Pilot Briefing

December 1, 2001

Rocket man Rutan blasts off

Most pilots worry about running out of avgas. How about liquid oxygen? Welcome to the so-called dawn of civilian rocket-powered aviation. It's all happening in Mojave, California, of course.

Test pilot Dick Rutan has been at the controls of the rocket-powered Long-EZ called the EZ-Rocket. It's powered by two 400-pound thrust rocket engines that run on isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen. It has an external composite fuel tank and an insulated internal aluminum liquid oxygen tank.

"I ignited one engine and the crew said everything looked good, so I lit the second engine and we started moving," Rutan said. As he rolled down the runway, another pilot flew a Long-EZ as the chase airplane. The EZ-Rocket took off in 1,200 feet, and once it was airborne it quickly accelerated to 160 knots. "The rocket power provided positive, firm acceleration. Once we started running out of liquid oxygen, I shut down both engines," Rutan said. "We entered the standard flameout pattern and glided back to the runway."

The airplane is being used as a testbed for engines built by XCOR Aerospace of Mojave and is not intended for FAA certification. "Routine operations must be the primary criterion for rocket engine development," said XCOR chief engineer Dan DeLong. "Our approach is to build safe and reliable rocket engines first, and then progress to the higher performance needed for orbital launch vehicles."

Bombardier to launch super-large business jet

Bombardier Aerospace announced that it will launch a new "super-large" business jet capable of flying 5,000 nautical miles nonstop. The Global 5000 will be a slightly smaller version of the company's Global Express and use that airplane's engines and systems.

Designed to fill a range niche one level higher than Bombardier's Challenger 604, the Global 5000 will compete with Dassault Falcon Jet's newly announced FNX and Gulfstream Aerospace's G-IVSP. The airplane will be able to fly nonstop from Europe to the central United States at Mach 0.85 and will have a maximum balanced field length of 5,000 feet. Maximum cruise altitude will be 51,000 feet at Mach 0.88. At that speed the Global 5000 is expected to be able to fly from Paris to Chicago against typically encountered headwinds under standard temperature conditions.

The airplane's cabin will be some 5 feet shorter than that of the Global Express, but the cabin's 6-foot, 3-inch height and 8-foot, 2-inch width will give it a 12 percent greater cabin volume than that of its closest competitors. Bombardier believes that there's a market for 750 such airplanes in this new category. Price of the Global 5000 is set at $32.95 million (U.S.) in 2001 dollars. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in fourth quarter 2004. — Thomas A. Horne

CAP, volunteer pilots give mercy

While the rest of the aircraft in the country remained grounded following September's terrorist attacks, volunteers launched in small airplanes to survey the damage and mend the wounds.

Because of security concerns, the airlines temporarily could not ship cargo, even badly needed blood. That's where general aviation came in. There are at least 45 volunteer pilot organizations in the country, and most of them were involved in the effort based on a recent tally. They operated on a case-by-case basis on specially approved flight plans and were constantly monitored by air traffic controllers and the military.

Mark and Donna Turek took off on September 13 over Ohio on a flight for AirLifeLine Midwest. Most of what they heard on the radio was an eerie silence as they carried blood platelets to Baltimore. For the duration of the flight, they only recalled hearing one other aircraft on the radio and that was an F-16. Other volunteers with AirLifeLine Midwest flew skin tissue that was used as temporary grafts for burn victims. By coordinating flights out of several cities, volunteers shipped 85 square feet, the largest single shipment of skin tissue in American Red Cross history, according to the group.

When all airplanes were grounded, emergency management executives found themselves in precarious spots. Donald Stephens, general manager of emergency community services for the Red Cross, was flown to Washington, D.C., by Harry Morales, founder of Angel Flight East. Morales himself had been grounded in Atlanta. Once group members realized that they could fly, they started calling emergency management officials to see how they could help out. From September 12 through 27, Angel Flight East flew 70 disaster-related missions while making its regular flights. One of the missions involved transporting five search-and-rescue dogs and a dozen handlers from Kentucky to New York. To put that in perspective, Angel Flight East flew 127 missions all last year, said the group's Executive Director Tami Bream. Because of the need for help, the group's volunteer pilot operation rose to about 250, an increase of 75. "It was an incredible outpouring of generosity," she said. "They're incredible anyway."

Pilots began handing off shipments of blood in what became daily blood runs. But moving such cargo is not a direct process. It has to first go to testing centers that can be thousands of miles away from the disaster area so that they can check for HIV and hepatitis. The day following the attacks, Corporate Angel Network coordinated the shipment of 700 pounds of blood samples to a lab in Florida for testing. The group was able to accomplish its missions by using jets from such companies as American Home Products, Schering-Plough, and International Paper Corporation.

After the attacks, the Civil Air Patrol quickly activated its wings to handle everything from communication support to transporting supplies for military robots at the disaster site in New York. One of the most important things CAP did was to provide an immediate assessment of the damage area by flying a Cessna 172 over it and taking digital images a day after the terrorists struck the World Trade Center. The Skyhawk, piloted by CAP Lt. Col. Jacques Heinrich, made three passes over the site.

"Civil Air Patrol provided the first direct aerial perspective of the disaster site for the State of New York," said Dan O'Brien, graphic information program manager for New York Emergency Management Operations Center. "The photos were the first images we'd seen looking down on the site and showed debris on top of buildings and damage to rooftops."

Flight tests begin on GA Synthetic Vision

Flight tests have begun on a general aviation version of Synthetic Vision, a concept that would give pilots clear skies all the time. Using several sensors, the system provides data on displays so that pilots can clearly see approach paths in bad weather and at night.

A team led by Research Triangle International (RTI), an independent research institute, is flight-testing the equipment in Flight International aircraft. RTI is also conducting flight simulator studies to refine the operational requirements and characteristics of the system.

One of the goals of the program, a partnership between industry and government, is to make the technology affordable to a significant portion of the GA fleet by 2007. Among the other members of the team that NASA chose is Archangel Systems, developer of the hardware and software for the Synthetic Vision prototype. The prototype hardware is based on Archangel's certified cockpit display system. In addition, Archangel's air data attitude heading reference system (ADAHRS) is being used to provide air data and attitude information for the display during the flight tests.

The Synthetic Vision display uses a terrain and obstacle database supplied by Dubbs and Severino to produce three-dimensional moving scenes that show a perspective version of the outside world on a two-dimensional screen. Also included on the display are obstacle and terrain warnings based on the projected flight path. The major objective of the flight tests is to assess improvements in pilot situational awareness.

New engine group preserves past

For those who are fascinated by the engineering wizardry that powers aviation, this new organization is for you. The Aircraft Engine Historical Society (AEHS) has been formed to foster an appreciation of the people, art, and science associated with aircraft engines and to act as a repository for information that would otherwise be lost.

AEHS is a nonprofit educational and historical society that is open to the public. Charter memberships are now being offered. The group publishes a quarterly magazine called Torque Meter. For more information, see the Web site ( www.enginehistory.org).


Headlines pulled from the most recent edition of AOPA's e-mail newsletter

New Piper announces layoffs

The New Piper Aircraft reduced its workforce from 1,500 employees to 1,250 and temporarily closed the production line for two weeks as the company worked through the backlog of aircraft grounded at its Vero Beach, Florida, plant during the VFR shutdown stemming from September's terrorist attacks. The company still expects to post its best year since reorganizing, with 448 deliveries and $265 million in revenues.

Rutan develops aircraft for Toyota

Scaled Composites, the Mojave, California, aerospace development company founded in 1982 by Burt Rutan, is building parts and components for a single-engine, four-passenger, proof-of-concept aircraft for Toyota Motor Sales. A spokesman said it will be a low-wing design and emphasized that the aircraft is not intended for certification.

Liberty trades Rotax for Continental

Liberty Aerospace recently announced several changes to the XL-2, including a switch from the design's original Rotax 912S to a 125-hp Teledyne Continental IOF-240B. The new installation features FADEC (full authority digital engine control) that provides automatic mixture control and maintenance data ports for easier servicing.

Pittsburgh flight school wins $10,000 prize

Pittsburgh Flight Training Center (PFTC) has won the industry Be A Pilot program's $10,000 competition for 2001's most innovative and effective local market outreach effort.

Mercury Air Group makes Forbes list

Los Angeles-based Mercury Air Group was named to Forbes magazine's prestigious list of "200 Best Small Companies in America."

Falco kit operation for sale

Looking for new challenges in life, Sequoia Aircraft Corp. President Alfred Scott said he is selling the Falco kitplane operation. The F.8L Falco was designed by Stelio Frati and first flew in 1955. Dubbed the "Ferrari of the air," it later received FAA type certification. More than 100 were produced by three Italian companies between 1953 and 1965. Sequoia introduced the Falco as a kit aircraft in 1979.

Second Continental jet flies

The second aircraft in Bombardier Aerospace's Continental program made its maiden flight on October 10, just eight weeks after the first Continental business jet lifted off.

To sign up for the free AOPA ePilot newsletter or to view the archive, see AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/members/files/pilot/epilot/).

NASA administrator, friend of GA, resigns

NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, a friend of grassroots general aviation, has resigned his post effective November 17. His tenure was marked by increased attention to small-aircraft research. He was appointed in April 1992 by former President Bush.

A visit to Oshkosh in 1992 sparked Goldin's interest in advancing GA technology. Goldin, now 61, was impressed by advances made by individual entrepreneurs in cockpit instrumentation, composite structures, flight controls, and aircraft design without government support. That led to his interest in putting the "aeronautics" emphasis back in National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Under his leadership NASA research included the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiment (AGATE) program that spurred development in all areas of small-aircraft technology. NASA also contributed research into uplinking weather to the cockpit. The current Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) program is aimed at bringing air transportation to small airports through use of highly automated charter and personal aircraft. The General Aviation Propulsion (GAP) program is developing new engines that could revolutionize the GA industry.

Goldin called his appointment to head NASA "the highlight of my career." He is the longest-serving administrator in the history of the agency. Goldin accepted an interim position as a senior fellow for the Council on Competitiveness in Washington, D.C., as he transitions into the private sector. — Alton K. Marsh

Members in the news

William L. Blake, AOPA 499011, was honored in September with the Michigan Aeronautics Commission's Award of Excellence for Enhancement of Aviation. The honor cited Blake's work as the AOPA Midwest regional representative "acting as an advocate for aviation safety, airport preservation, and protection of aeronautics resources and infrastructure" in Michigan. Blake is one of 13 AOPA regional representatives who work for the best interests of AOPA members on the state and local levels.

Robert Armstrong, AOPA 521250, won the 2001 Hillard Trophy. He earned the honor by being the U.S. team pilot with the highest point ranking at the World Aerobatic Championship in Burgos, Spain, last summer. "Robert's tenacity, patience, steady performance, and great piloting skill presented the most serious American challenge to the title of World Aerobatic Champion since 1988," said Steve Cunningham, president of the United States Aerobatic Foundation.

Steve Johnson, AOPA 1344063, and Jim Dickerson, AOPA 1275862, were recently named Flight Instructor and Operations Safety Counselor of the Year by the FAA's Kansas City Flight Standards District Office. Johnson and Dickerson are the co-owners of Straight and Level Productions, a privately owned and funded company Straight and Level produces numerous educational, humorous, and even musical safety programs each year. For more information, see the Web site ( www.straight-level.com).

William S. Koch, AOPA 1371384, has formed Sutherland Companies LLC, a Dallas-based private equity and advisory firm specializing in aviation. Koch most recently served as vice president of business development for i2 Technologies. He continues to provide advisory services for i2's strategic aviation initiatives.