Tom Horne

Hong Kong Rendez-Vous

July 10, 2014 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Six short years ago, I was lucky enough to join up with Air Journey’s first around-the-world (RTW) escorted tour. For those who want to check that out, select the “North Atlantic Crossing” category to the right. Back in 2008, I flew with Air Journey from Quebec City, Canada to Paris. This year the fates have once again smiled upon me. But this time I’m joining the biennial trip nearer the end of the odyssey–one with legs that begin in Hong Kong and end in Kyoto, Japan. And this time I’ll be flying with Air Journey president Thierry Pouille in his Cessna Mustang.

By the way, Air Journey has earned a well-deserved reputation as a provider of escorted tours to most parts of the world. Pilot-customers do the flying, and Air Journey does the grunt work of obtaining overflight permits, arranging for handling and transfers, filing flight plans, and oh yes, providing for most meals and tours at each stop. To learn more about the company visit their website and to read their blogs about previous legs in this year’s RTW trip go to their blog section and also at www.2014rtw.blogspot.com

There are four other airplanes in this year’s RTW group: A Citation 501 with Sierra Industries’ Williams-engine conversion, flown by Bill and Corinna Hettinger; David and Betty Schlacter’s TBM 850; a Pilatus PC-12NG, owned by Jimmy Hayes and flown by Hayes and Laura and Danny Azara; and Brad and Deborah Howard’s Twin Commander 690B. Several other participants have flown along in these airplanes as they made their way eastward, on intermediate legs.

For me, the big attraction this time is that I’ll be swapping legs with Thierry and logging some more jet time in the process. In some pretty exotic airspace. But of course, there is the quality tourism as well.

But first things first. Before there would be any east Asian general aviation flying, I had to make my way to Hong Kong. Let’s just say that this was a grueling 20-hour slog on the airlines. The 14-hour leg from San Francisco to Hong Kong made it seem like time had stood still. Sleep? Faggedaboutit. But I did watch a feature on Marvel Comics–two times!–something with the title “Winter Soldier” in it, a Big Bang Theory episode, a feature on weird pets–two times!–plus another short feature on how not to get scammed, and another movie–The Grand Budapest Hotel. I think.

It was, in short, a kind of exercise in physical and psychological duress. But what’s the alternative? Charter a Gulfstream? Ain’t gonna happen. Besides, it would still take nearly as many hours.

This is why, after this trip, I am now convinced that the idea of a supersonic business jet is a viable one.

It was 8 p.m. by the time I arrived at Hong Kong’s The Peninsula Hotel. Like every hotel Air Journey uses, The Peninsula is first-rate. It offers what to me is an embarrassment of amenities. Like a ride from the airport to the hotel in a chauffered Rolls-Royce. Or perhaps you’d like to be shuttled by their helicopter to the hotel’s rooftop helipad. You get the idea.

I am still badly jet-lagged, but today I went with the group for a guided tour of Hong Kong. This included a visit to Victoria Peak, Hong Kong’s highest point, a harbor tour in a 16-man sampan, and much more. Hong Kong, once a British colony, is in a transitional phase, on its way to being integrated into the Peoples’ Republic of China. It’s a hot, humid, crowded, busy place, full of construction. Once known for its manufacturing, it’s now a center for banking and shopping, shopping, shopping.

I’ll have more updates in the coming days, but for now here are some shots from today:

The view from Victoria Peak

The view from Victoria Peak

 

This year's RTW group

This year’s RTW group

Your ride from the airport. This OK?

Your ride from the airport. This OK?

...Or maybe you'd like to take the Eurocopter? Seen here on the rooftop heliport.

…Or maybe you’d like to take the Eurocopter? Seen here on the rooftop heliport.

Welcome to The Peninsula, your lordship

Welcome to The Peninsula, your lordship

A penthouse suite. Yours for $15,600 a night. And while Jackie Chan may have stayed here, none of the group is.

One of the rooms in a penthouse suite. Yours for $15,600 a night. And while Jackie Chan may have stayed here, none of the group is.

Stay tuned. We depart for Taipei, Taiwan on Saturday, and the preflight briefing should be interesting. Thankfully typhoon Neoguri is moving well out of the picture, having moved away from Japan. But this morning was IMC here, with bands of heavy rain showers, low ceilings, and plenty of fog and mist.

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Alyssa Miller

Confessions of a powered pilot

June 19, 2014 by Alyssa Miller, AOPA Online Managing Editor

Having fun after my first glider flight with John Earlywine (behind the glider) and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Mike Nichols (right).

Having fun after my first glider flight with John Earlywine (behind the glider) and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Mike Nichols (right).

I had been offered glider flights in the past, but I would respond with “someday.” I had heard the arguments for it: It’s so quiet, you only hear the wind over the canopy; it makes you a better pilot. I had watched gliders fly over my apartment on approach to landing at the Frederick, Md., airport. But I was reluctant. I just wasn’t comfortable going up in an aircraft without an engine.

That changed June 1 with my first soaring lesson. I needed to gather aerial video footage for a story about the Central Indiana Soaring Society and the Alexandria airport the club purchased in order to keep it from being closed. Experiencing their soaring operation firsthand also would give me a better understanding of why this club went to such lengths (and expense) to save the airport. (See the video at 17:51 in the June 12 AOPA Live This Week episode.)

I met John Earlywine, a veteran instructor at the club and competitive glider pilot, and learned about his composite DG Flugzeugbau DG-1000.

For something I had always imagined as one of the purest forms of flight, I was surprised at how unnatural getting settled in the glider felt. Earlywine chuckled when I asked if I needed a headset. (While I didn’t think I would need one to talk to him, I wasn’t sure about communicating over the radio. Turns out, he had a mic in the back.) Once in the glider, I felt like I was practically lying flat and kept trying to move up in the seat until I realized the canopy wouldn’t close. For a Cessna 172 pilot who is used to sitting in a chair-like position, this new position, akin to lounging in a beanbag, took some getting used to.

Kris Maynard takes a break on the Piper Pawnee while waiting for pilots to tow aloft.

Kris Maynard takes a break on the Piper Pawnee while waiting for pilots to tow aloft.

Being pulled aloft by a Piper Pawnee piloted by Kris Maynard made me forget about my nerves during the preparation. After accelerating down the runway behind the Pawnee, with only the sound of the glider’s tire rolling over the asphalt, Earlywine lifted the glider into ground effect and held it about three feet off the runway until Maynard was ready to climb out. Once we were about 1,000 feet in the air, Earlywine left me fly on tow. Flying on tow is similar to flying formation in trail. Earlywine counseled me to pretend the Pawnee’s relationship to the horizon was my attitude indicator, to make uncoordinated turns to correct getting out of line with the tow plane, and to look past the Pawnee as if I were flying an ILS. All of that was easier said than done. I had a couple of formation lessons a few years ago but had forgotten about the uncoordinated control inputs used to keep the aircraft in line with the lead. Each time I entered a coordinated turn to realign with the Pawnee, I shot past and Earlywine helped me recover back to the center.

Once at 3,000 feet, I pulled the tow release and Earlywine instructed me to start hunting for lift. Cumulus clouds would have made it easy to spot the thermals, but this day was clear and sunny, except for a few wispy cirrus clouds. I started looking for large areas of asphalt or dark fields that might offer some rising air. We also circled over the town of Alexandria.

Finally, I found some lift to recover the couple of hundred feet that I had lost while searching. After regaining altitude, I took a minute just to look outside. I realized that I had been tense—almost as tense as I am in the dentist’s chair—up to that point. But the beauty of flight became very real at that moment, and I relaxed. I actually felt as if I were flying freely because the bubble canopy allows an almost uninterrupted 360-degree view; the pilots sit in front of the wings; and the nose of the glider is slender. The only sound was the rush of the air flowing over the canopy, quieting as I slowed and growing louder as I lowered the nose to gain airspeed.

John Earlywine logs my first glider flight.

John Earlywine logs my first glider flight.

While circling in the thermal, I had a tendency to do what Earlywine said most powered pilots do: pull the nose up into a climb. In soaring, climbing in a thermal doesn’t mean a “climbing turn” in the sense a powered pilot is used to. We circled and climbed in the thermals with the nose slightly low. The more lift we found, the higher pitched one of the instruments chirped, and the higher pitched Earlywine’s voice grew. Whenever we flew out of a thermal, the chirp turned to a monotone and Earlywine would “turn off that annoying sound.”

Finding lift became a game for me. I wasn’t thinking about getting from Point A to Point B, although with the glider’s 47:1 glide ratio, from 3,000 feet we could have flown to Indianapolis Regional Airport where the glider club had been the day before for AOPA’s regional fly-in. I was only focused on finding that precious lift to stay aloft. I nearly forgot one of the original purposes of going for the flight: gathering video footage. Giving Earlywine the controls, I started filming while we maneuvered and Earlywine brought us in for a landing.

I had been looking forward to flying the pattern and landing but videoed it instead. That gives me all the more incentive for another glider flight!

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The autopilot turns 100

June 18, 2014 by Mike Collins

It seems hard to believe, but the first aircraft autopilot was demonstrated 100 years ago today. On June 18, 1914, Lawrence Sperry let go of the controls of a Curtiss C-2 biplane, stood up in the cockpit, and raised his hands high above his head. The crowd below roared its approval as Sperry’s mechanic then walked out onto the airplane’s wing–and it remained in level flight.

This took place above the Seine River during France’s Airplane Safety Contest. A total of 57 “specially equipped” airplanes, featuring such innovative technologies as magnetos, self-starters, and carburetors–all still used today–competed for a prize of 50,000 francs (about $10,000). Sperry was the only one to demonstrate a gyroscopic stabilizer, and won the prize. In 2004, Aviation History presented an interesting article about the flight; it can be read online

Sperry’s father, Elmer, had developed the gyrocompass–at the time, a massive affair that had been installed on a number of U.S. warships.

Lawrence Sperry’s flight also marks the centennial of Honeywell Aerospace, which is one of four business divisions of 129-year-old Honeywell. Through organic growth, acquisitions, and mergers of legacy companies, Honeywell Aerospace can trace its heritage back to Lawrence Sperry (click the link and scroll down the page). The Sperry Gyroscope Company became Sperry Corporation, much of which moved to Phoenix in the 1950s and became the Sperry Flight Systems Company–today a part of Honeywell Aerospace.

Other firsts for Honeywell Aerospace include the first gyro horizon and directional gyro, cabin pressurization, the first gas-turbine auxiliary power unit, the first ground proximity warning system, and the first 3-D airborne weather radar. An interactive anniversary website details this evolution. Sperry’s accomplishment finds itself in good company a century later.

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Alyssa Miller

Indianapolis rolls out Midwestern hospitality

May 30, 2014 by Alyssa Miller, AOPA Online Managing Editor

Indy_081

Aircraft started arrriving early for AOPA’s Indianapolis Fly-in.

Indianapolis Regional, one of the reliever airports for the Super Bowl in 2012, is rolling out the Midwestern charm on a grand scale once again—this time for AOPA’s Regional Fly-In May 31.

Yellow chocks are spaced evenly apart at the edge of the concrete and grass, ready for the early arrivals. Volunteers donning neon green shirts point the way to the parking area. IndyJet employees park aircraft comfortably apart, so you don’t have to worry about swapping paint with the wing of the aircraft beside you. As soon as the prop stops, volunteers are right at the door, offering to help passengers disembark, unload any baggage, and grab the tow bar to finish parking the aircraft and secure it with chocks.

A volunteer helps get chocks in position for arriving aircraft.

A volunteer helps get chocks in position for arriving aircraft.

Now that’s an impressive welcome!

The volunteers and IndyJet and AOPA staff have been working nonstop to make sure attendees feel welcome.

Volunteer Michael Pastore, a 20-year AOPA member, is among the pilots camping out overnight at Indianapolis Regional. He flew is Cessna 140, Toto, from Naperville, Ill., and said he volunteered to help because he believes pilots need to do their part to support the organization.

Indy_041

Volunteers welcome pilots with that famous Midwestern hospitality.

Brian Lynch a helicopter instructor from Clarskville, Tenn., drove 5.5 hours through the night to get to Indianapolis to do his part. He napped a little, and then shortly after 7 a.m., he started helping set up, marshal aircraft, and man the gate leading to the airfield. He was still going strong at 7 p.m. But, he said, he’s going to take Saturday morning off to schmooze with pilots before helping marshal aircraft leaving at the end of the fly-in. His purpose for coming to the flying: “See what’s going on, get the pulse of the community.”

The friendly welcome upon touchdown has set the atmosphere for pilots visiting into the evening at Indianapolis Regional. There’s no rush—just a bunch of laid back pilots taking in aircraft new and old, swapping stories, and sharing some of that warm Midwestern hospitality.

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Upside down. A pilot walked away after a Cessna 180 flipped over after it was caught by a gust of wind when landing at Cameron Airpark in California’s El Dorado County, reports News10ABC. The pilot suffered only a minor injury.

Drone wanted! St. Louis police are searching for the owner of a $1,300 DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter with a camera that crashed into the Metropolitan Square building, the city’s tallest, reports Reuters. The FAA had been investigating the crash, as commercial use of drones is prohibited by the agency, but handed it over to police until they find more information on the crash.

Emergency landings. A father and son made an emergency landing in a field after their aircraft’s engine cut out before landing at Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Airport, reports KTVB-TV. A pilot ended up with stiches in his head but otherwise uninjured after crashing into a grove of trees near Caledonia, Minn., reports KELO-TV.

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Benet Wilson

Strange but true general aviation news

May 16, 2014 by Benét Wilson

Birds are the problem, monkeys are the solution. Officials in China are using trained monkeys to knock down bird nests near a military airport to keep feathered friends away from the facility, reports AvWeb. The airport previously used humans for the job, but they were deemed slow and expensive. Two monkeys have managed to destroy 180 nests in only two months.

Helicopter to the rescue! A helicopter was used to remove a Taylorcraft aircraft that was pushed into trees by the wind shortly after taking off, reports KTUU-TV. The pilot of the aircraft was not injured.

All’s well that ends well. A pilot suffered minor injuries after his experimental aircraft crashed in a swamp near South Carolina’s Sumter Airport, leaving him trapped for seven hours before being rescued, reports the Sumpter Item.  And a pilot suffered nonlife threatening injuries after making an emergency landing on a Little League baseball field outside of San Antonio, Texas, reports the San Antonio News-Express.

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Benet Wilson

Strange but true general aviation news

May 9, 2014 by Benét Wilson

Fore! A Cessna CJ3 with three people aboard walked away after the aircraft overshot the runway at an aviation community near Daytona, Fla. ,and landed in a golf course water trap, reports AvWeb.

Is this your nosewheel? A pilot flying a Pulsar XO Series 1 homebuilt got a radio call from people at Bremerton National Airport informing him that the nosewheel of his aircraft had been found on the runway after takeoff, reports the Bremerton Patriot. When he returned to land, he touched down on his two main wheels. The aircraft was damaged, but the pilot wasn’t injured.

 

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The AOPA Foundation has opened applications for the second year of its Giving Back grant program. The effort was created to award grants of up to $10,000 to 10 nonprofit groups that perform charitable work through general aviation. In 2013, 10 very worthy groups received the grants.  Two of the organizations I recommened in a post last year won grants. Below are my suggestions of organizations who should consider applying for the 2014 awards.

  • Girls With Wings — Pilot and founder Lynda Meeks offers scholarships, female role models, and events across the country designed to interest women and girls in aviation.  A foundation grant would help Meeks give away more scholarshps. Read my AOPA Online story here on updates of past winners.
  • Vision of Flight – 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. Read about their effort to honor the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail pilots here.
  • Michigan’s Howell High School. The high school has partnered with Howell, Mich.-based Crosswinds Aviation and the local EAA Young Eagles chapter on an introduction to aviation program. I saw  Matt Dahline, owner of Crosswinds Aviation, at last month’s Sun ‘N Fun, where he was visiting Central Florida Aerospace Academy, an effort he hopes to replicate in Howell. And here’s a story I did on the current program.
  • Able Flight – This organization that provides full scholarships to teach those with physical disabilities how to fly. This is an organization that deserves every dime it gets toward its goal of transforming lives. They awared a record 14 scholarships in April, but the need far outweighs the resources.
  • A local chapter of the Ninety-Nines or Women In Aviation, International. I applaud the work that local chapters do in promoting aviation. The Ventura County, Claif., chapter of the Ninety-Nines partnered with the local EAA chapter to build a viewport and picnic area at Camarillo Airport. And the Atlantic Aviators, a a chapter of Women in Aviation, International based at New Bedford Regional Airport in Massachusetts, built a wonderful playground at the facility. Both of these efforts are good example of AOPA President Mark Baker’s objective to make general aviation airports welcoming and instruments to inspire a new generation of pilots.

The grants are available only to 501(c)(3) organizations, and not to individuals. Applications will be accepted through July 11, 2014. Winners will be recognized at a ceremony at the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In in Frederick, Md., on Oct. 4. So apply today!

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Benet Wilson

Strange but true general aviation news

May 2, 2014 by Benét Wilson

Was that a beer can that just flew by? A promotional Budweiser Beer blimp that broke loose from its tether at an event in Saint John, New Brunswick, was found in a forest outside the city, reports CBC. Transport Canada issued a notice to pilots about the wayward blimp.

High-flying UAVs seek marijuana crops. If you’re illegally growing marijuana in the West Midlands region of the U.K., you may want to reconsider. The government is now using UAVs with heat-seeking cameras to find farms using hydroponic lights to grow their “crops,” reports the Halesowen News.

Speaking of UAVs A UAV operator in Springfield, Ohio, was arrested after his drone, while shooting video of a car accident, would not get out of the way of a medical helicopter trying to get to the scene, reports AvWeb. The man said he was going to give the video to a television station.

Water landing. A Swedish man survived his aircraft ditching into water off the Norrtälje municipality after he forgot to raise the landing wheens as he approached the water, reports The Local.

 

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Jill Tallman

The beautiful B-17

April 29, 2014 by Jill W. Tallman, Associate Editor

B17  Waiting to DepartLast week I mentioned that Irma Ward and her husband, Hugh, came to our regional fly-in. Hugh wanted a ride on the EAA B-17 Aluminum Overcast, and Irma, a painter, had set up an easel to capture the beautiful bird while it waited for clear skies and eager riders.

I was impressed at how rapidly Irma was committing the majestic lines of the B-17 to canvas with oil paint. She hadIrma painting completed a pencil sketch and had moved on to the actual painting when I talked with her on Friday morning.

Irma kindly sent me a photo of the finished painting. Isn’t it beautiful? She has a website, where you can see more of her work.

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