A beautiful ambassador for general aviation
Eugene, Oregon’s John Stahr, an airbrush artist, is known for painting intricate works of art on everything from R44 Raven helicopters to Global Express business jets. His nose-to-spinner paint designs are always crowd pleasers, and his RV–8, American Angel, is fast becoming an ambassador for GA.
Stahr suggested displaying his aircraft at the 2011 Portland Roadster car show. With his brother, Mike, Stahr designed an aviation-themed 20-foot-by-20-foot island booth for the show. The stream of people admiring Stahr’s RV–8 was steady. “Most of the questions were about performance,” Stahr said, “They asked how fast it was, and where did I land it to get in the show.”
The American Angel’s paint design is universally appealing, especially to veterans. “The art on the left wing honors three fallen Blue Angel Hornet pilots, while the right wing was painted in memory of my wife, Patti’s, father—who flew P–38s in World War II.” The airplane also has a larger-than-life red, white, and blue angel spreading her wings on the underside of the fuselage and across both wings. Stahr’s wife was the model for the artwork.
“I like the ramp magnet effect this airplane has, and the closer people get, the more interest they take. I look forward to introducing people to flying in my custom-built airplane, completing lots of Young Eagles flights, and showing up at plenty of airport pancake breakfasts,” Stahr says. —Dan Pimentel
See more of John Stahr’s aviation paint designs at www.artisticaviation.com.
Second Solar Impulse going from A to B
As this was written a sun-powered airplane called Solar Impulse A was preparing to return from Morocco to its base in Switzerland, where construction of Solar Impulse B has started. The prototype was meant only to test night flying without fuel, but it ended up in Morocco and provided valuable information for the next trip—a series of legs that will circle the globe. The single-cockpit prototype, with a wingspan exceeding 200 feet, is powered by four 10-horsepower electric motors that get their power from rechargeable batteries. It descends by night—not to the ground, hopefully—and climbs by day. The new model, undergoing main spar testing, will first fly in the spring of 2013 and circle the world in 2014.
Destinations in the United States for the big flight are under review. They must have something to do with renewable energy.
Who thought it up? Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Bertrand Piccard is the son of Jacques Piccard who, with Don Walsh, made history by diving their Trieste sub to 6.8 miles under water in the Marianas Trench. Bertrand Piccard made the first nonstop balloon trip around the world in the Breitling Orbiter in 1999.
did you know? If the Solar Impulse faces a headwind greater than 38 knots, it will be blown back to its departure point. That actually happened on a first attempt to cross Morocco. —Alton K. Marsh
Reaching for the quarter-million-dollar ring
University of Maryland engineering students have pedaled furthest of any college trying to win a $250,000 prize for human-powered helicopter flight. In June they topped their 2011 record by 400 percent, staying a few inches off the floor of a gymnasium for 50 seconds.
The first school to reach a full minute—and also a brief height of nearly 10 feet—will win the American Helicopter Society’s Igor I. Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Competition.
Some of the tests were shorted when Gamera II—that’s a terrible turtle that starred in old Japanese horror flicks and is not unlike the school mascot—kept bumping into walls. That caused rotor damage and required a few hours for repairs. The angry turtle was piloted by Ph.D. candidate Kyle Gluesenkamp. If it had been a nice turtle, maybe it wouldn’t have tried to tear down the armory. —Alton K. Marsh
What’s it look like?
College pilots make strong showing in Air Race Classic
Once called the Powder Puff Derby, now the Air Race Classic, this race can trace its roots back to 1929. This year the winners were Texas pilots Dianna Stanger (3,400 hours) and Victoria Holt (5,500 hours) flying a Cirrus SR22, but they beat a collegiate team by less than three-tenths of a point.
Danielle Erlichman and Marisha Falk, of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Florida, campus not only came in second, they also got an award for being first among the college women fliers. They flew a Cessna 172S. Their Embry-Riddle Prescott teammates, also in a 172S, did well too. Coming in ninth overall, Marlese Wessel and Kristine Anthony were the third-place winners among collegiate aviators. Second place in the collegiate category was taken by Nicole Lordemann and Tonya Hodson of Kansas State, who came in eighth against all competitors.
Things you didn’t know
Sounds like a comic book character, but given the number of times Yves Rossy has flown with a wing on his back, it seems routine. Four jet engines intended for large model airplanes powered him for six or seven minutes alongside a Douglas DC–3 carrying Breitling employees during his latest adventure. Breitling is his main sponsor. —Barry Schiff
Cessna Aircraft and Embraer may have their mega-deals with China, but so does the 14-person Team Tango company in Williston, Florida. Some people just know how to seize an opportunity. When Dennis Moellman, the company president, heard about China’s plan to open lower airspace to general aviation, he began writing proposals in late 2010 for a fully certified airplane (in the People’s Republic of China, at least) based on his kit models. He has 31 two-seat, 180-knot Tango aircraft sold with 18 completed and flying—and 11 Foxtrot four-place, 190-knot kits out there, with two flying. A firm in China will certify and build the Tango model and a new one, the Rapier, based on the Foxtrot but intentionally made wider than a Cirrus. “We’re taking a chance. We’ll see if things work out,” Moellman said. He will become the distributor for the aircraft in the United States, once certification details are worked out. Moellman was in China looking for an interested company when he learned another Chinese company was in Florida looking for him. They had found him on the Internet. Opportunity literally came knocking, and Moellman was ready. —Alton K. Marsh
Why it may work
The secret ingredient
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A head-up display that’s got to be seen to be believed
The iPhone hasn’t become an indispensable flight instrument yet, but that may be changing. Hilton Software, maker of WingX Pro7 (a leading flight planning and EFB program), has converted the iPhone into a combined attitude indicator and head-up display (HUD) that includes synthetic vision—and has got to be seen to be believed.
When linked (via WiFi) to a Levil Technology attitude and heading reference system (AHRS), the glareshield-mounted iPhone accurately depicts GPS-derived altitude and groundspeed as well as pitch and bank, with no attitude limitations. With the Levil unit connected to the airplane’s pitot/static system, it shows indicated airspeed and barometric altitude. During approach and landing, the airport and runways appear as they do in real life, and future versions are likely to include highway-in-the-sky symbols, too.
And while the iPhone’s big brother, the iPad, has taken the aviation world by storm, the iPhone hasn’t—even though it addresses some of the iPad’s most glaring aviation shortcomings. The iPhone screen, for example, is far brighter, easier to read, and less reflective in sunlight. And the iPhone’s smaller size makes it simple to mount in a confined cockpit. (I used a suction-cup mount from Flyvie.)Best of all, the iPhone can be placed in the pilot’s normal field of view without blocking large segments of sky. It also can be mounted in a horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) view. And most pilots won’t have to rush out and buy iPhones since they are practically physical appendages already.
A portable device like the iPhone can’t be FAA certified as a flight instrument, and it’s not meant for flying in the clouds. But the iPhone’s high-resolution display is clear and easy to read, and when used in combination with traditional avionics, it can improve pilot situational awareness.
Other firms (such as Sagetech) are developing solid-state AHRS units that can wirelessly transmit to a broad range of smart phones, tablet computers, and other avionics. And Aero Visions International of Carson City, Nevada, offers its “iHud” for the iPhone as an app, or connected to a Levil AHRS (without synthetic vision).
It’s easy to imagine such iPhone tools being used in aviation applications as varied as helping aerobatic pilots precisely hit their 45- and 90-degree up and down lines, or keeping VFR pilots oriented on hazy days and moonless nights, or during electrical failures when aircraft avionics may be powered down. —Dave Hirschman
A computerized Cub sim
In honor of the Piper J–3 Cub’s seventy-fifth anniversary this year, Redbird Flight Simulations has come up with—you guessed it—a realistic, full-motion, Cub simulator.
The sophisticated, computer-controlled, electronic box with a 180-degree wraparound view mimics the low-tech Cub’s flight characteristics, and some of its ground mannerisms, too. To start the simulation, for example, someone needs to manually spin the propeller on the outside of the box. Contact!
“We built this as a fun, one-off project in honor of the Cub and we wanted to have it at Oshkosh to celebrate the anniversary,” said Todd Willinger, Redbird CEO. “If someone wants to buy it, we’ll be glad to make more. But this was something we are doing to mark an aviation milestone.”
The yellow-painted Cub sim is based on Redbird’s MX-2 model, which typically sells for about $50,000.
“I don’t know exactly what the price for a Cub sim would be,” he said. “But I’m guessing it would be a lot less than a new Super Cub.” —Dave Hirschman
AOPA offers a special one-time AOPA membership rate of $25 for student pilots. Students receive full membership benefits including 12 issues of Flight Training magazine, access to the Pilot Information Center toll-free help line, flight planning tools, and an opportunity to win a flight training scholarship. Students can enroll online.
On what would have been Amelia Earhart’s 115th birthday, the expedition—launched in July to investigate possible new evidence of her missing Lockheed Model 10 Electra—returned to Hawaii without conclusive evidence.
The nonprofit International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) announced in March that it planned to conduct extensive deep-water search operations near an uninhabited atoll called Nikumaroro. The aviatrix and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared in July 1937 while trying to locate Howland Island on Earhart’s now-infamous attempt to circumnavigate the globe. TIGHAR has spent 24 years investigating Earhart’s disappearance.
“We’re coming home with more questions than answers,” TIGHAR stated July 23. “We are disappointed that we did not make a dramatic and conclusive discovery, but we are undaunted in our commitment to keep searching.”
The group has volumes of sonar data and many hours of high-definition video to review and analyze before it can be known whether evidence was found. “Due to the limitations of the technology, we were only able to see standard-definition video images during actual search operations,” TIGHAR said. “Now that we’re examining the recorded high-definition video, we’re already seeing objects we want our forensic imaging specialist, Jeff Glickman, to look at.”
The new effort stemmed from a clue spotted in an original negative of a photo of the western shoreline of Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner Island). The negative showed a protrusion from a reef resembling the landing gear of an aircraft.
TIGHAR said “big pieces of airplane wreckage were not immediately apparent, but after 75 years in Nikumaroro’s severe and unstable underwater environment, that is hardly surprising.”
The Discovery Channel planned to air a show on the expedition August 19. —Jill W. Tallman
As a physicist, engineer, astronaut, and educator, Sally Kristen Ride blazed a trail and became an icon as the first American woman to fly in space. Ride lost her 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer July 23. She was 61. Ride was one of six women chosen in 1978 for the first coed class of astronaut trainees, and later recalled that the June 18, 1983, flight aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger was a mission that carried extraordinary expectations that were difficult to appreciate at the time. “On launch day, there was so much excitement and so much happening around us in crew quarters, even on the way to the launch pad,” Ride said. “I didn’t really think about it that much at the time, but I came to appreciate what an honor it was to be selected to be the first to get a chance to go into space.”