Thursday, March 31, 2011

Video of Sun 'n Fun Carnage

Not long after the windstorm, I shot these videos.
There were other sections on the field I didn't get to that had more airplanes flipped, including, sad to say, a couple beautiful J3 Cubs.  I hope the Grand Champion hopeful I videoed yesterday wasn't one of them...but everybody loses when this many airplanes are damaged and destroyed.

Rain 'n A Lot Of Pain

Bad day at Sun 'n Fun, a day that no one likes to think about, but can happen anywhere at any time: Mother Nature threw one gigantic hissy fit, to the dismay of dozens of aircraft owners whose aircraft were amaged or outright destroyed. 
A horrific thunderstorm kept feeding nasty tornadic weather right across central Florida, and at one point we had a funnel cloud which may have touched down, depending on who you talked to, and flipped airplanes around like so many child's toys. 
Once it was over, tents were smashed, 2" steel flag poles were bent over like straw, and many planes were stacked like kindling.  Zodiacs, Huskies, Aircams, Cubs: no type was favored over any other.
The two Dakota Cubs I flew out in from Sioux Falls were not spared.  The 180hp Cub Speedy Richardson and I flew the last two days of our 6-day flight was destroyed.  The Cub flown by Amy Gersch was damaged but should be able to fly home, though the cowling was dinged up pretty bad and the metal prop was gouged by the wreckage of the other Cub which flipped, ripping out its double tie downs like they were anchored in peanut butter, and landed on Amy's plane. 
Millions of dollars of damage overall, and the show was cancelled for the rest of the day. 
I hunkered down in the Sun 'n Fun Museum (big steel building) with a couple hundred other anxious showgoers, including Dan Johnson and his wife Randee.  
Our sincerest regrets, condolences and wishes for solid insurance policies for all those who suffered losses today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sun 'n Fun 2011 Day One

Well, Day One for me anyway; the show started yesterday but I was still stranded in Alabama by soggy and intractable weather with a couple Dakota Cubs.
Amy Gersch
We made it into Plant City at about 5:30 last night after squeaking under some very low ceilings, then running east once we hit the Gulf Coast.
A 6-day odyssey...and we're just glad to have made it at all.  Several VFR pilots are still stuck in the South and the storms continue.
Here's a video I quick-shot today, thanks to Legend Cub's Dave Graham, who took me over to meet the owner of a fabulous Piper Cub J3 restoration.

Dave "Speedy" Richardson

It's really gorgeous.  My video doesn't do it justice but it'll give you a bit of a peak.  The owner is having it judged and hoping to snag a Grand Champion Award. And it's sure got a shot: absolutely immaculate.
The restoration cost upwards of $80K!  Now that's commitment.

Dave and Kurt Sehnert also clued me in a new airplane about to debut from Legend, as well as a quick glance on how this top selling American-produced LSA builder has weathered the sluggish economic recovery.
"Our new Super Legend Cub," says Dave Graham, "has a flapped wing for reduced stall speeds and we're putting a lot of carbon fiber into the structure, in doors, wing tip bows and other components. The tailfeathers are Super Cub size with slightly more area, and aerodynamically balanced for more control authority."
"Power is a Lycoming 0-233.  It's a 115 hp, multi fuel engine to help address the ethanol fuel situation.  The Super Legend will have the same power to weight ratio as the original PA-18 Piper Super Cub with a 150hp engine, so it will be a good performer."
Legend's anticipated timetable:
[] Lycoming expects to complete certification testing by the end of Quarter 3, 2011,
[] ASTM certification for the airplane end of 2011, and ready for the market by Sebring 2012
Intro price is $139,900.  20% down will hold a slot.
It will be an SLSA first, then a kit.
Frame of the new Super Legend
 Kurt Sehnert weighs in on the new plane and the company's fortunes:
"The Texas Sport (kit) version will come after the SLSA version is done, probably by Sun 'n Fun 2012.  The kit can be built either Experimental Amateur Built or as an ELSA.  Of course we will offer our factory built program too as we do with our other models."
Kurt tells me the SLSA Legends continue to dominate sales, and buyers are ponying up for loaded versions with all the toys installed.
"Kit builders tend to build Experimental rather than ELSA because most want their own customized version, which you can't do with an ELSA, which has to be built to the same exact specs as the SLSA."
Super Legend frame detail

The amphib float option Legend offers had a curve ball thrown at it when Baumann Floats recently surprised the aviation world by closing its doors.
"We'll have to see what happens," says Kurt.  "We're looking at other players, but it's been a bit of a shock and it's a shame, they made an excellent product.  But like all business, we'll just go to plan B."
On the Economy: "Well, we figure if we got this far, we'll make it.  It has been a skinny two years.  But it feels like things are moving again."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sun 'n Fun 2011 Takes Off Tomorrow

SUN 'n FUN 2011 kicks off, even as scores of planes - yours truly included - remain scattered around at airports up to hundreds of miles away, trying to beat the storm system that’s prevented them from making it to Lakeland, FL so far.
The big airshow’s big boss, John Burton, promises an impressive line up:
* Blue Angels performances four different days, highlighting the celebration of the 100th anniversary of naval aviation
* a 20-year retrospective on Desert Storm
* a 10-year commemoration of September 11, 2001
*  the formal opening of the new Central Florida Aerospace Academy (CFAA) on the SUN ’n FUN campus.
* F-22 Raptor flight three different days
* AvBid Airplane Auctions
* Hot Air Balloon Launch at dawn, Saturday, April 2
* Daily and nightly airshows with fireworks
* AOPA "Rally GA" Day
* Lindbergh Foundation Awards for electric-powered flight advances
* "Green Space” Exhibit of environmentally friendly, aviation-related products and services, anchored by Lindbergh Foundation.
* 75th Anniversary Cub Convoy mass arrival to SUN ’n FUN, Monday,  March 28.
And of course all the mix of colorful booths, new aircraft (including new LSA) and a whole lot more.
photo courtesy Harvey Reidel and Sun 'n Fun
Be there or be square!
Speaking of square, I may have to pull the plug, rent a car and drive the last 500 miles from Sparta, TN...but I'm hanging in until the last minute because it would sure feel a lot better to land in the same Dakota Cub I started out in.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stranded in Sparta

Half way to Sun 'n Fun, thumb typing on my iPhone, we're sitting in the same place we've been in - the comfy lounge at friendly FBO, Sparta Aero Services - since 8 this morning.
It's 3:30 now.
Allow me one small comic book growl of anguish: aarghh.
Situation: 8:00 a.m.

Thanks, that feels better.
Our erstwhile Cub Crew, ably led by aviation Whiz Kid Amy Getsch who's interning in marketing at Dakota Cub, the Super Cub replica kit and certified maker, flew down this far yesterday, landed right around sunset after a lovely, mottled-sun trek at a leisurely 90 mph all the way at an average 3000 feet.
400 miles down, we stopped for a late lunch and picked up some reinforcements: two gents also en route to Florida, each flying their J3's.
Dick Pattschull of Iowa City and George Armstrong of Omaha, Nebraska launched, just after we got back from lunch, from Fulton Co., Mo.'s Hensley Airport.
We hurried along, Amy and I, in the Dakota Super 18 LT she calls Little Airplane, and the identically painted Super 18 she calls Big Airplane (it has a 180 hp engine; the LT has a C90 that puts out 113 hp).
Situation: 5:15 p.m.
 Big Airplane is being flown by Dave "Speedy" Richardson, AKA the Resident Gypsy, a conundrum that describes his rooted history in Sioux Falls and his love of long XC flights.
Amy talks to "her" - Little Airplane - as if she were a beloved horse - there's even a little stuffed panda bear riding along in the wing root with a great bird's eye view of the tandem cockpit and what's a comin' too.
Half an hour later we slowly overtook the pokier J3s and pressed on toward Sparta.
Clouds to the east spread a long gray somber note to the end of the days flying
Dick, after a comm miscue, landed several miles south of Sparta. We looped back trying to find Speedy, who could transmit but not receive.
We finally touched down in a murky dusk. I was impressed with how easy the big 26" bush tires and stout tailwheel soaked up my landing imperfections
Up at 6 the next morning, we ate and headed to the field. Eight hours later, still here. More bad weather en route. I may have to hop a winged beer can from nearby St Louis if we get stuck.
And I say again: arrgh.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Touchstones: Honoring the Basics

The FAA has a helpful publication that wouldn’t hurt us to check out now and then, whatever our level of experience and skill: the Airplane Flying Handbook.
Sure, it may seem like plain vanilla...but where would hot fudge sundaes and banana splits be without good old dependable vanilla?
We pilots need to maintain our good airmanship foundation, no matter how big a hotshot we sometimes imagine ourselves to be.  Reviewing the essentials helps us recall those nuances we forget, or shortcut...and which, in a pinch, we may desperately need in our quiver of flying skills.
Once we start down that "I got this wired" slippery slope, the risk of incidents and accidents increases...and who needs that kind of education?
Criquet Storch SLSA
Case in point: FAA's Handbook section on porpoising.
I sometimes revisit a landing tendency that I've been working to correct: I will make a bigger-than-necessary pitch correction after bouncing a landing.
If I balloon up at a higher angle of attack then I want, I'll push the nose over -- too far.  Instructors invariably tell me, "Whoa, just let it settle or go around, don't go chasing it."
I picked up that habit from hang glider and ultralight flying, where ultra-slow landing speeds and draggy airframes sometimes let you get away with...and even require...dramatic last-second pitch-ups to keep you from making hard landings.
The problem with such pitchy exuberance in an LSA or traditional GA airplane is the cleaner airframe's tendency to let you get it into "porpoising" flight, by chasing an ever-growing up/down nose angle...until a hard impact becomes unavoidable.
Porpoising is a classic scenario for collapsed landing gear.  A local SportCruiser was recently destroyed when the pilot lost control after porpoising near the runway.
Rather than reprise in my own words how to avoid mimicking the happy undulations of our sea-going mammalian friends, I'll refer you to this excellent section (it's a PDF: go to page 8-31).
I know I picked up a few pointers I'd forgotten...and learned a couple things I'd never learned in the first place.  After all, no one CFI can cover it all, no matter how skilled.
A pilot's license is our ticket to continue lifelong learning...and self-teaching through study and practice is an important component of it.
Speaking of the SportCruiser, I started to porpoise one the first time I flew it.  The SLSA has a very sensitive pitch response, especially compared to its roll pressures.
I expected I would be easing the nose off the runway just fine on my first takeoff but we suddenly zoomed up to a 20-30 degree angle.  Instead of easing the stick forward, I pushed it just a bit too smartly forward -- and we were instantly looking back down at the runway.
My instructor said "Whoa cowboy, easy does it!" as he eased the stick back to establish a proper climb angle.  I became a pitchmeister with my pinkies in that airplane from then on.
The FAA Handbook's bottom line: if you get seriously out of sync in pitch inputs, just power up and go around.
We sometimes forget we usually have a choice.  Doing a go-around is always a good mindset to keep in your mental skillbag: it's too easy to slip into the "I gotta land now!" syndrome.
Give that Handbook a look: I bet you'll find something in there that will make you a better pilot.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Aviation Jobs, American Style

Good news from Allegro LSA’s head honcho Doug Hempstead, as he spoke with our publisher Mike McMann
Allegro, now a solely-American made, composite/aluminum S-LSA (my flight report is due out soon in the magazine) told Mike he expects to hire as many as 35 workers within the next year.   These are jobs that were formerly held by Czech Republic personnel.
Allegro is a Czech-designed airplane (Fantasy Air) that, like so many LSA, was built in Czech Republic and assembled, test flown and delivered in the States. 
Doug and his wife Betty bought the rights to produce the airplane here and production is now underway at the company's Sanford, NC plant.
More than 450 of the Kevlar-composite fuselage/aluminum wing Allegros have been sold since 1994, most overseas.  The Hempsteads hope to change that proportion...and employ more Americans in the process.
Three Allegro models are offered: Classic Trainer at $89,000 (also configurable as an IFR trainer), Voyager at $94,000 (adds things like MGL Voyager EFIS, Garmin radio and transponder and vertical card compass), and Executive at $99,000 (adds two Dynon Skyview Synthetic Vision panels and Garmin GPS 500).
Those are highly competitive prices for a composite ship with lots of high-tech extras.  It's an excellent airplane that fulfills a lot of missions from trainer to cross-country cruiser.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Deals! We Got Deals!

I just finished a column that's becoming an annual event: talking with Avemco Insurance's VP Mike Adams, who filled me in on the general picture for LSA accidents,  claims and what it says about pilot's flying habits and the market strength as well after two brutal years trying to grow a fledgling industry.
FPNA A22 Valor
That column will be out in the mag this spring.  The short tell is: rates haven't gone up...and they haven't gone down.  We're in a general market stagnation where new pilots are replacing those who are dropping out. 
Pilot accidents are less frequent, especially experienced GA pilots, because Avemco's 5-hour minimum transition requirement before they'll write a policy for a new LSA owner is helping pilots get the touch they need to fly these aircraft well. 
LSA are generally lighter in weight than the birds they've flown all their lives, and the initial experienced-pilot mindset tended to regard them as toys instead of a new type of aircraft that deserves respect.

Another thing Mike touched on is the high cost of repairs after an accident.  That's because repairs require insurance companies to mostly buy new parts at retail price...there just isn't a deep supply of used and salvaged parts yet for LSA, while there certainly is for GA airplanes.
And that brought me to wonder just what used LSA are going for these days.
I checked Trade-A-Plane's website and pulled up around 20 for sale.  Although many didn't list prices, the majority did, along with TT (total time on the airplane) and a list of installed instruments and other options.
American Legend Cub
I cherry picked a few to give you an idea what the used market is looking like for LSA that are one to five years old. 
Prices have dropped considerably for many airplanes.  Sometimes they're older models with higher hours.  Sometimes the owner is simply moving on to a new bird.
Here's the sampling I picked.

2009 Gobosh 700S 250hrs TT $112K
2008 CubCrafters Sport Cub S2  80hrs TT $134K
2008 Jabiru J-230 $96K no TT listed
2007 AMD Zodiac CH601, all mods as of 3/19 155hrs TT $75K.  (The modifications are significant: several 601 models, almost all of them homebuilt, had structural failures and fatal crashes, leading to extensive airframe modifications)
Zenair 601XL (2 available) both built by "old experienced A&P mechanic, rebuilt Lycoming 0-235s, one has 60 hrs TT, the other was just finished, $60K each, upgrade kits on each
2007 Dova Skylark 64hrs TT $160K invested, asking $119K
2007 Evektor SportStar Plus 135hrs TT $85K
2007 FPNA Valor 525hrs TT $55K
2007 Rans S-6S Coyote II, 100 hp, kit built, 102hrs TTAF $47.5K
2007 Remos G3 1450hrs TT, $59K
2006 American  Legend Cub 495hrs TT, 120HP Jabiru $75K
2006 Flight Design CTSW 150hrs TT $75K
To my eye, we're beginning to see some real deals out there.  That bodes well for the industry. 
Some of these planes may go to schools, others will get more pilots flying, or keep those older dudes and dudettes in the air.
And since this is still a new fleet, you can likely find a top-shape airplane for tens of thousands less than new. 
Here's your chance to get into the game if brand-new isn't on your must-do list.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Ice" that iPad 2!

Now this sounds like fun: trying to blow up an iPad2!
Jeppesen, the aeronautical charting company, just ran a rapid decompression test on the iPad 2.  The poor, innocent device was explosively decompressed at an altitude of 51,000 feet!  It came through with flying colors, which ought to be good news for just about every private or airline jet passenger intent on finishing their latest World of Warcraft scenario (after getting to a safe altitude first of course.)
Jeppesen had previously tested the original iPad, part of a successful program to get initial FAA authorization for the Jeppesen Mobile TC charting App.
The Jeppesen Mobile TC App is available, of course, from the App Store or through iTunes, and it’s free for those already subscribed to Jepp’s electronic navigation service.
What does this have to do with LSA?  Nothing much, I just thought the prospect of iPad2 coming through the fog of a rapid decomp unscathed was kind of cool.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Skycatcher: Too Right, Mate!

Cessna marches on with its C-162 Skycatcher production.  Latest milestone: it’s first international delivery to an Australian customer.
graphic: © James Lawrence 2011
Aeromil Pacific of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Airport took delivery and will use the bird for sales demos.  The FBO also plans to display it at Avalon 2011: the Australian International Airshow in early March.
In related news, Skycatcher’s design team won the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Piper General Aviation Award for 2010.  Congrats to those hardworking slide-rule pushers.
AIAA presents the award annually for outstanding contributions leading to the advancement of general aviation.
As I posted after Sebring, Cessna plans to deliver 150 Skycatchers this year.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Insider Tips From A CFI

Here’s a thoughtful piece by John Zimmerman (for Sporty’s Pilot Shop online) that has the virtue of giving you a broader picture of the flight training experience.
I’ll share the highlights, then urge you to link on over and join the discussion  – there are reader comments and you can weigh in yourself.
The article is 7 Things Your Flight Instructor Won’t Tell You.  John isn’t out to accuse instructors of duplicity, but rather acknowledge that in order to pass on a wealth of information, things get unintentionally glossed over.
* Students are likely to take more than the minimum of 20 hours (Sport Pilot) or 40 hours (Private Pilot) to get their tickets. 
* A Recreational license is still a viable alternative to both...if you can find a school offering the training.
* Don’t show up unprepared for a lesson...CFIs don’t like it and it adds to your training hours.
* You need both pitch and power to control airspeed and altitude. (This is fun, I talk to people all the time who fall on one side or the other of this tireless debate.
* Good crosswind landings use both slip and crab.
* Decision-making is hardest on the ground, i.e. “Should I really fly today?”
* Flying can, and will, change your life in ways you never considered.
It’s a good read, and good comments too from readers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

AOPA's Fuller: Let's Rally GA!

In its declaration of 2011 as the year to "Rally GA", AOPA echoes the call to action of its President, Craig Fuller, who said recently, "We don’t just want to watch for a turnaround (in General Aviation), we want to do everything we can to make it happen!" 
He's urging members from all sectors of flight to honor, protect and promote our common treasure: – the freedom to fly. 
To do its part, AOPA put together a list of events for the coming year, places where we can all join in the celebration of flight and the discussion of how to move it forward.
Check it out to see what's coming your way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The YouTube Cockpit

"Personal Video" has gone mainstream.  Seems like everyone from pilots to skiiers and snowboarders to skateboarders to mountain bikers to...well, anybody in outdoor motion is slapping on these small, rugged, HD-quality, purpose-built camcorders to immortalize every breathtaking moment.
Imagine how different memorial services are going to be in 2082.
All it takes is your desire to slap a camera onto a helmet, headband, monopod pole, suction cup or get some Ram Mounts and tape/sticky-back/bolt/clamp them to a vehicle hard point and you are Good To Go!
And by vehicle, I mean airplane, car, snowmobile, dune buggy et al, but also ski, snowboard, hang glider, name it, the Adventure Vid gang is doing it.
We've talked about some of these tres' cool cams in the past but I just got re-seduced by the phenomenon yesterday.
After wrapping up my Phoenix motorglider pilot report, due out in late spring's Plane & Pilot, Jim Lee of Phoenix Air USA told me about a new POV camera he'd used to tape the 127 mile all-soaring flight he just made in that truly fabulous airplane.
Check out this video, it's an awesome teaser for the joys of soaring flight in a motorglider.

After seeing Jim's vid, I was hooked; started searching around the net; found this friendly company which offers three top-selling, small, HD-quality cameras that you can mount about anyplace to make some very cool videos...and yes, I bought one!  (I am a tech junkie, why do you ask?) 
 For my LSA coverage, which includes inflight video of pilot reports and to supplement GA photo shoots, I jumped on the same camera Jim has: the Drift Stealth HD 170 "helmet camera".
Two main reasons: the remote control and the several HD modes.
Here's a few more notable highlights: I'm hoping to do a Tech Talk column soon on the Stealth for the mag.
Drift Innovation's Stealth HD170.  That little button at left is the (wrist wearable) remote
 * HD Video: 1080p at 25 or 30fps, 720p at 25, 30, 50 or 60 fps
* Zoom: 4x Digital zoom in 720p and WVGA
* Microphone: Built-in.  Optional external mic jack (for radio and intercom chatter using a headset Patch Cord (Aircraft Spruce has it, I use it with my tape recorder for inflight note taking)
* wireless remote control (several brands don't have that!)
* slow-motion/interval shooting (one pic every 3/5/10/30 seconds for cool time lapse sequences)
* lens rotates to support any mounting angle
* Sensor type: CMOS
* Video format: MOV (H.264)
There's a lot more to check out, I'll leave you to it.
MyPOV360 has other top POV cam setups too, but it's got a great package deal going on right now for the Stealth, and no, I don't get a commission.  This is the setup I jumped on because once in awhile, you just gotta grab the tech and join the party.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Preflight? You don't need no steenking preflight!"

As I preflighted a rental J3 Cub last fall, an older gent, kind of scruffy looking, was keeping me company, though we'd never met.
A pilot and airport regular, he quickly revealed his belief about preflighting in general.
Even the well-intentioned can compromise a good preflight
“Aw,” he said, rubbing his grizzled chin, “just go.  It’s a Cub, it's fine, just get in it and takeoff."
I looked at him, wondering if he was kidding.  He wasn’t.
“Well, thanks...I think...,” I replied, mildly annoyed, “but I think I'll just finish up here if you don't mind."
“Naw," he said, waving at the air, "just jump in and go, it’s alright.”
I ignored him and his distracting insistence, wondering what his game was.
We didn’t know each other. He had no reason, or right for that matter, to try and persuade me to skip a vital part of good airmanship practice.
Perhaps, I thought, he's an angel sent to cement my determination to do things right.  See, I get excited about flying.  I tend to want to rush through the essential but boring stuff, like a proper preflight, and get to the fun stuff, like grabbing some air.
So I have to consciously discipline myself to slow down and do things right -- hitting all the points on a checklist is another example -- otherwise I might scatterbrain myself into an emergency.
And who thinks trading off that five or ten minutes on the ground is worth the minutes of sheer panic or hours of fixing whatever went wrong that can come of it?
 Case in point: I learned to take preflight seriously in my hang gliding days in the early '70s.  More than once, I personally witnessed pilots assemble their gliders on a high mountain ridge, check everything over, climb into their harness, walk to the launch... then charge off the hill, only to discover in sheer terror they’d forgotten the most essential part of pre-launch hang gliding: to hook the harness into the glider!
Hanging helpless by their hands from the bottom of the control bar, the glider, catastrophically weighted well forward of CG, would plummet toward the ground at a negative 30 degree or more angle.
I know, it sounds stupid: who would forget to hook in, after all?
You'd be amazed.
Many veteran pilots and newbies alike get so comfortable, so casual, they simply hurry to the launch, eager to get airborne, and forget to clip in.  In fact, it's one of the biggest causes of injury and death in that sport.  And to this day, I read now and then of a forgotten hook-in.
Pilots may do everything right with the glider and his harness, but think they're beyond needing to ask for a “hang check” -- an important part of preflight where someone at launch holds the nose level so the pilot can lay out prone and make sure the harness and 'chute lines aren't tangled.
Of course, the prime benefit of a hang check is that you verify you're hooked in.
I personally screamed at a pilot not long ago, seconds before he launched, that he wasn't hooked in.
I might have saved his life.
Shook up by how close he'd come to disaster, he moved the glider away from launch and sat down to think long and hard about why he'd spaced out such an essential step.
Skipping preflight for a Cub, or a SkyCatcher, or a Boeing 787, carries the same risk of catastrophe.  Why even go there?
Back to my Cub preflight: I asked my "airport angel" why he would ever suggest someone skip a preflight?
“Aw, it's a Cub, it’s been flying for 60 years, nothing’s going to happen to it.”
Giving him a look, thinking that a senior citizen like the Cub deserves even closer scrutiny, I gave him a look, politely disagreed and finished up, then went for a nice flight.
After I landed, having thought about his casual indiscretion, I looked for him but he’d left. 
I did tell the guys who run the FBO that they had a guy wandering around the field spouting dangerous advice.  What, I pondered, if he’d given the same spiel to some young, impressionable, easily-intimidated student pilot?
Looking out for each other when we fly is an important piloting virtue.  It doesn't serve us, nor the flying community, to act like Top Gun loners who neither volunteer, nor accept, needed advice.
The next time I see that dude, I’m going to both thank him for reinforcing my good habits, and ask him this: “What the hell do you think you’re doing suggesting that pilots skip preflights?”
Because that kind of dumb thinking, plain and simple, is what gets pilots killed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

REMOS: New Dealer & Boy Scout Pow-Wow

Remos continues to build its ever-expanding U.S. sales/service network.  The company just “promoted” Tom Pekar’s Success Aviation, near Houston, from a Pilot Center to it’s 16th Aircraft Dealer in the U.S.
The new dealer has two Remos GX demos, one with an autopilot.  Both are used in the school.
“Most flight training operations involving the GX use about 3.2 gallons of fuel,” he says, “compared to over 5 in a Cessna 152 and close to 9 in a Skyhawk.”
With the price of avgas jumping up the way it has been of late, flight schools nationwide have to at least be giving renewed thought to adding LSA trainers to their fleets.
One of the tangible bonuses the GX brings to its quality build and superb handling characteristics (my personal view: it’s as sweet to fly as any LSA out there) is its capability of flying with the doors off.  In summertime Texas, that’s a definite asset!
Success Aviation hopes to draw on the 7-million-population Houston megalopolis.  The school is licensed to administer FAA tests, provide training from Sport Pilot to Commercial and CFII, and service aircraft in its two large hangars.
Meanwhile, out on the right coast, longtime aviation innovator LoPresti Aviation is hosting its annual First Saturday Aviation Experience at the company hangar, Sebastian Municipal Airport (X26), Florida.
More than 100 members of the Indian River Boy Scouts will gather at the annual weekend event for breakfast and an introduction to the world of aviation.  Face-to-face chats with pilots and climbing around a variety of airplanes are scheduled.
The late, great aircraft designer Roy LoPresti dreamed of making it easier for kids to gain exposure to the joys of aviation, not such an easy thing to do in these days of guarded airports and security checks. 
Childhood today must be so overwhelming for kids, with all the digital distractions their generation is heir to.  Anything that gets kids closer to hands-on experience with airplanes can only be for the good, for them and for aviation. 
One can only get so much joy from a computer game joystick.
Tim Clifford of RAF (Recreation Aircraft Foundation) will also speak to the kids. RAF is a private group dedicated to preserving backcountry airfields and creating new public-use recreational airstrips.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

VP-X Electronic Circuit Breaker meets EFIS

Vertical Power has a cool line of electronic circuit breakers that make it easy to monitor the status of your electrical system. 
With so many LSA going to glass cockpits, having general and specific information about the state of your electrics displayed right on your EFIS screen is crucial to safe flight.

The company’s VP-X Sport and VP-X Pro modules now work with many popular EFIS display panels. Most recent to jump on board is the popular Dynon SkyView 7" and 10" EFIS display panel systems, which Dynon's Robert Hamilton expects to be fully integrated by the end of this year.   
Both VP-X units will also display with other popular panels from AFS, GRT, MGL and Garmin G3X.  

The concept is simple and powerful: to allow monitoring of the overall health of electrical systems, view and control the status of individual circuits, and respond 
to circuit faults.
In the SkyView setup, the VP-X pilot display appears as a window along with the Engine Monitor, Primary Flight Display and GPS Moving Map.  Trim and flap positions also display.
Garmin G-3X panel with VPX electrical system status
The core engine of all Vertical Power modules is its patented electronic circuit breaker (ECB) technology.
ECBs not only detect circuit faults, but can do other “smart” things like detect and notify of a burned-out nav or landing light or disable the starter circuit when the engine is running.  The VP-X Pro provides more than 30 power circuits, plenty for even the most loaded LSA out there.
One dramatic difference from conventional systems is how much less electrical wiring is needed, reducing weight, complexity and number of possible failure points.

Other cool features include automatic landing light wig-wag, pilot and co-pilot trim control, electric flap control with intermediate flap stops (and flap control backup in case of flap switch failure), trim and flap position display, over-voltage protection, alternator control and lots more. 

Diagram shows how VP-X electronic circuit breaker interfaces with switches and EFIS panels
Experimental kit builders have driven this powerful technology so far but SLSA manufacturers are beginning to incorporate them into their airplanes.