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Celebrations: Love is in the airCelebrations: Love is in the air

Proposal goes airborne

By Jennifer Non

Washington, D.C., aerial photojournalist Brad Freitas spends most of his days at 1,200 feet in the back of a helicopter filming breaking news for one of the region’s top news stations. Leave it to Freitas to break some news of his own when he decided to propose to his girlfriend of six years from that same spot.

Pilot Briefing February 2020

People refer to Freitas as “Chopper Brad.” Freitas said he knew he wanted to propose to his girlfriend Kara Sutherland in a way that his friends and family could be a part of and would never forget. He also said that when they first met, he showed her photos of the news he had covered from the helicopter, and she thought he had “a really cool job.”

The proposal planning took a while as Freitas had to get approval to use the backup ship, a Bell 206 Jet Ranger, from the company he works for, Helicopters Incorporated.

While he is not a pilot himself, aviation is still a big part of Freitas’ everyday life. He enjoys following METARs over regular weather reports, and he’s been known to take his drone out for side projects when he can. Needing an experienced pilot for the special day, Freitas turned to his friend and colleague Bobby Ratliff to help pull off the stunt.

Frietas and Sutherland planned to spend the day together in Baltimore, but the caveat was that Freitas was on call for any breaking news at work. As luck would have it—aka strategic planning—halfway to Baltimore, Freitas received a call from his pilot telling him they had a “breaking news flight” and he would need to come into work.

The “breaking news” Freitas and Ratliff devised was a water rescue at the Bay Bridge, which was outside of the heavily controlled Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Flight Restricted Zone (DC FRZ) they fly over every day. Sharing this news with Sutherland, Freitas said she could join him in this chance to ride along.

More than 70 friends and family gathered on the ground about 50 feet from the end of the runway at Tipton Airport (FME) in Maryland, holding a banner that Freitas spent countless hours creating on the floor of his company’s hangar. To make it officially official, after they landed, Freitas got down on one knee with the ring, to which Sutherland happily said “yes”—for the second time.

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Harrelson topples Conrad

Westbound world speed record is shattered

By David Tulis

Pilot Briefing February 2020Westbound world speed record-seeker Bill Harrelson safely landed his modified Lancair IV at California’s Ontario International Airport December 15 at 11:21 p.m. Pacific time after completing a grueling earth-rounding flight to unofficially shatter Max Conrad’s 58-year-old weight-class aviation record—with 19 hours, 28 minutes to spare.

Harrelson wore an ear-to-ear grin as he exited N6ZQ, a composite aircraft that he built with his wife, Sue—who is also a pilot—and he celebrated with well-wishers and a fellow earthrounder on the Guardian Jet Center FBO ramp, close to where the five-leg marathon began December 8.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” said Bonanza pilot Adrian Eichhorn, who circled the globe in 2016 after receiving mentorship from Harrelson.

After two false starts, Harrelson successfully flew to Hawaii December 8 in 13 hours, 7 minutes. The initial leg of the world speed record attempt was also its shortest and a good warmup for his next mission: a massive overwater flight of 32 hours, 10 minutes, from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Jakarta, Indonesia, which began December 9. The third leg, from Jakarta to Cape Town, South Africa, was accomplished in 28 hours, 41 minutes. The fourth flight was another nearly 32-hour jaunt, with 31 hours, 42 minutes logged between Cape Town and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Harrelson needed an overall average speed of 108.4 knots for the duration of the trip to beat the 1961 record set by Conrad in a Piper PA–23 Aztec twin.

In the coming months the results will be analyzed by members of the National Aeronautic Association, the U.S. branch of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale governing body.

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