Meet the New EAA President, Rod Hightower, at the 2011 Aircraft Spruce East Coast Super Sale & Fly-In Aircraft Spruce & Specialty will be hosting their Annual East Coast Super Sale & Fly-InSaturday, May 21, 2011 from 8:00am to
4:00pm in Peachtree City, GA. Discounted prices, spectacular raffle prizes, and a no-cost lunch will be enjoyed by all in attendance. Come meet the new EAA President Rod Hightower and
support EAA Chapter 468 and Dixie Wings of the Commemorative Air Force. For further details and updates, call 1 (877) 4‑SPRUCE or
News of the California environmental group Center of Environmental Health's (CEH) intent to sue California avgas suppliers
was met Wednesday with some no-nonsense opposition from GAMA, a member of the General Aviation Avgas Coalition. GAMA argued in a statement that state-level action on the matter is basically a
non-starter. The organization said "Congress has reserved to the Federal government," via the FAA, "the right and responsibility to regulate all aviation activities in the U.S." If allowed to proceed,
GAMA suggests that a state-level lawsuit could lead to "a patchwork of state regulations governing fuels pilots may or may not use in their piston-powered aircraft." And, says GAMA, federal agencies
are already addressing the problem of leaded aviation fuel. CEH is not worried about the jurisdictional issues. In a podcast interview with
AVweb, CEH's Director of Research Caroline Cox says there's nothing in the California law the group is using that gives the Feds an exemption. She also said the group's prime motivation is
to be a player in the eventual elimination of lead in avgas and won't necessarily pursue the suit if it believes discussions are headed in the right direction. However, if it does go to court and the
oil companies and FBOs lose, CEH will get a 25-percent share of any civil penalties imposed and she said that provision is part of the funding strategy for the small ($1.7 million annual budget)
The FAA and EPA are already working with engine manufacturers, fuel producers, consumers and suppliers, to address a transition away from leaded fuel. And that transition, says GAMA, should be
organized at a federal level. At the heart of the issue is safety of flight. The FAA is working through the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee to address issues ranging from
certification to production and distribution of new fuels, while also accounting for economic and environmental concerns. As far as GAMA is concerned, federal action supported by industry input is the
way to assure continued safe operation of aircraft as we transition away from leaded fuel. The Avgas Coalition itself has not issued a statement because several of its members are potential litigants
in the suit.
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The reason a stealthy version of the MH-60 Blackhawk crashed during the May 1 raid that killed Osama bin Laden includes the vortex ring state phenomenon, according to officials, but helicopter
crashes in the Middle East are far from uncommon. Hot air close to the ground and the aircraft's proximity to the high walls of the compound could have caused that thin, hot air to be driven by
propwash up the walls and then down through the rotor, causing the vortex ring state. With those conditions, the helicopter would have lost lift and settled with power, which is what officials say
happened. The resulting hard landing immediately altered the original plan for SEALS to fast rope to the ground from a hovering aircraft. They fared better than they might have. In Iraq, only IED
explosions and being shot by the enemy rank higher than U.S. helicopters for killing American soldiers, according to the Armed Forces Journal. And 80 percent of the helicopter accidents occur without
the intervention of hostile forces. That said, the military helicopter crash rate is actually better than that of GA aircraft.
The non-hostile, non-combat accident rate for military helicopters currently stands near 2.1 per 100,000 hours while flying in some of the least hospitable conditions available to helicopters.
Meanwhile, the accident rate for GA aircraft stands at 6.86 per 100,000 hours. The military helicopter pilots are most often brought down due to a combination of weather conditions and terrain. Night
vision goggles have improved matters, but dust storms, brownouts caused by rotor wash, wire strikes and controlled flight into terrain are still problems the military and Congress hopes to better
address. Proposed fixes include terrain avoidance avionics that would warn pilots of potential hazards. That specific technology would not have helped during the bin Laden raid, for which the mission
profile put the aircraft in a hover at treetop level. Three-dimensional radar, also a proposed fix, penetrates brownouts and could have produced a synthetic image of the landing zone, but may not have
saved the aircraft from vortex ring state.
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The latest design from Scaled Composites, a military reconnaissance aircraft that can fly with or without a pilot, was unveiled on Monday by Northrop Grumman, Scaled's parent company. The aircraft,
called Firebird, took about a year to develop and has already flown several times at the Mojave spaceport. It was one of the last designs to be overseen by Scaled founder Burt Rutan before he retired
last month. The airplane features several innovative systems, such as an internal payload bay that eliminates the need for external pods and makes it easy to quickly load and unload a variety of
sensors. "It's a real game changer," said Rick Crooks, Northrop Grumman's Firebird program manager. "Firebird is an adaptable system that makes it highly affordable because of the number of different
missions it can accomplish during a single flight."
Firebird has a 65-foot wingspan, flies at about 200 knots, and can stay aloft for up to 40 hours at 30,000 feet. Northrop Grumman doesn't have a military contract or launch customer yet. Besides
military and intelligence missions, the aircraft could be used for law enforcement, environmental monitoring, border patrol, scientific research and other uses. No price has been announced. Firebird
is scheduled to be flown, with a pilot, during a military exercise based in Arizona, from May 23 to June 3.
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LightHawk, a nonprofit group of pilots who volunteer to help the cause of conservation, is looking for a special pilot and aircraft to make an unusual flight. "We have an urgent need to find a jet
to transport some rare falcon chicks to Belize," in Central America, spokeswoman Bev Gabe told AVweb this week. The trip is planned for June 5 or 6, from a breeding facility in Sheridan, Wyo.,
to Belize City, where the birds will be released into the wild. To volunteer, the pilot must have a minimum of 1,000 hours of flight time, and the jet must be able to carry 650 to 1,000 pounds of
payload (passengers and cargo).
LightHawk volunteers provide about 1,000 flights each year to members of conservation groups, the media, scientists, and others. They offer
an aerial perspective that reveals the widespread effects of unsound environmental policies and practices. Recently, the group provided flights for filmmakers working on Gasland, a feature
about the impact of gas exploration, which was named best documentary at Sundance 2010. To learn more about volunteering for the Belize flight, contact Laura Stone at LightHawk by e-mail or call (970) 690-4221.
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The second-biggest business aviation show in the world is less than a week away and judging by the email traffic, the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition is looking to tap into
that elusive recovery that has been hoped for and predicted for so long. The show gets under way at PALEXPO at Geneva International Airport next Tuesday and all the players in the business aviation
industry will participate. About 500 exhibitors are registered.
While the National Business Aviation Association meeting (this year it's in Las Vegas from Oct. 10-12) is the largest and most important bizav show, EBACE is almost as important because of its
proximity to emerging markets in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. This year will feature an enhanced package of forums and educational events in addition to the usual display of shiny planes and the
stuff that makes them work.
AOPA is reporting that Brian Delauter, the GA General Manager of the Transportation Security Administration, is leaving after less than two years in the
post to return to the private sector. AOPA CEO Craig Fuller said Delauter's GA experience was an asset in his assumption of the role in 2009 and his leadership will be missed. "We are hopeful that
Administrator [John] Pistole will build on the relationships Brian developed with general aviation industry and pilots by finding a successor with a similarly strong GA background."
The appointment of Delauter was generally regarded as a positive thing for GA, because of Delauter's varied experience in aviation. Prior to his hiring, the TSA was criticized for seemingly
arbitrary and sometimes puzzling initiatives for bringing more security to GA operations. It seemed to acknowledge the gap in its hiring of Delauter, counting on him "use his extensive general
aviation experience in government and private industry to lead TSA's strategy to enhance security within the general aviation sector while reducing the risk of the misuse of GA assets by developing
identification capabilities including positive pilot and aircraft identification." It's not clear who will be doing Delauter's job while the search is on for his replacement.
In the first quarter of this year, 188 piston aircraft were delivered by U.S. manufacturers, compared to 166 in the first quarter of last year, a 13-percent increase, the General Aviation
Manufacturers Association reported on Tuesday.
"This good news may be indicative of the start of a recovery in the traditional markets that we hope will accelerate," said GAMA President Pete Bunce. However, business jet deliveries failed to
show growth. Shipments were down 22 percent, with 166 deliveries in the first quarter of this year, compared to 188 last year. Just 56 turboprops were delivered, a 6.7-percent decline. "This has been
a very difficult year to date as a result of the slow economic recovery in North America and Europe," said Bunce. A U.S. tax provision that allows 100-percent expensing might help turn things around,
The piston deliveries included 61 each from Cirrus and Cessna, 37 from Diamond, 19 from Piper, 13 from American Champion, 10 from Beechcraft, and a handful each from several smaller companies. (The
total exceeds GAMA's because Cessna's Skycatcher LSA and Diamond's motor-glider sales are reported by each manufacturer, but not included in GAMA's piston-delivery numbers.) Emerging markets continue
to help sustain the industry, Bunce said. Overall, GA deliveries were down 4.6 percent from last year's first quarter. The full report is available online in PDF format.
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One reason is for lack of frame of reference. A total of 275 fatal wrecks a year doesn't seem like that much, but if driving had the same fatal rate, we would kill more than a million a year on
the roads. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli argues than any cultural change aimed at reducing fatal accidents will first involve GA participants admitting that the current rate
really is unacceptable.
But also a significant challenge. Whether you believe GA's mediocre accident rate impacts student starts or not, the fact remains: It's worth the effort to try to reduce fatal accidents. It can
probably be done, but in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli argues that it will take recommendations with teeth and/or some financial incentives.
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Yves Rossy, the Swiss pilot known as "Jetman" for flying a unique jet-propelled wing attached to his back, has successfully flown above the Grand Canyon, after canceling a scheduled
attempt last Friday. The flight occurred in Nevada over the weekend, sponsor Breitling announced on Tuesday. "My first
flight in the U.S. is sure to be one of the most memorable experiences in my life, not only for the sheer beauty of the Grand Canyon but the honor to fly in sacred Native American lands," Rossy said
in a news release. "Thank you Mother Nature and the Hualapai Tribe for making my lifelong dreams come true." Rossy launched from a helicopter at 8,000 feet above the canyon, and steering only by
movement of his body, flew at speeds up to 190 mph for more than eight minutes at altitudes as low as 200 feet above the canyon rim. He then deployed a parachute and landed safely on the canyon
The original May 6 flight was cancelled when FAA approval to allow the flight didn't arrive until an hour before launch time. "I was so focused on getting the [FAA] authorization ... I
ended up forgetting that I should put my energy into the flight... I never had the opportunity to train seriously," he told AFP. "Flying here is very challenging. The
[safety] margins are very tiny." The FAA's Las Vegas FSDO "went the extra mile," according to EAA, to issue Rossy a
certification within two days of getting the request, a process that usually takes weeks. The FAA classified the wing plus pilot as an aircraft, and issued registration number N15YR. The wing is built
from carbon composites and is about six feet wide. It's powered by four micro-turbines. Rossy, 51, previously flew his unique system across Lake Geneva and the English Channel, and last November he
looped and rolled with the wing after jumping from a balloon. (Click here for video.) The
media had been invited to the original May 6 launch, but the weekend flight apparently took place with little fanfare.
Throughout a career spanning 47 years and nearly 12,000 flight hours as a pilot, I have been a diligent maintainer of flight logs and, with very few
exceptions, my logbooks contain entries for every flight. Nearly all these flights were pleasant experiences, a few were somewhat less than enjoyable -- but taken together they are the events that
made my life as a pilot highly memorable.
My objective is to share my recollections of the aircraft, the people and the places I consider significant. I use the word "aircraft" because my experience went well beyond "airplanes" -- most of the
flights were in fixed-wing airplanes, but there were other types of flying machines involved: helicopters, floatplanes and flying boats, gliders, turboprops, turbojets, STOL airplanes and so on.
Especially during my years as a military pilot, I never had the pleasure of flying a new (as in brand-new design) aircraft; but most of those old, sometimes war-weary hand-me-down flying machines
whose names and numbers populate the pages of my logbooks were destined to become classics -- they are aircraft that still command respect from the aviation community. Most of them were powered by one
or more round engines, flew at airspeeds that were never very impressive, carried loads dwarfed by those of today's airplanes and featured onboard systems and instrumentation that were aeronautical
dinosaurs. But to me those old aircraft looked good, sounded good, and flew good.
The people I encountered during those 47 years were every bit as important as the machines I flew. Airplanes of the same make and model are for the most part identical and their performance
predictable, but the personalities of aviation people are as varied as those in any other segment of the population. Some people stand out because of their exceptional skills in teaching, others are
more than willing to share their aviation experiences and some are memorable for their personal qualities and mutual interests that have resulted in long-lasting friendships. This story would not be
complete without recounting experiences I shared with some of these individuals.
So much for the aircraft and the people. With regard to the places recorded in my pilot logs, it has been my pleasure to fly in virtually every state in the union; although my logbooks are not replete
with records of global wanderings, a là my contemporaries in the civilian airlines or military air transport organizations, there have been a number of noteworthy flights -- military and civilian
-- outside the U.S. and they will be included in this memoir.
When you get beyond this introduction and into the first chapter, you'll find I didn't get serious about aviation until I entered the Air Force flight training program as a 22-year old second
lieutenant in 1955. Do the math (add 47 years of flying to 1955) and it appears I quit flying in 2002 at the age of 69. Years earlier, given the exuberance, good health and an unreal projection of my
immortality, I fully intended to become the oldest active pilot in the country, if not the world. That goal was denied in 2000 by the discovery of a fluttering heart valve, the sound of which was
"swish swish" instead of "thump thump." Nothing serious, no medications or restrictions on my activities, but the renewal of even a third-class medical certificate had become such a hassle I said to
myself, "Self, I've done nearly everything I wanted to do with aircraft (and a few things I didn't want to do) and I don't need to fly any more, so let's call this off" -- which I did in the
summer of 2002. I continue to participate vicariously in aviation as an author, a consultant and expert witness in lawsuits that involve pilots, and as the founder/editor of -- and major contributor
to -- the Pilot's Audio Update.
"Vicarious participation" also applies to the occasional search through my logbooks looking for the details of a particular flight and almost always coming across entries that refresh memories of
significant events. I hope you will enjoy reading about these adventures as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Please note: Some of the illustrations in this memoir show signs of age and amateur photography -- that's because they may be 50+ years old or were photographed by rank amateurs using low-cost cameras
or both. Nevertheless, at the risk of straining readers' eyeballs, I have included some pictures of questionable quality to better illustrate the way things were.
I am grateful to my classmates who had the presence of mind to save images recounting their experiences in flight training and who permitted me to use them in this memoir.
Thanks also to several of my compatriots whose memories were sharper than mine in certain areas.
To send a note to Richard and AVweb about this story, please click here.
More articles, stories and fiction about the joy of aviation are found in AVweb's Skywritings section.
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It's been a busy week, but apparently a good one for AVweb readers who've spent some time in the air. We've received a hefty number of "FBO of the Week" recommendations in the last seven
days and will be saving a couple of our favorite stories for future installments.
In the meantime, today's blue ribbon goes to Corporate Aircraft at Fresno Yosemite International Airport (KFAT) in Fresno, California,
where Ray Stratton was treated like a VIP (a Volunteer and Important Pilot):
FAT is a common hand-off airport for Angel Flight missions from NorCal to SoCal. I had the SoCal mission as flight 2 of 2. I called Corporate Aircraft and asked if they would waive the ramp fee for
both Angel Flight aircraft, both Ce182s. I told them I would not be getting fuel. They waived the fees, loaned me a crew car to get lunch, and cleaned my windshield of the swarm of bugs I
found at 3,000 feet on approach. Imagine the service if I'd bought fuel!
Corporate Aircraft is my stop from now on when going to NorCal. They support the good deeds of the pilot community.
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