Archive for April, 2010

Team Wilbur gets the scenic view

Monday, April 12th, 2010
Steve Chupnick (left) and Ian Twombly at the Wright memorial at First Flight.

Steve Chupnick (left) and Ian Twombly at the Wright memorial at First Flight.

Wow, did we have a full day Sunday. Steve and I departed Williamsburg at around 10:30 in the morning and headed south. It was past Norfolk, the shipyards, then down the Outer Banks. If you’ve never been exposed to general aviation, as Steve hasn’t, a flight like this can really blow your mind. And I think for him it did. We flew right off the coast and watched dolphins play in the water as people enjoyed the nice morning on the beach.

Our first stop was KFFA, First Flight Airport at Kitty Hawk. I find Kitty Hawk to be an interesting place. It’s not the most impressive aviation museum or experience, but there’s no question you get a feeling like you’re on holy ground as you walk around. Seeing the markers of the first day’s four flights is incredible (Wilbur went the farthest by about 600 feet, by the way. Go Team Wilbur!). And just the mere fact that we’re able to land an airplane at this place little more than 100 years later with the knowledge of all the incredible advances we’ve made in that time is really inspiring.
After KFFA we headed south for Wilmington, N.C., again down the coast. More dolphins, lighthouses, and sunbathers took us straight into Wilmington International, where Airport Support Network Volunteer Ralph Fox greeted us, and guided us into town for a slice of pizza.
The leg from Wilmington to Dillon, S.C., was going to be the shortest of the trip for us, so I took the opportunity to try and show Steve a flight he’d never forget. We took the doors off and headed west. Our course was directly into the sun (good thing we had our Scheyden sunglasses, which have been incredible). The air was still, the sun was setting, and we were flying 2,500 feet with the doors off. It’s one of those times you thank God you’re a pilot.
Those are the short details of the day. I’ll write a separate entry to try and really give you a flavor for how things are going. Today, however, it’s in the Smartcar for Steve and me, and we have some fun adventures planned along the way.
Guest blogger Ian J. Twombly and Steve Chupnick are Team Wilbur, heading to Florida in AOPA’s Road and Runway Rally.—Jill W. Tallman

Team Orville rocks first leg; two thumbs up for Williamsburg

Sunday, April 11th, 2010


AOPA member Victor Maggio and his son Gavin check out the SMART car.
AOPA member Victor Maggio and his son Gavin check out the SMART car.

Starting out hoping for second place isn’t all that motivating, but that’s what I was thinking Saturday morning when the Road and Runway Rally kicked off with me and Jason Paur in the Smart car and Ian Twombly and Steve Chupnick in the Remos. Let’s face it, the car-any car-didn’t stand a chance against the aircraft (we had beautiful weather, so that wouldn’t hold back the Remos). Our leg for the day was from Frederick, Md., to Williamsburg, Va. Take any combination of car or airplane, and I’d say 99 times out of 100, the airplane is going to win, if for no other reason than it can go in a straight line and doesn’t have any traffic (forget about weather for a minute.

But some unforeseen circumstances delayed Team Wilbur (Ian and Steve), giving me and Jason a glimmer of hope. Sure enough, we made it to Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport first (even with stops at two museums!). So when we arrived at the airport, we had the chance to show off the car. AOPA member Victor Maggio and his two sons, 3 ½ year-old Gavin and 1 ½ year-old Garret, couldn’t wait to check out the car. While Gavin and Victor climbed in the car to play with the steering wheel and seats, Garret sat contently gazing at the aircraft parked on the ramp. Victor, who flies a Citation X for NetJets, compared the size of the inside of the two-seat car to the cockpit of the Citation X.

The first question Victor and other curious onlookers ask is: How does it feel to drive such a small car? Honestly, when you are in it, you don’t feel like you are driving a small car. Jason and I have plenty of elbow- and leg room (I’m 5’6″ and he’s at least 6′ tall). Although it takes a little while to get used to the way the car shifts gears, it can easily go 70 mph. I could definitely feel wind gusts, and it’s a little unnerving when passing (or being passed by) a tractor trailer. The car sits so that the driver is about eye-level with the bottom of the trailer.

Airport owner Larry Waltrip (yes, he said he is distantly related to the racecar driver) took the car for a spin, testing its turning radius and handling characteristics. Soon after the test drive, though, talk quickly returned to the aviation world, and food. Charlie’s Restaurant on the field has been rated the No. 1 and No. 2 $100 hamburger stop on the East Coast, according to Larry. We had to take a rain check on Charlie’s this time because the Wedmore Place, a European country hotel at the Williamsburg Winery where we were staying the night, was hosting us for dinner.

The winery is just a short distance from the airport, where visitor can take tours, enjoy wine tasting, or stay the night in luxury rooms-each inspired by a different location in Europe. The hospitality and friendliness of the staff is unparalleled (thank you for donating the rooms for the night!).

Whether you’re flying or driving along the East Coast and I-95, I highly recommend a stop at Williamsburg–the location is perfect from the highway or airport, and it offers something for the whole family. If you’re up for a little competition on your next trip, why not set up your own rally between two cars, two airplanes, or cars and aircraft? The thrill of the rally is half the fun!

Guest blogger Alyssa J. Miller and Jason Paur are heading out on the second leg of the AOPA Fun to Fly Road and Runway Rally.–Jill W. Tallman

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