Sometimes the biggest news to come out of an AOPA Regional Fly-In is the event’s attendance numbers, but the audience at AOPA President Mark Baker’s Pilot Town Hall presentation during AOPA's 2018 Carbondale, Illinois, Fly-In on Oct. 6, presented by Southern Illinois University Aviation, may have been the first to hear some much bigger developments.
Baker invited Jack Pelton, EAA chairman and CEO, onto the stage. On Jan. 19, 2019, Pelton said, the FAA will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to raise the weight limit for light sport aircraft from the current 1,320 pounds to 3,600 pounds. “That will allow you to fly in a 172, have four seats in the airplane, and fly 150 mph,” said Pelton, who also anticipates a rule change that would allow professional builders to construct experimental amateur-built aircraft.
Baker also addressed funding for the FAA. “The Senate has approved a five-year reauthorization that doesn’t include privatization. You have made a difference!” he said. “And now the FAA has five years of certainty” in its funding.
“It takes everybody in aviation to get things done,” Pelton said, adding that 1986 was the last time a five-year FAA funding authorization was approved.
Of course, the industry news didn’t make the event’s attendance figures any less significant. The two-day totals for the fly-in were 179 aircraft and nearly 7,000 people. Saturday’s attendance was boosted by the third annual Southern Illinois Plane Pull, held at Southern Illinois Airport during the fly-in; the event raised more than $10,000 to benefit Special Olympics Illinois. Saturday’s crowd included many families.
The pilot who flew the farthest to attend the Carbondale Fly-In traveled 927 miles from Santa Teresa, New Mexico. But the pilot who bicycled the farthest to Carbondale was Craig Blumer, who pedaled some 280 miles from Springfield, Illinois. Blumer is a pilot and flight instructor, rated in every category except powered lift, and an air traffic controller.
Primarily taking back roads, he followed the Mississippi River to St. Louis, and then turned toward Carbondale. The trip took two days, riding about 10 hours each day. “It’s fun. I love to bike. I bike to work every day,” Blumer said. “It’s similar to flying. You have to prepare; you have to plan your route; and when you finish, you can look back and see everything you’ve done.”
Blumer volunteered several days for the fly-in’s airside operations, mostly marshalling aircraft to parking—with wands from the side of a taxiway, instead of with a radio from the Springfield tower cab. He plans to apply his volunteer hours earned toward his Master Instructor application.
Max Trescott shared insights in flying with modern GPS receivers in Friday’s IFR Advanced workshop. Among his recommendations: When you load an instrument approach, choose an initial approach fix (IAF) that doesn’t require a course reversal. And if you’re being vectored, activate the leg it looks like you’ll intercept. “If you can’t tell what leg your pointer’s pointing toward, activate the leg that’s closest to the airport,” said Trescott, the 2008 National CFI of the Year, who also produces Aviation News Talk, a podcast that focuses on general aviation news and pilot tips.
At the IAF, a pilot can join an instrument approach at any intercept angle, Trescott noted. “Only if you enter the approach at the intermediate fix does that turn have to be less than 90 degrees.”
During the owner-performed maintenance workshop Friday, Mike Busch of Savvy Aviation advocated for reliability-centered maintenance (RCM)—maintaining aircraft based on their condition, and not because of the calendar or a schedule. “RCM has saved the airlines and the military a fortune,” he said. “I’m not a big believer in TBOs. TBOs are based on the premise that engine failures are a result of age. I think TBO is a bogus concept.” Not all maintenance intervals should be ignored, he said; owners should discuss the subject with their mechanic.
“None of this works on vacuum pumps,” Busch noted. “The dry vacuum pump is the worst component in the universe. They fail when they want to fail, and they don’t give any warning.”
Some attendees checked out the Embraer ERJ145 regional jet Trans States Airlines flew in from St. Louis for pilot recruitment purposes. “We had a lot of interest yesterday,” a recruiter said Saturday. “It’s more families today,” she added.
Sophie LeGore, a senior aviation technologies student at Southern Illinois University who works at the airport’s FBO, and Kyle Stuhrenberg—a student pilot who also works at the FBO—hopped a ride Friday afternoon in Cliff McSpadden’s 1941 Waco UPF–7. “It was awesome,” said LeGore, whose smile could be seen from the ground as the bright red biplane lifted off. “It was unlike any other flight experience I’ve ever had. It’s probably the coolest flight I’ve ever had.”
Stuhrenberg agreed. “It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.