South Africa’s Sling is the 125th LSA on the U.S. market
There’s another new light sport aircraft (LSA) on the market—the mostly metal Sling from The Airplane Factory near Johannesburg, South Africa. Notable features include a tough, tank-like build; confidence-inspiring construction; comfortable seating; and a sliding bubble canopy that keeps you cool during taxi. It has nosewheel steering and a hand brake. A basic Sling comes ready to fly for $125,000 with radios, and electronic engine instruments that also have a GPS moving map in the display. The $145,000 demonstrator has 80-plus pounds of options to include a Magnum ballistic airframe parachute, an autopilot, and dual-screen glass cockpit by MGL Avionics plus dual MGL attitude and heading reference systems (AHRS). The company has offered aircraft for 18 months and has 65 airplanes out the door, counting both kit and factory-manufactured models, plus nearly 100 orders. Most were sold to South African customers who believe in the country’s 10-year “Proudly South African” campaign that keeps purchases, and thus jobs, at home. The Sling makes its first appearance this year at EAA AirVenture. It has the potential to make South Africa even prouder. —Alton K. Marsh
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The Wright glider makes a dramatic reappearance
The structure pitched and bobbed above the dunes of North Carolina like a giant kite. Resting prone on a meticulous reproduction of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s 1902 glider, I watched the elevator ahead of me flap in the coastal wind. “Here we go!” says Bruce Weaver, a manager at Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School. Instructors with ropes at the nose and both wing tips towed me out over the dune.
Kitty Hawk Kites offers training in the glider at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, near the site of the Wrights’ first flights, through an agreement with the nonprofit Discovery of Flight Foundation, which owns the reproduction. This design, based on the Wrights’ calculations of the coefficients of lift and drag and other data gathered from wind- tunnel testing, laid the groundwork for the successful 1903 powered aircraft.
“It’s the most important aircraft they built,” Discovery of Flight Foundation Executive Director Paul Glenshaw says.
Only about 30 people had flown a 1902 glider before Kitty Hawk Kites began training instructors for the classes beginning this summer, Weaver said. He estimated I was number 74.
Supported only at my ankles, hips, and elbows, I flexed my forearms and the aircraft pitched up. Not used to the sensitive elevator control, I overcorrected and dropped the nose, starting a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs. I suspect Wilbur was no stranger to pilot-induced oscillation.
After a few flights I grew comfortable relaxing my grip on the elevator control, allowing the elevator—or front rudder, as the Wright brothers dubbed it—to flap up and down in what Weaver described as the “sweet spot.” To turn, I swung my hips to either side and waited for the lazy roll response. I picked up speed and ventured a little higher, in a few cases leaving the instructors trailing behind me. The 1902 glider offers an impressive answer to the disappointing lift performance of the Wrights’ 1901 attempt: Facing 20- to 25-mile-per-hour winds, the 112-pound craft wanted to leap off the dunes. Between flights, an instructor pinned down the nose to keep it from launching spontaneously.
“It’s incredible knowing that when you fly this 1902 glider, you are feeling something that is exactly like the Wright brothers felt—same aircraft, same conditions, same location,” Weaver says. “You can’t get much closer to the Wright brothers than that.” —Sarah Brown
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The lore goes that the Breezy became known as the “naked airplane” after the pilot made an unscheduled landing in a nudist camp. The aircraft drew quite a crowd among the nudists who noted that the homebuilt “looks like us. It’s got nothing on.”
Fair enough. In fact, the skinless airplane does look a little naked, with its pilot and single passenger sitting in the breeze with no structure around them. Behind, a wing and tail section from any number of potential donors (Champ, Cub, Taylorcraft) support the Experimental airplane that typically is powered by a four-cylinder engine in a pusher configuration. The “fuselage” is a simple tube structure that keeps all the parts in tandem.
A photo on a calendar of designer Carl Unger flying the unusual airplane at the EAA Convention (now AirVenture) captured the imagination of former naval aviator and best-selling novelist Stephen Coonts, which led him on an adventure to have one for himself.
Two decades later, Coonts still flies what he calls the Witch’s Broom. On a recent spring Saturday he drew a crowd at the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Elkins Pilots Club in West Virginia, not far from his 1,700-acre farm where he has carved out an impressive grass strip that suits the Breezy just fine.
Coonts’ Breezy uses a set of Champ wings and tail for its flying surfaces. First designed and flown in 1964 by Unger and co-designers Charley Roloff and Bob Liposky, the airplane became best known for the 7,000-plus rides that Unger hopped over the decades at the EAA annual gathering. Unger landed innocently enough on a tree-lined strip near Chicago, only to find that it was in a nudist camp. As Unger relates, one of the first passengers ever on a Breezy was a woman from the camp wearing nothing but a pair of sandals.
Hey, keep that mental visual to yourself, OK?
Like Unger, Coonts delights in giving rides in the venerable Breezy that cruises at 65 mph—a speed that doesn’t seem quite so leisurely when you’re feeling the full blast of it in your face. First-time pilot riders generally spend the flight gripping the sides of the seats, Coonts says (and I can confirm!). The lack of structure around the seats strikes fear into the hearts of pilots used to being surrounded by aluminum or composite cabins. Kids, though, he says, take to it right away (supported by reports from my kids, who have flown with him and still talk about it years later).
While generally a breeze to fly, Coonts warns that the airplane is incredibly draggy, meaning that abrupt reductions in power result in tremendous descents in a hurry. It’s one airplane that is particularly unforgiving to those who get behind the power curve. For Coonts, the Breezy is the perfect airplane for roaming around his West Virginia neighborhood, enjoying the unobstructed vistas of the Mountain State. Think you’d like to do the same? Aircraft Spruce & Specialty, among others, still supports the model, and plans are available. —Thomas B. Haines
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Candidate fuels to replace leaded avgas could measure their progress against established milestones, go head-to-head with other fuels in a centralized FAA testing facility, and receive guidance from government and industry experts under a plan laid out in a recently released report.
The report of the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee outlines the hurdles facing the industry’s transition to an unleaded fuel for piston aircraft. A “fuel development roadmap,” centralized testing of candidate fuels, a process for soliciting and selecting those fuels for testing, a centralized certification office to support unleaded-fuel projects, and an industry-government initiative to implement the committee’s recommendations could facilitate the identification of potential replacement fuels in five years, and a transition that causes the least pain for owners of aircraft in the existing fleet.
The additive tetraethyl lead has long been used in aviation fuel to raise the octane to a level that prevents knock in high-power aircraft engines. No “drop in” unleaded replacement fuel is currently available, and no market forces will drive the industry to invest the significant expense required for approving and deploying a replacement fuel. The committee set five primary and 14 additional recommendations in a plan to develop and deploy an unleaded avgas.
Centralized testing at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center should generate standardized qualification and certification data, and eliminate the need for redundant testing; a solicitation and selection process should be established to choose candidates for the testing program. In addition, the FAA should establish a centralized certification office with ample resources to support the effort. Tying the plan together is the recommendation that a collaborative industry-government initiative, the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, implement the other recommendations “to facilitate the development and deployment of an unleaded avgas with the least impact on the existing piston-engine aircraft fleet.”
The rulemaking committee was formed at the urging of the General Aviation Avgas Coalition, which includes AOPA and associations representing other aspects of the general aviation and the petroleum industries. —Sarah Brown
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Election season means pop-up TFRs everywhere
As election season heats up, more temporary flight restrictions will pop up, interrupting pilots’ flights. With proper planning, pilots can safely fly through parts of a TFR. The inner 10-nm radius is always off-limits to GA flights, but the outer ring (between the 10- and 30-nm boundaries) is open to certain operations as long as pilots comply with procedures listed in the notam. Pilots who want to fly from Point A to Point B, with one or both being in the TFR, need to follow three steps: Be on an active VFR or IFR flight plan; maintain two-way communication with air traffic control; and squawk a discrete transponder code. Departing IFR typically doesn’t require any extra steps.
A phone call to flight service or ATC before departing a TFR can help settle nerves. Controllers and flight service welcome the inquiry—they don’t want aircraft to be intercepted, either. When flying from a nontowered airport, call ATC to receive a discrete transponder code and the appropriate frequency on which to contact controllers after climbing high enough. The key, one controller stressed, is to squawk the discrete code before the aircraft’s wheels leave the runway. No clearance is required to enter a TFR, just comply with the steps listed in the notam. When flying to an airport in a TFR, squawk the discrete transponder code until the aircraft lands, whether on a VFR or IFR flight plan.
“Always monitor 121.5 MHz,” said Tom Zecha, AOPA manager of aviation security. “If you do something wrong but can be reached on 121.5 MHz that will take all the drama out of the intercept.” In the event of a radio failure inside the TFR, alternate squawking 7600 and 7700, Zecha recommended. Next, exit the TFR on the most expeditious route (avoiding the 10-nm GA no-fly zone). Keep in mind, the quickest way to exit the TFR could be landing at the nearest airport. Keep those intercept procedures handy. —Alyssa J. Miller
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88 airports in 10 days
Two Ohio pilots completed a journey that included landings in each of the state’s 88 counties—flying their 1946 Piper J–3 Cubs. Joe Murray, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University, and retired physician Ron Siwik documented their trip on a website, Lost in Oscar Hotel (www.lostinoscar
Murray plans to write a book about flying in Ohio, and wanted to see as much of the state as possible from the air. He also thought the flight might inspire contributions to a scholarship fund. Murray’s students helped to document portions of the flight, which coincided with the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Piper Cub. Siwik said he invited himself along on the trip, although adventures are nothing new to him—in 2008, he flew his Bonanza on a 24,604-mile solo flight around the world. Both base their Cubs at Portage County Airport in Ravenna.
Good weather helped them finish the 1,809-mile trip in 36 hours, six minutes of flight time over 10 days, including a detour on the way home—the Newark, Ohio, runway was closed for resurfacing, so they landed at Buckeye Airport in nearby Hebron to check Licking County off their list.
“The most memorable thing was the constant welcome—the unrelenting enthusiasm at every stop,” Siwik said. “It was obvious that this was the thing to do.”
At the end of the trip, Murray’s arm was sore—not from flying, but from shaking so many hands at the airports they visited. “We’re going to be writing thank-yous for many months,” he said. “People were so good to us.” —Mike Collins
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Two historic aircraft of the 1930s and 40s are ready for their close-up. After five years in restoration at Sanders Aeronautics in Ione, California, the Collings Foundation has begun public appearances of its Messerschmitt Me 262. The legendary World War II jet aircraft helped change the future of aviation.
Another German aircraft of that era will also tour the United States. If you attended this year’s EAA AirVenture, you know the name Rimowa, a German manufacturer of suitcases costing $500 to $2,000. They were designed decades ago in Germany to mimic the corrugated aluminium construction of a Junkers Ju 52. Rimowa Chief Executive Dieter Morszeck decided to rent one from JU-Air in Switzerland (pronounced U Air), ride it to North America, tour the United States coast to coast, and park it at AirVenture for all to see. It has given rides in Switzerland for JU-Air—a sort of flying museum with four Ju 52 aircraft, since 1997. Morszeck, a direct descendent of the company founder, is a pilot. —Alton K. Marsh
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At AOPA Aviation Summit, October 11 through 13 in Palm Springs, California, you’ll be able to connect with experts one on one to help you take your flying to the next level. From new events that allow you to meet our expert speakers, to small roundtable discussions and learning sessions, you’ll leave Summit having relevant experiences to meet your flying goals (see insert after page 48).
Continue your learning by adding a new aircraft to your logbook, or get current with a CFI during AOPA Aviation Summit.
The following flight opportunities are offered at Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (TRM):
The Parade of Planes returns to AOPA Summit this year in Palm Springs, California, October 11 through 13. It’s not every day a pilot can help provide guidance for an aircraft taxiing around trees, light posts, and mailboxes down a street. Volunteers can register now to help anytime October 9 through 14. In addition to the Parade of Planes, we need volunteers to park aircraft, provide information, and direct ground transportation. Join us and you’ll receive a one-day pass (a $55 value) for Summit. Visit the website for information.
World Aircraft Company (WAC) of Paris, Tennessee, near the Kentucky border, has introduced the Vision Light Sport aircraft model. It features huge windows and large doors originally designed for the law enforcement world. It costs $112,995 ready to fly, or $42,295 as a painted kit that can be assembled in days. Windows will require riveting.
Vision is built on the Spirit airframe that the company introduced at Oshkosh last year. The instrument panel was reduced in size, and glass extended down the sides of the cabin so pilots could look forward and down. Baggage compartment windows were wrapped around the airframe for rearward and downward viewing. Vision is claimed to have “helicopter-like” visibility, a term also used by a competing manufacturer, Aerotrek.
The larger doors plus a folding control stick, aimed at older pilots, make entry and exit easier. The seat moves rearward seven inches to allow pilots to swing their feet in without bending their knees. Next up: a new low-wing model from WAC.
There are only three Zeppelin NT (new technology) behemoths flying in the world, and women fly two of them. One is in Germany, while Andrea Deyling just completed six months of training in the United States. Her new ride, the Zeppelin Eureka, is longer at 246 feet than a Boeing 747 fuselage. That’s as long as six giant squid laid end to end (that comparison was the company’s idea).
Deyling is the second woman in the world to achieve the qualification. Katharine Board captains a similar Zeppelin in Germany.
Deyling is not just a Zeppelin NT pilot, she’s a Zeppelin NT check pilot and can train others. There are only 22 pilots in the world qualified on the craft, which you can ride, by the way, in California through Airship Ventures.
Deyling has 2,500 hours in airships and once served as chief airship pilot at High Degree Operations. She flew a Navy blimp in support of the Coast Guard clean-up following the 2010 BP oil spill. Her enthusiasm for flight began at a high school aviation camp. Deyling is a fixed-wing pilot and flight instructor, as well as an accomplished sailor who has circled the globe on a square-rigged tall ship.
“A love of traveling and adventure drew me to airships, and I have yet to be disappointed in my choice,” Deyling said. “Piloting Eureka is an incredible experience and the next step in this adventure. I’m excited to be taking her to the skies.” —Alton K. Marsh
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AOPA and the American Bonanza Society have partnered to hold each group’s annual convention together with the goal to create more value for attendees. The American Bonanza Society annual convention will be held in conjunction with AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, California, October 11 through 13. “I’m excited ABS has partnered with AOPA Aviation Summit to deliver enhanced value to our attendees,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. Visit the website for more information.