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A human-powered helicopter built by university students and a hybrid flying car designed by Burt Rutan were among the highlights of a year of aviation innovation. AOPA contributor Dan Namowitz recaps a busy year for those who dare, including Yves Rossy, who cruised at 190 mph above the Grand Canyon with a jet engine, stubby wings and a parachute strapped to his back. Speaking of speed, 160 knots was long believed to be the speed barrier no helicopter could break until Sikorsky Aircraft engineers left that limit in the dust (and earned a Collier Trophy) with the revolutionary X2. While they set the record in 2010, the helicopter toured the United States in 2011 and made an appearance at AOPA Aviation Summit. Airframe and power plant merge into one with the FanWing, a design by Patrick Peebles under development in the United Kingdom that creates a true marriage of lift and trust. Read more >>
A Denver TV news reporter with a distinctly aeronautical name is reaching for a future in aviation modeled on an ancestor’s historic past. KUSA-TV 9News reporter Amelia Rose Earhart says she “knew” after taking a first flight lesson in 2004 that she and her famous ancestor had more than a name in common. Now a private pilot training for an instrument rating, Earhart launched Dec. 26 on the first leg of a flight designed to recreate some of the milestones that led up to Amelia Mary Earhart’s 1937 attempt to circle the globe. Read more >>
Changes at the top marked 2011
There were changes in latitude, attitude—all sorts of changes as longtime general aviation leaders disappeared from the scene. In some cases, personnel changes were driven by the economy, but for others, it was personal misfortune. Unfortunately, the most recent event is always the first remembered, so we lead off with the departure from the FAA of Administrator Randy Babbitt, who resigned after a long and productive career in aviation following a charge of driving while intoxicated. Read more >>
Winter may be snowbird’s delight
Knock on wood, but if fall in the Northeast was any indication, maybe winter won’t be worth getting frosted about this year. That’s what some people are saying, anyway. Will their whimsy be warranted? Or will they be walking in a winter wonderland? For an answer—or anyway, for clues—it is customary this time of year to turn to Andover, Mass.-based Weather Services International for its seasonal outlook in six regions of the country. In all regions except the Southeast and South-Central, WSI expects a colder-than-normal January and February. Read more >>
Corporate Angel Network marks 30 years of service
A Gulfstream V lifted off from New York’s Westchester County Airport on Dec. 22 with a special passenger on board, a girl bound for cancer care in Florida. The landing in Palm Beach marked 30 years of donated aviation orchestrated by Corporate Angel Network, with more than 40,000 flights—and counting. Read more >>
Fly like a fighter: Down we go
Aside from drag devices, fighters also have the option of performing a low-power but high-G descending spiral to keep the airspeed under control while making a rapid descent. Alas, not all of these options are available in general aviation airplanes. From cruise at 8,000 feet to 12,000 feet msl, would you consider ripping your throttle to idle to expedite your descent? Retired Air Force pilot Larry Brown discusses his unconventional method of descending from 20,000 feet in a hurry on a T-38 training flight—and alternative methods of descent for piston GA aircraft. Read more >>
GA accident, fatality rates down in 2010
General aviation accidents and fatalities declined in 2010 for the fourth consecutive year, according to National Transportation Safety Board data released this month. In total number, the 1,435 GA accidents marked a 20-year low, even as estimated total flight hours began to climb for the first time since the Great Recession began. There were 450 GA accident fatalities in 2010, down from 478 in 2009. Read more >>
AOPA Live® put viewers in the cockpit of the world’s smallest twin, the fastest helicopter that ever flew, and a pair of amphibians during a busy 2011. A how-to guide to the impossible turn and a lesson from an aerobatics instructor also landed on the list of most popular views.
Top 10 videos of 2011, brought to you by United Technologies:
For daily news updates, see AOPA Online.
Safety & Proficiency
A leisurely flight for hamburgers and picture-taking can get hectic if weather deteriorates. Low clouds and fog haven’t reached your destination yet, but they’re moving in fast on a wet south breeze. Inbound pilots are commenting on it, and your passengers are starting to ask questions. At least you can “pick up a clearance,” as the hangar philosophers always prescribe. Read how the scenario unfolds, and weigh in on whether you’d classify the flight as a success.
Is there a right way to change transponder codes?
For some pilots, switching transponder codes means putting their transponder in standby mode before making the change, then going back to active mode once the new code is entered. But as it turns out, that may not be the preferred method. While it may seem like a small procedural difference, there is a reason behind the answer. Listen to the latest installment of the Ask ATC series from the Air Safety Institute as a controller explains how, and why, pilots should change transponder codes. Watch AOPA Live >>
Enough fuel to get there should never be in question
Making an unplanned fuel stop on a cross-country flight may be inconvenient, but imagine the inconvenience of making an emergency off-airport landing because the airplane’s fuel tanks are empty. While it seems like an unreasonable outcome, the reality is that fuel mismanagement continues to be one of the top causes of accidents. It is nearly always an avoidable cause. Learn more about fuel management at the Air Safety Institute’s Fuel Management Safety Spotlight, which features an interactive map of fuel-related accidents.
Fly Well: Was that for me?
Sometimes there’s too much chatter; sometimes, traversing the wild blue, one simply misses a radio call. Sometimes it’s something else. According to the National Institutes of Health, about one-third of folks over age 65 have some hearing loss, rising to 50 percent at 75. If you’re not hearing well you may not be flying well, representing a threat to yourself and others. Read more >>
Flying single-pilot IFR (SPIFR) can be rewarding, but it requires a careful preparation and an honest evaluation of your proficiency level. After all, without a co-pilot or cabin crew, you have a lot on your plate: aviate, navigate, communicate, and program avionics—and if you have passengers, you’ll be their flight attendant as well. Before your next solo IFR flight, take the Air Safety Institute’s Single-Pilot IFR online course and be prepared to constantly balance risks with skills, equipment, and knowledge.
In the spirit of the aviation mnemonic that uses “the five Ts” to remember what comes next on an instrument approach, you could say that taxes, technology, training, tetraethyl lead, and tracking of aircraft by Internet users highlighted a checklist of issues facing general aviation in 2011. Don’t be surprised if a few of them make it back on the list again next year. Read more >>
Keeping the taxman at bay
When budget shortfalls plague states—they faced an estimated total budget gap of $41 billion this fiscal year—many introduce tax proposals aimed squarely at general aviation in hopes of finding a quick fix. But unfair tax proposals can put pilots, mechanics, and other industry workers out of work—and still not help a state’s bottom line. AOPA fought many well-intentioned, yet ill-advised tax proposals in 2011 and looks ahead to challenges in 2012. Read more >>
Online aircraft registration deadline approaches
Miss this deadline and your aircraft will be grounded. The FAA requires all aircraft registered prior to Oct. 1, 2010, to re-register, and online applications from owners of aircraft registered in July of any year are being accepted through Jan. 31. Owners of aircraft with July registration should have received a letter from the FAA with a code to be used when re-registering online. Read more >>
Did you get an iPad over the holidays?
If one of your holiday gifts was an Apple iPad, you can use it to read your AOPA magazine online. First, become a digital subscriber to AOPA Pilot and/or Flight Training magazine. Follow the instructions in your confirmation email to activate your subscription. Then, view the video and download the free AOPA Mags app. After you log in, you can download your magazine(s) for effortless offline reading—and videos and other extended content are just a tap away. Questions or problems? Read our frequently asked questions >>
Are your insurance policies overdue for their annual inspection?
As another year comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to review your insurance policies. A lot can happen in a year, and your coverage needs may have changed. You may even find that it’s time to shop around for better rates. If so, as a pilot, AOPA should be the natural first stop for you. AOPA offers great rates on everything from term life insurance to accidental death and dismemberment insurance to aircraft insurance to auto insurance, and more. Because they are AOPA certified, you won’t have to pay higher rates just for being a pilot. Make sure when you take your first flight of 2012 you can relax and enjoy the flight knowing that you’re covered by AOPA’s Insurance Services.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for a director of corporate finance, manager of flight training programs, online product manager, AOPA Live producer/videojournalist, associate editor–Web/ ePilot, and aviation technical specialist. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.