Pilot Briefing

December 1, 2005

Aircraft designers look at new forms of energy

Energy. It's one of those heavy load-bearing words like love or war that mean many things to people on different levels. Lately it's been connected with the word crisis, thanks to escalating gas prices. To futurists, it means opportunity.

Several projects are under way to take advantage of multiple forms of energy. Alisport, an Italian aircraft company, says it has produced the world's first production electric-powered aircraft with its Silent2 and Silent Club self-launching sailplanes. The initial thrust stemmed not so much from fuel prices, but from noise restrictions in Europe. The Silent Club can climb at 470 fpm up to an altitude of 2,500 feet on one charge. Unlike combustion engines, the electric motor is not affected by density altitude. It looks like a normal slick composite glider, but housed in trap doors behind the pilot, the electric motor and prop lift up and forward like a pocketknife. Once the pilot has reached enough altitude for the soaring conditions, the motor and propeller retract.

Another electric-powered self-launching sailplane called the Antares is being developed by Lange Flugzeugbau in Germany.

On a full charge it can climb quietly to 10,000 feet with its 57-horsepower motor. It can be recharged in the field by a portable generator. Besides the obvious advantages offered by mechanical simplicity, electric motors improve reliability so that with enough juice left in the batteries, the pilot could potentially work his way out of a jam. Accidents have occurred in self-launching piston-powered gliders when pilots let themselves get too low and weren't able to start the gas engines in time.

If there is such a thing as a hybrid aircraft currently in production — to draw a parallel with the auto industry — it has to be the Stemme S10-VT motorglider. It has the glide ratio (50-to-1) of an Open Class racing glider once the propeller is tucked away in the nose, yet can cruise at 140 knots above 10,000 feet. With a 115-horsepower turbocharged Rotax engine, it has a service ceiling of about 30,000 feet. By taking advantage of wind-generated mountain wave and ridge lift as well as thermals, the only real limitations are the pilot's skill and creativity.

A California company called Solar Flight, meanwhile, has been examining the Stemme S10 closely and thinks it's what future electric-powered aircraft will look like. Solar Flight plans to build a two-seater, similar to the Stemme, followed by a four-seater. Solar Flight was founded by Eric Raymond, who flew the single-seat solar-powered Sunseeker across the United States in 1990 over a 21-day period. Solar Flight also is developing a solar-powered blimp called the Sunship. The company hopes it will be the first solar-powered aircraft to fly around the world.

And Jim Dunn of Advanced Technology Products in Worcester, Massachusetts, has been developing an airplane powered by a hydrogen fuel cell as part of a learning project for students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The aircraft is a lightweight French-made DynAero Lafayette III and potentially could have a range of more than 500 miles.

Dept. of R&D

Researchers go to the heart of the matter

Researchers have found an interesting connection between aircraft aerodynamics and human blood flow. A Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) system is typically used to improve the performance of aircraft wings, but researchers have optimized it so that it can accurately measure the effects of medical implants. Unusually high blood flow can cause blood cell damage, while unusually low flow can lead to thrombosis or coagulation. Doctors typically use ultrasound scans to find problems with the natural heart, but researchers say the scans don't provide a detailed enough analysis of blood flow when implants are used. Coupled with advanced image-processing and numerical-analysis software, the SMART-PIV system is in testing through a partnership of European companies. Fabrizio Lagasco, SMART-PIV project coordinator, thinks the system could be commercially successful by improving the design of heart valves and pumps, and providing doctors with a way to correct the side effects associated with implants.

A rule of thumb

To maintain the best-rate-of-climb speed during the climb, reduce the sea-level best-rate indicated airspeed by 1 percent per thousand feet. This value is about 1 knot per thousand for most light airplanes through medium twins.

What's in the December issue of AOPA Flight Training?

  • Waiting to Excel. The National Intercollegiate Flying Association's Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference, or Safecon, is collegiate aviation's version of the NBAA Final Four.
  • When Big Isn't Beautiful. Do you know a pilot whose take-charge attitude has caused problems in the cockpit? Find out why this isn't a personality trait to emulate.
  • Small but Mighty. If you're looking for a college-level aviation program, consider one of these smaller institutions that offer big benefits.

The December issue mailed on October 25. Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year.

For more information, call 800/872-2672.

Designer airports with strange names

Big airports have boring names, but smaller ones? Less so.

Take Crash In International, for example. When the Wisconsin Department of Transportation asked Eric Woebling for the name of the 2,000-foot-long grass runway at his home near Racine, he said: Crash In International. (No, U.S. Customs Service is not available.) "It was kind of a joke," Woebling said. "There are high-tension lines 1,700 feet off the east end of the runway, and a big oak tree that sits on the extended centerline, 300 feet from the west end. To land there, it is a controlled crash."

Woebling, who runs his grandfather's Carmex lip balm company, lands his Piper L-4 and Cessna 150 there, but not his Hawker Sea Fury and North American AT-6. Woebling said the strangest name for an airport he knows of is Plop and Plow in northern Wisconsin. All efforts to find it were to no avail, although a search of airports did unmask?Plows and Props, Will-Be-Gone, Florida North, and Kitty-Wompus, all in Wisconsin.

Then there's the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport in Wyoming. Heard of it? In July 1994, 20 fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy comet smacked into Jupiter, so Green River Mayor George A. Eckman, his city managers, and the entire City Council passed a resolution inviting any refugees of Jupiter to the town's intergalactic airport. The dirt-runway airport got its name from then-City Administrator Jim Hauser in 1992, and there is no word about what he was thinking. The town newspaper claimed back then that the town suffered from mischief created by ghost aliens. — Alton K. Marsh


Violet the Pilot wants to see the world. And tales of her adventures come just in time for the holidays. Children's book author and commercial pilot Bettina Jenkins Bathe dreamed up the character who flies general aviation aircraft in exciting locales. Violet flies seaplanes in Canada, ski-planes in the Arctic, helicopters in Hawaii, and hot air balloons in France. Future adventures will take her to Australia, Africa, South America, and Asia. So far Bathe has published two books in the series, Violet the Pilot in Canada and Violet the Pilot in France. The Hawaii and Arctic editions were slated for release in November 2005 and January 2006, respectively.

?Violet always travels with her three animal friends — a butterfly, ladybug, and beaver — and encounters weather challenges. She also plays the violin and ukulele. While tapping into children's innate desires for flight, Violet communicates real pilot practices such as safety and reading maps. Bathe says on her Web site that the $14 books are geared toward "boys and girls from 1 to 101 years of age." Portions of book proceeds go to charities. For more information, visit the author's Web site ( www.violetthepilot.com).

Richard I. Ward has had quite a few thoughts about flying. In Flying Thoughts: An Aviator's Flight Through Life, he uses aviation as a guiding force. While recounting tales of airplane experiences as a youngster, he goes on to weave philosophy into the narrative and provides advice on how someone with limited means can succeed in business and accomplish the American dream. Ward was smitten by aviation at a young age and at 15 restored his first airplane. He learned to fly seaplanes on Pennsylvania's Allegheny River in 1943, then piled up the ratings and certificates. The 156-page soft-cover book sells for $15.50 and is available from booksellers.

If you are as crazy about Luscombes as John C. Swick is, then this book is for you. Luscombe's Golden Age covers the history of these classy-looking aircraft, beginning in 1932. The softbound 300-page book includes more than 200 photos and 62 technical drawings. The book is available from Wind Canyon Books ( www.windcanyonbooks.com) and sells for $29.95.

AOPA Online survey: Avgas

Eighty-six percent of respondents to AOPA's recent online survey say that increases in avgas prices have affected their flying. And anecdotal information showed wild fluctuations in avgas prices throughout the country with some who paid more than $5 per gallon. While many respondents said they had already cut back on flying as avgas prices surged past $3 and $4 per gallon, 391 out of 575 respondents (68 percent) said they would curtail their flying if avgas reaches $5 per gallon. Another 18 percent of respondents said they would curtail their flying if avgas was to reach $6 per gallon. A minority, 5 percent, said it would keep flying even if avgas prices hit $10 per gallon. As for the future of avgas, the terms "bleak," "not good," and "dismal" were often used, kindling new interest in auto gas supplemental type certificates and calls for alternative fuels. "Airplane for sale!!!" blared one member. "I'm still waiting for the jet replacement engine, but jet fuel is insanely expensive as well," said another.

Brits invade GA exhibition market

With sponsorships by Cirrus, The New Piper, and Garmin, American manufacturers seem to be throwing their weight behind a new general-aviation-focused exhibition forming in the United Kingdom. AeroExpo 2006 is set for June 23 through 25 at Wycombe Air Park. The airport is located about an hour from downtown London. Organizer Paddy Casey, distancing himself from the Farnborough, England, and Paris airshows, says the new event will provide a unique general aviation experience in the U.K. Manufacturers and enthusiasts have been seeking a GA venue as the larger shows have become oriented more toward airline and military aviation. So far, more than 75 exhibitors from throughout Europe and North America have signed up for the expo. For more details, visit the Web site ( www.expo.aero).

Members in the news

John M. Carter, AOPA 95726, and Nicola Vaccari, AOPA 191629, are the latest recipients of the FAA's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for more than 50 years of continuous safe flying activity. Carter, of Atherton, California, received his private pilot certificate in 1940 and owns and flies a 1953 Cessna 180. He is known in the aerospace industry as the founder of Carco Electronics, maker of flight-motion simulators for development of missile and aerospace guidance systems. He has been an AOPA member since 1953. Vaccari, of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, started flying for the Italian Air Force in the 1950s and went on to fly for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Canada. After obtaining his U.S. citizenship in 1960, he spent a career in the agricultural flying industry. Vaccari has been an AOPA member for 45 years.

One Six Right now on DVD

Following its successful theatrical debut, the critically acclaimed general aviation film One Six Right (see " Movie Magic," September 2004 Pilot) is now available on DVD.

The creation of producer/director Brian J. Terwilliger, the film reflects his and our collective love affair with general aviation. Originally conceived as the history of Van Nuys Airport, the film's focus changed significantly during its lengthy production schedule and evolved into a cinematic expression of deep concern for the very survival of general aviation and its airports.

The air-to-air photography is strikingly beautiful and will leave you clamoring for more. This and the film's underlying message strike an emotional chord in almost all who have seen it. There are few pilots for whom One Six Right does not evoke tears of joy, of laughter, and of sadness. The footage of Chicago's Meigs Field will tear your heart out.

Beyond the entertainment value of One Six Right, the film also helps those who do not fly to appreciate the value and need for general aviation. Showing it to nonaviation people can help to garner their support in protecting local airports from the bulldozer and being converted into shopping malls and housing projects.

Hollywood insiders who have seen the film believe that it is a shoe-in for an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Documentary. You can see a trailer and order the film at the Web site ( www.onesixright.com).

The DVD ($28.95) includes bonus features such as additional flying sequences, deleted scenes, and still photos (historical and behind-the-scenes images). The 73-minute movie was digitally transferred from a high-definition master, has a wide-screen theatrical format and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and includes subtitles and closed captions for those who might want them.

The original musical scoring also has been receiving rave reviews. A sample can be enjoyed by clicking Soundtrack on the film's Web site. Those wanting more can purchase a 65-minute CD ($15.95) containing the entire musical soundtrack.

Also available is the stunning signature poster ($17.95) for One Six Right. It is suitable for framing and displaying in any pilot's den or hangar wall.

Terwilliger Productions says that items ordered on its Web site by December 16, 2005, will be delivered in time for Christmas. — Barry Schiff

Common mishaps explored — share yours

An upcoming article in AOPA Pilot will probe the unthinkable — starved for fuel, the aircraft engine quits. We will examine common scenarios and pitfalls leading up to this remarkably unpleasant situation, how you'd deal with the problem at hand, and how you might avoid it in the first place. Please share your experience by e-mailing Pilot at [email protected] with "fuel starvation" in the subject line. Include your name, AOPA number, and contact information in the e-mail. The information you provide may be published.

AOPA ePilot Headlines

Recent news from AOPA's weekly e-mail newsletter

Mangold takes Red Bull race title
Aerobatics ace Mike Mangold owned the sky over San Francisco on October 8. The former Air Force fighter pilot not only won the day, but also became the overall Red Bull Air Race World Series 2005 champion.

1905 Wright Flyer flies
A replica of the 1905 Wright Flyer III — the first practical airplane — has made several successful flights at the historic Huffman Prairie testing field used by the Wright brothers. The field is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.

The Fury returns
Communities in the South are vying to become the manufacturing site for an airplane introduced jointly by Piper and the late Roy LoPresti in 1989 as the SwiftFury, returning now as the LoPresti Fury.

Javelin jet makes maiden hop
The fighterlike Javelin jet prototype on September 30 successfully completed its maiden flight at Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colorado.

Commander group finds home
Commander Premier Aircraft Corp. will locate its new factory in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in the building vacated two years ago by Luscombe builder Renaissance Aircraft.

Aerobatic pilot dies
Two-time member of the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team and chief engineer at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Marta Bohn-Meyer died September 18 in the crash of her Experimental category Giles 300 aerobatic aircraft near Oklahoma City.

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/).