Grease is the word

Whenever I give talks I usually put in a few slides about grease. In discussions on this topic, questions mainly fall into three areas.

The first is why is it so critical to use only the grease that is approved for a certain application. A lot of people think grease is grease, so they should be able to use whatever is available.

An important point to remember is that grease is not really thick oil. It is base oil that has a thickening agent mixed in, much like my mother would mix corn starch into thicken the gravy.

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The four secret steps to becoming a good old boy

In your town, right now, there is a good old boy network firmly in place. I know this because there is a good old boy network in place in every town. Whether you’re in New York City, Los Angeles, Clarksville, Texas, or Carrington, North Dakota, there is a group of men and women known locally — and not always affectionately — as the good old boys network.

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USA Today goes anti-GA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On June 18, the national publication USA Today published an article titled Unfit for Flight. It painted general aviation as a dangerous activity and the manufacturers of aircraft as contributing to general aviation accidents. This is not new.

Anti-general aviation material has been printed and broadcast in the past. Two things make this time different. First, aircraft manufacturers, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and Textron, parent company to GA giant Cessna, had provided information to the writer, who chose not to use any of the material. Second, increased concern over more congestion at major airports labeled this as a possible early shot in what could become a major battle.

Neither of these two points is new. After a mid-air collision at San Diego  in 1978 between an airliner and a single-engine GA aircraft, major media spewed material about the dangers of “those small airplanes.” (It was finally determined that the airline pilots were busy talking among themselves and after sighting the GA aircraft had supposed they had passed it.) This accident set off a storm of anti-general aviation reports in print and on-air media.

This was just what the FAA was waiting for to establish then-called Terminal Control Areas around every airport in the United States served by a scheduled air carrier, even if it was just one or two flights a day.
Airlines favored the idea because it would mean limited numbers of general aviation aircraft getting near the airports the carriers used.

It was obvious the media was not getting such a wide range of anti-general aviation material without help. The president of American Airlines openly pushed for restricting general aviation operations at airports. (American Airlines has since become much more understanding and tolerant.)

At the time I was vice president of public relations at AOPA. We took on the fight. I had an undercover person on the staff at American Airlines so we knew what the airline was pushing to the media and able to counter it, often before it was published.

The AOPA PR department also took on the FAA’s efforts to establish restricted zones around every airport. For this, we tailored information to the individual publications in each city, pointing out the damage to that area that the FAA’s plans for terminal control areas would bring. There was no mention of the accident. This received the kind of support intended.

Local leaders, reading of the damages to the economy of restricting movements at the town’s airport, contacted their members in Congress. The war was not won, but the battles were. Instead of terminal control areas around every air carrier airport, Class B airspace rules were established at only the few where they now exist.

As a long-time newspaper man, I can tell you a reporter rarely comes up with such a story idea unless there is a personal reason or it is suggested by an outside source. Without any direct finger pointing, one must wonder what prompted that USA Today piece.

GA’s alphabet groups, including AOPA, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), were all quick to counter the USA Today piece with accurate information. But response is always behind, with opponents always ahead.

The best defense is a strong offense. But it takes planning. A top executive in an international corporation gave me some great advice as I discussed taking on another large industry in the struggle for general aviation’s position in air traffic movement: “Don’t take them on directly,” he said. “They will squash you like a small worm.”

I learned. Take on the big ones, but do it a smart way.

Is there a benefit to using fuel additives?

I have recently received several inquiries concerning the use of aviation fuel and lubricant additives. To start a discussion on additives, I’ve looked into any and all approved additives.

In the ASTM D-910 spec for 100/130 low-lead avgas, there are only two fuel additives approved for aircraft owner addition to the fuel: Isopropyl Alcohol and Di-ethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether. Both are fuel system icing inhibitors.

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Courting integrity for the long haul

My family is probably as dysfunctional and weird as any. Yet for all the squawking and sarcasm and occasional emotional outbursts, we still care for one another. You might even say we love each other. Certainly, there’s a sense of trust and acceptance that defies logic. I’m proud of that. I suspect most parents feel similarly when reflecting on their own family units.

Since they were very young we’ve instilled this concept into our children and into ourselves. We don’t lie. Not even a little bit. Honesty matters. In fact I’ll go so far as to say that integrity is the only thing any man or woman can actually   keep — if they choose to.

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‘Significant progress’ made on NextGen in last year

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It has been one year since FAA Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker took over as Chief NextGen Officer. In his first report to Congress early in June, he noted that “significant progress” has been made.

That optimism is not totally shared by others, however, most of whom have questions about equipment requirements and costs; potential effects on traffic in congested airspace; equipment and possible regulations in non-congested airspace; and other secondary effects of a new system.

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Memorial Day: Early and late this year

Last month, it seemed that Memorial Day came early, didn’t it? Regardless of the calendar, it came early for some of my old buddies in aviation. And it came decades late for some World War II GA fliers I knew. Let me explain.

First, there was the memorial luncheon for my buddy and president of the National Association of Aviation Officials, Henry Ogrodzinki — the much-loved Washington association leader and former communications exec who left us way too soon.

Henry O

Henry O

Our careers had paralleled from the start, it seemed. When I left the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Henry — known by most as Henry O — took my job there. I was pursued by Gulfstream but chose Beech instead. Henry later took the Gulfstream job and excelled, doing the launch of the G-V. (He later resuscitated the Dayton Air Show, then took NASAO to unprecedented heights while helming major D.C. aviation functions like the Wright Day Dinner.)

Many Washington aviation types gathered May 15 to celebrate a guy who made the Washington scene a brighter, “funner” place to work for aviation. State aviation officials sang his praises, then audience members rose with remembrances and perspectives. Henry’s co-recipient of last year’s Elder Statesman of Aviation Award, former FLYING publisher Dick Koenig, graciously came to D.C. for the event.

I took my turn  to say that one’s impressive bio (in a city of extensive resumes) pales in the final accounting. One’s true measure is what you have been to people. Here, again, my peer Henry beat me by a mile. I was proud to say he excelled in this and so many other ways.

While we were still digesting our emotions about Henry, time moved on. News arrived that Jim Christiansen had died suddenly that day. You may not know the name, but he was big (and much admired) in business aviation — especially the charter business. He was a good guy. And (gulp), he was “only” 67.

Then, another sad notice: “Skeets” Coleman had “flown West” at 95. He had been famous for “flying UP” – taking off and landing vertically atop the bizarre Convair XFY-1 Pogo, a 35-foot-tall turboprop “tail-sitter” fighter. Backing-down from vertical hover without instruments or computer guidance, Skeets would land it by twisting around in his seat, straining to see down over his shoulder!

Air & Space Magazine recalled that Skeets was “one of the last people ever to venture aloft in a machine that nobody knew how to fly, that no simulator had proved would fly, and that no computer could promise would be controllable.”

Coleman was awarded the 1955 Harmon Trophy for his exploits despite the Navy’s abandonment of the concept. (The XFY-1’s competitor for a shipboard vertical-takeoff fighter, the Lockheed XFV, is on outside display at SUN ‘n FUN in Lakeland, Florida.)

Why do I mourn Skeets? It’s based on just one evening with him as a bunch of us guys “did dinner” in Atlanta at the National Business Aviation Association show. I guess I got myself invited through the generosity of Bob Hoover. But there I was, talking the night away with the walks-on-water test pilot I had just read about in one of Bob Searles’ “Reflections” columns in Business and Commercial Aviation magazine.

In any case, that’s aviation: The bond that joins us all can stretch across industry segments and experience levels, or at least it can with great guys like Jim Christiansen or Skeets Coleman (and Bob Hoover, for that matter.) Some modern-day “superstar jet jocks” may think themselves “too good” for a GA guy but they pale in comparison. I’m not going to envy, let alone celebrate, their lives. They will do enough of that on their own.

And now to the very nearly forgotten: Memorial Day came decades late for the Civil Air Patrol Subchasers of World War II, but  it finally came. On May 30, the President signed Senate Bill 309 awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to veterans of Civil Air Patrol.

No doubt pushed by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the U.S. national honor is one of few for WWII CAP veterans and decades later than recognition for other military auxiliaries like the WASPs. I was proud to engineer a major tribute to CAP Subchasers at AOPA EXPO ’95 in Atlantic City, NJ. From this, I continued years of such pro bono work under the CAP Historical Foundation.

If you don’t know, volunteer Coastal Patrol pilots flew against marauding Nazi subs off U.S. shores in 1942-43 in single-engine Stinson 10s, Fairchild 24s or anything else they had. CAP operations during all of World War II totaled 86,685 missions, 244,600 flight hours, 24 million air miles and 59 dead fliers (including 26 lost at sea.)

Beyond a new CAP website, you can find CAP’s story in the National CAP Museum on the Web.

Honoring these daring GA flyers was gratifying. But best was my association with these modest heroes in their later years. Like others of our “Greatest Generation,” they did it for their country — not for fame or bragging rights.

There are now only about 100 still with us, CAP says. They all just carried on with their lives after the war, not expecting payback. In fact, pilots often told me they never expected to be remembered. But a new generation of fans — like D.C.-area independent CAP historian Roger Theil or those supporting the 1997-2008 CAP Historical Foundation — re-told their story before most were gone.

Memorial Day is sometime around the end of May, isn’t it? For me, it seemed to come early this year, then again later. These were especially meaningful memorial days.

 

© 2014 Drew Steketee All Rights Reserved