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Pilot BriefingPilot Briefing

The flying oceanographerThe flying oceanographer

Eddie Kisfaludy, 32, worked in a dive shop when he was 14 and tossed radio-controlled gliders off the cliffs at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California. In a way he is still doing that, only now he is a marine biology researcher for Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and he flies a Piper Cherokee Six off a runway at San Diego’s Montgomery Field.

Eddie Kisfaludy, 32, worked in a dive shop when he was 14 and tossed radio-controlled gliders off the cliffs at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California. In a way he is still doing that, only now he is a marine biology researcher for Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and he flies a Piper Cherokee Six off a runway at San Diego’s Montgomery Field.

Kisfaludy had wanted to fly since the model glider days, but the issues of school, time, and money were always in the way. He graduated with a degree in marine biology in 2000 and became a pilot in 2001. He is a flight instructor with multiengine and instrument ratings on his commercial certificate.

Once his coworkers discovered he is a pilot, they asked if he could fly in support of their research. To serve that need he started Oceans Aloft that not only offers aerial support, but also provides some of the services he performs for Scripps; now a diver, he gathers marine specimens and places scientific equipment on the ocean floor.

He bought a 1978 Cherokee Six and provides transportation for marine science missions to nearly a dozen organizations, including Wildcoast—a water and marine life defense organization. Kisfaludy flies nearly 30 missions a year for the organizations, and five a year for Scripps. He is helping his fiancée, freelance television reporter Natasha Stenbock, to produce a 12-minute documentary on shark behavior for Wildcoast. For that, they fly to Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula where there is a protected biosphere reserve. (That means the public can’t go there.)

To support the documentary he needed a gyroscopically stabilized camera but didn’t want to cut a hole in the floor of his Cherokee Six. So he invented a unique mount that fastens inside the aircraft, but reaches out the rear door to the bottom of the aircraft. A helicopter with a similar camera, like those used for news coverage, would cost $10,000 per day. “Marine biologists don’t have that kind of funding,” Kisfaludy said. He got an FAA field approval for it in mid-September.

His most unusual mission was to pick up a cellphone-sized computer that detached automatically after tracking a shark following its release from the well-known Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California. It had recorded the shark’s travels and the depth of its journey. The aquarium traps sharks, displays them for a few months, and releases them with a tag that floats to the surface on a pre-arranged date. Kisfaludy flew to an airport on the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, got in a boat, and followed a radio signal to the floating shark tag.

In September he used his Cherokee Six to lead an AOPA Pilot formation. AOPA’s Chief Photographer Mike Fizer photographed the Cessna SkyCatcher while Kisfaludy flew and Stenbock, an avid general aviation pilot, acted as safety pilot. Next time a shark drops its cellphone, call Eddie and Natasha.

Bears 500, humans 0

Michael Hughes is not your suit-and-tie-wearing kind of guy. He left California for Alaska because he didn’t like the sort of flying he had to do; one airspace complication after another. Doesn’t like air taxi work, either. You could use all the clichés about marching to a different drummer, but he doesn’t do marching. The job he has now is a perfect fit.

“I’m a bear-viewing guide,” he said recently while visiting his family in Auburn, California. They are sometimes referred to as bear spotters. Hughes takes 500 tourists a year to the bears, and all have safely returned.

He loads his Cessna 206 with tourists seeking a close and personal experience with brown bears. Hughes knows where they are. He lands on a beach and tells his group, “Don’t get more than 10 feet from the plane until the bear safety briefing is complete. The bears will come over that ridge.” And they do. Hughes operates K-Bay Air with his son and an office manager.

Hughes said these bears haven’t learned to fear humans or see them as a food source as yet. “No beer-drinking campers have fed them, or harassed them, because the bears are 120 miles into the wilderness.” One bear actually looks forward to his visits, dropping by the airplane not to see the tourists, but to see Hughes. He has a close-up photo of that bear just a few feet away. His toes are in the photo—still attached.

Sometimes the bears are wandering on the runway when he is ready to take off. He wisely chooses to wait until they decide on their own to clear the beach. Then there was that time when he gave his little speech about staying within 10 feet of the airplane, and a tourist popped open the door just as a brown bear walked within four feet. (The door was quickly closed again.)

How did the bear get to the airplane so fast after the engine stopped? Only one explanation. Apparently, the bears have a human viewing guide, and he/she/it may be giving tours, too.

Palatka Airport: Revitalized gateway to Florida’s freshwater coast

By Patti Trujillo

Kay Larkin Field (28J), the Palatka Municipal Airport, is situated on the St. Johns River near the Jacksonville International Airport in northeast Florida. Approximately $4.5 million of upgrades and improvements have been implemented at this facility in the last three years, largely through the efforts of local business and government leaders and U.S. Congressman John Mica (R-Fla.). The FAA, State of Florida, and City of Palatka provided funding.

The airport has three runways—3,000 feet, 3,500 feet, and the 6,003-foot primary runway, 9/27, which accommodates 65,000-pound dual-wheel landings. There is an industrial park and a business park; 54 T-hangars; commercial and executive hangars; and a new corporate hangar.

Palatka’s airport hosts 24,000 operations in a year, reports John Youell, airport director. “This is a perfect place for flight school training—our location draws a lot of flight school activity. And we do have a lot of room for expansion.” There are hundreds of acres at the airport site available for development. Palatka is looking forward to adding major commercial operations such as an airline maintenance facility, shipping concern, or a government aviation contract.

“A lot of the improvements to the airport that Congressman Mica has been a part of are not visible,” says Youell. “There’s been a lot of substructure put in here to accommodate this airport.”

This includes the long-awaited AWOS- III P/T, an automated weather observation system with precipitation, thunder, and lightning detection. Improved safety is an important facet of the airport renovations.

The new terminal building is spacious and tastefully furnished. There is an ultra-modern conference room with drop-down screens and ceiling-installed computer projection system. There are comfortable, well-appointed facilities for visitors, and an airport shop.

The airport is reviewing a proposal with Avia Aero Services, a flight school specializing in sophisticated simulator training, to establish an office there.

The terminal building can also serve as an operations center for the city in the event of a catastrophe. “It was built and designed so that in the event of a storm, city operations will not cease; the facility will accommodate us for the worst of storms,” says Palatka Mayor Karl Flagg.

City Manager Woody Boynton said, “I don’t believe we could have gotten any closer to what the original intention was for this airport.”

A T–6 Texan World War II trainer aircraft overlooks the new apron that borders the repaved and lengthened Taxiway Bravo, the main artery of the field’s pavement system. Modern military aircraft use the airport for training exercises. “Presently we’re getting our crosswind/secondary taxiway repaved. That should be completed [soon],” says Youell.

These upgrades have transformed the facility into a viable business center and the aviation port of the area’s integrated multimodal transportation system.

Youell would like to hold air shows and is working with the local school system to bring children to the airport. “We’ve got to get them looking up to the sky and saying, ‘I can do that.’”

Hawker Beechcraft layoffs trigger protest

Hawker Beechcraft employees staged a protest after the latest round of layoffs. On September 28 Hawker Beechcraft gave 240 employees their 60-day layoff notices. But some workers question the move, according to Wichita television station KAKE-TV.

“We’re letting the community be aware of what Hawker Beechcraft is doing to the employees. They’re going around and telling everybody that we’re being laid off. We’re not being laid off. We’re being subcontracted,” said worker Debbie Thornbro. Workers assert that lower-paid substitutes will do the work. Some of the laid-off workers have been with Hawker Beechcraft for decades, and some are second- or third-generation employees.

In the past year, some 3,500 layoffs have taken place at Hawker Beechcraft, KAKE-TV said. Since August 21, a total of 783 layoff notices were issued, according to The Wichita Eagle. The Eagle also said that Hawker Beechcraft has shed about 29 percent of the company’s workforce since last November, when it had a total of 9,790 employees. —Thomas A. Horne

Aero Club of Pennsylvania to celebrate 100 years

The Aero Club of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest incorporated organizations of its kind in the United States. Founded in 1909 as a merger between the Aero Club of Philadelphia, the Ben Franklin Aeronautical Society, the Aeronautical Recreational Society, and the Ben Franklin Balloon Association, the club was instrumental in establishing the first training site for pilots in World War I and in the establishment of Philadelphia International Airport. A celebration of the anniversary will be held December 15 at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern, Pennsylvania (near historic Wings Field). Featured will be Connie Tobias, the first woman to successfully fly an exact replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer. For more information, visit the Web site or contact Nancy Kyle.

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