pay. Gary Bojczak will have to pay an FCC fine of $32,000 fine after the agency determined he used an illegal GPS jamming device in his pickup truck that interfered with Newark Liberty International Airport’s satellite-based tracking system, reports The man was allegedly using the device to hide from his employer.

Hooray! An airport wedding! After facing several hurdles from the city, Karen Engle and Kevin Holcomb were finally able to get married at Bay City’s James Clements Airport, reports WNEM.


An unusual piloting job; getting cuddly with the bears

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Da bears means, in Alaska, not the Chicago Bears but the real ones. One of the most unusual piloting jobs is taking tourists out to bear country west of Anchorage in Alaska for closeups of grizzly bears doing their fish-eating act. Suggestion: do not eat fish for breakfast the morning of the flight. See what K-Bay Air does here. Video includes beach landings and aerial scenes of Alaskan bear country.

The man behind the real ‘Propwash Junction’

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Billed as coming “from above the world of Cars,” Disney’s Planes gives an imaginative glimpse into the world of general aviation. And while the animated film, which hit theaters Aug. 9, takes a few liberties with the story of a cropduster turned international air racer (it is, after all, an animated children’s film), it’s grounded in the real world of small airplanes.

I wrote an article for the August issue of AOPA Pilot about the research that went into the film and the airport, Leaders Clear Lake in Minnesota, that inspired Dusty’s hometown of Propwash Junction. Bob Leaders, the owner of the airport, hadn’t known that the airport he carved out of a farm would help shape filmmakers’ portrayal of small airport communities. Recently, Craig M. Lieberg wrote to me after reading the article to tell me more about the man behind the real-world Propwash Junction.

“We had just walked home down one of the two driveways of the airport, which has been our home for the last 35 years,” he wrote. “We looked at the picture of the old gas truck, which was the inspiration for ‘Chug’, we are very familiar with that sight.”

Lieberg shared the impact that Leaders has had on pilots in the local community:

The human interest side of your article, is a story of a man who selflessly has dedicated his life to his love of aviation, and helping his fellow man find pleasure in their love of flying. In my opinion, Bob Leader has done more for GA than anyone else I know of in this area. He has spent his life helping the common man find a way to pursue their passion of flight. Bob is now over 80 years of age and is on the job 7 days a week, living just west of the runway, on the property, with his wife. Having bought the original farm property around 1968, he carved out this little airport, which is privately owned, but publicly used, averaging about 60 aircraft on the ground year around. Currently operating the business with the help of two of his sons, and a hired A&P, they maintain aircraft from J-3 Cubs to [Beechcraft] Queenairs, float planes, ski planes, spray planes, all matter of anything that flies. At one time years ago, a DC-3 and a C-47 sat under the windsock. Many a poor man has come, swept floors, stripped paint, plowed runway and taxi-ways, repaired equipment, and got his pilot’s license. Only to go on and help the next guy do the same. I wouldn’t be flying today if it weren’t for Bob Leader.

Planes may help get the next generation excited about aviation; translating that excitement to a new generation of pilots will likely involve the pay-it-forward attitude of pilots like Bob Leaders. Disney’s Planes tells the story of a small-town airplane with a dream. How fitting that an inspiration for it offered many future pilots a chance to follow their own dream.

Terrafugia car flies at Oshkosh

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Here are the two Terrafugia Transition flying car demos you missed at Oshkosh.

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Drone delivery! Some dry cleaning customers in Philadelphia are having their garments delivered in an unusual way — via a drone, reports NBC 10 Philadelphia. Harry Vartanian, owner of the Manayunk Cleaners owner is using the drone to avoid city traffic.

No target practice, please. A helicopter pilot called Iowa’s Boone County Sheriff’s Office after he claimed he was shot at while crop dusting a corn field, reports the Des Moines Register. A suspect questioned at the scene denied firing the shots.

Look away from the light! A general aviation pilot flying out of Denver International Airport reported that a green laser light hit his cockpit twice, reports

Emergency landings. Pilot Fred Newman Jr. was forced to make an emergency landing at Tupelo Regional Airport after falling short of the runway, reports WTVA-TV. Northeast Philadelphia Airport was closed for a short time after an aircraft skidded off the runway and into the grass, reports Finally, pilot William DeNike landed his Cessna Skylane, carrying three passengers, safely at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport despite not being able to put down his landing gear, reports