Pilot Briefing

March 1, 2009

Space education center opens in New Hampshire

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, New England’s only air and space science center, opens March 6 in Concord, New Hampshire, after 10 years of planning.

The center represents a major upgrading of the previously existing Christa McAuliffe Planetarium. The 45,000-square-foot facility offers interactive science exhibits, an expanded gift shop, café, and theater. There is also an observatory. Exhibits include aviation, astronomy, Earth and space sciences, and a variety of science and engineering programs.

New simulation experiences and interactive exhibits will be added periodically. Future additions include a Challenger Learning Center, simulated flight school, interactive exhibits, and engaging programs on the physics of the universe, as well as traveling exhibits from science centers across North America.

For more information, visit the Web site.

HondaJet center will serve the Northwest

Most companies are contracting to prevent financial losses, but for HondaJet, it’s full speed ahead. A 22,000-square-foot hangar and showroom will be built at Salt Lake City International Airport for the HondaJet Northwest sales and service center.

The center is to be built by Keystone Aviation LLC doing business as Million Air. The firm recently was granted a $1.7 million tax credit over 10 years to build the center. Construction starts this spring.

Keystone, founded in 1996, was awarded one of five contracts to build and operate a HondaJet full-service maintenance, management, and sales showroom in the United States. Keystone will represent Honda Aircraft Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honda Motor Company Ltd., in 10 Northwestern states, as the company rolls out its seven-passenger aircraft.

Honda is running full-page advertisements in Wichita newspapers advertising for engineers, and apparently will exceed employment promises made in the Greensboro, North Carolina, area where the newly completed HondaJet factory is located.

Team overcomes fuel problem to set record

CarolAnn Garratt and Carol Foy thought they might run out of gas over Africa, but they still completed a flight around the world in record time to benefit Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) research.

When the team’s Mooney was refueled in Africa from gasoline drums, unfortunately 10 gallons were left in the bottom of every drum. (They had extra tanks on board for fuel.) That problem, coupled with diminishing tailwinds, meant they could not make their intended destination of Bamako, Mali, and landed instead in Burkina Faso (previously known as Upper Volta, renamed in 1983). Although Garratt and Foy only had rights to overfly the country, local officials were gracious and permitted the landing.

The team made the December 2008 trip around the world in eight days, 12 hours, and 20 minutes. The old record for aircraft in the same category as their Mooney was an average speed of 54.6 mph, but Garratt and Foy averaged more than 115 mph (the clock continues to run even while pilots rest in hotels). They had hoped to make the entire trip on little or no rest, but by the time they finished their first leg to Hawaii it was apparent they would need rest somewhere along the trip. Upon reaching the Republic of Djibouti in the western Horn of Africa, they booked a hotel for a few hours.

In all they raised $150,000 for the ALS Therapy Development Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which employs 21 scientists devoted to finding a cure for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. They did it without sponsorship, and paid expenses themselves. Learn more about their trip online.

FAA proposes to cut weather forecasting stations

The Center Weather Service Forecasting Units (CWSUs) located at the nation’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) will be no more, if the FAA has its way. In a budget-cutting move, the FAA has proposed firing 39 CWSU meteorologists, closing the CWSU stations at the ARTCCs, and consolidating ATC en route weather advisory positions at two new sites—one in Kansas City, the other at National Center for Environmental Prediction offices in suburban Washington, D.C.

CWSUs, established in 1978 as a result of NTSB recommendations following the crash of a Southern Airways DC–9 on April 4, 1977, serve as a vital means of communicating late-breaking weather warnings and advisories to pilots. CWSU meteorologists with local weather expertise, located in each ARTCC, are able to quickly relay information about adverse weather to controllers, who in turn advise pilots whose routes may take them near danger. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) wrote the FAA a letter in April 2007 in which he opposed consolidation plans, saying the committee “has great concerns over the safety and wisdom of removing meteorologists from the ARTCCs.”

The most recent versions of the plan presented to the National Weather Service Employees Organization indicate that a test of the prototype consolidation will begin in late 2009. If the proposal goes through, plans are to close the CWSUs in 2011.
—Thomas A. Horne

Udvar-Hazy to expand, thanks to Airbus

A $6 million donation from Airbus Americas will allow the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport to complete its phase two expansion.

Included in that expansion are the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar; Archives; Collections, Processing Unit; the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory; and the Collections Storage Facility.

The restoration hangar will be nearly 100 yards long and include a glassed-in balcony where visitors can watch work in progress. The Collections Storage Facility will house the NASA spacesuit collection, including that of Neil Armstrong.

In honor of the donation, the facility’s theater will be renamed the Airbus Imax Theater. Phase two is scheduled to open in 2011.

Runway safety as a function of time

When things are busy, everyone is focused on the task at hand—whether at the controls of an aircraft, sitting at a radar screen, or scanning an airport and traffic pattern from a control tower. When things slow down and we have too much time on our hands, however, our level of attention can be affected.

On a weekday in December at the Moline, Illinois, airport, the visibility is one-quarter mile in fog with a runway visual range (RVR) of 2,000 feet. A ground vehicle, Truck 3, is cleared onto the runway to work on some of the lights. Nearly half an hour later, a Cessna Citation calls the tower to request departure clearance. The controller’s attention focuses on the departure, the changing weather, and other tasks. Truck 3, still parked on the side of Runway 9, has been forgotten.

The Citation is cleared for takeoff, begins its takeoff roll, and then reports seeing the vehicle. Fortunately, because of Truck 3’s position, there was little chance for a collision. But the audio track of an animated online case study presented by the FAA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation indicates surprised recognition by the controller. Watch the animation online. If you were the pilot, what might you have done to minimize the risk?
—Mike Collins

Want an amphib company?

Want to buy an amphib company? You can. The iconic Lake Aircraft, plus the equipment needed to build the aircraft, is for sale by Revo, Inc., after 35 years of ownership. You’ll get the rights to the FAA-certified Lake Renegade, Seafury, and Seawolf aircraft, and a spare parts inventory now in a warehouse in Kissimmee, Florida.

There are 1,300 Lake aircraft flying in 50 countries. “The sale of Lake Aircraft is a rare opportunity to quickly set up manufacturing operations and continue production of the successful line of amphibious airplanes,” said Armand Rivard, president of Revo, the Lake Aircraft holding company. “In the worldwide general aviation market, the Lake amphibian has no FAA-certified competition in production today.”

Revo purchased the rights to the Lake Aircraft company in the early 1970s and manufactured and marketed the airplanes almost continuously since then from facilities in Florida, New Hampshire, and Maine. The offered assets include the FAA type certificate; global manufacturing and marketing rights; and component and assembly tooling, dies, jigs, and engineering drawings for the Lake amphibian airplanes. A team of Lake experts is available to assist in the transition and continued production.

An attempted auction of the Lake assets at EAA AirVenture a few years ago resulted in no sale. The auctioneer started bidding at $20 million, and when the starting bid was reduced by the auctioneer to $3 million and there were still no takers, the auction was stopped. As of mid-January there had been no offers.

The Lake 250 Renegade is the best known of the Lake amphibians. A turbocharged model known as the Seafury has faster speed, better high-altitude capability, and increased hauling capacity compared to other Lake models. The Lake holds eight world records for speed and altitude in its class of aircraft.

Parties interested in purchasing the assets of Lake Aircraft should contact Armand Rivard at 407-847-8080, by e-mail, or by visiting the Web site.

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.