Pilot Briefing

August 1, 2007

Filming complete for air racing movie

"We've got a movie," said Thunder Over Reno director Mitch Carley after viewing footage filmed early in May at Nevada's Reno/Stead Airport.

Production began during the 2005 National Championship Air Races; additional filming was done during racing events in June and September of 2006. Slated to be completed during the 2006 races, the film's producers decided on another session to complete the picture.

"Unlike many movies with aviation as a backdrop, this one uses no computer-generated flying scenes," said Executive Producer Robert Odegaard. "There were some things we wanted to do that we didn't want to look back two years from now and wish we had done."

To capture the unique sport of air racing on film, several platforms were utilized, including a helicopter with gyro-stabilized camera, a P-51 Mustang with a cut-down canopy, a Piper Seneca with the cargo doors removed, and an OV-10 Bronco with its rear doors removed. For the final two days of shooting, an L-39 Albatross with a wing-mounted camera, flown by race pilot Skip Holm, was used to capture close racing action.

Love, danger, and bad guys form the gist of the movie, billed as "The World's Fastest Love Story." It follows the adventures of a young agriculture pilot who becomes an air racer. Undoubtedly, the aircraft star of the movie will be Robert Odegaard's extremely rare, prize-winning Super Corsair, along with the many other racers.

Thunder Over Reno has a tentative release date timed to coincide with the mid-September 2007 races. For more on the movie, see the Web site. — Wayne Sagar

Scientists go looking for trouble

You have to look deep inside a thunderstorm to see a potential hurricane. With forecasters predicting an active storm season for 2007, a little better understanding as to how these storms develop goes a long way.

During July and August 2006, an international team of scientists, including some from NASA, traveled to the west coast of Africa to research clusters of thunderstorms known as easterly waves. Sometimes the waves develop into major hurricanes — responsible for most late-season Atlantic basin hurricanes — while other times they simply fade away.

Scientists specifically looked at the Saharan Air Layer, a stable mass of dry air that forms over the Sahara Desert and provides high dusty winds. Studies have shown that the layer suppresses hurricanes, but the exact mechanisms remain unclear. The scientists used satellite technology and elaborate sensing equipment aboard aircraft to learn more. The researchers are studying the data and inputting the information into computer models. They will compare the data with other missions that took place in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. One day the unpredictable may seem more predictable.

Glider maker offers simple ejection seat

Taking a cue from the auto industry, airbags are becoming more popular in production airplanes to reduce the impacts caused by crashes. But in the glider world, airbags have been applied in an entirely different way.

Midair collisions might be rare in the sport of soaring, but they do happen, particularly during competitions when racers are circling in thermals. Although racers are required to wear parachutes, getting out of a sailplane may not be as easy as you think, even after releasing the canopy. The ship could be loaded up with G forces during a spiral or the pilot could be suffering from injuries.

In 1995, the Glaser-Dirks Company in Germany developed a simple egress system. A cushion beneath the pilot inflates with compressed air and gives the pilot enough boost to join the slipstream. But there wasn't a lot of interest until a crash in Austria two years later.

A part owner of one of the gliders in the incident called on the glider community to accept the device, saying it could have saved his partner.

The now-patented device is activated with one lever, which also releases the seat belt. The air cushion inflates and raises the pilot to the side of the fuselage (where the canopy would normally be attached) in about a second. It has a safety device to prevent unintended inflation. Glaser-Dirks feels strongly enough about the design that it is offering it to other glider manufacturers.

AOPA Pilot 2007 General Aviation Photography Contest
'A Shining Star' wins May photo contest

AOPA member Michael Bowers captured the image of this classic twin Lockheed while walking around Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, this spring. He immediately seized the perfect opportunity to capture a stunning combination of mirror-shine aluminum set against the dramatic sky overhead, a deed that won him the most AOPA member votes for the May AOPA Pilot photo contest. Bowers, a master carpenter and project manager for a company building custom log homes, is a private pilot, who will soon start training for his instrument rating. Go online to see a full-size version of the photograph and to find out how you too can become a contender for cash prizes totaling $9,500, including the grand prize of $1,000. Submit snapshots online for the AOPA Pilot 2007 General Aviation Photography Contest, which runs through September 4.

Cirrus unveils V-tail jet

What has a V-tail, a single jet engine, and hails from Minnesota? It's the new personal jet by Cirrus Design, dubbed "the-jet."

The company debuted a mockup on June 28 at company headquarters in Duluth. From some angles, it looks aerodynamically clean like a sea creature. From others, it has that retro feel, thanks to the tail. The air molecules shouldn't have any trouble knowing what to do here.

The Williams International FJ33 engine is mounted high and forward on top of the fuselage for load balancing, ease of maintenance, and safety. The airplane will have dual cabin doors, too. Like the other Cirrus piston models, the jet will come with an emergency airframe parachute to give its five or slightly more passengers an additional sense of security.

Because this is early in a three- to five-year project, Cirrus doesn't have firm specs. But based on marketing information sent to potential owners, it will cruise around in the lower flight levels at 300 knots or so and have the short-field performance of a turboprop. Cirrus is shooting for the $1 million price range.

The company sees this project as an encore to its SR20 and SR22 models. They say it will be simple and easy to fly so that owners can "live the dream of the jet lifestyle."

For more information, visit the Web site.

Cessna goes diesel

Cessna Aircraft has inked an agreement with Germany's Thielert Aircraft Engines to explore future programs centered around diesel engine technology.

There is already a supplemental type certificate for making the aftermarket Thielert installation in Cessna 172s. "We think the Thielert engine may provide a very worthwhile power option for many of our customers since it runs on jet fuel or diesel," said John Doman, Cessna vice president of worldwide propeller aircraft sales. "We have had discussions with Frank Thielert and his group for some time, and we think the time is right to move forward."

Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver said his customers have expressed interest in diesel engines, particularly in Europe. He said that because the two companies are publicly traded, they are legally required to release information about such deals.

For more information, visit the Web site.

Pilot, ecologist honored for work in Africa

Michael Fay, who became famous for walking and then flying across Africa, has received the prestigious 2007 Lindbergh Award presented by the Lindbergh Foundation. Fay was honored for embodying Charles Lindbergh's philosophy that technology can be used as a tool for saving the planet. In 2000 Fay made the dangerous 2,000-mile trek dubbed "Megatransect," which helped preserve the diversity of life in Gabon and nearby countries by establishing national parks. It was followed by the "Megaflyover" in 2004 when Fay used an old Cessna 182 to survey some 60,000 miles of African territory. Working in conjunction with the Wildlife Conservation Society's Human Footprint project, he used digital photography and GPS equipment to measure the degree of human influence. Fay later took delivery of a new Cessna 182 to be used for survey work and for tracking animals.

Flying high on corn booze

When four South Dakota pilots named their new aerobatic team the Vanguard Squadron in 1984, it would be quite a few years before it took on a double meaning. Each was flying a homebuilt Vans RV-3 and they were all Air National Guard vets. Van-Guard. Get it?

Actually, it wasn't until after the pilots converted their Lycoming IO-320 engines to burn a nearly pure mixture of ethanol and signed a publicity deal with the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council in 1993 that Vanguard took on the other meaning as a trendsetter.

"If you buy Everclear [a commercial grain alcohol beverage], that's what it is," says Steve Thompson, who flies slot.

The team's fuel has 3-percent gasoline added, but only because the U.S. government wants it denatured. As anyone who's taken a slug of Everclear knows, 180-proof grain alcohol tastes more like Jet A.

So, after 14 years and 4,000 hours and with the Middle East crumbling, how does the vanguard of alternate fuels perform? "It runs clean," says Thompson. "No fouled plugs, no lead, it doesn't soot up the engines." It's also homegrown and possibly easier on the environment. Just don't look for it at an FBO near you.

"We have trouble buying ethanol," Thompson says. "We have to use gasoline from time to time which works OK, but we'd prefer ethanol." This season Vanguard will fly six shows and also attend many public appearances and ethanol plant openings. Last year it was 25. "They're building plants really fast," Thompson says. — Phil Scott

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

  • Glass Class: Emergencies. How to respond when the systems fail in your technically advanced aircraft.
  • Becoming a Buyer. Tips for finding the airplane that's right for you.
  • Suddenly Silent. Planning ahead for an unlikely engine problem.
  • Touchdown Technique. The art of the touchdown involves knowing your goals and meeting them.
  • VFR Flying and Clouds. How to know whether to go over, under, or around.

The August issue mailed June 27. Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year. For more information, call 800/872-2672.

AOPA ePilot Headlines

Recent news from AOPA's weekly e-mail newsletter

Eclipse celebrates first jet service center
On June 15 Eclipse Aviation celebrated the opening of its first satellite service center. It is located in Gainesville, Florida, to serve the Southeast region.

American wins Red Bull Air Race
The Red Bull Air Race series is continuing to draw huge crowds in picturesque places. The latest race took place in Istanbul, Turkey, with American Mike Mangold taking the top spot.

Public sector parachutes
Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS) has installed its rocket-launched parachute system on a government-owned Cessna.

Chopper team flies pole to pole
In late May champagne corks popped in London following the successful pole-to-pole helicopter flight, dubbed Polar First, by Jennifer Murray and Colin Bodill aboard a Bell 407 helicopter.

Cessna reaches 7,500
Cessna Aircraft has reached another milestone by producing its 7,500th single-engine piston airplane from its Independence, Kansas, facility.

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