Pilot Briefing

July 1, 2006

Museum makes progress on returning Black Widow to flight

The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania, says it has reached another milestone on the road to restoring its Northrop P-61 Black Widow to flight. During the last weekend in April, museum workers mated the left and right inner wing or engine nacelles with the fuselage. The landing gear was then lowered, meaning museum visitors can now see the airplane resting unassisted for the first time since January 10, 1945, when the airplane crash-ed. The museum recovered the airplane from a mountain in New Guinea in 1988 and brought it to the museum three years later. So far, $850,000 has been invested in the restoration project, and the museum figures it will take another million to complete the project. Three other P-61s are known to survive today, but if the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum succeeds, it will have the only flying version.

Dept. of R&D

You can never have enough dummies in the family

The Crash Dynamics Laboratory at Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research recently added four anthropomorphic test dummies to its research equipment. That brings the lab's body count to 17, providing an entire family to draw data from. The new additions are an adult female, a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 12-month-old. The youngest child is said to be crabby, or rather CRABI (Child Restraint Airbag Interaction), brought into the world specifically for child-safety-seat testing. The lab uses an accelerator sled and high-speed digital cameras to generate data for the aerospace industry. And through it all, the family stays together.

Online Survey

Ghosts in the cockpit

Our latest online survey asked members about whom they would pick as a favorite flying companion, living or deceased. Although the results yielded the usual suspects — Bob Hoover, Chuck Yeager, the Wright brothers, and various movie stars — there was a clear longing to connect with the past. "My dad who passed away in 2002. This was almost a year to the day before I started my private pilot training. I just know how much he loved to fly and would have loved to accompany me on any outing that we could have come up with," said one member. Another one put it sadly, "Teri Knutson — best friend, wife, copilot for 30 years who passed away from cancer on April 11, 2004. She was 49 years old. I would trade my life for one more flight with Teri Lee." Others saw aviation as a potential way to end family strife: "Grandfather, the only pilot in my family. Still alive but won't speak to me for religious reasons." Another member mentioned doing a flight review with AOPA Pilot columnist Barry Schiff or Rod Machado, and another would like to have Homer Simpson standing by to deal with air traffic control when ATC issues amended clearances.

Members in the News

Lee Ross, AOPA 1187677, has been awarded the Master Aerial Photographer designation by the Professional Aerial Photographers Association International (PAPA). The award is given only to members of the association who meet specific criteria, including having their work judged annually by a panel of artists and other experts. Ross, best known for his decorative New York City images under the name "Ross-pilot," has been flying for more than 30 years and taking aerial photographs since 1995.

Gene Benson, AOPA 241204, has been awarded the 2005 FAA Aviation Safety Counselor of the Year award by the Rochester, New York, flight standards district office. Benson produces and conducts original aviation safety seminars for pilots, and conducts a safety program for first responders who may have to deal with an aviation accident.

Richard J. Traunero, AOPA 1173158, was recently presented with the American Red Cross Everyday Hero Award for his work as a pilot for Angel Flight. He lives in northern Ohio.

Aircraft designers aim to create the perfect wing

Racing-glider manufacturers that try to squeeze every ounce of performance out of an airframe have basically hit the wall. Using the latest in aerodynamics research and composite materials, there is only so much you can do to make an object slide through the air. A college professor, however, is trying to change that.

A technique called "boundary layer suction" has been kicked around for decades as a way to massively increase the efficiency of aircraft wings. It sounds simple enough; a pump is mounted in the fuselage and sucks air through a slit on the upper surface of the wing where the boundary layer starts to become turbulent and separate. This redistributes the air and provides laminar flow over the entire airfoil at all speeds. No need for flaps. Boundary layer suction could nearly double the glide ratio of modern large-span sailplanes, giving them something like 100-to-1.

Renowned sailplane designer Loek Boermans, a professor at Delft University in the Netherlands, has been pioneering the concept by putting a 1.5-mm-wide slit along the length of the wing about 30 cm forward of the trailing edge. But there are some structural issues, most notably that it would mess with box-wing construction. Also, there would need to be a continuous power source, which could be seen as paradoxical to the philosophy behind nonpowered flight. And the wing would have to be designed so that it could fly in a default arrangement should the power source fail. All of this is as exciting as it is expensive to manufacture.

One of Boermans' students, Eric Terry, did a master's thesis on boundary layer suction in 2004, and in it he pointed out how the field of aerodynamics has mostly been concerned with passive techniques such as shaping. The active technique of boundary layer suction goes all the way back to Ludwig Prandtl, who is considered the inventor. In 1904 he used a cylinder with slots so the air was sucked away to improve flow on the outer surface. The Germans and Russians completed experimental test flights in the late 1930s. The technique was later successfully tested on fighter planes, helicopters, and, as recently as 1998, on airliners.

What does the future hold? With rising fuel costs, boundary layer suction may soon see its heyday.

A rule of thumb

If the wind is blowing at more than 15 knots, take off uphill. It may take more time to become airborne, but the total distance will be shorter.
Source: Mountain Flying

AOPA ePilot Headlines

Recent news from AOPA's weekly newsletter

New home for GlobalFlyer
The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, which carried adventurer Steve Fossett around the world three times, is at its new home at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

A Luscombe renaissance
Following financial problems and having to vacate a plant in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Renaissance Aircraft has landed at Flabob Airport near Riverside, California, to reproduce the Luscombe 8.

Adam reaches 41,000 club
Adam Aircraft's A700 AdamJet has reached 41,000 feet and a true airspeed of 340 knots. The test flight on April 20 was set up to verify the aircraft's maximum operating altitude.

A new VLJ
A new entry in the very-light-jet race made its maiden flight in May. Called the Sport-Jet, the four-place single-engine jet, made by Excel-Jet, is currently in flight testing at Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Eclipse gets Collier
Eclipse Aviation joined an elite group in May when it accepted the Robert J. Collier Trophy from the National Aeronautic Association.

GA shipments up
General aviation manufacturers recorded the highest first-quarter billings in history. Industry billings totaled $4 billion, a 39.7-percent increase over 2005, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Although all market segments are up, piston-engine aircraft led the way.

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.

Summer Dream is a winner

AOPA members chose James Gage's photograph of a floatplane on the bank of Alaska's Auke Lake as the April "Photo of the Month" in the AOPA Pilot 2006 General Aviation Photography Contest. Gage, a 14-year AOPA member who lives and works in Juneau, Alaska, has fittingly titled his idyllic image Summer Dream. The contest runs through August, and you can submit your own general aviation photographs every month. Cash prizes totaling more than $7,700 will be awarded, including a grand prize of $1,750.

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

  • The Min Trim Glide. A technique to try if your engine quits.
  • Act Like an Owner. Treat the airplane as if it were yours.
  • Checkride Pitfalls. Beware these common traps that can snare the unwary checkride applicant.

The July issue mailed on May 31. Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year. For more information, call 800/872-2672.