June 1, 2009
By Alton K. Marsh
Robert Gannon’s pilot certificate—and his Cessna 182—comprise his ticket to adventure. That’s the only reason he learned to fly. His trip around the world is taking its own sweet time—years. He flies awhile, and then comes home to pay the bills and make some money. Of his 2,000-plus hours, 1,700 were spent just going somewhere new.
Gannon made one of his frequent stops on his around-the-world flight (follow him at www.worldflyingadventure.com) March 18 to deliver toys and a financial contribution for a children’s hospital specializing in cancer treatment in Basrah, Iraq. The trip was coordinated by Project Hope. If you are wondering, no, not just anyone can fly into Iraq. At the moment, it takes special coordination through a group such as Project Hope.
The gifts came from a contractors’ association in Iowa, where Gannon was once a member, and will aid a hospital under construction in Iraq and financed by a worldwide effort.
After leaving Iraq he flew to Damascus, Syria, for five days of sightseeing, and then on to Cyprus where his Cessna 182 got its annual inspection. He chatted with AOPA Pilot for this article from an Internet café in Damascus. The instrument-rated pilot said sand storms in the Middle East reach 12,000 feet, making some flights an IFR adventure. After that, he came home to pay his taxes.
Gannon’s base of operations in the United States is San Diego. He is moving back there after living briefly in Nevada.
Gannon started the adventure because, “I want to, I can, and I do.” He started a construction company after college, sold it, traded commodities in Chicago, and then went back to construction. He co-owns a wood shutter manufacturing company in San Diego.
He wanted an adventure but didn’t have the stomach for sailing, so he learned to fly and bought a Piper Cherokee Six that he later crashed on takeoff in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1992. At the time, he had only 295 hours of flying experience. He had named the aircraft Lucky Lady, and now calls his 182 Lucky Lady, Too out of respect for the airplane he says he “ruined.”
What he is doing now is finishing the adventure that ended prematurely in Africa, but there’s no rush. He has visited 110 countries, including Antarctica, and parked the aircraft in 28 of them to return home for a work break.
You may think multiblade propellers are less efficient than two-blade props. Paul Lipps not only thinks you’re wrong, he has proven it for years with his Elippse (his name forms the center of the word) propeller design.
Who does he think he is, a rocket scientist? Thank you for asking. He was a rocket scientist working on guidance systems for the Atlas Space Launch Vehicle and the Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile.
The proof is in the air, so to speak. A four-blade Lipps design was used on Tom Aberle’s Phantom to set a new Reno biplane record of nearly 252 mph in 2008. (In 2003 Aberle used Lipp’s three-blade design to jump from 220 mph—achieved with a Lipps two-blade prop—to 240 mph.)
“The two-blade was my first design that many tried to talk me out of having made,” Lipps said. “They used the phrase ‘Paul, have you ever seen any other props that look like that?’ This design came out of a computer prop design program I wrote, and it surprised me when I saw it.”
His magic computer program tells him how to shape the propeller blades. He included everything in the design program that he could find in books on propeller, wing, and airfoil theory. It may look like a cricket bat, but it works.
The Dutch businessman who tried to save Eclipse and had great success in the 1990s leading technology firms such as Unix Systems Laboratories and Tandem Computer is himself in need of saving. The investment firm ETRIC (European Technology and Investment Research Center) established by Roel Pieper, former head of Eclipse Aviation, declared bankruptcy April 7.
It was Pieper’s failure to complete a loan with a Russian bank that led to the conversion of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Eclipse to a final Chapter 7 liquidation.
The Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reports that Pieper invested $132 million in Eclipse that came out of his own pocket through the ETRIC firm. It further reports that the total Eclipse debt is $1 billion.
Pieper specialized in Russian, Turkish, and American technology using personal funds and funds from other investors. At the same time he was fighting to save Eclipse, he was investing tens of millions of dollars in a Russian techno-logy to extract diesel fuel from coal. That project enabled him to attract Russian interest in Eclipse and a promise to invest that never materialized.
Recently several of his investments failed. They include a magazine, opinio; the Web site Tradingcars.com (the domain is for sale); and the telecommunications company Stonehenge, which lost $87 million. Efforts to start a company to make GPS navigation units for cars called MyGuide that was intended to compete with TomTom have also failed.
When he returned to the Netherlands in 1998, de Volks-krant reported, Pieper joined the board of the huge electronics company Phillips. His career there ended when he told a press briefing that he was in charge, the “crown prince” at Phillips. The remark didn’t go over well with the CEO, Cor Boonstra. Pieper left in 1999 for Belgium to become the vice chairman of the board of Lernhout & Hauspie, a speech- recognition company. He left when the company ran into trouble over bookkeeping.
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is dismantling and returning a rare North American F–82 termed the Twin Mustang to the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton following the rejection of a settlement offer from the CAF.
The CAF, based in Midland, Texas, felt that it had an agreement from the U.S. Air Force in 1968 to keep the F–82 and return it to flying status. The matter went to court. After a ruling that the airplane must be returned, the CAF appealed. The CAF recently offered to drop its lawsuit and agree not to fly the aircraft, if the U.S. Air Force would allow the airplane to remain on static display at the CAF Airpower Museum in Midland. The National Museum of the Air Force rejected the deal.
Although the aircraft will be shipped back to the museum, the CAF appeal will continue.
“I had great hopes that this would be an amicable way to agree to disagree, yet still concede to the USAFM’s policy to not fly the F–82, which has supposedly been their concern. This decision to reject our proposal is confusing and disappointing,” said Stephan Brown, president and CEO of the CAF. “Our mission is to honor American military aviation, through the flight of these historic aircraft, but we felt it was better to keep this important piece of our history on static display, rather than lose it altogether.”
The official Air Force museum response states: “After a robust and thorough discussion, the voting members of the Heritage Board unanimously decided that, based on the history of this matter and the precedential import of the judicial determination concerning the ownership of the F–82 to the National Museum of the United States Air Force and the other Armed Services, the offer of settlement could not be accepted.”
A monument near Issoudun, France, bears the names of 171 Americans who died at a U.S. training base there during World War I. Some 7,500 Americans were stationed at the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center of the United States between 1917 and 1919.
Issoudun was an advanced flight training facility, preparing pilots to fly pursuit (fighter) aircraft, as well as observation or bombing aircraft. The first aeromedical studies were conducted there in an effort to provide better pilot selection criteria and medical care. Many front-line pilots rotated through the center, so virtually every American ace in World War I passed through Issoudun at some point.
The monument, built during the 1920s at the site of an American cemetery, was renovated in 2006 by the nearby village of Paudy. The village wants to continue the restoration and plans to erect a commemorative plaque explaining the purpose of the monument. The community of 458 people has limited financial means. Send checks or international money orders payable to “Commune de Paudy” and marked “3rd AIC Monument,” to Mairie de Paudy, 3 Place de la Mairie, 36260 PAUDY, France. The plaque will be unveiled during a June 28 ceremony. —Mike Collins
Cessna engineers continue to design a solution for a spin recovery problem that has downed two SkyCatcher light sport aircraft in flight-test accidents. There were no injuries in either accident. The SkyCatcher is a side-by-side two seater.
A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board indicates the SkyCatcher involved in the second incident was in a “…rapid and disorienting spin” prior to a March 19 accident near El Dorado, Kansas.
It was the first and only test model to receive a larger tail area in an effort to correct a spin problem seen prior to a crash in September 2008.
The aircraft failed to respond to the pilot’s anti-spin control inputs, so he deployed the BRS airframe recovery parachute. Once the aircraft was stabilized beneath the parachute, the pilot attempted to jettison the chute and fly to an airport. The jettison mechanism designed especially for the test aircraft failed, so the pilot opened the door and prepared to use his personal parachute but realized he was then too low for a safe deployment. He elected to ride the aircraft to the ground.
The aircraft landed upright, partially splaying the main gear and breaking off the nosewheel as it came to a stop. The pilot got out and attempted to deflate the airframe parachute, but a gust of wind carried the aircraft half a mile where it caught in a fence and flipped over, causing further damage. The right wing was bent upward, the left and right ailerons were damaged, and the horizontal stabilizer was bent.
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.
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