Archive for December, 2013

6 favorite AOPA Online stories in 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

As editors, we here at AOPA have a wonderful job, getting to tell the great stories of our members. As the newest member of the team, I had the chance to interview some amazing people, so below are my six favorite stories from 2013, in order.

1.  I’ve been in love with aviation since I was six. And growing up as the daughter of a non-flying Air Force officer, I had access to aviation that many African-Americans of my generation didn’t have. Even before coming to AOPA, I worked to make aviation more diverse, which is why my Oct. 1 story on Delaware State University, a historically black college and university based in Dover, is a special favorite. The university, which traces its aviation training roots back to the Tuskegee Airman in World War II, has officially been training aviation professionals in its flight program since 1987. It is also the only HBCU aviation program that owns and operates its own aircraft fleet. Only about two percent of professional pilots in the United States are African-American, said Capt. Stephen Speed, the school’s aviation program director.

2.  AOPA member Will Davis discussed how he was able to continue his flight lessons after a video of him clipping an SUV as he was landing during his first cross country solo went viral worldwide. Despite that, he got his certificate on Feb. 2, as I wrote back on Feb. 27.  I heard from him recently, and he said that he tries to fly at least once a month, with plans to fly more when he gets the time. He also thanked everyone for their encouragement and support during that difficult time and after.

3.  Talk about inspiration – a father inspired his daughter to go through a second harrowing liver transplant by promising to buy her the airplane of her dreams after she made it through the surgery and recovery. Thirty-year-old Julie DeStefano comes from a family of pilots, including herself, her brother and her father, Dennis, who both own aircraft, as I reported in my March 27 story. Dennis recently reported  that Julie send him and her mother on several reconnaissance missions to Monte Vista and Alamosa, Colo., and Taos, N.M., to look at potential tail draggers, to no avail. “Then in May she located her dream plane in Knox County, Ohio. On June 14 I flew her there to take delivery of N7679E, a really clean 1958 Champion Model 7FC,” he said.

4.  On Aug. 12, I wrote about 20-year-old Jennifer Guetterman, who won a free trip to France and participated as the only American among 75 racers in the Tour Aérien Des Jeunes Pilotes, which ran July 15-28. The event was created to motivate the next generation of pilots and promote general aviation to the public, and Guetterman’s trip was funded by AOPA, the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations, and the Fédération Française Aéronautique. Since the tour, she said, she has continued to teach Ground School at AFI Flight Training Center at Fullerton Airport. “I am one semester away from my Associate of Science, Commercial Pilot degree at Cypress College and my Instrument Rating check ride should be in January,” she said. “I have kept in touch with my French pilot friends and plan on returning to France to visit during the next tour.”

5.  Sixteen years to the day after getting his student pilot license, Glen Wenzel, recipient of the Erral Lea Plymate Memorial flight training scholarship in 2012, passed his checkride and got his private pilot certificate on July 31. My story was published on Aug. 8.  He is a career firefighter in Winston-Salem, N.C. His father was a pilot, and he has been around aviation his whole life, taking his first flight at age four.  An AOPA member since 2010, Wenzel said that learning to fly has been a lifelong goal. After his father died in a helicopter accident, Wenzel inherited his Cessna 150. “That made it easier to do my training, despite the unfortunate circumstances,” he said. “Inheriting his plane made it even more important to finish my flight training.” Since then, he said he’s been trying to do as much flying as he can. “I’m going to try to get my instrument license next year some time. I’ve mostly been flying out to the beach and up to Jersey to see family,” said Wenzel. “Hopefully next year will bring an instrument and maybe a commercial ticket.”

6.  Seven employees at Woodinville, Wash.-based Dynon Avionics who formed the Swamp Creek Flying Club, including CEO Robert Hamilton, built a Glasair Sportsman under its Two Weeks To Taxi program for their club aircraft. I covered the story on April 1. Kirk Kleinholz, a CFII sales manager for Dynon and a club member, says the original members are still in the club, and that the aircraft has been performing well.  Two members flew it to AirVenture this year and parked it with other GlassAirs. “We also use it to visit Dynon’s business partners, and it was on display at the Golden West Fly-In,” he said. “It’s truly been a thrill to have our own aircraft.”

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, December 27th, 2013

These drugs just fell from the sky!  Officials at Hull Prison near Ottawa, Ontario, are beefing up security after a drone was able to drop a package that allegedly was filled with drugs, reports AvWeb. The package was never recovered.

Speaking of drones… Samy Kamkar, a computer programmer, has released a set of free instructions showing how a toy Parrot drone can be turned into a “skyhacker” drone, reports AvWeb. It can then interfere with WiFi-controlled drones and take control of them.

This spa wasn’t so relaxing. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency raided the offices of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based  charter operator World Jet as part of a drug trafficking case, reports the Durango Herald. The company allegedly used The Springs Resort & Spa in Pagosa Springs, Colo., to launder money for the operation.

Helicopter to the rescue. An 18-year-old cliff jumping the waters off Tasmania’s Blackmans Bay Beach had to be rescued by helicopter after he injured his back after falling 26 feet into the water, reports ABC News.

A safe landing is a good landing. A pilot flying from Maine’s Portland International Jetport to Waterville was forced to make an emergency landing on I295 after allegedly running out of fuel, reports Flying magazine. A Beechcraft BE-200 used by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made an emergency landing after the landing gear failed to deploy, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Have a Chuck Norris Christmas

Friday, December 20th, 2013

If you can’t do this, you ain’t nothin’. Chuck Norris does a one-up on a Claude Van Damme video to wish you a Merry Christmas. And yes, he pushed the planes apart when he felt like it because he’s Chuck Norris! What do you think now, Van Damme (except you did it for real, eyes closed, backward, but only 10 feet above the ground)?

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Talk about high flying. Two men who landed a private aircraft at Johnson City Municipal Airport are facing drug charges after a Drug Enforcement Administration agent found 75 lbs of marijuana aboard, reports the Times News.

He gets a double penalty. John Walsh, 46, faces trouble times two after he allegedly flew an unregistered LSA-type aircraft and flew with a falsified pilot certificate, reports AvWeb. He was using the vehicle and his fake license to to fly customers near Key Largo, Fla.

And here’s another double penalty. Paul Douglas Tharp, 53, has been charged with lying to the FAA about being a pilot and a mechanic, along with flying aircraft without a license, reports the Charlotte Observer. He is facing up to five years for each count of lying, plus three years for flying without a license.

Survival of the fittest. Juan Hernandez, Honduras’ ruling party presidential candidate, his wife and three members of his campaign team survived after his helicopter crashed on the way to a rally in Juticalpa, reports the Daily Times.  A pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in Trussville, Ala., after losing power, reports WVTM-TV. A small aircraft made an emergency landing at the Fargo Jet Center after experiencing landing gear problems, reports WDAY-TV.

He couldn’t just use an axe? The Gizmodo blog reports (and posts video) of ace helicopter pilot Dan Clark using his rotorcraft to harvest Christmas trees.  “Oregon helicopter pilot ruthlessly owning inertia,” says Redditor coolmandan03.

Strange but true aviation news

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Mice on a plane. The U.S. dropped 2,000 dead mice wearing parachutes onto Guam in a desperate attempt to eradicate the island’s  invasive brown tree snake, reports RT.com. The dead mice are filled with Tylenol, which is deadly to the snakes.

It’s raining parts? Residents in Seattle’s Gatewood claim that as a small aircraft flew over their houses, parts of its window fell on their roofs, reports KOMO-TV. One neighbor showed the parts to an aviation expert who confirmed they came from the aircraft.

Buying a piece of aviation history — on eBay. An AOPA member alerted us to the sale of a Rolls-Royce 593-610 Concorde SST Jet Engine on Ebay. As of Dec. 12 at 4:00 p.m. EST, the engine had 46 bids, and the current price was $20,100.

Waiting for the FAA.  A Mooney that made an emergency landing at Northeast Florida Regional Airport remained on the runway for an hour until FAA gave permission to move it, reports WTEV-TV. The pilot was uninjured after failing to lower the aircraft’s landing gear.

They just walked away. A pilot and his passenger made an emergency water landing on Ireland’s Lough Erne, where they were rescued by the country’s Maritime Rescue, reports the Independent.

We’ll end the week with this video that Flying magazine calls the “Coolest Instrument Approach Ever.” Enjoy!

 

Airline’s interesting Christmas video

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Disclaimer: This is not general aviation-related. But it’s aviation-related, and it’s worth watching.

Canadian airline WestJet apparently has a tradition of doing something big at the holidays–last year, it was a late-night flash mob in an airport terminal. This year, it’s…well, if I give away the story line, it’ll be a spoiler (and I don’t want to be accused of spoiling Christmas). Watch the YouTube video here.

Not only is the video well-produced, but it’s gone viral–with more than 6.5 million views on YouTube as of this writing. (The video’s only been online for three days.) If you want more, there’s also an outtakes and bloopers reel here.

Merry Christmas!

 

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, December 6th, 2013

He was just hanging out! A rare black rhino was tied by its ankles and transported by helicopter to its new home under the WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, reports the Mirror. Helicopter is deemed the best way to get the beasts from KwaZulu-Natal region of eastern South Africa.

That airport car looks vaguely familiar. Pilots flying into Minnesota’s Milaca Municipal Airport now have access to a new crew car — a retired Dodge Charger police squad car, reports the Mille Lacs County Times.  The car can be used on a first come, first-served basis.

He just walked away. The pilot of a 1988 Laser managed to walk away after the aircraft cartwheeled to a stop near the Swanborough Farm Airstrip in Lewes, U.K., reports the Sussex Express. Investigators found that “the threads of the bolts holding a wheel assembly on had stripped and that the wheel probably came away when the aircraft took off,” the newspaper added.

All’s well that ends well.  A pilot and his passenger were not injured after the Beechcraft T-34C military trainer they were flying slid off the runway at Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, reports the Broomfield Enterprise. No injuries were reported after a a small, twin engine Beechcraft went off the runway at Tennessee’s Tri-Cities Regional Airport, reports the Times News.

 

Christmas concerts with an aviation twist

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

You may have had friends e-mail you links to online videos showing so-called “flash mobs”–and maybe you’re already sick of them.

But if you’re not, watch this one, which shows the U.S. Air Force Band at the National Air and Space Museum on Tuesday. A friend who served in the Air Force shared it, and with great music in an interesting venue, it’s definitely worth watching.

If you live in or will be visiting the Washington, D.C., area, the band will perform a number of holiday concerts in the area through December 15. The full schedule appears on the band’s website.

10 aviation organizations you can support on #GivingTuesday

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Giving Benet

It started with Gray Thursday, for stores that (foolishly) opened at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving day. Then we had Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday. So today, we’re at the second annual #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday was created to be a national day of giving to kick off the holiday season and as a way to celebrate and encourage charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.

There are some great organizations out there doing a wonderful job of promoting general aviation and protecting our freedom to fly. So below are my 10 picks of groups I’m sure would love to have your #GivingTuesday donations.

  1. Because charity begins at home, I’m supporting the AOPA Foundation with a $50 donation. The courses it funds via the Air Safety Institute have be invaluable as I continue my flying lessons.
  2. Any organization that encourages more females to fly is worth supporting, which is why Women in Aviation International makes my list. I’ve been a member since 1996.
  3. Speaking of women, pilot and CFI Lynda Meeks is helping to encourage and grow the next generation of female pilots through her Girls With Wings organization.
  4. As the daughter and granddaughter of Air Force officers, I am a big supporter of all things military.  And the work being done by Veteran’s Airlift Command, which helps transport those injured serving their country, is worthy of our charity dollars.
  5. As a minority woman, I would love to see more people of color discover the joys of general aviation. To that end, Orlando-based Vision of Flight provides GA opportunities for economically disadvantaged youths.
  6. Another group that helps people of color learn to fly is the Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Foundation. It offers aid to to assist financially disadvantaged and deserving students in the pursuit of their educational goals, preferably leading to careers in the fields of aviation, aerospace and science technology.
  7. The Air Care Alliance serves as a clearinghouse for groups offering humanitarian flying using volunteer pilots. Make a donation here, and they will make sure it gets to the right place.
  8. I guess that I’ve spent a good chunk of my life at both branches of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. This museum serves as the repository for the history of aviation and space, and is worthy of our continued support.
  9. The EAA Young Eagles program has flown more than 1.6 million children — for free — since 1992. Many children were hooked after that first flight, and anything that encourages the next generation of pilots needs to be funded.
  10. Last — bur certainly not least — for my pick of organizations to be supported on #GivingTuesday is the Recreational Aviation Foundation. I had the chance to spend time with them during the AOPA Summit, and I really admire their efforts to keep recreational air strips across the country open for pilots and their friends and family to enjoy. Plus they got my award for one of the best fundraisers ever, which I wrote about for AOPA Online here.

So I hope you will consider donation to one or more of these worthy organizations on this second annual #GivingTuesday!

Flying motorcycle for Christmas?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

PAL-VHere’s something no one on your list will have, especially since the PAL-V company isn’t delivering it yet. (I have an inquiry out to the company, and will update here as needed.) It’s the PAL-V Helicycle that is a roadable gyrocopter. When I wrote about it in 2012 it went only 68 miles per hour, but now it appears in the current Hammacher Schlemmer catalog as capable of 112 mph. Also, it was $250,000 when I reported on it a year ago, but the new price is $295,000 (that includes $6,770 in training and the rest must be a price increase). The company says it really doesn’t know anything about the gyrocopter and interested customers should contact the Netherlands company. (Hmm, I reported it as a French company in 2012.) Polite Hammacher Schlemmer reps won’t tell you on the phone the name of the company or where it is, but their Web advertisement includes a video that clearly announces the company name. The catalog ad says it weighs 1,499 pounds when it is a motorcycle. It claims you’ll need a sport pilot certificate to fly it, which no doubt will be yanked when the FAA discovers it weighs more than the 1,320 pounds allowed by the light sport aircraft category. When you Google the helicycle name, up comes a single-seat helicopter kit made by Eagle R&D in Nampa, Idaho. A representative there said they have no ties to the Netherlands (French?) company. Here are additional media photos.