On an early September morning Bob Mills was doing what he's been doing for nearly 80 years: Helping seaplanes launch from the Delaware River.
Set on the south side of Philadelphia, modern life seems to have grown up around the Philadelphia Seaplane Base (9N2). Mills has been holding on to a patch of grass and a couple rows of old hangars surrounded by an industrial park, wedged in between a highway and the river. Airliners roar over a low chunk of airspace in which the seaplanes operate.
Ever since Mills sold off his land and nonchalantly announced earlier this year that he was closing down the oldest active seaplane base in the country - established in 1915 - people who had lived in the area for 40 years all of a sudden wanted seaplane ratings, he said. So business has been booming, and although he turns 80 next month, Mills hasn't slowed down.
"Mills still moves with the agility of a 30-year-old and jumps in and out of the Cub during docking, [moving] faster than I've seen my teenager move when her boyfriend calls," said Mike Laney, who recently earned his seaplane rating at the school.
The jetliners seem like competition, but as one of Mills' flight instructors, Hank Grenfell, explained, airline pilots make up the bulk of the business. USAirways pilots in particular stay at a motel down the road during international layovers and look for things to do. Besides being fun, flying seaplanes allows them to keep a hand or at least a stick in general aviation.
Laney described the base as a "functional antique." World War I airplane wheels, as Mills discovered, make good seaplane dollies, but he was frustrated because he couldn't find replacement tubes or tires. Fence posts were made from propellers from the war. And the main school building, which houses a museum, was once used as an immigration processing facility for the government.
Mills said a combination of factors, including his taxes being tripled, led him to sell the property that was handed down from his father. Mills is leasing the land until mid-December, but the school will likely close before then.
Mills will be taking the Cub, a Cessna 140, and a Republic Seabee with him on a move to Florida. He will donate artifacts and memorabilia from the seaplane base to the Millville Army Air Field Museum in Millville, New Jersey.
The remaining few planes at the base will soon swap floats for tires, and the airline pilots are going to have to find something else to do. "Everything's wearing out, including me," Mills said.
The FAA on September 27 awarded a type certificate to The New Piper Aircraft Inc. for the single-engine turboprop Malibu Meridian. Company officials said that the certificate confirms New Piper's commitment to introducing advanced aircraft into the general aviation fleet.
"We have listened to our customers, ultimately delivering the performance, technology, and features they have demanded," New Piper President and CEO Chuck Suma said. To be able to deliver Meridians quickly after certification, the company began production of the Meridian in early 2000. The first one was to be delivered in early October. The company will build 35 Meridians this year and accelerate the production to more than 100 aircraft in 2001. The six-seat airplane cruises at more than 260 knots and sells for $1.5 million. For more, see the Web site ( www.newpiper.com).
The FAA has formally directed examiners and safety inspectors to place more emphasis on runway incursion prevention during flight training, checkrides, and flight reviews. (This was one of several initiatives recommended by the joint industry/FAA working group cochaired by Dennis Roberts, AOPA vice president and executive director of government and technical affairs.)
In a recent information bulletin, the FAA said that practical test standards and written tests are currently being revised, and that additional guidance will be provided in the Aeronautical Information Manual and in two new advisory circulars. In the bulletin, the FAA mentions a series of techniques for preventing deviations, such as reading back runway crossing and hold-short instructions, not hesitating to ask for progressive taxiway instructions, using proper radio phraseology, and turning on aircraft lights while taxiing. AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation have been heavily involved in the runway incursion prevention effort and continue to work with the FAA on solutions.
Cirrus Design Corporation of Duluth, Minnesota, planned to unveil in October a new 310-horsepower model called the SR22.
The 180-knot aircraft will carry a price tag of $276,600. The present model, the 160-kt SR20, sells for $188,300. Both models come IFR-equipped. Certification of the SR22 is expected by the end of the year. The SR22 will use a Continental IO-550 engine, while the SR20 uses the 200-hp Continental IO-360. No further details would be announced until AOPA Expo in Long Beach, California, in late October, a company spokesman said. If you just can't wait, try an unofficial Web site run by SR20 fans and owners ( www.sr20.org). There is wide speculation on the site about the SR22. - Alton K. Marsh
The Senate Appropriations Committee in late September added $9 million for NASA's Small Aircraft Transportation System program to an appropriations bill. At press time, funding for SATS was awaiting approval by the full Senate and the House of Representatives. SATS would use technology to provide air travel for the masses. Earlier this year, a House subcommittee killed the funding.
How would you like to be notified via e-mail the second your ideal aircraft becomes available? Aircraft Shopper Online has introduced a new service that allows you to keep up with the aircraft market by harnessing the power of the Internet. For more information, see the Web site ( www.aso.com/main4.htm).
Raytheon Aircraft's new Premier I business jet is expected to achieve FAA certification by the end of this year, although the program is not moving as fast as the company had intended.
The certification program is now about 90 percent complete for the $4.8 million entry-level jet that carries six passengers. Customer deliveries are to follow soon after certification. "We are very pleased with the Raytheon Premier I, although the certification process has taken longer than we would have liked," Raytheon Aircraft Chairman and CEO Hansel Tookes said. "This is a superb aircraft that has already met or exceeded its cruise speed, range, and payload guarantees." For more on Raytheon, see the Web site ( www.raytheonaircraft.com).
A century after Wilbur and Orville Wright first flew their Flyer above the sands of Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina, to launch the age of powered flight, another Wright Flyer will take to the air at that historic spot.
A historically accurate reproduction of the Flyer, powered by an original 12-horsepower Wright Vertical Four engine - considered the only original Wright brothers engine now running - is scheduled to take off at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 2003, near the Wright Brothers National Memorial on North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Aircraft restorer Ken Hyde of Warrenton, Virginia, has been commissioned to build the reproduction by the Experimental Aircraft Association, which has pledged up to $1 million toward construction of the aircraft and its exhibition at several aviation events in 2003. For the past several years, Hyde has spearheaded The Wright Experience, an effort to re-create the aircraft and aeronautical knowledge of the Wright brothers. The Wright Experience has successfully duplicated and flown kites and gliders built by the Wrights on their journey to the first powered flight.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association has released its newest publication to assist manufacturers in designing FAR Part 23 cockpits and flight decks. The publication brings together years of research on human factors to improve operational safety. To download a copy of GAMA Publication No. 10, visit the Web site ( www.generalaviation.org).
The Spruce Goose waddled to its new nest in late September after spending years in storage at Evergreen International Aviation in McMinnville, Oregon.
The World War II-era flying boat will be housed in a partially completed museum a half-mile from Evergreen, which owns the aircraft. About 5,000 spectators watched as a truck caravan pulling the tail, wings, wing center section, and fuselage crossed a four-lane highway separating the old museum site from the new location. The fuselage weighs 130 tons, while each wing weighs 95 tons. The new museum building will open next spring.
Evergreen has dozens of other aircraft in its collection. The $16 million museum has been named The Captain Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Center after the son of Evergreen's present board chairman, Del Smith. The younger Smith, an Air Force fighter pilot, wrote the winning proposal for displaying the Spruce Goose a few years before he died in a car wreck in 1995. Look for a feature on the aircraft in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot. - AKM
On September 12, pilots Chris Wall and Dan Dominguez took off from Rochester, New York, on the general aviation adventure of a lifetime. They are flying around the world in an Aero Commander 560E called Dreamcatcher as part of a mission to bring the world to 23 million students who are following the adventure over the Internet.
Wall and Dominguez traced the history of ancient Europe, and were to fly over the barren deserts of the Middle East and see the hidden jungles in Indonesia. The flight is a project of the Global Advancement Foundation, a group that was created and is run by students. The flight crew and volunteers spent more than 20 months, working 14-hour days, just to inspect the airplane for the global flight. Dominguez is a CFI who recently graduated from the University of Rochester. Wall is a senior at Rice University and is a pilot and A&P mechanic. The team plans to be back in Rochester on December 15. To follow the adventure, see the Web site ( www.worldflight2000.com).
For the third year in a row, an airplane named by an Italian flew to victory in the Unlimited Class at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, in September. Piloted by Skip Holm, Dago Red, a highly modified P-51 Mustang, won with an average speed of 462 mph - 10 mph slower than last year - in the Gold race. The same airplane flown by Bruce Lockwood also took top honors in 1999 and '98.
In the Sport Class, Dave Morss won in his Lancair IV with an average speed of 328 mph, almost fast enough to have challenged the Unlimiteds in the Bronze race. Nick Macy, flying Six Cat, was the victor in the AT-6/SNJ Class with a speed of 228 mph; Ray Cote, flying a DeLuca OR-71 called Alley Cat, took the Formula One Class at 246 mph; and David Rose, flying Rags, a Rose Peregrine, won the Biplane Class Gold race with an average speed of 209 mph.
A Florida artist has captured the fantasy of flight through her unique two-dimensional works. Jo-Ann Lizio O'Brien uses curves, holes, surfaces, and forms of real airplane parts to mimic the symmetry and appeal of flying machines.
Called the Flight Centennial Collection, the works were created in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight that takes place on December 17, 2003. She will continue to create the aviation artwork on commission until the anniversary. A selection of the pieces is now on display at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., through December. The artwork is also available for viewing and for sale at O'Brien's studio in Naples, Florida. For more information, see the Web site ( www.flight2003art.com).
Imagine inviting 44 of aviation's celebrities and experts to the ultimate hangar flying session. Then record all the stories in print. And throw in more than 200 photos. Voilà, Speaking of Flying.
The new book represents one of aviation's greatest traditions, talking about flying. Brig. Gen. Stephen Ritchie tells about watching a fellow pilot being shot down over Vietnam. Bill Rheams recounts how Gen. Jimmy Doolittle (then retired) took the copilot's seat of his Douglas C-54 and humorously handled a gruff, overzealous Air Force instructor in another plane. And Dick Rutan talks about how he used the sonic boom in a North American F-100 to get a little too much attention.
Other storytellers include Scott Crossfield, Julie Clark, Cliff Robertson, Burt Rutan, and AOPA's own Rod Machado, Barry Schiff, and Ralph Hood. The stories were gathered over more than seven years by Diane Titterington, who heads The Aviation Speakers Bureau and is the book's publisher.
The hardcover book sells for $22.95 including shipping and is available by calling 800/437-7080 or on the Web ( www.aviationspeakers.com).
Peter G. Tanis, known for developing cold-weather systems for aircraft, died August 13 at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. He was 63.
Tanis developed and patented the first electric preheater for light airplanes and received numerous patents for cold-weather systems for airplanes and helicopters. Tanis heaters are sold worldwide. In 1977, the family established Tanis Aircraft Services at the Glenwood Municipal Airport. Tanis is survived by his wife, Betty; son, Bruce; daughters, Brenda Stichter and Lisa Trumble; sister, Barbara Snider; and numerous nieces and nephews.
The FAA congratulated Southern California pilots for a remarkably low number of intrusions into restricted airspace during the Democratic National Convention. During the 48 hours that the temporary flight restriction was in effect, only five unauthorized aircraft entered the TFR.
Three of the five were unaware of the restriction, while the other two miscalculated their positions and left the TFR as soon as they realized their errors. Besides its normal notification procedures, the FAA relied upon aviation organizations, including AOPA, for assistance in disseminating the TFR times and dimensions.
Construction is proceeding on a hangar that will anchor the Poplar Grove Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum, which is developing a 14-acre facility on the north side of Poplar Grove Airport in Poplar Grove, Illinois (see " In the Groove," September 1999 Pilot).
Actually, reconstruction is a more appropriate term - the art deco-influenced hangar and terminal building was built in 1937 at Wisconsin's Waukesha County Airport. Unneeded at Waukesha and slated for demolition, it was obtained by the museum, dismantled, and moved to Poplar Grove. Officials expected the building to be enclosed by the end of October.
Eventually the restored hangar will be joined by a circa-1920s Sunoco gas station and five other historic hangars - three from Truax Field in Madison, Wisconsin; the historic Hamilton hangar from Mitchell Field in Milwaukee; and one from an airport in southern Illinois. The buildings will help the museum create an environment reminiscent of early airfields.
"Envision a setting of authentic, historic early aviation hangars restored to their original state. Picture reaching these buildings by crossing an old open- truss metal bridge with loose wood planks, and arriving in an atmosphere of bygone days where nostalgic memories abound," said Dick Wagner, a museum director. "This is our vision, and it is becoming a reality."
A Corbin Ace, production aircraft number one, is among the aircraft being restored for display in the museum. State and local grants, donations, and a low-interest state loan are helping to fund construction of the nonprofit museum, which currently operates a temporary facility on the airport.
For more information, call the Poplar Grove Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum at 815/547-3115. - MPC
Your current Jacksonville World Aeronautical Chart leaves off an important segment of restricted airspace that is activated for space shuttle launches and landings. One pilot has already been tapped on the shoulder by the FAA for violating the airspace during a shuttle launch (see " Skyway Patrol").
The pilot was flying VFR to the Bahamas and was attempting to eyeball the airspace using his WAC. The airspace in question is a fan-shaped sector that is depicted properly on the Jacksonville Sectional Chart but not on WAC CH-25. AOPA has been working to help resolve the issue, but a chart revision is not due until late December.
An FAA official said he took no action against the pilot after learning that not only was the chart wrong, but the pilot also had received no warning from the flight service station briefer. NASA issues a notam 24 hours before a launch or shuttle landing. If you are planning a trip down the east coast of Florida, ask the briefer about R-2932, R-2933, R-2934, and R-2935. Also ask about warning areas W-497A and 497B. Some of the restricted airspace over Kennedy Space Center and Port Canaveral is active continuously, while other portions are activated only three hours before a launch and five hours before a landing.
To keep track of shuttle launches and landings, see the Web site ( www.patrick.af.mil). - AKM
Eugene L. (Gene) Turner, AOPA 099685, has published Fabulous Affairs with Aircraft and Federal Aviation Airheads. The book is a compilation of stories about FAA type certifications, FAA test pilots, great people in aviation, and a few stories about Turner's experiences as an FAA designated engineering representative. Published by CAVU Publishing Company, the book sells for $19.95 and is available by calling 817/556-3535 or via e-mail ( [email protected]).
Robert S. Finkelstein, AOPA 585112, has been elected to a two-year term as president of the Council on Aviation Accreditation, the accrediting agency for all college aviation programs. Finkelstein currently serves as North Shore Community College's aviation sciences program coordinator in Danvers, Massachusetts.
Paul McElroy, AOPA 3704123, has published Tracon, a novel about air traffic control. Meticulously researched, the book was acclaimed by controllers for its authenticity. More information is available by calling 800/865-9967 or on the Web ( www.japphire.com).
Robert W. Kunkel, AOPA 420364, was presented with the Kenneth A. Rowe Ambassador of Aviation Award. The award is the highest honor the National Association of State Aviation Officials can confer upon its peers. It has only been presented four times. Kunkel retired in August from the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics. He was honored for improving the safety and efficiency of the national aviation system as well as serving Wisconsin.
David Deas, AOPA 1366849, of Egham, Surrey, England, a retired spokesman for the U.K.'s Air Accidents Investigation Branch, did 18 television and radio interviews following the Concorde crash in Paris. He explained air accident investigation procedures and helped the media interpret video and photographic material.
Jim Byrnes, AOPA 180926, has published a book about his life titled Jim Byrnes Flight Instructor. Byrnes was National Flight Instructor of the Year in 1984 and has 16,000 hours of flying experience. He figures he has given more than 2,000 checkrides. The hardcover book sells for $25 and the softcover is $20, plus postage. To order, call 636/928-5794.
William Bundy, AOPA 1243290, recently released a Windows-based computer program called FlyteTyme that acts as an electronic logbook. For more information, see the Web site ( www.tamaratechnologies.com).
Harrison Ford, AOPA 1328677, right, and Don Wylie, AOPA 868509, chief pilot at Aviation Safety Training, pose in front of one of the company's Beech T-34s. Ford and his two Gulfstream IV pilots completed the company's advanced maneuvering program. The two-day course trains pilots to recover from unusual attitudes and out-of-control situations.
The Lancair Company has added the phrase "world class" to its sales pitch after the first Columbia 300 touched down on European soil on September 7. The flight marked renowned ferry pilot Margrit Waltz's 514th crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in general aviation aircraft.
"I felt very comfortable flying the Columbia 300 over this very long route. This was a special trip because it was my first in a Lancair, and my first in an aircraft that made me confident enough to fly without extra fuel aboard," she said. Waltz left from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pennsylvania) International Airport and made stops in Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland before arriving in front of a cheering crowd at the destination in Bremen, Germany.
For more information, see the Web site ( www.flycolumbia.com).
Robinson Helicopter Company is having such a good year that its piston-engine aircraft are outselling turbine helicopters by two to one. Robinson officials said the trend has industry experts stumped.
Forecasters had predicted an increase in the turbine market share and a decrease for piston manufacturers, but the opposite is true, according to recent statistics released by the Aerospace Industries Association. Piston helicopters now represent 70 percent of the production in North America. During the first half of the year, Robinson delivered 183 helicopters, more than the eight other North American helicopter manufacturers combined. For more information, see the Web site ( www.robinsonheli.com).
By using "truly disruptive technology," Eclipse Aviation Corporation intends to create markets even the company can't foresee as the Eclipse 500 jet continues to draw interest from inside and outside the aviation community.
Unlike other general aviation aircraft, the jet is being modeled after a Boeing or Airbus development program. Eclipse President and CEO Vern Raburn said his company is not building a proof-of-concept or prototype aircraft. Instead, Eclipse is using advanced computational techniques to design, develop, and test the airplane before the first flight.
In a special question-and-answer interview with the editors of Pilot published on AOPA Online, Raburn goes on to detail how the program is progressing by working in partnership with the FAA. He also outlines everything from how other general aviation manufacturers failed to highlighting discoveries made during wind-tunnel testing.
The list price for the five-seat, twinjet has been set at $837,500 in June 2000 dollars. It's designed to have a maximum cruise speed of 355 knots and a range of 1,300 miles with four people on board. The jet is expected to fly in June 2002, followed by certification one year later.
To read the interview, see AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/members/files/pilot/2000/eclipse_qna.html).