Archive for February, 2014

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, February 21st, 2014

I hope they got their Valentine’s Day flowers anyway!  Wesley Berry, CEO of FlowerDeliveryExpress.com had to end an expierment to deliver flowers via a drone after the FAA pulled the plug, reports CBS Detroit.  Berry was informed — nicely — that he needed FAA preauthorization for his delivery service.

Fire!! Firefighters in Abbeville, S.C., were called to the scene of a Beechcraft Baron that caught fire, reports the Index-Journal. The owner of the aircraft had tried to start the Baron after it had sat idle for several years when smoke came out and it caught fire.

It’s raining parts! The FAA is investigating what appears to be a piece of an aircraft that fell on a home on the  flight path of Dulles International Airport, reports Flying.  outside Washington, D.C., last week. No one was injured.

Emergency landings. There were slight injuries to a pilot and their passenger after they made an emergency landing snapping a power pole and landing in a field in Fort Hall, Idaho, reports the Idaho State Journal. A pilot and his passenger walked away after making an emergency landing of a twin-engined Piper aircraft  in a paddock south of Adelaide after the plane lost power, reports Australia’s ABC News. And a twin-engined aircraft made an emergency landing at Wisconsin’s  J. Douglas Bake Memorial Airport after experiencing icing on the wings, reports the Post-Crescent.

We’ll end the week with this footage from Flying magazine showing a dramatic Coast Guard helicopter rescue.

 

Has Lycoming got a diesel?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Lycoming isn’t saying much, but General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has said several times that it is testing a 205-horsepower Lycoming DEL-120 diesel engine on one of its military drones, the Improved Gray Eagle. Lycoming has said in the past that while it has shown interest in development of diesel engines, the time isn’t right. That hasn’t changed. AvWeb’s Paul Bertorelli says Lycoming may just be republishing the DieselJet FIAT 170-horsepower engine intended for cars as a 205-horsepower drone engine. The need for a new engine, he says, was driven by the sale of Thielert, the previous engine provider for the Gray Eagle, to China. The U.S. Army doesn’t want to depend on China for its military engines. While Lycoming’s (Fiat’s?) drone engine gives Lycoming additional experience, it may continue to wait until diesel engines for manned aircraft look like a good business decision. This all came up a few days ago after Andre duCros published an item  in his DieselAir newsletter.

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, February 14th, 2014

I have the controls. A teenager in Australia with little flight time found himself flying a Piper Cherokee 180 after the pilot passed out, reports AvWeb. The pilot came to and helped the teen land the aircraft at Forbes Field in New South Wales.

Do the crime, do the time. Two men and a woman have pleaded guilty to smuggling immigrants into the United States by private jet, reports NBC San Diego. The immmigrants paid up to $10,000 for the flight. The three face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A long walk. A 39-year-old pilot and his 77-year-old father walked 15 miles looking for help after the landing gear, propeller and wing were damaged during an emergency landing 30 miles north of Willcox, Ariz., reports KCTV5 News. A rancher saw the damaged aircraft, called the authorites and rescuers found the son and his father the next day.

Stopped by a fence.  A small aircraft ended up crashing into a fence at Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, Calif., reports the San Jose Mercury News. Neither the pilot nor the passenger were injured.

Emergency landings. A pilot made an emergency landing at the Mesquite Municipal Airport in Texas after his 2000 Rans S-6 ES lost one of its three wheels, reports the Mesquite Citizen. A Piper Aztec made an emergency landing in a bay in St. Maarten after both engines dies, reports the Curacao Chronicle. A pilot and his son flying a Piper Super Cub hit a boulder after landing in a field between the Galiuro and Winchester mountain ranges, reports the Wilcox Orange News.

Night comes quickly in the Bahamas

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Sunset in the Bahamas

Going…going…gone. The sun drops below the horizon in what seems like seconds. Night-time VFR flying is prohibited in the Bahamas.

As our group of aircraft approaches the Out Islands on Feb. 1, the pilots go in different directions. You must land at an airport of entry and clear Customs, and if you plan to travel to other islands, you must obtain a cruising permit first. Some of our group head to Grand Bahama or Andros, but most of us plan to land at New Bight Airport on Cat Island, where we’ll be staying.

The rescue mission to pick up two stranded VFR pilots pushed our departure from St. Lucie County Airport in Fort Pierce, Fla., to the afternoon. As we head toward Cat Island, the sun is beginning to sink lower on the horizon. In the United States, this wouldn’t be a problem. In the Bahamas, it’s a cause for concern. Night-time VFR is prohibited, and with good reason. There are very few lights to be seen on the islands, and when the daylight ends, it ends rather abruptly. The dark sky blends seamlessly into the ocean, providing no artificial horizon. And there are very few airports with instrument approaches.

When we land at New Bight just before sunset, we realize that one of the airplanes hasn’t made it to Cat Island. After a few anxious moments, we learn that the pilot decided to land at Rock Sound Airport on Eleuthera so as not to push daylight. It was a smart decision. He and his passengers cleared Customs and were able to locate a one-night apartment rental. They enjoyed a meal of fresh grouper and a good night’s sleep, and joined us the next day. And this chapter caused a CFI in the group to coin a new phrase: “Bingo daylight” as opposed to “Bingo fuel.”

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, February 7th, 2014

I don’t need no stinkin’ propeller! A 79-year-old pilot managed to glide and land his Grumman AA-5 Tiger at an old horse racing track after losing his propeller, reports the Republic. The newspaper reported the propeller cracked and split in two.

Get your beer the old-fashioned way. Minnesota beer brewery Lakemaid was trying out using drones to deliver the adult beverage to ice fishers on Mille Lacs Lake, but the FAA has nixed the plan, reports CNN. The agency said that it’s against the law to fly drones for commercial purposes or above 400 feet in the United States.

Eject!! A Royal Canadian Air Force instructor pilot and a student were forced to eject from their CT-156 Harvard II trainer after a landing gear malfunction, reports AvWeb. The problem was discovered when another trainer did a visual inspection of the aircraft.

 

Emergency landings. A pilot made an emergency landing of his Cirrus SR-22 in a Worth County, Ga., cornfield, reports WorthIt2U.net. A private plane carrying seven passengers made an emergency landing at Bluegrass Airport after experiencing engine failure. reports Lex18.com. A flight instructor and his student made an emergency landing at Australia’s Orange Airport, reports Central Western Daily.

The best-laid plans

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

 

Flying into New Bight Airport on Cat Island.

Short final, New Bight Airport, Cat Island, the Bahamas.

 

When you travel GA—and VFR pilots know this better than anybody—flexibility is the name of the game.

The launch of 12 aircraft from Northern Virginia to the Bahamas by way of Florida (see Reporting Points, “Bahamas Bound”) commenced the week of Jan. 26, with most airplanes set to depart Jan. 31 and a few making their cautious way down south earlier in the week to navigate around unseasonable snow- and ice storms in North and South Carolina and Georgia. (One airplane launched from Stearman Field in Kansas.)

On Friday, when conditions were severe clear (if exceptionally cold) in Virginia, all aircraft but one were under way. The pilot of a Cessna 182RG had postponed his departure because his wife was suffering from a fever.

Stopping for fuel and a BBQ lunch at Low Country Airport in South Carolina, we check the weather that lies between us and St. Lucie Airport in Fort Pierce. Some sizable chunks of green with some red and yellow mixed in are in our path, but moving off to the east. This weather doesn’t pose much of a problem for the nine instrument-rated pilots. It’s another story for the three who are flying VFR—and one of them is piloting a Light Sport aircraft.

Sure enough, when we land at Fort Pierce, we discover that all three VFR pilots are stranded at various points along the East Coast—and a fourth, instrument-rated pilot experienced radio failure at her fuel stop in Savannah, Georgia. What’s more, the weather-stranded pilots are in different locations: One got as far as Fernandina Beach in Florida; one is on the ground in Savannah; the third—the LSA pilot—is in St. Simons, Georgia. The clouds and precipitation keeping them on the ground threatened to remain well into Feb. 1, when all aircraft were set to depart Fort Pierce for New Bight Airport (MYCB) on Cat Island.

What to do? Could anything be done?

If this were 12 separate airplanes just coincidentally headed to the Bahamas, probably nothing. But, that’s not how things work when you’re traveling with Aviation Adventures in Manassas. Owner Bob Hepp, who is coordinating this trip and toting me along in the flight school’s 1964 Piper Twin Comanche, puts together a rescue mission: The group’s sole Bonanza will carry two of the group’s instrument-rated pilots to Fernandina Beach and Savannah, and they’ll fly as PIC back to Fort Pierce. (Sadly, no such option is available for the aircraft with radio problems, nor the Light Sport aircraft.)

And that’s what happened. More on our trip in a future post.

Howard Hughes plane/boat floats on

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

I had forgotten about this old Howard Hughes airliner that was made into a boat and later dubbed the Cosmic Muffin by singer Jimmy Buffet who happened to float by one day and entered the craft into a novel he was writing. Looks a little beaten up, but still as interesting as when it was on “Oprah” and CNN.

UPDATE: The owner of the planeboat just called from Fort Lauderdale. Dave Drimmer says he plans refitting, repowering, and repainting the boat in 2014. During a refurb in 1994 a data plate was found locking in the Hughes ownership of the aircraft. Apparently it was going to go to Europe to show off American technology when the German invasion of Poland cancelled plans. Rumors that it was going around the world are most likely untrue. Dave suggests you check out the boat’s Web site here. There is also a “planeboats” channel on YouTube about the Hughes plane. When the military tried to confiscate the airplane during World War II, Hughes made sure it was in pieces on a hangar floor to keep it from flying. Hughes always operated it as an airplane, not a boat, and owned it from 1939 to 1949. The next serial number to this one (there were 10 made) is on display at the Smithsonian Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum at Dulles International Airport.