Pilot Briefing

News from the world of general aviation

August 1, 2011

Airship Ventures

The elephant at AirVenture

The elephant in the room at this year’s EAA AirVenture is a 246-foot-long Zeppelin, the Farmers Airship, that will be offering $400 rides for 45 minutes above the Oshkosh show and surrounding areas.

The airship is operated by Airship Ventures, based at Moffett Field in California, and gives rides along the West Coast from Long Beach to Seattle.

It is 15 feet longer than a Boeing 747, and can carry 12 passengers. It can go 77 miles per hour if it works at it and has a range of 500 nautical miles. It is powered by three 200-horsepower Lycoming engines.


GE engine VP named to head Cessna

Cessna CEO Scott A. ErnestFormer GE Aviation Vice President Scott A. Ernest has been named president and chief executive officer of Cessna Aircraft Company, replacing Jack Pelton, whose sudden retirement was announced May 2. Scott Donnelly, chairman and chief executive officer of parent company Textron, had served as interim Cessna chief while a search was conducted.

Ernest had been with General Electric for 29 years, most recently as the manager of the global supply chain for GE Aviation, a manufacturer of jet engines for commercial and military aircraft. A statement from Donnelly gave no hint of a change in direction, although analysts have voiced concerns that a cutback in new product development may result from Pelton’s departure.

“Scott is a talented global business leader who has strong expertise in the aviation industry,” said Donnelly. “Accelerating Cessna’s new product and service development, strengthening its manufacturing and sourcing operations, and intensifying its global expansion efforts are key to moving Cessna forward. Scott brings an extensive track record of success in these areas along with a reputation as an outstanding leader. I am confident that he is the ideal person to position Cessna for growth as the business jet market gains momentum.”

Earlier positions at GE also gave him experience in sourcing parts for aircraft engines. Lower-cost sourcing is a key issue at Cessna as company officials try to improve the profit margin of the Citation CJ4. The CJ4’s high cost of manufacturing got special attention from Donnelly in presenting the first-quarter financial results for Textron. Donnelly termed Cessna’s first-quarter profits “disappointing.”

A Textron spokesman said Ernest is not a pilot.


Test PilotTest Pilot by Barry Schiff

  1. What well-known aircraft designer was named after a U.S. president?
  2. What are the first names of these aviation notables?
    a._____ Bernoulli
    b._____ Coriolis
    c._____ Mach
    d._____ Pitot
    e._____ Venturi
  3. A relatively new V-speed is VSW. What does it represent?
  4. A pilot can obtain an estimate of the movement of a thunderstorm by referring to the wind velocity at
    a. 2,000 feet.
    b. 5,000 feet.
    c. 10,000 feet.
    d. 18,000 feet.
  5. What is so unusual about the circuit breakers in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner?
  6. During a preflight runup, the pilot switches the magnetos from Both to Left and notes that there is no drop in rpm. This could mean that
    a. the right p-lead is not grounding.
    b. the left p-lead is not grounding.
    c. the right magneto has totally failed.
    d. the left magneto has totally failed.
  7. From reader John Schmidt: What circus performers were recruited to assist in building the Consolidated B-24 Liberator?
  8. True or False: The Convair 880 jetliner was so named because of its maximum cruising speed.

Answers below.


Scholarship fund honors 9/11 captain

Jason M. Dahl was the captain of United Airlines Flight 93 that was hijacked on September 11, 2001, crashing near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A scholarship fund has been established in his name.

The Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund provides two $5,000 scholarships to deserving aviation students. This year it will offer five additional $1,000 scholarships. Originally available to students at Dahl's alma mater, San Jose State University and Metro State University in Denver, the program has since been expanded to national status.

You can learn more online.


Electric airplane race set for Oshkosh

Electric airplane Up to $60,000 in prize money is available to the winning electric airplane appearing at EAA AirVenture this year. To take the entire prize, the winner will have to be the fastest, with the greatest climb rate and the longest endurance. Contestants are required to land with at least 10 minutes of power remaining on the battery, and to prove it, taxi to a finish line.

The entrants are the ElectraFlyer with single-seat and two-seat models; Pipistrel Taurus with two models; Sonex Electric Waiex; V-Raptor E-Rex; PhoEnix; Lange Antares; Lazair; and PC-Aero Elektra One from Germany. Two of the aircraft, the ElectraFlyer C and the Lange Antares, have flown at Oshkosh in previous years.

Dave Nadler, a Lange Aviation dealer in Acton, Massachusetts, said it is hard to predict who the winner will be or what sort of speeds and endurance, let alone time to climb, will win the EAA contest. However, he did point out that winning will require an efficient aircraft that will look very different from today's standard general aviation aircraft. It must have a large wing and a large propeller, he said, to achieve the efficiency needed for electric flight.

The competition starts on July 26 with an endurance contest, followed on July 27 by a time-to-climb competition to 5,000 feet and a speed contest on July 28. Winners in the category get $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second, and $2,000 for third.

The Chinese firm, Yuneec, had been invited to participate in the Oshkosh contest but had a fatal crash in early May of its electric design, killing test pilot Martin Wezel. The airplane was to participate in the NASA Café Green Flight Challenge. The aircraft had an airframe failure in the tail section at about 130 feet after takeoff.


Eurocopter goes 232 knots in level flight;

EurocopterBoeing studies hybrid concept as well

The Eurocopter X3 has achieved 232 knots true airspeed in recent tests conducted in Istres, France. The speed was achieved in stable, level flight, surpassing an original goal of 220 knots true airspeed. The design will be incorporated in future commercial helicopters. Testing will continue through 2011.

"Eurocopter's teams have once again shown their ability to apply innovation as a cornerstone of our strategy in remaining the helicopter industry leader," said Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter's president and CEO. "Future helicopters incorporating the X3 configuration will offer our customers about 50 percent more cruise speed and range at very affordable costs, therefore defining the future of high-productivity rotary-wing aircraft."

"We were impressed by the ease at which this speed objective was attained," test pilot Hervé Jammayrac said. "The X3 handles extremely well, demonstrating remarkable stability at high speed—even with the autopilot off. We are very proud of this achievement, which results from the dedicated efforts of all those who have worked on the project."

The hybrid helicopter, with two propellers, uses a Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter airframe equipped with two turboshaft engines that power a five-blade main rotor system and the propellers. The company claims it's like combining the speed of a turboprop aircraft with full hover capability.

In the meantime, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has joined with Boeing in a concept for another high-speed aircraft with hover capability. The concept combines ducted fan engines for forward flight with a retractable rotor blade system for hovering flight. Rotor blades retreat into a large hub, and the hub is stopped when in forward flight. A 20-percent-scale model is to be tested this year in a wind tunnel.


Diamond gets D-Jet financing, recalls workers

Diamond D-JetDiamond Aircraft, turned down by the Canadian government in May for a $35 million loan deemed critical to its D-Jet program, has received "a significant investment" dedicated exclusively to the jet's development, the company said.

In a news release posted on the company website, Diamond said the financing marked a turning point for the firm. No details of the financing were disclosed.

"This investment will enable Diamond to recall furloughed engineering and technical staff, resume flight test operations, and proceed toward building the next test aircraft, subject to finalization of closing arrangements," said the announcement. The company's Austrian operations, having completed several other piston-aircraft development programs, would now dedicate engineering and technical resources to the D-Jet program as well.

AOPA reported May 18 that the newly elected Canadian government turned down Diamond's request for the $35 million ($36 million U.S.) loan necessary to keep the D-Jet program moving. It was a severe blow because the loan was a necessary condition for Diamond to secure other funding, and put off recalling laid-off workers, said Diamond President Peter Maurer.

At the time Maurer said that discussions connected with the company's interests in China might represent a possible alternate funding source.

—Dan Namowitz


Notam system revisions in effect

AOPA is urging pilots to become familiar with changes to the notice to airman (notam) system that were to take effect June 30.

The changes come as the FAA transitions to a notam system "that is more compliant with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization to enable more global consistency in notams," the FAA said in a notice of the scheduled format changes.

Notice of Annual Meeting of Members

The annual meeting of the members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association will be held at 12 noon on Friday, September 9, 2011, at the headquarters of AOPA, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland, 21701, located on Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), for the purpose of receiving reports and transacting such other business as may properly come before the meeting, including the election of trustees.

—John S. Yodice, Secretary

Some notam language will change, "and should result in easier to read and understand notams" when the revisions become effective, the FAA said.

Under the FAA's new order, notams relating to standard instrument departures (SIDs), graphic obstacle clearance departures (ODPs), and standard terminal arrivals (STARs) will be issued as Flight Data Center (FDC) notams, instead of as D (distant) notams.

New keywords ODP, SID, STAR, CHART, DATA, IAP, VFP, ROUTE, and SPECIAL will be added. The keyword RAMP will be replaced with the keyword APRON. Components of an instrument landing system (ILS) in a notam will be distinguished by preceding the component (glideslope, for example) with "ILS" followed by "RWY" and the runway number.

Friction Measuring Device notams for reporting a friction measuring device out of service must not contain the name of nomenclature of the device. Wind shear detection systems LLWAS, TDWR, and WSP will be described in notams as a microburst/wind shear detection system.

AOPA urges all pilots to become familiar with the changes especially because notams on SIDs, ODPs, and STARs will appear as FDC notams. —DN


Test Pilot Answers

  1. Ted R. Smith was named after Theodore Roosevelt. Smith's designs included the Douglas A-26 Invader, the twin-engine Aero Commander, the Jet Commander, and the Aerostar.
  2. Daniel Bernoulli, Gaspard Coriolis, Ernst Mach, Henri Pitot, and Giovanni Venturi.
  3. VSW is the speed at which the onset of a natural or artificial stall warning occurs (such as the onset of a buffet or the onset of a stall-warning horn).
  4. The movement of a thunderstorm (its speed and direction over the ground) is roughly the same as the wind velocity at 10,000 feet.
  5. There are none in the cockpit. The crew pulls and resets circuit breakers using a cursor in one of the multifunction displays.
  6. Two of the four answers are possible. Either the engine continues to run on both magnetos because of (a), or it had been running only on the left magneto because of (c).
  7. "Midgets" proved invaluable for working in confined spaces, such as bucking rivets inside wing tips.
  8. True. The Convair 880 could fly at 880 feet per second (521 knots).

Cessna celebrates centennial of founder's first flight

Cessna founder's first flightMany a pilot has earned his or her wings in a Cessna Aircraft trainer. This year, the company is paying tribute to founder Clyde Cessna, who took flight 100 years ago. According to Cessna, Clyde purchased a copy of a Blériot XI fuselage, after watching the aircraft perform in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

"It's a source of pride for all Cessnans to know we are carrying the torch for a company started by a man with such a pioneering and tenacious spirit. One hundred years ago, Clyde Cessna taught himself to fly just eight years after the Wright brothers flew. That's historically significant, and that 'can do' spirit defines this company and is something all of us at Cessna intend to carry on," said Cessna Senior Vice President of Product Engineering Dave Brant.


Piaggio completing jet design

Here comes another business jet. Piaggio says it will freeze the design of its long-rumored new jet by this summer, but isn't discussing details until the aircraft is ready to fly. Much of the manufacturing will be done in Abu Dhabi, where an investment company owns a third of the Piaggio firm, but final assembly will be done at the Piaggio plant in Genoa, Italy.

The main shareholder is Tata, located in India. Company officials said this is a long-term investment, not a quick effort to realize an immediate profit. For Abu Dhabi, it could mean the start of an aerospace segment for that area. The investment company in Abu Dhabi is Mubadala.

When the design is complete, the company will announce its suppliers. Piaggio makes the speedy P180 Avanti twin-engine pusher turboprop.


Commander Premiere Aircraft files Chapter 11

Commander Premiere Aircraft, located at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Missouri, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and is facing an eviction notice from city officials. The winning bidder for the company could not find financing from European banks to close the deal.

Commander Premiere Aircraft President Greg Walker said he hopes a new buyer can be found before the eviction is enforced.

The company was sold in 2009 to Ronal Strauss, a Montreal investor, but he has been unable to collect a group of European banks willing to invest in the company during a recession. Strauss was in Europe recently to raise the funding to complete the purchase.

Walker said the bankruptcy filing, which allows the company to reorganize under protection from creditors, was forced by the threat of legal action from both Strauss and the city that could have prevented a new buyer from purchasing the company. There was no binding agreement, Walker said, between Strauss and the previous owner, StoneGate Capital Group, which will now try to find a new buyer.


Civil Air Patrol honored with World Peace Prize

The Civil Air Patrol has received the World Peace Prize from a missionary organization that has recognized contributions to the cause of peace since 1989.

The CAP received the Roving Ambassador for Peace Award from the World Peace Corps Mission in a ceremony at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The CAP performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, and is credited with saving 113 lives in fiscal year 2010.

On December 1, the CAP will celebrate its 70th anniversary.

In a recent example of the activity that brough the CAP its recognition from the World Peace Prize, volunteers from CAP's Alabama Wing played a key role photographing and helping to assess damage from devastating tornadoes that struck Alabama's Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties. —DN