Pilot Briefing

June 1, 2008

Thielert bankrupt: Founder Frank Thielert fired by executive board, company to be restructured

After three years of investigation, suspicions about the financial health of Thielert Aircraft Engines GmbH (TAE) culminated in late April with the company’s filing for bankruptcy, the termination of founder Frank Thielert as chief operating officer, and a renewed criminal investigation against both Thielert and management board members. At issue is an “urgent liquidity crisis” according to a detailed report in Defense Industry Daily.

The nature of the crisis has various explanations. While TAE has appeared to be a successful company, having bought Texas engine manufacturer Superior Air Parts, secured deals with American UAV manufacturers, and recently signed on to supply Cessna with its 2.0-liter Centurion turbodiesel engines for its C-172 line of piston singles, the company’s negative cash flow had raised suspicions since 2005.

TAE explains by alleging that there are millions of dollars of unpaid invoices for deliveries of its UAV engines to General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin. Those companies deny the charges.

A 2006 auditor’s complaint to a Hamburg prosecutor accused TAE of writing false invoices for fictitious sales, in a scheme designed to pump up share prices and secure loans. That started an investigation of TAE on charges of fraud, and providing false evidence. In 2007, search warrants were executed at TAE offices and Frank Thielert’s home.

In March 2008 a German court declared TAE’s 2003, 2004, and 2005 annual reports to be void. An April 8, 2008 arrangement to restructure and refinance TAE fell through. That deal would have raised 13.6 million euros (about $21 million) from sales of Frank Thielert’s own shares in TAE, bank credit lines, and an initial public offering of 24.4 million euros ($38 million). But after a criminal investigation the deal was terminated and Thielert and his CFO were fired on April 23. The following day TAE declared bankruptcy. It is presumed that a court in Chemnitz, Germany—near TAE’s factory in the state of Saxony—will appoint a managing director, who will supervise a rescue plan.

Meanwhile, sources at TAE in Germany say that the company is still shipping engines and parts, and that no layoffs are anticipated. The bankruptcy will undoubtedly change the landscape of the general aviation diesel-engine movement. Diamond Aircraft is expected to announce production of its own turbodiesel engine at the ILA convention in Berlin in June, and it’s expected that Lycoming will develop its own general aviation turbodiesel in the near future.— Thomas A. Horne

Spain plane flies quietly above the plain

A research affiliate of Boeing in Spain has test-flown a Diamond Dimona motorglider using a fuel cell like those used by space vehicles to generate electricity, and a lithium-ion battery. The project took seven years. Both the battery and fuel cell were used for takeoff and landing, one backing up the other for power, but once at altitude the aircraft was flown 20 minutes in level flight using only the fuel cell. The speed of the motorized glider during that time was 54 knots TAS. No, this doesn’t mean you’ll be flying an electric airplane in the near future. But the technology could be used to power unmanned aerial vehicles. Having achieved its goal, the program has ended and no further manned flights are planned.

Flying antique collection opens June 6

The collection of 15 famous and flyable vintage warplanes from around the world, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, opens to the public June 6 in a restored hangar at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. Like Planes of Fame in Chino, California, the aircraft will be regularly flown in demonstrations open to the public. It will be called the Flying Heritage Collection. It includes the British Supermarine Spitfire, the German Messerschmitt BF 109E, the Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero fighter, the North American P-51D Mustang, and a rare Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat.

Artist finds outlet for 'inappropriate humor'

Painter Sandy Jamieson still finds himself in trouble every now and then for inappropriate humor delivered with gusto. It gets him in trouble at parties, but not at his day job as a hunting and fishing guide based in Fairbanks, Alaska. “I have a bad habit of blurting out the inappropriate and amusing side of things. So I have been trying to keep a lid on my life, but I found an outlet where I get paid to be a little bit of a smartass,” Jamieson said. Owner of a Cessna 170 on floats, Jamieson focuses his painting on aviation, humor, and wildlife. A hot issue in Alaska is hunting wolves from the air, so he painted wolves doing the flying while firing at hunters on the ground. Touché. There is also a painting licensed to the Transportation Security Administration of Santa going through airport security with his reindeer, and the inspectors eying the reindeer and donning rubber gloves. “I tend to take the animals’ side on political decisions. I appoint myself as a spokesman for them,” he said. You can see his work online.

AOPA Pilot 2008 General Aviation Photography Contest: Cub and bird soar to highest vote in March photo contest

Congratulations to AOPA member Curtis Chapline who was inspired by a Piper Cub and a bird to produce a winning composition for the March “Photo of the Month” in AOPA Pilot’s 2008 General Aviation Photography Contest. Chapline had just snapped the Cub at his home base airport in Cypress, Texas, when he spotted the eagle. Altering the two images produced the clever look he wanted. Go online to see a full-size version and to view photos of the runners-up. So, do you have what it takes to win? Submit your best photograph online for a chance at cash prizes and being published in AOPA Pilot. The contest runs through September 2, 2008.— Machteld A. Smith

Member in the news

Max Trescott, AOPA 931720, is the 2008 FAA national flight instructor of the year. He is one of a new breed of computer- and glass-cockpit-savvy instructors, having published a book and CD on glass cockpits and started a blog.

How to win $30 million

Want to win $30 million? It’s easy money. All you have to do is launch a robotic little car to the moon, pop it out and send it at least 500 meters, then make it send back video images and data. You get the money if you are first, but 10 teams are competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize. One detail: It will take $20 million, probably a few million more than that, to accomplish the goal. So most of the prize money will have been spent by the time you win. Ready? The teams already entered are: Odyssey Moon, Astrobotic, Team Italia, Micro-Space, the Southern California Selene Group, LunaTrex, FredNet, ARCA, Quantum3, and Chandah. You can read more about them online.

Pilot flies porpoise to treatment center

You should know upfront that Wilbur the porpoise (officially the species is a “harbor porpoise”) didn’t make it. He died days after reaching medical care, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Wilbur safely made the flight to the fish hospital (OK, mammal hospital) in New York on February 27, and seemed to be doing well. Virginia-based George McClellan of the Coast Guard Auxiliary—with co-pilot Harvey Saunders— flew the porpoise from Suffolk, Virginia, to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation in Riverhead, New York (Long Island). Earlier, a porpoise named Orville—named because he became ill off the Outer Banks of North Carolina—was flown by McClellan to Riverhead and survived. Wilbur got his name because he also got sick on the Outer Banks. How do you fly a fish, er, mammal? On both flights the cabin heat had to remain off. During the two-hour February flight the outside air temperature at 3,000 feet was 7 degrees F. McClellan has flown his Piper Seneca more than 2,600 hours in the past five years in support of U.S. Coast Guard missions.

Scholarship helps wounded soldier fly

Ryan Kelly was a staff sergeant in the Army Reserves in July 2003 in Ramadi, Iraq, when he lost his right leg below the knee to a roadside bomb. But the lack of a leg hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his aviation dreams. “When I got hurt initially, I wrote it off,” said Kelly about flying. Already a helicopter pilot, Kelly has received a scholarship to pay for his fixed-wing certificate.

Awarded by the East Cooper Pilots Association at the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport in South Carolina, the Able Flight Scholarship will support his plan to become an instructor in airplanes with the goal of teaching others with disabilities how to fly. “I would love to give this opportunity to other people,” said Kelly.— Kathryn Opalewski

What’s in AOPA Flight Training this month?

  • Your First Solo. Recall that special day with reader-submitted photos and a discussion of what to expect.
  • Departure 101. Put some thought into that takeoff.
  • Save Some Green. Adding a rating or certificate? Try these cost-saving tips.

The June issue mailed on April 30. 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

Russian company completes Adam Aircraft deal
Adam Aircraft was saved from the chopping block by a Russian firm that wants to proceed with the jet model but hasn’t committed to building the piston-engine A500.

FAA proposes 22 changes to sport pilot
Changes would affect aircraft, pilots, and procedures.

Pilot jailed for lying on medical application
Ronald Crews was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison and two years of supervised release after pleading guilty to four counts of making false statements to a federal agency. Crews had lied to the FAA about his diabetes and dependence on insulin injections.

TV crew raises suspicions in Chicago
Two Chicago-area AOPA members independently informed AOPA about a potential security concern after being contacted by a network TV news crew. The crewmembers said they needed an airplane—charter or private—to fly them into O’Hare for the story and wanted a light single or twin. And that’s when the red flags went up.

Lancair Evolution takes maiden flight
The first flight of Lancair International’s Evolution kit plane took place March 21 at the company’s Redmond, Oregon, home base.

Jeppesen to end updates for some older IFR GPS receivers
Jeppesen will stop providing NavData database updates for some older IFR GPS receivers from Trimble and NorthStar in March 2009.

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.

This month in aviation history

Compiled by Kathryn Opalewski

June 15, 1958 | The CAA begins using Greenwich Mean Time (Zulu) for all domestic air traffic control operations.

June 1, 1959 | The FAA commissions the Guam air route traffic control center.

June 15, 1961 | Following installation of distance-measuring equipment (DME) on American Airlines’ fleet, the FAA initiates DME air traffic control procedures nationally.

June 29, 1961 | The FAA commissions the first Doppler VOR system, for service at Marquette, Michigan.

June 26, 1964 | The FAA issues a rule requiring cockpit voice recorders in certain aircraft used by air carriers or commercial operators.

June 7, 1965 | The FAA announces progress in the use of chemicals to remove snow, ice, and slush on runways.

June 2, 1966 | #Surveyor I becomes the first U.S. spacecraft to make a soft landing on the moon.

June 30, 1968 | The Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, a long-range military heavy transport and, for a time, the world’s largest aircraft, makes its first flight.

June 25, 1970 | The first series of U.S. area navigation instrument approach procedures go into effect at six terminal areas.

June 19, 1972 | The International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations declares a worldwide, 24-hour stoppage of airline traffic.

June 14, 1973 | The Los Angeles ARTCC debuts computer-driven radar displays capable of showing identity and three-dimensional position information on aircraft targets.

June 15, 1974 | The FAA launches Operation Ground Assist, a 30-day general aviation safety program, to raise the level of safety consciousness among GA pilots and ground personnel with safety responsibilities.

June 18, 1983 | The Space Shuttle Challenger launches on a mission with Sally Ride, the first American woman and youngest astronaut to date.

June 19, 1984 | Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole announces that the FAA will conduct a general aviation safety audit.

June 7, 1985 | The FAA reduces the total flight hours required for a pilot to obtain an instrument rating from 200 to 125.

June 21, 1988 | The FAA publishes new requirements for aircraft to carry the Mode C transponder, an altitude-reporting radar reflector.

June 29, 1990 | Bombardier takes over the manufacture of Learjets.

June 12, 1994 | The first computer-designed commercial aircraft, the Boeing 777-200, flies.

June 21, 2004 | Mike Melvill takes SpaceShipOne to an altitude of more than 62.5 miles to become the first civilian astronaut.

June 27, 2007 | Barrington Irving is the youngest and first African-American pilot to fly solo around the world.