Pilot Briefing

November 1, 2004

Aerobatic air racing comes to Reno

Top aerobatic pilots now have a new playing field. In its U.S. debut in September, the Red Bull Air Race World Series Championship crowned American Mike Mangold as the top pilot. The race was held in conjunction with the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada.

Unlike a typical air race, Red Bull pilots, one at a time, execute a series of aerobatic maneuvers around a course marked by five inflatable pylons as the clock ticks away. There is also an obstacle requiring pilots to touch down on a 12-by-36-foot target zone. While Kirby Chambliss was the pre-race favorite, Mangold pulled it out in the end after two days of racing in windy conditions. Both pilots flew Edge 540s. American Mike Goulian and Hungarian Peter Besenyei were finalists. Besenyei clipped one of the 50-foot pylons during his knife-edge run through Gate 3, bringing it down and incurring a 10-second time penalty.

The event in Reno served as the final championship round. Chambliss won the first round in the United Kingdom, beating Besenyei by 0.03 seconds. Chambliss also won the second-round race in Budapest, Hungary, where the course was set on the Danube River and contestants actually flew underneath a bridge.

In regular Reno air racing news, Dago Red, an airplane named by an Italian, finished first in the Unlimited gold race, but because of a pylon cut, the crown was given to Rare Bear, an F8F Bearcat piloted by John Penney. As for the other classes, Al Goss was the winner in the AT-6 class; Darryl Greenamyer in the Sport class (see " Pilots: Darryl Greenamyer," September 2003 Pilot); Gary Hubler, Formula I; Tom Aberle, Biplane; and Curt Brown, Jet class.

Company begins work on reusable spaceship

The company behind the propulsion technology for Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne is thinking even bigger. SpaceDev has begun designing a reusable spaceship that could be scaled up to transport passengers to and from low Earth orbit. Called Dream Chaser, it would take off vertically and glide back to Earth. SpaceDev recently signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with NASA Ames Research Center for the two parties to explore hybrid propulsion systems. SpaceDev is also designing a family of small, expendable launch vehicles for delivering satellites to low Earth orbit and a scalable space tug.

It flies, it puffs, it sprays, it honks

It, and that is possibly the best model designator, began life as a Helio Courier but has transformed into the Jensen Turbo Courier. Jay A. Jensen calls it a camper, a very unusual one, one with a sense of humor. A list of its equipment would be confusing unless you are in on the joke, so here is a description of how the Jensen Turbo Courier might handle a typical mission. The aircraft is based in Salt Lake City, and favorite camping sites are in southern Utah and the Idaho backcountry.

We're not saying these things will actually happen, just that they could, given the equipment on board. First the airplane arrives after cruising at 135 knots behind an 840-shaft-horsepower Garrett 331 turboprop off of a Mitsubishi MU-2. Over the campsite the aircraft issues a puff of smoke to judge wind direction for what is to follow. After that — come on now, remember it may not actually be done — the area is sprayed down with bug spray to eliminate mosquitoes from the camping experience. Then the aircraft lines up for a landing, but if the pilot notices wildlife on the strip he can blow a 140-decibel, three-bugle train horn that is mounted on the nose strut. The wildlife leaves, the airplane lands, and it's time to camp. Jensen unhooks hydraulic lines from the aircraft steering mechanism and hooks them to a log splitter, and a pile of firewood is ready in a jiffy. When it's time to leave there is no worry about high-country, hot-day takeoffs. The engine has a water/alcohol injection system from a Fairchild Metroliner to provide 840 shp up to 5,000 feet.

How much of that has actually happened? The train horn has been blown in the air, but only in the vicinity of another train. It was used on a deer that appeared on a runway, and the deer moved in a timely fashion. Log splitting has been done only in the hangar, not yet in the wild.

To achieve the results, one of the aircraft's designers, former Helio Manufacturing Director Bob Casebeer, used some unusual parts. The Helio is a conventional-gear airplane, one with a tailwheel. The engine required a 106-inch propeller, but that required main landing gear so tall the nose was "aimed at the moon," Jensen recalled. So it was decided to make it a tricycle-gear aircraft, like Casebeer had designed for Helio Corporation. A surplus nose strut off a McDonnell Douglas F-101 Voodoo fighter-bomber was the perfect size. An axle was machined that used a 29-inch crop-duster tire. The rear gear was fabricated and mounted with 38-inch "Super Swamper" soft tires like those used for rock crawlers, those super-jeeplike vehicles used for mountain climbing competitions. They require only 10 pounds of tire pressure. The nosewheels require only 15. Two cylinders off a bomb bay door absorb the shock of landing on the mains: Oil squirts up tubes into a tank in the belly of the aircraft on each landing. The nose strut and bomb bay cylinders (Jensen's not sure which aircraft they are from, although they were built by the former General Dynamics company in Fort Worth, Texas) probably cost the government a total of $55,000, but he got them for less than $100 yellow-tagged. Finally, the train horns are powered by 600-degree Fahrenheit bleed air off the engine. The aircraft is unpressurized so the bleed air had nothing to do. Now it blows the horn.

An inscription on the side of the aircraft, scribbled quickly with a marker pen as if to underscore its message, says, "Quality is the enemy of production." Jensen, Casebeer, and Ken Bjork, who produced it, followed that philosophy, and their wives think they're crazy. But they have plenty of ideas left. Stay tuned. — Alton K. Marsh

Embry-Riddle tops 'best colleges' guide

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach Campus in Florida ranked first in the 2005 U.S. News & World Report: America's Best Colleges guide for a specialty school in aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical engineering. The university was compared with other institutions with the same specialty and whose highest degree is a bachelor's or master's. The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado ranked second, and Embry-Riddle's Prescott, Arizona, campus and the United States Naval Academy in Maryland tied for third. California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo rounded out the top five. The rankings are based on a peer survey of deans and senior faculty. — Jill W. Tallman

Squawk Sheet

Garmin has issued a mandatory service bulletin requiring owners of its GTX 330, 330D, 33, and 33D Mode S transponders to install v3.06 software in the products. The software upgrade supersedes all previous updates related to Airworthiness Directive 2004-10-15 that arose over concerns about the units possibly failing to reply to traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS) interrogations on some aircraft. The AD does not cover the GTX 33/33D, but owners of those transponders are encouraged to get the software upgrade anyhow. Garmin owners can check to see which software version they have using the self-test procedure. The work can be done at your local avionics shop. Garmin is covering the cost of the upgrade under its warranty program.

NASA releases Helios mishap report

Whether it's an airplane or unmanned flying wing, if an aircraft exceeds its design speed, the results are always detrimental. That's what ultimately brought down Helios, NASA's remotely operated, proof-of-concept solar electric-powered flying wing.

NASA recently released its report on the Helios in-flight breakup over the Pacific Ocean, stating that the June 26, 2003, crash resulted from a failure to predict its increased sensitivity to turbulence after its configuration had been changed for long-duration flight demonstrations. The lightweight, highly flexible flying wing encountered normal turbulence that caused persistent, abnormally high wing dihedral, which led to pitch oscillations, and then the exceeding of its design speed. This in turn caused parts of the wing to separate.

A NASA spokesman said the crash did not diminish the previous progress of Helios, which flew a record-setting flight to just under 97,000 feet in August 2001. The flight that started from the Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai crashed inside the testing area, and there were no injuries or damage to property. However, a supporting fuel cell system for night flights sank in mile-deep water and was not recovered. — Alyssa J. Miller

WAI announces 2005 scholarships

Women in Aviation International (WAI) has posted a glittering array of scholarship opportunities for 2005, including funds for flight training, aviation education, type ratings, tailwheel training, and much more. AOPA Flight Training magazine is among the sponsors, offering a scholarship for two students to attend the sixteenth annual International Women in Aviation Conference, from March 10 through 12, 2005, in Dallas. You must be a member of WAI to apply, and many of the scholarships have specific requirements in addition to WAI's guidelines. Applications are due December 3. Complete descriptions of the scholarships and an application can be found at WAI's Web site ( www.wai.org/education/scholarships.cfm). You can also request an application by e-mail ( [email protected]). — JWT


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

Cessna offers Garmin glass in 206

Cessna Aircraft Company continues to expand the number of single-engine aircraft models available with the Garmin G1000 integrated flight deck. Cessna has received FAA certification for the turbocharged T206H Stationair and was expecting certification of the normally aspirated 206H shortly after.

Safire gets evicted

Safire Aircraft Chief Executive Officer Camilo Salomon confirmed that he has been locked out of his office space at Miami Executive Aviation, based at Opa Locka Airport in Miami, for failure to pay rent. He said he is continuing to pursue financing for Safire in order to develop an aircraft for the very-light-jet market.

Commander names potential investor

Aviation General, parent company of Commander Aircraft Company, has entered a stock-purchase agreement with Pilot General Aviation to invest $2.8 million in return for 80-percent ownership of Aviation General. The money will be used to fund the court-confirmed Chapter 11 reorganization plan for Commander Aircraft located in Oklahoma City.

Guinness recognizes NASA record

NASA has been recognized by Guinness World Records for setting a world speed record of Mach 6.83 (nearly 5,000 mph) in its hypersonic X-43A scramjet. The flight for the unpiloted craft on March 27 lasted just 11 seconds over the Pacific Ocean.

Cirrus boosts production

Cirrus Design Corporation hired 88 new production employees and ramped up production to 12 aircraft per week at the end of July in an effort to meet its record number of sales.

Gulfstream certifies G450

Gulfstream Aerospace recently received a type certificate from the FAA for its G450 business jet. This keeps the company on schedule to begin delivering the aircraft during the second quarter of 2005.

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/).

SpaceShipOne flies high above hallowed ground

What happened over the Mojave Desert in October represented private enterprise's ultimate victory. Burt Rutan and his crew on October 4 won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for reaching suborbital space twice within a two-week period. Exactly 47 years to the day, it marked the anniversary of the former Soviet Union's launching of Sputnik I, the official starting point of the Space Age.

The satellite, which weighed about as much as an average adult male and was slightly bigger than a basketball, set off a panic in the United States. If the Soviets could spy on the free world, then what? Launch missiles? The furor in Washington, D.C., led to the creation of NASA along with giant contracts that were doled out to corporations. Until Rutan started making sketches of spacecraft, the stars were only accessible by those with big budgets — people who talked in terms of billions, not millions.

But the stars over Mojave twinkle a lot brighter in the night air over hallowed ground. This is an area where test pilots like Chuck Yeager once flew. With only $20 million, or something slightly north of that, from Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen, Rutan launched a space program from this same ground. Test pilots Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie successfully hand-flew SpaceShipOne to space to take the X Prize — Melvill on the September 29 flight and Binnie on October 4. For those who see anniversaries as yardsticks, here's something else to ponder. On December 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of powered flight, Binnie broke the sound barrier in SpaceShipOne while the craft was in a vertical climb. He reached nearly 70,000 feet.

The next quantum leap appears to be orbital flight. Budget Suites of America mogul Robert Bigelow plans to fund half of what he calls "America's Space Prize," a $50 million award to the first team building a craft that can put five to seven people in orbit.

For those who want to see the stars sooner rather than later, Virgin Atlantic Airways Chairman Richard Branson hopes to have cornered the suborbital tourism industry by signing an agreement with Allen's company, Mojave Aerospace Ventures, to build more spacecraft similar to SpaceShipOne and rocket the public to the edge of space at a cost of $190,000 per person. Virgin Galactic would open for business in 2005 and start flights in 2007.

Request extensions for temporary pilot certificates online

The FAA, by adding a new feature to its Airmen Certification Web site, has made it easier for pilots flying on temporary certificates to request an extension. Simply establish an online account ( www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/airmen_certification/airmen_services/) with the Airmen Certification Branch and request the extension. Within minutes, the FAA can send the permission via an e-mail or fax. Because of the high number of airmen certificates that the FAA is processing, the administration recommends that pilots first check its Interactive Airmen Inquiry Web site to see if their certificates have been entered into the database. Calling the Airmen Certification Branch (866/878-2498) should be a last resort.

Date slips for sport pilot student applications

The FAA has pushed back the date that it will start accepting sport pilot student applications. Originally slated for November 15, the new date will now be January 15, 2005, to give the FAA's Oklahoma City offices time to gear up to process the new forms. The actual student pilot application paperwork, FAA Form 8710-11, will be ready on January 1. That form will be submitted to the local flight standards district office (FSDO) or to a designated pilot examiner. The new form is needed because sport pilots aren't required to carry a medical certificate. For recreational or private pilot students, the medical certificate also serves as a student pilot certificate. The practical test standards (PTS) for sport pilots were to be available by early November and the aeronautical knowledge test by November 15.

Coming up in the November issue of AOPA Flight Training

  • Preflight precision. Is your preflight inspection a cursory once-over of the airplane, or a proactive safety tool? Mechanics approach the subject from a different perspective than pilots.
  • Camber is the key. A basic understanding of aerodynamics helps pilots in many areas of aviation. Here are six basic rules that will help you through the process.
  • Revere the gear. The landing gear of your training airplane must be strong, lightweight, and absorb shock. How do designers address these divergent goals?

The November issue mailed on September 29. Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year. For more information, call 800/872-2672.

Members in the news

Peter Lyons, AOPA 1349723, Scot Cromer, AOPA 1073897, and Jeff Bethel have formed Aspen Avionics LLC. The trio has more than 45 years experience developing and certifying avionics for general aviation. The company unveiled its first product, the AT300 Terrain and Weather Awareness Display, at EAA AirVenture this past summer. Certification is expected in mid-2005. For more information, see the Web site ( www.aspenavionics.com).

Cloyd Van Hook, AOPA 3948764, has started the Beech Aero Club owners group, serving owners of the Beech Musketeer, Sport, Super, Sundowner, Sierra, Duchess, and Skipper models. The club, formed in July, now has 141 members in 38 states, Canada, Mexico, and Australia. Learn more about the club on the Web site ( www.beechaeroclub.org).

Richard S. Drury, AOPA 209364, has put together in hardcover book form a special collection of his columns from the airline magazine Airways. Called Flightlines, the same title as the column, the book chronicles Drury's experiences from airport kid to airline captain. Drury started his flying career in gliders, then went on to fly for the Air Force and finally for the airlines. He has performed at airshows and flown his Hawker Sea Fury at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada. Published by Airways International Inc., the book sells for $16.95 and can be purchased online ( www.airwaysmag.com).

Jim Wark, AOPA 1063208, has recently published Discovering Lewis & Clark From the Air, with Joseph A. Mussulman, which reveals highlights along the Lewis and Clark from the perspective of Wark's Christen A-1 Husky. Wark, a professional aerial photographer, began his journey west from St. Louis to the Pacific in 1999, with 2,473 miles to go on the GPS flight plan route. The trip took seven flying days, encompassing 80 hours of flight time. The book is culled from a total of 3,182 images, and the text, by Mussulman, intersperses what Wark saw and shot with journal entries from Lewis and Clark. The 272-page soft-cover book is available from Mountain Press Publishing Company at 800/234-5308 or at the Web site ( www.mountain-press.com) for $24, or $40 for a cloth-bound edition.