Category Archives: Airplanes

That’s A Plane On The Beach

I got a call from a friend today that a plane had landed on Atlantic Beach. I almost didn’t go down there, but then how often do you get to see an airplane on the beach.

iPhone video of a plane which landed on Atlantic Beach

The pilot reportedly took off from Jacksonville Executive Airport at Craig Field, and had a fuel issue. My friend had been there earlier, and had said that the pilot apparently landed on the hard packed sand at low tide. Local officials managed to pull the plane up the beach to a spot above the high tide line.

The plane looked undamaged. No obvious signs of fluid leaks, and apparently the landing gear worked. FAA records indicate it’s a 1970 Mooney M20F. The only other soul on board at the time of the incident was the pilot’s dog. Both were reportedly just fine.

I’m also very impressed with the video quality from the iPhone. It’s the first little b-roll clip I’ve shot with the phone, and while it’s not full HD by any estimation, it’s not bad for video shot on a phone.

Mooney On The BeachNo, it’s not every day you get to see a plane on the beach. It happened to Andie’s dad once, back in his flying days. The NTSB finally determined that the A & P who had done the annual on his airplane had not put the oil system back together properly, and the engine threw all it’s oil. Fine during preflight, but during the flight, suddenly the prop has stopped. He landed safely on St. Augustine beach, and as far as I know has not flown as pilot in command since. The family story is that it was his third unscheduled arrival, and he figured he’d quit before his luck ran out.

Walking back to the car, a gentleman walking towards the plane pointed and said “What’s that?” I couldn’t resist. “It’s an airplane,” I replied. Fortunately, he had a sense of humor. “I see that,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be there.”

“No, it’s not,” I said. He asked what I knew, and I told him. It’s just what I’d read online before heading down to the beach. The NTSB usually has a preliminary report out in 10 business days following an incident such as this. It’ll be an interesting read, I’m sure.

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AirVenture

I’m in Wisconsin. “What in the world are you doing in Wisconsin?”, I hear you ask. Well, here at the end of the day, I’m enjoying a Rocky Patel 1990 and getting set for a long day tomorrow, the first full day of the AirVenture show at Oshkosh. Nearly every type of airplane … heck flying machine … is represented here this week. For anybody with even a passing interest in aviation, Oshkosh in late July is the place to be.

Except maybe for the mosquitoes. But that’s partly what the cigar is for.

Today was pretty much a ‘look around and see what’s out there’ day. Not everything has arrived just yet. Late the week, Boeing’s Dreamliner … the new, all composite airliner Boeing has been working on for years will be stopping by.Paris Air Show The Wittman Field (KOSH) runway will be taxed by the appearance of the airplane, but it handled an Airbus A380 a couple of years ago, so I imagine they’ve well figured out that they can get the Dreamliner in and out of here. Still in all … it’ll be fun to watch.

I spent part of my day today talking to a guy who is here with his 15-year-old nephew who flew here in a 1946 Ercoupe. This is an airplane of which I have been a fan for a long time. Paul Kern, the father of an old girlfriend,  had one. Paul was one of my early flying influences, and who showed me the path that would eventually lead to my earing a pilot’s license. ErcoupePaul’s was a “newer” 1966 Alon Aircoupe with “Factory 3” controls. In the airplane I saw today, the ailerons are coupled to the rudders, eliminating the need for rudder pedals. It was designed shortly after the war to be an “everyman’s airplane” … easy and inexpensive to fly. But like so many of those ideas, it never quite panned out to what it should have been. I recall an afternoon with Paul in the Alon in which we flew from Bedford down to a little town called Sunrise in southern Indiana. His daughter, whom I was dating at the time, was on a church-sponsored canoe trip on the Ohio River, and we did a couple of lazy overflights of their encampment before heading back home. I’d love to be able to fly one again, but then, there are a lot of airplanes that fall into that category.

Being here in Oshkosh always gives me that feeling. There are few sensations that are like being in command of an airplane, no matter how small. Coming here, being around the airplanes and the airplane people, it touches a place that nothing else really can.

So, I’m in Oshkosh. I’m here to work, and work we will. But there is also a camaraderie, a feeling of belonging, something unique about what it represents. It feels right to be here.

This may be a rare, quiet moment this week. I’ve not written enough about anything. That needs to change. And this seemed to be a much better place to start than any.

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Sig

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So … Where The Heck Have YOU Been?

Good question. Not here writing for you, unfortunately, but cranking out a lot of bits to the Interwebs none the less.

AEA Aero-TV

Last week, I was at the Aircraft Electronic Association trade show for my client Aero-TV. I was part of a team that put together two live webcasts from the convention floor. As the final interview of the shows, I had the opportunity to chat with AEA president Paula Derks about the Association and its role in the aviation community. Of course, when I say I was part of the team, what I really mean is there were a bunch of talented people there making me look good, and I filled my usual role of sitting in front of the camera and talking. It’s what I do.

What was very interesting about the entire experience, though, was that at the end of the day, it was no different than being on broadcast television. The cameras took the same pictures, they needed the same lights, though we used a much softer light than I’m used to in the studio.  It was shot in HD, the switcher interface on the computer screen looked like a TV switcher … there were camera operators and a producer … all just like old times.

Of course, the AEA show was where they introduce all the cool toys, and if there’s one thing aviation is famous for, it’s cool toys.

Archer IIIOk, so that takes care of a few days last week. But a few days before going down to Orlando for the show, I got to ride along as a second set of eyes during an air-to-air photo shoot for one of Piper’s 50th anniversary PA-28 Archer III’s.  As much as I love flying, and for all the times I’ve been in a little airplane, being this close to another little airplane, even with two very experienced pilots at the controls, gets the adrenaline going just a bit.  On this day, I mostly watched for other traffic, both on the TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) and out the window. While technology has made things a lot easier, there’s nothing like a good pair of eyes looking out the window to make sure you’re in “see and avoid” mode.

Piper Sport 2

Tuesday, I was in Lakeland for a fly-in, and covered the delivery of the first Piper Sport to a customer … actually three customers who got the keys to their new airplane. It made me jealous. This is a really sweet little airplane in the Light Sport category that would be a lot of fun just to go knock around in, or take on a cross-country up to, say, Miami of Ohio where my daughter is in school. A head turner on the ramp, too. If it has a drawback, its that there are only two seats in the airplane, and there are times when I’d want to take more than one person with me … sort of like my old MR2 that I had when Jenni was born. This would certainly take the place of that. Now if I only had an extra $139,000 burning a hole in my pocket.  Where’s that lottery when you need it?

Redneck Flying Boat

This one, I have to take on faith that it flies. But if there was ever an appropriate place to see it, it’s near the Florida swamps. Yes, that’s a V-hull aluminum boat that’s been turned into a bi-plane. The pilots’ seat, and it’s the only seat aboard, is a white plastic Home Depot lawn chair bolted to the hull. There’s a bilge pump, which you’d expect. A sign on the airplane read “Sunshine Clipper Amphibian Biplane,” and below was the legend “A one-of-a-kind, amateur-built-novelty hull amphibian.” In that they are entirely correct. As much as I love to photograph old and unusual boats, I just had to have pics of this old (looking at least) unusual FLYING boat. It made my day.

Otherwise, I’ve been editing tons of stuff for Aero-News.net, writing my column for “The Jacksonville Observer”, hosting The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show on Wednesday afternoons, which is my only connection to traditional media at the moment, and trying to find some time for The Improv Effect and Republican Party politics.

So what had to give? “Life’s a Beach”, unfortunately. But I’ll still be here when I can, and work to make time for y’all as the summer progresses.

Speaking of the radio show, our guest this coming Wednesday is just-announced candidate for Mayor of Jacksonville Rick Mullaney. Join us Wednesday afternoon at 5:00 on ABC 1320, WBOB.

Bar Code Grey

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No Rest For The Weary

It’s been a long week and a long weekend. The good news is, the weather was pretty lousy all weekend, so I didn’t really miss much as far as fun stuff was concerned, but the bad news was, I spent more hours than I really would have liked sitting right here … working on one project or another. Ah, the life of the unintentional entrepreneur.

First, the fun stuff.

Da-Do-Run-Run

The Improv Effect had a really good show at The Comedy Zone Tuesday night. It was our first “Improv Only” show, and we drew a good crowd through some traditional and guerilla marketing techniques. Lot of reminders to folks on our Facebook lists, some online stuff on jacksonville.com, Austin taped a little video clip with me for The Jacksonville Observer … basically anything we could think of to get folks into the house, and we probably had 75 folks enjoying the show. It’s always a pleasure to play to that kind of a crowd, and we didn’t disappoint, if I do say so myself. We won’t have another shot at CZ until March, but we will be playing the February Art Walk on Wednesday at MOCA. Come on out and Join us.

ANN Cirrus TampaI worked ahead most of the week for Aero-News for the opportunity to fly to Tampa late in the week.  We had intended to fly down Thursday, but with President Obama in Tampa on Thursday, the TRF made getting into any airport there in a private airplane next to impossible. So Friday, it was up early, drive to the St. Augustine airport, and load up in 377SR for the trip down to Tampa. The occasion was the airplanes’ scheduled annual inspection, which means we had to leave the airplane in Tampa and drive back to Jacksonville. The upside is I got to fly the airplane again. Every time, I learn a little bit more. I’m now studying the Avidyne Release 9 manual to learn more about that simple little “does-everything-but-cook-lunch” system. The manual is a PDF file that’s only 177 pages long. Just a touch different from flying with steam gauges. Each thing did one thing, and now the Primary Flight Display and and the Flight Management System take the place of nearly everything in the cockpit, from the old Horizontal Situation Indicator to the sectional and Jepp IFR charts. There’s a reason the manual is 177 pages long.

But I do love flying this airplane. I’ve only gotten my hands on one other airplane since I’ve been writing for Aero-News, but I could fly this Cirrus forever.

The flying on Friday got the weekend off to a great start. Sadly, the rest of the weekend was a bit more … mundane. I worked on an editing project for a sales training manual, and finished my weekly column for The Jacksonville Observer. It doesn’t sound like a lot, and there was time for breakfast this morning at Over The Ditch Cafe and some of the work I did while semi-watching the Pro Bowl this evening. Congrats to David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew for hooking up for a TD in Miami. I also caught up just a bit with an old friend from high school who just recently discovered Facebook.

So Monday, it’s back to the salt mine. A goal for the coming month is to pay more attention to “Life’s a Beach”, and to try to start shedding the extra baggage that I managed to accumulate over the holidays.

Gotta have goals …

Bar Code

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NBAA

And no, that’s not an additional “A”. I spent the week at the National Business Aviation Association meeting on behalf of Aero-News.net. And boy, were there a lot of pretty airplanes.

Honda Jet

Here we have the Honda Jet, certainly not in its natural habitat. Honda has had this aircraft in development for several years, and the only place it’s prettier is when it flies. Honda was one the few airplanes on the floor of the convention center in Orlando, and how they got there with no nearby runway had to be amazing. I didn’t see it. Along with the Honda, a Pilatus PC-12 was parked indoors at the convention center, which was sold during the show. There was also a Cirrus SR22X Edition, as well as the mockup of the Cirrus Jet.

But airplanes are usually best displayed outside, which was the purpose for the static display at Orlando Executive Airport.

Cessnas

This row of Cessna jets, along with a Grand Caravan and a 350 Corvalis. Off to the left are the Citation X models, one with the winglets that are showing up on more aircraft. I was up on a scissor lift with the ANN camera guys to get this shot. Cessna was one of the many recognizable names that brought their entire lines to Orlando for NBAA. Bombardier/Learjet, Embraer, Gulfstream. Pretty much if you ever dreamed of flying, or flying in one, it was on the static display at Orlando last week.

MS760

This is the MS760, an airplane as old as I am. Originally designed as a French military jet, it was marketed by Beechcraft back in the day as first of what are now known as VLJ’s, or Very Light Jets. Four seats, two engines, goes fast, but economical (for a jet), the people who fly it say it is very easy to fly. Here’s a jet you could throw dive bags in the back seat, a day pack with a bathing suit, clean shorts and flip-flops in the baggage compartment, and zip down to Treasure Cay in about an hour, turning heads at the airport on arrival. The company is putting together an aerobatic demonstration team featuring Dale “Snort” Snodgrass, who I was told was the pilot that was the inspiration for the movie “Top Gun”, and who flew many of the F-14 sequences in that movie, and Jerry “Jive” Kerby, 23 years in the Air Force and a top F-15 pilot. The best part is they’ll be practicing out of St. Augustine, which is a good reason to go to Caps On The Water to watch them fly.

Dornier SeaStar

Of course, for taxiing right up to the dock at Brendal’s on Green Turtle Cay, this would be the airplane of choice, for me anyway. The Dornier Seastar brings a long heritage of flying boats to this first all-composite example. But like most of the airplanes on the ramp last week, I’m going to have to win the lottery to be able to buy one.

So on the way out of town, I bought a ticket.

As far as the overall economy is concerned, though, I talked with a lot of people who said that, while traffic was down somewhat from past years, the people who were looking at the airplanes at NBAA this were were more serious. “Fewer tire kickers” was a phrase I heard more than once. From just the variety of pictures here, it’s fairly obvious that really any airplane can be a business airplane. From a 4 place piston aircraft to a 50-year-old Paris Jet … or a big, roomy, flying boat to the traditional bizjet, airplanes are a great way to get where you’re going, whether there’s a business meeting or a boat trip to the reef at the end of road.

Of course, the first time we went diving with Brendal, and we settled into a coral cavern about midway through the dive, he pulled out his slate and wrote “how do you like my office?” So maybe those two things aren’t THAT much different.

Sig

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A Good Week

Here’s my definition of a good week. I got to spend time in a little airplane, and a little time on my boat. I really have no other way to describe it.

flying 2Regular readers will know about my trip to Savannah on Tuesday. We flew up in the Aero-News.net Cirrus SR-22 for the roll out of the new Gulfstream G650. While I didn’t actually get to fly, I got to ride up front, and that was good for a start. I am absolutely jonesing to be back in the left seat. The technology has come so far in the cockpit from when I last flew as pilot in command that I’ll have a lot to re-learn, but it does reduce the cockpit work load as well. And huge, awkward sectional chart s in the cockpit are, in some airplanes at least, a thing of the past. I remember folding huge sectional charts on which I’d drawn a line with a pencil and a parallel rule. With the flight directors available today, you tell the computer where you want to go, and it’s all right there.

But as often as I’ve flown in the back in Dumbo the Jumbo, there’s nothing quite like being up in the business end of the airplane, and I hope it was just the first time of many in the coming months.

As much fun as that was, that was business. I was amazed that I punched up the voice recorder on my iPhone pretty much in the back of the room during the news conference after the G650 rollout, and found it actually recorded the audio well enough that I got much better quotes for my news conference story listening back to the audio. Some of it was unintelligible, but for the most part, it worked great. More and more, this phone is becoming a business tool. So, flying was fun, but it was bookended by work.

New Name 11This afternoon, for the first time in 6 weeks, I got the boat off the rack and went for a ride on the Intercoastal Waterway. Just for grins. Busy and Tim came along, and we started for the ocean, but it became quickly obvious that it would be too choppy to head out to sea. So we came about and headed for the Intercoastal Waterway. The water was much smoother , and it was just a great ride. Nothing special or spectacular about it, but a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon when the Jaguars were blacked out on TV. I turned on the radio in the boat, and listened to the game while cruising the ICW.

So we ju st rode, until we got down to the Beach Boulevard bridge. We’d just turned around and were going to head back to the marina when we came up on a fellow boater with the cover off his outboard motor, alone, no radio, not having a good day. We tossed him a line and towed him back to the boat ramp at Beach Boulevard. Pay it forward.

Boy Scout Good Deed For The Day done, we headed back to the marina and cleaned up the boat, and called it a day.

So, airplanes and boats, boats and airplanes. Two great things, from my perspective, and I was lucky enough to experience them both the same week. No matter how you slice it, that’s a good week.

Sig

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A Civilized Way To Get There

clip_image002I had occasion to travel to Savannah on Tuesday for the unveiling of a brand new Gulfstream Business Jet … the G650. But this is not going to be about the not-yet-flown $64.5 million, mach 0.85 beauty that taxied under its own power to the cheers of some 7,000 Gulfstream employees Tuesday morning, it’s about the journey.

Among the things I do for a living these days is write and edit news for the online publication Aero-News.net, and Jim Campbell, the owner/EIC offered me the opportunity to accompany him to the roll-out in his Cirrus SR-22, a hot-rod 4-place turbocharged airplane, making the normally 2 hour trip to Savannah a 45 minute joy.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed sitting up front with a view forward, as opposed to back in steerage with a view (sometimes) out the side. We departed St. Augustine a little before 8:00, circling to stay clear of the clouds as we climbed above them and set up a course for Savannah. And it was here that I realized just how far aviation, and in particular navigation, has come since I took my first flying lesson back in 1976.

clip_image004When I say “set up a course”, I mean two 10 inch LCD displays connected to probably as much computing power as I have in the laptop on which I’m writing this column showed us where we were going, how high, how fast, how much crosswind, where the restricted airspace was, how high we had to be to avoid that airspace, a satellite-delivered weather display that rivals what Tim Deegan shows us on TV … even the other aircraft in the area, their route of flight and how their altitude compared to ours, and that just scratches the surface. Jim explained to me that you fly about 10 minutes ahead of the plane, managing the systems. Once you set up the course and altitude, a touch of a button here and a twist of an knob there and you can change course, altitude, or destination. For most of the trip, he let the autopilot fly the airplane while he planned, about 10 minutes ahead each time, for what he wanted to have happen next.

Flying an airplane has always been a highly technical skill. Unlike driving a car, there’s that whole “up and down” aspect to flying that can come to an abrupt end if you’re not careful … and sometimes even when you are. Of course, driving a car can have similar consequences. But now, some of the kids who dreamed of becoming video game designers have been embraced by the avionics industry, and if you think the moving maps on your car GPS or iPhone are cool, go flying with a glass cockpit sometime. Next for the Cirrus is what’s called synthetic vision, which will show you the terrain and obstacles in a video-game looking display, sort of like your Microsoft Flight Sim … only better.

Beyond the sheer pleasure of the flight, though, was what it allowed us to accomplish today. As I said, a full day of driving to and from Savannah was boiled down to about an hour and a half of flying, which is what business aviation is all about. I was able to get home, have lunch, and still accomplish a full day’s work because I didn’t spend all day in the car. Business Aviation got a very bad rap when the Auto Execs showed up in Washington in their corporate jets, and while maybe that particular trip sent a mixed message, businesspeople use airplanes all the time to allow them to go places airlines don’t go, at least very effectively, when they need to go there, quickly and efficiently and often at less cost to the business than flying commercial. A business airplane is a tool. That it happens to sometimes be a lot of fun too is just an added bonus.

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Our trip ended uneventfully, though on the way back from Savannah we did make a fairly low pass over the ocean for a view of the beach. A barely-felt touchdown back at St. Augustine, and we were done with the flying for the day.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to do a lot of things in my life that other people haven’t, and yet my bucket list remains long. Learning to fly an airplane was one of those things, and one for which I’ve never had a single regret. Tuesday, I got to see the First Coast from a perspective that has eluded me for the nearly 10 years I’ve been here.

I don’t plan to be a stranger.

Sig

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