You’ll be pleased to know that your 2012 AOPA Sweepstakes “Tougher Than A Tornado” Husky breezed through its first annual inspection this month.
The bill for new parts came to just $20, and most of that was a replacement air filter.
The fact that the airplane is in top mechanical condition shouldn’t come as a surprise since it’s just one year old and has only 130 hours on the Hobbs meter.
Kevin Holloway, an A&P mechanic and commercial pilot, performed the inspection at Landmark Aviation in Frederick, Maryland, and stood behind his work by flying in the airplane aferward. Holloway, a Cessna 140 owner, came away from his first Husky flight impressed with the design, build quality, and performance of the rugged aircraft.
“I enjoyed working on the Tornado Husky because it’s very well thought-out, and it’s built with maintenance considerations in mind,” he said. “A lot of airplanes aren’t built to be worked on, but this one really is.”
Holloway tightened the aileron cables, rerouted some air ducts to avoid chafing, tightened rocker covers and generally provided as much TLC and preventive maintenance as possible. A “cold” engine compression check showed all four cylinders on the Lycoming O-360 held 76/80 psi or above.
“It looks as good on the inside as it does on the outside,” Holloway said. “And it flies as good as it looks.”
You’ll be pleased to know that your 2012 AOPA Sweepstakes “Tougher Than A Tornado” Husky breezed through its first annual inspection this month.
The Tornado has a factory installed float kit that makes it relatively easy for the AOPA 2012 Sweepstakes winner to install straight or amphibious floats.
To get an idea of the adventures open to the pilot of float-equipped Husky — and learn what it takes to qualify for a seaplane rating — I recently went to Ryan Aviation at Flagler County Airport in central Florida for two exciting, strenuous, and thoroughly enjoyable days of training with CFI Dan Nichols and DPE Tripp Wacker.
Now I understand why seaplane pilots so love their unique combination of the nautical and aeronautical.
The Tornado Husky winner will be getting a fine airplane that, with a couple of high-tech floats, also can be a world-class seaplane.
Stay tuned to AOPA Pilot for more detailed stories and videos.
The date for this often-postponed flight to spread my stepfather’s ashes above the Statue of Liberty was finally set for Sunday, Nov. 6. — but that morning, as every time before — brought a complication.
Previous trips had been scrubbed for weather, TFRs, and so many seemingly pre-ordained last-minute glitches that I was beginning to question whether it would ever take place.
But this time, the forecast was perfect with a golden fall day and sunshine throughout the region; no TFRs, the AOPA’s 2012 Sweepstakes “Tougher Than a Tornado” Husky ready to go; and my mom, Wilma Melville, on a visit from her home in California, and willing to make the actual drop from the Husky’s back seat.
The problem was me.
A stubborn head cold had kept my ears plugged for several days, and no amount of chicken soup, hot tea, orange juice or nasal spray seemed to make any difference. The night before, grasping at straws, I had come up with what I hoped was a reasonable compromise: A much shorter flight to Annapolis, Maryland, where we could spread the ashes over the Chesapeake Bay near the U.S. Naval Academy. My stepfather, John Melville, was a Navy veteran of World War II and took great pride in his wartime service. Was that good enough?
Early Sunday morning, I ran the idea by my wife, Martha, and she wisely rejected it out of hand.
“Look, John was a New Yorker,” she said. “He grew up on the east side. He went to Columbia. He ran the New York Marathon. It’s got to be the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor or nothing. Nowhere else has that kind of connection to him and his life.”
She didn’t say it, but other questions (to which the answers were plainly obvious) also sprang to mind: Would your stepfather have made an extra effort for you? Would he have been willing to tolerate some physical discomfort on your behalf? And haven’t you learned from him, by now, to do things right or not at all?
I took a double dose of Afrin and waited for my mom, who was still on Pacific Time, to wake up. The Tornado Husky could fly the entire route below 2,500 feet msl, so the relatively low altitudes would make flying tolerable, even for my plugged ears.
Mom met the rest of us in the kitchen at 8 a.m. wearing jeans and a warm jacket.
She’s 78 years old, about five feet tall, pragmatic, unsentimental, and an absolute force of nature. She’s a planner, and although she realizes that plans must sometimes change, she doesn’t bend easily.
“So, are we going to do this thing or not?” she asked in her customary, no-nonsense way. “If we’re going to go, we should go soon so it doesn’t eat up the entire day.”
I told her to collect her things, then slipped a small wooden box that contained the ashes of her husband of 33 years into my flight gear.
On the short drive to Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), I called flight service to confirm no TFRs had popped up. None had.
Mom, an instrument-rated private pilot, wanted to discuss the logistics of the ash drop. What were our airspeed and altitude going to be? How did the Tornado Husky’s window open and close? And how could she make sure the ashes got out without giving her a face full of dust?
These were just the sort of practical matters that my stepfather, an aeronautical engineer with a cutting sense of humor, would have loved. When my brothers and I were kids, he came back from a tough day of work at a California defense contractor and asked me to pour him a frosty glass of beer.
Evidently, John and his coworkers had been trying for months to perfect a fighter weapons delivery system and, after many failed attempts, finally got it right on the test range. The pilot of the test aircraft was so elated he spontaneously performed a “victory roll” at low altitude, misjudged, and plunged into the ground in a fatal fireball.
“All that data is gone,” John, a lapsed Catholic, moaned in disbelief. “I’d like to propose a toast to the patron saint of lost data, for Chrissakes.”
My mom was a divorced public school physical education teacher with four young sons when she and John met in the early 1970s.
My brothers and I were unanimous in our dislike for him at first. Part of the rejection was loyalty to our “real” dad. The rest was made easy by the fact John was strict, sarcastic, and had a ridiculous New York accent. But his love for our mom was total, and that – over time – outweighed our own misgivings.
Mom was already a private pilot when they met, and she and John built a Rutan-designed VariEze together in the late 1970s. Later, they had a partnership in a Bonanza. She flew and he did the navigation and maintenance, and he was always amused that the vast majority of the people they met assumed he was the pilot.
A child of the Great Depression, John never had the luxury of indulging in athletics during his youth. But when he retired, he pursued endurance sports with astonishing results. He completed his first Ironman triathlon at age 65 and his last in Kona, Hawaii, at age 74. He also set age group records in distance swimming and the 50-mile run. While other athletes monitored their diets closely, he munched Twinkies and Oreos and drank beer.
He was totally supportive of his stepsons’ flying ambitions, and was never more proud than the day he pinned on my younger brother Harry’s Navy wings.
John died of cancer nine years ago at 82, and family members were all given decorative boxes containing some of his ashes. I had kept mine in an out-of-the-way dresser drawer ever since. I took the box on several flying trips thinking that I’d drop the contents over the Statue of Liberty, but fate always conspired to prevent it – until now.
A thankless job
Mom strapped into the back seat of the Tornado Husky, propped up on an extra cushion, and I handed her a Garmin GPSMAP 696 on a kneeboard to keep her busy during the 90-minute flight to New York City.
She stowed the box of ashes within easy reach in the front seatback. “Sometimes you want to hold onto them and sometimes you want to let them go,” she said a few minutes after we took off. “Personally, I wanted them gone a long time ago. I spread them in the garden at home.”
Another brother distributed his share in Hawaii, site of John’s Ironman struggles and triumphs. Between New York, California, and Hawaii, the key places in his life would all be represented.
Mom had the New York Terminal Area Chart spread out on her lap as we approached the city’s towering skyline. I had been concerned that air traffic on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon would be high, but it turned out to be quite manageable.
We flew north over the VZ bridge, USS Intrepid, and other landmarks, all the way to the George Washington Bridge before making a 180-degree turn to the south.
“The Freedom Tower looks incredible,” my mom said as we went by with the upper floors still under construction above us. “John would really like seeing that, although he’d wonder why the hell it’s taken so long.”
On our way south, we overflew Ellis Island, the place where John’s ancestors (as well as ours), first landed in the United States. At 1,000 feet over the Statue of Liberty, a cool, swirling wind indicated Mom had slid the Tornado Husky’s left side window open. A moment later, we both said a silent prayer as she released the ashes.
As the ashes fanned out in the slipstream and dropped to the surface of the bustling, windswept harbor, I imagine that John would have been touched by our gesture. Perhaps it was his Irish ancestry that gave him a lifelong soft spot for ceremony and remembrance. And the combination of freedom and flying that the Statue of Liberty and the Tornado Husky represent would have been irresistible to him.
Being a stepdad is surely one of the most difficult and thankless jobs ever invented. My brothers and I did our best to make sure John’s assignment was as complicated and strenuous as possible.
It had taken a needlessly long time for me to deliver his ashes to this place where they belong. But I suspect that he’d agree that, finally, Mom and I had done it right. Like the rising tower at Ground Zero, the result, we hope, was worth the wait.
When we landed back in Maryland and pushed the Tornado Husky back in its hangar, I hugged Mom and thanked her for participating in this special delivery. What a lucky coincidence that she had been in Maryland visiting her grandkids when all the variables finally came together.
She smiled wryly and told me it hadn’t been a coincidence at all. Planning made it happen.
It turns out Ms. Pragmatism had traveled all the way across the country for the sole purpose of taking part in this final salute. She would fly home on an airliner the very next day.
“You know, I came for this,” she said. “Visiting you and your family is a bonus – but I actually came here for this.”
The Boss comes along . . .
By Dave Hirschman
Of all the places the AOPA 2012 Sweepstakes “Tougher Than A Tornado” Husky was scheduled to travel, I anticipated that our planned autumn flight to Maine would be the highlight.
The natural splendor of fall in New England, and the rugged Maine coast, would make dramatic backdrops for aerial photography. And backcountry airstrips, camping, eating lobster, and visiting an aviation mentor—Steve Collins of Biplanes Over Acadia—had me looking forward to these four days in October months in advance.
But as the time approached, two complications made the trip uncertain.
First, high winds and rain blew into the East Coast with a low pressure system centered on New England. That was a regrettable but straightforward fact of life for any pilot of a VFR airplane. I consulted with the other members of our AOPA team—photographer Chris Rose, videographer Bob Knill, and pilot Mark Evans—and we thought it wise to postpone our departure by one day. The forecast showed sunny skies for several days after the fast-moving front went by, so we took the delay in stride.
The second complication was more nerve wracking. AOPA President and CEO Craig Fuller, owner of a recently acquired 1998 Husky A-1A, also planned to come along on the trip in his own airplane. None of us other than Evans had ever traveled with The Boss before.
I’d coached him through his tailwheel endorsement, and I knew he was looking forward to taking his airplane on their first long road trip together. But was this the right one?
AOPA photo missions require getting up before dawn to be airborne at first light; going to remote locations; being in close proximity to other airplanes in flight; and sometimes staying airborne well after sunset for optimum light angles. On this trip, it would also mean camping at a grass strip and sleeping under the wings of our airplanes on nights when the temperatures were forecast to be at or below freezing.
All these aspects are part of the attraction for those of us who absolutely live for such assignments. But not everyone would regard what we do as the best way to spend a three-day weekend. And for Fuller, a former high-level White House staffer and corporate executive, such a trip would be a total departure from his normal routine.
The Boss assured us he was game, however, and asked for no special treatment. He wanted to get to know his airplane in the conditions for which it was built, and he genuinely looked forward to the flying challenges that awaited us.
We left our home base in Frederick, Maryland, as a flight of three airplanes. I led with Rose in the Tornado Husky, Evans and Knill followed in a PA-28 Archer that also carried extra photo and video gear, and Fuller flew solo in his Husky. We stayed in a loose, cross-country formation a few hundred feet apart all the way to New York City. There, we spread out about one mile in trail, descended to 1,100 feet, and slid through the Hudson River Corridor northbound by the Statue of Liberty, USS Intrepid, George Washington Bridge and other Big Apple landmarks. The skies were clear but bumpy as a west wind was blowing about 15 knots on the surface.
Once clear of the corridor, we made a right turn and landed at Hartford-Brainard Airport (KHFD), site of last month’s AOPA Summit. METARs showed light winds aligned with the runway all morning, but shortly before we arrived they were gusting to 16 knots and variable in direction: a real challenge for Huskies with a maximum demonstrated crosswind capability of 15 knots.
Once on the ground at Hartford, we refueled and resumed our trip north as a flight of three. There was no weather reporting at our destination, Old Acton Airfield (02ME) in southern Maine, but nearby airports, and smokestacks and lakes along the route, showed a gusty west wind and the turbulence at 3,500 feet was light but continuous.
I had never been to Old Acton, a private strip owned by John and Ann Marie Nadeau of the Recreational Aviation Foundation, but I knew it was plenty long enough for our airplanes. What I didn’t realize until seeing it, however, is that that the approach requires descending through a notch in tall trees, and the turf strip is quite narrow with a hangar on one side and a rock quarry on the other.
There were strong downdrafts approaching the field, but the wind was mostly calm below the tops of the 60-foot trees. We all made it in safely, and I breathed a sigh of relief that the first transportation portion of the trip had gone well. Now, it was time to get to work.
We set up camp, and I dove into my sleeping bag early that night in preparation for a big day of flying along the Maine coast beginning the next morning. The stars were out in vast numbers, and that—plus a favorable weather forecast—convinced me that we’d have great photo light at dawn.
I felt cheated when I crawled out of the tent at dawn to see solid overcast and slate gray clouds blanketing the sky. The ceiling was high and the visibility excellent, but the conditions were atrocious for aerial photography.
Rose and Knill made lots of ground photos of frosty airplanes and coffee brewing over the campfire. But there was no point in launching early. We finally took off just after 8 a.m. and flew to Wiscasset (KIWI), a jewel of a GA airport on the Maine Coast. There, we met Lisa Reece, president of the Maine Aeronautical Association, and went out with a group of local pilots to a hearty breakfast. Afterward, we flew north along Maine’s incomparable coastline to Bar Harbor Airport (KBHB). There, we met Collins, owner of a wildly successful rides business, and a man who had provided me with the best weekend job in Atlanta, Georgia, during the years I was there, flying a North American A/T-6, Stearman PT-17, and Waco YMF-5. Collins and local Maine pilot Mike Allen showed us their fleet of Wacos, a glider, and a Cessna 182 that they use to introduce hundreds of people each year to GA in a classy, exciting, and positive way.
On the flight back to southern Maine, we saw a few breaks in the clouds producing shafts of golden light off the coast. We chased some, but the mirages seemed to close just prior to our arrival each time. Aerial photography is awfully fickle, and so many variables have to align for everything to work right. All the ingredients were there for us, except good light.
We built a roaring campfire that night, and shared hamburgers and stories with the Nadeaus and fellow aviators Bob Burley and Andy Rowe. But although the forecast for the next day was favorable, no stars were visible when I zipped up my sleeping bag and shut my eyes for the night.
We awoke to a pastel red sunrise and still air, and it was obvious that this was our big chance for the kinds of aerial photos we had hoped for.
We scraped the frost off aircraft windshields, wings, and control surfaces, and Rose and Evans bundled up in their warmest clothes. They would be flying in the doorless photo airplane with a biting wind swirling through it.
Fuller and I cranked the Huskies and allowed plenty of idling time for the oil to warm up. But I was desperate to get in the air so as not to miss the perfect but fleeting conditions. Fuller took off first, and his airplane leapt skyward in the cold, dry, dense morning air. I followed and could hardly believe our good fortune.
A golden carpet of autumn leaves seemed to stretch for miles in all directions, and white sinews of fog spread out in the river valleys. As soon as the photo airplane was airborne, I tucked in next to it and we headed for the nearby lakes. The hardest part was picking out where to go because the photo possibilities in all directions looked terrific.
Fuller and I took turns flying next to the photo bird, and at times we flew the two Huskies together for Rose’s camera.
Conditions couldn’t have been any better, the airplanes performed flawlessly. Each participant applied himself with energy and purpose.
In less than an hour of flying, we were done.
Fuller, with an engagement in the Washington, D.C., area that afternoon, flew straight home by himself with a stop at Dutchess County Airport (KPOU) in New York. The rest of us returned to Old Acton Airfield to break camp, load our gear, and say goodbye to our hosts.
It had been a shorter trip than we had anticipated, but a thoroughly successful one.
We made new friends, collected some spectacular aerial images that are likely to pop up in AOPA publications for many months to come, and safeguarded the Tornado Husky for its eventual winner.
Along the way, Fuller logged some quality tailwheel time in quite demanding conditions. And unlike the rest of us, he never complained about the early launches, bad coffee, or brisk temperatures.
Hopefully, we’ll all be seeing him on more Husky trips in the future …
The old saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover is especially true for pilots – and prospective pilots.
Some who seem shy and retiring are tigers in the air, while others who are bold and brash on the ground are timid and meek above it.
When U.S. Marine Sgt. (retired) Adam Kisielewski came by AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, on Oct. 5 for a flight in the AOPA 2012 Sweepstakes “Tougher Than A Tornado” Husky, I tried to keep an open mind about what to expect on our upcoming flight.
It turns out that Kisielewski, 28, has been through many trials in his young life. In 2005, he was entering a building in Fallujah, Iraq, where he was blasted by a powerful explosive that tore off his left arm and severed his right leg.
Last year, I was privileged to have been among the AOPA staff members who had helped train another wounded warrior, U.S. Marine Sgt. Michael Blair, to become a sport pilot. So Charles Stites, founder of Able Flight, a North Carolina charity that helps the disabled become sport pilots, asked me to fly with Kisielweski – a candidate for an Able Flight scholarship – and share my impressions.
Stites informed me that Kisielewski is an avid motorcyclist, and that got my attention. I once worked for agricultural flying service whose owner who was convinced that riding a motorcycle and flying an airplane drew on the same brain power (or lack of it) – and anyone good at one of those activities would instinctively do just fine at the other. Kisielewski has no ambitions of being a cropduster, but it made me feel good about his chances for becoming a sport pilot.
Then Kisielewski showed up at AOPA driving a new Dodge Charger. I’m not impressed by muscle cars, but this one told me the guy likes powerful, fast machines, and is comfortable operating them. And he was right on time, which showed me he was considerate, and eager to fly.
He moved so well and strode so confidently that I wouldn’t have guessed he wore a prosthetic on his right leg. (His leg amputation is below the knee.) But there was no getting around the fact that his left arm was missing at the shoulder.
“This isn’t a formal evaluation,” Stites told both of us. “There aren’t any grades, or a pass/fail. I just want you to get in the airplane, see what the experience of flying it is like, and find out what kind of strategy will best help you accomplish your goals.”
Kisielewski nodded, and said he was ready to get started immediately.
The day was sunny and clear but breezy with a gusty 15 knots out of the northwest. Our flight was sure to be bumpy, and a good measure of Kisielewski’s desire to fly and comfort in the air.
He had flown in a variety of military aircraft, and he’d sat up front in several general aviation airplanes, but he hadn’t had any ground school or formal flight instruction. I asked him whether he had flown in many Marine helicopters or V-22 tilt-rotors, and he answered that he was primarily a “boat Marine,” and had spent much of his time on ships, as well as nearby Camp David providing security for President George W. Bush.
I introduced him to the Husky and the rugged backcountry aircraft and oversized Tundra tires appealed to him right away.
The Husky is an especially difficult airplane to climb in and out of. It stands high on its 29-inch tires, and boarding it requires lifting yourself on the steel tube frame and pulling your legs to your chest to get them through the clamshell door and over the stick. I use two hands, but Kisielweski, by necessity, managed easily with one. He was in the process of fastening the five-point seatbelt harness one-handed when I reached in to help and inadvertently knocked one of the lap belts to the floor.
Kisielewski had to release all the belts, shift in the seat, and reach around his body with his right hand to retrieve the fallen belt on the left side of the cockpit.
“They can be a bit tricky and easy to drop,” I said.
“Yes, but you’re the one who dropped it, sir,” he pointed out, chuckling. “We’re all about accountability, right?”
I climbed into the back seat, and Kisielewski closed the door and window and turned the key to start the airplane. As we taxied, I asked him to make almost constant S-turns on the ramp to clear the way ahead and, predictably, his left turns were fine but his right turns, using the artificial leg where he had no sensation, weren’t. His left ankle flexed and he could apply the left brake – but not the right.
He pointed out the shortcoming matter-of-factly and proposed a solution.
“It’ll be easy to modify the prosthetic so that I can apply the right brake,” he said. “It’s a simple mechanical fix.”
After engine run-up, he aligned the airplane with Runway 30, and I advanced the power and performed the takeoff. Once airborne, I handed over the stick and rudder and told him to keep his eyes outside. Despite the bumpy air, he did just fine, turned crosswind, downwind, and out of the pattern to the northeast.
“There’s a cement plant with a group of tall buildings 10 miles to the northeast,” I said. “Level off at this altitude and let me know when you see it. Then take us there.”
“I see it now at our 11 o’clock,” he answered, making a slight left turn to put us directly on course.
There was obviously nothing wrong with his vision, and he seemed relaxed while keeping his eyes outside the airplane, just as I had asked. Kisielewsi mentioned that he had recently moved with his wife and 2-year-old child to Libertytown, a small community nearby. I asked him to find and overfly his home.
“Well, there’s Highway 26,” he said, making a slight right turn. “There’s the subdivision, and my house is behind those trees. You’ll be able to see it in just a minute.”
He overflew his home, circled to the left, and looked down on it.
“Is yours the one with the American flag out front?” I asked. The flag was attached to a thick, stand-alone pole in the center of what appeared a recently poured circle of concrete.
We had been flying less than 20 minutes, but I had seen all I needed to see.
“Take us back to the airport,” I said without providing a direction to steer. “Overfly it at our current altitude, and I’ll take over when we pass overhead.”
He turned toward the airport, and when we were directly above it, I handled the controls but asked him to leave his hand on the stick and feet on the pedals as we landed. Then he taxied back to the hangar and shut the engine down.
Kisielewski is vice president of Operation Second Chance, a non-profit that helps wounded combat veterans and their families – a job that keeps him extraordinarily busy. He’s also a husband and father.
It hasn’t been determined whether he’ll receive an Able Flight scholarship, or if he does, whether he’ll have time to pursue full-time flight training. But I have no doubt that he’ll succeed if he does dedicate himself to it, and I’m certain that he can contribute greatly to the strength of our flying community.
I told him what a privilege it was to meet with him and fly with him, and I thanked him for his incalculable sacrifices. He said he appreciates the gratitude, but it really isn’t necessary.
“Believe me when I say that I’m the lucky one,” he said. “I had one bad day, but the truth is I’ve received much more from my country than I’ve given.”
I once heard a veteran FAA examiner claim that he could tell the outcome of any checkride by the time a candidate starts the airplane and taxies to the runway for departure. I’m sure that’s true for checkrides, but the people I fly with constantly surprise me.
And sometimes, as with Kisielewski, those unexpected moments are humbling, inspiring, and unforgettable.
I’ve long had a special reason to fly the Hudson River VFR corridor in New York, but for a variety of reasons – usually weather – it had never happened.
Then, last week offered what seemed the perfect chance.
Flying the AOPA 2012 Sweepstakes “Tougher Than a Tornado” Husky from Frederick, Md., to AOPA Aviation Summit in Hartford, Conn., required going right by New York City. And the weather was gorgeous on the day AOPA colleague Alyssa Miller and I planned to make the trip.
A presidential TFR in New York was going to shut down the corridor and virtually all other VFR traffic late in the day, but we could still make our transit with an hour to spare.
I loaded my special cargo – a small engraved box — into the Tornado Husky with our other gear for the week and studied the New York Terminal Area Chart to review the Hudson River Corridor procedures and reporting points. Alyssa would fly the airplane from the front seat, and I’d look out the window and handle the communications from the back.
Also, the Husky has a sliding window on the left side that seemed perfect for my purpose, which involved dropping something from the airplane in flight. That’s where the contents of the engraved box come in. You see, the ashes of my late step-father, John Melville, a New York City native, former aerospace engineer, and the person who made so many of our family’s dreams of flight come true, have resided in that box since his death in 2003. I wanted to honor him by spreading his ashes near the Statue of Liberty, a place close to the heart of freedom-loving people worldwide.
I loaded the airplane and was making final weather and TFR checks when the Lockheed briefer gave me the bad news. A United Nations TFR extended into the Hudson River Corridor shutting down all north-bound flights.
Reluctantly, I scrubbed the corridor mission that day.
We flew a nearly direct course to Hartford, and when we crossed the Hudson River 40 miles northwest of the city, the weather was so crystal clear we could easily make out the imposing skyline in the distance.
I hoped to have another opportunity to spread the ashes on Sunday, Sept. 25, the day after AOPA Aviation Summit ended when we planned to make our return flight to Frederick.
But a stubbornly slow low-pressure system had settled over the East Coast during Summit and refused to leave. The weather forecast called for rain and patchy low clouds along most of the route. So once again, I abandoned the idea of a Hudson River run and packed the well-traveled ashes in my backpack. Then I made the mistake of loading the backpack into another AOPA aircraft bound for headquarters.
Alyssa flew the return trip to Maryland from the front seat of the Husky, and the ceiling was high and visibility excellent coming out of Hartford. The cloud bases stayed elevated as we continued southwest toward home, and the XM Satellite weather display on the Garmin 696 showed the way was clear.
The Hudson River came into view from a distance of more than 20 miles, and on this day there were no TFRs. Alyssa said she was game for a north-south run down the river, so when we got to the Hudson, we made a hard left turn, descended to 1,100 feet msl, and followed the waterway southward.
I was kicking myself for putting my step-dad’s ashes in another aircraft, so there was no way to deliver them on this day. But I thought of him throughout our 100-knot tour of the city where he was raised in an Irish immigrant neighborhood during the Great Depression and went to college (Columbia University) graduating in 1940.
A swarm of helicopters plied the area around “the lady,” as New York pilots refer to the iconic statue in the harbor.
The Tornado Husky, an airplane made for the wilderness, hardly seemed out of place overflying New York City landmarks including the George Washington Bridge, USS Intrepid, and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
And when those ashes fall to the water, I’ll remember how my step-dad did one of the world’s most difficult and thankless jobs – being a step-parent to four troublesome, quarrelsome boys – with steadiness and humor that my brothers and I can only strive to emulate with our own children.
Before he died at age 82, in one of our last conversations, I spoke with him about his many accomplishments. He summed up his record of achievement with a shrug, a wry smile, and a characteristically dismissive one-liner:
“Not bad for some jerk from New York.”
The AOPA 2012 “Tougher than a Tornado” Husky is usually obedient and well mannered – but sometimes it strays.
Within two feet of the ground on landing, it can become willful and ornery, usually resulting in a firm touchdown and/or bounced landing. A rolled up newspaper won’t change this dog’s behavior, and neither will a pocket full of dog treats.
But the Tornado Husky (and all other Huskies) is certainly capable of smooth and consistent wheel- and three-point landings as long as pilots know the tricks: Precise airspeed control on final, full nose-up trim, and power above idle for elevator effectiveness.
This unconventional combination is necessary because of the Husky’s unusual elevator trim system. Turning the trim wheel moves the entire elevator (and not just a trim tab). The elevator travel is the same regardless of the trim position, but unless you’re Paul Bunyan, you won’t have the arm strength to command full up elevator in the landing flare if you’re working against the heavy spring in the trim system.
And even if the pilot does succeed in getting the stick to the full aft position during the flare, that’s not enough to ensure a soft, three-point landing – especially if the Husky’s center of gravity is at the forward end of the normal range (such as when the pilot is flying solo). The airplane simply runs out of elevator authority. In order to raise the nose to the required 10-degree deck angle, the airplane needs more airflow over the tail. And the only way to get it at normal speed is from the propeller. Crack the throttle about a quarter inch (roughly the same position you place it for engine start) and you’re in the ballpark.
Flap position also influences the character of Husky landings.
They can be set at zero, one, two, or three notches – and adding flaps increases the nose-down pitching moment. I prefer two notches for full-stall landings and three notches for wheel landings – but the method for both is almost identical.
Fly 65 mph ias on short final with full nose-up trim and the throttle a quarter-inch open; round out in ground effect and work the stick aft. With two notches of flaps (or less), full back stick results in a three-point touchdown. With three notches of flaps, I tend to run out of elevator before reaching the full-stall angle of attack. When the main wheels touch, relax the back pressure on the stick to pin them on and fly the tail to the ground as the airplane decelerates. Once the tailwheel touches, apply full aft stick.
Slowing to 60 mph ias on final, or even 55, works well for short-field landings. But it also requires significantly more power on final to avoid an excessive sink rate. (I use 500 fpm on final as a target.)
The same techniques apply for crosswind landings. The Husky POH lists a maximum demonstrated crosswind component of 15 miles an hour – and that number seems conservative. The airplane has an authoritative rudder and ailerons, and keeping it tracking straight with the upwind wing held down is easily doable in such winds. (YouTube has many examples of Huskies landing in much stronger crosswinds.)
Flying final approach with full nose-up trim sometimes requires slight forward pressure on the stick, and that feels awkward. (It also requires that the pilot be ready to apply brisk forward pressure in case of a go-around.)
But the exaggerated trim position gets the elevator right where it should be in the landing flare – and that (along with power) is the key to consistently smooth Husky landings.
Judging by the response, I’d say that 2011′s sweepstakes Cessna 182 is perhaps the most popular of all the airplanes AOPA has given away. This opinion comes via my experience standing by the sweeps Skylane for nearly seven full days at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin–an event that took place from July 25-31. In that time, I can’t tell you how many members stopped by to ogle the airplane. All were stoked by the prospect of winning it.
So what were the most common remarks? The airplane’s max cruise speed (162 KTAS) of course. But Saircorp’s center console drew a lot of admiration, as did the custom leather interior fashioned by sweeps veteran contributor Air Mod. Saircorp wasn’t at Oshkosh, but they should have been. They could have sold dozens of their modular, multifunctional consoles. Go to www.saircorp.com to see the company’s full range of offerings. The paint scheme and paint job were big hits too. Especially for those who saw the bad old, oxidized-to-the-max original paint job at Sun N’ Fun back in April.
Anyway, setup went well, with the airplane off to the side of AOPA’s main tent. There were some rather large patches of bare dirt at our tiedown spot. It didn’t take a brainiac to figure out that any (inevitable) rain would turn all that into a mud pit, so it was off to Lowe’s to buy 14 bags of Cypress mulch. Didn’t think all that would fit in the trunk of my rental (a Ford Fusion) but it did–although we had a low-rider on the way back to the site, if you know what I mean.
Next stop: Walmart. This was the only store in town with a supply of “pool noodles.” Pool noodles are those long, floatable, flexible, cylindrical toys that you can, I don’t know, wrap around yourself when frolicking in a pool. I bought six. Hot pink. Anyway, at $2 a pop, they paid for themselves many times over. Here’s why: you slit the noodles from end to end, then jam the slits onto the wing trailing edges. Now you’ve got protection against people walking into the wings and suffering from head strikes. You know, those awkward hits that yield diamond-shaped imprints on your forehead. Anyone who’s been around Cessnas knows what I’m talking about. I saw several “saves” during the week.
The visitors came hot and heavy, and helping out with plane duty were Marsh, Dave Hirschman, Ian Twombly, Jill Tallman, and Mike Collins. As you might guess, the comments often showed patterns that focused on winning the plane. Here are the most common:
*Why don’t you just give me the keys right now and get it over with.
*Take care of “my” airplane.
*You don’t need to give it away. I’m going to win it.
*How much do I have to give you to make sure you draw my name?
*I’ve been a member for ____ (fill in the blank) years, and never won. This time I’ll get it.
*What’s the retail value of all the upgrades, with labor? Answer: Just north of $400,000.
*What will I pay in taxes if I win? Answer: Tough to tell. The plane is still a 1974 Cessna 182, and will most likely be valued at the high range in Vref/Bluebook terms–and with slim regard to the retail value of the add-ons. The IRS considers the sweepstakes airplane as either a gift or income, depending on who you listen to. In any event, the tax bill should correspond to your tax bracket. If you’re in the 30-percent bracket, then you’ll pay 30-percent of its determined value. Bottom line: get a tax expert to help you here.
And on and on. After you’ve heard the comments long enough they become a platform for some pretty good jokes, and much good humor. In all, it was a great week. We got to meet members and press the flesh. The members got to lay hands on The Object Of Their Desire. A gust front with 65-mph winds did its best to wreck one day, but the airplane survived in good shape. But with a nice coating of dirt.
When you work airshows and stand by a sweepstakes airplane you get to see some odd things. Some are disconcerting when you think about all the work and time that went into the project. To channel my angst, I created a “Rain-man”-style ‘injury book” to document the insults to our/your proud Crossover Classic. Here are some entries:
*People keep trying to force open the baggage door, even though it’s locked. Result: sprung door latch, and a sign taped over the latch saying Please Don’t Touch. I’ll try to get a new latch assembly, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
*One guy pulled the airworthiness certificate, registration, radio station license, and POH out of their pockets and began reading them over. “I wanted to see what year it was” he explained.
*Someone stepped on the left main gear leg fairing, causing a scratch and a crease. This will be fixed shortly.
*A couple visitors saw fit to put their kids in the pilot’s seat. The kids were way too young to know what was going on, and yes, one of them had an ice cream cone.
*Several kids stood on the left wheel fairing.
*One guy pulled the prop through
As far as I know, AOPA is the only exhibitor who lets visitors get so up close and personal with its airplanes. After all, it will be given away, and showing off the airplane is a big part of the popular involvement with the sweepstakes. We won’t change that policy, but jeez, go easy on the old bird! After all, the next stop in the airplane’s itinerary is Hartford, Connecticut, where N182CX will be given away to a lucky winner.
We’ll see you there, between September 22 and 24!
Just a quick note before we head out to EAA AirVenture tomorrow.
The AmSafe air bag-seatbelts have been installed, just in time for the big show! Here’s how the system breaks down:
The air bag portion of the assembly is in the lap belt. The G-sensor unit and the inflation bottles (one per seat) are mounted beneath the floor. Should the airplane experience a 9-G deceleration within 45 milliseconds or so, the sensor trips the bottles and their helium-argon gas charges are sent to the air bags. These inflate, causing the seams of the lap belt to break open, and releasing the air bags. The rectangular-shaped air bags then inflate to protect an area that extends from above the front-seat occupants’ heads to their waists. This way, the head and torso are prevented from striking the glareshield, instrument panel, control yokes, and other interior elements. The air bags remain inflated for three to five seconds, then gradually deflate (the bags are made of a porous material).
The AmSafe system runs approximately $3,800 for the Cessna 182. Installations in other airplanes vary–for example, the Cessna 172′s system runs $3,200. Installtion time is six to eight hours. As for maintenance, the system must be checked annually (using an on-board diagnostic test port); the EMA (electronic module assembly, or G-sensing unit) must be refurbished every seven years; the EMA’s life limit is 14 years; and there’s a 10-year life limit on the inflation bottles.
For more information–and a video of the air bags in action–go to www.gaairbags.com
Here’s a shot of the belts just before they were installed:
The infamous Cessna “seat-slip” accidents of the 1970s and early 1980s prompted a recurring Airworthiness Directive to inspect the seat rails for wear. If the holes in those rails were elongated from wear, then disaster could strike.
The seat’s locking pins could slide out of the holes. This could produce fatal consequences on takeoff, when seats slid back as the airplane entered a climb attitude. What happened next is anybody’s guess. Most likely the pilot instinctively grabbed the control yoke in an attempt to pull himself forward. The result was a low-altitude stall.
The Crossover Classic was given new seat rails, thanks to McFarlane Aviation Products of Baldwin City, Kansas. That was a significant safety improvement. The new rails have nice, round holes that grip the seat locking pins firmly. And there are secondary seat stops farther aft on the rails, which serve as a backup.
In one blog I said that adding the new seat rails did away with the AD requiring inspections every 100 hours. I was wrong, McFarlane said. Though new seat rails may provide peace of mind, that 100-hour recurring inspection still stands. But I suspect that it will be quite some time before the freshly-installed rails will show any signs of wear.
In other news, the sweeps Skylane is being readied for its voyage to EAA AirVenture, which takes place from July 25-31 at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I’m planning on leaving the morning of Friday, July 22. Here’s hoping N182CX realizes its potential of 160-knot cruise speeds along the way! Those interested can check the ship’s progress on www.flightaware.com