Pilot Briefing

March 1, 2007

Cessna makes design changes to its LSA

While Cessna officials are continuing to evaluate the market prospects for the Cessna Sport, a light sport aircraft (LSA), they already know of some design changes they would like to make.

The amount of fuel carried will be reduced from the present 30-gallon total to aid the aircraft's useful load. And the front window will be sloped back for a sleek profile.

Cessna has put 50 hours on the airplane and says its engineers are impressed with the performance and hand-ling characteristics.

The business plan, however, could take awhile to complete. Cessna officials are determined to come in well under the $100,000 asking price of the majority of the current 44 LSAs now approved, and are searching the world for the least expensive manufacturing sources. Some of the buyers who saw the airplane recently at an LSA show in Sebring, Florida, said they are hoping for a price tag of $85,000.

The aircraft achieved a 115-knot speed during a level flyby at 300 feet, but is said to normally fly at 110 knots behind its Rotax engine. To be viable, Cessna must show it can sell hundreds of the Sport model. — Alton K. Marsh

Dept. of R&D
A fresh look at helicopter aging

Who could forget the terrifying incident in 1988 when the roof came off Aloha Airlines Flight 243? Corrosion around rivet holes had created tiny cracks in the Boeing 737's fuselage. The incident caused one death and injuries to 65 people. To help prevent future calamities, the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering in Nashville is leading a new FAA program to apply aging-aircraft reliability techniques to helicopters. The school says there is concern over safety because the number of emergency medical service helicopter accidents nearly doubled from the mid-1990s to 2004. Most were caused by weather, difficult terrain conditions, and pilot error, but the FAA wants to make sure helicopter crews have every advantage.

Although the five-year $1.5 million project will look specifically at helicopters, researchers believe the findings can be applied to other aircraft. Using advanced computer simulation and probability software, the Vanderbilt team will work with Bell Helicopter Textron to test materials used in helicopter components under rigorous conditions. Besides influencing future designs, the project's findings could help refine inspection and maintenance schedules.

Redbird
An airport success story

When Jim Thompson first moved to Texas from California in 1997, the airport he surveyed to base his Cessna CJ3 and Pilatus PC-12 out of, just north of Red Bird Lane in the southern Dallas metro area, was "a ghost town," in a "tough neighborhood," and "falling apart." Drug deals transpired in the hangars — what was then Redbird Airport was not a pretty place. But the City of Dallas owned the airport, and city leaders wanted to revitalize it. After all, the airport was part of a vital aviation network for which the metro area's airport authority was responsible, including the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas-Love Field. So, beginning in 1999, the city launched its refurbishment plan by ordering up a new control tower, terminal, and FBO. And in 2002, the name officially changed to reflect the airport's new place in the city's overall aviation plan: Dallas Executive Airport, poised to draw business and general aviation customers to its facility just a few minutes from downtown Dallas.

A lot more than the name is new at Dallas Exec, and the environment has completely turned around: There's a new master plan, new runway surfaces, and 50 new hangars. And Thompson wants to ensure that the city gets a pat on the back for work well done. "It shows that more people than just we pilots find value in the airport," says Thompson. Kenneth Gwynn, the manager of the airport authority, and Lana Furro, the airport manager, deserve a lot of credit, in Thompson's view, for their efforts to make the city's plans come to fruition.

And there's much to be learned for pilots at other similarly situated airports — so much that we'd like to share more stories with you on these kinds of airport successes. Has your airport overcome a difficult situation to rise again? Have a group of pilots and aviation-minded civic leaders in your area come together to turn the local airport into a showcase? Like the couple who are turning a grass strip down on its luck into a destination (see " Keeping the Past Flying," February Pilot), maybe you have your own success story to share. Send us an e-mail at pilot@aopa.org, and we may tell your airport's tale in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot. — Julie K. Boatman

Calling all cloud freaks

Do you appreciate clouds? Of course you do — you're a pilot! Then again, maybe you're terrified of them.

Either way, The Cloud Appreciation Society's Web site pays homage to what its manifestocalls these "unjustly maligned" denizens of the blue, and offers a number of links. You can visit a gallery of cloud photos, you can hang around in a chat room that lets you cut loose with what you really think of clouds, and you can even submit your own cloud photos and poems. Want a T-shirt? Then buy one from the "cloud shop." A new book, The Cloudspotter's Guide, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, also can be ordered via the Web site. It all seems pretty airy to us here at AOPA, and definitely ground bound, so why not drop in on the society and let it know what it's like to git up in them clouds? — Thomas A. Horne

A rule of thumb

To descend at a constant airspeed, reduce power by 80 rpm (fixed-pitch propeller) or 1 inch of manifold pressure (constant-speed propeller) for each 100 fpm of descent desired.

First-class in a Boeing 777

If you like to fly first-class, the March of Dimes and Continental Airlines have an offer for you. Bid on a package that includes two round-trip seats aboard the inaugural flight of the newest Boeing 777 for Continental Airlines on March 22 and 23. The winning bidder will be among 80 passengers on the flight, which will include senior executives from Continental and Boeing and other top business customers and frequent first-class flyers. Funds raised by this flight will be donated to the March of Dimes.

The "Delivery Flight" package includes two round-trip, first-class tickets from the winner's home airport to Seattle, Washington, one night accommodations at the Renaissance Hotel in Seattle, a tour of the Boeing factory, dinner with Continental and Boeing executives, seating on the new 777 Boeing aircraft to either Newark or Houston, and a return flight to the winner's home airport. The minimum bid is $10,000 and the auction will take place on eBay.

Continental officials say this is the next-to-last Boeing 777 ordered by the airline. Boeing will no longer be manufacturing the 777 (it will be replaced by the 787). Visit the Web site for more information.

Online Survey
Don't call me Shirley

From the wacky to the serious, from the historical to the modern, a whole range of aviation movies topped your list of favorites in our recent online survey. With piston-engine sound occasionally droning in the background, the 1980 comedy Airplane! hurtles toward disaster after the flight crew gets sick from airline food. It's up to the shaky Ted Striker to save the jet. The many technical errors and memorable lines only up the comedic ante. Another way to bend reality in the name of entertainment is to have lots of high-G maneuvers and air-to-air missiles. Top Gun did this in 1986, sending Tom Cruise into a rarefied environment in terms of Hollywood and aviation. Working on the movie inspired Cruise himself to become a pilot. Combining romance, drama, and fantasy, Steven Spielberg's 1989 movie Always put aerial firefighting on the big screen. Although it's one of Spielberg's lesser-known flicks, pilots remember it fondly. The dramas Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), Twelve O'clock High (1949), The High and the Mighty (1954), Strategic Air Command (1955), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), The Battle of Britain (1969), and The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) still hold up today. Movies based on history, loosely in some cases, have proven popular with modern audiences: Flyboys (see " 'Flyboys': The Passion of Tony Bill," October 2006 Pilot), The Aviator (2004), Memphis Belle (1990), Pearl Harbor (2001), and The Right Stuff (1983). The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and the 2004 remake both made our list, as did the screen adaptation of Stephen Coonts' Vietnam War-era novel, Flight of the Intruder (1991). Speaking of Vietnam, the 1990 action/comedy Air America starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. got plenty of votes. It features lots of bush flying in Laos as part of a covert and corrupt CIA airlift operation. You might be wondering where Harrison Ford is in all this. He wasn't forgotten. The romantic comedy/adventure Six Days Seven Nights (1998) is about getting marooned on a tropical island with co-star Anne Heche. Lucky for airplane lovers, the de Havilland Beaver isn't totally destroyed during the crash landing. Lastly, the 2005 documentary One Six Right, about the history of California's Van Nuys Airport, was a high vote getter. (See " Proficient Pilot: Mark Your Calendars," July 2005 Pilot, and " Pilots: Brian J. Terwilliger," November 2006 Pilot.)

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

  • Glass In Your future? Demystifying technically advanced aircraft and the evolution of glass cockpits.
  • When Things Go Wrong. What happens when the FAA wants you to call, and what you can do about it.
  • Too Fast, Too Slow. Don't add airspeed when it's not needed.
  • Get Back Your Confidence. Tips to get back in the flying groove.

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

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