Archive for June, 2010

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.

Finished! Two new sport pilots

Friday, June 18th, 2010

It’s been a great week for sport pilots, what with two new ones added to the fold!

First, on Monday, our very own Sgt. Michael Blair–“Bulldog,” to his Marine Corps buddies–successfully passed his SP checkride in the Fun to Fly Remos. Read Dave Hirschman’s blog about teaching Michael here. Flight Training readers got to know Michael in the May issue, and AOPA Pilot readers will see his incredible story in the August issue. You’ll also be able to view a video interview with Blair and Hirschman on AOPA Live.

And on Thursday–today!–Darren Hook of Texas passed his SP checkride. Darren, you’ll recall from this blog, had been training in an LSA and was very close to finishing up when the airplane was grounded after an accident involving another student pilot. Darren was disappointed, but not down and out. He was able to get checked out in a Breezy600L, then “met with my DPE and passed.” “I feel excited, yet spent,” Darren e-mailed me. “I am anxious to be PIC and go where I want to now.”

Darren’s 18-year-old son, who was learning to fly at the same time as his dad, has opted to wait until the damaged airplane is back on line to continue his training. Meanwhile, Darren is already thinking about starting on fulfilling the requirements for the private pilot certificate. That’ll be in October, he says.

Congratulations to Michael and Darren! If you have any sucess stories to share about your training, please let me know in the Comments section. First flight? Solo? Cross-country? First successful crosswind landing? Let’s celebrate!

The LSA arena widens

Friday, June 11th, 2010

There’s a persistent young man on the AOPA Forums named Kevin who lives in New Jersey. Kevin’s determined to get a sport pilot certificate, but the only problem–a problem he shares with a lot of wannabe pilots–is that there are no light sport aircraft at airports closer than an hour’s drive. But he doesn’t let that stop him. He’s called flight schools in his area to try to persuade them to add LSAs. People on the forums have explained to Kevin that flight schools have to weigh the cost-benefit ratio when adding an aircraft: Will they get enough hours on that LSA to pay for its upkeep and (maybe) make a profit? But Kevin hasn’t given up. And I hope he never does, because GA needs Kevins–kids who want to fly more than anything.

It’s gratifying to see more LSAs trickling into the rental fleet. Yingling Aircraft in Wichita has placed a SkyCatcher on its rental line, so expect to see more at Cessna Pilot Centers in the coming year. Piper’s PiperSport has been popping up here and there too, most recently at First Landings Aviation in Florida. (Does Florida have a monopoly on sport pilot training?) CTs, Evektors, Remos, and Tecnam can be found at more and more locations. And you can even get a seaplane rating in an LSA in South Carolina or Georgia, flying Coast Empire Flight Training’s FPNA Capetown. There are light sport options out there, and I fully anticipate there will be a lot more in the years to come.

In the meantime, the best place to check for LSA training and rental is Dan Johnson’s F.I.R.M. list on his website. F.I.R.M. stands for Flight Instruction, Rentals, and Maintenance, and this list is updated frequently.

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…