Hangar Talk

The story behind the story

November 1, 2005

ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) may well be one of the best-kept secrets in aviation. Few pilots seem to have heard of what seems destined to become one of the most significant new datalink technologies in general aviation cockpits. In September, the FAA made the decision to adopt ADS-B instead of future installations of surveillance radar. And while that change will take place over a number of years, a small but steadily growing number of pilots along the East Coast are already taking advantage of traffic and weather information services (including near real-time Nexrad images and text weather) already available from New York to Florida, and doing so without having to pay a monthly subscription. In " ADS-B:The Future Is Now" (page 86), author Charles H. Stites recounts his experiences flying a 55-year-old airplane with twenty-first-century technology.

"I've always been impressed at the power of aviation to literally inspire and shape a person's entire life," says author Vincent Czaplyski. "That's why I wasn't surprised to discover in a recent visit to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston that the astronauts I met with all caught the flying bug early in life." (See " Out of This World," page 96.) "Despite day jobs that fill their time with exotic aviation experiences, many remain passionately involved with light-airplane flying and are long-time AOPA members. My tour of NASA's Aircraft Operations Division at Ellington Field as a guest of astronaut Steve Nagel also gave me an up front look at what is no doubt the most unusual flight department in America."

Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial engines are largely relegated to museums and airshow aircraft in most of the world. But in Alaska, where many remote villages and work sites are served only by aircraft, the full-throated sound of the big Pratt radials is still commonplace. Everts Air uses Douglas DC-6 and Curtiss C-46 aircraft to meet the cargo and fuel needs of rural Alaska. While these machines could just as well be museum pieces, they still earn their living in the far north as cargo carriers. Author Michael Vivion accompanied an Everts Air Cargo DC-6 on a winter trip 400 miles west of Fairbanks to Kotzebue, Alaska (see " Legendary Aircraft, Extraordinary Service," page 104). Everything from Pampers to heating oil is carried to dozens of remote sites by these old air warriors, and today Everts Air is one of the largest operators of piston-engine airliners.

"I use my airplane to save time while traveling, and to savor the beauty of nature through the gift of wings," says AOPA Pilot Associate Editor Steven W. Ells. "However, in spite of my love of flying, I occasionally doubt that owning an airplane seems worth the time and expense involved. I used to entertain a dream that the day would finally arrive when the maintenance on my airplane would be finished, complete, fini, no más! With maturity this dream has been supplanted by the realization that continuing to maintain my airplane's condition, or airworthiness, is similar to the best plan for maintaining my health — an ongoing process involving fact finding, decision making, and action." See " Airframe & Powerplant: Maintaining Airworthiness," page 163.