Flying in a hot air balloon is something Technical Editor Mike Collins has done several times over the years, but he’d never participated in anything on the scale of a mass ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (“ The Air Up There,”). “There are balloons in every direction. You don’t know where to train your camera—good photos are everywhere,” he says, adding that good coordination on the ground is key to launching 500 balloons in less than two hours. The biggest surprise on his very first balloon flight? “Knowing the balloon moves with the air, I didn’t expect any wind,” he recalls. “But you can feel a good breeze during a spirited ascent.” In addition to his duties as technical editor for the AOPA Media division, Collins is an experienced photojournalist who enjoys getting his camera out when he’s not crunching numbers or fact-checking articles.
The LSA category has come to be dominated by European manufacturers building composite airplanes in modern factories—but that doesn’t seem to faze Van’s Aircraft founder Dick Van Grunsven. The RV–12 is an American design made of metal that owners can build themselves. “The RV–12 is quickly becoming the class of the E-LSA category because it’s an exceptionally good-flying aircraft,” says Senior Editor Dave Hirschman, owner of another Van’s design—an RV–3. “My only hope regarding this airplane is that some manufacturing firm—perhaps Van’s Aircraft?—decides to put this design in production. It’s just a great flying machine.” Hirschman flew the first RV–12 built from a factory kit (see “ Van’s RV–12: Something to Savor,”).
“I never thought there would be so much laughing,” says contributor Jason Paur after his visit to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Despite the seriousness of the training, the jokes kept coming all day in the simulator.” Paur was with the flight-deck crew of STS-132 during their final sim session before the last scheduled flight of the orbiter Atlantis last May (see “ Out of Space,”). Paur says the workload for the four crewmembers was incredible during the several launch/ascent simulations they rehearsed. “The focus and knowledge needed to deal with emergencies required crew resource management beyond anything I’ve ever seen.” But whenever there was a break and the full-motion sim was being reset, “There was plenty of laughter in the cockpit, to break up the tension,” he says. Paur is an aviation correspondent for Wired.com.
Guess what? AOPA’s next annual sweepstakes is already under way! Project manager and Editor at Large Tom Horne has been scouring the nation for the right 1970s-era Cessna 182 to refurbish. As you’ll discover in this issue (“ 2011 Crossover Classic Sweepstakes: Skylane Seeking,”), a good, used 182 can be hard to find. When asked how the search was going, Horne sarcastically replied, “I think airplanes of that vintage must all have damage histories.” But it won’t be long before he lays hands on a keeper and its transformation to what we’re calling the “Crossover Classic” begins (our refurbished 182 will easily cross from town to country packed with power). It promises to be one of the more exciting sweepstakes refurbishments AOPA has ever undertaken. And Horne should know—this is his third time as the sweepstakes project manager.