Pilot Briefing

March 1, 2003

NASA to close Virginia crashworthiness facility

A key part of the NASA Aviation Safety Program that was in midstride on several important crashworthiness programs will be closed at the end of September as a budget-cutting measure.

The crashworthiness center established baseline data for both metal and composite aircraft, and was used to test Piper, Cessna, Cirrus, and Lancair aircraft, and the Beech Starship. The center's work included 41 full-scale crash tests of general aviation aircraft. Various helicopters and the F-111 fighter also were tested there.

The facility was built at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, in the 1960s to allow Apollo moon astronauts to practice lunar landings in a simulated reduced gravitational field. It was converted to general aviation and transport research in the 1970s. Known as the Impact Dynamics Research Facility (IDRF), the giant 240-foot-high gantry structure and test equipment were to be used in an upcoming FAA project to develop crash-resistant fuel systems.

Although officially a national historic landmark, NASA officials may one day demolish the facility. Yet it played a key role in the goals set by a commission headed by former Vice President Al Gore to reduce the fatal aviation accident rate in the coming years. — Alton K. Marsh

FAA WARPs controllers

The FAA has added another component to its long-term plan to modernize the air traffic control system. This is something that you may never see, but it will have an effect on your flying.

The FAA has deployed an advanced weather processing system at all 20 air route control facilities. Called WARP, or weather and radar processor, the system allows controllers to see more accurate, timely weather information on the same display that shows aircraft position data. The FAA says WARP reduces the potential for weather-related accidents and lessens the effect of bad weather on airspace capacity.

Displayed on color monitors, WARP shows precipitation at three altitudes. The weather information is shown as background graphics to the aircraft data on the display. The system provides much more accurate and localized information than earlier sources of weather data and the system it replaces, the FAA said.

Notice of annual meeting of members

The annual meeting of the members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association will be held at 12 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, at Wings Field, Ambler, Pennsylvania, for the purpose of receiving reports and transacting such other business as may properly come before the meeting, including the election of trustees. — John S. Yodice, secretary

New Pratt & Whitney engine spools up jet race

For years the lack of suitable engines stymied the development of small jet aircraft. Existing engines were, for the most part, too big and too expensive. Now, there is a new entry in the market.

Pratt & Whitney Canada is developing the PW615F engine flat rated at 1,350 pounds of takeoff thrust at sea level. The company says the engine has 40 percent fewer parts than a comparable PW500 while it achieves similar pressure ratios. The engine is part of the new PW600 family, spanning the 1,000-to-3,000-pound-thrust range. They represent the company's smallest turbofan engines. Pratt & Whitney is also developing a turboprop variant for the 500-to-2,000-shaft-horsepower class of single- and multiengine aircraft. The new engines feature full authority digital engine control (FADEC) to simplify operation.

A 2,500-pound-thrust demonstrator engine, the PW625, completed its first flight on a flying testbed last October. Pratt & Whitney said it exceeded expectations.

Cessna is the first company to publicly ink a deal with Pratt & Whitney for the PW615F engine, intended for its Citation Mustang. Cessna's Mustang engine is an aerodynamically scaled derivative of the PW625 and is slated to have a 3,500-hour time between overhauls (TBO) and midlife hot-section inspection of 1,750 hours.

You're going to have to wait until fourth-quarter 2005 to see it on an airplane.

This new family of engines has created an interesting twist in the personal-jet race. Eclipse Aviation had been banking on Williams International's EJ22 engine for its jet, not only for performance and cost projections but also for its certification timetable. After citing a history of "constant failures," Eclipse terminated the contract with Williams in November. Eclipse also had exclusive dibs on the engine for an undisclosed length of time, giving it a competitive advantage. At press time, Eclipse was getting ready to announce its new engine choice. Stay tuned.

Squawk Sheet

Lycoming has received FAA approval to begin replacement of crankshafts in more than 1,000 aircraft powered by turbocharged TIO- and LTIO-540 engines rated at 300 or more horsepower. The company had already produced and tested more than 600 of the replacement crankshafts when approval was granted in January. The crankshafts will be installed in engines affected by a series of airworthiness directives. Lycoming estimates it can replace 20 to 30 crankshafts a day and complete all repairs by April or May.

ePILOT Headliners

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

Diamond goes turbine

Diamond Aircraft is officially moving forward with its plans to build a light jet airplane. The single-engine D-Jet is to have a price of "well under $1 million" and carry five passengers up to 25,000 feet. The maiden flight is expected in mid-2004.

Bohannon gets six records

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) has granted six new world records to Bruce Bohannon for flying his piston single-engine airplane, The Exxon Flyin' Tiger, past 41,000 feet last fall in Palm Springs, California.

Lancair ramp up begins

The Lancair Company confirmed the final closing of a $55 million investment that will allow it to ramp up production of its line of Columbia certified aircraft. The infusion of cash came from Composite Technology Research Malaysia (CTRM), Lancair's original investor.

Commander goes bankrupt

Commander Aircraft Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December, allowing it to continue operations while it reorganizes. Several expected orders for new and preowned aircraft fell through, producing an immediate cash flow shortage of about $1 million and necessitating the filing.

Foss dies, vision lives on

Joe Foss, Marine ace and former politician, died January 1 in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 87. Foss suffered from an aneurysm in October and never regained consciousness. Just before he died, Foss launched the Joe Foss Institute, intended to enlist war veterans to teach young people about American history, the military, patriotism, and sacrifice.

New Piper downsizes company

The New Piper Aircraft Inc. has downsized its Vero Beach, Florida, operation following a drop in sales. New Piper said the company was already suffering from a weakened economy, but the recent Lycoming engine ADs limited the number of airplanes the company could produce. Management cut 150 jobs throughout the company.

Continental announces 2003 price increases

Teledyne Continental Motors officials said that prices for 2003 products will increase by 10 percent for most items along with a 5-percent increase on the company's TopCare cylinders. The company attributed the increases to rising insurance costs and the effects of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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/).

'Mr. Biz Jet' dies

A man who mastered the fine art of selling expensive jet aircraft died January 17 at a Connecticut hospital after a long illness. James B. Taylor was 81.

During Taylor's 55-year career, his creative merchandising concepts contributed to the expansion of corporate aviation and made several business jet companies household names. It was Taylor who built the marketing presence of such companies as Falcon Jet, Learjet, and Canadair. He was among the marketing visionaries who turned Cessna's plan for an entry-level business jet into the powerhouse products we know today as the Citation line.

"In the 1960s, he set sales standards that focused on customer requirements, believing that a marketing department's role in developing a new aircraft was to ensure that the product met customer needs," said his son, James Taylor. "That philosophy, coupled with his introduction of factory-direct sales and service, forever changed the methods by which manufacturers market and support business jets."

Taylor also proved himself in the cockpit. Before Taylor ventured into sales and marketing he was a Navy fighter and test pilot and flew a DC-3 for a brief stint for a nonscheduled airline.

Taylor was the 1992 recipient of the National Business Aviation Association's Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation, for his successful leadership in the development, manufacture, marketing and support of business aircraft. The award is the highest honor the association can bestow to individuals who have made significant, identifiable contributions to aviation over the course of a lifetime.

Airshow stars aid tomorrow's performers

Airshow stars Sean D. Tucker and Mike Goulian have established a mentor program for six budding future airshow stars that involves training and a performance at 2003 EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. Tucker said he looked up to such superstars as Tom Poberezny, Bob Hoover, and Jimmy Franklin, and the late Charlie Hillard and Leo Loudenslager. Now, it's his turn to help six pilots realize their dreams. The pair chose Chandy Clanton, 30, of Nebraska; Goody Thomas, 29, of Rock Hill, South Carolina; Wyche T. Coleman III, 22, of Louisiana; Zach Heffley, 22, of Texas; and David Ellison, 20, and Nick Nilmeyer, 20, both of California. The six will receive training from Tucker and Goulian in Ohio, and then perform at a warmup airshow near Detroit before performing at Oshkosh. — AKM

Members in the news

Robert Norris, AOPA 094159, a retired United Airlines captain now living in California, has repurchased the aircraft he once owned as a teenager 50 years ago — a 1941 Fleet Finch IIB biplane. He owned the aircraft for only two years in the 1950s; it was his transportation from Maine to California to join the Air Force. He discovered the aircraft while researching photographs for his book, Solo: To Fly — To Climb, published last year. He found a picture of the aircraft featuring himself as pilot, and thus rediscovered the N number, tracked it down in Texas, and talked the owner into selling it. His book is available through most bookstores.

John F.X. Browne, AOPA 235067, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, became the first pilot in the world to be awarded the new Circumnavigator's Diploma and Badge (eastbound) by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and its U.S. affiliate, the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). The newly authorized circumnavigator's badge is awarded to living aviators who have piloted aircraft around the world and met certain total distance, time, and start and finish requirements. Browne completed his circumnavigation in 1985 in his Piper Aztec, accompanied by longtime friend Clark Putman. The 24-day flight began and ended in Detroit. Browne holds 23 other FAI world records (and corresponding NAA U.S. national records) earned on this flight and others over the North Pole and the South Pacific.

Bill Pohlmann, AOPA 492332, has published Sunday Pilot: Airborne Tales of a Weekend Flyer. The humorous book about general aviation includes chapters titled "Have Wife, Will Travel," "Hangar Flying Without a Parachute," and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." The book is a good read for nonpilots wanting to learn what it's like to fly small airplanes. AOPA Pilot columnist Barry Schiff provides a foreword. Published by Word Association Publishers, the book sells for $17.95. For more information, telephone 888/467-1880.

Matthew A. Slater, AOPA 1228320, was recently awarded a student scholarship by the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (FACDL) for outstanding criminal defense advocacy at the University of Miami School of Law. He was presented the scholarship and award at the FACDL awards and installation banquet in Miami. He is a third-year law student.

This month in GA

I believe the new machine of the Wrights to be the most promising attempt at flight that has yet been made. — Octave Chanute, 1903

March 23, 1903. The Wright brothers apply for the first U.S. airplane patent based on their 1902 glider. The patent is issued three years later on May 22, 1906.

March 8, 1910. Baroness Raymonde de la Roche of France, who learned to fly in 1909, becomes the world's first licensed woman pilot. She receives ticket number 36.

March 19, 1910. Orville Wright opens the first commercial flight school, the Wright Flying School, in Montgomery, Alabama. (The site later becomes Maxwell Air Force Base.)

March 28, 1910. Henri Fabre flies the first aircraft to take off from water at Martigues, France. Fabre's Hydravion was a floatplane powered by a 50-horsepower Gnome 7-cylinder rotary engine.

March 1, 1912. Albert Berry is the first to parachute jump from a powered airplane in a test conducted over Jefferson Barracks military post in St. Louis. (Some sources credit Grant Morton with making the first jump in 1911.)

March 14, 1915. Pioneer aviator Lincoln Beachey dies when his airplane plunges into the San Francisco Bay at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. Beachey had broken new ground by flying his airplane upside down, performing loops, and picking up a handkerchief from the ground with his wing tip. World War I fighter pilots and barnstormers later adopt his flying techniques.

March 31, 1931. A TWA flight from Kansas City, Kansas, to Los Angeles crashes, killing all seven aboard, including Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. An investigation reveals the cause to be rot in the wooden wings of the Fokker F.10 Super-Trimotor. TWA's request for an all-metal twin-engine airliner leads to the Douglas Aircraft Company's development of the DC-1.

March 6-8, 1949. Capt. William Odom flies the Waikiki Beech across the Pacific from Hawaii to California and then cross-country to Teterboro Airport, New Jersey. Odom covers 5,273 miles in just over 36 hours (while burning only 272 gallons of fuel).

March 2, 1969. The French prototype of the Concorde makes its maiden flight in Toulouse, France. The flight, which only lasts 42 minutes, is conducted at subsonic speeds. The Concorde's first supersonic flight is on October 1, 1970.

March 1, 1999. Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones lift off from the Swiss alpine village of Chateau d'Oex in the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon. On March 21, 1999 — 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes later — they land in the Egyptian desert after traveling 28,431 miles and completing the first nonstop flight around the world in a balloon.


While we cannot list all of the significant aviation events of the past 100 years, we welcome your comments and suggestions. Please send letters to AOPA Pilot, This Month in GA, Attn. Julie Walker, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701.