Pilot Briefing

November 1, 2003

11-pound airplane flies Atlantic Ocean

Accomplishing the task required a dozen people with an impressive combination of aeronautical engineering talent and software-writing skills, but in the end it was a piece of luck that assured success.

Maynard Hill, 77, finally has achieved his twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth world records using a model airplane: Both records came in August with the successful flight of an 11-pound airplane carrying 5.5 pounds of Coleman lantern fuel that traveled from Newfoundland to Ireland, a distance of 1,900 statute miles. It was called Trans Atlantic Model 5 (TAM 5). The first four perished in attempts made over the past two years.

The aircraft carried 37 hours of fuel and made the trip in 38 hours, 52 minutes, and 14 seconds. So how did its endurance outlast fuel calculations? That's the "piece of luck," Hill says. "We were really sweating those last 200 miles." Hill mistakenly set the fuel flow too lean. The aircraft was radio-controlled during the early part of the flight, and then flew autonomously across the Atlantic guided by GPS navigation to Ireland, where it was once again landed by radio control. When David Brown brought the airplane to a safe landing at Mannin Beach, Ireland, the aircraft still had 1.7 ounces of fuel on board — or about 40 minutes. Not even enough to fill a 2-ounce shot glass. "That's not exactly FAA reserves," Hill says. The triumphant team had itself photographed with the aircraft at a nearby monument to Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown who flew from Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland, in 1919. The two were considered heroes and were knighted at Buckingham Palace.

David Brown is president of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, an organization of 175,000 enthusiasts with a budget of more than $12 million per year. He traveled to Ireland to show his support of Hill, a past president of the organization.

The stated goal of the project, performed under a special organization Hill formed called the Society for Technical Aeromodel Research, was not only to set a record but also to encourage youth to enter the world of model airplane flying. In that regard, they brought in Cyrus Abdollahi, a teenager just graduated from high school, as an intern to help with a network of computers that could keep track of the aircraft. At one point, however, the data stopped flowing. A call went out in the middle of the night to the team in Ireland that it "looks like it is lost." Then the data started flowing again and the team was told to continue to the landing site. Even when the data stopped flowing TAM 5 never wavered: It maintained 1,000 feet plus or minus 50 feet, its engine running strong. The altitude was chosen because it was assumed there were no ships that tall or airplanes flying that low. The autopilot to achieve that control was developed over four years by Joe Foster.

But what about Hill? Are 25 records enough? The former developer of unmanned aerial vehicles for the military thinks 25 is a nice round number. After all, his health isn't what it once was, and his eyesight is so poor that he dyed the model airplane glue the color red so he could find it on his workbench. Hill says he has no plans for additional records "at the moment," and he can't think of "any reasonable records" to achieve. "I may change my mind," he adds. — Alton K. Marsh

Author, advocate Frank Kingston Smith dies

Frank Kingston Smith died on September 3 in Connecticut, after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years. Smith was 84. Smith was a practicing lawyer when he first flew in 1955 at age 36. His literary voice captured the humble yet erudite thoughts of a private pilot who learned to fly in midlife, and he waged literate outrage at governmental policies that fawned to airlines while squeezing out general aviation. The first of his 16 books, Weekend Pilot, united loosely knit GA pilots by giving them a resonant mouthpiece. He wrote more than 1,000 articles during his 40-year career, for several aviation magazines including AOPA Pilot, Flying, and Sport Aviation. He also served as the executive director of the National Aviation Trades Association, precursor to the National Air Transportation Association, from 1965 to 1975. He returned to his law practice in 1975 and continued flying until 1995. Smith was honored with the Lifetime Excellence in Aviation Journalism Max Karant Award at AOPA Expo 1997.

"Frank's writing had [a profound effect] on me when I was learning to fly.... I found that my fears, problems, and shaky technique were the same things he dealt with. And through him came the knowledge that virtually everyone struggles with the same things," said John Loughmiller, a loyal reader.

Smith is survived by his wife, Marianne, and pilot sons Frank Jr., Doug, and Greg. — Julie K. Boatman

Selections from Smith's column, "Off and Winging," which originally ran in Pilot from November 1978 through September 1983, can be found on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/pilot/kingston_smith/).

Raytheon Aircraft gets primped for sale

The sale of Raytheon Aircraft may depend on a return to profitability, an improvement in the stock market, and a successful outcome to a just-beginning Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation, but company officials have reconfirmed that the company will ultimately be sold.

Raytheon Chief Executive William Swanson told a Morgan Stanley conference in early September that the aircraft unit is not a "core" business of Raytheon, something Raytheon Aircraft officials told Aviation Week & Space Technology a year ago. The core business is defense electronics. Losses that reached $760 million in 2001 were reduced to $4 million last year, and on the surface, Raytheon Aircraft would seem to be a good catch. After all, the company has the contract for the T-6A Texan II trainer.

Industry observers, however, say the startup costs for that program — $50 million — were so large that profits will be slow in building. Past efforts to sell the company were hampered by too high a price: $4 billion, according to press reports in recent years. Raytheon has sold 11 non-core businesses since 1999, Aviation Week reported, and raised $3 billion. Adding to the problems are an unfavorable stock market that puts a damper on other firms raising the purchase price and a recently formalized SEC investigation into accounting practices involving the company's commuter airplane business. The SEC is looking into the "timing of revenue recognition" between 1997 and 2001, according to the Wichita Business Journal. Potential suitors may want that issue resolved prior to purchase. — AKM

For the fun of flying

Ever felt the need to express your love of flying? Now's your chance, and you might win something, too.

Flightcom is celebrating its twentieth anniversary with its "For the Fun of Flying" essay contest. Each 50-word essay is to begin with the phrase, "For me, the fun of flying is...." Flightcom will award headsets, intercoms, and accessories for the best 20 essays.

The grand-prize winner will receive four Denali ANR headsets. Flightcom will do the initial judging while the Pilot editorial staff will select the finalists. Essays will be judged on content, creativity, writing style, and proper use of language. The contest ends November 30.

See the Web site for entry forms and contest details ( www.flightcom.net).

Modified P-51 shatters record at Reno

Team Dago Red shattered the Unlimited Class world speed-racing record in Reno, Nevada, recently and convincingly broke through the 500-mph barrier. During an Unlimited Class heat at the Reno National Championship Air Races, Dago Red posted an official average lap time of 507.105 mph and an unofficial fastest lap time of 512 mph.

"This is what we have been working for," said team owner Terry Bland. "This is the culmination of years of hard, hard work by a very talented team." Piloted by Skip Holm, Dago Red, named by an Italian, quickly passed Rare Bear and easily distanced the rest of the field on its way to its record-setting performance.

Dago Red went on to win the Gold Unlimited race, considered the top race at Reno, with a speed of 487 mph. The faster speeds were achieved in qualifying heats. In other categories, the T-6 Class Gold race was won by Nick Macy with a speed of 235 mph. Close behind was rising airshow star Mary Dilda in second place with a speed of 233 mph. Dilda, an instructor for race pilots, went on to win the Jet Class Gold race in an L-39 Albatross with a speed of 434 mph. The Sport Class title was taken by Darryl Greenamyer, recently featured in Pilot (see " Pilots: Darryl Greenamyer," September), with a speed of 324 mph. The Formula One Gold race was won by Gary Hubler with a speed of 253 mph, while the Biplane Class Gold race was won by David Rose at 219 mph. — AKM

Arkansas man wins Sporty's Skyhawk on birthday

Winning a new airplane on your birthday is about the best thing that can happen to a pilot. When James Ford of Poteau, Arkansas, turned 32, he got a call from Sporty's Chairman Hal Shevers. Although Ford had told colleagues not to make a big deal out of his birthday, Shevers changed that when he informed Ford that he was the winner of Sporty's 2003 Skyhawk Sweepstakes. "I was standing up and sitting down and standing up again. I was shaking and very excited. I got loud," said Ford, who sits in an open area at work with eight other people. He works as an assistant vice president of a local bank and is a 100-hour private pilot.

ePILOT Headliners

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

Piper certifies turbo airplane

The FAA has issued a type certificate for the Piper 6XT, the turbocharged fixed-gear version of the six-place Saratoga II. The normally aspirated 6X was certified earlier this year. The standard-equipped list price of the 6X is $338,400, while the 6XT sells for $358,400.

Lancair moves forward on Columbia 400

The Lancair Company was expecting to resume flight testing for the turbocharged Columbia 400 program in October following an incident that destroyed its conforming production airplane. The accident, caused by a faulty spin chute release mechanism, had nothing to do with the aircraft's design, according to company officials.

Milestone for Cirrus

Cirrus Design says it has made general aviation history by doing what no other startup airplane company has done in the past 50 years. In the four years since its first delivery, Cirrus has delivered 1,000 airplanes.

Williams to power D-JET

Diamond Aircraft has selected Williams International's FJ33-4 jet engine to power the company's single-engine D-JET, which is currently under development. The FJ33-4 is a scaled down derivative of the FJ44 engine family used today on a growing number of business jets and provides 1,400 pounds of thrust.

Navy looks at blimps

Bring back the blimps — or consider it, anyway, which the Navy is doing. The Office of Naval Research is budgeting $3.7 million to study the use of airships for guarding ports. The blimps would pack the latest in surveillance equipment and relay data to law enforcement agencies.

Russian amphib wins certification

A six-place Russian-built amphibious aircraft equipped with American engines and avionics has won FAA type certification. The first two of the Beriev Be-103 aircraft now in the United States will be sold at a reduced price of $650,000.

Enola Gay ready for display

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has completed restoration of the Enola Gay, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress used to drop the first atomic bomb in combat. The airplane will be on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the museum's new companion facility in Northern Virginia, which opens to the public on December 15.

Raytheon donates Starship

A Beechcraft Starship has been donated by Raytheon Aircraft to the Kansas Aviation Museum, located in Wichita at McConnell Air Force Base. Raytheon Aircraft decommissioned the 50-ship Starship fleet in June because support costs were prohibitive. The company will donate a limited number of Starships to museums, airframe and powerplant schools, and research institutes.

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/).

Laughing gas to power private spacecraft

Scaled Composites, located in Mojave, California, moved a step closer to private sub-orbital manned space flight recently with the award of a contract to SpaceDev for propulsion support. SpaceDev is located in San Diego. The firm has completed test firings of its hybrid rocket in Mojave that uses a combination of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and HTPB (rubber). The Scaled Composites craft will be called SpaceShipOne and will be carried aloft for launch by a carrier aircraft. Test flights of the two composite-constructed vehicles have been completed. To keep abreast of the homebrew spacecraft project, visit the Web site ( www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/). Rutan's SpaceShipOne is competing for the worldwide X-Prize, a $10 million purse to be awarded to the first person or team to fly a privately funded sub-orbital spaceship 100 km (62 miles) to the edge of space, return safely, and then fly again within two weeks. The manned spaceship must be capable of carrying three individuals. The goal of the X-Prize is to make space travel safe, frequent, and affordable for the general public. — AKM

Members in the news

Jennifer Telling, daughter of longtime AOPA member Fred Telling, AOPA 431260, of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, passed her practical flight test and received her private pilot certificate on August 10 — her seventeenth birthday. She is pictured with instructors Tony Crawford (left) and Steve Clegg. That's an accomplishment for any young person, but unlike most others who achieve that success at such a young age, Telling earned her certificate in a helicopter. What's more, Telling actually began training for the feat in 1997 when she was just 10, flying a Schweizer 300C at Caldwell, New Jersey. Two years later she transitioned to a Robinson R22, which she soloed on her sixteenth birthday. She has since logged some 80 hours of helicopter time. Telling hopes to be a NASA shuttle scientist after college and graduate school.

Lois Feigenbaum, AOPA 485432, has received The Ninety-Nines Award of Achievement at its international conference in Huntsville, Alabama. She is a past international president of The Ninety-Nines and a trustee of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kansas. She previously received the AOPA Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award, served as an AOPA regional representative, and won the 2000 National Aeronautic Association's Elder Statesman of Aviation Award.

Ford Frazier, AOPA 870447, and his wife, Caryn Wolf, have come up with a solution for those who want to identify airplanes. It's called Plane Spotter, a laminated 12-panel fold-out with color pictures that points out ways to tell airplanes apart. Plane Spotter comes in two versions, one for the passenger airlines and the other for the military. It sells for $8. For more information, see the Web site ( www.planespotter.com).

Saverio Morea, AOPA 206050, has been inducted into the Brooklyn Technical High School's Hall of Fame in New York. Morea was a NASA engineer and a key player in America's early space program. He was twice awarded NASA's Exceptional Service Medal for his contributions to space exploration. Morea has been a pilot since 1949 and a flight instructor since 1971.

Marcus B. Crotts, AOPA 335737, has been inducted into the Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity's Alumni Hall of Fame. Crotts holds engineering degrees from North Carolina State University and the University of Illinois.

Louis S. Rehr, AOPA 3683994, has written Marauder: Memoir of a B-26 Pilot in Europe in World War II. The book is the result of 40 years of research on the combat history of the B-26 and includes an extensive collection of rare photographs. Rehr is a former FAA examiner. The book is available from McFarland & Company Inc. ( www.mcfarlandpub.com).

Flying machine operators wanted


How many hours did it take you to get your private pilot certificate? If it was a lot, you're not alone. If it was a few, here's sobering news: Students at the Wright Company School of Aviation did it in four. They were masters of the machine in two to three. The total cost of the 10-day program was $250 and students didn't have to pay for "breakage of the machine," according to the Wrights' advertising flier preserved in Dayton's Wright State University archives.

The Wrights started their school in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1909 but moved it to Dayton's Huffman Prairie Flying Field in 1910, where the Wrights had previously done experiments. At the time it was near what the Wrights called Simms Station, known today as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The school lasted only a few years but during its existence it set historic firsts.

The first flight simulators were used there — one was a fuselage set on sawhorses while another was a balance board. To use the balance board, students carried a pole across their shoulders like a high-wire circus performer. Heavy rocks on each end assured enough mass to make the pole useful. A board was placed across a wagon axle held off the ground by its two wheels. An assistant would tilt the board to see if the student could keep his balance, since that was thought to be the key to successful flying. Balance continued to be regarded as the key to a successful pilot career for years to come. Cavalrymen were thought to be good "flying machine operators" because they had experience keeping their balance atop a prancing horse.

Once a student's balance was improved, flight training could begin. The Wrights generally did not give the flight instruction but conducted a class at the factory in west Dayton covering the construction and repair of flying machines — especially repair. Flight instruction was left to others and given in flights lasting from five to 15 minutes. Usually no more than 30 minutes of instruction was given per day. It wasn't all work, however.

Photos from the Wright State collection show a student doing a chair-balancing act, a stunt perhaps based on his tilt-board training. Another shows a student doing handstands. Among the 119 students who eventually graduated was then-Lt. Henry H. Arnold, later to become the commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.

Competition existed among flight schools, and mild criticisms of other schools in the brochure may have referred to the Flying School and Exhibition Company started by Glenn H. Curtiss in Hammondsport, New York. The difference between the two schools was that Curtiss instructors stayed on the ground while Wright instructors flew with their students, according to Peter Truesdell, a member of the board of trustees of Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Rhinebeck, New York (where history is still flying every summer weekend).

The method was still in use for training pilots to fly the relatively more modern biplanes of World War I. There is a flight-training story from that time that bears repeating, and it may even be true. In 1917 a British military instructor, Maj. Robert R. Smith-Barry, established the School of Special Flying at Gosport in Hampshire, England, to train military flight instructors using an Avro 504J tandem-seat biplane. The training course exposed students to dangerous maneuvers in a controlled manner. Timid students would refuse to take the stick when signaled to do so, so Smith-Barry would simply heave his stick over the side, forcing the student to fly or die. One day Smith-Barry tossed his stick to the wind only to see the student do the same. While the frantic instructor tried to fly the airplane using the missing stick's nub, the student smugly installed a third stick he had hidden aboard prior to the flight. Currently, in four locations around the United States, flight training has reverted to pre-World War I levels.

Several groups are planning to build and fly 1903 Wright Flyer replicas, and the method for training are often the same as used by the Wrights: Practice first in gliders. Pilots for the Wright Experience at Warrenton, Virginia, have flown Wright gliders in preparation for a flight in December at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. The Flyer built by The Wright Redux Association in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, has already flown successfully. The Virginia Aviation Museum in Richmond, Virginia, is sponsoring the construction of a Wright Flyer by three men, one of them a German builder of antique aircraft engines. In California, another Wright Flyer is taking shape and is sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

There probably will be few handstands or high jinks like those at the Wright school to show off for the crowds. Today's pilots know just how uncontrollable and dangerous the 1903 Wright Flyer could be.

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This month in GA

I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for 50 years. Ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions. — Wilbur Wright, 1908

November 14, 1910. Eugene Ely, in a Curtiss Hudson Flyer, is the first to fly an airplane off a ship — the 83-foot platform on the battleship USS Birmingham.

November 3, 1911. A patent application is filed by F. McCarroll for a retracting landing gear. The patent was issued on November 7, 1915.

November 18, 1913. Lincoln Beachey, in a custom-built Curtiss over Coronado, California, is the first to fly upside down.

November 5, 1915. Lt. Cmdr. Henry C. Mustin makes the first catapult launch from a moving ship, the USS North Carolina under way on Pensacola Bay, Florida.

November 27, 1920. The first National Air Race is held at Mitchell Field in New York.

November 12, 1921. The first air-to-air refueling is made when Wesley May steps from the wing of one biplane to the wing of another with a five-gallon can of gasoline strapped to his back.

November 4, 1923. U.S. Navy Lt. Alford Williams sets a speed record, flying 266.59 mph in a Navy-Curtiss Racer at Mitchell Field, New York. The flight remains a U.S. record until 1930.

November 28-29, 1929. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, with Bernt Balchen as pilot, Harold I. June, radio operator, and Capt. A.C. McKinley, photographer, flies a trimotor Fokker over the South Pole.

November 29, 1938. John M. "Johnnie" Jones flies the first transcontinental nonstop lightplane flight in an Aeronca KCA, from Los Angeles to New York, 2,785 statute miles in 30 hours, 47 minutes.

November 2, 1947. Howard Hughes and a crew of engineers test the Spruce Goose, an HK-1 Hughes Flying Boat, over Los Angeles harbor.

November 29, 1950. Walter Beech, president and CEO of Beech Aircraft, dies of a heart attack. Olive Ann Beech, Walter's wife, becomes president and remains at the company's helm until 1968, when she assumes the role of chairman at age 65. Beech Aircraft ceases to exist as an independent entity when it accepts a takeover bid from Raytheon Corporation on October 1, 1979. Olive Ann Beech, one of the most successful female executives in aviation history, dies on July 6, 1993, at the age of 89.

November 20, 1953. A. Scott Crossfield flies a Douglas D-558-2 and exceeds Mach 2. The airplane is flown to Mach 2.435 (1,648 mph) at Edwards Air Force Base, California (see " Pilots: A. Scott Crossfield," page 178).

November 3, 1957. The Soviet Union sends the first living creature into space aboard Sputnik II, a dog named Laika.