Nonpilot magnet

September 13, 2010 by Alyssa J. Miller

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.

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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.

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What’s next for Fun to Fly?

August 23, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

My time with the 2010 Fun to Fly Remos GX is winding down. AOPA Summit 2010 in Long Beach, California, will be here before we know it (November 11-13).

The little girl has been on a bit of a break since returning from AirVenture in Oshkosh. But she has a few more appearances before Summit, and if you’re in the area I hope you’ll stop by and see her.

On Sept. 11, Alyssa J. Miller (she of the Road and Runway Rally excitement) will bring 210FN to Wings Field (KLOM) in Philadelphia, for the Angel Flight East Wings ‘n’ Wheels Fly-In. This is your chance to ask Alyssa how a smart car handles on a race track, among other things.

Next stop is the Midwest LSA Show in Mount Vernon, Ill., Sept. 23-25. I’m bringing 210FN to Mount Vernon for this one. Look for us next to SeaRey directly next to the Aviators Hotline Exhibitor Hall. This should be a great show if the weather cooperates (and isn’t that the case with anything aviation-related?). The LSA manufacturers you’ve been reading about are bringing their airplanes for you to check out. See the exhibitor map on the site for the complete list, but I’ll drop a few names here: American Legend, Gobosh, Piper, Remos, and Vans. Chris Collins, one of the driving forces of the show, is an incredibly enthusiastic participant in the light sport arena, and I’m anxious to see what this show brings to the table.

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Countdown to AirVenture

July 19, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

Are you heading to AirVenture next week? I hope so, because we’ll have the Fun to Fly Remos on display, and I’d love to meet you. Dave Hirschman is flying our bird out to Wisconsin later this week, and all I know about his route is that it will somehow involve Chicago.

We’ll have the airplane cleaned up and ready for you in front of AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent, so please make us a part of your AirVenture plans and see the airplane for yourself. I’ll be on the grounds starting Wednesday, July 28, with Remos duty scheduled for that afternoon. Going forward, I won’t be far from the airplane most days. Hope to see you there!

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3-2-1: Break

July 1, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

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.

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Hot fun in the summertime

June 28, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

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.

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It’s a convertible

June 22, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

“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.

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Finished! Two new sport pilots

June 18, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

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!

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The LSA arena widens

June 11, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

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.

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

June 7, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

“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…

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Flight planning made easy(er)

May 26, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman

If you have not tried out AOPA’s newly revamped airport directory (aka AOPA Airports), please do so right now. Well, as soon as possible. Because if you don’t, you’re missing out on a great flight-planning tool.

Readers of this blog (all four of you) know I generally use this space to talk about the Fun to Fly Remos. And I will, in a minute. Anyway, the new AOPA Airports is extremely user-friendly. For starters, you don’t have to be logged in to AOPA Online to use it–meaning you don’t have to remember your login and password while you’re away from your regular computer (although you must be logged in to designate favorite airports).

Second, if you’re a visual person like I am, you can’t have too many pictures to help you process information. AOPA Airports does that, giving me not only taxiway diagrams and runway layouts, but also satellite images and sectional snippets.

Third, there’s the awesome weather functionality. I hadn’t really played around with AOPA Airports until a few weeks ago. The Remos needed to come back from Lancaster Airport (KLNS), where she had gone for an oil change and some new tires. She needed to get back to KFDK in time for May 15, the International Learn to Fly Day. A warm front was stalled over the entire area, bringing showers and low ceilings, and the window of opportunity to bring her back was beginning to shrink. (Remember, the Remos is a VFR aircraft. We could get in to LNS via any number of IFR-certified airplanes, but the Remos and I might not get back out.)

The weather improved slightly–but not to my VFR minimums. I started the ritual of checking weather at departure, en route, and destination airports to see if the forecasts were going to hold up and things were indeed getting better. Clicking back and forth between FDK, LNS, Carroll County Regional (KDMW), York (KTHV), and LNS, I got METARs and TAFs for all of those airports, updated continually. Plus, each METAR is tagged to indicate whether the field in question is VFR, MVFR, IFR, or LIFR. And, wind speeds are given numerically and with a little red tetrahedron that shows the direction (more visual stuff!).

Backing up all of this with a telephone weather briefing, Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and I were able to get the Remos back to FDK without a hitch. So, what are you waiting for? Take it for a drive, and tell me what you think in the Comments section below.

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