Events Archive

Team Wilbur’s bumpy start

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

DSC00019I should have known better. The local reporter in Frederick asks which vehicle’s going to win the race and I made some joke about it not even being a race. “We’re in an airplane. It won’t even be close,” I said. Fifteen minutes later we were searching for a replacement tire for the one that blew while we were taxiing out. And being an LSA, this was no ordinary tire. About 20 phone calls later and John Rathmell, a Remos Demo Team pilot based at Lancaster, Va., secured us tires and tubes and even flew them halfway to us.

We had two new tires on (might as well do both) about 70 minutes later and we were off for Williamsburg. Ultimately I was glad we waited. The flight was beautiful–a great introduction to aviation for Motorweek’s Steve Chupnick.

Ninety minutes later we were in Williamsburg, and believe it or not, so were about a dozen folks who had waited all day for our arrival. It was a pleasant surprise.

We’ll have better travels Sunday on our way to Wilmington, N.C. And who knows, maybe we’ll even make an unscheduled stop or two on the way.

Guest blogger Ian J. Twombly and Motor Week’s Steve Chupnick are Team Wilbur in the AOPA Fun to Fly Road and Runway Rally, traveling to Florida for Sun ‘n Fun.–Jill W. Tallman

Inspiring pilots from the ground

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Jason and Alyssa in front of the Enterprise


Jason and Alyssa in front of the Enterprise

Alyssa and Jason check out the Cessna at Udvar-Hazy

Alyssa and Jason check out the Cessna at Udvar-Hazy

The SMART car is reflected in the fender of a vintage Chevrolet

The SMART car is reflected in the fender of a vintage Chevrolet

Team Orville partner Jason Paur and I might have had the first leg of the Road and Runway Rally on the ground in the SMART car, but you just can’t take aviation out of two pilots. We only made it one hour into the road trip before making a pit stop–to look at world-famous aircraft, no less. We pulled into the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space annex at Washington Dulles International Airport. Our immediate attraction? The spaceship Enterprise. Then we ogled over the SR-71, Hiller hclicopter, Corsair, Concorde, and other aircraft that hold important spots in aviation history.

But what stuck out the most was a kid’s display. A Cessna welcomed the curious to climb inside, play with the controls, and get a feel of what it’s like to be a pilot. Foam bumpers lined the ailerons and flaps so no one would bump their head. A simple sign explained pitch, roll, and yaw. And I realized: That’s all it takes. Sometimes we think of elaborate plans to excite children and nonpilots to check out the GA community. I know I always try to take people up for a first flight on the clearest day over the most breathtaking scenery. But really, an open airplane in a hangar with a little one-on-one time can do wonders. The flight time is great, but maybe we need to start on the ground. I think the Udvar-Hazy museum has it right, and we could all take some cues from this simple setup.

After an hour or so of running around the museum, Jason and I headed south again–but only for about 30 minutes. We just couldn’t resist the Marine Museum at Quantico. I anticipated gettimng up close with some military aircraft on display, but instead I was surprised by a line of vintage Chevrolets, including a 1953 and a 1955. As luck would have it, one parking spot was open beside the line of cars, just begging for the SMART car to pull in.

With two amazing stops behind us and a few hours of driving on I-95 ahead, I wondered what the rest of today’s leg would entail. We were low on time, so a straight shot to Williamsburg, Va., stared us straight in the face. Surprisingly, the drive went pretty quickly. Turns out two journalist/pilots have an infinite amount of stories to swap.

Guest blogger Alyssa J. Miller and’s Jason Paur are headed to Florida in AOPA’s Fun to Fly Road and Runway Challenge.–Jill W. Tallman

Inside an AOPA photo shoot

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

We might be divided into Team Orville and Team Wilbur for the Road and Runway Rally, but Ian Twombly and I paired up this week to fly the Remos for a photo shoot to promote the event.

We flew from AOPA headquarters in Frederick to nearby Hagerstown, Md. where the air traffic controller had agreed to let us do low passes and drive the Smart car on the runway for a photo shoot.

After flying in, we parted ways. Ian stayed in the Remos and I hopped in the Smart car so that AOPA photographer Chris Rose could video and photograph a high-speed taxi in the Remos, a low pass over the Smart car, and the Smart car’s handling characteristics.

We’ll give you a peek at the video in ePilot this week, but for now, take a look out our prize shot from the photo shoot!

Road + Runway Rally photo shoot

Road + Runway Rally photo shoot

Guest blogger Alyssa J. Miller, a commercial- and instrument-rated pilot, is one-half of Team Orville in the upcoming Fun to Fly Road and Runway Rally.–Jill W. Tallman

2 strangers, 4 days, 2 small vehicles

Monday, April 5th, 2010
Should Team Orville stop here?

Should Team Orville stop here?

When I signed up for AOPA’s Road and Runway Rally, I was hooked by one key fact: I would get to fly a Remos GX halfway from Maryland to Florida. But, there are some points that I didn’t consider: Driving the other half (two long days) in a SMART car, and spending all four days with a stranger. In some ways, that might be more challenging than the flight! 

I’ve already started racking up time in both vehicles. So far, the Remos and SMART car have one thing in common—they are surprisingly roomy on the inside, which is a good thing (remember, four days with a stranger).

 The guest on my team (Team Orville), Jason Paur, a correspondent for, will arrive at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Md., just a couple of days before the rally begins. But he won’t remain a stranger for long…we’ll have two days to bond in the SMART car while driving from Frederick to Dillon, S.C., on the first two legs of the rally. Let’s just hope we don’t want to kill each other before it’s our turn to fly the Remos!

 So, if you were stuck in a SMART car for two days with a stranger, how would you pass the time? For those of you familiar with I-95, what stops do you recommend between Maryland and South Carolina?

 Guest blogger Alyssa J. Miller, a commercial-  and instrument-rated pilot, is one-half of Team Orville in the upcoming Fun to Fly Road and Runway Rally.–Jill W. Tallman 

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

Name game: Pick the names for AOPA’s Rally teams

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

We’ve picked the two teams, each with a pilot and a driver, that will dash from Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Md., to Sun ’n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., in AOPA’s Road and Runway Rally. Now we need to name those teams, and we need your help!

AOPA Director of eMedia Alyssa J. Miller and Correspondent Jason Paur will team up against Flight Training Deputy Editor Ian J. Twombly and Motor Week Associate Producer Steven Chupnick. One team will fly AOPA’s Fun to Fly Remos, and one will drive a sporty Mercedes-Benz SMART car—and the teams will switch midway.

But we can’t send them on their way April 10 until we have a name for each team. Tell us your ideas!

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?

More LSA fun in the Midwest

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

If you didn’t make it to Sebring, Florida, last week for the US Sport Expo, fear not: More LSA fun can be had in September. Simply point your airplane or car toward Southern Illinois. The Midwest LSA Expo will be held Sept. 23-25 at Mount Vernon Outland Airport (KMVN).

Airport Director Chris Collins came up to the 2010 Fun to Fly display at Sebring, and he told me plans are under way to make the Midwest event bigger and better than last year’s, which was the inaugural expo. Chris brims with enthusiasm when he talks about the expo, which, he admitted, had somewhat spotty attendance last year because of rain. But organizers got a lot of support from the community and those who did make it in were well pleased with the variety of LSAs on display. He says organizers are trying to meet everyone’s needs, from scheduling evening activities like movie screenings to making sure there are prompt shuttle buses from KMVN to the hotels that are located a few miles from the airport. Find out more at the Web site, or call 618-242-7016. For lodging information, call 800-252-5464.