Pilot Briefing

July 1, 2005

Made in America

It's hard to buy anything totally American made these days. The auto business has become confusing to the point where it takes research to find out where your bumpers originated. Even country music, that bastion of Americana, has seen foreign influence, thanks to performers from Canada and Australia.

While companies struggle to stay in business in the global economy and outsourcing is the talk of the day in corporate circles, here's an interesting thought: Almost all of the 3,500 parts of the most popular general aviation airplane ever built continue to be produced in the United States.

Cessna Aircraft introduced the 172 Skyhawk in 1956 and the airplane has been exported around the world. Our own unscientific research found several Skyhawks with more than 20,000 airframe hours. So how does this iconic mount go together? About 54 percent of the parts are produced in the various fabrication and assembly facilities within Cessna. The rest come from outside vendors.

The fuselage is built at Cessna's plant in Independence, Kansas, while the wings (with work also done in Independence) and tail are built at Cessna's facility in Columbus, Georgia; control cables come from Tacoma, Washington; instrument panels and control yokes come from Cessna's facility in Wichita; leather comes from New York; tires, from Ohio; engines, from Pennsylvania; propellers, from Georgia; and the avionics and instruments, from Kansas, Texas, Oregon, and Japan.

Why not use foreign parts? When Cessna restarted its single-engine production in 1996, it contacted suppliers that had produced parts for it in the 1980s. Cessna said those suppliers already had many of the appropriate certifications. The suppliers that met Cessna's stringent qualifications were included in new Cessna single-engine production.

A rule of thumb

For the average person, the distance from the tip of his thumb to the knuckle is equal to about 10 nautical miles on the sectional chart scale. Try it and see for yourself.

Source: GoodWay flight-planner Web site

Who was America's first female glider pilot?

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the first woman to earn a U.S. glider pilot certificate, accomplishing the feat on January 29, 1930, flying a Bowlus Model A Albatross. Dressed in white coveralls and a headband, she was launched by bungee cord from 800-foot Mount Soledad near San Diego, according to writer Raul Blacksten. Lindbergh had a little sage advice. "It is wonderful training for the prospective power pilot: knowledge of air currents, landings when the motor has failed. And it is such fun," she wrote to her mother. Charles A. Lindbergh was America's ninth certificated glider pilot.

What's in the July issue of AOPA Flight Training

  • To Go, or No? Sometimes the decision to launch or stay on the ground is more complicated than getting a good weather briefing.
  • Stick-and-Rudder School. A taildragger will teach you exactly how aircraft are meant to be flown.
  • Flying Into the Future. Thought processes that will serve you well as you begin to fly on instruments or transition to a flat-panel glass cockpit.

The July issue mailed on June 1. Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year. For information, call 800/872-2672.

Prison or airport?

Nowhere is there greater evidence of the increase in airport security than at St. Petersburg, Florida, where even the flight service station (FSS) is behind barbed wire. It is understandable, given that this is the FSS where 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta took a tour as part of his student pilot training. Atta reportedly was aboard the first plane that hit the World Trade Center, although his father has denied his son's involvement. The fence also encloses other air traffic facilities at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. Flight service personnel refer to themselves as "inmates." Permission of the flight service station manager was obtained to take this photo; a sheriff who was driving past stopped and interviewed the photographer. The FSS is, however, open for tours by pilots with prior arrangement. — Alton K. Marsh

Dept. of R&D

A Bonanza that's smarter than you are

Beechcraft Bonanzas are known for being solidly built, but can you imagine one that kind of, well, heals itself?

Raytheon Aircraft Company has a flying testbed with technology that until recently could only be found on fighter planes and high-end jets. The airplane is configured with a fly-by-wire system on the left side and conventional controls on the right. Using a joystick control in the "easy fly" mode, the pilot can pull back and set the climb angle. Once the joystick is released, the airplane levels out. A speed control is used to assign the desired airspeed in knots; the airplane figures out how to adjust the propeller and throttle.

Raytheon sought the help of Wichita State University to develop intelligent controls for when there is a control malfunction. Jim Steck, an aerospace engineering professor at the school, said the computer can then figure out how to use the remaining controls to compensate. Stall protection and envelope protection also have been incorporated into the system to maintain safe flight. Steck said preliminary data has shown that the airplane would fare better in microbursts and wake turbulence than an aircraft with conventional controls.

Raytheon has no current plans to certify the system, but Steck said they're always keeping the FAA process in mind should they decide to market the aircraft.

UAVs and you: From a supercopter to dust that thinks

Whenever America goes to war, minimizing casualties is always on everybody's mind. Coupled with that were the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, throwing research into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into high gear to find ways to monitor the home front.

That means pilots will be sharing the skies with some oddball-looking aircraft. In the coming months, we'll be highlighting some of these projects.

The Boeing Company's Phantom Works, for instance, has developed a helicopter, the A160 Hummingbird, that can fly 2,500 nautical miles and carry 1,000 pounds of payload. It has a patented 36-foot rotor and a top speed of 140 knots. Or take the GoldenEye-50, developed by Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation. It has vertical takeoff and landing capability and was primarily designed for surveillance and chemical-agent detection in remote and dangerous locations. Or (this is where things really get strange) imagine smart dust, tiny wireless microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS) that can monitor temperature or humidity and keep track of troop movements. Researchers think the sensors eventually will be as small as grains of sand.


In Bruce McAllister's latest book, he writes about the romantic age of the nomadic pilot when airplanes were considered exotic contraptions, capturing the imagination of the public. Vagabonds of the Sky is a 150-page journey into the lives of barnstormers and daredevils. McAllister interviewed some of the surviving pilots and pulled together 148 color and black-and-white photos. The book starts out with aerobatic daredevil Lincoln Beachey, who died far too young, and ends with Charlie Kulp, the "Flying Farmer," who has performed before more than 800 airshow audiences in the past 31 years. In between are the women. Bessie Coleman, for instance, overcame racial and sexual discrimination to become the world's first black female pilot and one of the first female barnstormers. Going from the blue sky to the silver screen, McAllister also covers Hollywood in the 1920s. Heavyweights like Howard Hughes, along with other producers, took cameras aloft to capture staged dogfights for movies such as Hell's Angel's, Dawn Patrol, and Wings. Published by Roundup Press, the book sells for $29.95. For more on McAllister's books, see the Web site ( www.wingsalcan.com).

The Appalachian Trail is more than 2,000 miles long and draws some 4 million people per year. The problem is that many of the good views are restricted by deep forests. Author and photographer Mark Warner spent five years flying up and down the trail in a Piper Cub to capture the trail in all its splendor. His 128-page hardcover book, The Appalachian Trail: An Aerial View, is divided into sections by state, stretching from Georgia to Maine. Published by Warner Publishing, the $35 book can be ordered from the Appalachian Trail Conference by calling 888/287-8673.

Learning to fly aerobatics should be fun, right? Ed Collins plays with the word in his book FUN (Frightened Until Numb): Learning to Fly Aerobatics. He recounts the experiences of taking those first flights in a tiny two-seat aerobatic airplane and discusses what went right, what went wrong, and why. Patty Wagstaff provides a forward and Mike Goulian offers an introduction. The soft-cover 193-page books sells for $21.95. To order contact Ed Collins Aerobatics, 1240 East 100 South 18-B, St. George, Utah 84790; telephone 435/673-0050; e-mail [email protected].

AOPA ePilot Headlines

Recent news from AOPA's weekly e-mail newsletter

FAA certifies Adam A500
Adam Aircraft on May 11 received FAA type certification for its A500 centerline thrust twin-engine airplane.

Navy loses warbird case
The Navy's claim that it owned a Brewster-built F3A-1 Corsair recovered by a Minnesota aircraft restorer has been dismissed by a Minneapolis federal district court judge.

Cirrus takes lead in shipments
Cirrus Design is off to a good start this year, taking the top position for piston-aircraft shipments with 143 for the first quarter.

Hail damages Skyhawk fleet
Thirty-eight out of 40 Cessna 172s in the training fleet at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, were damaged and grounded by ping-pong-ball-size hail.

Embraer enters VLJ race
Embraer is launching its own $235 million program to build a very light jet and a larger light business jet.

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/).

Members in the news

Actor Cliff Robertson, AOPA 275071, put his Beechcraft Baron to good use by flying it from New York to North Carolina to accept the Master of Cinema Award from the 2005 RiverRun International Film Festival. Robertson was awarded the AOPA Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award in 1981 for his humanitarian work involving general aviation and for putting the industry in a positive light through public appearances.

The Rev. Leslie G. Nixon, AOPA 216610, of Australia's Outback Patrol, was recognized in February among the 25 leading evangelicals in Australia for his aviation, educational, and humanitarian work in the Australian Outback since 1961.

W. Tim Miller, AOPA 568428, has been named one of Utah's top 100 venture entrepreneurs for 2005. His company, Echelon Biosciences Inc., does research on oncology drugs. A 1,500-hour pilot, Miller helped found Angel Flight Utah in 1999.

Calling J-3 owners

A future story in AOPA Pilot will feature the Piper J-3 Cub. Share your experiences as a Cub owner and/or pilot at [email protected] with "Piper J-3 Cub" in the subject line. Include your name and contact information in the e-mail. The information you provide may be published.