Hangar Talk

The story behind the story

March 1, 2009

Cessna’s Caravan has been on the market for 24 years, but it’s one of the few general aviation airplanes that Editor at Large Tom Horne hadn’t flown—until January 2009, when a trip to Wichita rectified the problem. “What a truck!” Horne says of the beast’s roll forces (see “ Sky Truck”). “But other than that, the Caravan behaves a good bit like Cessna’s Skyhawk. The V-speeds are similar, but the cruise speeds are faster, and you can sure carry a lot more than a Skyhawk can. If a Skyhawk could dream, it would be a Caravan.” Horne liked the air-brake effect that flight idle produces. “If you want to go down and slow down at the same time, just yank the power back to idle,” Horne reports. “You’ll hang on your straps while the prop pitch flattens.” What comes through in his story is the endearing nature of the Caravan—made even better by the new Garmin G1000 panel and TKS ice protection system. Example: The flight evaluation airplane has a leopard-themed paint scheme. The interior sidewalls were even faux leopard skin!

It took two races for Senior Editor Al Marsh to contact the pilots associated with the NASCAR Sprint Cup series (see “ NASCAR Drivers Fly, Too”). All the interviews but three were conducted in the garage area where the 800- to 850-horsepower engines roared like an angry dinosaur in a science fiction movie. (Matt Kenseth and Kyle Petty graciously met our video crew at their hangars.) Even inside the “haulers,” a semi-trailer truck that serves as a machine shop, lounge, and cafeteria for the crew, the sound made it difficult to hear. Drivers were in the midst of frantic activity, literally wading through fans, appeasing sponsors, and running to press conferences. Testing of the car at 200 mph came as interruptions to the chaos. Amidst all that, Marsh got his four- to six-minute interviews for everyone except Carl Edwards. After sitting for hours on a pile of tires and missing an opportunity to catch Edwards in a light rain at Atlanta late in the evening, it took a trip to Miami before Marsh caught up with the only driver who had a chance to beat Jimmy Johnson. This year, root for a pilot to win.

We spend a lot of time worrying about the shortage of young people entering general aviation and addressing the many real obstacles that “airport kids” must confront and overcome. But as AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman discovered at California’s Santa Paula Airport, teen pilots can still thrive with a little help from their friends (see “ Let’s Go Flying: Youth Movement”). “The next time you hear someone bloviating about how the video-game generation lacks the interest, commitment, or skills required to become pilots, think about these kids,” Hirschman says. “They’ve got talent and desire, and perhaps most important, they’ve got each other.” The young pilots fly in an idyllic coastal valley rich in aviation history—and supportive parents don’t hurt, either.

Contributor Barry Schiff has flown many aircraft—310 different types to be exact—but the oldest is the 1916 Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter complete with a Gnome, 160-horsepower rotary engine. This was during Schiff’s visit to Javier Arango’s Aero Collection near Paso Robles, California. Here he became familiar with the collection’s 21 World War I airplanes—all are flyable except one—and gained some insight into what it must have been like to have been a combat pilot during the Great War (see “ Those Magnificent Flying Machines”.) “This is an aspect of aviation about which most of us know very little,” Schiff says.