A 70-year-old airplane teaches that flying is a gift to be savored
My palms were sweating as I approached the hangar. Behind locked doors sat one of the most storied airplanes in aviation: the Stearman PT-17, and I was going to fly it. I felt like I had been invited backstage to meet Elvis. I had been dreaming about this iconic airplane since I was a kid who spent Saturday afternoons staring up at the type from the weeds of my local airport.
It’s cold. It’s white. And it’s north. (Very north.) Underneath us is 10,000 feet of ice. Surrounding us is an additional 1.7 million square kilometers of ice, and not much else. Looking out the cockpit window, I can’t tell the difference between 1,000 feet and 10 miles, vertically or horizontally. For me, this is the middle of nowhere. For the researchers we’re bringing to their frozen summer home, this is where it all happens.
I love movies! I especially enjoy it when writers use their imaginations to create futuristic technology. For example, do you remember 1985’s Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly? He finds himself traveling back in time with the help of a DeLorean car that’s converted to a time machine by his mad scientist friend, played by Christopher Lloyd.
The market for new general aviation airplanes seems to be changing. Today’s new airplane buyer has different needs, goals and experience. To pinpoint this psychographic, Marc C. Lee spoke with sales representatives from various aircraft manufacturers, and it’s clear that there has been a shift in who’s buying what, and why.
This could be the greatest thing to happen to general aviation since the 1940s,” says Mike Zidziunas. “This” refers to the rise of light-sport aircraft (LSA). Industry “pundits” set the number of LSA sold so far in the United States at nearly 1,400, give or take an airframe or two. Although the credit crisis and fuel woes are doing a sumo squat on the picture as we speak, recreational pilots, aviation career seekers and flight schools intent on bringing fresh hardware and energy to aging trainer fleets forge ahead.
You may already fly an aircraft with a turbocharged engine. If not, and you plan on expanding your aviation horizons, there may be a turbocharger in your future. A turbocharged engine can maintain sea level manifold pressure up to critical altitude. When equipped with an automatic density controller, nearly constant horsepower will be automatically produced up to the critical altitude.
If you think banjos and DC-3s have nothing in common, you have yet to meet Dan Gryder. With a penchant for impromptu bluegrass sessions under the wing of his legendary aircraft—or anywhere, really—the witty Boeing 777 pilot and his team offer one-of-a-kind tailwheel instruction. Jim Wynbrandt visited Dan’s home base just outside of Atlanta, Ga., at Griffin-Spaulding County Airport, where students learn everything from preflight to tiedown.
Sometimes cutting an expense costs more in the long run
Are we now seeing apocalyptic signs that the world, as we know it, is about to collapse in on us? I checked my avgas price this morning (yeah, I know, dumb move) and it was $6.72, which means, at present rates, by the time you read this, it’ll be over seven bucks.
The accelerated stall usually surprises a pilot because it occurs at a higher airspeed than a normal stall (in which a wing loading of 1 G is maintained). Remember, a wing can be made to stall at any speed—all that has to happen is for the angle of attack to get high enough. As G-loading increases, so does stall speed. If a wing reaches its critical angle of attack when the wing loading is 2 G, twice normal, the stall will occur at a speed that’s proportional to the square root of the wing loading.
Start early on your list, it makes for a wonderful life
The other day, a student called to book some flight training, explaining that flying a Pitts has been on his bucket list. I haven’t seen the movie by the same name, but I love the concept: You make up a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket, and little by little, you whittle it down. Naturally, when I heard that, I thought about what I’d put on my own such list. After a few minutes of thinking, however, I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad that I couldn’t come up with many items.
Every other summer or so, as I fly north with friends over the lush immensity of southern Wisconsin, find Ripon and then push along the railroad tracks, a sensation of satisfaction and memory overtakes me as the skyline of Lake Winnebago fills the windshield. I realize then that I don’t fly into Oshkosh just for the usual reasons—the air shows, strolling the avionics bazaars, enjoying the epic storytelling of Rod Machado. To me Oshkosh is a celebration of personality and spirit.
I can only imagine the first day back to school for Rinker Buck in the fall of 1966. As his classmates recounted tales of riding bikes around the block and jumping in the neighbor’s pool, Rinker’s version of “what I did this summer” must have been a showstopper. “Well, my brother and I flew an airplane from New Jersey to California in only six days,” the 15-year-old could have said.
After a takeoff run of about one foot, the attitude pitches up to 10, then 20, then 30 degrees. I know we can’t maintain this pitch angle very long, but the pilot holds the nose up with no apparent concern for impending disaster.
It has been said that oil is the blood of an engine. If the oil is old and tired, contains foreign materials or flows at the wrong pressure, the engine’s optimum life span can be threatened. All pilots should know enough to check oil quality, as well as quantity, during preflight inspection. A quick peek at oil quantity marks on the dipstick isn’t enough. During preflight, you need to determine whether the oil seems suspiciously gritty, displays an unusual color or sheen, seems too thin or too thick for the ambient temperature, or has a “burnt” aroma. Inspect inside the cowling and on the ground under the engine for signs of oil leaks.
On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, I was nearing a pit stop in Albuquerque when the radio crackled with the following: “Thunderbird One, you’re cleared direct Red Ridge.” “Hmm, can it be the T-Birds?” I thought as I sped toward the Lone Star State. The controller inquired about their loose formation, and the lead T-Bird confirmed their staggered positioning. Must be them, I gathered, and I looked down to the screens for traffic info, flicking the sensitivity from NORM to UNLTD in hopes of seeing something. Well, wouldn’t you know it, up pops a return moving quickly in the opposite direction, 7,900 feet above at my 11 o’clock.
At the 2005 AOPA Convention, barely six months after the first light-sport aircraft (LSA) airworthiness certificates were issued, AOPA President Phil Boyer observed, “This has got to be one of the most interesting things you can do: help bring a whole new segment of aviation to market.”