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An aerial perspective The art of Michael Collier By Dave Hirschman Seeing impressive vistas from the air is a fringe benefit of general aviation flying for most pilots. But for Michael Collier—a geologist, author, physician, photographer, and Cessna 180 owner and pilot—that aerial perspective is the reason he flies.

An aerial perspective

The art of Michael Collier

By Dave Hirschman

michael collierSeeing impressive vistas from the air is a fringe benefit of general aviation flying for most pilots. But for Michael Collier—a geologist, author, physician, photographer, and Cessna 180 owner and pilot—that aerial perspective is the reason he flies. Collier, a resident of Flagstaff, Arizona, has written more than 15 geology texts and recently completed an iPad app, The Wonders of Geology, which includes some of his best aerial images from three decades flying over the most wondrous regions of North and Central America.

“My original CFI was a geologist and I made my first aerial photographs leaning out the open door of a J–3 Piper Cub,” said Collier, who got his private pilot certificate in 1979. He bought a 1955 Cessna 180 in 1986 and has logged 5,000 flying hours in that airplane, taking it from arctic Alaska to Central America, Maine to Baja California, mostly in pursuit of pictures to illustrate geologic phenomena. The majority of his photography flights over vast and rugged geological formations are performed alone.

He typically camps under the wing of his airplane so that he can be in the air at first light, stays aloft as long as the light is good, and—more often than not—doesn’t know exactly where he’ll land when he takes off. “I go where the light and clouds permit,” he said. “I know where I’m going to land about one flight out of three.”

In addition to doing all the photography, he wrote and narrated The Wonders of Geology.

Email [email protected].

michael collier photo

Hightower out at EAA

In a surprise move, EAA President and CEO Rod Hightower stepped down October 22 and newly elevated EAA Chairman Jack Pelton agreed to run the 175,000-member organization on an interim basis. Hightower was named to the top EAA job in 2010, the third president the Oshkosh-based organization has had since it was formed by Paul H. Poberezny in 1953 to promote amateur-built aircraft.

For more on this story, see

The Debonair Sweeps: Progress report

D’Shannon do-over—Kicking off the upgrades

By Thomas A. Horne

The Debonair Sweepstakes is off to a running start. A mere four days after the 1963 B33 Beech Debonair was flown from its former home to AOPA headquarters, the airplane was headed to Buffalo, Minnesota. That’s where D’Shannon Aviation calls home.

D’Shannon is the world’s biggest modifier of stock Debonair, Bonanza, and Baron airframes. The company holds an amazing 98 supplemental type certificates for everything from custom engine baffling to “stinger” (elongated and streamlined) tailcones. Scott Erickson, president of D’Shannon since 2008, says he sees a steady stream of business, even in these tough economic times. Most of D’Shannon’s mods are completed in the field, at authorized FBOs and repair stations, but we took AOPA’s Debonair straight to the head shed. debonair

In Buffalo, the Debonair’s old, beat-up windshield and windows were yanked, tossed, and then replaced with brand-new, 3/8-inch-thick plexiglass. The new windshield—D’Shannon calls it the “speed slope” windshield—is longer and more aerodynamically correct than the standard-issue, bubble-shaped version. It’s perhaps the most popular of all D’Shannon’s mods. The new glass is tinted gray, which is a welcome change from the original greenish hue.

D’Shannon also installed another of its top mods: tip tanks. Each tank holds a whopping 20 gallons and includes both digital, in-cockpit readouts and transparent slots for determining fuel levels. The Debonair already has the 74-gallon long-range fuel tank option, so add 40 more gallons to the tips and you’ve got a 114-gallon long-range cruiser capable of seven- to eight-hour endurances. Sure, payload is compromised but it’s not that bad: at its last weigh-in, the Debonair’s useful load with full fuel was 488 pounds. Thank the tip-tank STC’s 200 pound addition to the airplane’s standard, 3,000-pound max takeoff weight for much of that.

Aileron and flap gap seals were also installed in Buffalo. And we’re still not done. During a second visit, D’Shannon will install a three-blade Hartzell scimitar propeller, a new nose bowl, and a bigger baggage compartment and baggage door.

Email [email protected].

AOPA center to accentuate flying clubs

AOPA will create a national network of flying clubs as part of its long-term initiative to facilitate flying club growth, said Adam Smith, senior vice president of AOPA’s new Center to Advance the Pilot Community. The association has rolled out an online flying club finder and Facebook group. A monthly newsletter will start this month.

“There is no way I could have learned to fly without my flying club experience.” —Adam Smith

AV8RS Youth membership

New AOPA membership free to teens

We’ve just made it easier for teens to develop and fulfill their aviation aspirations. Introducing AOPA AV8RS, AOPA’s new free membership for teens age 13 through 18. The membership is offered to teens at no cost thanks to generous contributions to the AOPA Foundation online (

Benefits to AOPA AV8RS include a digital subscription to Flight Training magazine; access to members-only content on,, and special content at; opportunities to join AOPA AV8RS online social communities through Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, and YouTube; an AOPA AV8RS e-newsletter; free support and advice through the AOPA Pilot Information Center’s helpline at 800-872-2672; chances to win scholarships; and much more.

Test Pilot By Barry Schiff

  1. During World War II, _____ Tuskegee Airmen were deployed overseas as fighter pilots.
    a. 155
    b. 355
    c. 955
    d. 1,555
  2. Why does an airplane with a constant-speed propeller have a shorter takeoff roll than an identical airplane with a fixed-pitch propeller?
  3. The Lake Sport Mermaid, an amphibious light sport airplane marketed by the Czech Aircraft Works,
    a.has tricycle landing gear legs that must be
    operated individually.
    b.has wing flaps that the pilot can operate
    individually (one side at a time).
    c.utilizes an iPad as its primary flight display.
    d. can be modified by adding an exterior seat.
  4. Why are Gary Burrell and Min H. Kao so well known in general aviation circles?
  5. For instrument pilots: True or False? An airport without a published instrument approach procedure may be designated as an alternate airport when filing an instrument flight plan.
  6. Why is landing a landplane in water called ditching?
  7. From reader John Schmidt: True or False? The “Five Blackbirds” were an aerobatic team consisting of African-American pilots.
  8. What is missing from the following list of VFR maneuvers?
    a. touch-and-go landing
    b. low approach
    c. missed approach
    d. full-stop landing

See answers below >>

Central Florida Aerospace Academy

Not your typical high school

By Jamie Beckett

“I was terrified of flying,” says 18-year-old Adarius Enzor. However, after attending a summer camp at the Florida Air Museum that put him in the pilot’s seat for a short hop, his attitude changed. So much so that Enzor set his sights on space flight as a career. To help him get there, he chose to enroll as an inaugural member of the freshman class in a brand-new high school known as the Central Florida Aerospace Academy.

aerospace academyFour years later Enzor is a graduate of CFAA who intends to complete the training for his private pilot certificate and add a glider rating as well. He will attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. “After college I’m going to join the military, go into the fighter pilot program, and become a Thunderbird,” says the newly minted graduate.

Enzor thinks big. And that’s just fine with the men and women who forged this institution of learning out of not much more than an idea, an empty hangar behind the Florida Air Museum on the grounds of Sun ’n Fun at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, and a desire to make a difference.

Rick Garcia, the founder and driving force behind Gulf Coast Avionics, says, “I went to exactly the same type of high school. Somebody pushed me to go when I was in the ninth grade.” His decision to attend George T. Baker Aviation School in Miami led to a skilled trade that paid a reasonable wage. It also led Garcia to the U.S. Air Force, steady employment afterward, and ultimately to establish his own successful business.

That was a driving force in Garcia’s mission to found an aviation high school in Polk County. “I kept pushing, and pushing, and pushing,” says Garcia.

“I think we started with about 60 students,” says John Small, the Polk County School District’s director of workforce education. “And we’ve grown by about that number each year. The purpose of the school isn’t to produce pilots, or technicians. It is to produce good, strong students who can become successful adults.”

With a 100-percent graduation rate and every graduate planning on attending college, CFAA appears to be on a winning trajectory. As for Adarius Enzor, he says, “I want to be the first black commander of the U.S. Thunderbirds.”

Air Force birthplace gets attention

An airport comes back to life

By Jim Moore


Artist Peter R. Westacott’s painting “Cradle of American Air Power” depicts a pair of Curtiss biplanes over Columbus, New Mexico. Westacott donated use of the image to the First Aero Squadron Foundation, one of many contributions collected in an effort to restore the aerodrome. Courtesy FASF.

The birthplace of American military aviation is today a nearly featureless swath of New Mexico desert where a donated windsock marks the site of a new runway. A group of aviators and history buffs raised money to buy the land—donations from far and wide, none larger than $1,000—and brought an airport and its history back to life.

On this patch of desert, the U.S. Army Signal Corps 1st Aero Squadron deployed in 1916, responding within days to an attack by Pancho Villa on nearby Columbus, New Mexico. Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing’s forces included, for the first time, a small collection of Curtiss biplanes and freshly-trained pilots who provided reconnaissance and communication with ground troops chasing Villa into Mexico. The nation’s entry into World War I cut short the effort to capture Villa, and the airfield went on to serve as an emergency landing strip on the early airline routes connecting San Diego and El Paso, Texas.

In the 1960s, former World War II bomber pilot Martin Willard Houltin led federal officials on a different kind of chase, credited by a former U.S. Customs agent as a pioneer in the use of small aircraft to smuggle marijuana by the ton from Mexico. Houltin based his “Columbus Air Force” at the airstrip that has been known as Columbus Municipal Airport in years past, and remains so in the FAA (and AOPA) databases, though the runway was overgrown with mesquite and creosote bushes until recently. His arrest marked the end of operations at the airport.

Columbus regained notoriety in 2011, this time with the mayor, police chief, and a third local official accused of running guns.

“It’s a busy little community,” said Bill Wehner, president of the First Aero Squadron Foundation, which is raising money to restore the airport and establish a museum, memorial, and education programs.

The east-west runway comprises 2,600 feet of desert scraped clean for arrivals, marked only by the absence of plant life.

Test Pilot Answers

  1. (b) These African-American pilots formed the 322nd Fighter Group and were colloquially known as the “Red Tails,” because the tails of their P–47s and P–51s were painted red.
  2. An engine with a constant-speed propeller develops 100-percent power from a standing start; an engine with a fixed-pitch propeller does not.
  3. (b) Believe it or not, each wing flap has its own switch and its own electric motor. Be careful not to extend them asymmetrically.
  4. They are the founders of Garmin Ltd. The first 3 letters of each of their first names were used to create the company name.
  5. True. The weather forecast must indicate, however, that the pilot would be able to descend from the MEA (minimum en route IFR altitude) to the airport in VFR conditions.
  6. Ditching originated as a Royal Air Force term that meant landing in the English Channel, which was known as “the ditch.”
  7. True. They were the first all African-American aerobatic team and were organized in 1931. (In 1934 there were a total of only 12 black pilots in the United States.)
  8. Stop-and-go landing. When a pilot is “cleared for the option” by a tower controller, he may exercise any of these five options without further clearance or permission.

sept 11 waypoints

Aerial waypoints commemorate 9/11

As airline passengers near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, their aircraft navigate along some interesting waypoints.

On the FRDMM One Arrival transition route their airplane will cross HONNR, BRVRY, COURG, and MORLL before traveling along this string of waypoints, in order: PLDGE WEEEE WLLLL NEVVR FORGT SEPll ALWYZ, finally ending up at FRDMM.

After FRDMM, depending on the winds at Reagan, the aircraft might cross STAND TGTHR, or LETZZ RLLLL, which leads to HEROO.

It’s possible that aircraft will instead use the TRUPS One Arrival that includes these waypoints; USAAY WEEDU SUPRT OOURR TRUPS.

The waypoints were named by the FAA’s Washington Metroplex Design and Implementation Team in 2011 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

Report from the field

Regional managers have successful early experiences

Nearly eight months after the restructuring of AOPA’s regional advocacy and representation, the seven regional managers report important strides in advocacy efforts and great member engagement throughout the country.

John Pfeifer, Western Region

Top victories: Representing AOPA at the aviation issues briefing sponsored by CTC-TACA

Notable events: Nevada Airport Support Network volunteer luncheon

Great experiences: “Extensive involvement with legislators and staff over the proposal to eliminate the state requirement for county airport land use commissions.”

Tom George, Alaska

Top victories: Repeal aviation aircraft registration tax in Mat-Su Borough; develop a position on a military airspace proposal that could impact civil aviation in Alaska

Notable events: The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering

Great experiences: “Delivering the excitement and enthusiasm of general aviation to families and kids at
Fairbanks Aviation Day.”

David Ulane, Northwest Region

Top victories: Idaho House Bill 417 aircraft parts tax exemption

Notable events: The Rocky Mountain Light Sport Expo, hosted by the Colorado Pilots Association

Great experiences: “Without fail, every member I’ve interacted with or explained our new program to is ecstatic that AOPA is focusing more attention regionally and locally. They are appreciative to have a hometown AOPA contact.”

Yasmina Platt, Central/Southwest Region

Top victories: Missouri Senate Bill 769 (HB 1909) marking anemometer towers; Nebraska LB 352 defining dimensions of airport hazard areas

Notable events: Kansas City Pilot Mix and Mingle and Nebraska Airfest and 2012 Nebraska State Fly-In

Great experiences: “I love to engage with our future generation of pilots and aviation professionals. I like to mentor, provide resources and personal experiences, and teach them about the endless possibilities in general aviation.”

Bryan Budds, Great Lakes Region

Top victories: Defeating registration fee in Illinois House Bill 444; securing additional funding for Michigan airports

Notable events: Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium—supporting Aviation Education in North Dakota

Great experiences: “Going to any event, I hear, I didn’t know AOPA came to these events, which has happened
at nearly every event I have attended. Knowing that we have made personal connections with members and nonmembers alike across the region is critically important. So many are pleased to be able to see AOPA’s presence in the field and be able to talk with us directly.”

Bob Minter, Southern Region

Top victories: Florida sales tax measure; South Carolina’s Title 55 rewrite of the state aeronautics code

Notable events: Ladies Love Taildraggers Fly-In

Great experiences: “I have attended Sun ‘n Fun for many years but this was my first opportunity to work the AOPA tent. I loved it and met a lot of members and friends there.”

Craig Dotlo, Eastern Region

Top victories: New York Aviation Jobs Act; runway safety area at Igor Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut

Notable events: Dinner conference in Albany, New York, to discuss ideas for enhancing the U.S. pilot population

Great experiences: “Making a difference in my region by promoting aviation through legislative and regulatory actions—stimulating the state and local economy, reflecting the importance of aviation to the American people.”

catalina airshow

Catalina’s first airshow flies into history

By Geri Silveira

Excitement was in the air at Catalina Island, California, on September 29 and 30, the weekend of the first Catalina Air Show commemorating the 100th anniversary of Glenn L. Martin’s historic flight to the island on May 10, 1912.

On that misty morning, Martin took off in his amphibian aircraft from the waters of Newport Beach, climbed through the marine layer, and flew for more than 30 miles to make a perfect landing in Avalon Bay. Martin logged several milestones that day, including the first flight to Catalina Island and the longest over-water flight in the world to that date. A true visionary, Martin founded the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1912. It was the first of three well-known companies that would carry his name, including Martin Marietta and Lockheed Martin.

The fun began on Friday with the splashdown of Row 44’s 1950s-era Grumman Albatross amphibian. On Saturday, spectators watched aircraft ranging from Clay Lacy’s DC–3 to Frank Donnelly’s Taylorcraft perform over Avalon Bay in an aerobatic box marked by boats. Making his own history, water-powered jetpack pilot Dean O’Malley set a world record for the longest distance travelled by a water jetpack, reprising Martin’s flight from Newport Beach to Catalina Island. The island’s tiny Airport in the Sky squeezed in approximately 100 aircraft, and on Sunday, airshow performers showed off their airplanes and signed autographs. “It inspired me to do more flying,” said one pilot who came all the way from Northern California to see the show. “I sure hope they do it again.” The Catalina Air Show is an event that bears repeating, hopefully, before another 100 years flies by.

For more information see the website (

JAARS rebuilding low-time 182 for Australia

If someone donates a pristine 1974 Cessna 182P with only 800 hours on it, why would JAARS, the missionary aviation aid organization, need it to be rebuilt? Because you can’t take any risks with the outback of Australia, where it is headed for missionary work. “We don’t want to send a 38-year-old airplane into remote locations,” said Randy Peterson. He will move to Darwin, Australia, late next year with his wife and operate the aircraft for The Australian Society for Indigenous Languages, a group that not only preserves languages but teaches natives to read and write. That, in turn, not only helps the natives, but helps to establish new and larger ministry programs.

“A replacement of the engine with the newer STC modification of the Continental O-470 producing 252 horsepower is complete,” Peterson said. “The avionics suite has been replaced with the Garmin G500 PFD/MFD and GTN650/750 units in a laser-cut panel.” Next May, the airplane will be placed in a shipping container and sent to Cairns, Australia, where it will be reassembled by Mission Aviation Fellowship/Australia.

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