Pilot Briefing

June 1, 2007

A new Super Star enters the stage

A new Diamond is flying in Austria. The five-seat DA50 Super Star went from concept to first flight in less than 11 months. Diamond Chief Executive Officer and owner Christian Dries, along with another employee, was at the controls on April 4 for the maiden flight.

Not much is known about the airplane, but with a 350-horsepower twin turbocharged engine, it should go fast. Dries, however, did drop a few clues later on at AERO Friedrichshafen, Europe's premier general aviation convention, which took place in Friedrichshafen, Germany, April 19 through 22.

Besides the current powerplant, Diamond is studying 170-horsepower and 250-horsepower turbo-diesel engines, but it's not yet clear who the engine manufacturer will be — Thielert Aircraft Engines or Bombardier-Rotax. Dries said that future DA50s may well be offered with pressurized cabins. A good idea, since the DA50 is capable of cruising as high as 20,000 feet. The airplane has a maximum takeoff weight of 3,670 pounds. BRS is developing a ballistic parachute system for the aircraft.

Diamond has planned an aggressive certification program and wants to begin production no later than January 2008. — Thomas A. Horne

Veterans Airlift Command brings families together

Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) founder Walt Fricke knows firsthand the effects of being at a distance from loved ones when trying to recover from combat wounds or illness. As a Huey gunship helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, Fricke suffered injuries that required his hospitalization more than 700 miles from home. Only when his family mustered the resources to visit him did he begin his recovery in earnest. VAC now brings together volunteer pilots and aircraft with families needing to travel to visit their wounded.

Pilot Michael Wiskus relates his VAC experience, bringing Cpl. Andrew Love's father, Allen, to him and his mother during Love's recovery at the poly-trauma unit at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center in January. Love had been ambushed with an IED (improvised explosive device) while on patrol in Iraq. The explosion gave Love percussive injuries, which caused internal swelling so severe that his father related he looked "just like the Michelin Man."

"It was the typical uneventful corporate flight, a quick out and back," says Wiskus. "The only difference was this was not a cargo flight. This trip was to get a father [from Saginaw, Michigan] to Minneapolis so he could spend a little time with his wife and wounded son." VAC is focused on providing support for veterans of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (in Afghanistan); when capacity allows, the organization plans to expand services to veterans of other conflicts. — Julie K. Boatman

Online Survey
I'd rather be flying

Pilots will invent almost any excuse to go flying. It might be a cigar run for the father-in-law or a desperate escape from the mother-in-law. It might be to pick up a puppy, deliver snowshoes to hikers, appear for jury duty, count alligator nests, look for a boat dock that floated away, count shingles on the roof, check waves for surfing, or locate a missing radio-controlled model airplane, according to our recent online survey, in which we asked members about their craziest excuses for leaving the ground. Some said they needed to circulate the engine oil, exercise the airframe, or simply blow-dry the airplane after it had been washed. Pilots tend to be rational people until it comes to the economics, such as flying 100 miles to deliver a can of paint. "I flew across the Appalachian Mountains to retrieve medicine for a cat. I could have purchased the same stuff less than a mile from my home," a member wrote. One flew to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to pick up $7 in lottery winnings while burning $80 in fuel. Another pilot flew all the way to Batavia, Ohio, home of Sporty's Pilot Shop, just to save on postage. Speaking of postage, a member wrote, "I flew a [C essna] 172 from Herzliyya, Israel, to Dakar, Senegal (via the Canary Islands) to hand-deliver a copy of AOPA Pilot to a friend!" A member flies about 36 nautical miles from Weatherford to Elk City, Oklahoma, for a monthly haircut. Another member flies around the country collecting pilsner drinking glasses from various Hard Rock Cafes. Here's an economics argument you can try out on your spouse: Owning an airplane involves fixed expenses, so the more you fly, the cheaper it gets. Don't expect your spouse to buy it, though. "I had to drop off my ceramic chess pieces that I had just painted. They needed to be kiln-fired and the owner of the shop had a short grass strip out front," wrote a member. "Although it was only 10 miles away, it seemed like a good reason to fly!" Sometimes it's all about energy, such as flying to other airports to see if the avgas prices were as advertised. A glider pilot saw some beautiful cumulus clouds forming — thermals, in other words — and "couldn't allow that much energy to go to waste!" And don't forget superstition, as a member happily concludes: "After a canceled ferry flight, I told a girl who really wanted to go flying that it was bad luck to put the plane back in the hangar without flying it. So, I took her on her first mountain flight and ended up marrying her a year later." How do you put a price on love?

AOPA Pilot 2007 General Aviation Photography Contest
Beautiful mountain shot wins photo of the month

A beautiful private-use airport called Buckhorn Ranch, located near Crested Butte, Colorado, caught the eye of AOPA member Andy Young. The airport, located at an estimated elevation of 8,980 feet, provided Young a breathtaking photo opportunity and earned him the winner-of-the-month vote by fellow AOPA members. See AOPA Online for 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. You also can submit your snapshots for a chance to win in the AOPA Pilot 2007 General Aviation Photography Contest, which runs through September 4, 2007.

Cool Aviation Jobs
Meet the airport electronics wizard

If you have ever used navigation aids at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, you can thank Gil Alfaro and a couple dozen of his friends who keep them going 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

Alfaro is an FAA airway transportation systems specialist, a career you may not have heard of, but for 6,254 people nationwide, it's a good living. Nearly 60 percent of the specialists learned electronics during military service; that includes Alfaro, who spent six years in the Navy. New hires start at $30,000 but senior specialists can make $105,000 a year.

They repair everything on the airport, including the 10-watt transmitters used by controllers, radar, voice switching, land lines to other facilities, and the DXO VOR/DME known as Detroit. VORs are those round white buildings so rarely seen, unless they are low-power terminal VORs like DXO and therefore are located on airports. The interior is climate controlled and maintained at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Fifty antennas about a foot high and shaped like pencil erasers on the perimeter of the roof help define the radials you use en route. If you see what looks like a bowling pin on the roof, that is the DME antenna.

Ever wonder what is in there? So did a bird at Detroit. Somehow it got in, but wasn't equipped for instrument flight and hit all the breaker switches, shutting the VOR down. If it was a distress message, it worked. Alfaro was dive-bombed the minute he entered, and so he decided to leave the door open until the bird saw the light and left. Alfaro loves electronics but has no passion for flying, preferring music and carpentry as his hobbies.

Here's a little tidbit you won't learn in ground school: The ILS identifier for Runway 27L at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport is I-EPA, because it was the Environmental Protection Agency that delayed it for so long. That's an inside joke at the airport, but now you're in on it. — Alton K. Marsh

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

  • 15 ways to cut the costs of learning, renting, and owning. Creative ideas to get you into the air for less money.
  • Bridging the gap. How do you build time for the airlines? "Bridge programs" will get you there fast.
  • Planning a flight in a glass-cockpit aircraft. How to manage all of that information effectively.
  • 12 steps to safe takeoffs. Important questions to use as your safety checklist.

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

Pilots rush to sign proposal against FAA funding scheme

More than 10,000 pilots signed AOPA's petition opposing the FAA's funding proposal during the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida, April 17 through 23. The FAA's proposal would increase general aviation fuel taxes by nearly fourfold and, for the first time in U.S. history, impose a pay-to-fly user-fee system. "To put it frankly, I'm rather upset at our government," said D.J. Merrill, of Durham, North Carolina, after he signed the giant petition in front of the AOPA tent. "The proposal that came out of the White House is stupid, shortsighted, and if it actually goes through in its current form, it's going to kill aviation as we know it." Elsewhere at the show, there were some anniversaries to celebrate: Cessna Aircraft with 80 years in business and Hawker Beechcraft with 60 years of continuous production of the Bonanza. Also, Mooney set a speed record, and Cirrus is moving on to Generation Three, the latest model update for the SR22. For all the show highlights, plus photo galleries, see AOPA Online.

AOPA ePilot ® Headlines

Recent news from AOPA's newsletter

American Legend launches kit company
American Legend Aircraft has formed Texas Sport Aircraft to offer a kit similar to the Legend Cub. For legal and liability reasons, the company, colocated with American Legend, is separate from the light-sport operation.

Rutan earns spacecraft patent
Burt Rutan has been awarded U.S. Patent 7,195,207 for his ingenious reconfigurable spacecraft. The design was successfully tested on the SpaceShipOne suborbital spacecraft.

The Champ is back
American Champion has resurrected an old favorite, the Champ, and has received FAA certification.

Embry-Riddle goes ballistic
Students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University sent a two-stage rocket into the upper atmosphere. With 3,500 pounds of thrust in the first stage and 900 pounds in the second, school officials said it set a student-built-vehicle record of 37.8 miles.

Husky gets huskier
The FAA has granted Aviat Aircraft a 200-pound gross weight increase for the Husky line of tailwheel aircraft. With the increase to a maximum of 2,200 pounds, and several new options for propellers, the Husky has advanced from the model A-1B to the A-1C.

RotorWay to build type-certified helicopters
With a new chief executive at the controls, RotorWay International is pursuing the type-certified market for its two-seat piston-powered helicopter.

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.