Insanity and the DOT Pilot Shortage Solution

By Scott Spangler on December 4th, 2017 | What do you think? »

Image result for pilot shortage 2017As most sentient people know, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Or maybe it is just laziness because developing a new, more efficient way of educating pilots is too much time, effort, and money. When it comes to evening out the pilot shortage cycles, it is much easier and economical to put a new name on a century of tradition unimpeded by progress.

That’s what Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao did in announcing the department’s Forces to Flyer Initiative that will explore ways “to address this pilot shortage, and ensure our nation continues to be a world leader in aviation.” This three-year demonstration program has two objectives: to learn how interested veterans might be in becoming commercial pilots, and to help train those who are not already pilots.

That last part is where the insanity comes in. The program will provide financial support to veterans to earn their CFI. “As many of you know,” said Chao, “flight instructors can use their paid time to earn hours toward their airline transport pilot certificate.” Clearly, she doesn’t know or hasn’t talked to a flight instructor, ever. She probably thinks that the average flight instructor earns enough to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies by teaching alone, and that they are so busy that they’ll log the ticket-punching 1,500 hours in less than a year. Never mind that 1,500 hours in GA aircraft offers little preparation to fly an airliner of any size.

Image result for gi bill flight trainingFor those old enough to remember the GI Bill flight training benefits, see the definition of insanity. Such programs rarely last long enough for a good number of vets to complete training because politicians with short memories want to spend the flight training money on something more important to them and their campaign benefactors. For everyone else, consider the aviation tradition of “paying your dues” as a CFI and working your way up. It worked when aviation was in its infancy, but it no longer meets the needs of 21st century aerospace. But the people who own, operate, and invest in airlines like it because it saves them a lot of money that they skim off the bottom line as bonuses and dividends…until they don’t have enough trained people to drive their winged buses, but that only happens every decade or two.

If government rule makers were really interested in bringing pilot training and certification up to date, they should take a lesson from the performance based navigation system of requirements that is making flight from Point A to B more efficient. Performance based pilot certification would not be based on an arbitrary number of hours, like 1,500, but rather of each pilot’s demonstrated ability to meet the requirements of a particular type of flying in a particular type of aircraft.

Performance based pilot training sure seems to work for the military, which updates the performance parameters with the current and coming technology and equipment. And from their first flight pilots learn to fly so they can meet their ultimate performance requirements. Student naval aviators, for example, learn that pitch determines speed and power controls altitude, and flaring to land doesn’t work on an aircraft carrier. And as they meet the performance requirements at each stage of training, they will have logged about 200 hours, give or take, when they make their first trap.

Image result for t-45 carrier landingThis is a case where a tradition is the source of progress. but making this change in civilian flight training might just be too much to hope for because bottom-line interests of those who will support the education of the pilots they need are more important than progress. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Theodor Knacke & Parachute Appreciation

By Scott Spangler on November 20th, 2017 | What do you think? »

If the name Theodor Knacke means nothing to you, don’t feel bad. It meant nothing to me, until last week when I learned about the man and his lifetime contributions to the field of aerodynamic decelerator systems, also known as parachutes. Many people in aviation only think about—and appreciate—the parachute if it is the only thing that will prevent a sudden stop after long fall. But just think, where would the space program be without the parachute, and the uncountable thousands whose lives have been saved by this seemingly simple device? And let’s not forget  those who fling themselves from high places for fun.

When looking at the details involved, designing a decelerator system is one of aviation’s premier engineering challenges. Working with a variety of sewn together textiles an engineer must create an aerodynamic system that reliably assembles itself in midair. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Let’s consider the parachute used in an F-18. It must fully deploy so an aviator does not come to a sudden stop after ejecting at zero speed and zero altitude. At the other end of its performance spectrum, the parachute must assemble itself in such a sequence that it does not self-destruct when it unfolds at 40,000 feet in a Mach number slipstream. And just to make it interesting, the parachute must be packed and hydraulically mashed into a solid textile brick that is wedged into the top of a seat under a canopy where the brick bakes on sunny days, freezes at altitude, is bathed it corrosive salt sea air for months and months and months.

And the engineer who wrote the book—literally—on meeting this daunting engineering challenge? Theodor Wilhelm Knacke. Don’t bother looking him up on Wikipedia. He doesn’t exist there. But he should, because among his many accomplishments is his compilation of all he’d learned about the field in Parachute Recovery Systems Design Manual. The photos on its cover depict some of the projects on which he worked. That effort began in 1930s at Flugtechnisches Institute Stuttgart (or Flight Institute of Stuttgart Technical University, FIST), which challenged him and a colleague, Georg Madelung “to develop a parachute suitable for the in-flight and landing deceleration of aircraft.” Their solution was the ribbon parachute, which led to the ring slot and ring sail parachutes that made “31 successful earth landings” of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft.

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Veterans Day as a Time to Reflect

By Robert Mark on November 9th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

Veterans Day as a Time to Reflect

Funny how another person can make you think differently about something you thought you already understood. For me it’s my time in the military, the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s to be precise.

When Jetwhine contributor Micah Engber mentioned a Veteran’s Day podcast a few months back, I wondered why. He’d never served. But his idea for telling a unique story kept bugging me until I realized here was a non-vet with something to share and me, a real vet … I had nothing.

It took me awhile to come to grips with my issues. Turned out I’m pretty burned out on all the sloppy love people seem to have for vets these days, tossing around “Thanks you for your service,” and sticking “we support our troops” on the butt end of their cars as if that alone makes a difference. President after president seems not to understand that we all too often forget about these men and women once they come back stateside … the one time when Americans could actually put their money where their mouthes and their stickers are. It’s the insincerity of it all that makes me want to scream at times. Could it be worse, sure. When I left the Air Force in the 70s, people were generally indifferent to service men and women.

But listening to Micah’s stories of his grandfather and dad made me realize the two great wars taught him things in a way I never experienced. My dad wasn’t a vet. I don’t fault him for that since he had a hearing problem from the time he was a kid. But it meant there was no one in my family to hear stories from or ask questions of.

I think Micah grew up listening to those stories, but actually grew up as he listened. He grew when he asked the questions others thought he should have left alone. After this seven minute piece, I realized I was envious of Micah. While I’m glad he had that time with the guys in his family, I wished I’d been able to share the same thoughts with my family and people who wanted to know more. Maybe I will some day. Until then, have a peaceful Veterans Day.

Rob Mark, publisher

Veterans Day (script)

Here in the USA Veteran’s Day used to be called Armistice Day. It celebrated the end of World War I. We celebrate it on November 11 as the treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed at Compiègne, France on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. If I understand it correctly, this same day is celebrated in Britain and the Commonwealth countries as Remembrance Day. A far more dignified and appropriate name. As usual here in the USA we changed the nature of the celebration and have turned it into something else completely, but at least we haven’t changed it to a “Monday Holiday” well, not yet anyway.

I grew up with a great respect for Armistice Day in my house. My grandfather, Grandpa Max, served in the US Navy in World War I, and during the Mexican Campaign before that. Some listeners may remember that he and I shared our first ever flights together in August of 1969, he at the age of 73, me at 13.

My father, Lew, was a World War II veteran of the US Army and was a called back to The US Air Force as a retread for Korea. He was rightfully very proud of his service, and I was, and still am quite proud of him as my Dad. He was part of that group of people called “the greatest generation” by newscaster Tom Brokaw, so were most of my mother and father’s friends and family. I was raised by this generation, as well as the generation before, that fought World War I.

As part of “The Greatest Generation” at the age of 18 he was drafted out of his engineering studies at CCNY and landed in England on his 19’th birthday. He would have been one of the first to land on Omaha Beach during D-Day but looking back on it, I suppose he was fortunate to have been injured during the preparations for that invasion; suffering with both head and back trauma that plagued him the rest of his life, fortunately though, it did keep him off the beach that day. I’m not sure I would be here if he weren’t injured then. Those injuries didn’t keep him out of the war though.

After the war, Lew went back to college, but having spent so much time building and destroying bridges in the Army Corp of Engineers, he realized engineering was no longer his passion and he became a psychologist. I suppose in some ways this made him more valuable to the Armed Forces as when he was again drafted, this time as a “re-tread” for the Korean War; he was inducted as a Second Lieutenant for the then newly formed US Air Force Medical Corp. After being introduced by mutual friends, in the summer of 1955 Lew and my mother Harriet were married, I came along a little over a year later.

Now growing up my Dad and I would watch many World War II films together. Some we saw in theatres, some we saw on TV, all of them we would watch together over and over.

While watching those films with my Dad I would ask him questions, questions about his service, about his experience in the war, questions I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to ask. My Dad, being a teacher and a psychologist didn’t discourage me, he knew they were innocent questions and used those times to teach me and tell me about his experiences, as much as he could anyway. I suppose he realized that talking to me about him “having seen the elephant” was good for both of us.

He also taught me the etiquette about asking so I’d have a better understanding of veterans. I think watching those films with my Dad, and him teaching me about “The War” helped give me a great respect for our military and the sacrifices they made, and continue to make to this day, in defending we civilians.

Thinking back on that makes me think of the word hero and its definition. No, I’m not talking about the sandwich, something I also learned about from my Dad and “the greatest generation”, I’m speaking of the men, and yes, based on the societal norms of the time, most often men, who risked their own lives to save others.

You see heroes aren’t sports figures or actors or singers. Celebrities aren’t heroes, unless the heroism didn’t come from their celebrity status. Heroes are the people doing their job, not thinking or maybe at the time not caring about their own safety, when they act to save the lives of others. Most heroes aren’t celebrities and don’t look for nor want that status. Heroes walk among us though, and most often, we unfortunately don’t know them. In truth, they probably wouldn’t want to be known, as they don’t think of themselves as heroes. Most would say, I was just doing my job, and to me, that’s what makes them heroes.

Now although my father probably wasn’t a hero to anyone but me, let me tell you what may be an apocryphal story about him. While I was growing up, he owned a 1914 32ACP German Mauser handgun that he captured during the war. I asked him how he got it and he explained that it was all a big mistake.

You see it was after VE Day and Dad was still overseas. He was somewhere along the Belgium Luxembourg German border. Things were safe and he was out at a local pub, “drunk as a skunk” he would say.

He didn’t know much German but while overhearing a conversation at the next table he was sure he strung together enough to know that a German Colonel had not surrendered and was hiding out in a house in the local village.

My drunken father dutifully went to report this to his commanding officer, who was not pleased. The CO could see my Dad was drunk, and knew he didn’t speak any German. The commanding officer sent him to his barracks and ignored him. Not to be ignored Lew stormed back into the duty office and insisted that they needed to go to the address he had, and arrest this German Colonel. This time my Dad was sent back to his barracks escorted by MP’s who stripped him down to his skivvies and put him to bed.

Still not thwarted my father returned to his CO and insisted he had to go arrest this Colonel. The CO must have been some understanding kind of guy and didn’t throw my drunken father in the brig, but took him and a couple of MP’s to this house to prove that there was no German Colonel hiding out in this fully cleared area.

They entered the house and sure enough, there was a German officer hiding out there, he was at the top of the stairs and drew his side-arm, a 1914 32ACP German Mauser, and started firing down at my Dad, the two MP’s and their CO. Lew, still being, drunk thought to himself, “somebody has to get that gun” and went charging up the stairs to take it away. The German Colonel, either stunned at this stupidity, or out of ammunition, we’ll never know, stopped shooting and my father seized his weapon.

Stupidity, drunkenness, heroism, maybe bit of all of that, but when my Dad after telling that story in his joking, good natured and raconteurial manner, was asked why he didn’t get a medal, he would say he was just lucky he didn’t end up in the brig and lose his good conduct ribbon. You see my father may have been a hero to me for various reasons, that being one of them, but it’s not the prima facie basis of it.

It does make me think though of other heroes. There’s a former US Air Force pilot I know, who among other duties during his service, was a flight instructor. He wasn’t just any flight instructor though, he would instruct many pilots about to wash out, and was usually able to get them back on track and into the sky, making real USAF pilots out of them.

Then there’s this former RAF pilot I know, who also among other things during his service, would hear a klaxon alarm and hop into his F-4 Phantom II and run off to chase down and intercept Russian Bear Bombers. He’d show them we were ever ready and not going to be surprised by them.

Through their service, both these pilots helped in keeping a Cold War from going hot, and creating the kind of heroes that most often come to mind when we think of Veteran’s or Remembrance Day.

So as a civilian with a great respect for those who serve in our military, I want to extend my thanks to all of you who did and do serve there. Thanks for keeping us safe, thanks for just doing your job.

For Jetwhine, here in Portland, Maine

This is your Main(e) man,

Micah

Redbird Migration: Technology as Teacher

By Scott Spangler on November 6th, 2017 | What do you think? »

RB-12Deciding which breakout sessions was a vexing challenge at the Redbird Migration Flight Training Symposium held at the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh between October 10 and 18. Participants could pick six of 17 breakout sessions, with only four repeats: Redbird R&D; ATDs: FAA approval, Certification & Regs; Best Practices for Teaching in a Redbird; and Bringing Redbird GIFT into Your Flight School.

GIFT—Guided Independent Flight Training—best articulated the sessions’ common denominator, technology as teacher. Learning to fly through self-study in a simulator is an interesting concept with a number of benefits. First, with an insufficient number of CFIs interested in exercising their teaching certificates, it allows one who teaches to supervise the education of more students. More importantly, it introduces more consistency in the presentation, practice, and evaluation of the of maneuvers GIFT teaches.

AV1-172Pilot proficiency is the next step, and expanding the efforts and success of EAA AirVenture’s Pilot Proficiency Center is an ongoing goal. Proficiency is an ongoing challenge for pilots who fly 50 hours (or less) each year for their own pleasure. Working with an instructor in a sim, pilots chose from a wide selection of VFR and IFR scenarios. Few will disagree that the sim is a better—and more affordable—classroom than an airplane. In addition, like GIFT, each scenario provides consistency that levels the teaching field.

Everyone agreed that increasing the benefit of this pilot resource depends on access and frequency. Billy Winburn of Community Aviation and Charlie Gregoire of Redbird Flight discussed ways sim-equipped flight schools could offer the scenarios at Pilot Proficiency Center on a Local Level.

A secondary benefit of all the simulator-based efforts was the growing ability to document a pilot’s progress from student to certificate to sustained proficiency. This was one of the topics Redbird’s Jerry Gregoire discussed at the Redbird R&D session. The proactive and interactive feedback pro and con about possible systems and their enhancements was an unexpected example of a diverse group working toward a common goal.

RB-20But maybe it was not that surprising, given the cautionary words of Bill Ayer, the retired pilot, chairman, president, and CEO of Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Air Group, one of the Migration’s featured speakers. Asking for a show of hands of those who measure and track their student completions, an isolated and lonely handful of arms reached to the homebuilt airplanes suspended above them.

Therein lies one reason why only a small, guessed-at percentage of students conclude their training with a successful checkride. Recounting the challenges he addressed in revitalizing Alaska Airlines, Ayer made it clear that “what you measure gets done.”

Indeed. Imagine what the population of active pilots would number if just half of the students over the past three decades had realized their dreams of becoming a pilot. If the combination of dedication, innovation, and integration of practical technology glimpsed at the Redbird Migration spreads to just half of the nation’s flight schools, that outcome is entirely possible. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Redbird Migration Looks Back at the Future of Flight Training

By Scott Spangler on October 23rd, 2017 | 1 Comment »

For the past six years, Redbird, which has developed a family of aviation training devices, has sponsored a flight-training symposium attended by a hundred or more of the land’s leading aviation educators. Known as the Redbird Migration, in the past this flock congregated at Redbird’s roost in Texas. For its seventh season, it met in Oshkosh, hosted by EAA.

RB-1For many of the participants, it was their first time in Oshkosh outside of EAA AirVenture, and the dearth of aircraft, people, and traffic disoriented them. Fortunately, Sean D. Tucker, the keynote speaker at the opening dinner on Monday, October 16, helped acclimate them. And talking with the educators reacclimated me with a community I was once intimately a part of, which I found disorienting.

On one hand, they were exuberant about the future. With the airlines hiring and the entry-level positions now paying almost enough for students to repay their loans and put a roof over their head and food in the bellies, enrollments in their training courses was growing. And new and evolving technology (like a Redbird sim) enabled schools to make the most of their customers’ time and money.

At the same time, however, this migration was, for me, a groundhog day. Like the background soundtrack that provides continuity to a movie, the flight school educators discussed the same problems we were talking about nearly 30 years ago.

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Presidential Aircraft: Standing in History

By Scott Spangler on October 9th, 2017 | What do you think? »

USAF Museum Bldg 4Following Interstate 70 from one assignment in Indiana to the next in Maryland, a sign announcing the approach of Dayton inspired a deviation. I could spare a few minutes for a quick walk through the fourth building at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, which opened in June 2016. Parking and admission are free, but my quick walk through turned into a nearly 3-hour investment because I didn’t expect an absorbing inside look at history in four presidential aircraft.

Visiting before lunch on Wednesday in the final week of September, I had time to stand in the aisle of each, unsuccessfully trying to comprehend that I was following in the footsteps of Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, each identified with a specific airplane powered by four robust piston engines, and SAM (for Special Air Missions) 26000, the VC-137C (a Boeing 707-320B). During its 36-year career, it served eight sitting presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, and Clinton.

SAM 26000Of the aircraft in the museum’s Presidential Gallery, SAM 26000 is the most significant to Baby Boomers because they lived through its history. It is the airplane that carried Kennedy to Berlin in mid-1963 and his body home from Dallas six months later. You can think about that while reading the placard in the cabin where the crew removed a partition and seats to make room for his coffin. Pile on top of that the knowledge that this airplane carried Johnson to Vietnam and Nixon to China.

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Flight Instructors to Remember and Forget

By Robert Mark on October 2nd, 2017 | 2 Comments »

After 40 years of flying, flight instructing and communicating throughout the aviation business, it’s almost impossible for me to remember that of all my flight instructors, I almost allowed my first ago to drive me completely away from the business. Although he’s long gone from aviation, the lessons are still significant enough to pass on today at a time when the industry’s hunting and pecking for every possible student pilot. Lucky for me, another CFI entered my life years later and completely turned my world around.

In 1966 I was a 17-year old freshman at the University of Illinois Institute of Aviation and anxious to learn to fly. I never doubted my goal … to be an airline pilot.

In those days, student pilots and instructors at the school were randomly paired and I drew a guy named Tom. We flew the mighty 90-hp 7FC Tri-Champ with the student in front and the instructor behind.

School began in late September with ground school and the “Box,” a name we’d all attached to the Link trainer we were expected to partially master before we took to the air. I never realized I was a bit claustrophobic until the first time Tom sat me in the box, closed the door and pulled the cover down on top of me leaving me in nearly total darkness.

Why Was Always a Big Question

We didn’t brief much before we began so not surprisingly, the sessions didn’t go well since I never really understood the point of moving a control stick inside a dark little room as dials and gauges spun like mad before my eyes. Looking back on it today, I realize Tom talked a lot, asked few questions and simply assumed I was following along. I wasn’t since I’d never even been inside the actual airplane.

Finally one day I flew.

I clearly loved every moment in the air despite being nearly clueless about what I was supposed to be doing, except for reminders from the back seat like … “what are you doing that for?” It was at about the five-hour mark that things started getting ugly because I just didn’t seem to be getting things to come together.

There was this landing practice session that still sticks out in my mind. Right near the runway on the first few, Tom started yelling … “Flare, flare, flare.” Crunch! The Tri-Champ was pretty forgiving despite hitting hard enough to knock the headset off my head a few times. After an hour of punishing flying, we taxied in and shut down. Tom grabbed my shoulders and shook me hard from the back seat. “Why didn’t you flare when I told you too?” Somewhat worn out I just stared out the windshield and asked, “What’s a flare?” was all I could muster.

I actually managed to solo the next week and was cleared to fly the pattern that helped my confidence enormously. But soon I was back in the Tri-Champ and the Link with Tom and the yelling began again. To make matters worse, he began slapping me along side the head and yelling when I screwed up. With 15 hours total time, I finally broke. At 17 I knew I would never learn to fly. I quit school AND flying and never touched the controls of another airplane.

Until …

Jump ahead five years as I arrived to my last Air Force duty station at Bergstrom AFB, now Austin Municipal airport. How I got there is too long a story right now. It’s what happened next that’s important.

Within a few days of arrival I found the base flying club. Outside the main door near the aircraft parking area they’d installed a small set of stadium seats. I’d sit there watching the Piper Cherokees come and go, some with two people inside, some with just one. I didn’t go into the clubhouse though.

One day, I headed to the flying club to watch airplanes and eat my lunch. A Cherokee 140 pulled up near the fence, but the engine didn’t shut down. The guy in the right seat seemed to be talking to the pilot in the left. Finally the door opened, the guy in the right seat hopped out and shut the door patting it a few times, maybe for good luck I though. As the airplane taxied away, the right seat guy passed me saying hi as he did. Half an hour later the Cherokee returned and that same guy left to greet him. Later I learned the pilot was on his second supervised solo and the fellow who’d waved to me was his instructor.

Maybe a week or so later I’m back out on the seats watching the airplanes when that same instructor comes out of the clubhouse door. He looks around and happens to see me so he walks over. “Why aren’t you out there flying on such a beautiful day,” he asks. “I’m not a pilot.” “Really?” he says. “You sure hang around here a lot for a guy who doesn’t fly. My name’s Ray. Stop in one of these days,” he said before turning away toward one of the airplanes. The gauntlet had been thrown down.

I didn’t go back to the viewing area the rest of that entire week. It was simply too scary to think of being close to something I really loved, but at which I’d already failed. The next week though, I did go back, but only back to the seats.

To this day I think Ray was watching for me because he came out of the clubhouse door and waved … “Well, are you coming in?” I sighed deeply but got up and followed him in the clubhouse door. And that, as they say, was that.

Over some coffee, I told Ray my story of failure. It didn’t even slow him down because an hour later we went out flying … and I never stopped again. I went on to earn my ATP and my own flight instructor ratings, fly for a couple of airlines, a charter company and a couple of Part 91 corporate flight departments. As an aviation writer, I even managed to grab a couple of hours in an Airbus A-380. It has all been just so sweet.

My instructor Tom nearly ended my aviation career, but luckily there was another fabulous instructor like Ray out there waiting to offer me a hand up with a little encouragement, which is all I apparently needed.

Dassault’s Falcon 8X cockpit

Today I wonder how many instructors like Tom are still out there. Trust me, one like him is one too many.

So here’s a suggestion. When you see someone watching through the fence, go say hi and offer a little encouragement to that budding pilot. These already-eager people are the low-hanging fruit for instructors and we can’t afford to lose a one of them.

Who knows, you might just be the one to change that wannabe-pilot’s life.

Rob Mark

 

Drone & NextGen Technology & Flying Cars

By Scott Spangler on September 25th, 2017 | What do you think? »

Lilium raises € 10m from AtomicoEternal optimism is a dominant trait among aviation innovators, and nowhere is it more enduring than with those who dream of flying cars. Reading about the latest member of this community, Lilium, which just raised $90 million in financing, the German company described its vehicle, called the Eagle, as a two-seat, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) electric jet. The proof of concept prototype made its maiden flight earlier this year.

The all-electric Lilium Jet’s specs are impressive: 300 kilometer range, 300 kmh speed. For Americans, that’s 186.4114 miles at 186.428 mph. And, says the company, it does this “with less noise than a motorbike.” Its electric jet engines have one moving part.

iPhone showing the Lilium AppWorking in Munich, the designers are now working on the five-seater, which the company is marketing as a taxi. “You won’t have to own one, you will simply pay per ride and call it with the push of a button. It’s our mission to make air taxis available to everyone and as affordable as riding in a car.” Being VTOL, it could operate from small city landing pads no bigger than a downtown pocket park. “By traveling through the air you’ll be able to avoid time-consuming traffic jams, while enjoying a magnificent view.”

This is where the typical “flying car” story takes an interesting turn. “Take off with the push of a button,’ says the website headline. “We are working actively with leading mobility service providers to deliver a seamless user experience from booking through to landing.”

According to the company timeline, from an idea hatched in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2013, the first flight of a half-scale model in 2015, and the 2017 first flight of a full scale model, the first manned flight is planned for 2019, with 2025 as the target for booking a flight.

What most flying car optimists rarely talk about is the pilot, and the challenges of training and certification. Lilium doesn’t address the latter two, but they do mention the need for a pilot in “Safety First. Safety Second.” and mention who’s really going the flying. “In case of an emergency, regardless of the failing component, the computer informs the pilot to land the jet.”

In an emergency, vertical landing would still be possible because of an innovative ultra redundancy provided by small independent components, like the electric jet engines, that work in concert with their neighbors but whose failure doesn’t affect safety of the jet’s stability. Oh, and it has a full-aircraft parachute.

Combining this business model with the developing technology that is integrating drone technology with the Next Generational Air Transportation System, the flying-car skeptic can see a glimmer of success for the effort. It is not a “flying car” meant to be in every suburban garage. It is a VTOL taxi operated by a company (or possible an individual on the Uber/Lyft model) which would require a modicum of training and certification, perhaps on par with the FAA’s drone pilot certification. This will bear watching. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Hurricane Helicopter Love

By Scott Spangler on September 11th, 2017 | What do you think? »

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the ongoing rampage of Irma (with Jose and Katia on her heels), let’s give a moment of silent thanks to Igor Sikorsky who made the inaugural flight of the world’s first practical helicopter, the VS-300, this week, on September 14, 1939. Think about that for a moment. Where would we be right now if this intrepid designer decided that the uncountable challenges of getting so many interlocking parts to rotate for the common good was insurmountable?

As anyone who’s studied (or attempted to study) rotary wing aerodynamics can appreciate, it is not an east subject. With lead and lag and flap and all the rest, visualizing the relative wind’s relationship with an airfoil that is moving in two directions is not as easy as seeing a fixed wing moving forward in a slipstream delineated with smoky stripes. Painting a picture of it with words is an even greater challenge, which is why it is always easier to make a joke. Take, for instance, the bumble bee. It’s not supposed to fly either, but like the helicopter, it doesn’t know that.

Image result for hurricane helicopter rescueThanks to two years as a crewman on a Navy Huey helicopter, first and foremost I’m a dedicated rotorhead. Given a choice (and sufficient funds), I would fly nothing else. But it seems whenever aviators who favor fixed wings run into those who know that rotating wings provide the ultimate in flying fun, it’s time to make fun of helicopters for their fixed-wing failings. They are not very fast, and they don’t fly as far, etc., etc.

But people stop making these jokes when, say, they are floating in some fast expanse of water and the only sign of humanity is in that whirring machine that was once the butt of their jokes. Then helicopters are pretty impressive flying machines. And I’m sure that every helo crewman who’s endured rotary ridicule at the hands of floating aficionados of fixed wings has been tempted to dangle the horse collar just out of their reach for awhile, just to make a point.

As as we rescue those savaged by Mother Nature and restore lives to some degree of quotidian sameness, remember that helicopters are more than saviors when times are dire, and spread the good word of their unique and essential contributions when times are good. –Scott Spangler, Editor

What Was AirVenture’s Most Interesting Airplane?

By Scott Spangler on August 28th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

For about a month that follows EAA AirVenture, the most popular question posed by friends and acquaintances is What is the most interesting airplane you saw? This has always been the question since I attended my first Oshkosh convocation in 1978, and I’m sure it will continue until I can no longer perambulate the flight line.

AV1-81Answering the question is an exercise in subjectivity, so every individual’s answer is based on their aviation interests. Over the years I’ve developed a system, 3 Rs & U. To determine the most interesting airplanes, it has to be Rare, like the world’s only flying Douglas A-20 Havoc.

AV2-5Or it has to be Renowned, like the B-52, which made its second trip to Oshkosh this year. And it can be Resurrected, which put the renowned D-Day leading C-47 That’s All Brother, which Basler Turbo Conversions is now restoring for the CAF, ahead of two homebuilt designs from the 1970s.

AV3-167

But surpassing all of these is any older aircraft that was previously Unknown to me after a lifetime consumption of everything aviation. That makes the Boeing YL-15G Scout the most interesting airplane of AirVenture 2017.

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