Keeping Spirits Up

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Fresh Record Attempts In The Works...

So, who will be dining out with the awards-granting National Aeronautics Association next year? Included among this year's record attempts, Steve Fossett is still seeking more than 49,000 feet in a glider. Gerhard Schauble, of Kelowna, B.C., Canada, will attempt to fly his Glasair 22,858 miles at an average 250 mph. He plans to stop only for fuel. Endurance of a different sort will be needed by the Pakistani military pilot who hopes to set the record for an ultralight flight from Karachi to Peshawar. And -- though it's hard to believe it hasn't already been done -- Lee Owens, a 54-year-old chief pilot and instructor, hopes to become the first black man to fly around the world solo in a single-engine plane, a P-51, in tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. "The goal of this trip is to promote what the Tuskegee Airmen did for me as a citizen, as a pilot and what they did for aviation," Owens told AVweb. He hopes to leave June 19. The Canadian Schauble hopes to break 16 speed records when he mounts his Glasair for a round-the-world trip from British Columbia on May 24. If he makes it, Pakistani Qazi Sajjad Ahmed will grind along behind a 64-hp Rotax for 16 hours. And Steve Fossett is out to prove that whatever goes up can keep going up, using powerful winds that blow against the California mountains at this time of year to breach 49,000 feet in a sailplane. He tried the same thing in New Zealand last fall (spring in New Zealand) but didn't make it.

...Rubber-Band Plane Hits New Heights...

In the guts-and-glory world of aviation records, it's nice to see the whimsical getting a little recognition sometimes. This is supposed to be fun, after all, isn't it? So, full marks to the NAA for naming the rubber-band-powered exploits of one James Richmond in its annual declaration of the Most Memorable Aviation Records. Last Aug. 4, the "double strand rubber motor" in Richmond's homebuilt model airplane helped keep the creation aloft for 47 minutes and 19 seconds, not much less than some fighters will last at full burner. This was no balsa wood Silver Streak, however. Richmond's aircraft sported a wingspan of almost 3 feet and featured a variable-length propeller of 22 to 26 inches. The aircraft weighed just 1.39 grams. The rubber bands were wound 1,960 turns, which, according to our math, puts the prop speed near 100 rpm on average -- assuming it ran for most (but not all) of the flight. During the flight, inside the atrium at an Indiana hotel, the delicate craft achieved a maximum altitude of 90 feet (in a 96-foot-high enclosure). The feat was first recognized by the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

...As NAA Awards Six Most Memorable Of 2002

The theme of higher, faster and farther dominates the remaining five of the Most Memorable. An astounding 300-person formation parachute jump, Steve Fossett's solo balloon flight around the southern hemisphere, Lee Behel Jr.'s 3-km straight-course speed record of 354 mph in a Lancair Turbine IV-P, Bruce Bohannon's single-engine climb to 41,611 feet, and more, will be honored at a gala ceremony and dinner at College Park Aviation Museum in Maryland next Monday. The parachute record honors the 300 jumpers who jumped from 14 airplanes and held their formation for seven seconds in a free fall from 20,000 feet. Fossett's record is well-documented, and there's also been quite a bit about Bruce Bohannon's single-engine climb to 41,611 feet last October at AOPA's annual convention in Palm Springs. The others were a little more obscure but certainly noteworthy in their own right. And, proving that there's more to a Gulfstream V than plush leather seats and a great mini-bar, company demonstration pilots Sean Sheldon, Ahmed Ragheb and John Mullican ripped from Tokyo to L.A. at an average speed of 643 mph, beating an 18-year-old record for that route.