Getting to know the Remos Archive

Long day’s journey into Albuquerque

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Today and our next day in the Fun to Fly Remos are where the rubber meets the airway, so to speak. Today Patrick and I, flatlanders both, encountered our first real mountains. (Yes, I know we have the Appalachians, but they basically serve as a means of holding in the haze.) And there are more mountains to come before we reach Santa Paula.

We launched from Waco and headed to Midland, Texas, for a quick fuel stop. The leg from Waco to Midland was pretty unexciting with the exception of the fact that we flew past President George Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch, and then later saw what had to have been one of the nation’s largest wind turbine farms. We think we overflew about 3,000 of them.

Boneyard

Boneyard

The leg after Midland was Roswell, N.M.: a perfect stop for lunch and a peak at the downtown area. You need only go a few miles before you start seeing signs for “UFO Storage,” “Alien Gifts!” and “Area 51 Bakery.” (OK, I made that last one up. Maybe I should consider opening an Area 51 Bakery when I retire.) And the Roswell Airport is home to what appears to be the place where 747s go to die. As we were about 10 miles from the airport and I was straining to find the runway, I saw what looked like a bunch of large white buildings, and said so. Patrick spotted them and said, “I think they’re airplanes!” They were. Not just airplanes, but row after row of jets in various stages of disassembly, some without their turbines and some with their corporate logos faded from years of baking in the hot New Mexico sun.

“What do you do here?” Patrick asked our lineman. He replied, with a grin: “We tear up airplanes!”

The final leg, from Roswell to Albuquerque, was the most challenging of the day. We  started a long, slow climb to 10,500 feet. With outside air temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, the Remos’s Rotax engine chugged along, but our groundspeed was 60 knots. What seemed like a half-hour later, we arrived at 10,500 feet and breathed a sigh of relief. A bumpy ride ensued as we picked our way through the mountains. Emerging through a pass with Albuquerque just 30 nm away, I felt a lot of relief. And the approach into Double Eagle Airport, with the city spread out under the Sandia Mountains, was breathtaking.

A great day in a Great State

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Thanks to my Twitter friend Nikolas Keramidas for the title of this blog, but it’s an apt observation. Yesterday our trip in the Fun to Fly Remos gave us good weather and a tailwind for the very first time. Launching out of Wichita, at 7,500 feet we saw 87 knots indicated airspeed, 119 knots over the ground, and true airspeeds of 101. (The Dynon avionics display all those for you, plus your winds-aloft speeds and the direction of the wind.)

Wind turbines in west Texas

Wind turbines in west Texas

A lunch/fuel stop put us in Gainesville, Texas, and we overnighted in Waco. This gave us a chance to catch up with our friend and former colleague, Claire Kultgen, who showed us the sights of her city and took us to a rocket-launching facility–I kid you not. More about that in a later post.

Today’s going to be a long day for the hearty crew of the good ship Fun to Fly. We hope to make Albuquerque by nightfall, and our planned route is Midland, Texas-Roswell, N.M.Albuquerque. Wish us some more tailwinds!

Nonpilot magnet

Monday, September 13th, 2010

To the nonflying public, and even prospective pilots, general aviation airplanes are fun to watch fly overhead or admire on the ramp, but they can be intimidating to climb into—the size, buttons, dials, etc. all seem foreign. Light sport aircraft just might help bridge that barrier.

100913_f2f_remos

At the Wings ’n Wheels Old ’n New event at Wings Field in Blue Bell, Pa., Sept. 11, more than 200 people hopped in AOPA’s 2010 Sweepstakes Remos GX. Of all the people that stopped by to admire the two-seat airplane, only one young girl was too intimidated to get inside, although she briefly reconsidered after I told her that I (a young woman) had flown the airplane “all by myself” earlier that morning.

As children and adults, men and women, climbed into the Remos, I showed them how the control stick worked and had them lean out the door to watch themselves move the elevator and ailerons. I moved the rudder pedals while the young children looked outside. The children would immediately exclaim to their parents, “Look, I’m doing that!” as they worked the control surfaces.

The Dynon EFIS-D100 primary flight display and EMS-D10 multifunction display was a hit with those who said they were planning to start flying lessons. The two “mini computer screens” and panel-mount GPS look much more familiar to today’s technologically savvy crowd than the round instruments of traditional aircraft. They seem to be able to better understand the concept of reading your airspeed and altitude from a computer screen than from the round standby gauges. Navigation (nonpilots are always asking pilots how they know to get from Point A to Point B) suddenly becomes easy when they see the GPS.

Many adults asked about the cost of an LSA and the availability to train in one. Some were pilots contemplating letting their medical lapse; others were interested in learning to fly. Unfortunately, because the LSA market is still relatively young in the United States, they aren’t as common at airports as traditional Cessna, Piper, or even Cirrus trainers.

Although it’s impossible to tell if talking to someone for five minutes or teaching a child the basics of an airplane will make a strong enough impression to lead them to pursue flight training, I think LSAs have a good—or even better—shot at enticing the nonflying public to learn to fly. I’ve only watched people interact with six of AOPA’s sweepstakes airplanes over the years, but what little time I’ve spent around them, the LSA seems to put the nonpilots at ease. They aren’t as intimidated to hop in, and once they do, the panel and control stick aren’t all that much different than what they might fly on Microsoft Flight Simulator.

I don’t know if it’s the airframe’s small size or the glass cockpit, but the two together seem to make the LSA a nonpilot magnet.

3-2-1: Break

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Formation flying has to be some of the coolest flying around. Ask anybody who’s seen the Blue Angels or the Aeroshell team of T-6s, or the Aerostars’ Yak-52tw, or [insert your favorite group here]. The air-to-air photo and video shoots we conduct for the magazines require precision formation flying. We have several accomplished formation pilots on staff, and I can act as a safety pilot, flying right seat on the photo ship. My primary duties are to watch for traffic and communicate the photographer’s requests to the subject airplane.

On Tuesday evening the Fun to Fly Remos and our photo ship, an A36 Bonanza flown by Deputy Editor Ian Twombly, traveled to Cambridge, Md., to get in some air-to-air. We were in somewhat of a race to get some good light before sunset and a thickening overcast wiped it out, and we were looking for a scenic backdrop for the Remos. It’s been pretty hot and dry here in the Mid-Atlantic, and there’s a lot of brown, parched-looking landscape in our backyard. But over on the Eastern Shore of Maryland along the Choptank River and Chesapeake Bay, it  is still lush.

The photo shoot itself was a series of turns, some steep, some standard-rate, in which the Remos hugged the Bonanza while photographer Chris Rose shot out the Bonanza’s rear door, which had been removed (he was harnessed). Senior Editor Dave Hirschman’s stick skills are so sharp that I have a hard time pulling my eyes away to scan for traffic. And when Chris instructs me to tell Hirschman to break, I can’t help but watch as Dave counts down and snaps the Remos cleanly into what looks like a 60-degree bank. I can’t wait for you to see the video; it’ll be posted on AOPA Online to coincide with the September issue of AOPA Pilot, where you’ll see the still photos.

Hot fun in the summertime

Monday, June 28th, 2010

girlsInRemosMaryland is having one of its hottest summers on record–we exceeded 100 degrees F over the weekend–but that didn’t keep Frederick folks from coming out to Frederick Municipal Airport on Saturday. Even a broiling tarmac can be a welcoming place when you have an open house with lots of cool airplanes on display.

And I love showing the Fun to Fly Remos to everyone–especially children. It’s not often people outside the aviation community get to touch airplanes. Kids, with their parents in tow, make a beeline for the Remos. “Don’t touch!” their parents command (thanks, Mom and Dad, I appreciate your parenting!). And they’re used to hearing that. But when I say “Do you want to get inside?” their little faces are incredulous and then joyous at the prospect. They’re going to sit in a real airplane!

Kids are pretty well behaved around our aircraft. Oh yes, occasionally one will start punching buttons like crazy. These kids in particular are remarkably adept at finding the ELT switch. But for the most part, the worst that will happen is that they will try to climb in by stepping on the wheel pant, and I’ve gotten pretty adept at cutting them off at the pass before they try to do that.

Saturday’s crowd included pilots who participated in the Air Race Classic, the all-woman’s cross-country race that ended this year in Frederick. One of the teams, a pair of college students, brought young girls out to see the airplanes. I stood back while they explained aerodynamics at a very basic level to these girls as they sat in the Remos cockpit and moved the controls. A tip of the hat to these young women, who already recognize how very, very important it is to get girls engaged in aviation at a young age.

It’s a convertible

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

“It’s like a convertible.”

“It’s like flying a J-3 Cub with the doors off.”

One of the more “fun” attributes of our Fun to Fly Remos is that you can take the doors off and fly. And other staff pilots have done just that. Ian Twombly and Alyssa J. Miller have both flown doors-off for the Fun to Fly Road and Runway Rally, and they loved it–so much so that they almost left the doors behind. Ian described how much he and Rally partner Steve Chupnick enjoyed flying along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, several hundred feet off the water. Dave Hirschman and Sgt. Michael Blair have flown sans doors too.

“You haven’t done it?” people would exclaim. There’s a reason I hadn’t. Several years ago I’d gone up in a Kitfox with another pilot. I was looking forward to the thought of flying with the doors off, but when we got up to about 2,000 feet, all I could think of was that there was nothing holding me in the airplane except my safety belt. (Can’t recall if there was a harness.) I pressed against the PIC so much trying to lean away from the door that I’m surprised I didn’t push him out the other side of the airplane. We couldn’t get on the ground fast enough.

But last week was just too beautiful to let an opportunity go by. Clear and calm and very low humidity–a rarity for the Mid-Atlantic at this time of year. And, I reasoned, maybe my anxiety on that Kitfox flight had been because I wasn’t the pilot in command. And you know what? I was right.

When you remove the doors on the Remos, you simply pull one pin out and unsnap the hinge. Repeat. Carefully stow the doors and pins (a blanket is a nice thing to have for these types of operations). The hinges fold back behind the seat. Secure everything else that might be in danger of blowing out of the airplane. I’m used to doing this because I do drive a convertible, and even a parking receipt will fly away if you’re not careful. Tighten the seatbeat of the right seat and tuck the ends under if you’re flying solo. Scout around for loose pens, pencils, or anything else that could become airborne when you do. When you start up the airplane, be prepared for a little more breeziness than usual. Check the radio volume before you take off–you don’t want to be in the pattern and miss radio calls. Then  get ready to have some serious fun.

I’m so glad I flew the convertible. Future winner of the Fun to Fly Remos, you will be, too.

Fun to Fly lands on a creek! Well, sort of

Monday, June 7th, 2010

“How’d you get that airplane in here?”

If we heard that question once, we heard it a hundred times this past weekend at the Festival of the Arts on Carroll Creek in downtown Frederick, Md. This annual two-day festival is spread up and down a three-block stretch that is bisected by a creek. More than 100 arts and crafts vendors spread out their colorful wares on either side of the creek, and thousands of people amble through. But this was the first time that they’d seen an airplane here.

Folding the wings and transporting the Fun to Fly Remos was a two-day affair. On Friday evening, we worked with Remos demo pilot Luke Stouffer to fold back the wings and secure them in a special brace that holds the wing tips stationary. (Two brackets are installed at the strut attach point and the wing root, also to keep the wings from moving around in transport.) Bright and early on Saturday morning we loaded the airplane onto a roll-off truck and secured it with many, many straps. We then drove the two miles to downtown Frederick. Early birds out for a morning stroll stopped to stare the sight of an airplane on a truck rolling into town. That’s something you don’t see every day, either.

Reverse the process: airplane off truck, and pushed to its spot right alongside Carroll Creek. Wing unfolding commenced, the airplane was chocked and secured with some railroad ties–no place on the concrete to secure a tiedown–and the Remos was ready to meet the public.

Carroll Creek 002And did she create a sensation? Yes she did. Several people told us they had never been this close to an airplane. Everyone wanted to climb inside, even those who commented, “It’s so small!” We had plenty of learn to fly materials and coupons for discounted introductory rides at local flight schools to pass out, and we weren’t stingy.

Thunderstorms threatened the area on Sunday afternoon, and we were forced to pack up the airplane and get her back to KFDK sooner than we’d planned. Still, we were glad to get a chance to share the fun of flying with the general public, many of who just don’t get exposed to GA very much. And folding the wings was good practice for November, because we’ll be doing it again in Long Beach, California. That’s when the airplane goes on display at AOPA Summit and the Fun to Fly Sweepstake winner is announced. And like they say, practice makes perfect…

Wing-folding 101

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Whenever we take the Fun to Fly Remos GX to a show, people are always intrigued to learn that you can fold the airplane’s wings. I always say it looks kind of like a grasshopper. “Or like a Corsair?” some people will ask. Well, not exactly, as the Corsair’s wings go up and the Remos’ wings go down and back. I saw the process back in November when AOPA’s Sweepstakes airplane was transported via flat bed truck to the Tampa Convention Center to be put on display at AOPA Summit 2009. But we haven’t folded the wings since.

In June, however, we’re taking the Fun to Fly Remos to a location in downtown Frederick that isn’t accessible by runway. So wing-folding 101 took place today. Remos demo pilot Ron Glazer stopped by to show us how it’s done.  We’ll practice some more and videotape it, and I’ll let you in on the complete procedure in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot.

It’s an airplane

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

 Much to Jill Tallman’s delight, I am now officially checked out in AOPA’s Fun to Fly Remos GX. I joke about Jill because she was getting nervous that I’ve waited so long to fly the Remos in advance of our upcoming Road and Runway Rally to Sun ‘n Fun. So, what’s the Remos like? It’s an airplane.

 Saying something so obvious may seem silly, but the point is that the LSA haters out there dismiss the light machines as toys, fat ultralights, and unrealistic as traveling airplanes and trainers. I’d be surprised if most of them have flown an LSA, more specifically a Remos, because they are fine airplanes. They are very capable in cruise, climb, takeoff and landing, fuel burn, and pretty much any other measure you can think of. Take cruise speed, for example. The Remos pretty much matches a Piper Archer. Takeoff and climb? It’s better. Fuel burn? It’s lower. So the airplane is nothing to scoff at. It does a great job.

 There are of course, some nit picky-things about it I don’t like. I have a long torso and I found the visibility out the side windows to be pretty much down only. Looking straight out does you no good because you’re looking at the wing root. The front windshield posts are also in the way. 

The Rotax is a very capable engine, but it’s different than what most of us are used to. It’s self-leaning, it starts and stops (quickly) with the key, and you have to burp the oil prior to flight. But once you get over the little stuff, the airplane is loads of fun to fly. It’s agile, responsive, and feels pretty sporty. The stick helps all that.

 But how will it endure on a long trip down the coast? I think the interior will be plenty comfortable. It’s weird you have to remove the seat to access the baggage compartment, but whatever. Other airplanes require you to climb over seats, stick your head through a small passage, et cetera. My biggest concern is my, how do you say…bottom. Man, those seats are firm. Maybe I’ll look for a cushion prior to leaving for Lakeland.

Today’s guest blogger is Ian J. Twombly, a CFII who also happens to be deputy editor of Flight Training magazine. He and Alyssa J. Miller are flying the Remos in the upcoming Fun to Fly Road and Runway Rally.–Jill Tallman

Are you ready to Rally? (Road and Runway Rally, that is!)

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Today’s entry is from guest blogger Alyssa J. Miller, a commercial- and instrument-rated pilot. Alyssa is an editor for AOPA’s electronic publications, and she’ll be one of two AOPA staff pilots who is flying the Fun to Fly Remos in our upcoming Road and Runway Rally.–Jill Tallman

Spring training: Baseball players head to the field; other athletes sweat it out in the gym; pilots take to the sky. Thankfully, I’m a pilot! To shape up for AOPA’s Road and Runway Rally, I’m looking to maximize my time in the Remos GX, which I’ll fly part of the way from Frederick, Md., to Lakeland, Fla., in April.

But all of my prep time won’t be in the air. I’m studying the Remos POH and EFIS-D100 Pilot’s User Guide so that I’ll know the aircraft like the back of my hand.

 Here are the handicaps I’ll be working to overcome over the next couple of weeks: I have two hours of flight time in the Remos, and it’s my first time flying an aircraft with a glass cockpit (yes, I’ve been reluctant to make the switch).

I’ve gone through the check out and soloed the aircraft (see “Levitating LSA”). Its stalls are very docile; it has great glide performance, and it’s fun to land at every flap setting (from zero to 40 degrees). Chandelles and lazy 8s are a blast.

 Up next in my spring training: crosswind practice and emergency procedures. What else would you include in my rally preparations?