February 21, 2013
By Jim Moore
Felix Baumgartner celebrates a safe landing after setting world freefall records for speed and altitude Oct. 14. Photo courtesy Red Bull Stratos.
A diverse field of 2012 aviation record-setters deemed “most memorable” by the nation’s official aeronautical record-keepers will be honored March 12 at the National Aeronautic Association’s spring awards.
Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian daredevil who shattered the sound barrier in October wearing a David Clark pressure suit and parachute, tops the NAA list with his official freefall distance of 119,431 feet after jumping from 127,852 feet above the New Mexico desert. Baumgartner also broke the sound barrier (at 843 mph), and his jump bested the previous freefall distance set in 1962.
California race pilot Will Whiteside will be honored for his 381 mph run over Interstate 505 in California, flying a Russian Yakovlev Yak-3U racer (powered by a Pratt & Whitney R2000-7M2 engine rated at 1,750 horsepower).
In much slower fashion, engineering students at the University of Maryland set a new record for human-powered helicopter flight endurance at 65.1 seconds in Gamera II. The original Gamera was nominated for NAA’s Robert J. Collier Trophy in 2011, edged out by Boeing’s Dreamliner. The team now has its sights set on another prize: the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize from the American Helicopter Society.
Gulfstream G150 pilots Timothy McClelland and Brian Erickson will be honored for a nonstop flight from California to Georgia in January 2012, averaging 599 mph over the 3-hour, 26-minute flight that set a new record for transcontinental speed, west to east.
Other records to be recognized March 12 include distance marks set with a hang glider, and radio-controlled glider.
A half-ton Dodge truck lines up on the centerline. As the pickup accelerates, the floatplane trailered behind it adds power, lifts off, banks left, and departs: just another floatplane launch by Joe Sprague of Cadillac Aircraft Services in Cadillac, Mich.
The vanishing of five U.S. Navy aircraft in 1945 remains one of the legendary mysteries of aviation, one that may soon be solved.
Two men had a vision to protect pilots’ access to backcountry airstrips in Montana, but discovered a nationwide need.
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