Pilot Briefing

October 1, 2006

Winnie Mae's pants

A signed wheel pant that went along on Wiley Post's record-making flight around the world in a Lockheed Vega named Winnie Mae has been found in a California woman's basement. Her parents were both aviators and apparently knew Lockheed engineer and mechanic Otto Sanloff, who replaced the wheel pant before the aircraft went to the Smithsonian Institution. The part is inscribed: "To Otto Sanloff. This is the left side of Winnie Mae's Pants. She's a fine gal — Around the world in 8 days 15 hours 51 minutes June 23 to July 1 1931. Wiley Post." The signature has been authenticated by an appraiser, and the wheel pant valued at $25,000. It will go on display in Oklahoma City at the Museum of Women Pilots. The woman, Jackie Mullarkey, had planned to throw it out until she discovered via the Internet that the wheel pant was part of the Winnie Mae that is on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. — Alton K. Marsh

Airplane flies on 160 AA batteries

Panasonic challenged a group of students at the Tokyo Institute of Technology to build an airplane powered by 160 of its new batteries, the Oxyride. A 119-pound student rode the Air Oxyride with a 101-foot wingspan for 1,300 feet at 17 feet above an airport runway doing about 8 mph. Don't believe it? It kept going and going and, oh wait, that's the rabbit. — AKM

Fire Bosses to the rescue

Say you're on a small Mediterranean island. The conditions are exceedingly dry. A fire starts. What do you do?

Call in the Fire Bosses.

A pair of Air Tractor AT-802F Fire Bosses have been fighting wildfires on the Italian island of Sardinia. It's part of a trial program in which the airplanes knock down fires before they grow too large. The approach has been used successfully in Spain and Portugal.

Made in Olney, Texas, the single-engine turboprops have amphibious floats and massive 820-gallon capacities. The Fire Boss pilots typically begin their patrols with a load of fire retardant. When a fire is reported, the pilots attack immediately. Once the payload is exhausted, they can scoop up water from island sea coves or lakes and return to the fire. With a ferry speed of nearly 175 knots, cycle times are low.

The Fire Bosses are operating under a contractor, Avialsa T-35, based in Valencia, Spain. During high fire danger days, the two airplanes fly individual two-hour patrols over the island. It takes about 35 minutes to fly from the base on Sardinia's west coast to the farthest point on the island. When a fire is spotted, the airplanes join up.

Between July 1 and July 28, there were about 35 grass and forest fires, and the Air Bosses handled most of them within the first two hours. For major conflagrations, larger aircraft can be called in. Sardinia is an arid place in summer. Fewer than 3 percent of the rainy days of the year occur in July and August.


Sam Bass was only trying to do some good. But with the good comes the bad. In Phil Bowie's thriller Guns, Bass is a hot shot pilot who makes a daring rescue of a couple lost at sea in a storm. Problem is, he has a past. And the publicity makes for attention he doesn't need. With his presence known, a hit squad is out to get him, but they kill the wrong person. Bass is grief stricken and trains himself to avenge his girlfriend's death. From then on, the bloody hunt is on. Published by Medallion Press, the 357-page soft cover book sells for $6.99.

Lovers of the de Havilland Tiger Moth will be interested in this new book about the airplane that signifies early aviation, especially in England, Canada, and Australia. De Havilland DH.60 Moth by Stuart McKay takes readers on an adventure through the 1920s and early '30s and touches on the present state of the remaining airplanes. The book says that the DH.60 can be credited with the beginning of the flying club movement and private aircraft ownership in many parts of the world. The 176-page hardcover book is a follow-up to McKay's previous book on the Tiger Moth as a trainer. Published by Specialty Press, the book sells for $44.95 and can be ordered online or by calling 800/895-4585.

Were the early Alaska aviators who pioneered the last frontier truly legendary — or just lucky? A little bit of both, says author Arnold Griese through his story of one of the early ones, pilot Harold Gillam Sr. In the carefully researched and well-illustrated Bush Pilot, Griese tells Gillam's story, from when he got his start smoothing the field at Fairbanks with a tractor in his early twenties, to the accident that ended his career, and eventually his life, in 1943. The 340-page paperback book gives a detailed look into life in Alaska during the 1920s through World War II. Bush Pilot may be ordered online or through Amazon.com for $19.95.

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

  • Unexpected Arrival. Managing your risks in an off-airport landing.
  • Night Flight. What's so special about this kind of flying, and what can you do to make it safe?
  • Survival Skills. You put the airplane on the ground safely, but your job isn't over until help arrives.
  • New to You. Airplane checkouts shouldn't be casual affairs.

The October issue mailed on September 2. Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year. For more information, call 800/872-2672.

Online Survey

Pride of the southpaws

Baseball gloves, guns, hand grenades, power tools, boomerangs, watches, scissors, tin snips, school desks, and three-ring binders all have presented challenges for a big segment of the respondents to our recent online survey. In fact, the unscientific snapshot into everyday life caused some anger from childhood to surface. We asked members whether they were right- or left-handed, and we got nearly 6,000 responses. A third of the respondents identified themselves as lefties. (We're not sure if ambidextrous people voted twice. Sorry we didn't have an answer choice for that.) As a follow-up question, we asked about problems lefties deal with in a right-handed world. "We die on average eight years sooner...probably because of the stress of being the largest minority in the world!" While the problems on the ground are apparent for southpaws, there aren't as many problems in the air. The biggest challenge for lefties is when they are flying an airplane with a sidestick control on the left and need to copy a clearance with their right hand. Of course in aviation, it's all a matter of perspective as to whether the pilot is sitting in the left or right seat as a captain or first officer, student or instructor, or airplane or helicopter pilot. According to one respondent, "Airplanes fit lefties well. I fly a Boeing 777 and everything fell into place for me. That is why approximately 40 percent of us are lefties as opposed to 10 percent of the general population. And always remember, 82.4 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot." Back on Earth, things sometimes work the other way, said another pilot. "I am a right-handed dentist, however, in the beginning of my career I worked for a left-handed dentist in a left-handed world. It was the most inconvenient, non-ergonomic situation I have ever come across. Everything I needed was out of reach."

Members in the News

Nelson Rhodes, AOPA 2000846, was presented with the Florida Department of Transportation's (FDOT) Aviation Professional of the Year award. This prestigious award is presented each year to a Florida aviation professional "to recognize superior achievement." Rhodes serves as AOPA's Florida regional representative. The award demonstrates the valuable working relationship that AOPA has with FDOT and the Florida Airports Council, which nominated Rhodes for the award.

Steve "Wild Thing" Stavrakakis, AOPA 764184, has been called on to share his knowledge of the silver screen. Stavrakakis, an active pilot and narrator on the airshow circuit for 20 years as well as a voice of the National Championship Reno Air Races since 1999, was chosen to play himself in the upcoming big screen film, Thunder Over Reno. Billed as "the world's fastest love story," the action-filled movie is set to debut next summer. Film crews shot race and crowd action at the 2005 races and were back for on-course action at the summer pylon training school last June. Stavrakakis recently also won a screen test to co-host the Red Bull Championship Air Race Series.

AOPA ePilot Headlines

Recent news from AOPA's weekly e-mail newsletter

Adam finds new funding
Adam Aircraft has secured a large dose of funding at a time when the company is trying to certify its second airplane model. The $93 million round of funding was led by DCM, a venture capital firm, along with other new investors.

A Jabiru-powered Cub
American Legend Aircraft of Sulphur Springs, Texas, has delivered its first Jabiru 3300A Aero-powered Legend Cub. The aircraft was flown by the customer from Texas to his home in the Florida Keys.

NTSB on Wal-Mart heir's crash
Several potential causes have been examined by the NTSB in a "factual" report for the June 2005 fatal crash of Wal-Mart heir John Walton, 58. Nearly all the potential causes relate to repairs made by Walton following a hard landing in May 2005.

LoPresti Fury lands in New Mexico
After roughly 17 years in the works, the LoPresti Fury appears to have found a home. LoPresti Inc. announced that it has struck a deal with the city of Belen, New Mexico, and the state government that will allow it to build a manufacturing facility for the two-seat, single-engine airplane.

Last Zero reaches museum
The first pieces of the last remaining Japanese Zero fighter to be shot down over Hawaii on December 7, 1941, have reached the new Pacific Aviation Museum, now in its final fund-raising campaign.

Spectrum 33 program continues
Linden Blue, originator of the Spectrum 33 very light jet and its principal investor, plans to continue development of the all-composite aircraft powered by two Williams FJ33-4 turbofans in spite of a fatal crash that claimed the lives of its two test pilots on July 25.

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.

A Good Morning

After years of hauling people, mail, and cargo in Alaska, AOPA member and commercial pilot Brian Dary decided to get out of "scud-running aviation," but not before he took this month's dramatic winning photograph of a de Havilland Beaver DH-2 on floats. Dary took the photo one morning at the Juneau float pond next to the Juneau International Airport. "The day I took the photo, the sunrise kept getting better and better," he says. "All I had to do was shoot." Visit the Web site to see all of the winners.

Dept. of R&D

A preemptive spark for the airlines

Finding electrical shorts in the miles of wiring in airliners has cost the industry millions of dollars because of aircraft downtime. Sandia National Laboratories has patented a technique that should help eliminate problems that can make cabin lights blink or even lead to fatal crashes. The product, called Pulsed Arrested Spark Discharge (PASD), is expected to be marketed by licensee Astronics Advanced Electronic Systems of Redmond, Washington. The product is the size of a small suitcase and can be plugged into wire harnesses to find tiny insulation breaks. It sends a nanosecond pulse of electricity, propelled by high voltage, along wiring bundles. The tiny pulse has enough power to jump gaps in frayed insulation but not enough energy to cause damage.

Build A Plane brings kids, wrenches together

Have an airplane "project" that needs attention? Have a local school that needs more aviation-related subjects for kids? Build A Plane, a nonprofit organization, has formed to bring aircraft ready to restore, refurbish, or complete to schools where the students participate in the project under the supervising eyes of local pilots and mechanics. Currently there are 22 projects in place across the United States (and a couple of international projects); you can donate your aircraft project, whether it's a rotting carcass taking up hangar space or a kit that no longer meets your time constraints or interest. Visit the Web site for more information.

A rule of thumb

To find pressure altitude for use on performance charts when you don't have a sensitive altimeter handy, take standard pressure (29.92), subtract the current pressure setting, multiply that number by 1,000, and add the elevation. Example: Current pressure altitude is 28.95 and the elevation is 1,500 feet msl. Take 29.92 and subtract 28.95 for 0.97. Multiply that times 1,000 and add that to 1,500. You get 2,470 feet, which is your new pressure altitude.