Posts Tagged ‘Dave Hirschman’

X-Wind landings: Just follow the stripe

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

This sounds like heresy, but I’ll say it: Ignore the everlasting crab/slip debate.

Unless your aircraft has a particular limitation that demands one method or the other, it’s a fruitless discussion.

The key to successful crosswind landings is getting your mind outside the cockpit and away from mechanical ‘push this lever’ or ‘pull that one’ thinking.

Concentrate on holding the centerline during final approach, and immediately correct the slightest deviations on landing. As long as you’re continuously tracking the centerline, your hands and feet will naturally do the right things.

Don’t worry about style.

Just follow the stripe.

Sunburned, tired, happy . . .

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

A few closing thoughts on an exhausting and invigorating week:

* Aircraft parking areas at Sun ‘n Fun were beginning to resemble used car lots. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “for sale” signs on so many airplanes in one place.

* Supersize that airplane! Bulbous, load-hauling airplanes abounded at SNF. The AirVan was my favorite of the Beaver derivatives. Too bad so many of them have nosewheels . . .

* My aviation roots are in aerobatics, and I’ll always be drawn to the precise, physically, and mentally demanding aviation niche. So it’s with surprise and reluctance that I point out the airshow’s aerobatic performances were painfully dull and monotonous. One unlimited monoplane performing gyroscopic maneuvers after another became mind-numbing, even for a guy like me who eats that stuff up. I can’t imagine how dull it must have been for people who aren’t necessarily drawn to akro.

The sound of screaming IO-540s made me think about the late Chris Smisson and the beauty, grace, and finesse that he showed flying his Zlin with Ray Charles singing “American the Beautiful” in the background. We miss you, old friend.

* Thanks to Brady and Trevor from Hawker-Beechcraft for letting me stow away in their King Air for the trip to SNF–but it was the hat that saved me. My neck and ears were getting lobsterized by the scorching sun, so I pickup up a floppy, wide-brimmed hat at the H-B tent about halfway through the show. It sure was goofy looking, but it was a lifesaver. I stopped by the H-B booth a couple days after the University of Kansas won the NCAA basketball championship, and the folks from Wichita were still celebrating . . .

* Aspen’s “Evolution” PFD and Garmin’s “Synthetic Vision Technology” were the biggest hits of the show, and major developments that I’m convinced will improve general aviation safety. So here’s the question: How long do you think it will take Garmin (or some other innovative firm) to put synthetic vision in a portable GPS? VistaNav is getting close, but I’m talking about SVT on something the size of a Garmin 496. This is a pure guess, but I’ll bet that we’re be able to buy synthetic vision hand-helds in 2010 for $5,000 each . . .


Pure genius! (And other neat stuff that’s not avionics)

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

LoPresti Speed PantsEvery now and then, we all stumble across an invention that seems so simple, so obvious, that we wonder why no one (including us) did it before.

Such is the case with LoPresti Speed Merchants’ “Speedpants.”

They’re regular composite wheel fairings–with one key difference. They have a set of clamshell doors on the bottom designed to totally enclose the wheels when an airplane’s in flight. LoPresti estimates the fairings will add about eight knots to an RV-7’s top speed. (And for those of us who miss raising and lowering landing gear, Speedpants will provide us with another lever to move each time we take off and land.)

LoPresti SpeedpantsThe clamshell doors are hydraulic. And if the hydraulic system fails, internal springs will open the gear.

If we forget to open them on landing (and you know we will), the fiberglass scrapes off and the airplane remains on the wheels.

Speedpants are meant to minimize the aerodynamic penalty for fixed gear. And with so many of today’s aircraft manufacturers electing for fixed gear on airplanes that are meant to go fast, LoPresti may be onto something . . .

Nemesis NXTDave’s other faves:

* Nemesis NXT flybys. That airplane makes everything else with a propeller on it look slow.

CAF LT-6* The Commemorative Air Force’s LT-6. The silver “Mosquito” from the CAF’s Dixie Wing is absolutely gorgeous. The pride and workmanship really show through on this historical labor of love.

XP-30* The XP-30 is a German aerobatic brute painted in a scheme that seems to pay tribute to the Great Pumpkin. But it’s got a 450-degree-per-second roll rate, a 220-knot top speed, and more than 1,000 miles range. It’s only doing flybys at the show–not full aerobatic performances. But it looks like the closest thing to a magic carpet since Aladin.

Sport Cub* Sport Cub S2. I want to give it a hug whenever I see it. Cub Crafters is talking about offering a clipped-wing version. If they do, it will fit my notion of The Perfect Sport Plane and Back-To-The-Future Trainer . . .

Playing with fire(crackers) . . .

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Shoenfeldt Firecracker “It’s a squirrel,” said Pat Halloran, the pilot of the Shoenfeldt “Firecracker,” a wood-winged bullet of an air racer from the 1930s–and the coolest airplane at Sun ‘n Fun.

It’s got an 18-foot wingspan, an impossibly tiny amount of wing area, and a 440-cubic-inch Ranger engine. The gear retracts with a hand crank, and Halloran, a retired Air Force general who flew fighters in Korea and the U-2 and SR-71 after that, said the airplane is a handfull to fly.

“Visibility on the ground is non-existent,” he said. “In the air, you’ve got to hold onto it every second.”

Halloran has flown the airplane about 70 hours and expects to add significantly to that total in the coming days. After Sun ‘n Fun, he’ll fly the Firecracker back to its home at Flabob Airport in Southern California. The airplane holds about four hours of fuel–but Halloran says the urge to escape from the cramped cockpit is too strong to ignore after about 2.5 hours.

Oh. The airplane’s top speed? It went about 300 miles an hour in the late 1930s when famed Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier was racing it. But Halloran said he won’t push it that hard . . .

Dave’s SNF marketing survey: Aspen/Synthetic Vision/Sport Cub/GPS

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Totally unscientific, anecdotal, and preliminary (but probably right).

* Aspen Avionics glass panel is a winner. The crowd outside the company’s booth has been big throughout the first few days at Sun ‘n Fun, and interest is building. Every vendor selling the displays has been pleased at the response to the vacuum-gauge replacement, and I think the company will sell tens of thousands of units for piston-aircraft retrofits. The jury’s still out on Aspen’s future MFD and whether the company will replace the other four gauges in traditional instrument six-packs. But it’s putting vacuum-driven, mechanical attitude indicators and directional gyros on the endangered list.

* Synthetic Vision is unstoppable. I’ll bet 95 percent of the owners of Garmin G1000 aircraft eventually add the software upgrade. Diamond is offering Garmin “Synthetic Vision Technology” (SVT) as a $10,000 option on new DA-40s, and that’s going to put pressure on other aircraft manufacturers to match. At that price, few will be able to resist. Grand Rapids Technology and Chelton pioneered GPS-based synthetic vision–but Garmin is going to make it an industry standard.

*The Sport Cub is my favorite LSA. If it doesn’t rekindle a resurgence in tailwheel aircraft, nothing will . . .

*Hand-held GPSs are getting bigger. Way bigger. The displays on some of the new models are giant. So are the boxes themselves. Maybe it’s driven by the aging pilot population (and our inability to read small print). But portable GPSs are beginning to resemble the ancient stone tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, and they probably weigh about as much. The main differences are the portables require cigarette-lighter adapters–and we’re a lot more likely to follow GPS commandments . . .

Vans RV-12 is creating a swamp

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Vans RV12

What can a mud bog in the shape of an airplane tell you about a particular design?

So far, the amount of grass-stomping foot traffic around the Vans RV-12 has been so impressive that I’m convinced it’s going to be the best seller among Experimental LSAs–by far.

Visitors have surrounded the company’s two RV-12s since Sun ‘n Fun opened, and the green grass around them has been trampled to mud.

Richard Van Grunsven, the airplane’s gruff designer, said the company is doing a brisk business and expects to sell “a couple hundred” RV-12 kits this year. The RV-12 is the first Vans model to use a Rotax engine, and Van Grunsven said he’s convinced it offers the best value, reliability, and performance in its class. But builders–and potential builders–have been expressing interest in other engine options, such as the Continental 0-200 that Cessna is putting in its C162 SkyCatcher.

“People are always asking for something different,” Van Grunsven said. “Usually, it’s just an excuse not to do something they weren’t going to do anyway.”

The easy way vs. the hard way

Monday, April 7th, 2008

SNF Arrival Timeline

How a 270-Knot General Aviation Turboprop Beats A 550-Knot Airliner

by Dave Hirschman and Paul Richfield

Dave’s Turbo-Prop Day April 6, 2008:
Paul’s Airliner Day April 6, 2008:
Sleeping soundly Wake up at 4:47 a.m., out the door by 6:00 a.m.
Still sleeping soundly Drive to work, park the car, move luggage into building to keep it out of the rain, get coffee from machine upstairs. Get into co-worker’s SUV for ride to airport, driver runs upstairs to make copies.
Turn away from sunlight peeking in-between the curtains and pull covers over my head. 6:45 a.m.: We finally leave, and head right to a gas station to top off the SUV.
Still sleeping. Back on the highway, it’s already almost 7:00; our departure on AirTran from Baltimore is scheduled for 8:55.
Wake up at 7:30 a.m. 7:33 a.m.: Arrive at BWI daily parking garage, find a spot on the fourth level. Take elevator down to first level, learn that shuttle buses leave from second level. Get back on elevator, go up to second level.
Shower and shave by 8. 7:41 a.m.: Shuttle bus arrives; picks up our party of three, plus around 18 other people and their luggage. Bus creeps methodically toward the terminal, arriving at 7:56.Curbside check-in packed; head for AirTran check-in inside. I’m number 34 in line. I show the attendant a boarding pass I printed the night before; this confuses him but he checks my bag anyway.
Play Wii with my 8-year-old son until 9. 8:14 a.m.: Head for security gate; learn that the line snakes its way down approximately 175 yards or hallways and corridors, with roughly 1,500 people in line ahead of me. Finally get to the front of the line, remove hat, jacket, shoes, belt watch, pocket change and keys, pull laptop out of bag, divide all of this between two plastic bins. Walk through X-ray machine. Attendant asks for my ticket; guess I left it in one of the bins. We find it, I am allowed to go.
Eat a bowl of granola with wife, son and 11-year-old daughter (the kids have toaster waffles). Pack a rucksack (including a Swiss army knife that’s been grounded since 9/11) and am ready to go out the door at 10 a.m. 8:43 a.m.: Arrive at gate D21. They’re already boarding other zones. I get on the Boeing 717, take seat 19C, an aisle seat on the left. The airplane is packed; a family of five, including three boys under age seven occupy the row ahead of me. Lots of kicking, screaming, and inter-parental drama. Clearly, this is not a flight that caters to business travelers. We take off, climb up to FL340. It’s 2.5 hours to Tampa with light chop for most of the flight. Cabin and flight crews very chatty on the PA; lots of advisories, warnings, welcomes, expressions of gratitude, and stern recriminations to head off unacceptable behavior. No, we shouldn’t activate our personal electronic devices, or get out of our seats unless the captain deems it safe. Yes, we should enjoy our stay in Tampa, and fly AirTran again.
Son asks if I have time for a game of checkers. Why not? He nearly takes me out with a triple jump, but my treachery prevails by 10:15.
Hugs all around. I arrive in my car at FDK at 10:30, drop my bags by the plane and park in the AOPA lot 100 yards away.
Trevor and Brady, the Hawker-Beech crew, arrive at 10:45 and fire up their King Air 90.
We’re off the ground and heading south at 11:02.
Our TAS at 24,000 feet is about 270 knots, but we’ve got a 30-knot headwind for most of the flight. I eat a Snickers bar and drink a bottle of water from the galley. The sky is clear above a low undercast until the Georgia-Florida border. Brady weaves around some heavy rain during the descent, but we break out in time for a landing in VMC on Runway 9 Right. Total flight time: 3 hours 40 minutes. 11:35 a.m.: We arrive in Tampa and stop ten feet short of the gate. More warnings to stay seated or else. Airplane lurches forward the remaining 10 feet, seatbelt sign pings off.
  11:50 a.m.: Finally get off the airplane, head for baggage claim. After 20 minutes the bags appear. Get in line for rental car. Get rental car, hit the road for Lakeland, around 35 miles away.
We unload the plane at the Landmark FBO a quarter mile from the Hilton Garden Hotel where most of the AOPA staff is staying. I gather up a few display items that will go in the AOPA tent and walk to the lobby where I encounter my friend and alter ego, Paul Richfield, who arrived at the hotel at the same time. 2:40 p.m. Arrive at hotel. See Dave Hirschman in the lobby. Mission elapsed time? Seven hours, 53 minutes.