Big and chunky looking, the surprisingly agile texan redefined the role of the advanced trainer
On the ground, a T-6 Texan looks anything but fun. The first time I flew a Texan, 20 years ago out of Santa Paula, Calif., with the late Doug Dullenkopf, I expected to have my hands full with a heavy, unwieldy beast.
Socata’s TBM 850 offers performance only slightly below that of some VLJs—at 30% less operating cost
Single-engine turboprops are becoming the rage these days, if you can call a half-dozen models a “rage.” The Malibu JetProp’s mod transforms standard Piper Malibus and Mirages into fire-breathing turbines, and the single-turbine Epic LT will be available as both a homebuilt and a production airplane with a PT6A rated for 1,200 shp.
New owner, same plane, but with more bang for the buck
In the last decade, two of the biggest names in fixed-gear, high-performance singles have been Cirrus and Columbia. Everyone knows the story of Cirrus: A small homebuilt aircraft company in the wilds of the northern Midwest that has successfully converted to building production airplanes.
In the Siegfried family tree, there’s a Cub that flies from branch to branch, as each generation introduces the next to aviation. Whereas some parents pressure their kids to play piano or throw a football, the Siegfried’s child-rearing checklist revolves around taildraggers. “Old Bob” took his first flight in a J-3 in 1943; his five children each soloed gliders at age 14 and Cubs at 16. And while granddaughter McKinley’s classmates were cavorting on spring break this year, the high schooler devoted 50 hours per week to building a Texas Sport Cub, the kit version of an American Legend Cub, with her father. We joined them in Lakeland, Fla., where 16-year-old McKinley soloed the low-and-slow derivative, extending family tradition another generation.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced his plans for the United States to put the first man on the moon by 1970. The space race officially shifted into high gear. His announcement also triggered events that led to the manufacture of one of the oddest looking planes in aviation history—the Pregnant Guppy, an aircraft that would help make Kennedy’s goal a reality.
On February 16, 2008, the general aviation community lost one of its members. A single-engine aircraft crashed to the right of runway 10R at Portland International Airport in Portland, Ore., while attempting an ILS approach for the second time in very low IFR (VLIFR) conditions. The pilot sustained fatal injuries and the aircraft was destroyed. Because the NTSB is still investigating this fatal accident, we don’t know if this pilot had Category II authorization. According to the preliminary NTSB report, we do know that conditions two minutes prior to the accident were well below Category I minimums for the approach, with a broken ceiling of 100 feet and a runway visual range (RVR) variable between 800 and 1,600 feet. Without Category II authorization, attempting this approach more than once was an accident waiting to happen.
Entering the glass-cockpit age has gotten more affordable
An interesting trend has been emerging: Upgrades for existing aircraft are bringing older airplanes into the modern, electronic, glass-cockpit age. Glass upgrades or even whole retrofit panels can make you think you’re flying the newest aircraft in the sky.
The latest iteration of the turbine-single Pilatus, which received FAA and EASA certification in March 2008, has two big improvements that are split by the firewall. Up front, improvements in the 1,200 shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67P include the single-crystal blades and a new compressor design. Power upgrades make for faster climb and more stamina in fast-cruise power settings. Running off the back of the P&W powerplant are two monster 300-amp generators that ensure full electrical power and redundancy. These big dynamos are cooled and exhausted through special ductwork that ends in a tiny grill on the lower left side of the cowl, the only external clue that this is the newest PC-12.
Let’s fire up the flivver, kids: it’s family flying time! And, yes, you will solo at 14.
Every child remembers the alphabet blocks of kindergarten. But how many kids are raised with daily lessons in the art of flight? Bob Siegfried came of age in the 1940s. His childhood memories, like those of his generation, were lit by the lightning of World War II. Through it all, one dream burned the brightest: “I always, always wanted to fly.”
Finding a residential airpark for you and your plane
I live in downtown Manhattan and like the great majority of New Yorkers, have no car. The commute to my airplane in Caldwell, N.J., is a much bigger undertaking than a flight from Caldwell to Sun ’n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., where I’m investigating a possible solution to my dilemma: A home on a residential airpark, maybe a property with a private runway or some other cohabitation arrangement with my airplane. Apparently, I’m not alone in my search.