Pilot Briefing

News from the world of general aviation

September 1, 2011

'Plane Jane' makes last flight

‘Plane Jane’ makes last flight

Four low-and-slow taildraggers lined up to depart Maryland’s Frederick Municipal Airport. Led by a 1929 Fleet Model 2 biplane, the procession was an unusual sight for Washington, D.C.’s, highly restricted airspace as the group made its way to Washington Dulles International Airport to mix with jetliners on the tarmac.

The aircraft were on a very important mission: to deliver the Fleet to its new home at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Become a Pilot Day June 18. It was the Fleet’s last flight.

The Fleet Model 2, Serial No. 75, left the factory in 1929 and spent more than a decade at Roosevelt Aviation School on Long Island’s Roosevelt Field. The only surviving Roosevelt Field trainer, it spent decades in pieces before A&P mechanic and FAA maintenance inspector Gene Breiner hauled the fuselage from its hangar, collected boxes of parts from garages around eastern Pennsylvania, and picked up the wings from a barn in 1978. Breiner spent years meticulously restoring it to its condition as a pre-World-War-II trainer and then flew it from 1985 to this year, when he and his daughter, Joyce, donated it to the Smithsonian.

As Breiner worked to restore the airplane, he learned more about its history at Roosevelt Field during the prewar civilian pilot training boom. Alumni from the airport supplied him with mementos and photographs that helped with the restoration. And once it was airworthy he made some history of his own, flying to airshows and fly-ins around the East Coast and giving rides to friends and family.

“This wasn’t flown by just famous pilots,” Breiner said. “This was flown by a lot of people. It’s a people’s airplane.”

The trainer is a scaled-down version of Consolidated Aircraft’s PT–3 military aircraft. Breiner said he named it Plane Jane at the suggestion of a friend in his EAA chapter because “there’s nothing special about it. It’s just a plain airplane.”

It may be a basic trainer for its day, but the Fleet is well rigged, rugged, and responsive, Breiner said: “You can do all the maneuvers with two fingers.”

Breiner, 86, started building model airplanes at the age of 7—as soon as he was old enough to use razor blades to cut balsa wood. The restored Fleet connected him to an exciting time in aviation, but it was becoming harder to maintain and fly the aging aircraft.

“There’s fewer of us around that understand the old airplanes,” he said, and many younger pilots “don’t understand the TLC it takes to keep them going.” So Breiner and Joyce decided it was time to deliver it to the Smithsonian, where its legacy would live on.

The legacy lives on in another way, too: in the logbooks of those who flew it over its two lifetimes. The son of John Machamer, the ferry pilot for the last flight, soloed the airplane the morning of its delivery to the Smithsonian.

That morning, Breiner climbed into the cockpit at Frederick wearing a white scarf and a flying helmet. Machamer swung the wooden prop to bring the Kinner radial engine to life, and then climbed into the cockpit himself.

The biplane taxied out to the runway. It descended a slope just out of view for a moment before its top wing reappeared. The airplane lifted off, rocked its wings gently, and proceeded on course until it disappeared from sight. — Sarah Brown

Flight Design readies first certified design

Flight Design, the German company that made its mark as the leading producer of Light Sport aircraft worldwide, now plans an assault on the certified, IFR market with a four-passenger, 160-knot Flight Design C4. The first flight is expected in 2012, with deliveries of the $250,000 aircraft starting in 2013.

The cabin is six inches higher than Flight Design's Light Sport aircraft.

The engine has not been chosen, but will be either a Lycoming or Continental engine derated to 180 horsepower to assure a low noise profile, said Matthias Betsch, CEO and president. There are plans as well to offer the model with a diesel engine. Flight Design is talking with Thielert about that possibility.

The company is still in talks about the certification plan in Europe. It will be certified in the United States under a joint agreement with Europe. It is expected to have an airframe parachute. The airplane will have a gross weight of nearly 2,700 pounds, a useful load of 1,320 pounds, and a full fuel payload of 894 pounds. It carries 71 gallons of fuel and promises a range of 1,000 nautical miles.

The cabin is 54 inches wide in the front seat area, and 47 inches in the rear. Betsch said the rear cabin width is four inches wider than a Cessna 172. The company is promising a fuel burn of 10.6 gallons per hour at 80 percent power, and 8.4 gallons per hour at 65 percent power, but with a slower speed of 145 knots true airspeed. The company will not offer financing.

Eclipse jets can cruise at 41,000 feet again

A problem with carbon buildup in the Pratt & Whitney PW610F engines used by Eclipse jets has been solved, allowing them to return to 41,000 feet. The approval is effecive immediately for owners and pilots installing recertified combustion liners in their engines. The problem was seen in a small number of aircraft in recent years, but was serious enough for the FAA to limit operations to 37,000 feet.

Eclipse Jet"The return to 41,000 feet has been among the most difficult challenges to overcome in our restart program. By completing the combustion liner replacement project, we are officially announcing that the commitments to our existing customers have all been successfully met," said Mason Holland, chairman and CEO of Eclipse Aerospace.

"We look forward to continuing to provide service for our customers while advancing innovations for the Eclipse Twin-Engine Jet."

Eclipse Aerospace is planning to return the Eclipse Twin-Engine Jet to production and will hire 75 new employees.

Test Pilot

Test PilotBy Barry Schiff

  1. The wings of two otherwise identical airplanes have the same aspect ratio and span, but the wings of one are tapered while the wings of the other are rectangular. What are three noticeable advantages of the tapered wing?
  2. Estimate within 50,000 pounds the heaviest maximum gross weight allowed for any aircraft.
  3. True or false? Elton Mahoney Thomasson, a production test pilot for Cessna, personally flew every Cessna 210 ever manufactured.
  4. During World War II, which of the following bugs was important to aerial warfare?
    a. beetle
    b. dragonfly
    c. hornet
    d. spider
  5. From reader John Schmidt: The Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle took no chances when it came to protecting its factory from aerial attack during World War II. What did the company do to uniquely camouflage its plant?
  6. True or false? In the Southern Hemisphere, wind flows counterclockwise about a high-pressure area, clockwise about a low-pressure area, and from a low to a high.
  7. What aircraft manufacturer named its designs after animals indigenous to North America?
  8. During flight, the pilot of a Cessna 172 is shocked to discover that the up-elevator cable of the control system has snapped or has become disconnected. How can he make a safe landing using the control wheel?

See Answers >>

Rebirth at Big Reed

Big Reed Pond in northwest Maine is coming back to life ("GA Serves America: Back to Life," March 2011 AOPA Pilot). The pond, in the remote Allagash wilderness region of northern Maine, is one of only 12 ponds in Maine that still have populations of arctic char.

In early June, Igor Sikorsky III flew the first 600 arctic char back to their ancestral home. Flying his 1968 Cessna 172 seaplane he brought in the first 300 on June 6, and the second 300 on June 9. The char were in the seven-to-nine-inch length range. They were transported from a hatchery in northern Maine in plastic bags containing chilled water heavily charged with oxygen to keep them healthy and lively.

Sikorsky also flew in nearly 1,500 tiny brook trout fry (only a few months old), which were hand-carried from the pond several miles up tributary streams to reestablish that population. According to Sikorsky, this gives the larger, older char an advance start and "leg up" over the brookies.

Fisheries biologist Frank Frost, leader of the project to reclaim the 90-acre pond, says "the fish all looked very good and everything went well."

Frost says the restocking plan aims to bring in 300 more char in the fall, 10 of which will be "implanted with ultrasonic tags to allow us to track survival and habitat use throughout the year over a period of three years."

Additional stocking will take place next spring.

Sikorsky, who has donated more than 100 hours of flight time, plus housing the crews at his establishment, says of his participation: "It was amazing. Final success will be when we see the char fry [tiny fish indicating successful natural spawning] in the pond, showing that they are truly wild again."

Big Reed Pond is restricted to catch-and-release and fly-fishing only. But Sikorsky says, "We are not encouraging any fishing for a year or two." Several years should allow the fish to become well reestablished. And strict regulations will be imposed in order to hopefully prevent another illegal stocking of exotic—and harmful—fish. Sikorsky says Big Reed Pond was once an "incredible trout factory. It should be very productive in just a year or two." —Paul J. Fournier


Airshow performer Greg Poe dies of heart attack

Airshow performer Greg PoeAirshow performer Greg Poe, who used his position as an aviation star to inspire children to excel, has died from a heart attack.

Poe, known for routines in an ethanol-powered Fagen MXS, formed the "Elevate Your Life" program after losing his teenage son Ryan to a heroin addiction. As part of the program, he gave presentations at schools and youth organizations around the country, using himself as an example of how hard work and dedication can help someone achieve a dream. Winners of an essay contest were given a ride in Poe's aircraft.

"Greg Poe died today of a heart attack near Boise," said the team's Facebook page on July 24. "This is a great shock and certainly a very sad day for his family, our team, and the airshow family he dearly loved.

"Greg was at the top of his game and rising, and he will be greatly missed."

Poe's Elevate Your Life program reached thousands of young people. The performer also promoted alternative fuels by running his airshow airplane on ethanol. —SB

Poberezny retires

EAA Chairman Tom Poberezny retired from the association effective August 1. Poberezny, 64, became president of the association in 1989, when he assumed the role after his father and the organization's founder, Paul, retired from day-to-day involvement; he has served as chairman since 2009. The announcement came a year to the day after EAA announced that Poberezny was handing over the reins as CEO and president of the association to business manager and Stearman pilot and rebuilder Rod Hightower; Poberezny remained chairman of the organization and its annual EAA AirVenture. With Poberezny's retirement, Hightower will assume his responsibilities while the board determines how to fill the position.

Former EAA President Tom Poberezny on AOPA LivePoberezny will assume the role of chairman emeritus. This is the first time in the association's 58-year history that a Poberezny has not been in a top position.

"The building blocks for the continued success and growth for EAA have been laid, and I look forward to helping in new and different ways in the years ahead," Poberezny said.

"On behalf of AOPA's more than 400,000 members, I want to thank Tom and commend him for the work he—like his father before him—has done during five decades at EAA to build it into the incredible organization it is today," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. "I look forward to working with Rod Hightower and the rest of EAA's great staff to strengthen the ties between our two organizations as we work collectively to protect our freedom to fly."

EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski said that the younger Poberezny's legacy with the organization includes the success of the Young Eagles program, the creation of the Light Sport aircraft category, and the expansion of EAA AirVenture.

"He has taken this event from a fly-in to one of the world's greatest aviation gatherings," Knapinski told AOPA after the press conference. Poberezny has been chairman of the event for more than 30 years. —SB

GA industry news icon Dave Sclair passes

Dave SclairGeneral aviation lost an aviation media pioneer July 26, 2011, with the death of Dave Sclair, former publisher of General Aviation News. Sclair and his wife Mary Lou were industry icons at aviation events nationwide since the couple purchased what was then called Northwest Flyer in 1970. The Sclair family grew the publication and changed its name to Western Flyer and then later, with the acquisition of other, smaller tabloids and additional growth, ultimately renamed it General Aviation News. For the past decade, their son Ben has served as publisher, although the senior Sclairs remained active in the business, always busy at aviation shows handing out the famous pink classified pages of the esteemed publication.

The Flyer Media, Inc., the parent company owned by the Sclairs and based in Lakewood, Washington, also produces the Living with Your Plane national directory of fly-in communities.

Dave Sclair was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer earlier this year. Numerous treatment attempts failed and, at his wishes to make things easier on his family, he was moved to hospice care earlier in July. —Thomas B. Haines


  1. The airplane with tapered wings has less roll damping, an increased roll rate, and better lateral control. It also is more expensive to build.
  2. The six-engine Goliath from the Ukraine, the Antonov An–225 Mriya, tips the scales at 1,323,000 pounds.
  3. False. I don't even know if there is such a person.
  4. d. Spiders provided web filaments that were used for crosshairs on most sighting apparatus, including bombsights.
  5. The flat roof was painted with fake streets, sidewalks, and driveways to look like the surrounding neighborhood. Boeing also "built" houses made of plywood and fabric on the 39-acre roof.
  6. False. The first two statements are correct, but wind flows from a high to a low in both hemispheres.
  7. Aircraft developed by de Havilland of Canada, Ltd. include the Chipmunk (DHC–1), Beaver (DHC–2), Otter (DHC–3), Caribou (DHC–4), and Buffalo (DHC–5).
  8. He applies substantial nose-up trim and applies forward pressure as necessary on the control wheel to maintain the desired attitude. He makes a landing flare by gradually releasing most or all of this forward pressure.
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.