During a visit to Tucson, Arizona, an AOPA Pilot writer/photographer team found four British visitors waiting in the lobby of a flight school. Scenic flights? No, these were plane spotters, a hobby enjoyed by thousands of enthusiasts worldwide. They have membership organizations, Internet sites, and magazines dedicated to the sport. While most tourists might visit Tucson’s nearby Saguaro National Park, these tourists were ready to photograph airplane boneyards from the skies so the aircraft could be identified later.
One carried a directory of all the world’s airlines with those he has spotted crossed off in yellow highlighter. Gary Shaw said he has made a dozen trips—five of them to the United States—in many decades of active plane spotting. He has traveled to China and made day trips from Britain to continental Europe just to spot aircraft. “People think we are crazy,” he said.
While there are a few spotters dedicated to small airplanes, most are interested only in the big airliners. And, while tourists landing at Phoenix head off for the scenic mountains or perhaps the Grand Canyon, British plane spotters head for the top deck of the airport parking garage—one of the best spots in America to photograph aircraft. The Double Eagle flight school at Tucson International Airport conducts 60 plane-spotting flights a year for foreign tourists.
You could have stopped the career of Don Lopez, 84, at any point and it would have been a success. If his career had ended early, he would have been known as a World War II fighter ace who challenged a Japanese pilot head on. The Japanese pilot veered just enough to avoid a head-on collision, but his aircraft was destroyed while Lopez was able to limp home (see “ Gallery of Legends,” February AOPA Pilot). You could have said he was a U.S. Air Force test pilot. You could say he helped plan and open the original Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 1972, developing the exhibits and writing many of the information plaques there today, going on to help plan and open the museum’s annex at Dulles International Airport. At the time of his death he was the museum’s deputy director after leaving the post in 1990 and after a series of advisory and retirement-based titles before returning to the position of full-time deputy director. You could point to his role as a systems engineer on the Apollo-Saturn launch vehicle and the Skylab Orbital Workshop, helping to get the country into space and training the next generation by teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Any one of those accomplishments would be a success in itself.
With spring flying in the air you'll be looking for ways to capitalize on your next $100 hamburger run. AOPA's Airport Directory Online can help you do just that with more than 5,600 fuel prices right at your fingertips. Find the lowest fuel prices within a radius of an airport or by state and fuel type, and view a regional fuel trend map. Fuel prices are provided by 100LL.com and updated frequently. Once you've located your fuel stop select and book your hotel direct through AOPA's Airport Directory Online. Powered by Orbitz, the Nearby hotels search in the airport listings let you make your hotel reservation online, quick and easy.— Machteld Smith
There’s something about floatplanes and Alaska that grabs the attention of many pilots. Just look at the quaint scene of a de Havilland Beaver perched on an alpine lake in Misty Fiords National Monument near Ketchikan, Alaska, which earned AOPA member James Jakubek this month’s top spot in AOPA Pilot’s General Aviation Photography Contest. Go online to see a full-size version of the photograph and view the runners-up. Now is also a good time to unleash your own talent: Submit your best photograph online to contend for cash prizes and a chance to be published in AOPA Pilot. The contest runs through September 2, 2008.— Machteld Smith
When Steven Bromberg of Crestwood, Alabama, purchased an old flight logbook for $25 at an antiques shop, he had no idea it would be worth so much more than that. How it ended up on the shelf in the What’s on 2nd antique shop remains a mystery.
Bromberg’s find, and an Internet search, led him to 82-year-old World War II veteran Jack S. Marshall, who lives in the Fair Haven Retirement Center in nearby Birmingham, Alabama. A quick phone call to Marshall, and Bromberg was invited to return the logbook to its rightful owner.
With 15,000 hours of flight time logged, Marshall has many stories to tell about his flying experiences—from the time he got lost on his first solo cross-country flight in an AT-6, to flying A-26 Invaders during the Korean War and C-123 Providers during Vietnam War-era service with Air America, to his return to civilian life as an airline pilot before retiring in 1978.
“Since a child, I’ve been in love with some of these old airplanes, and it’s amazing to talk face to face with somebody who flew them,” said Bromberg, 21. “Hearing stories of the flying that was done in these old airplanes and being able to understand their meaning and connect to them from a pilot’s perspective, makes the stories that much more meaningful and realistic.”
He visits Marshall at least once a week to listen.
Bromberg, a junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), is a corporate pilot flying a Beech 58 Baron. He is also a flight instructor.— Kathryn Opalewski
Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year. For more information call 800-872-2672.
Compiled by Kathryn Opalewski
May 30, 1958 | The first Douglas DC-8 flies.
May 11, 1959 | The Vertol 107 helicopter, a twin-turbine-powered transport, is demonstrated in flight at Philadelphia International Airport.
May 1, 1960 | An American U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, is shot down over Russia.
May 1, 1961 | The first series of aircraft hijackings in the United States began when a passenger on a flight to Key West, Florida, forces the pilot to fly to Cuba.
May 25, 1961 | A Special Civil Air Regulation bans the use of portable FM radios on U.S. civil aircraft.
May 4, 1964 | President Johnson announces the formation of a 32-member FAA Women’s Advisory Committee on Aviation, created to advise the FAA Administrator on matters relating to women in civil aviation.
May 1965 | Learjet establishes three world speed records, from Los Angeles to New York, returning in 10 hours and 21 minutes with two refueling stops.
May 1, 1967 | The FAA drops its requirement that applicants under 21 years of age have parental or guardian consent for student pilot certificates.
May 21, 1971 | The FAA establishes the Office of General Aviation.
May 26, 1972 | Cessna completes the company’s 100,000th aircraft.
May 14, 1973 | Skylab, the first American space station, is launched.
May 14, 1973 | In Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal, the U.S. Supreme Court prohibits states and municipalities from imposing curfews on jet aircraft operations.
May 19, 1976 | Golfing legend Arnold Palmer leads a Learjet 36 to an around-the-world record of 48 hours, 48 minutes flight time (57 hours and 26 minutes total).
May 1977 | John Baker is named second president of AOPA.
May 1983 | The Learjet 55LR sets world speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Paris in 12 hours, 37 minutes.
May 29, 1985 | The world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov An-124, makes its first public appearance at Le Bourget Airport for the Paris Air Show.
May 28, 1987 | Nineteen-year-old German pilot Mathias Rust flies a Cessna 172 undetected from Helinski, Finland, to Moscow’s Center, and lands near Red Square.
May 7, 1996 | DOT announces that about 80 percent of nonstop scheduled U.S. airline flights between the United States and foreign countries would become non-smoking as of June 1.
May 28, 1997 | Linda Finch flies a restored 62-year-old Lockheed Electra 10E to recreate the 1931 Amelia Earhart flight to circumnavigate the globe solo in 73 days.
May 2, 2002 | Erik Lindbergh lands the New Spirit of St. Louis in Paris.
May 28, 2003 | Cirrus delivers an SR22 airplane to its first Russian customer.