Pilot Briefing

July 1, 2003

Glider soars toward the heavens

Taking a glider to 42,000 feet seems like more than just a test flight, but not if your ultimate goal is 100,000 feet. Members of the Perlan Project, named after rarely visible high altitude pearl clouds, have been flying their modified two-place DG-505M glider out of California City, California, carefully inching their way toward the world altitude record of 49,009 feet set by Bob Harris in 1986. Pilots Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson look like U-2 pilots in their Air Force spacesuits as they check flight and data systems while capitalizing on the tremendous lift generated by mountain waves over the Sierra Nevada. On April 24 the team reached 42,100 feet.

While the primary motive is scientific — to study the ozone layer and the structure of the atmosphere — the first stage of the Perlan Project is to garner public attention by eclipsing the altitude record and then some by soaring on to 62,000 feet. The second stage will require building a special pressurized glider that will take the team up to 100,000 feet in rare stratospheric waves that may only be reachable in certain parts of the world such as Sweden or New Zealand. To keep up with the project, visit the Web site ( www.perlanproject.com).

FAA readies for sport pilots

The first concrete signs that the long-awaited Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft rule is on the horizon are taking shape in Oklahoma as the FAA gets ready to handle a potential flood of interest from manufacturers and pilots.

The FAA announced in May that funding has been approved to establish a Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) Operations Program Office to implement the final rule that could come out later this year. Once the final rule is out, the FAA is planning to certify an existing fleet of ultralight aircraft and pilots, estimated at 10,000. As a branch of the FAA Regulatory Support Division in Oklahoma City, the LSA office will provide policy guidance and infrastructure for the industry and FAA field offices.

"We have gotten approval to start setting up this operation and we are looking at the best ways of doing that," said Joseph Tintara, manager of the Regulatory Support Division. "We intend to meet with the industry people and their FAA counterparts to make sure it's successful."

Over the next decade, the FAA expects 12,000 new pilots to seek sport pilot certificates and buy light-sport aircraft. In addition, the rule may generate 9,000 sport-aircraft mechanics. The rule would allow pilots to receive certificates by meeting much-reduced requirements (including the use of a driver's license in lieu of a medical certificate) but such pilots also would be under greater limitations. Sport airplanes would also be limited to the proposed takeoff weight of 1,232 pounds, no more than two passengers, and a 115-knot top speed. A handful of already-certified airplanes would qualify.

New Honeywell system seeks to improve runway safety

Honeywell announced recently a new system that it believes will reduce runway incursions and improve safety around airports. Company officials acknowledge that sophisticated systems for improving airport safety are in the works, but most of them are years away from implementation and will cost a lot of money.

Honeywell's objective was to create a simple, less expensive solution to the most serious runway incursion problems and to introduce it fast. The result is RAAS: Runway Awareness and Advisory System. RAAS is a software upgrade to the Honeywell enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) that is scheduled to be available this summer. The $15,000 upgrade takes advantage of the EGPWS's detailed airport database and advises a pilot using voice annunciation when he is on a runway or approaching a runway, either on the ground or from the air. Honeywell's objective was to add no more switches, lights, annunciators, or displays to the airplane, which is the reason for the aural warnings — allowing the pilot to focus his attention outside the airplane. In a demonstration at Phoenix Deer Valley Airport in Arizona, the system announced when the demo aircraft approached Runway 25L: "Approaching 25 Left."

When approaching from the air, the system offers a similar message. After pulling onto the runway, the system reminded, "On Runway 25 Left." When approaching from the air, the system also reminds the pilot of the available runway length if the runway is shorter than the minimum length preset by the pilot. Upon landing, the system calls out distance remaining in 1,000-foot increments on the runway once the airplane passes the runway midpoint. For taxiing in very low conditions, the system will also annunciate a warning when the airplane is within 100 feet of the end of the runway. To prevent takeoffs from taxiways, the system will alert the pilot once airspeed reaches a certain point when the airplane is not on a runway. Honeywell has about 16,000 EGPWS units already installed that can take advantage of the upgrade. — Thomas B. Haines

Thielert diesels in testing on Skyhawk, Stationair

Officials of Thielert Aircraft Engines (TAE) told the aviation press at the biennial Friedrichshafen Air Show in Germany in April that its 135-horsepower Centurion 1.7 engine is now in flight testing aboard a Cessna 172, and that its new 310-hp V-8 is being flown in a Cessna 206 (see " Airframe & Powerplant: Tried and True," page 119). Frank Thielert, president of TAE, said he expects to sell 418 Centurion 1.7 engines this year, with most of them going in new aircraft like the Diamond DA40 TDI and DA42, OMF Symphony, and other piston singles. Certification of the Centurion 4.0 is set for 2004, but Thielert acknowledges the FAA has "problems" with U.S. certification because TAE uses automotive parts and testing techniques. Thielert said this gives his engines higher technological standards and better reliability. He also said that Cessna has given his engines a "very good reception" as candidates for OEM installation as new variants of the 172 and 206. For more coverage of the show, see AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/members/fried03.html). — Thomas A. Horne

ePILOT Headliners

Recent news from AOPA's weekly e-mail newsletter.

DeltaHawk diesel engine flies

The DeltaHawk diesel engine flew for the first time in May. Installed in a Velocity RG and piloted by a company engineer, the 160-horsepower liquid-cooled V-4 engine was fueled by Jet-A, and the aircraft reached an altitude of 5,500 feet and an airspeed of 140 knots during the 38-minute flight. The company plans to pursue FAA certification immediately following the development of the experimental version.

GA aircraft shipments decline

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) says first-quarter shipments of GA aircraft fell 16.4 percent compared to the same period last year. The only segment that was able to hold its own was single-engine piston aircraft, where first-quarter shipments remained stable.

Jepp chief retires

Horst A. Bergmann, chairman and CEO of Jeppesen, has retired after more than 40 years with the company. Under Bergmann's watch the company significantly broadened its portfolio of products and services. Bergmann is succeeded by Mark Van Tine.

Prototype SJ30-2 business jet crashes

Investigators are looking into the cause of the April 26 crash of Sino Swearingen's first conforming prototype SJ30-2 business jet. Chief test pilot Carroll Beeler, 59, was alone in the aircraft and died when it crashed 50 miles north of Del Rio, Texas.

Safire goes all-metal

Safire Aircraft Company, a Miami-based firm planning to launch a newly designed $1.3 million six-seat business jet, says the aircraft will use all-metal rather than composite construction to facilitate aircraft certification.

Now you can receive a customized version of the free AOPA ePilot e-mail newsletter tailored to your interests. To customize your weekly newsletter, see AOPA Online ( https://www.aopa.org/apps/epilot/).

Aviation services get better in the Bahamas

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is making it easier for pilots of certified aircraft to fly into and out of the Bahamas from the United States, thanks to a new partnership with the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (Batelco). With telephones installed by Batelco, pilots will have the ability to directly close their flight plans after landing in the Bahamas, and before heading home pilots can obtain a weather briefing by calling 800/WX-BRIEF or the local flight service station. And pilots can file an international flight plan and notify U.S. Customs, which is required one hour prior to arrival back in the United States. The first of these phones will be available in Bimini, and all ports of entry are expected to be equipped within the next few months. Plans also call for cell phone service — as well as AT&T and MCI calling-card service — to be available throughout the Bahamas, making it more convenient for pilots to get Customs clearance.

Longtime Pilot columnist dies from cancer

A longtime columnist for AOPA Pilot magazine and noted aviation historian died April 27 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Peter M. Bowers was 84. Born in San Francisco, Bowers wrote hundreds of columns, magazine and newspaper articles, and books. His monthly column, "Yesterday's Wings," appeared in Pilot from 1962 to 1984. He also wrote the popular "Wings & Things" for GANews, setting a record of 786 columns since it began in 1972. Bowers also accumulated one of the largest collections of aviation photographs in the country; unfortunately, a large part of it was lost in a fire several years ago. Bowers is survived by his wife, Alice; stepdaughter Allison Berghmans; and son David.

Be A Pilot launches 2003 TV ad campaign

Be A Pilot — the aviation industry's program to encourage people to learn to fly — launched its latest television advertising campaign. Nearly $1 million in national television advertising will buy some 2,000 commercials that will air through September on at least seven national cable channels. Eight new Be A Pilot commercials will air on Discovery Channel, ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPN Classic, and Discovery Wings on digital cable. Be A Pilot ads will also air on CNBC, the new Tech TV network, and Discovery Science. The new commercials will feature aircraft in action, adventure settings, and more exciting flight maneuvers, as opposed to the lifestyle message that was communicated in 2002's spots, a Be A Pilot representative said.

Squawk Sheet

The FAA has issued a final rule airworthiness directive for The New Piper Aircraft models PA-23, PA-23-160, -235, -250, and PA-E23-250 aircraft requiring owners to inspect the flap control torque tube for cracks, corrosion, wear, or elongation of the attachment bolt holes. The FAA said damage to the tube could result in a landing or takeoff with a split flap condition and potential loss of control. AD 2003-09-13 took effect June 23.

Members in the news

Joshua Cooper Ramo, AOPA 1142694, has written No Visible Horizon, published by Simon and Schuster, about his quest to become an accomplished aerobatic pilot. His day job as an editor for Time magazine serves him well in this vivid history of his adventures in the world of aerobatics. Ramo recounts how he, in nine months, went from aerobatic hobbyist to serious competitor in the Sportsman category at the 2001 U.S. nationals. The book is available for $24 at bookstores.

Jerard E. Delaney, AOPA 931758, has been named Aviation Safety Counselor of the Year for the Detroit Flight Standards District Office. Delaney is a flight instructor at Monroe Aviation at Custer Airport in Monroe, Michigan, and as a safety counselor has organized and presented numerous safety seminars for pilots throughout the area.

Tom Buchanan, AOPA 1135955, has spent more than 20 years as a skydiving professional and now wishes to educate aviators about this fascinating aerial sport. His book, Jump! Skydiving Made Fun and Easy, illustrates the nature of skydiving and what pilots need to know when they hear "jumpers out" over their local unicom frequency. The book, published by McGraw-Hill, is available at local bookstores and online at Amazon.com.

Norm DeWitt, AOPA 281766, was awarded an International Aerobatics Club (IAC) trophy for his 2002 performance at the Northwest IAC contests that took place in Ephrata, Washington, and Pendleton, Oregon. Flying his Zivko Edge 540, DeWitt scored the highest number of points at these contests to earn the Unlimited trophy. DeWitt was planning to compete at the World Aerobatic Championships in Lakeland, Florida, starting in late June.

This month in GA

The experts gave me 15 days to live. But this was hopeful for it gave me the impression they thought the machine could get off the ground. — Giuseppe Bellanca, 1912

July 17, 1910. Walter Brookins is awarded $5,000 for setting a mile-high altitude record (6,234 feet) in his Wright Model A in the skies over Atlantic City, New Jersey.

July 15, 1916. William Boeing's fascination with aviation leads to the creation of Pacific Aero Products Company. The following year he renames it the Boeing Airplane Company. Over the next several decades, the company evolves into the world's largest commercial aircraft manufacturer.

July 4, 1927. The Miss Columbia, a WB-2 (Wright-Bellanca), is recognized as a technological marvel — a viable general-purpose aircraft instead of an airplane built solely for a contest — and Giuseppe Bellanca lands on the cover of Time magazine for his innovative design.

July 1, 1928. United States Aircraft Insurance Group, USAIG, is established as the country's first aviation insurance organization.

July 28, 1931. Russell Boardman and John Polando fly from Floyd Bennett Field in New York to Istanbul, Turkey, in 50 hours and 8 minutes, establishing a new world record for nonstop aircraft distance in a 300-horsepower Bellanca Pacemaker, the Cape Cod.

July 23, 1933. Wiley Post completes the first solo flight around the world. Post, flying in a Lockheed Vega monoplane called the Winnie Mae, completes the 15,596-mile voyage in four days, 19 hours, and 36 minutes.

July 2, 1937. Amelia Earhart disappears over the Pacific Ocean.

July 10-14, 1938. Howard Hughes and his crew break the around-the-world speed record in a Lockheed 14. They fly from New York City to Paris, Moscow, Omsk, Yakutsk, Fairbanks, Minneapolis, and back to New York City (14,791 miles) in three days, 19 hours, 8 minutes, and 10 seconds.

July 1, 1941. Jacqueline Cochran is the first woman to ferry a bomber across the Atlantic. In 1953, she becomes the first woman to break the sound barrier.

July 13, 1944. Famous French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's airplane disappears over the Mediterranean during a World War II reconnaissance mission. He leaves behind an impressive legacy of writing, most memorably the children's fable The Little Prince.

July 16, 1957. U.S. Air Force Maj. John Glenn sets the record for transcontinental supersonic flight in a Vought F8U from Los Alamitos, California, to Floyd Bennett Field, New York in three hours, 22 minutes, and 50 seconds.

July 2-4, 1987. Richard Branson and Per Linstrom fly the first transatlantic hot air balloon flight (2,789.6 miles) from Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine, to Ireland in the hot air balloon Virgin Atlantic Flyer.

July 24, 1999. EAA Founder Paul Poberezny is inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, joining the nation's top aviation legends and honoring his contributions to American aviation.