Airplanes don’t kill people, people do

In his blog at the Huffington Post, Jeff Schweitzer notes that “At the very moment crazed kamikaze pilot Joseph Stack plowed his airplane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, propaganda machinery in suspended animation instantly sprang back to life to lament the danger of small airplanes. Hysterical comparisons to 9/11 were immediately bandied about by pundits and politicians. With knowing glances exchanged between talking heads, a cry went out that personal airplanes were dangerous.”

He continues: “People fear what they do not know, and the inner workings of aviation certainly are mysterious to all but pilots. So a terrible event like what happened in Austin brings forth fearful cries to restrict general aviation. That initial response is understandable, but terribly misguided. The best way to counter the many misperceptions about flying is to bring to light the true benefits of general aviation, which should help dampen any future impulse to place restrictions on private and corporate airplanes.”

The blog then lists just a few of GA’s many contributions to society, from relief missions in Haiti to the impact of GA on business. Read it in full here.

Something new: Fly a Hang ‘Copter

I readily admit to being a hang glider pilot at heart. After flying several hundred airplanes, I still consider flying a hang glider to be perhaps THE purest way to fly. I’ve always said that if I could just snap my fingers and be in the air — oh, that it was so simple and quick! — I would always choose a hang glider to experience the magic of flight.

But how about “hang ‘copter” flying? Huh!?! I’ve got almost no time in rotary aircraft but I was caught by a YouTube video showing a fellow flying a hang glider with a rotor blade doing the lifting instead of Dacron wings. It struck me as kind of crazy…yes, even a hang glider pilot who loves flying off a mountain. But there it is, looking pretty sane, actually. Near the end of the video, the pilot waves comfortably to the camera before executing a very normal looking landing (well, normal to a hang glider pilot if not a jet jockey).

Though an Internet search will uncover plenty of reports about a gyroglider (an unpowered gyrocopter), this is the first I’ve seen of weight-shift control for a rotary-winged hang glider. It was reportedly built by a Russian named Shumeyko in the early 1990s.

I love to think about how the FAA or NTSB would regard this. Though I lack detail, it appears the whole rig might qualify as a Part 103 ultralight vehicle, meaning no pilot license is required nor is vehicle registration or any of those other trappings of government control. Go freedom of flight! Let’s see more of this unabashed experimentation when it can be done safely.

For more information:

The year of engagement


It takes more than alphabet groups speaking up to teach opinion leaders and decision makers about GA — it takes each pilot and aircraft owner stepping up and becoming actively engaged with their community leaders.

craig-fuller“As I see it, some of the top issues for the coming year and beyond must include protecting our nation’s airports, ensuring that air traffic modernization accounts for the needs of all system users, and building the pilot population,” said Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, in a speech this morning at the South Carolina Aviation Association’s annual convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “In order to make real progress on these issues, I will be asking every one of AOPA’s more than 415,000 members to get personally engaged in protecting and promoting general aviation.

“There are literally hundreds of ways to do that,” Fuller continued. “Being more engaged can be as simple as staying informed about the issues that affect your flying and as involved as hosting a major public event. But in between are almost infinite opportunities.

[Read more…]

Flight Design unveils upgraded LSA


CTFlight Design unveiled an upgraded model of its CTLS Light Sport Aircraft at the U.S. Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, late last month. The deluxe CTLS comes with with a loaded instrument panel, a longer engine life, and an upgraded interior treatment, according to company officials.

[Read more…]

Career advice from the cockpit

Air Force Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman, the best-selling author of “Never Fly Solo: Lead with Courage, Build Trusting Relationships and Reach New Heights in Business,” never expected to find a business lesson in the cockpit of an F-16 jet fighter at 20,000 feet and Mach 2. But during 65 combat missions in Iraq and Kosovo, he learned survival skills that will help any executive or entrepreneur dodge the missiles of lay-offs, budget cuts, and performance pressures that have become typical during today’s recession.

Here, he offers “5 tips to keep you mission ready in a turbulent work environment and rapidly changing economy:

  1. Walk the flight line: Get out there and connect with different departments on the job. If you’re in sales, grab a cup of coffee with tech support or customer service. If you’re in marketing, spend an hour or two in finance or in research and development. Make your objective not only to get to know the job of your fellow wingmen at work, but to get to know them personally. When you treat you co-workers as people first and employees second, they will go the extra mile for you when you call out “mayday” and ask for help when the missiles of business are launched. [Read more…]

Collier Trophy nominees named


The National Aeronautic Association has released the list of nominees for the 2009 Robert J. Collier Trophy, as well as the names of those individuals who will serve on the Collier Trophy Selection Committee.

trophyThe nominees are: Aircell, Ares 1, C-5M Super Galaxy, Kandahar Airfield Operations Team, International Space Station, MC-12W Project Liberty Enterprise Team, SpaceX Falcon 1 Development Team, and John Warner and the Excalibur Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle.

The Collier Trophy is awarded annually “….for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.” Past winners include the crews of Apollo 11 and Apollo 8, the Mercury 7, Scott Crossfield, Elmer Sperry and Howard Hughes. Projects and programs which have been the recipient of the Collier include the B-52, the Polaris Missile, the Surveyor Moon Landing Program, the Boeing 747, the Cessna Citation, the Gulfstream V and the F-22.

[Read more…]

Controllers want to know about FAA realignment of air control facilities

A special committee of the National Air Traffic Control Association wants to dissect and review the FAA’s plan to split and/or close Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities from their accompanying airport control towers in many locations and move those services to other locations.

NATCA formed a committee last fall to meet with the FAA after the agency said it would work with the association to develop a collaborative process to determine if and how towers and radar facilities could be changed to create a more efficient system. A special group met last week to try to review the FAA’s undisclosed plan.

The controllers say, to date, the FAA has not met with members of the committee and not shared its plan. NATCA officials said they are moving forward to collect information and start a strategy.

RIP: Will 94 UL be DOA?

Here is a thought experiment about the future of avgas.  The conclusion is fairly obvious if you do the numbers: The US consumed somewhere around 135 billion gallons of auto fuel in 2009.  The last annual figures I have are for 2008 at about 138 billion and declining. General aviation consumes less than 300 million gallons of avgas. The last annual figure I have is for 2007 and is declining.

Therefore it appears that avgas represents less than 1/4 of 1% of the gasoline consumed in the US.  It makes you wonder why the refineries even bother, especially when you consider they have to deal with Tetraethyl Lead (TEL) and then distribute the product with special processes so that it doesn’t contaminate the unleaded gasoline infrastructure, which means they certainly don’t distribute it through pipelines, the cheapest transport method.

One other fact that should be kept in mind about avgas:  A number of sources (mainly AOPA) maintain that 30% of the GA fleet has to have 100LL and uses about 70% of the 100LL consumed, while 70% of the GA fleet consumes about 30% of the 100LL — and most of them do not need it — they could be using 91 AKI premium unleaded auto fuel under STCs.  These figures go back to a survey done about 2003.

One should also keep in mind that only about 3% (123 out of 3,658, according to AirNav) of the FBOs in the country sell unleaded auto fuel on an airport and the number is declining. This is a very important statistic affecting the future availability of 94 UL. Ever get the feeling that everything about GA is declining?

[Read more…]

The importance of the human element



We have all experienced moments where we are left scratching our heads trying to figure out “what just happened?” Have you ever been distracted while taxiing? Have you ever planned your flight, checked weather, and yet inadvertently encountered IMC? Have you ever read back a clearance incorrectly? If so, you have likely thought about what happened and how you can prevent it from happening in the future. That means, whether you realized it or not, you were thinking about human factors and aviation.

[Read more…]

Tips to avoid landing gear corrosion

Due to its location and exposure to the elements, landing gear is highly susceptible to corrosion, note officials with Duncan Aviation. Water, dirt, debris and foreign objects, acting as electrolytes and producing a corrosive environment, can lead to landing gear corrosion that requires premature removal of components.

Jerry Cable, a Duncan Aviation Accessory Tech Rep, recommends thoroughly lubricating the landing gear with grease to expel trapped water, dirt and debris between the joints. “Following the recommended schedule for lubricating the landing gear and using the recommended lubricant can extend the time between removals and reduce maintenance costs due to corrosion found during maintenance actions,” he said.

[Read more…]