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Pilot Briefing

Virgin Galactic ‘Enterprise’ completes glide test The suborbital commercial tourist spaceship VSS (Virgin Spaceship) Enterprise—also known as SpaceShipTwo—owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company completed its first unpowered glide test October 10. You can see a video of the flight on the Virgin Galactic website.

Virgin Galactic ‘Enterprise’ completes glide test

The suborbital commercial tourist spaceship VSS (Virgin Spaceship) Enterprise—also known as SpaceShipTwo—owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company completed its first unpowered glide test October 10. You can see a video of the flight on the Virgin Galactic website.

The spacecraft was released from its launch aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo—also known as Eve—at 45,000 feet and spent 11 minutes testing systems (including the release mechanism), making a practice approach at a high altitude, and landing at Mojave Air and Space Port, California. A happy face is printed on the bottom of the mother ship, wishing the rocket pilots a nice day.

The spacecraft and launch aircraft were built by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites company. Rutan said it appears little tweaking will be required based on initial results.

Cessna building a turboprop?

Persistent rumors that Cessna is developing a single-engine turboprop appear to be true. In an interview with AOPA Pilot, Cessna President Jack Pelton hinted strongly that the company has been working on a design that would fill the niche between Cessna’s Corvallis TT high-performance piston single and its Mustang light twinjet. See an interview with Jack Pelton on AOPA Live.

“The Mustang evolved from a twin turboprop design we were exploring in the late 1990s,” Pelton said. Rumors assert that there have been sightings of a single-engine turboprop that closely resembles the Mustang in the Wichita area.

Other rumors say the mystery airplane already has an N number, and is being hidden in Pelton’s personal hangar. “The airplane would ideally have a cruise speed greater than 300 knots…and a price point between $1 million and $2.2 million,” Pelton said. “We want to be south of the Mustang in terms of price.”

Pelton said that Cessna’s current strategy is to emphasize its light and mid-size offerings by making upgraded—or new—variants on an annual basis. “We want to be positioned with new products when the economic recovery comes,” he said. —Thomas A. Horne

HondaJet enters ground testing

The HondaJet is rapidly headed through testing in preparation for customer delivery. As this was written, ground testing had begun on the first conforming flight test aircraft, while a second HondaJet was in static structural testing. A third aircraft to be used for certification was in production.

GE Honda is building 20 engines under a 50-50 joint venture with Honda, 10 to be used for certification and 10 to be used for customer deliveries. The HF120 engine has been ground tested in special test facilities to 46,000 feet and Mach 0.85. The intent is to win FAA and EASA certification in 2011. Test cells have been installed in a plant at Burlington, North Carolina.

“In addition to the more than 500 flight hours we have accumulated on the proof of concept HondaJet, the successful completion of this robust range of static structural stress tests on the conforming aircraft significantly reinforces the advantages of the HondaJet’s advanced design,” said Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft Company’s president and CEO.

A fourth conforming aircraft will be used for fatigue testing scheduled for 2012.

Honda is now focused on assembly of the third conforming aircraft to be used for flight testing of mechanical systems. The fuselage and empennage for this aircraft have been completed, while the wing assembly nears completion. Final assembly of this aircraft is scheduled to begin soon at Honda’s research and development facility in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The 250,000-square-foot production facility in Greensboro is in the final phase of construction, with interior build-out well under way. The facility is scheduled for completion in May 2011, at which time pre-production preparations and training of production staff will begin. The HondaJet production facility will incorporate FlightSafety International Level-D full-motion flight simulators for training of pilots.

First cargo flight celebrated

A re-enactment of the nation’s first air cargo flight took place in Ohio October 2 with the flight of a Wright Model B lookalike airplane from Dayton to Columbus.

In 1910, using one of their airplanes assigned to the Wright exhibition team, and with one of their newly trained pilots, the Wright brothers accepted an order from an Ohio businessman and carried 200 pounds of silk cloth along the route. The businessman then cut the cloth into patches, fixed the patches to postcards, and sold them to the public at a profit.

The National Aviation Heritage Alliance, in partnership with the Wright B Flyer Inc., celebrated the 100th anniversary of air cargo with the flight.

The Wrights, recognizing the value of their invention, charged the businessman $5,000 to deliver the cloth. Today’s equivalent value of the freight charge would exceed $120,000.

The cargo for the commemorative flight was a piece of ceramic composite cloth and a micro unmanned air vehicle, a symbol of the Dayton region’s connection to aviation and aerospace innovations. “I believe that in another hundred years, we will see a headline that speaks to the unmanned air vehicle industry and its roots in Dayton just as we see today with the air cargo industry,” said Tony Perfilio, the incoming chairman of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance.

New Products: Sporty's SP-400

We finally had the chance to fly with Sporty’s new SP-400 handheld radio, and our initial impression is quite good. Although we have yet to test the communication radio, the navigation radio is what this radio is really about anyway.

Sporty’s SP-400 is the first handheld radio ever to offer a fully functioning localizer and glideslope. The large display acts like a mini nav head, and digitally produces the indications necessary to intercept VOR radials, localizer signals, and full ILS.

Our test found the radio to be exactly as advertised. It allowed us to fly an ILS approach as easily as if we were using our panel-mounted equipment. The indications were spot-on, and we never lost signal.

New Products

Sporty’s SP-400

Price: $399

The radio is exceptionally easy to use. Frequencies are punched in via a numeric keypad. There are buttons for the most recent frequency, and the entire unit is meant to be operated with one hand. Volume and squelch knobs are separate for ease of use.

Sporty’s philosophy is to sell the basic radio and then allow customers to add on accessories as necessary. That means the base model comes with a battery pack for eight AA batteries, which many pilots will prefer. Optional accessories are plentiful and include a rechargeable battery pack, headset adapter, remote antenna, cigarette lighter charger, and more.

If the idea of losing all electrical power in instrument conditions keeps you up at night like it does us, Sporty’s SP-400 is a bargain, and well worth the investment. —Ian J. Twombly

Say Again?

Test yourself with these aviation quiz questions

By AOPA Pilot staff

  1. The first U.S. fighter capable of exceeding 400 miles per hour in level flight was:
    a. P–51 Mustang
    b. P–47 Thunderbolt
    c. F4U Corsair
    d. P–38 Lightning
  2. Who was Bessica Medlar Raiche?
  3. What does “balls to the wall” mean in aviation parlance and what does “balls” refer to?
  4. From AOPA member Gerald Griggs: Which airline offered the first rotary-wing air service?
  5. How many flying cars have been created over the history of aviation and how many actually flew?
    a. Five and three actually flew
    b. 20 and five actually flew
    c. 50 and 10 actually flew
    d. 100 and five actually flew
    e. 1,900 and 288 actually flew

Harrison Ford to receive Wright trophy

Actor, pilot, aviation spokesman, and aircraft owner Harrison Ford will receive the 2010 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy at a dinner December 17 in
Washington, D.C., for his support and defense of general aviation.

The National Aeronautic Association will present the award. The citation will read: “For engaging our nation’s youth in aviation and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders, innovators and enthusiasts to secure a strong future for all of aviation.”

NAA established this award in 1948 to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Ford has established himself as a passionate defender of the freedoms aviation provides. He served as spokesman for AOPA’s General Aviation Serves America outreach program and chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program. Following the Haiti earthquake Ford flew supplies to the beleaguered island in his Cessna Caravan. He also flew athletes to the Special Olympics and served as chairman of the 2010 Special Olympics Airlift.

New Products: DTC DUAT

In the October issue of AOPA Pilot we inadvertently left DTC DUAT off our list of free online flight planners, and after giving it a fresh look recently we’re sorry we did. What DUAT lacks in flashiness it makes up for in handy flight planning features that are truly easy to use

New Products


Price: Free

DTC is one of the FAA’s original DUAT system contractors, so the company’s weather products are well known at this point. But it’s a shame the company’s flight planning software doesn’t have the same level of notoriety because the planning tools are worth investing the few minutes it takes to learn them.

At its most basic, the flight planner will give heading, time, and distance between two points. It will also suggest airway routing, or VOR point-to-point routing, both of which are helpful, but also fairly standard these days. But with one click, you can also get approach plates, file a flight plan directly through an official FAA source, and view your route on a sectional chart.

This last feature is the service’s newest, and it’s also one of the most unique. Using a Google Map interface, you can place your route over the sectional chart (without having to retype it), and scroll around quickly as necessary. This page will also let you overlay any weather graphics (including radar), highlight any special-use airspace, and then print the entire thing to take on the flight with you. It’s a unique way to bring all the information right to the chart.

Everything on DTC DUAT remains free, and at least in this case, it seems like you get more than you pay for. —Ian J. Twombly

Say Again? Answers

  1. c. The F4U Corsair, known as “Whistling Death” by the Japanese and the “Sweetheart of Okinawa” by American troops in World War II, was said to “outclimb, outrun, and outfight” any enemy in its day.
  2. Dentist, businesswoman, and physician Bessica Medlar Raiche and her husband, Francois, built a Wright-style biplane in their living room and she is accredited with being the first woman to solo in an airplane in 1910 in Mineola, New York. The couple were newlyweds at the time.
  3. The phrase means to fly an airplane at maximum power. The balls are the ones on the top of each engine control knob (throttle, prop, mixture). Moving those balls to the firewall provides maximum power.
  4. An Eastern Air Lines Kellett KD-1B autogyro flew between the rooftop of the Philadelphia Post Office and the Camden, New Jersey, Airport in 1939. The flights lasted about six minutes and carried mail.
  5. e. According to author John Brown, 1,900 designs have resulted in 288 cars that have actually flown (see “ Keepers of the Car”).

Do you have suggestions for aviation quiz questions that will stump other pilots? Send your questions to [email protected] .

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