Pilot Briefing

Helicopter demonstrator goes 250 knots

November 1, 2010

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.’s X2 Technology demonstrator reached its goal in mid-September, a speed of 250 knots true airspeed in level flight.

The speed is an unofficial speed record for a helicopter, the company claimed in a statement. The demonstrator also reached 260 knots in a very shallow dive during the flight.

“The aerospace industry today has a new horizon,” said Sikorsky President Jeffrey P. Pino. “The X2 Technology demonstrator continues to prove its potential as a game-changer, and Sikorsky Aircraft is proud to be advancing this innovative technology and to continue our company’s pioneering legacy.”

“Our primary key performance parameter has been met,” said Jim Kagdis, program manager for Sikorsky Advanced Programs. “The 250-knot milestone was established as the goal of the demonstrator from its inception. It’s exciting to imagine how our customers will use this capability.”

The X2 Technology demonstrator is a counterrotating, coaxial-rotor helicopter. The program began in 2005.


Rescued Helldiver headed to U.S. Navy

The wreckage of a Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver has been moved to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. It was recovered from the bottom of Lower Otay Reservoir in San Diego County, California.

The wings remain in a temporary facility owned by the San Diego Air and Space Museum at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, California, where mud will be cleaned from the wreckage prior to the Pensacola museum picking it up. Restoration will take place at the museum in Florida.

The aircraft had taken off from the USS Wasp on May 28, 1945, to practice training maneuvers at 1,500 feet. When the aircraft pulled up, its engine quit. It was crewed by pilot E.D. Frazar and Army Tech. Sgt. Joseph M. Metz. After making an emergency call, the aircraft safely ditched, allowing the crew to swim to safety before the aircraft sank in 85 feet of water. Restoration could take three years.

The aircraft was found in March 2009 when a fisherman saw the outline of an airplane on his fishfinder. He notified authorities, and divers confirmed the discovery.

On August 20 of this year the aircraft was raised in an effort involving the city of San Diego, the U.S. Navy, and the California Office of Historic Preservation.


Win a Waco! Night for Flight auction now online

Would you like a ride in the Goodyear blimp? A day with NASCAR driver/pilots? Or your very own Waco YMF-5D? All this could be within your reach by participating in the AOPA Foundation Online Auction. Bidding on these and many other unique aviation items began October 1 online and concludes at the Night for Flight benefit, which takes place on the RMS Queen Mary on November 13 at AOPA Aviation Summit in Long Beach, California. All proceeds from the auction will go to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) corporation that funds AOPA’s key missions—preserving and improving community airports, improving GA’s safety record, growing the pilot population, and educating the public on the benefits of GA.

Other items in the online auction include a day of aerobatic flight training with Sean D. Tucker, a VIP experience with Mike Goulian at the Rhode Island Air Show, his and her Scheyden sunglasses, pilot bags from Brightlinebags.com, leather jacket from Red Canoe, vacation packages, a charter certificate from Synerjets, and headsets from manufacturers David Clark and Lightspeed Aviation.

The Night for Flight benefit features a three-course meal prepared by internationally recognized Chef Larry Banares and entertainment by jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli. Tickets are available until October 19 and at on-site registration for Summit. Winners of the auction items will be notified shortly after the event.


Want to take off? Then line up and wait!

Remember the “Position and hold” instructions from the tower while waiting for a just-landed aircraft to clear the runway? It’s changing. From now on, tower controllers will tell you to “Line up and wait.” It’s a phrase used in other countries, and changing the FAA phrase will put the U.S. controllers in sync with the rest of the world.

The change was to take place September 30.

The phrase has actually been in use by a majority of the world for many years. It has proven useful with many non-native English speakers who can sometimes confuse “position and hold” with similar-sounding phrases like “position and roll,” “position at hold,” or “hold position.” Misinterpretation of this instruction can have serious consequences. Using “line up and wait” helps avoid ambiguity and keeps the global aviation community happy.


Cricket electric airplane flies in France

The all-electric Cri-Cri (French for cricket), jointly developed by EADS Innovation Works, Aero Composites Saintonge, and the Green Cri-Cri Association, has flown at Le Bourget airport near Paris. It is claimed to be the first four-motor, all-electric aerobatic airplane.

The aircraft is supported by the French Museum of Air and Space. All systems performed well, and the plane returned safely after a seven–minute flight.

“This aircraft flies very smoothly, much more quietly than a plane with conventional propulsion,” said Didier Esteyne, who piloted the Cri-Cri. “But we are still at the beginning and have a lot to learn. We are allowed to start aerobatic maneuvers only after five hours of flight and 15 landings.”

“The Cri-Cri is a low-cost testbed for system integration of electrical technologies in support of projects like our hybrid propulsion concept for helicopters,” stated Jean Botti, EADS’s chief technical officer. “We hope to get a lot of useful information out of this project.”

The aircraft uses lightweight composite structures, four brushless electric motors with counterrotating propellers, and high-energy-density lithium batteries. Developers think the aircraft will be able to fly for 30 minutes at a speed of 68 mph and climb at 1,000 feet per minute.

Other research projects at EADS include algae-based biofuel and a helicopter hybrid propulsion system combining electrical power with piston engines.


Cirrus owners asked to take training

Recent accidents involving Cirrus aircraft have led to the company and the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association asking all owners to take recurrent training. A special curriculum was created for the training flight, which should take less than two hours.

“The recent spate of accidents have not been shown to have a consistent cause, but made us feel that energy management during approach and landing contributed to problems,” said COPA official Rick Beach.

The training is available at any Cirrus pilot training center.

The safety alert letter was a collaboration among the leadership of both COPA and Cirrus Aircraft and followed a successful model from 2007 when Mike Radomsky of COPA and Alan Klapmeier of Cirrus Aircraft sent out a similar safety letter about icing.

A recent fatal accident involved a touchdown with a prop strike, and subsequent loss of control. AOPA’s Air Safety Institute has found that Cirrus aircraft generally fare well in pilot-related takeoff, approach, and maneuvering accidents, but not in go-arounds.

The safety alert also asked pilots to review operating procedures.

“First, we are asking each of you to review the basic information on how to manage your aircraft in all phases of flight. Please reread your Pilot’s Operating Handbook, Section 2, Limitations, Section 3 Emergency Procedures, and Section 4, Normal Procedures. Also, review Section 3, Standard Operating Procedures, of the Flight Operations Manual. Look for expanded guidance on normal operating procedures with special attention to approach stability, traffic patterns, landing procedures and go-around.”


Say Again?

1. True or false: The Wright brothers turned their attention

to a roadable airplane just a few years after the first flight at Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina.

2. What’s faster: an SR–71 at top speed or the muzzle velocity of a 30.06 rifle round?

3. How did Wiley Post pay for flying lessons and his first aircraft?

4. What was the first production, serialized airplane designed to operate on biofuel?

5. How high were Douglas DC–3 aircraft when they sprayed dispersant on the Gulf oil spill?

a. 1,500 feet
b. 1,000 feet
c. 200 feet
d. Less than 50 feet

6. True or false: Newark Metropolitan Airport, the nation’s first commercial airport to have a hard-surface runway, kept a battery of floodlights on at night to promote and facilitate night flying during the 1920s.

Say Again? Answers

  1. True. The brothers rented an automobile factory in 1909 and planned to solve the roadability problem, but the project did not proceed.
  2. An SR–71 with a top speed of Mach 3.3 or 2,192 miles per hour is faster than a 30.06 bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2,900 feet per second, or 1,977 miles per hour.
  3. With a cash settlement from an oil drilling accident in which he was blinded in one eye.
  4. The first flight of the ethanol-powered Embraer EMB 200 Ipanema took place in 2002. Certification followed in 2004.
  5. d. Less than 50 feet agl. (see “Above the Spill,” page 64)
  6. False. The cost of keeping the lights on all night was prohibitive. Using a system called Televox, a pilot approaching the darkened field would crank the handle of a siren in the cockpit; the siren noise was picked up on the ground and the sound waves impinged upon a device that switched on the floodlights.

Do you have suggestions for aviation quiz questions that will stump other pilots? Send your questions to pilot@aopa.org.


‘American Combat Planes of the 20th Century’ by Ray Wagner

Watching the development of U.S. combat aircraft over the decades appears to show a steady, almost inevitable, progression—as if fate guided each move from pistons to jets to stealth. Ray Wagner’s seminal work, American Combat Planes of the 20th Century, reveals that that impression is totally wrong—and that the truth is far richer and more fascinating. American aerospace is a saga with countless twists, turns, dead ends, and forks in the road leading from the early biplanes powered by Liberty engines to the stealthy, supersonic F–22s on the front lines today.

Wagner’s comprehensive, 758-page work includes 1,700 photos and performance data on every U.S. military aircraft from World War I to Iraq. Wagner, a veteran aviation historian and archivist at the San Diego Aerospace Museum, provides much more than mere aircraft listings by putting each airplane in the context of its time, and its competition.

In addition to the well-known aircraft that were built in large numbers, Wagner shows hundreds of experimental airplanes and prototypes that have been all but lost to history. The Vultee Vanguard, for example, was the most streamlined military aircraft of its time (designed by Richard W. Palmer, maker of the Hughes H–1 racer)—but the stunningly gorgeous aircraft was never produced for the U.S. military. The Martin Seamaster was a sleek, sweptwing flying boat with four jet engines that could fly 686 mph and reach altitudes of 43,000 feet; it looks futuristic today, even though it was built in the early 1950s. But the Seamaster was never produced, and the U.S. Navy abruptly canceled the program in favor of carrier-based aircraft meant to perform some of the same missions.

American Combat Planes of the 20th Century—A Comprehensive Reference is a treasure. —Dave Hirschman