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A 747 that has been parked at Quonset State Airport in Rhode Island for a couple of years now is being transformed into a replica of Air Force One, according to a local news station. The 747 first flew into the airport in Evergreen livery in June 2015, and has been sitting outside through rain, snow and wind. Now workers on site are beginning the transformation with a fresh coat of exterior paint. Franklin Exhibits, based in New York, owns the airplane. They told Channel 10 they plan to replicate every detail of the presidential aircraft, inside and out, to create a tourist attraction.

The finished airplane may first be based at Quonset for a few months, but then will be removed via barge, from the airport’s shipping port on Narragansett Bay, according to Channel 10. It then will either be transported to a new site, perhaps in Washington, D.C., or it may become a traveling exhibit. The 747 has been in production since 1970, but Boeing officials said recently that demand is slowing down and they don’t expect to sell any more of them for commercial air travel. A few may still be built for freight and VIP transport. Boeing has produced more than 1,500 of the distinctive jets.

At least two actual Air Force One aircraft are in museums. The first jet-powered Air Force One, a Boeing 707-120, is at the Museum of Flight, in Seattle. The Ronald Reagan presidential library, in California, has a Boeing 707 that flew from 1973 to 2001, serving seven presidents. Twenty-two airplanes have flown as official presidential aircraft, starting with a Douglas C-54 Skymaster during the Eisenhower administration in 1959. Aircraft were used before that, beginning with President Roosevelt. The 747s have been the presidential aircraft since 1990. The White House today is served by two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft. 

Images courtesy of Noah Forden.

 

image: KATU

A man who tried to steal a helicopter at gunpoint outside a flight school in Oregon was fatally shot by police on Monday. The incident began when a man wearing a gray hoodie, with the hood up, approached the Hillsboro Airport’s chain-link fence and climbed over. An observer, who was there with his family to watch the planes, told police, "For a moment, I thought to myself that it was a little warm for the big, thick, gray hoodie with the hood over him,” according to the Oregonian. The man told reporters when the man jumped the fence, he rushed his family into the car and left the scene.

At 11:23 a.m., the man went up to a helicopter with a flight instructor and student inside as it was parked with its rotor spinning at Hillsboro Aero Academy, Lt. Henry Reimann, a Hillsboro police spokesman, told the Oregonian. The man opened the door, pointed a gun at the student and ordered the student out. When the student hesitated, the man fired the gun away from the helicopter and the student got out and ran away, Reimann said. The gunman then went to the other side of the helicopter and pointed a gun at the instructor. He ordered the instructor out and then jumped in. "According to the sergeant that approached, it appeared he knew what he was doing in the cockpit," Reimann said. Employees from Hillsboro Aero, armed with personal firearms, and a police officer approached the helicopter and held the man at gunpoint. The suspect fled, going back over the fence, across the road and into a field. A Hillsboro police officer encountered the man there and shot him, Reimann said. The man died at the scene.

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Most folks in the U.S. may be taking holiday time this week, but general aviation advocates are not slowing down in their effort to oppose efforts in Washington to privatize air traffic control. Thirty-four groups signed on to a letter on Monday that says the House bill submitted by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., — the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2017 — would result in “uncertainty and unintended consequences without achieving the desired outcomes.” The groups, including GAMA, AOPA, EAA, NBAA and others, say that privatization faces “strong bipartisan opposition in both the House and Senate,” and lawmakers should instead focus on creating “the stability and funding” that ATC needs.

The letter advocates for developing a long-term FAA reauthorization plan that would create predictable and stable funding for the FAA, including biennial budgeting, consolidation of unneeded and outdated facilities, and certification reforms, and putting to use some of the balance from the Airways and Airport Trust Fund to expedite technology deployment. “We are ready and willing to work with all industry stakeholders and Congress to advance the consensus needed to improve our current system and to ensure that our nation’s air traffic control system remains the envy of the world,” the letter concludes. Congress is in recess this week. The Senate returns to work on Monday, July 10, and the House on Tuesday, July 11. AOPA President Mark Baker called on the aviation community last week to lobby their representatives about the legislation, while they are in their home states over the holiday week.

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image: ADN/Marshall Severson

About 15 years ago, the Alaska Airmen’s Association and local pilots pioneered a VFR route in the remote regions between their state and Russia, just across the Bering Sea. The route was completed in 2001, but it’s challenging, and nobody has flown it in about 10 years. That changed last month, when Marshall Severson and Dan Billman, who both live in Alaska, completed the trip. Severson, 62, retired last year as an FAA flight services manager, and Billman, 66, works for the FAA as a safety program manager, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. Both pilots had worked on the original project to create the route. They prepared for three months before making the flight, according to the newspaper, and said their expenses equaled roughly the cost of “a month on the sunny Mediterranean.”

After landing at Provideniya Bay Airport, they were met by about 10 Russian security personnel, border agents and others, Billman told the Dispatch News. Both travelers said they were treated courteously by the Russians throughout the trip, and after spending about five hours in the country, they got a warm send-off. “We went up to shake their hands and it turned into hugs from all these folks," said Billman. The route mainly skirts the rugged shoreline, requiring only one over-water leg of about 39 miles. Pilots need to carry visas and permits, and must get prior OK from ATC. Fuel stops along the route charge up to $8 per gallon, according to the Dispatch News, and some airports charge high landing fees. The whole route, from Nome to Provideniya, takes about three hours.

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image: WSAW-TV

Six people died when a Cessna 421 broke up in the air over northern Wisconsin about 3 a.m. on Saturday, the NTSB has said. The airplane had departed from Waukegan, Illinois, with six men on board who were headed to Manitoba, Canada, for a fishing trip. NTSB investigators told The Associated Press there was a discussion between the pilot of the plane and air traffic controllers about a “local weather phenomenon" in Catawba, Wisconsin, which is near the crash site just southwest of the city of Phillips. Soon after, the aircraft dropped off radar.

Debris was found in a heavily wooded area near Catawba and stretched about a quarter mile to the edge of a state highway. “The debris field suggested an in-flight break up," NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss told the AP. Five of the six who died, ages 21 to 70, were from Illinois, and one was from California. Weiss said investigators are still trying to determine what type of weather the plane encountered and whether it caused the crash. Kevin King, 70, the pilot, had flown jets during the Vietnam war and was an active pilot who owned several airplanes, according to local news reports.

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Heard from a foreign student turning off after landing at a strange airport.
Tower: What are your intentions?
Student: Returning to China as soon as possible!


Robert Reser

 

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Today’s blog was going to be a PSA to set straight the horrible thrashing general aviation took at the hands of yet another misguided network news feature.

But, damn it, foiled again. The piece in question ran Sunday night on NBC’s Dateline and chronicled the story of McKenzie Morgan, a plucky 17-year-old student pilot who took a wrong turn and crash landed in the Wyoming mountains, miles from her intended route on her long cross country. You can see it here.

The story is billed as an “investigation,” but it’s really a dramatized rendering that keeps the viewer on the edge of the seat wondering if this kid is gonna survive. Spoiler alert: She does and even gets back in the saddle to earn her private. You’ll have to sit through 20 minutes of overwrought voice-over and interviewing by the ever-unctuous Keith Morrison to figure that out, but once you do, the rest of the story falls together engagingly, if not artfully. It has some terrific aerial footage of mountains and even some nice air-to-air. (Wish they knew about prop filters, however.)

The PSA part I had planned was to take Ms. Morgan’s flight instructor, Bobbi Powers, to task for sending her student into the wild without any survival gear. I intended to use that as a platform for one of my periodic spleen ventings about people not carrying even minimal survival equipment in airplanes. Then I read the accident docket. Stand down, big boy.

Although it wasn’t apparent from the script, probably to heighten the sense of imminent danger, the airplane was equipped. Morgan had water, charts, a GPS, some food and a vest with survival gear Powers had loaned her. It doesn’t matter what or wasn’t in the gear, what matters is the consciousness of recognizing the sort of risk flying over such remote country represents and habitually equipping to deal with it. In my experience, people in the remote parts of the west and northern tier have this consciousness practically ingrained. But humanity is not homogenously perfect (or rational) and gadgets like cellphones and GPS tend to knock the sharp edges off the risk of being in extremis in remote areas. Crash your airplane in the middle of the New Jersey Pine Barrens and that lesson might be learned too late.

So, now comes my periodic reminder to carry some minimal survival gear in your airplane, no matter where you fly it. There are inexpensive commercial survival packages available or you can assemble your own. We’ve published survival equipment articles, like this one on life rafts. The AOPA Air Safety Institute has some materials as well. This stuff is worth more than just passing consideration.

Given audiences' hunger for titillation, the producers exaggerated the remoteness of Ms. Morgan’s plight. By sheer good luck, she was spotted by two hunters on horseback and one of them led her to a trailhead, thence to a clinic for a checkup. She made it home late the same night from a crash that occurred in mid-afternoon. And if you’re a flight instructor who enjoys vicarious angst, I challenge you not to feel it when Powers describes her helplessness and worry when her student becomes overdue. I think most of us have suffered that to some degree. Although I can’t recommend it, there’s nothing to equal it as a character builder.

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Ken Dravis was inspired to pursue both music and aviation careers by superstar John Denver. Among his early compositions was a catchy tune called Go Around. Dravis is a NetJets captain who continues to record music and front a John Denver tribute band called Eagle River.

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Picture of the Week

It hardly seems possible that it's only been a little more than a century since the fastest mode of transport pulled a caboose but Mike Buettgenbach captured the juxtaposition perfectly. Breakfast was good, too. Nice shot, Mike!

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Mark Baker, president of AOPA, says the general aviation community needs to rally right now to thwart efforts in Washington to privatize the air traffic control system.

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