While attending the Georgia Airports Conference in late October, I spent an absolutely great afternoon at Harris County Airport (PIM) in Pine Mountain with AOPA’s ASNV, Greg Hadley and a half-dozen local pilots, all AOPA members. With a lot of help from Greg Hadley, AOPA and others were successful in saving this airport from closure only a few years ago. Some questioned the energy and effort required to accomplish that and I wish they could see this airport now. There are based airplanes where there were none; a pristine, beautifully maintained runway and ramps, new T-hangars (with a waiting list for more); a rejuvenated, charming little Terminal Building; self-fueling and reasonable fuel prices… topped by a bunch of Southern hospitality, welcoming hand-shakes and smiles that really make you feel at welcomed. While I was there one local pilot popped in the door fresh from his check-ride with a brand new Commercial Certificate in his hand and a local contractor was there for another flight lesson, looking forward to joining his partner and brother as a new pilot soon. This is such an inspiring story and place. I remember when it was not… I didn’t want to leave. Shared stories and experiences, a Cessna 150 doing touch-n-go landings with a new student in a Fall setting at this marvelous rural, resort area airport that makes flying and being a GA pilot fun, like it ought to be. There are many more of these “airport treasures”. Send me stories about the ones you find.
It is a cold winter day in Fairbanks, Alaska. But some places are not as cold as others.
The front page picture on the November 28th edition of the Fairbanks Daily News Miner gives a dramatic view of what is happening. A temperature inversion is holding a layer of cold in the valley bottoms, with temperatures as low as -26 degrees F. At the same time in the hills behind Fairbanks, the thermometer registers as high as +8 degrees F.
The change in air density marking the boundary of the inversion distorts the peaks of the Alaska Range, located 90 miles south of Fairbanks. Under these conditions, the normally sharp skyline– with peaks pushing above 14,000 feet– looks more like mesa’s of the south western US.
During these events, local pilots know that even though it is cold at the airport, once above the surface, they can expect to be flying in warmer air. If one looks at the horizon during the climb-out, it is not uncommon to see the skyline flip-flop wildly while crossing through this boundary until solidly into the warmer air above.
A little over a year ago an Alaskan industry/government working group was established to look at the rash of mid-air collisions that occurred in 2011. To support that effort, AOPA fielded an online survey to hear directly from pilots concerning this topic. The goal of the survey was to discover what methods pilots used to avoid mi-air collisions, and to find out how often they encountered unsafe conditions while flying in the Mat Su Valley.
The survey was emailed directly to a sample of 2,942 AOPA members who live in Alaska. In addition the Alaska Airmen’s Association, FAA and other aviation groups broadcast the link to the survey through their communication networks. Over 600 people took the time to respond. This will help the industry working group focus its efforts as it considers recommending ways to minimize the potential for mid-air collisions. While that process goes forward over the months ahead, I wanted to share the summary of the survey so that you could see what the cumulative results tell us about how we operate—and what the respondents of this survey had to say regarding this topic. A summary of the survey is available here: 2012_04 Mat Su Valley Collision Avoidance Survey Final Report. Look for more information in the months ahead as the working group starts to develop recommendations.
Once a year the FAA conducts a survey to learn how much we flew, whether we did it IFR or VFR, on a flight plan or not, what equipment we have on our airplane, and a few other things. It doesn’t take long to complete, and it would be a big help to AOPA and others who advocate for improvements to our aviation infrastructure. The survey is conducted by an independent research firm— NOT the FAA themselves. The information is only provided to the FAA in summary form, no individual data tied to your N number is released.
I often sit in meetings with the FAA, National Weather Service, National Park Service and other groups, who ask, “Just how much flying does GA do?” While the airlines and some segments of the Part 135 world report data to the government directly, this survey is about the only way we have of quantifying how much general aviation flying goes on, and documents the type of uses we make of our airplanes.
In Alaska, the FAA is conducting a 100% sample, to get better information on our activity– because we have told them that “Alaska is different.” There is even a question asking specifically how many hours you flew in Alaska last year! Even if you completed the survey in previous years, please take the 15 minutes or so to go on line and fill it out again. This data is immensely valuable when it comes to arguing for keeping aviation infrastructure we still use, and knowing when it might be OK to let go of things we no longer need.
The survey questions are pretty straight forward, and the answers are in your log books. What was the total time on your airframe at the end of 2011? How many hours did you fly for personal, business, instructional or other types of uses? A few minutes going through your logbook and assigning flight hours to basic categories and you are ready to log on and fill out the survey. The website is: http://www.aviationsurvey.org/ Use your N number to log in. And if you hit a stopping point, it will save the answers and let you finish later. You have until November 30th to participate.
Unlike some of the tests you take in school, this is all multiple-choice and fill in the blank. No essay questions and no one to critique your spelling. Perhaps the longest section of the survey is the string of questions asking about the equipment you have on board. After clicking the “NO” button for a while when it comes to questions about TCAS, ADS-B, auto pilots and other goodies, this might give you an excuse to consider upgrading so you can answer at least one of these questions with a “YES” next year!
What was the world like when the Wright Brothers make the first sustained, powered flight? Most of us are familiar with the year (1903) and the place (the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk), but what allowed Wilbur and Orville to accomplish this feat? How did they succeed where better funded efforts had failed? The Bishop’s Boys: A life of Wilbur and Orville Wright by Tom Crouch, answers those questions and literally transports the reader back to the decades before and after the introduction of powered flight—setting the stage for the airplanes we enjoy today.
This story is not a quick read, unless you do nothing else for a couple days straight. The 529 page account is broken into three sections. The first introduces us to the Wright family–particularly Wilbur and Orville’s father, Milton, who had a profound influence on their lives. Milton was a dedicated church man, who rose to the rank of Bishop in the Church of the United Brethren. In this capacity, he spent much time on the road. Also a devoted family man, he corresponded frequently with his wife and children, providing a rich source of material frequently quoted in the book.
The second section introduces us to the public’s interest in powered flight, which was bubbling over at the end of the 1800’s in the US and Europe. We meet the leaders of the aeronautical movement, men including civil engineer Octave Chanute, Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley, and Otto Lilienthal, the German engineer and aviation enthusiast. Lilienthal had completed almost two thousand flights in sixteen different models of gliders in a five year period prior to 1896. The exploits of these individuals, and more, made headlines in the popular press which fanned a fever already in the back of the Wright Brother’s minds. It was the work of these pioneers that Wilbur and Orville turned to as they started their own investigation into the secrets of powered, heavier than air flight. While the concepts of lift and drag had already been identified, even initial formulas derived to calculate them, the genius of the brothers was their decision to focus on how to control an aircraft in flight. The famed December 17 flight at Kitty Hawk is today identified as the milestone we associate with the start of powered flight, however put in context of the times, the aircraft that flew that day was but a prototype that continued to evolve over the next several years toward the first “production” aircraft.
The final section of the book covers the post Kitty Hawk period. While continuing to improve upon their aircraft design, Wilbur and Orville increasingly had to deal with the political and business world to gain acceptance of their invention. The brothers attempted to cloak themselves in secrecy to protect the patentable aspects of their work, at the same time trying to sell their invention to the government and to interests in Europe. The years that followed became the “patent wars” with more time spent in court defending their invention, and less in the shop doing what they did best—solving technical problems to advance aeronautical science.
While written in 1989, the book feels timeless. The author tells the story as it happened, with inclusions of quotes from the letters, news reports and documents of the day. The bother’s focus on developing a way to control an airship in all three axes (roll, pitch and yaw) set them apart from others attempting to achieve powered flight. Fortunately for us, a wealth of documents and photographs survive–and are liberally sprinkled throughout the book. This isn’t just a story for pilots. Crouch, who happens to be the senior curator for the aeronautics department at the National Air and Space Museum, also describes the social and political issues of that era. He goes into some detail on the patent war that stifled aeronautical creativity and innovation, and the controversy between the Wrights and the Smithsonian Institution. Tied to a major dispute over claims of the historical significance of Langley’s efforts versus the Wright’s accomplishments, this feud of almost thirty years duration came close to costing us our ability to look up the Wright Flyer that hangs prominently in the Air and Space Museum today.
When I next crawl into the pilots seat of my own aircraft, it will be with a much deeper appreciation of what the Wright brothers—and the other pioneers of their times—did to bring us the gift of flight!
Last week Jessica Cox made a whirl-wind trip through Alaska, and inspired young and old alike. If you are not familiar with Jessica’s story, she was born without arms but hasn’t let that stop her not only from living independently, but achieving her dreams. She does with her feet all the things we do with our hands. But there’s more. She also drives a car (without special accommodations), and fly’s an aircraft—an Ercoupe—as a Light Sport
Pilot. Jessica’s real gift is the ability to share her story with others, in this case teenagers, and motivates them not to be bound by their own perceived limitations.
For the two-and-a-half days Jessica and her husband Patrick were in Fairbanks, I had the pleasure of transporting them to a variety of speaking engagements, which included two charter schools, the Boys and Girls
Home of Alaska, Hutchison High School, and a public lecture at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The biggest event was a banquet presentation with youth from a variety of groups including Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol Cadets, a high school Marine ROTC group, 4-H club members, and more.
Jessica does an outstanding job of using her own personal story to convey important lessons for youth. I won’t steal any of her thunder, but these include figuring out how to do what those of us with arms and hands consider trivial—like fastening a four point seat belt harness in the pilot’s seat before her first flight lesson. One has to look at each new challenge and, as she says, “think outside the shoe.” She also touches on the need for persistence, such as having to take her driver’s test more than once to convince the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles to issue her a driver’s license. But perhaps most
importantly, not to let yourself (or others) tell you what you can’t do—like learn to fly an airplane. AOPA is happy to reinforce that notion with programs such as the AV8RS, a free online membership for teens interested in aviation.
Jessica’s visit didn’t just “happen.” The dynamo behind the scenes
that brought her to Alaska, is Dee Hanson, Executive Director of the Alaska Airmen’s Association. Dee
brought Jessica to Alaska in 2010, knew the power of her message, and wanted to make sure it got to youth in other parts of the state. In addition to Fairbanks, Jessica made appearances in southwest Alaska at Bethel and Napaskiak, and flew to the Yukon River community of Galena. Alaska Airlines and ERA Alaska helped sponsor the visit, along with long list of businesses, aviation groups and individuals. But without Dee investing hours of her time putting this package together, this campaign wouldn’t have happened. Hats off to the Alaska Airmen’s Association for making this investment in the youth of Alaska.
And a big Thank You to Jessica for fitting us into her busy schedule. I look forward to her next visit.
In the past few years devices that combine the technologies of GPS and satellite communication have become popular, with increasing use in the aviation community as an alternate way to either track your flight, or call for help. A little over a year ago AOPA and the Alaska Airmen’s Association started working with the Alaska Flight Service Program, to explore the possibility of integrating devices such as SPOT and Spidertracks into the flight plans we file. The idea that a distress call, including your current location, could go straight to Flight Service, and be forwarded to search and rescue, seemed like an improvement on today’s procedure of waiting for a flight plan to become overdue, especially if your ELT failed to function during the landing.
The idea was well received by the FAA who then started working on the many details needed to develop procedures. Initially Adam White, President of the Airmen’s Association, and I, along with a couple of Flight Service staff members who own one of these devices, generated some “alert” messages, to evaluate the system. Now, after a season of testing and refinement, the Alaska FSS is to the point of needing a few more pilots to participate in the “beta-testing” phase of this system. To be clear, Flight Service does not track any aircraft, but has the ability to receive an alert or help message when activated by the pilot. Upon receipt of a help message, FSS will validate it against a flight plan, and forward the necessary information, including your location, to search and rescue authorities.
Currently, we are looking for about a dozen pilots who:
- have either a SPOT or Spidertracks unit
- are willing to establish (or update) a Master Flight Plan with their home Flight Service Station and,
- would be willing to participate in controlled tests to help Flight Service exercise the system.
If you are willing to be involved in the program, please contact Tom George (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Adam White (email@example.com) for more details. We hope this testing will go quickly, and allow Flight Service to offer this new service to all interested pilots across Alaska!
The recently decommissioned Endeavour is one of three space shuttles transitioning from being an active astronaut-carrier to an awe-inspiring exhibit, this one at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. As you might expect, getting a 122’ x 78’ x 57’ spacecraft to the museum from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) comes with a few challenges. Some of the key ones are highlighted here.
First, they removed a number of toxic materials (rocket fuel, for example), the engines, and hatches that have explosives and also pulled out the toilets and galleys for a separate display.
Then, a “mate-demate device” was needed to load and unload the shuttle on the back of the modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (or SCA) to transport it from Florida to California. Such device exists at KSC; however, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) does not have one because they are not used to handling these types of operations. Therefore, NASA engineers plan on erecting a number of large cranes to take the Endeavour off the B747 once in LA.
The trip from Florida to California was scheduled to begin on Monday, September 17, 2012; however, due to weather, it had to be postponed to Wednesday, September 19. If I heard correctly, the SCA with the shuttle on top can only fly in VMC conditions. The trip is divided into three legs: from Cape Canaveral (XMR) to Ellington Field in Houston (EFD), from Houston to NASA’s Dryden and then from there to LAX with a few flyovers along the way =)
I was not able to see it flyover or arrive at either New Orleans or Houston respectively (both in AOPA’s Central Southwest Region) due to the fact that it was delayed two days and I had to travel early Wednesday morning to New Mexico to meet prior commitments. However, I had a personal reporter – my husband Jared =) – in Houston sending me pictures and updates along the way. I wanted to share those with you here.
Houston is very happy to have Endeavour, even as a visitor for a few hours. NASA plays a big role in Houston, especially in South Houston (namely Clear Lake, Seabrook, etc.), and the City was disappointed to learn a few months back that one of the “flying” shuttles would not retire in Houston at Johnson Space Center (JSC).
The shuttle (escorted by one of NASA’s Houston-based T38s) flew over several parts of Houston, including downtown, Texas Southern University (TSU) and the University of Houston – Main (UH), Hobby Airport (HOU), Clear Lake, etc. Traffic was backed up for a couple of miles on Highway 3 by Ellington Field. Several hundred people went out to EFD to greet the retired shuttle. Here are a few pictures from the shuttle’s low pass and landing at Ellington Field:
The crowd was very excited. It was worth waiting in line after all… what a sight and piece of history!
I also wanted to share with you the picture I liked the most out of those my husband sent me. A little boy dressed as an astronaut posing for a picture in front of the 747 and shuttle. I am glad to see science, space, flying… is still exciting for the new generations to come. We certainly need future pilots… and future astronauts in this case.
The ferry flight is scheduled to continue at sunrise tomorrow, heading to NASA Dryden, then on to Los Angeles Friday. Endeavour is slated to take off from Ellington Field around 7 a.m. The flight plan after that calls for them to fly south, turn east over Johnson Space Center for one last pass, then fly back over downtown before flying over west Houston. It will then make a low flyover just south of the Capitol Building in Austin en route to El Paso. Hope you can catch them during any of those flyovers if you leave in Texas.
On Friday, once on wheels at LAX, the shuttle will travel six miles to the museum. This will require the temporary removal of most power lines and traffic signals, two engineering firms to plan the route and a person to “drive” the four mobile transporters that carry the shuttle. Can’t make it to LA to watch the shuttle taxi from LAX to the museum? Well, you can still plan on attending AOPA’s Parade of Planes in Palm Springs. General aviation airplanes will taxi on city streets from Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to the Convention Center in downtown Palm Springs on Wednesday, October 10 at 10 am. Then, on Saturday October 13 from 3 to 5 pm, the airplanes will return to the Airport from the Convention Center. Organizing such an event is also quite an undertaking and I promise you it will be exciting and fun. FMI, visit www.aopa.org/summit.
The picture below shows a graphic of some of the steps involved and described in this blog to transport the shuttle from Florida to California:
As you may already know, the AOPA Regional Manager program was created to increase AOPA’s ability to address the issues facing general aviation at the state and local levels. Among other things, all seven Regional Managers are responsible for all legislative issues within their region as well as making AOPA more visible, promoting membership, and serving as a local point of contact for members.
My region, the Central Southwest region, includes Nebraska and Iowa along with seven other states. I just came back from a trip that took me to Omaha, NE and Atlantic, IA to work on a legislative issue and promote general aviation and AOPA.
While in Omaha, I met with Senator Krist and hosted a Pilot Mix and Mingle event on Friday, September 14:
- We have started working on next year’s legislative initiatives and, therefore, I wanted to meet with Senator Bob Krist of Nebraska’s District 10, and a professional pilot when not working as a legislator, to discuss a 2013 bill to extend the approach zones from the current three miles to 10 miles (in a conical manner) from the end of every IFR runway in the state to increase safety and promote good land use planning. Cell phone towers, wind turbines, power lines or other tall structures built too close to airports create a serious safety hazard for pilots and those on the ground and the potential for tall obstacles is greater today than ever before. AOPA very much supports this bill. It failed to pass this year due to lack of time; however, Senator Krist is committed to introducing it again in early 2013.
- Later that afternoon, I hosted a Pilot Mix and Mingle social and networking event at the Hangar One FBO at the Millard Airport (MLE) with fellow AOPA members, pilots and aviation enthusiasts. We offered free food and drinks, gave a few prizes… some thanks to USAIG… and just had a “plane” good time. Those who flew in even received a fuel discount. We had a great turnout with 50+ attendees and had a great time talking and playing an ice breaker game. Here are pictures from the event:
On Saturday, September 15, I was up bright and early to set up AOPA’s booth and to teach a safety seminar at the Fly Iowa 2012 event in Atlantic, IA. The “Fly Iowa 2012” airshow/fly-in was organized by the Iowa Aviation Promotion Group (IAPG).
The safety seminar was titled “Operations at Nontowered Airports.” It was a well attended seminar with approximately 35 attendees where we covered airspace found around nontowered airports, references and resources to use for planning purposes, pattern prodecures and techniques, communications, collision avoidance procedures, etc. Rod Ticknor, an experienced local flight instructor, was scheduled to co-teach the seminar with me but, unfortunately, he was feeling under the weather.
The day continued with ground displays and an airshow. The audience was WOWed by the performances of several P-51 Mustangs and Greg Koontz among others. I always enjoy attending smaller airshows in rural areas because most of the attendees are attending an airshow for the first time and, sometimes, it is even their first time around general aviation aircraft. I find it fascinating to listen to the conversations and comments made by the local attendees, especially kids, of course. They are absolutely amazed by aircraft, their abilities and those of the pilots. I think these pictures describe the event and the engaged attendees pretty well.
As we were packing everything after the show, I came across the Koontz Team as they were taking their Piper Cub apart to put it in their trailer. I found it very interesting and wanted to share it with you all. It took them about 30 minutes from the time they pulled the aircraft into the hangar to the time it was safely secured in the trailer – pretty impressive team work. Everything was studied and measured to the last detail. Here are pictures of their progress:
As part of AOPA’s efforts to reach out more to its members and aviation enthusiasts in the regions, we have set up Twitter accounts to help share news and information about local aviation events and issues. Please follow me at http://twitter.com/AOPACentralSW. I try to keep the tweets up-to-date, fresh and entertaining and always announce upcoming events where AOPA will be participating.
My next trip takes me to New Mexico (Ruidoso, Albuquerque and Santa Fe) and Little Rock, Arkansas this week. Will I see you there??
AOPA President Craig Fuller, along with Pete Bunce (GAMA), Tom Hendricks (NATA) and Ed Bolen, (NBAA) are all heading to Alaska to recognize the role general aviation plays in Alaska. On Monday, September 17, they will join Alaska Senator Mark Begich and Alaska DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken in a brief celebration paying tribute to the role GA plays in the state. This is part of a national campaign to recognize the value we provide to the country both in terms of the service provided and economic benefits.
In Alaska, where 82% of the communities are not connected by road, GA takes on a vital role. Individuals use airplanes like pickup trucks to get places and move things around. Search and rescue, game surveys, access for camping, backpacking, hunting and fishing often involve ga aircraft. Contractors that build things and technicians that maintain our telecommunication infrastructure fly to get to the job site. Helping the public understand the role aviation plays is important to achieve the long term support we need to improve our airports, keep aviation infrastructure healthy, and improve aviation safety.
Come over to Signature Flight Support, in the South Airpark at Anchorage International Airport at 9:30 a.m. Monday morning to participate in this event. And if you would like to have a chance to visit with Craig Fuller, come by at 8:30 a.m. and enjoy a hot continental breakfast from Diannes Restaurant. Details may be found on the GAMA Invitation.
I hope to see you there!