Pilot Briefing

May 1, 1996

AOPA PILOT columnist killed on Cirrus VK30 test flight

Former astronaut Robert Overmyer, author of AOPA Pilot's "Time in Type" column, was killed on March 22 during flight testing of new wings for the Cirrus VK30 kitplane. The aircraft apparently entered either a spiral or a spin, according to Cirrus officials, and crashed six miles north of the Duluth International Airport in Minnesota.

Overmyer, 59, was performing a stall with full flaps and gear extended at 8,000 feet, something he had done successfully the day before the fatal flight with no indication of control problems, company officials said. The test aircraft, which has a pusher propeller, had a video camera operating during the test; the camera was mounted in the wing. The video recorder ceased operation during the descent. The VK30 was followed by a Cessna 182 RG chase aircraft.

The VK30 kit was sold between 1987 and 1993. There are 32 under construction, a company official said, and three were flying before Cirrus officials discovered the possibility of defects in materials used to make the wings. The company recommended to owners that the VK30 not be flown until new wings could be developed — the wings Overmyer was testing. Although the VK30 used for the test flight was intentionally loaded to an aft center of gravity, it was still within design limits, company officials said.

The VK30 that crashed was powered by an Allison B17-250 turboprop engine. The VK30 is unrelated to the company's development of the SR20, which will be certificated.

Overmyer became a NASA astronaut in 1969 and commanded one of the last successful flights of the space shuttle Challenger (see "Waypoints: A Pilot's Pilot," page 102).

Fokker goes broke

Giving in to years of stagnant business, the Netherlands' Fokker Aircraft has declared bankruptcy after 77 years of aircraft production. The firm had built the triplane used by German ace Manfred von Richthofen, the infamous Red Baron.

Fokker was forced into bankruptcy after the Dutch government lifted a temporary protection from creditors that began in January. The protection was intended to give Fokker time to find a buyer.

Fokker released 5,000 workers, keeping in Amsterdam about 350 employees who will finish building airplanes already in progress. Some of the employees will go to other Fokker divisions in electronics, aircraft maintenance, and other products. The 1,130 Fokker regional jets in service worldwide will continue to receive support from the firm. The collapse also idled 1,000 workers at Short Brothers in Belfast, where Fokker wings were built, and another 1,000 workers in Germany where fuselages were constructed.

Cessna's new Citation Excel made its first flight on February 29. The aircraft climbed to 10,500 feet for a variety of checks, including basic stability, flap extension and retraction, controllability, trim actuation, and slow flight. First delivery of the aircraft, priced at $6.595 million, is scheduled for early 1998. The aircraft has trailing link landing gear to smooth the touchdown and soften the taxi ride; it also has single-point refueling and is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW 545A engines. The passenger cabin will accommodate eight.

Trimble buys Terra avionics

Trimble Navigation has purchased Terra Corporation for $2.7 million in Trimble stock. Terra assets and many staff members will be moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Trimble's avionics division in Austin, Texas.

Terra President Richard W. Donovan said he will join Trimble to aid in the transition and welcomes the greater research resources available at Trimble.

The agreement between the two companies requires approval by the California Department of Corporations and Terra shareholders. Both actions were expected 60 to 90 days after the initial announcement.

Terra has operated from Albuquerque for 30 years and has sold a version of Trimble's loran and GPS receivers under the Terra name for several years. Terra also manufactures navigation and communications radios. Trimble makes GPS equipment for land, sea, and air navigation serving both military and civilian markets.

Fantasy of Flight acquires 'Tin Goose'

Fantasy of Flight, Kermit Weeks' aviation theme park in Polk City, Florida (see " Move Over Mickey," April Pilot), has added a Ford Tri-motor 5-ATB to its collection of more than 20 vintage aircraft. The Tri-motor Spirit of Philadelphia has enjoyed a rich past since it was christened by actress Gloria Swanson in 1929. It began as a passenger liner for Transcontinental Air Transport and Transcontinental Western Airlines through 1935. It then became the corporate aircraft for RCA until 1941, when it went to work for Alaska Airlines for a few years. Following a ground-loop incident, the Tri-motor was dismantled and stored until 1953, when it entered service as a crop duster. Sometime later, an emergency landing was made after the left engine departed the aircraft in flight. Again the airplane was left crippled until it was fully restored in the 1960s. The Tri-motor appeared in the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where it was (fictionally) slammed into a mountain. Weeks acquired the aircraft in 1993 and flew it from California to Florida, where it now resides.

Dayton trade show goes biennial; airshow remains annual

The board of trustees of the U.S. Air and Trade Show of Dayton, Ohio, have decided to postpone the Trade Show and International Aerospace and Defense Technology Conference until 1997. The airshow, which this year will highlight the U.S. Navy/Marine Blue Angels demonstration team, remains scheduled for July 20 and 21.

The board had earlier decided to reorganize the event, giving the airshow top billing over the trade show. In conjunction with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base personnel, the board is developing a technology conference to coincide with the trade show and the Air Force's fiftieth anniversary in 1997. The event will remain biennial.

Aviat Aircraft recently completed an S-1-11B, based on the Super Stinker design by Curtis Pitts, for U.S. Aerobatic Team member Robert Armstrong. Armstrong will fly the aircraft at the World Aerobatic Championships in Oklahoma City in August. Additionally, improvements tested and evaluated in the S-1-11B will be incorporated into the company's S-2 series after testing. The airframe is built of thicker-walled tubing and can handle higher G loads than previous Pitts designs.

Pompano Air Center offers Pitts

Pompano Air Center (PAC) of Pompano Beach, Florida, has again become a dealer of Aviat Aircraft Pitts biplanes. Aviat — under a previous owner — would not provide Pitts to PAC because the owner said PAC's sale of Sukhoi aerobatic aircraft was a conflict of interest. However, one of the first orders of business for new Aviat President Stuart Horn was to restore PAC as a dealer. In previous years, according to PAC, it sold about half of the Pitts that rolled off the production line.

In other news, PAC now offers three new aerobatic courses. There is an introductory flight for $200, a five-hour course for $1,090, and a 10-hour course for $2,150. Lessons are in a Pitts S-2B.

V-8 research continues; Hawker-Siddeley sells Orenda division

Hawker-Siddeley Canada Inc. (HSCI) will sell its aerospace operations to the Fleet Aerospace Corporation of Toronto this month.

The $27 million deal will give Fleet three divisions of HSCI: the Orenda Aerospace division in Toronto; Middleton Aerospace Corporation of Middleton, Massachusetts; and A-R Technologies of Vancouver, British Columbia. Combined sales for the newly formed conglomerate are expected to exceed $170 million in 1996.

Despite the sale, Orenda has been at work hanging V-8 engines on a Beech King Air 90 in Spokane, Washington. First flight for the re-engined King Air was scheduled for sometime in March. The liquid-cooled V-8s are also being targeted as high-performance replacement engines for Cessna 400-series twins, Piper Chieftains, and de Havilland Beavers.

Price for the V-8s will be approximately $100,000 each, plus $50,000 for the installation, said Orenda's Rich Neill. "That is roughly half the cost of overhauling a pair of the King Air's Pratt & Whitney PT6s," said Neill. "Plus they'll burn much less fuel," he said. Orenda is expecting to get from the FAA a 1,500-hour initial TBO, which can be extended to 3,000 hours as the engines prove their merit in service.

Arinc has opened an office in Beijing, China, to support VHF data link contracts and Harbin Airport modernization. Founded in 1929 to provide radio communications for the airlines, Arinc is a $280 million company headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland.

The National Ocean Service took another step in returning to the glue-bound format of its Terminal Procedures publications when it sent a change-of-format form to all subscribers in February. According to an NOS representative, most subscribers are returning to the glue-bound format, although there are some who are requesting a mixture of ringed and glued charts. NOS was to begin shipping the glued charts in April.

Those flying to Canada will appreciate the new British Columbia Air Facilities Map published by the British Columbia Aviation Council. Everything from the condition of the landing strip to amenities available at the airport and at nearby towns is included. You may order by phone, using a credit card, by calling 604/278-9330. The cost in U.S. dollars is approximately $15.75, including shipping, and varies with the exchange rate. The map comes with free tourist guides, information on the Canadian goods and services tax, and flight safety information.

Cincinnati Avionics, a division of Eastern Cincinnati Aviation, has opened its doors at the Clermont County Airport in Batavia, Ohio. Call 513/735-9100, ext. 296.

American Flyers is offering a newly revised version of its Single Pilot Operation in the IFR Environment audiotape package. The four audio cassettes and workbook that make up the package list for $79.95. To order call 800/362-0808.

The U.S. Army says that over five years it will purchase 35 Cessna Citation V Ultra business jets for personnel and cargo flights. Cessna is teamed with DynCorp for maintenance on the jets and FlightSafety International for flight crew training.

Patty Wagstaff has received the Sword of Excellence Award from the International Council of Air Shows. The award is given for overall service and contributions to the airshow industry. Past winners include Bob Hoover, Tom Poberezny, Leo Loudenslager, and T. Allan McArtor.

The last of 113 Slingsby T-3A flight trainer/screener aircraft have been delivered to the U.S. Air Force under a $54.8 million contract awarded in 1992. The aircraft are based at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and at the 3rd Flying Training Squadron in Hondo, Texas. One of the aircraft was lost in a February 1995 crash that killed two Air Force Academy personnel. So far, 491 pilot candidates have been trained in the T- 3A, with 428 graduating to advanced pilot training. The washout rate in advanced training is lower, the Air Force said, because the T-3A more closely mirrors the military style of flying.

Carmel Valley Airport at Carmel Valley, California, is now managed by antique airplane enthusiasts and has been renamed Carmel Valley Vintage Airfield. Lars and Barbara de Jounge have leased the airport and hope to develop several hangar-homesites on it. The future success of the airport depends on the sale of the home sites. Interested persons can get more information by calling 408/659-0860.

ARV of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is testing winglets for its Canada Air RV design to improve climb performance and reduce stall speed. The aircraft was scheduled to be displayed at the Sun 'n Fun EAA Fly-In.

Chameleon-like aircraft reported

Pilotless combat aircraft that can change color are reportedly under development by the U.S. Air Force, according to the trade journal Aviation Week and Space Technology.

The object is to make the aircraft stealthy in daylight — at the flip of a switch — by coloring the aircraft like the terrain if the primary threat is from above, or sky colors if viewed from below. Today's F-117 and B-2 stealth aircraft are painted black, primarily because they are to be used in night operations. Their distinctive shapes give them away during daylight.

Scientists at the super-secret Groom Lake laboratories north of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, are applying 24 volts of current to new aircraft coatings, both to reduce radar returns by nearly half and to change the color of the aircraft's coating.

The Air Force refused to acknowledge the existence of Groom Lake until May 1995, when it said that its classified Area 51 is near the Groom dry lake bed. The runway there is 23,000 feet long.

Squawk sheet

An airworthiness directive has been proposed that would supersede AD 82-07-03 which requires repetitive tests of Jan-Aero (Janitrol) B-series combustion heaters installed in many light twins. The new AD would require repetitive operational testing of the combustion air pressure switch and replacing any that do not pass the tests. The action was prompted by two occurrences of failed switches. In one case, the resultant explosion blew the nose baggage door off a Cessna 414. The other incident triggered a fire in the nose baggage compartment while the aircraft was in flight. If the proposed rule becomes an AD, it will affect approximately 25,700 airplanes in the United States.

A new airworthiness directive has been issued against Beech 90, 99, 100, and 200 series airplanes that will require inspection of the main landing gear drag leg lock link to ensure that the hole for the roll pin is drilled through both walls of the main landing gear drag leg lock link. If the hole is not drilled completely through, the lock link must be replaced or gear collapse may result.

Boeing's jumbo twin-engine transport, the 777, has been selected as the winner of the 1995 Robert J. Collier Trophy, which is considered by many to be the highest distinction in aviation. The award, to be presented this month, recognizes Boeing for designing, manufacturing, and placing into service the world's most technologically advanced airline transport. Boeing previously won the Collier Trophy for its B-52, 747, and 757/767 designs.

The propeller service division of Sensenich Propeller Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has been purchased by Sensenich's former President Joseph R. Maus and Vice President C. Ray Hershey. The new company will be named Sensenich Propeller Service.

Apeks Aviation of Norcross, Georgia, is negotiating final details with Xian Aircraft Company in the People's Republic of China to manufacture the PW-5 World Class Glider in China. Apeks will serve as the sales and marketing arm of the venture. In 1993 the International Gliding Commission selected the PW-5 to become the one-design glider for World Class competition. Apeks bought the license to manufacture the PW-5 from Warsaw University of Technology. Soaring may become an Olympic event once pilots from at least 59 countries are competing at a world level. Soaring enthusiasts hope their sport will meet those qualifications in time for the 2000 summer Olympic games in Australia.

Women astronauts from the Mercury 13 project were honored at the Women in Aviation Conference on March 7 in Minneapolis. Mercury 13 was the code name for a secret 1961 project to train a dozen women to be part of NASA's Mercury astronaut program. Chosen for the training were: K. Cagle, Jerrie Cobb, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich, Wally Funk, Jane Hart, Jean Hixson, Gene Nora Jessen, Irene Leverton, Sarah Ratley, B. Steadman, Jerri Truhill, and Rhea Woltman.

U.S. AIR Race and Rally

More than two dozen aircraft have signed up for the U.S. Air Race and Rally from June 8 to 13 between Durango, Colorado, and New Orleans. The deadline for entries is May 15. The racers in the VFR contest will take time out along the way for side trips to aviation museums and local attractions. Aircraft are individually handicapped according to make and model performance figures so that a Cessna 172 will have as much opportunity to win as a larger, multiengine aircraft. For further information, call Marion P. Jayne at 817/491- 4055.

A 50,000-square-foot museum will be built at San Carlos Airport, California, immediately adjacent to the Bayshore Freeway. The Hiller Museum of Northern California Aviation History will depict the early days of aviation in California. About 70 aircraft will be displayed in addition to 100 exhibits. The museum project was started by Stanley Hiller, Jr., an aviation pioneer of vertical flight. It is scheduled to open in 1997.

Cessna wins parts lawsuit

Cessna Aircraft Company has won a judgment for $900,000 plus court costs against Knisley Welding of Loomas, California, for the sale of exhaust parts labeled with the Cessna trademark. They were for twin-piston-engine aircraft.

The case was tried in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, California. Judge David Levi said that the parts were not marked as Knisley parts and were sold as genuine Cessna parts.

Bill Knisley, one of the owners of Knisley Welding, said that the case is under appeal. In a telephone interview, Knisley said that he did not manufacture the parts and thought that they were approved parts.

Gulfstream has opened a new service center in a 200,000-square-foot building adjacent to its headquarters at Savannah, Georgia. Service personnel can work on 16 to 20 Gulfstream aircraft at a time, depending on the model. The center measures 340 feet by 455 feet, with 30-foot-high doors.

The Twin Commander Aircraft Corporation and its associated service centers will conduct a course for all Twin Commander owners and operators. Specialists will address techniques and tips regarding weather, radar, maintenance, and new products. The event will take place in Snowmass, Colorado, from September 12 to 14. For more information, call 360/435-9797.

Murphy Aircraft is in the final design stages of the Murphy Elite, a new airplane based on the company's Rebel design. A larger cabin and rear door, as well as split flaps and drooping ailerons, are the Elite's marked improvements over the Rebel. Cruise speed is estimated to be in the 130-mph range, using a 180-hp Lycoming O-360. Current selling price is $15,750 for the optional tricycle-gear version. For more information, call 604/792- 5855.

Texas Skyways, Inc. of Boerne, Texas, has received a supplemental type certificate to modify Continental IO-550s to fit all Cessna 180s and 182s. A carbureted version of the IO-550, to be designated the O-550-F/TS, will produce 285 horsepower and enjoy a 2,500- hour TBO. The injected version of the engine produces 300 hp. The owner of the first 180 delivered with the O-550 engine claims a 15-knot increase in cruise speed.

German pilot Klaus Bauerle flew a Lancair IV from Munich to Antarctica and then to the United States in December.

AOPA members in the news

Robert Lutz, AOPA 1251411, was flying his Aero Vodochody L-39C jet over Pontiac, Michigan, when he heard on the radio that student pilot Robert Trybulec had an engine problem. Controllers told Trybulec to land on a nearby grass runway, but Trybulec was concerned that he did not know any grass landing technique. Lutz, president and chief operating officer of Chrysler, immediately gave approval for Trybulec to land on a test track at the Chrysler proving grounds near Rosetti, Michigan.

Shari Krause, Ph.D., AOPA 1207186, has written Aircraft Safety: Accident Investigation, Analyses, and Applications. It is published by McGraw-Hill, 800/352-3566.

Mark Grady, AOPA 863486, was honored by the North Carolina Department of Transportation for his more than eight years of service as a traffic pilot/reporter in Raleigh.

Alfred Poor, AOPA 1055173, has released a new book titled Cross Country, which contains 30 pre-planned "flights" on Microsoft's Flight Simulator 5.1.

Terry Lankford, AOPA 483567, is working on an ASOS education project through the National Weather Association. The goals are to analyze ASOS reports, provide methods to supplement ASOS products, and develop a training program for pilots and weather briefers. Contact him with ASOS concerns and solutions at 4517 Suttor Gate Avenue, Pleasanton, California 94566 or by E-mail at 103507.225@compuserve.com.

Dr. Bill Vitale, AOPA 195083, of Hunt Valley, Maryland, won the Great Spruce Creek Air Race 1996 in January flying a SIAI Marchetti. The race was flown over a 60- mile course in Florida.

Richard Wood, AOPA 906489, and Robert Sweginnis, AOPA 832862, both of Prescott, Arizona, are co-authors of Aircraft Accident Investigation. The 450-page book can be ordered for $39.95 plus $4 shipping from Endeavor Books, 7307 6NW Road, Casper, Wyoming 82604, or call 307/265-7410.

Peter Stelzenmuller, AOPA 1072819, has opened Penn Avionics at Perkiomen Valley Airport in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. His full-service shop will specialize in general aviation avionics needs.

Madeleine Monaco, AOPA 636052, has been appointed to the Palwaukee Municipal Airport Commission and was reelected as an alderman of Prospect Heights, Illinois.

Keig Garvin, AOPA 1281252, earned his private pilot certificate near his eighty- first birthday. He is shown with his instructor, Aaron Ridge. Garvin had no piloting experience until two years ago when he took a flying companion course at Aerolina in Hendersonville, North Carolina. The course was intended only to make passengers feel more comfortable in light aircraft, but he liked it so much that he got his pilot's certificate.

Jetta Schantz, AOPA 1106031, of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, has completed the Triple Crown of ballooning by setting world records for distance, altitude, and duration. Schantz's distance-record flight in 1993 covered 292 miles. In 1994, an altitude-record flight carried her to 32,657 feet. The latest flight to break the duration record kept her Aerostar balloon, dubbed Vision Flight III, aloft for 15 hours and 11 minutes.