It's been a long time since the spectacle of an airplane lifting a man into the air has been a noteworthy event. But what about a man lifting an airplane?
Onlookers got a thrill this summer when fitness expert and spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy lifted an airplane off the ground. And then another. And another. Using a customized weightlifting apparatus, he lifted seven airplanes in all for a combined weight of more than 16,000 pounds.
The crowd was among the last to witness Chinmoy's feats, though. He died October 11 of an apparent heart attack at his home in New York City. He was 76.
But his legacy lives on. The astonishing demonstration of outer strength took place July 29 at Brookhaven Airport in Shirley, New York. "I wish to show that age is no barrier. The word 'impossible' is only in the mind and not in the heart," he said. The airplanes he lifted included a Schweizer 1-26E glider, a Flight Design CT, an Evektor SportStar, a Culver Cadet, a Globe Swift, and an Extra 300.
Chinmoy said he performed these lifts not for the record books, but rather to challenge himself and to inspire other people to pursue their own goals. This philosophy of "self-transcendence" has a natural affinity with the world of aviation, which he saw as a testament to human achievement as well as to the heart's yearning to soar high above the mundane world.
This was not the fitness champion's first foray into the world of aviation. He had previously lifted other airplanes, and in 2003, he held a special program commemorating 112 years of flight at Boeing Field near Seattle, where he lifted a total of 100 pilots overhead as they stood on a platform.
Whether lifting airplanes or the pilots who flew them—or in some cases both—Chinmoy began his feats with a few moments of powerful concentration, during which he sought to quiet his mind and summon inner strength. He said that this strength came from an infinite source that resides within every individual. He had practiced daily meditation since he was a child in his native India.
A champion decathlete in his youth, he used the practice to focus his athletic energies. "The body without the concentration of the mind is helpless," he said. In addition to airplanes, Chinmoy had hoisted elephants, horses, motorcycles, cars, famous people (Muhammad Ali and Sting, for instance), politicians, 20 Nobel laureates, and a team of sumo wrestlers. —Vasudha Deming
The life of Paco Chierici of San Carlos, California, reads like the original script for the movie Top Gun. He had a distinguished Naval career as a fighter pilot, was a member of the prestigious Navy Reserve squadron The Fighting Saints—fighter pilots who teach the art of dogfighting—and was awarded three medals for his service in the Gulf War and for patrolling Iraq. But the irony is that Chierici doesn't particularly like Top Gun; he thinks it's too fantastic. So he wanted to portray the lives of today's fighter pilots more realistically. The result is the documentary film Speed and Angels, which follows the experiences of two young pilots through training to deployment in Iraq. The film won the GI Film Festival's award for best documentary film in 2007. Directed by Peyton Wilson, who gained unprecedented access to the behind-the-scenes life of Navy pilots and was able to film thrilling aerial and in-cockpit footage, the documentary will be released this spring. For more information and to view scenes from the movie, visit the Web site.— Julie Summers Walker
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Reaching the one-million mark in any endeavor is respectable. For the U.S. Coast Guard it means a lot of flight time well spent. The Coast Guard has now surpassed one-million flight hours on its fleet of Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin helicopters. The first Dolphin went into service in 1985, and the Coast Guard now has 96 Dolphins in service at 17 air stations. The air station at Barbers Point, Hawaii, reached the milestone on September 20 while on a medical run with a patient on board. Coast Guard duty can be highly hazardous because crews operate in some of the most extreme weather conditions in the world. The helicopter model played a key role in lifesaving operations in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All of the Coast Guard's Dolphins have received engine upgrades to give them more power and increased safety margins.
It's rare when a new aviation museum opens. Actually, this story is more about celebrating a move to a new location. And that move brings newfound energy and a community ready to be exposed to the wonders of flight. The Southern California Historical Aviation Foundation scheduled a November 4 grand opening for the Western Museum of Flight at the historic Zamperini Field in Torrance, California. The event represented the culmination of years of preparation, including a move from Hawthorne, California. The museum offers an inside look at completed and in-progress aircraft restoration projects, including a collection featuring numerous warbirds, target drones, piston and jet aircraft engines, aircraft components, aircraft ejection seats, World War II instruments, air crew accessories, an extensive model aircraft collection, and an aviation library. For more information, visit the museum's Web site.
Oliver Smithies, AOPA 610902, has won the 2007 Nobel Prize in medicine. He shares the prize with Mario R. Capecchi and Sir Martin J. Evans. "Their discoveries led to the creation of an immensely powerful technology referred to as gene targeting in mice. It is now being applied to virtually all areas of biomedicine—from basic research to the development of new therapies," according to the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, which chose the award winners. Smithies flies his Grob 109B motorglider in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, area. He joined AOPA in 1977.
When aircraft companies learn about automotive technology, it doesn't necessarily result in flying cars. But it can improve safety. The FAA has been introducing aviation professionals to the world of simulation software through a series of workshops. One of the participants is TNO Automotive Safety Solutions (TASS), a European firm that specializes in crash simulation and occupant safety. TASS uses MADYMO, engineering software that allows researchers to learn things about aircraft seats, for instance, without crashing expensive vehicles. This new approach could lead to virtual testing and certification.
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