Pilot Briefing

February 1, 2009

Jet power for your body

JetPack International is close to developing a hydrogen peroxide-power jetpack that will fly you around for nine minutes. It will cost $200,000, training included. It’s not ready yet, so you’ll have to wait, but the company has a track record that indicates it may succeed.

The Denver-based company proved its capabilities in November 2008 when JetPack pilot and former stuntman Eric Scott blasted his way across the Royal Gorge at Cañon City, Colorado. The JetPack becomes unstable in flight at 60 mph, but Scott needed to go 75 mph to make it across the gorge before the fuel ran out. He did experience a few wobbles, especially when crosswinds drifted him off course, but he made it.

JetPack is sponsored by Go Fast, an energy drink company also based in Denver.

Betty Skelton still loves speed

If, at 82, you find yourself impatiently waiting on General Motors to modify your Corvette, then you’re living a great life. Betty Skelton Erde has lived several.

Initially there was her life as a pilot. Many pilots recognize her name as the National Champion Female Aerobatic Pilot in 1948, 1949, and again in 1950. Check out her L’il Stinker championship Pitts in the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. It’s hanging above the main entrance.

Before that she had soloed at 12, kept quiet about it until she was 16, and led a life as an airshow performer. Then she became a test pilot flying jets, blimps, helicopters—pretty much anything with an engine. Officers laughed when she told them she wanted to be a U.S. Navy pilot. Then she became the first woman to take the full battery of tests to become an astronaut in conjunction with a Look magazine article.

Flying led the Florida native to her driving career when she flew some drivers to North Carolina as a favor. The favor was returned, allowing her to drive the pace car for what is now a NASCAR race. Then she went to the beach a short time later and drove 105 mph. That led to a land speed record effort, culminating in the land speed record for men or women at more than 300 mph.

And that led to a career as the first female car test driver with GM (she worked for Chrysler two years as well). She was considered an advertising executive with Chevrolet, but her job was to set speed records with a Corvette, which she had no trouble doing. That explains why she has owned 10 Corvettes. Some people have all the luck, assuming they start with Skelton’s talent.

She’s already in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. But now she’s been added to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Detroit. And GM, if you’re reading this, she’s still waiting for your modification plan for her Corvette.

AOPA sponsors safety seminar at WAI

AOPA is sponsoring a safety seminar at the twentieth annual International Women in Aviation conference in Atlanta, February 26 to 28.

Kathleen Vasconsuelos, manager of safety education for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, will present ASF’s Top 5 Mistakes Pilots Make seminar. Three-quarters of all accidents in an average year are caused by pilot error—and for the most part, they result from the same mistakes pilots have been making for decades. This seminar is full of practical tips for avoiding these errors.

The seminar will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 26. It is free and open to the public.

Earlier that evening, AOPA—in conjunction with the University Aviation Association—will host a college/university student seminar and social. The 5 p.m. event is open to students registered for the WAI conference. The conference will take place at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. For more information or to register, see the Women in Aviation International Web site.

Bruce Bohannon’s ‘Flyin’ Tiger’ retires

The Exxon Flyin’ Tiger has left the pump. After breaking 30 world records, Bruce Bohannon’s time-to-climb and altitude-record holder is retiring from service.

Over seven years, Bohannon set 17 performance world records in the aircraft’s weight class (C-1.b). The aircraft holds the altitude in horizontal flight record at 46,919 feet, the absolute altitude record at 47,067 feet, and every time-to-climb world record in Class C-1.b. The Tiger went on to reach an unofficial altitude of 47,530 feet during its quest to reach 50,000 feet. In addition, The Flyin’ Tiger also set 13 world records in the Unlimited class (C-1).

To date, no one has broken any record the Tiger set. Bohannon is now giving tailwheel and aerobatic flight instruction at his Flyin’ Tiger Field in rural southeast Texas.

Mike Goulian has something Extra

Mike Goulian will use a new single-seat Extra 330SC for the coming airshow season. The 330SC will replace the Extra 300SHP that Goulian collaborated with the Extra factory to design in 2005. Goulian has been flying airshows in North America with the SHP since the middle of 2006.

The 330SC incorporates all of the changes that were made to create Goulian’s SHP, but also adds a modified wing design with an increased roll rate at slow speed.

Goulian’s Extra 330SC will employ a Lycoming Thunderbolt IO-580 engine and a Hartzell composite aerobatic propeller.

Photograph Australia

You don’t fly your own airplane, or rent one, but you can ride as passenger in a 10-seater around the outback of Australia for two weeks during the travel adventure called Australia by Air. You’ll get photography instruction from a professional travel photographer. The $8,500 trip starts in Melbourne on May 31, 2009. For information visit the Web site.

Teacher combines flight training, learning

Former helicopter pilot and now recreational pilot Kevin J. Poirier combines ground school and flight simulator training to teach math, science, English, technology, and geography to his seventh- and eighth-grade students.

The Rhode Island teacher recently was named an ING Unsung Hero for his innovative and highly successful program at Curtis Corner Middle School in South Kingston, Rhode Island.

The training schedule is divided into two parts: ground school, where students acquire knowledge required for flight; and flight training, conducted in teams of two at one of 18 computer simulation stations. Students complete the ground-school curriculum and preassigned flying tasks before becoming proficient in computerized aviation simulation programs that are comprehensive and provide realistic experience down to the smallest detail.

One of his students was motivated to learn to fly someday. The 2008 ING Unsung Heroes awards program brought Poirier $2,000 to buy more classroom equipment. He was the only Rhode Islander selected in the nationwide program out of 1,400 applications. His story was reported in the Providence Journal.

Poirier, 48, has chipped away at acquiring the necessary equipment during the past three years.

Google’s aircraft fly NASA missions

A company that operates aircraft for Google founders and executives signed an agreement with NASA Ames Research Center in 2007 to also use its private aircraft for NASA missions. In return, Google’s large transport jets are allowed to base at NASA’s Moffett Field in California. The Mountain View Voice newspaper near Moffett Field reports the $1.3 million in rent helps NASA meet its yearly $6 million budget to maintain the runways.

Although the agreement is not new, uninformed opposition to it emerged once it was learned that a used Dornier Alpha Jet military trainer has been added to the fleet. (The agreements had been posted on the Internet for more than a year.) The agreement between NASA and the aircraft management company, H211, called for two transport aircraft to be instrumented for scientific research. FAA regulations made that too cumbersome so, to honor the spirit of the agreement, a 1982 Dornier Alpha Jet was added to the fleet solely for NASA research. “Go save the world,” a Google executive said on the day the jet was delivered.

NASA has several tenants, including the National Guard, the developer of an electric race car, and a blimp ride operator. All have agreed to support the NASA mission in return for becoming Moffett Field tenants.

So far, the H211 Gulfstreams based at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (part of the NASA agreement despite the fact they are not at Moffett Field) have aided in capturing photos of the Leonid meteor shower. The two Google/H211 Gulfstreams flew tracks parallel to the meteor shower.

The Alpha Jet’s wing pods will undergo significant changes to mount instruments. The instruments will include digital cameras and remote sensors for greenhouse gas measurements, and for disaster response including wildfires, said NASA Ames Earth Sciences Division chief Steve Hipskind. Hipskind is a student pilot and a new AOPA member.

There is even hope that the transport aircraft could be used for remote sensing, Hipskind said. NASA is looking into the use of an optically clear cargo door that could be swapped out with the normal door to allow sensing equipment and cameras to collect data. The aircraft could be quickly converted back to transport use.

Dog orphans fly to new homes

Who can resist the big, brown, pleading eyes of a canine? For pilots who are animal lovers, it just takes a puppy’s innocent look—or the knowledge that an abandoned pet will be euthanized—to get them in the air for a quick rescue flight.

Michele McGuire, of Westminster, Maryland, devotes her free time, piloting skills, and Cessna 172 to unite dogs with their adoptive owners through flights arranged by Pilots N Paws and ARF (Animal Rescue Flights).

“It gets me up flying. Without a specific purpose, I’d probably sit around the house,” she said, explaining that she flew only 20 hours a year before she started participating in rescue flights. Helping animals was the perfect cause for McGuire, who has devoted her business, Mutt Muffs, to dogs and aviation. Now the instrument-rated private pilot’s logbook has more than 350 hours “and growing fast.

“We helped with a wonderfully sweet 10-year-old Great Dane, who was a bag of bones. That poor thing, you could see her ribs, backbone, and hipbones. But she was a sweetie,” McGuire said. The dog was rescued from a shelter’s death row in Alabama. “We flew a leg that helped get her to her permanent adoptive home in Massachusetts.”

She’s also flown two boxers from State College to Reading, Pennsylvania; 16 puppies from Lancaster, Ohio, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and three mother dogs from a puppy mill in Lancaster, Ohio, to Salisbury, Maryland.

Transporting animals by air rather than ground can be easier on the animals, says one pilot on AOPA’s online forum. The pilot has flown 55 hours on rescue missions in the past three months.

“When the new permanent home is many miles away, ground transports are arranged...usually they are multiple-leg routes with volunteers driving 50- to 70-mile legs, and then transferring the animals to the next volunteer’s car.

“A 400-mile trip may involve a schedule that entails eight volunteers driving eight legs, transferring animals eight times to a different car. It is stressful for the volunteers who drive to a rigid schedule and to the animals that are constantly being handled.”

During transport flights, the animals are typically restrained, McGuire said. She’s hauled puppies in a crate and secured medium-size dogs in the baggage area of her Cessna 172. And so far, her four-legged passengers have been well behaved. —Alyssa Miller

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | "AOPA Pilot" Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.