Pilot Briefing

March 1, 2004

Jury awards fraction of damages sought in Carnahan suit

A jury in January awarded survivors of late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan $4 million of the $100 million the family had sought following the October 2000 crash of a twin-engine Cessna 335. The jury didn't find grounds for punitive damages. (See " Waypoints: Lose/Lose," page 40.)

Carnahan, then a candidate for the U.S. Senate; his son Randy, who piloted the airplane; and a campaign aide died in the crash near Hillsboro, Missouri. The family had sued Parker Hannifin Corporation, alleging that the aircraft's vacuum pumps — made by that company — had failed. Other companies were included in the lawsuit as well and will pay a share of the award. However, the NTSB report indicated there was evidence that the pumps were working properly and that there was adequate vacuum pressure to operate the airplane's vacuum instruments at the time of the crash. The NTSB blamed the crash on spatial disorientation of the pilot and on the failure of an overhauled primary attitude indicator. Also listed as contributing to the accident was adverse weather, including turbulence. Parker Hannifin has been out of the vacuum pump business since January 2003.

NASA hopes to predict the next perfect storm

NASA scientists hope a new international field experiment will help them improve weather forecasts for when the East Coast faces its biggest meteorological threats. Groups from NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, conducted aircraft-based experiments in November and December 2003 in NASA's ER-2 and the University of North Dakota's Cessna Citation II. Called the Atlantic Thorpex Regional Campaign (ATReC), the collected measurements will be used to improve short-term forecasts for severe storms. The East Coast is particularly vulnerable in the late fall when tropical storms remain in the Atlantic but cold air comes down from Canada, creating what are known as nor'easters. A different kind of storm was popularized in the book and movie of the same title, The Perfect Storm. It occurred when two air masses and a hurricane collided over the Atlantic Ocean.

Notice of annual meeting of members

The annual meeting of the members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association will be held at noon on Saturday, May 8, 2004, 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

Pilot breaks 72-year-old gyroplane record

On October 3, 2003, at a few minutes past 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Andrew Keech launched his autogyro, a Little Wing LW5 Woodstock, from First Flight Airport in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, and headed westbound in an attempt to set a new transcontinental flight record for fastest cross-country time by an autogyro. Keech, 64, succeeded at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on October 12, when he landed at Montgomery Field in San Diego, breaking Johnny Miller's previous record, set in 1931 (see " Pilots: Johnny Miller," December 2003 Pilot).

He lost 10 pounds on the westbound trip, which took 35.2 tach hours at an average speed of nearly 68 knots. Miller set his record in the Pitcairn PCA-2, at an average speed of about 52.5 knots, taking 43.8 tach hours. However, since a transcontinental flight is timed from "wheels off on one coast to wheels down on the other coast," according to Keech, a pilot's stamina and judgment make critical differences in the flight.

Keech benefited from several advantages. "The LW5 is less than four times my body weight, and less than a third the size and power of Miller's PCA-2, but is made with modern materials and techniques," said Keech. "It was a different age and a different time technically. Miller could not fly in rain as it would have stripped the fabric from his rotating blades, and navigating while holding a road map in an open cockpit speaks to the capability of this great aviator." Keech had the advantage of an all-metal propeller and rotor blade and navigated using a handheld GPS, like most modern record-setting aviators.

Keech's flight was made without accompanying technical support, though he valued help from several good Samaritans en route. "I took two one-half-inch wrenches, a spare prerotator belt [the prerotator is used for spinning up the rotor blades prior to takeoff], and a can of oil — about 2 pounds of technical support," said Keech. A cell phone allowed him to consult with Ron Herron, developer of the Little Wing Autogyro. Fellow pilots and friends along the way offered him food, shelter, fuel, and mechanical suggestions.

The return trip was an even loftier success, recordwise, as he improved upon the previous time by 100 percent. At one point, he noted a groundspeed on the GPS receiver of more than 136 knots. Keech noted, "If my records are superceded they will have to be flown by someone with the confidence I have for the design of my Little Wing tractor autogyro." Keech said that autogyros were sidetracked for 50 years when gyrocopters were introduced in the mid-1950s with pusher engines — which typically have a poorer safety record. Herron has managed to turn the tide by the reintroduction of his Little Wing design with the engine in the front. — Julie K. Boatman


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

Dayton Flyer flies

A Wright Flyer replica built by the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company of West Milton, Ohio, has flown, is continuing to fly, and will keep on flying. Two replicas were built using wing ribs made by children from around the nation at supervised workshops.

Fossett to jet around globe

Burt Rutan has unveiled the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer single-engine turbofan aircraft at Scaled Composites in Mojave, California. It will be flown by Steve Fossett later this year in his attempt to make the first solo nonstop flight around the world.

New Piper opts for glass

Avidyne announced that The New Piper Aircraft has chosen its FlightMax Entegra primary flight display and multifunction displays for the Saratoga HP, the Saratoga TC, and the Piper 6X and 6XT single-engine airplanes.

British pilot changes course

Weather and logistics problems in Antarctica forced British pilot Polly Vacher in December to abandon her attempt to circle the globe pole to pole.

Pilot, businessman dies

Harry B. Combs, noted pilot, businessman, historian, and author, died December 23 at his home in Arizona. He was 90.

Intersection named for firefighter

Michael Quilty, an enthusiastic and accomplished pilot, firefighter, and devoted family man was memorialized when the FAA named an intersection for him called KWLTY. He died during the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

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/).

Squawk Sheet

A problem with the software for Garmin's GTX 330 and GTX 330D Mode S transponders prompted the FAA to propose an airworthiness directive (AD). But Garmin told AOPA that it has already sent updated software that fixes the problem to all Garmin Aviation Service Centers. Without Garmin's recently released software version 3.03, the Mode S transponders may not reply to traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS) interrogations from other airborne traffic detection systems. Garmin issued a safety bulletin in mid-2003 and is offering to pay for both the software upgrade and the avionics shop time to do the work. Anyone with affected equipment who has not received the software upgrade should contact Garmin by calling 800/800-1020 or visiting the Web site ( www.garmin.com/contactUs).

Embry-Riddle student plans national careers tour

An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student, 19-year-old Jamail Larkins, will barnstorm the nation this year in an effort to encourage middle- and high-school students to seek careers in aviation. He is also the spokesman for Careers in Aviation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people realize their aviation dreams.

Larkins, an aviation business student, was scheduled to begin the National DreamLaunch Tour in January and cover 20 towns in one-a-week flights. He plans to visit mostly locations in the eastern half of the country, but will also visit Los Angeles and Denver. He will use a new Cirrus SR20 for the trips. He has more than 500 hours total flying time in his logbook.

Sponsors are Aeroshell, AirShares Elite, Cirrus Design, Cox Communications, Lift, and Michelin. For more information, visit the Web site ( www.erau.edu/er/newsmedia/newsreleases/2004/larkins.html). — Alton K. Marsh

Judge rules Sandel does not violate Honeywell patents

U.S. District Court of Delaware Judge Pat Thynge has ruled that Sandel Avionics does not infringe on any of Honeywell's terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) patents. The court had also ruled earlier that more than 20 of Honeywell's other claims relating to the display elements of the same patents were invalid. Sandel Chief Executive Officer Gerry Block called it a "huge win." Honeywell spokesman Ron Crotty called the decision "wrong as a matter of law and fact." Sandel is now taking Honeywell to trial on the issue of whether Honeywell's remaining patents are actually valid. Honeywell brought suit against Sandel in May 2002 shortly after Sandel received FAA certification for its ST3400 TAWS.

Members in the news

Kam Majd, AOPA 4356076, has published his second novel, High Impact, as part of the continuing series about airline captain Kate Gallagher. The book breaks new ground by taking up the subject of remote viewing, a psychic spy program developed during the Cold War. When Gallagher's daughter becomes the unwitting recipient of a dark secret, it sends Gallagher on a cross-country pursuit of the truth. Published by Bantam Dell, the book is available in bookstores.

Doug Stewart, AOPA 0983347, has been named Flight Instructor of the Year by both the Windsor Locks Flight District Standards Office and the New England Region Flight Standards Office. Stewart, a Master CFI, Gold Seal instructor, and designated pilot examiner, is known for his six-day "East Coast IFR Experience" and two-day "Narly New England IFR," confidence-building training programs that have pilots flying some of the most difficult approaches on the East Coast. As well as writing a monthly safety and training column for Vintage Airplane magazine, Stewart provides tailwheel instruction and Piper Malibu/Mirage recurrent training. For more information on training opportunities, see his Web site ( www.dsflight.com).

Mark Feijó, AOPA 3680491, has just released a new award-winning documentary film, B-17 Flying Legend, about the importance of preserving the last flying B-17s in the world and learning about the men who flew them. A collector's edition DVD is now available through Janson Media ( www.janson.com). The DVD is packed with bonus features, such as the original documentary, Memphis Belle, more than 200 historical photos, a B-17 virtual tour, and many other surprises. For more information on the film, visit the Web site ( www.b17flyinglegend.com).

Thomas E. Simmons, AOPA 2623506, has published his latest book, Forgotten Heroes of World War II. Simmons' book focuses on the stories of the rank-and-file who served in all branches of the military. "Their tales are told without pretense or apology. At the time, each thought himself no different from those around him, for they were all young, scared, and miserable. They were the ordinary, the extraordinary, the forgotten," Simmons said about the book. Published by Cumberland House, the 256-page book is available at bookstores and from online retailers.