By Julie Walker
As the unofficial historian for AOPA, Thomas A. Horne has written many chronicles of AOPA’s history in his more than 35 years writing for AOPA Pilot and the association’s other publications. But this time, he’s taken on a whopper—the association turns 80 in 2019, and Horne, along with AOPA Media editorial staff, is writing the full history of not only the association, but also its impact and influence on general aviation since the 1930s. The writers are even prognosticating on GA’s future in Freedom to Fly: AOPA and the History of General Aviation in America. This 288-page, illustration-laden coffee table book has taken nearly a year to compile.
In addition to writing the book, the staff has also gone to great lengths to find the most interesting and illustrative artifacts, photographs, letters, and other documentation. Much of the early years of AOPA are documented in letters, memos, and telegraphs that past staffers collected and preserved by housing them in the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware, a Smithsonian affiliate. Horne and Senior Photographer Chris Rose unearthed the interesting historic documents and photographs and brought them back to AOPA’s Frederick, Maryland, headquarters to study, research, and photograph. It’s been a fascinating glimpse into the association’s past.
“The irony is, the farther back we go, the more we have—like letters from Max Karant and telegraphs and memos from the early founders,” said Horne. But as technology improved and we moved to Emails and other electronic communication, Horne laments that many documents and intriguing correspondence have been lost.
Some things, though, are simply remarkable—such as a collection of more than 100 political cartoons extolling the advocacy work of the association, the original wings design for the association logo, original membership cards, swag from the early AOPA Plantation Parties—and C. Townsend Ludington’s memo stating why the founders chose the association name: “I’m tired, and I’m going to bed. I propose we name it just what it is—the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.”
Of course, the stunning photography that is the hallmark of AOPA’s publications is a key component of this beautiful book. From historic photos to dramatic full-color aerials, the book is a visual treat as well as an entertaining, well-written flight through history. For Horne and the other editors and staff, Freedom to Fly is a homage to the passion we all love. Order your copy in time for the holidays.
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By Dave Hirschman
Home workshops and garages have long been the birthplaces for Experimental/Amateur-Built (E/AB) aircraft, but that’s changing. Synergy Air and builder-assist centers like it are taking hold around the country and providing kit aircraft builders with the expertise and technical support they need to finish their airplanes in months, not years.
“Our staff is made up of expert builders who know how to guide builders through the process of assembling their own aircraft kits,” said Vaden Francisco, owner of Synergy Air, which was founded in Eugene, Oregon, in 2002. “They know exactly what it takes, and that saves a great deal of time and effort. It also gives builders a great deal of confidence knowing everything they do is done right and meets high standards.”
Synergy recently opened a second facility in Newnan, Georgia, and builders at the two shops currently have more than 20 airplanes under construction, almost all of them Van’s Aircraft RV models.
Builder-assist centers like Synergy work closely with kit aircraft manufacturers, but they are separate companies.
Glasair pioneered factory assistance with its popular “two weeks to taxi” program that started in 2006. CubCrafters has streamlined that process even more with its own factory assistance program, in which individual builders complete the FAA-required minimum 51 percent of construction tasks. At the end of that process, they own an E/AB airplane that offers the flexibility to use nonTSO avionics and other custom modifications—and the builder holds the FAA repairman certificate that allows them to maintain the airplane and perform annual condition inspections.
The E/AB category is adding about 900 new airplanes a year to the U.S. aircraft registry, and that’s roughly the same as the combined output of all the FAA-certified manufacturers of single-engine, piston aircraft.
Synergy assistance isn’t cheap. The company charges $60,000 for a 20-week RV-8 construction program. (That’s $75 an hour assuming 40-hour work weeks.) During that time, builders are intimately involved in all aspects of their aircraft construction projects, and progress is usually quick.
“There’s no downtime waiting for missing hardware or puzzling over construction plans,” Francisco said. “Everything they need is here, ready to go. It’s amazing how much even simple things like that really help.”
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By Dan Namowitz
Testing that was halted earlier this year on an unleaded avgas under the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) will resume this fall. And, in a related development, Swift Fuels announced that it has suspended its work on a PAFI fuel in favor of another fuel, outside of the program. Those developments, in the continued effort to find a fleetwide substitute for leaded avgas, emerged as the PAFI Steering Committee met in late August.
The FAA continues to support development of an unleaded aviation fuel both within PAFI and outside the program, and Shell is continuing to work to mitigate known issues identified in its candidate fuel, said Peter White, the FAA’s alternative fuels program leader. The PAFI Steering Group consists of representatives from the FAA, AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Business Aviation Association, and the National Air Transportation Association.
David Oord, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, noted that Shell’s recent work on its fuel has shown promise. The FAA had halted all flight testing and some engine tests of Shell’s and Swift’s developmental fuels to analyze data gathered during the past three years of the program. That decision reshaped the timeline for evaluating all aspects of the fuels’ performance, targeting now a testing completion date in late 2019—about a year later than previous forecasts suggested. The main challenge of PAFI is to identify, test, and authorize a fuel with properties and performance that are compatible with the entire general aviation piston-engine fleet, taking into consideration the effects on aircraft components, materials, and engines, Oord said.
Testing to date has revealed important information about the effects of different fuel formulations on engine durability and hot-weather operations. The testing at the FAA’s technical center in Atlantic City, New Jersey—and at industry partner facilities—also helped create a standardized set of test protocols to evaluate unleaded aviation fuels. Once testing is completed, an FAA/industry follow-on effort will be to develop and implement a comprehensive, orderly transition plan for the move to unleaded avgas—a key step to prepare for the Environmental Protection Agency’s expected regulatory actions to eliminate leaded avgas.
Swift Fuels, which already produces a UL94 unleaded avgas in use by thousands of lower-octane aircraft, announced it was pursuing a fuel certification path outside PAFI, with engine and flight testing. Although PAFI and other research efforts are proceeding on parallel tracks, PAFI’s focus is a fleetwide authorized fuel, whereas the use of unleaded fuels developed outside PAFI will require supplemental type certificates issued for each make and model applying to use the fuel, Oord said.
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Gill Robb Wilson was the director of aeronautics for New Jersey, and he had participated in the inquiry into the cause of the explosion of the Zeppelin Hindenburg at Lakehurst landing field. Upon his return from Germany and fearing that war was imminent, he, along with publisher Thomas H. Beck and journalist Guy P. Gannett, proposed the Civil Air Defense Services—which, on December 1, 1941, was established by Congress as the Civil Air Patrol. It was mobilized on December 8, 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP is a congressionally chartered, federally supported, nonprofit corporation. It is a volunteer organization with a membership including people from all backgrounds, lifestyles, and occupations who share an aviation mindset. Wilson was the first member of AOPA, joining the day it was formed in 1939.