Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pilot, Avgeek, Airplanista: A Guide to Aviators, for the Non-Flying Public

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

You're in the checkout line at the local Piggly Wiggly when you reach for your credit card and accidentally pull out your FAA-issued Pilot's License. When you tell the checker that, ha ha, you probably can't use your PILOT'S LICENSE to pay for groceries, she says, "Oh, you're a pilot, wow, you mean, like, for the airlines?

"No, I am just a private pilot," you answer, without trying to say it like, "hell yeah, I'm a PILOT, a serious trained aviator that gets to fly AIRPLANES!" Because if you answer in the way your inner #Avgeek wants to answer, you'd be dancing on that belt, you know, the one that moves the Huggies slowly closer to the scanner. Security would get involved, and the Officer would not be amused when you explain that your uncontrollable exhilaration stems from sharing some skills - and maybe a tidbit of DNA - with Orville and Wilbur Wright.
So in an attempt at education the non-flying public, here is a cheat sheet that people can download and save for future reference as I attempt to describe a few key sub-cultures of the aviation family:
#AVGEEK - These aviators are the technologically-advanced pilot types, usually found on Twitter, always with more than one mobile device on their person, with a stronger-than-usual craving for bacon. #Avgeeks spend late nights on their computer coding and developing websites that serve as pilot communities and forums, and have a tendency to regularly record podcasts. They fly all sorts of airplanes, experimentals, Cessnas, Pipers, and even a few airliners. Often has a job in the aviation industry, or derives at least 50% of their take-home pay from a job at or very near an airport. Would never, ever, EVER think of attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and not camping in Camp Bacon.

AVERAGE JOE/JANE PRIVATE PILOT - Knows their way around the airport coffee shop, has never met a $100 hamburger they didn't devour. Owns and flies an older 172, or something from the Cherokee family. Does not work in aviation, but they purposely took a corporate job working in a cubicle because it has a window on the side of the building where they can watch the inbound air traffic to the local airport. Changes their own airplane oil, and can find their way around the show grounds at Oshkosh with a bandana tied over their eyes.

EAA MEMBER - Knows 1,001 ways to rivet various materials together, and can spot the differences between an RV-6A and RV-9A from 500 paces. Owns a portable grill for pancake breakfasts and has a Leinenkugel's sign in his or her hangar. Has flown over 750 Young Eagles, and their airplane was shipped to their house in a crate. Has plans to restore a Fieseler Storch, and dreams of owning a Lancair Evolution.

PROFESSIONAL AIRLINE PILOT - Can run a checklist while ordering fuel, managing a passenger manifest and drinking coffee from a tiny paper cup, all at the same time. They can pack a roller suitcase in 15 minutes for two-weeks worth of RONs, and every uniform shirt will look perfectly pressed when they step aboard the Triple Seven to haul a load of humans over the pole to Grandma's house. The elite of this group can write two novels, raise a family, install a putting green in her backyard on a day off, and earn a Ph.d, just because she has 15 minutes of layover before her next flight to Amsterdam. Might live in Seattle.

JET OWNER/PILOT - A rare breed, found at airports with long and very smooth runways. Rents only luxury cars, and drinks wine that has been aged longer than most #Avgeeks have been alive. Seems to always get a golf cart at Oshkosh because the know people who know people. Has a net worth equal to many small countries. Owns a company, often uses his or her jet to fly cancer patients, and because of their philanthropic ways, are some of the most important aviators because their generous donations to the major aviation associations keeps the aviation family alive to push forward. It's not true they will only eat burgers made from $10 bills, they much prefer Kobe beef.

STUDENT PILOT - A younger demographic, these aviators have wide eyes, big dreams, and unstoppable motivation. They still remember most of what they were taught in ground school. Works two jobs to pay for flight lessons, and has never met a Cessna 150 they didn't love. Went to Oshkosh for the first time this year, and used the word "awesome" in 493 tweets during show week. Will own an airplane some day, but at the present time is just trying to scrape up enough coin for a sweet Bose A20 headset.

AIRPLANISTA - Writes more than he exercises, and knows the HondaJet will have insane quality of workmanship because his Honda lawnmower is virtually indestructible. Stares at the sky any time an airplane - ANY airplane - flies overhead. Corrects tech support people who say "Apple David Nancy" by telling them it's "Alpha Delta November." Drives a seasoned Toyota truck that runs perfectly so he can afford to fly a seasoned Cherokee 235 that runs perfectly. Has never met a pound of bacon he didn't like, and his current challenge is to cram enough camping equipment into a suitcase and haul it from Oregon to Oshkosh next summer to camp with the #Avgeeks in Camp Bacon.
There it is, everything you need to know to tell the aviators apart out at the airport. And if you are at the mall or a sporting event, you do not even need this guide, just look for the people who are smiling. That's because those pilots have just returned from flying. Makes no difference what they were flying - a Piper J3 Cub or a Phenom 300, Pilatus PC-24 on floats or a 1929 Boeing 40C - doesn't matter.

It's flying. It's airplanes. And it rocks.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The GA Power Collective: Where do we go from here?

Just a few of the #avgeeks who wore the official event
shirt at #Oshbash to show their support for the idea of creating
a GA Power Collective. (photo Neil Reagan)
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

This year's edition of my Oshbash social meetup is history, and from all accounts I have heard, the event was receiving positive reviews. After months of planning, the execution of the GA Power Collective Panel Discussion went off without any really obvious hitches other than some bandwidth and audio issues with the live stream, and from comments I heard post-event, everyone enjoyed the show.

What I set out to do was put together a panel to begin a conversation about growing the pilot population to 1,000,000 pilots, without a timetable in mind. To get there, I suggested that the major aviation associations should consider joining forces to tackle the industry's epidemic growth problem together. I purposely left the gate leading down that path open because I wanted the buy-in to this theory to come from the panel and not from me. As moderator, my job was to ask the questions that would spark that conversation.

A full house of about 100 people fill the Press Tent and some of the outside Press Hospitality area, while people not at Oshkosh tuned into the Other People's Airplanes live stream. The video crew did a stellar job of setting the stream up, installing a multi-cam system and even a small Jib camera crane. David Allen created very professional "bottom third" titles for each panelist and myself, along with a very cool pre-roll slide show that the @FlyOPA broadcast on the stream pre-event. But due to some unforeseen networking issues, reports came in that the stream was less than ideal. That is unfortunate, but it was not for any lack of effort from the video crew. I believe they had the setup to do a perfect live stream, but as gremlins are known to do, the broadcast deteriorated in spots. I blame it on the storm:
One of our panelists was Dick Knapinski, EAA's Senior Communications Advisor, a.k.a the "Busiest Man in All of Aviation" during this show week. He had told me that he's be happy to represent EAA on the panel but was technically on call, and might have to bail if something came up that needed his immediate attention. "My pocket buzzed once while sitting on the panel," Knapinski said, "and I knew something was up. When it buzzed a second time, that was it, I knew the storm we were predicting all day had arrived."
That storm was a fast-moving typical afternoon front that glowed orange, yellow and pink on the NEXRAD. Since everyone at the show has some version of an aviation WX app on their phones or iPads these days, it was not news that a storm was brewing. Later, during a chat over in Camp Bacon, one of the #avgeeks described what might have caught Knapinski's attention. "You could see the storm starting to hook," said Sam Wiltzius (@wiredforflight), "and you know what that means." Of course he was referring to the early stages of a tornado, but that did not develop, and the storm split in two just north of KOSH. The "Oshkosh Gods" had again protected the field as the heaviest downpours and hail went east and west of the airport.

But while the storm had minimal impact on the grounds, it did empty a fair amount of chairs at #Oshbash. This could have been people who fled to run back to check tiedowns or secure their camps. It was apparent during the door prize drawing when a surprising number of attendees who had received a drawing ticket did not materialize to claim their prize. But with the help of Esmeralda Mendoza and Teresa Venegas of Art Craft Paint - organized by Jolie Lucas of Mooney Ambassadors - we were able to give away all the swag:

The largest door prize was donated by Aero Glass, who is developing a very exciting augmented reality 3D HUD system to be used while flying with Epson Moverio Smart Glasses. Jeff Johnson, with Aero Glass, said interest in their product was off the charts at their booth (#1110). To learn all about this emerging aviation technology, visit the Aero Glass website and watch their latest video. Other door prizes from Phoenix Graphics, Sporty's Pilot Shop, Torgeon Swiss Aviator Watches, Flying Eyes Headset-friendly Sunglasses and authors Karlene Petitt and Eric Auxier were all very well received.

The idea of the major aviation associations joining forces in a manner that could produce a legit effort to seriously grow the pilot population is a good one, so says anyone I spoke with who attended #Oshbash. The tagline of the event was "the conversation starts right here, right now" and yes, that conversation has technically began. Starting it was the easy part, now what are the associations and the industry going to do next?

As I walked the grounds today at #OSH14, I am afraid to report that a disturbing number of pilots I asked think this was a good idea that was DOA the minute my event ended. I am not so negative, but I cannot honestly I feel like the ball was moved very far either.

To jump start the number of certificated pilots in the aviation family, it will take something far more substantial than any of the many great ideas and programs that were discussed at #Oshbash. It will take a bold leap off a cliff into a black hole of the unknown, one that could be hard for many of the associations to take. I have never said I thought a "GA Power Collective" would actually come together, only that the idea of working together is a discussion we absolutely need to have.

The conversation has started. Where will it end, what is the outcome we seek, and how will the massive roadblocks of different opinions within the associations be overcome to "save" GA? I never like to say GA is dying, but some of the people I spoke with today at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh says it is. One very well-connected writer I spoke with today said that left unchecked, decreasing pilot numbers will mean the end of..."this." With wide arm movements, he was saying "this" - as in Oshkosh itself - may one day go away if something isn't done to reverse the trend of a shrinking pilot population.

Sitting on that bench, in that place, during this week, listening to someone lament about a GA world where we have no "Oshkosh," made me realize that this HAS to happen, the associations need to come together, period. There is no time left for excuses, it has to happen, now.

Because the alternative is completely unacceptable.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Full-tilt #Avgeekery on Display at AirVenture's Camp Bacon

Adam Fast doing a bit of Python coding around the
Camp Bacon campfire. Photo: Damon Favor
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

If you hang around this blog long enough or follow the #OSH14 feed on Twitter, you've no doubt heard of Camp Bacon...a growing encampment of #avgeeks that inhabits a large corner of Camp Scholler this time each year. There you find a celebration of airplanes, technology and the Sus scrofa domesticus.

To the rapidly growing community of #avgeeks on Twitter, Camp Bacon is the epicenter of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. It is the place where friends gravitate towards, and it's become the place to circle back to when tech-savvy aviators need to recharge their souls and their cell phones while participating in some VERY interesting conversations.
Last night after the Kenny Loggins opening day concert, Camp Bacon again started drawing back home the legions of #avgeeks that love the camp's vibe. As the campfire glowed - fed by some sort of alcoholic beverage being poured on the fire by one of the #avgeeks - the chairs were circled and the laughter and conversation began. And what happened was a priceless "Oshkosh moment" that could have only taken place inside this camp.
First, let me set the stage:
After another challenging commercial flight to get to Appleton, WI airport on my way to AirVenture, I was picked up by Thomson Meeks (@THR_18 on Twitter) and his dad Tom, and we immediately headed direct to Ardy and Ed's Drive-in for some burger and Black Cow love. As we chowed down, I joked that Thomson - one of those young brilliant types who just "gets" tech in a way most in his generation can - could probably code an app while we were sitting at the dinner table. He laughed and said "you must have me confused me with Adam Fast (@adamcanfly) who REALLY knows how to code."
 And he was right on with that comment. As I sat around the Camp Bacon fire with Fast and a number of other #avgeeks, the conversation centered around the trend that more and more aviation apps are all using names that were so similar. They seem to all start with "I-this" or "E-that" and we concluded that what needed to happen was for someone to create a way for new start-ups to quickly name their new apps. And then it happened...
One of the #avgeeks joked that what we needed was a "aviation app random name generator" that with a mouse click, these start-ups could have their name determined for them. As we laughed at this silly notion, nobody noticed that Fast has vanished. But when he appeared back around the fire, he was holding his laptop and typing away calmly. No more than five minutes has passed before Fast debuted this exact random name generator, one he CODED on the fly using five minutes. We roared at the names Adam's generator produced, like "iPlanner Palooza" and "ePlan-o-matic."
This was one of those "Only at Oshkosh" moments that we #avgeeks will never forget. And it proved yet again that aviators are some of the best humans on this planet. And the subculture of that group, the #avgeeks, are even more friendly and more entertaining than the average run-of-the-mill aviator. These are my people, I am at home when surrounded by them. If you are at AirVenture, follow the #OSH14 hashtag for real-time information, and to learn why you too probably are an #avgeek, stop by Camp Bacon (corner of Lindbergh and Forest Home...look for the Airpigz red Chevy HHR) Wednesday 6PM - 8PM for the first 2014 Bacon Party. You will not regret it, I can guarantee that.

#Oshbash is Today! Watch the live stream at 530PM CDT

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

After months of planning, the day has finally arrived for this blog's #Oshbash GA Power Collective event today at 530PM Central in the Press Tent at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Is this the beginning of an aviation industry quest to grow the pilot population to 1,000,000 certified pilots? Nobody knows the answer to that, or to the many questions the aviation family is facing, such as regulatory roadblocks, societal opinions about general aviation or financial concerns about the cost of training new pilots and providing the airplanes those pilots need to fly affordably.

The GA Power Collective will bring together seven influential leaders from some of the major aviation groups for a Panel discussion to talk about the viability of creating a "collective" between the associations and the industry to determine a new way to communicate the many benefits of GA flying to the public. All of these associations have enormous resources at their disposal, and they all do great things to help solve the growth riddle facing GA. But it is quite clear that working alone, what is being done today is just not working. The Panel will bounce around the idea of joining forces to see if as one large entity combining both financial and intellectual resources, we could come up with something new and effective to start growing the pilot population at the fast pace needed to keep up with our senior pilots who are losing their medicals.

You can go to the link below to watch the event live:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Plan* for Oshkosh 2014 (*Subject to change)

The #avgeek crowd at #CampBacon enjoys spirited talk
no doubt centered around airplanes, technology,
beer or bacon. Photo: Ron Klutts
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

(Eugene, OR) You notice from the dateline at left that I have not yet departed for the aviation world's annual family reunion at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. I won't go wheels up until Sunday, when I blast off out of KEUG on a United regional jet flying a "Dawn Patrol" flight to KDEN. With the WX Gods on my side, I should make it through KORD unscathed and arrive in the land of cheese and airplanes a little before 4PM to catch the shuttle bus from KATW to the show grounds.

My readers who have been lucky enough to attend Oshkosh know that once your boots (OK, technically really good walking shoes) hit the ground, you are running constantly, and no matter how much you try, plans go haywire all day, every day. The veteran AirVenture attendee knows that pivoting is one of the best skills you can bring with you to this massive show.

Knowing that this will no doubt change, here is a look at my Plan "A" before, of course, it deteriorates into "Plan B" and finally goes completely off the rails and no longer even resembles a plan:
After a sumptuous breakfast at Blackhawk Commons next to the luxury dorm room I have rented at the University of Wisconsin, I plan to be escorted to the show on a $659,000 (just guessing here) Go Transit Oshkosh City Bus before swooping through the Media Hut to grab my Airplanista media credentials.

First planned stop at the show is Boeing Plaza at 930A where Honda will be introducing us to their first production HondaJet. They are planning a "hat giveaway" and if their hats are of the same high quality as their jet, I MUST get one of those onto my dome.

Next I will swing by a couple of donor's booths to pick up swag and visit with some of the cool aviation companies donating door prizes to #Oshbash. That is followed by a hike over to my first visit to #Campbacon to meet up with @LarryOverstreet, my anointed Guardian of the Swag at the show. He's offered to hold it all so I do not have to hoof it on my back for two days. Larry is also jumping in to support #Oshbash by bringing chilled bottled water for the Panelists. I love #avgeeks like Larry, he just "gets" what it means to belong to this aviation family.

After a few hours baking in the sun watching the afternoon air show, I will migrate back to Boeing Plaza for the Opening Day Concert featuring Kenny Loggins. His music (with Jim Messina) was on constant loop when I was a younger lad, and my step-son, Michael, even played "Danny's Song" at my wedding 27 years ago (with a broken arm). But of course, like everyone else in the audience, I will be waiting for him to hit the first few notes of "Danger Zone" from the "Top Gun" movie soundtrack. I'm not the only one that hopes EAA has arranged for an F-14A Tomcat (flown by Tom Cruise, a.k.a Pete "Maverick" Mitchell) to blast over the show grounds at warp speed at treetop height right about the time Loggins sings "right into the DANGER ZONE" for the first time. That happens and it would forever be remembered as one of Oshkosh's most epic moments...ever.

Another breakfast of bacon, waffles and coffee at Blackhawk precedes my biggest day of the show for 2014. I have a confirmed 930A interview on EAA Radio to discuss #Oshbash and the GA Power Collective, followed by another interview at the Announcers Stand out on the flight line to also talk about growing the pilot population to 1,000,000.

After a lunch of brats and a couple of gallons of water, I will stroll the halls and grounds sniffing out stories for all the magazines that are currently buying my work. With Cessna Flyer Magazine, Piper Flyer Magazine, Rotor Magazine, EAA Sport Aviation Magazine and AOPA Pilot Magazine throwing ink my way - plus this blog - my main goal at OSH14 has shifted from finding ad agency clients to finding interesting people to write about. This follows a path forward for me towards eventual retirement from advertising so I can focus 24/7 on my writing.

Around 4P, I will "move into" the Press Tent for #Oshbash, helping to set the stage and coordinate with Dave Allen and his TV crew from, who will be broadcasting the event live on their youtube channel. That means even those on mobile (non-Flash capable) devices will be able to watch Oshbash from anywhere on the show grounds...or even in Hong Kong, where Lynda Meeks will hopefully be tuned in.

From 530P to 730P, I will moderate the GA Power Collective Panel Discussion at this blog's #Oshbash event. This is going to be a day "filled with surprises" as my wife likes to say, because nobody knows what's going to happen. After the lights go out and the crowd is gone, I hope to find a great meal with some #avgeeks that may or may not involve bacon.

This is going to be a full day, but I have purposely left my schedule wide open just to search out some #avgeeks and chill...of "chilling" is possible when the "feels like®" temperature of a Wisconsin summer approaches what feels like 212 degrees. This is my day to go left if I feel like it, or go set course, just wander and have fun in airplane wonderland.

In the morning around 10A, I might run into one client, Field Morey of Morey's West Coast Adventures, who is driving up from the family airport in Middleton, WI to attend a LOP seminar by Teledyne Continental. His 2013 Cessna Corvalis TTx has one of their engines, and it will be put to the test in September when Field and a friend depart on their "Capital Air Tour" to fly the TTx to 49 state TWO WEEKS. My team at the agency will be handling PR for this aggressive flight, and Field's goal is to show the non-aviation media along the way that GA airplanes are capable of such a flight, while telling them that the local GA airport is an asset that should be used to increase tourism into their area.

Ramona Cox and her TU-206
Before heading out to the flight line for the afternoon air show, I will catch Ramona
"Skychick" Cox's presentation on backcountry air camping at 230P in Forum 6. I wrote about her for an upcoming magazine story, and this ought to be time well spent.

After the acts are done bringing their "A" game to "The Box" in the afternoon, I hope to hook up with Neil Reagan (@NTR_09) and a bunch of other young #avgeeks for a run over to Ardy and Ed's for burgers and a malt. It is always cool to listen to their re-kindles my own passion for aviation.

Before watching the night air show, I hope to wander back through #Campbacon for the Bacon Party 6P - 8P, where @AirPigz will be using his new modified Kenmore kitchen stove to cook up a mess of his signature Sus scrofa domesticus. This is a must-attend event for me, it is the epicenter of all things #avgeek at #OSH14.  ()

My flight home is not until the afternoon out of KATW, so I get a bonus four hours at #OSH14. On the last day of this trip, I will have my roll-aboard with me, so dragging it all over the grounds is always a challenge. I usually stay within dragging distance of the Bus Park.

From there it is a shuttle ride back to Appleton's Airport, and a jaunt through ORD and Portland before arrive back in Eugene at midnight.
Yes, this is my published "Plan A" but you can be assured it will change. In fact, as I write this, it is currently changing. All I know at this point is I will be in Oshkosh for a few days to see my friends and indulge in a sea of airplanes, drinking in all the joy that is flying, in whatever form it comes at me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Biggest Donation Yet for #Oshbash Raises the Bar Again

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

With this blog's annual #Oshbash meetup now just days away, once again, another aviation company has stepped up to support the concept of a collaboration between the major aviation associations as the path forward to 1,000,000 certified pilots. And with their donation of the biggest door prize yet, Aero Glass is giving you one more big reason to attend the event Airplanista is hosting on Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:30PM in the Press Tent at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Aero Glass - a startup that is working near the tip of the spear in terms of innovation - is developing a unique turnkey solution addressing pilots' need to properly visualize terrain, navigation, traffic (ADS-B), instrument, weather, and airspace information with access to vital safety procedures and protocols, without the requirement of inspecting instruments, phone or iPad. Using Epson Moverio, Google Glass and other Head-Mounted Displays, Aero Glass is the first to bring Augmented Reality to pilots providing an unparalleled 3D, 360° experience in the cockpit, regardless of the visibility.

This company is very happy to be involved with #Oshbash, and has donated a $700 pair of Epson Moverio BT-200 Smart Glasses, which is now the Grand Prize in our door prize drawing. (See below** for details on the drawing.)

Cameron Clarke, VP Business Development for Aero Glass said this about the donation:
Aero Glass is pleased to support the #Oshbash event and the GA Power Collective Panel Discussion because helping the General Aviation industry to grow is part of our mission. We provide technologies that make aviation safer by bringing affordable Synthetic Vision in Head Mounted Displays to the cockpit. We look forward to 1,000,000 GA pilots in the skies!
While still in development, this level of technology in the cockpit illustrates how far avionics have come, and points to where it is going. Here is the scoop on this product:
Aero Glass™ Augmented Reality Glasses for GA Pilots is the next big step in safety and information for pilots. Over the past decade, GA pilots’ ability to visualize terrain, navigation, traffic (ADS-B), weather, and airspace has become easier, along with improvements in convenience and safety items like emergency, preflight, inflight, and landing checklists. But handy as this information is, accessing it requires pilots to take their eyes off the sky, and often access multiple screens and devices.

As even a HUD (head-up display) is in a fixed location, Aero Glass has integrated all these functions, and made them available to pilots, wherever their head is turned, with 3D, 360-degree perspective, and is premiering its augmented vision glasses, wearable information for pilots. Using Epson Moverio™, Google Glass™ and other head-mounted displays, Aero Glass is the first to bring Augmented Reality to pilots, providing an unparalleled 3D, 360° experience in the cockpit, regardless of the visibility. This technology, previously available only in specialized military helmets, is now available to GA pilots, and at accessible prices.
Aero Glass is partnering with Levil Technology Corp., and Levil's General Manager Ananda Leon sums up their involvement:
"We at Levil Technology are excited to be part of the Augmented Reality concept that Aero Glass provides," Leon said. "The iLevil series revolutionized the role of tablets in the cockpit, placing essential flight information at the pilots’ fingertips. The fact that this information is now available in the pilots’ line of sight is simply breathtaking. Aero Glass unlocks unexplored opportunities in HEADS-UP technology for GA and takes your flying experience to the next level.”
Aero Glass will be selling a beta product at Oshkosh in Hangar A, space 1110, including a Show Special offer with discounted pricing and lifetime license for the first 200 folks who sign up and buy at the show. The company has a survey for pilots who want to be part of their Pioneer Beta Program. And even though the software is still being developed, the winner of the #Oshbash grand prize will still be able to use the Moverio smart glasses with other apps right away.

At #OSH14, the feature set being demonstrated by the Aero Glass team through the Epson Moverio Glasses includes Airports, Navigation Aids, ADS-B traffic, Flight Plan route & waypoints, Airways and Geographic points of interest (cities, villages, visual navigation points).

For more info on Aero Glass visit their website here or follow them during #OSH14 on Twitter as @AeroGlassware. Be sure to attend their Oshkosh Press Conference on Thursday, 7/31, at 3pm in the Press Tent.

**Drawing open to anyone attending the #Oshbash event, one ticket per attendee, no purchase necessary, must be present to win.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Torgoen Swiss Aviator Watches is latest #Oshbash door prize sponsor

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

While the GA Power Collective Panel Discussion will certainly be the main event of Airplanista's Oshbash 2014 social meetup being held Tuesday, July 29th 5:30pm - 7:30pm in the Press Tent at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the door prize drawing** is shaping up to be quite popular as well thanks to one of aviation's most notable Swiss watchmakers.

Torgoen Swiss, makers of fine professional aviator watches, has donated one of their model T05101 watches valued at $214 because like so many of the other Oshbash supporters, they too realize that when the pilot population grows, so does their potential customer base. They are a well-known company with a full line of very nice watches designed for aviators.

Here are the details on this prize:
Torgoen Swiss was created by aviation enthusiasts and watch manufacturers with the goal of creating professional pilot watches using the highest quality swiss movements. With aviator watches featuring E6B Flight Computers to UTC or GMT Dual Time hands that displays time in military format, Torgoen's focus is in creating professional pilot instruments. Torgoen watches and straps are made with only the best quality materials, assembled by experts, and uphold the highest quality testing standards. Each piece is crafted, from design and functionality to the distribution, to maintain the highest standards in the watch industry.

The watch itself  is a celebration of the 230th anniversary of when John Harrison won his prize for making the most precise timepiece to date and solving the longitudinal problem. This GMT watch is simple, elegant, and extremely useful for pilots, travelers, and those always in multiple time zones. It has two time zones, setting (changing) the normal hands would change the GMT hand as well along with it. To change to a different time zone, one must set the GMT hand separately. For a tough, good quality, and devilishly straightforward timepiece, the T5 provides. This has a Ronda movement.
Torgoen Swiss joins a growing list of other prize sponsors. I advised EVERYONE to try to get to Press Tent early as space is limited and there is no reserved seating. If you cannot get inside, the audio of the event will be broadcast outside across the breezeway to the Media Hospitality Tent where additional tables will be set up. #Oshbash is also being live streamed by

**All attendees of Airplanista's Oshbash event will be eligible for the door prize drawing, no purchase necessary. To enter, everyone (including those who bought the official event shirts) will have to fill out an entry form at the form per attendee, no exceptions. Drawing to be held at the conclusion of #Oshbash, and you must be present to win.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

As an aviator, days like this do not come around often

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

As airplanistas, we hope that our days will be filled with exciting airplanes and our nights filled with dreams to fly...more exciting airplanes. And when we earn that ticket and become a member of the aviation family, vast horizons open up and we get to enjoy almost limitless joy...the kind that comes around only a few times in our lives.

This past weekend, I felt privileged to enjoy one of those days. Before I explain the off-the-charts excitement that came my way, I need yourself to teleport back to 1961 and imagine listening to one of that year's top hits by The Shirelles. What you will hear is this:

    Mama said there'll be days like this,
    There'll be days like this Mama said
    (Mama said, mama said)

    Mama said there'll be days like this,
    There'll be days like this my Mama said
    (Mama said, mama said)

Yes, this was one of those days "Mama" was referring to, and it was one I will not soon forget. It involved a formation flight from my home field in Eugene, Oregon (KEUG) over to the Oregon coast to attend the "Wings and Wheels" show at Florence (Oregon) Municipal Airport. I was only a passenger on this round-trip, but the airplanes involved were two exquisite examples of what "experimental" kit-built airplanes can be. Here's a video of the formation flight of 2:

I departed KEUG in the extremely comfortable Oregon Aero back seat of John Stahr's RV-8 American Angel. I have written at length about this beautiful flying art gallery, but this was my first time ever to not only ride in Stahr's masterwork, but also in the back of ANY Van's RV airplane that was not a Light Sport. The second ship in this "flight of two" was Phil Groshong's composite rocket ship, a Lancair Legacy L2K.

After a bit of wrangling with ATC to get the pair on the runway, Stahr pushed the throttle forward and the Angel's tailwheel lifted in about five seconds, with the 0-360 pulling the RV off KEUG's 16L in about nine total seconds. It was clear this plane likes to fly. The Legacy was close at our six on departure.

The two ships made a graceful climb to 4,500MSL westbound, with American Angel in the lead position and Groshong keeping the Lancair in tight formation just behind our right wing. Phil has "about 1,800" hours flying formation, and was able to make the incredibly small control adjustments to keep the formation very nice. As he dipped below the Angel to our left and back again, I was in heaven, never before flying in a formation or seeing this amazing precision airmanship up close.
The plan agreed upon in the morning pre-flight briefing was to fly west along the Siuslaw River at 170 knots for the short flight to Florence, turn north to overfly the airport, square up the formation on our southbound left downwind to runway 33, turn base and final and make an pass over the show...all in a fairly tight formation.

These two pilots executed this plan flawlessly. Stahr flew the planned route, and Groshong stayed perfectly positioned at our 4 o'clock throughout all of the maneuvers.

After landing and showing the planes for a few hours, we departed back for Eugene, and this time I was in the right seat of the Lancair. The takeoff was brisk as you would expect, but the 260-knot low pass fly-by was what I will remember, with a hard left "crank and bank" up and out over the ocean as the exclamation point.

As American Angel made a nice straight path back to the barn, Phil let me take the stick of his L2K and from about 2,000 yards, I slowly eased the Lancair up towards Stahr's RV-8. Since I have zero formation time, Phil was not about to let me get close enough to trade paint, because when two John Stahr-painted ships  trade paint, it's some damn fine paint. I was allowed to work in to maybe 500 yards, far enough away to be safe but close enough to easily stay wide off American Angel's wing. What made this maneuver simple was the incredible handling of the L2K. Phil has 2,500 hours in T-38s, and when he test flew a Lancair Legacy L2K, he said it felt as close as he could find to the -38. So I didn't really move the stick to close any gap, it was more of the brain thinking move, and the airplane moving enough to keep the L2K inching its way closer to the RV-8. Phil was handling the power perfectly, and it was a real challenge just to keep at the same altitude of the other airplane. I think I did quite well for a formation rookie, but I do not expect the Blue Angels will be recruiting me any time soon.
Back at Eugene, I climbed from the L2K (after arriving with an overhead with hard left bank to downwind...of course), and it started to sink in that this was one of those days Mama told me about. Actually, in my case, it was Papa Louie, but you know...still plenty awesome.

The round trip in a pair of exquisite experimental airplanes built and flown by some of EAA's finest just proves that when it comes to sheer joy, nothing can beat a great flight with a couple of pals. When those pals own a pair of airplanes that are this fast and this gorgeous, man, that's a lot of icing on my cake.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Biggest Donation Yet for Oshbash Door Prize #Swag!

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

The generosity of the aviation family continues to overwhelm everyone in the Airplanista offices, and today I can announce yet ANOTHER large donation of products to be given away at Airplanista's 2014 #Oshbash event on Tuesday, July 29th, 5:30pm - 7:30pm in the Press Tent at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Today's featured door prize is the largest one yet, generously donated by Wendy Hollinger of Phoenix Graphix Publishing Services, the publisher of the reprinted Three-Eight Charlie books. Hollinger licensed the original Three-Eight Charlie book from Jerrie Mock herself. Mock was the first woman to fly solo around the world, accomplishing the feat that the original Amelia Earhart failed to finish. Mock flew the historic flight in 1964 in a basically stock 1953 Cessna 180 Skywagon and wrote her incredible book in 1970, but Mock's story and the book fell off the aviation history radar screen. Now, the original books are very rare.

Hollinger's crew has taken the words from Mock's book and married them to a collection of over 200 beautiful images from Mock's personal archives, and the finished books are simply gorgeous. Hollinger is donating the following:
One 50th Anniversary "Collector's Edition" of her Three-Eight Charlie reprint, a numbered, limited edition with gold embossed hardcover, full-color interior, custom endsheets of Mock's pilot log and route, and over 200 color images. THIS BOOK IS SIGNED BY JERRIE MOCK HERSELF! Think about that for a moment. How often to you get the chance to own such a rare and collectible piece of aviation memorabilia? Mock's legacy will continue to grow, and by all rights, her name should be spoken in the same sentence as Charles Lindbergh. He flew a single-engine monoplane from New York's Long Island to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France, a distance of nearly 3,600 statute miles, and he is one of aviation's most important celebrities. Mock flew a Skywagon full of gas solo for 23,206.37 miles over 29 days on 20 legs completely around the globe to set a new National Aeronautic Association "speed around the world" record of 32.77 mph. Yet very few aviators and even less of the general public know she or her historic flight exists.
While unsigned copies of this luscious book are available at Hollinger's site for $50, she has valued this signed and numbered special edition with Mock's autograph at $500. She is also donating one paperback and one eBook edition of the book.

You can meet Hollinger at various stops at Airventure. She will have more signed/numbered copies of the Anniversary Edition with Mock's autograph available at her Author's Corner appearances on Friday, Aug. 1, 5:15 - 6:15 pm and Saturday, Aug. 2, 9:00–10:00 am. She will also present a forum on Jerrie's trip in the EAA Museum on Saturday, Aug. 2, at 1:00 pm.

With Hollinger's donation, the total of all the Oshbash donated door prizes so far now stands at $1,516.58, so there will be plenty of #avgeeks leaving #Oshbash with #swag.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

And the #Swag Just Keeps on Comin' for Oshbash

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

The generosity of the aviation family towards Airplanista's #Oshbash event at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is explosive...I am adding NEW DOOR PRIZES all the time right now.

This is the the first of many posts over the July 4th holiday weekend that will explain just what some lucky #avgeeks might win as #swag when they attend the GA Power Collective on Tuesday, July 29th, 5:30PM - 7:30PM at the EAA Press Tent.

Two #avgeeks will each win a pair of headset-friendly Flying Eyes sunglasses, each valued at $169. These are the current frame design, and owner Dean Siracusa said the winners can choose to exchange their Flying Eyes for the updated, latest, greatest new design that is coming out very soon after Oshkosh.

"Flying Eyes were invented out of a passion for flying," Siracusa said, "and I'm thrilled to support Oshbash & the GA Power Collective because I believe in the goal of growing general aviation and using the power of social media and all our combined imaginations toward that goal." Here's a little bit about this product:
Patented Flying Eyes Sunglasses are designed to be comfortable with an aviation headset. The non-elastic strap on Flying Eyes is soft and thin, so there is no pressure or pain under a headset even after a long day of flying. And thanks to a better seal between the headset and the wearer's head, noise-canceling headsets will be quieter. No more noise leaks! The removable strap is interchangeable with the included standard temples for outside-the-cockpit wear. Optically-correct, distortion-free, non-polarized neutral gray, medium tinted, shatter-resistant polycarbonate lenses allow accurate perception of color charts and instruments. They are dark enough to remove glare from the brightest and haziest days, but not too dark to see easily in the cockpit. The new gradient lens option subtly compensates for lower-light levels in the cockpit while still reducing outside glare. Flying Eyes sunglasses offer UV400 sun protection, the best UV protection available, because pilots flying at higher altitudes have increased exposure to harmful UV radiation from the sun. The Resilamide™ frame is made from advanced polymers that is up to 20% lighter than other plastics and yet far more durable. Its extreme flexibility, durability and light weight make it the perfect material for comfort in everyday wear. It's also resistant to high temperatures and blocks fading UV exposure.
The people who make and sell Flying Eyes are just wonderful aviators, and they deserve our support. They have launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund the manufacturing of the new, improved frames, please go take a look. They think growing aviation is a good thing...and by throwing down with a $338 donation, they are putting their money behind the idea of the collaborative effort we will be discussing at #Oshbash.

If you believe in the notion that pilots help other pilots...that's just the way we roll...go throw down a little at their Indiegogo page.

* Airplanista gets no part of these shirt sales, every dime goes to a very hard-working aviation small business.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

MORE Swag Announced for #Oshbash 2014 Door Prizes

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

The #Avgeek community is amazing. Not long after I announced that Sporty's Pilot Shop had donated a $369 SP-400 Handheld Transceiver, now a pair of popular aviation authors are throwing down with still MORE swag for Airplanista's 2014 #Oshbash event, Tuesday, July 29th, 5:30PM - 7:30PM in the EAA Press tent.

So let's take a look at these great additions to the prize pool:
If you are around the #avgeek world much, you have heard of Karlene Petitt, the international airline pilot and long-time blogger who happens to have penned some really exciting novels. She is offering up four hardcover editions of her book, Flight For Control and a hardcover copy of her second book in that series, Flight For Safety. Petitt is somehow finding a way to squeeze a stop at #Oshbash into her crazy busy schedule, and has promised to autograph each winner's book.

And adding to this growing prize pool is Eric Auxier, a.k.a. Cap'n Aux, who is also a busy airline pilot and quite prolific author. He is donating two complete sets of his book collection, which includes There I Wuz! Adventures From 3 Decades in the Sky—Volume I, The Last Bush Pilots (an Amazon Top 100 Breakthrough Novel, 2013) and Code Name: Dodger, part of Auxier's Young Adult spy novel series. He is also planning to attend #Oshbash.

And if you are a business owner, or anyone who wants to be included in this fun event, please consider also adding to this door prize pool with a donation of your own. Just email me at to talk details.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SWAG Alert: Door Prizes to be Given Away at #Oshbash

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I love this time of year, the flying weather is here, and in Oregon, I can trade my sweats and slippers for shorts and Birkenstocks.

But above all else, I enjoy the daily ritual of getting more excited about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - it's @EAAupdate's Countdown Clock that keeps me going...and going...and going.

On the years that I host an Airplanista #Oshbash event (this year it's Tuesday, July 29th, 5:30PM - 7:30PM in the Press Tent), June is the month that everything begins to come together. One of those tasks that has now been completed is to find some great aviation companies willing to support what I do by donating some awesome SWAG for door prizes.

And today, Sporty's Pilot Shop stepped up by throwing down with a $369 Sporty's SP-400 Handheld NAV/COM Aviation Radio to be given to one lucky #Oshbash attendee. How cool is THAT?

I have always been a fan of Sporty's, they have some great people working over there. The person who made the decision to donate this valuabe prize is just one of the reasons Sporty's has been successful:
"There is no doubt that everyone in the industry needs to come together and try to solve the riddle of how we grow aviation," said John Zimmerman, a vice-president at Sporty's Pilot Shop. "What Dan Pimentel and Airplanista is doing with the GA Power Collective Panel Discussion at his 2014 Oshbash event is intriguing, and we wanted to be part of that. I have no idea what will happen when the Panel starts this discussion or what will come of it all. But I think I join all my colleagues at Sporty's when I say this is a topic we all need to be discussing. The concept of all major aviation groups coming together as one entity to find ways to grow our pilot population to 1,000,000 certificated pilots is very ambitious, and providing Airplanista with the donation of an SP-400 radio for the Grand Prize was a way we could show our support for this endeavor."
Watch this space as I announce other prizes as we get closer to #Oshbash.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Calling all young #AvGeeks: Get on this Twitlist for the full AirVenture experience!

Neil Reagan, a.k.a. @Ntr_09
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I have written many times on here about the importance of how we, um, "seasoned" pilots, need to reach out to the youngest aviators coming into the system every chance we can get. If you spend as much time as I do amongst the aviation family on Twitter, you will see that there are plenty of bright, articulate young student and certificated pilots that are literally the future of aviation.

One of the more vocal young #AvGeeks is Neil Reagan, a.k.a @Ntr_09 on Twitter. You can always find Neil on there chatting up other young flyers, doing his part to engage and energized them about learning to fly, or to keep that dream alive if they've already started lessons. And for the upcoming EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show known on Twitter as #OSH14, Reagan has again stepped it up by creating a way for these young #AvGeeks to stay connected at the show.

Recently, @Ntr_09 [virtually] sat down with Airplanista to talk about the importance of this pilot demographic, and how his work in social media will help to connect all of them at the upcoming summer aviation family reunion in Wisconsin.

Airplanista: Bring us up to speed on your flying, how many hours do you have, and what airplanes are you flying?

@Ntr_09: I currently have about 42 hours, and I'm preparing for the check ride, which I plan to take this month. (June). I currently fly a 1970 Piper Cherokee 140/160 called 5995U. It's an excellent “no frills” trainer. A local FBO recently bought a 1959 Cessna 172 that I hope to start flying soon. I like flying the older Cessnas much more than the newer ones.

Airplanista: What is your age, and how does flying fit into your otherwise busy schedule with school and extra-curricular activities?

@Ntr_09: I am 17 years old, my birthday is in September. With my current schedule, I am busy through the week so flying is an every-other-weekend kind of thing for me. I fly whenever my schedule and wallet agree with each other, which isn't as often as I'd like of course, but we all know how that is.

Airplanista: Explain the Twitter list you have started and what demographic you hope to reach with it.

@Ntr_09: My “Young #AvGeeks to #OSH14” list is a list of young #AvGeeks who will be at #OSH14. Twitter lists are an easy way to keep track of a group of people without having to scroll through your whole timeline or hashtag search. The age cutoff is a bit blurry but in general I'd like the list to comprise of #AvGeeks 16 to 25 years of age. If you fit into that group, please send me (@Ntr_09) a message on Twitter and I will add you to it. Also be sure and subscribe to it as well!

Airplanista: Why is this demographic important to the future of aviation?

@Ntr_09: When I go to my local airport and look around, most of the people there are two generations older than myself. Rarely do I see youth going flying. That's why getting young people involved in aviation is so important. We can't afford to lose a generation of pilots. We've got to tell youth that flying isn't just for rich retirees. Flying is for everybody. Aviation needs a breath of fresh air and the only people that can give that breath are today's young people. Without a new generation of passionate aviators, GA will continue to decline in popularity.

Airplanista: Why is this list important for any younger #Avgeeks planning to attend EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, aka #OSH14? 

@Ntr_09: The purpose of the “Young #AvGeeks to #OSH14” twitter list is to give young #AvGeeks a convenient means of seeing what other people their age are up to during the show. Timelines and “#OSH14” saved searches can get very crowded at times, leaving you with a lot of scrolling to do to find what you're interested in. This list is just one way to narrow it down. If you are subscribed to the list and keep an eye on it during the week of the show, you'll always be in touch with what the young crowd is up to.

Airplanista: What sort of meet-ups are you hoping to organize or attend at #OSH14?

@Ntr_09: Meet-ups at Airventure can be spontaneous even on a relatively large scale, but in general it's always cool to see a large group of your friends show up at certain events during the show. The Airplanista #Oshbash will likely be the largest single #AvGeek meet-up event all week, but I would also like to have a large group of young #AvGeeks show up at the famed Ardy 'n Ed's Drive-In one evening. [Editor's note...right on, Neil. I am planning a Wednesday evening dinner migration over there for burgers, malts and fries...let's try to get this on everyone's #OSH14 to see a bunch of young #AvGeeks there - dan.]

Airplanista: Do you think the social interaction of #Avgeeks from Twitter has grown in the past few years at Airventure?

@Ntr_09: Yes I do. I have been watching the #OSHxx hashtags on Twitter since #OSH08 or so, and it has grown an incredible amount since then. #OSH13 was the first year I was able to go to AirVenture, and during that week I realized just how important social media is to this event, it really does make a big difference. It really ups the “social-interaction” factor, it turns a seemingly endless crowd into a big family, so to speak.

Airplanista: Why is it important for younger pilots to be involved in the #Avgeek movement on Twitter?

@Ntr_09: The Twitter #AvGeek community is full of pilots of all types and all ages, going through all stages of airmanship. The value of being able to ask any kind of pilot any question, any time is a hugely valuable resource. Even besides being like a huge “support group” that anybody can access, there is also a camaraderie aspect. You, just by being a pilot, share a common ground with potentially thousands of people, which makes it very easy to make new friends that share your interests. Who knows, you might even meet them at AirVenture someday!

Airplanista: What are some of the things you are looking forward to at #OSH14?

@Ntr_09: For starters, the USAF Thunderbirds will be there. The military aspect of the show was missing at #OSH13, so having a military jet team back is something I'm definitely looking forward to. I also love volunteering at AirVenture. It feels good lend a hand at an event like this, AirVenture is a huge undertaking! I volunteer as a departure briefer. It's a team-driven atmosphere, and you get to talk to a very wide variety of pilots. It's a great experience! I also always look forward to heading over to “The Farm” aka “The Fun Fly Zone” in the evenings to watch the ultralight pilots run the pattern. It may not sound like much, but when you're actually there for yourself, you'll understand.

Ultralight flying is a very interesting, seemingly “experimental” thing; seeing these guys out there flying in their impossible-looking contraptions gives you an idea of how onlookers must have felt when they first saw Wilbur and Orville take flight in 1903. It's a sight to see. Ultralight flight is one of the purest forms of flying outside of soaring, it's like riding a small motorcycle after having driven big sedans your whole life. It feels like you are really flying, you are one with your aircraft. If you ever experience it, you won't want to go back to flying your FBO's plain-Jane Cessna. There are of course many more things I'm looking forward to, far too many to mention here.

Airplanista: If you could give a young #Avgeek one piece of advice, what would that be?

@Ntr_09: Be humble, be passionate, and share aviation with everyone you can.

Again, if you want to get your name and Twitter handle on Neil's "Young #AvGeeks to #OSH14" list, click here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

#Avgeeks, Let's Make it "1,000,000 Pilots Tuesday" at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

By now, most readers of this blog - and my loyal flock of followers on Twitter - know all about the 2014 Oshbash event this blog is hosting called the GA Power Collective, coming to the Press Tent at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Tuesday, July 29th 5:30PM - 7:30PM.

If you are just tuning in, stop by the official Oshbash website and bring yourself up to speed.

As I have developed this event, it has been very cool to watch the active #avgeek community on Twitter get behind the idea of discussing how the major aviation groups can work together with a common goal of growing the pilot ranks to 1,000,000 certificated pilots.

Buzz has slowing been inching up into the yellow zone, and now, I have a big announcement that is sure to push that buzz-o-meter well into the red:
Bryan Rivera of Windtee has helped Airplanista design the official GA Power Collective event shirt for 2014, shown above. But as I began teasing the design out to the Twitosphere, one prominent #avgeek, @LarryOverstreet, was so excited about the shirts, he threw down this challenge to the rest of the #Avgeeks: Let's get 1,000 #Avgeeks to all buy a "1,000,000 Pilots" shirt and wear them on the same day at Oshkosh. 
As an aviation ad campaign developer by day, I think Larry's idea is brilliant. That day is Tuesday, July 29th, and everywhere people will go on the grounds during that day, they will see these bright blue shirts, and ask "what's this 1,000,000 Pilots stuff I keep seeing all over today?" That, my flying friends, will open the door for the #avgeeks wearing these handsome threads to talk about the idea of the GA Power Collective bringing the major aviation groups together, along with a brief plug for the Oshbash event, happening that evening in the Press Tent.

This is grass roots solidarity at it's finest. And now the sales pitch:
These completely awesome 1,000,000 Pilots shirts are high-quality, printed with bio-degradable, environmentally-friendly inks on 100% pre-shrunk cotton fabric. THEY EVEN HAVE YOUR CUSTOM TWITTER HANDLE ON THE BACK!!!! The incredibly collectable aviation designs are created and produced in the good ol' U.S. of A, so you are BUYING AMERICAN when you buy this shirt. I get no cut from these sales, your purchase is helping a very good aviation small business run by an awesome pilot to have a great month.
O.K., I am a realistic person, and it is probably a stretch to make @LarryOverstreet's idea of selling 1,000 of these shirts come true. I would be thrilled with 100 shirts sold, elated when 250 are sold, and my socks might get completely blown off when someone clicks BUY NOW on the 500th shirt.

But in any amount, if you are coming to AirVenture, go here and read what I am trying to do with Oshbash and the GA Power Collective...and then go here and buy your shirt. And even if you cannot attend the aviation world's annual family reunion, you are clear to buy one of these shirts, just because.

See you at Oshkosh. I'll be easy to spot on Tuesday. I'll be the #avgeek grinning wildly, wearing a blue "1,000,000 Pilots" shirt. Can't miss me...

Monday, June 02, 2014

Relive the Golden Age of Air Travel in Pan Am: An Aviation Legend

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Readers of this blog know I do very few book reviews, mostly because I simply do not have the time or bandwidth to actually read the many books sent here to the 434th floor of the gleeming Airplanista HQ Tower.

Sometimes, the subject matter just doesn't amaze me. "The History of my Cessna 150 - From First Tank of Gas to That Time Over Ottumwa When I Had to Go to the Bathroom Really Bad" is not a tome that moves my needle. But every once in a while, a publicist emails me with an offer to review an author's book that I absolutely cannot refuse.

This review of Barnaby Conrad III's Pan Am: An Aviation Legend is one of those times.   

Let's start with the subject matter...Pan Am, or more correctly, Pan American World Airways. In my world, there is no airline that was more important to the development of commercial aviation around this globe than Pan Am. From 1927 when the Yale-educated Juan Trippe "set out to build a global empire in the sky" as Conrad III writes, the growth around the world of this proud line is documented well in this book. In the introduction, Conrad III sets the stage well for what is to come:
"Pan American World Airways wasn't merely a successful airline, it was the aviation company that helped create what Time Magazine Publisher Henry Luce called 'The American Century.' Combining audacity, vision and service, Pan Am embodied the nation's spirit of enterprise and ingenuity, and exported it on wings. Juan Trippe named Pan American's aircraft 'Clippers' harking back to the great sailing ships of the early nineteenth century. Employing new technology and bold management, the new merchant marine of the air linked cultures, economies and people on six continents."
The Sikorsky S-40 American Clipper flying over the
Hudson River and Manhattan on October 12, 1931 (BCII).
Conrad III does an impeccable job of painting a glorious picture on every page, with a story that is complete, well-researched, and literally forces the reader to turn the page and soak in more of this luscious prose. With chapters entitled "Bold Dreams and Acts of Genius", "Crossing the Pacific: Nothing was Impossible" and "The Jet Age: Inventing the Future," Pan Am: An Aviation Legend takes the reader on a journey that is as colorful as it is complete. Conrad III begins by putting the reader at Roosevelt Field on May 20, 1927, standing next to Trippe as he watches Charles Lindbergh depart on his historic Atlantic Crossing flight. Tripp soon invests in Colonial Air Transport, and buys two Fokker F-7s for $37,550 each before expanding his presence in the fledgling commercial airline industry by flying mail to Cuba from Key West, Florida - that following a power play that allowed him to take over two smaller lines, Florida Airways and Pan American Airways.

On one page, this book - designed brilliantly by Tom Morgan - puts the reader inside a vintage airliner with men in suits and women in fine dresses, sipping an Old Fashioned and toking on a Pall Mall as one of Pan Am's mighty S-42 Sikorsky "Clippers" lumbers overnight towards Hawaii. But on the next page, superbly-optimized vintage photographs illustrate the scenes of these historically-important ships in vivid color, gorgeous grayscales or tones of sepia.

Pan Am Clipper landed at Pearl Harbor on
April 17, 1935, and a crew of men in the latest
swimwear hauled the Sikorsky S-42 to shore (HASF).
While the words are captivating from beginning to end, it is these photographs that drew me in and kept me engaged. This is a plentiful collection of images that show this era of commercial aviation history from every angle. Not only are there the scenes you expect - well-dressed travelers lounging in luxurious cabins - but also numerous aerial shots, images of boarding, maintenance scenes, flight decks, scans of tickets, inside of terminals...everything to keep any aviation history reader enthralled with each turn of a page.

On the Amazon sales page, the book is getting very good reviews. Here is just one sample, from Mark Miller, who gave Pan Am: An Aviation Legend five stars:
"This book is really about what America once was and could be again, perhaps. The author tipped his hand a few years ago when he wrote a genuine masterpiece of a coffee table book, THE MARTINI. Like that book, a delight to read (and as beautiful designed by Tom Morgan as PAN AM is), this book is about an aspect of American elegance that seems to have been replaced by a crude kind of arrogant upscale consumerism. But on a simpler level this book is just about the sheer joy of luxury travel in a time when the world was much bigger than today, and a white shirt, a bow tie, and leather shoes not considered the mark of the White Male Oppressor. Today we live in the age of tourism; this book celebrates the Age of Travel, which ended in the years after World War Two. Since when did a dozen airplanes -- production of the last Clipper model B314 built by Boeing was a mere twelve -- inspire nostalgia like these? Like Elvis, Pan Am was purely American, and one of a kind."
Conrad III, the author of ten books, graduated from Yale in Fine Arts and was a founding editor of Art World and senior editor of Horizon Magazine. As a journalist living in Paris, he wrote for Pan Am’s Clipper Magazine as well as for The San Francisco Chronicle, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, Condé Nast Traveler, and Forbes Life, where he served as Editor-at-Large.

The author's large body of work contributes to the classy presentation of Pan Am: An Aviation Legend, with each word being relevant and important. There is no filler here, this is Filet Mignon for the brain. Crack the hardcover and savor a few bites. If you have a shred of aviator in you, soon you'll be curled up in a comfortable chair, feasting on an aviation history delicacy that will be impossible to put down.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Non-Test Pilot Flight in Terrafugia's Transition®: "I used my blinker to exit the active..."

Terrafugia's Vanessa Blakeley was one of the first
non-test pilots to fly their Transition® roadable airplane.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Recently, the test flight phase of bringing Terrafugia's Transition® roadable airplane to market reached another milestone, when the company let non-test pilots fly it for the first time from the left seat. One of those lucky few pilots was Vanessa Blakeley, Terrafugia's Corporate Communications Lead, and she agreed to virtually "sit down" with Airplanista to tell us about those few minutes at the controls of this craft.

Blakely has been flying since she was certificated at 17-years-old, and is part of a growing team at Terrafugia working on bringing Transition® to market. She leads internal and external communications for the company, and creates and manages original content including video, newsletters, web content, print materials, events, merchandising, and social media. She also supports flight operations, training, recruiting activities, and future programs.

What follows is a verbatim interview with Blakeley, presented - I believe - not from their "Corporate Communications Lead" but from a pilot who is justifiably excited about the Transition®. Sure, technically, this can't really be called an " unbiased opinion," but it is a serious look at what it feels like to fly Terrafugia's roadable airplane, from someone who is not a professional test pilot.

AIRPLANISTA: Bring us up to speed on Transition®. Do you know precisely how the idea developed and when? Was a bar napkin involved?

BLAKELEY: I am going to defer to CEO/CTO Carl Dietrich, who said “Terrafugia is an MIT spin-off founded in 2006, by three engineers from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and two business school students from the Sloan School of Management. We were all pilots very aware of what was going on in the general aviation industry at the time, who saw that there were some rule changes happening that opened a window of opportunity to do something fundamentally different in general aviation, a very well-established industry.  So, we said, what could we do as a small group? MIT is a mover and shaker kind of environment that has the potential to have a very significant impact on the evolution of general aviation. And we came back to the very old idea of the flying car, a concept that has been around for more than 100 years. It’s not a new idea, but what we do have today, is a new environment and new technologies to bring to bear on this very old problem. We put together a business plan, and we entered it into the MIT $100,000 Entrepreneurship Competition, and in 2006, we were the runners-up, as judged by a panel of 27 entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists. We decided to take it to the next level and see if there really was a market for this.”

AIRPLANISTA: Let's start with the interior. Describe the fit and finish, how it feels as a pilot, the creature comforts. Would you say it feels more like an automobile or an airplane?

BLAKELEY: Being flight ready, it felt more like a plane. Once I started on the checklist for engine start, all of the car aspects went unnoticed. As a multi-purpose vehicle, the Transition® could potentially become cluttered and overwhelming. The engineers have remained focused on a clean and simple interior design, making it easier for new and experienced pilots alike to learn to operate. 

AIRPLANISTA: When inside the Transition® in airplane mode, with propeller turning and engine set for takeoff...what is the interior noise level like? Do you wear headsets, or can normal conversation be enjoyed with the engine producing takeoff or cruise power?

As this was a test flight, all of the necessary precautions were taken, so I was wearing a safety helmet for the duration of the time the engine was on. With my helmet and headset, the noise was consistent and comparable to that of other aircraft I am used to.

AIRPLANISTA: Take us through the takeoff. Once lined up on the numbers, what is the acceleration like? And does it leap into the air or sort of drive itself fast enough to eventually begin flying?

BLAKELEY: I have to admit I was a little nervous once we lined up on the numbers. The only thing our test pilot couldn’t do from the right seat was steer the plane, and it felt like a lot of pressure at the time! But once I pushed the throttle forward, take-off was a breeze. The steering wheel affords you precision taxiing, and once you have your speed, you transition your left hand from the steering wheel to the stick, rotate, and you are off. This was maybe the biggest surprise to me about the flight: the vehicle really hopped off of the runway and started climbing, as if the Transition® really wanted to fly. Since first seeing the Transition® on the ramp at Lawrence Municipal in 2012, I had been wondering what it would be like to fly it, and there I was. I involuntarily let out a little “Wooooooo” and Phil mirrored my enthusiasm. It was really unbelievable.

AIRPLANISTA: In climb, does the Transition® feel perky, lethargic, or somewhere in between?

BLAKELEY: The climb was normal, and in line with that of other LSA airplanes. our Chief Test Pilot, Retired Air Force Colonel Phil Meteer, coined the term “remarkably unremarkable” in describing flying the Transition®, meaning it flies as you would expect an airplane to fly, and everyone that has flown it agrees.

AIRPLANISTA: Is there any sensation of yaw, or any obvious and noticeable by-product of being an automobile that is flying?

BLAKELEY: Not that I noticed. I think the key difference for me here was intention. As a pilot your training kicks in once you start pre-flighting, and I treated the Transition® like a plane. The wings were unfolded, I was in flight test gear, communicating through a headset, and on the ramp and it felt very much like an airplane. However, when I was able to participate in drive testing and the configuration was that of an automobile with the license plate down, side mirrors out, and prop locked in place with my sunglasses on, it felt like a car.

AIRPLANISTA: What is the view like while flying? Do the windows provide adequate view in all directions, and does the view look/feel more like a car or airplane?

BLAKELEY: To me this was the most obvious way the Transition® displayed itself as a car. The visibility was outstanding! Because it has the frontward profile of a car, the sight picture was almost unrestricted. At 5’5” I frequently have trouble seeing over the nose of GA planes, and have grown accustomed to making due with limited visibility. In the Transition®, it was a treat to see everything in front of me on the ground and in the air. Phil had trained me prior to flying to take a good look at the straight and level sight picture as a reference, and once I did that I had no problems. In addition to the flight, my function on this deployment was to survey first time Transition® pilots and capture their experience for design review and posterity. Visibility was inevitably one of the first things that everyone commented on: the view is awesome! I have never been able to see so much from a cockpit in a fixed-wing aircraft!

AIRPLANISTA: As the passenger, did you think the test pilot was having an easy time flying the Transition? Did it seem like an airplane with pesky or tame flying characteristics?

BLAKELEY: To my benefit, Phil is an exceptional instructor in addition to test pilot, and walked me through the flight procedures from taxiing to landing, so I was able to fly the majority of our time in the Transition®. I found it to be stable, intuitive, and very simple operationally. Having trained in Cessnas, I am very inexperienced with flying a stick, but after a few S-turns I was very comfortable with the vehicle.

AIRPLANISTA: How was the final approach and landing? Describe the exact moment when the Transition returns to the runway.

BLAKELEY: Phil had me fly it all the way down. I flew a normal pattern, with the intention of Phil taking over on short-final, but our speed, attitude, and descent was all even, and before I knew it I had landed. I was prepared for an unusual landing, and there is no flare, but otherwise it was a non-event. Once you are wheels down, you are steering again with the steering wheel and feel very in control. I used my blinker to exit the active, and the flight was complete!

Working in communications for Terrafugia, I talk to people about the Transition® all day via email, on the phone, etc. , and I admit sometimes I have treated the Transition® like any other plane. But, to be in a vehicle that I have watched come together, seen design reviews about, talked about endlessly, pushed, pulled, driven, had lunch next to; really done everything except fly, being aloft was so special. It was surreal. This vehicle is going to make history.
The Transition is the product of such persistent and intelligent work, and in that flight, I really was amazed with our team. As we continue with finalizing designs on the Transition® production prototype and initiate work on the TF-X™ program, I remain impressed with all of the talent within the Terrafugia team. It makes my job of communicating with the world for Terrafugia so rewarding and exciting (even though my work is typically done from my desk and not the left seat of a flying car!).

Until the next flight!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Disney Captures Reality with “Planes: Fire and Rescue”

Ramona Cox, aka "Skychick" and airshow helicopter pilot
and legend Chuck Aaron, who was a Consultant on the movie.
Naturally, Aaron is pointing to, what else...the helicopter!
By Ramona Cox,
Airplanista Guest Blogger

“They fly in when others fly out.”

Those words struck a chord with me when asked to join aviation writers for a pre-screening of Disney’s new film, Planes: Fire and Rescue.

I’ll never forget watching the courageous aerial fire-fighters dodging massive plumes of black smoke while diving well below the rim of the Tuolumne Canyon to drop huge loads of fire retardant. It was a desperate attempt to protect Groveland Airport (E45), which is home to Pine Mountain Lake Airpark…a fly-in community packed with hangar-homes and private aircraft. Most of the community had been evacuated by the time the 1990 Yosemite National Park fire had spread to within 200 yards of my home and ¼ mile from the airport. It was the combination of air attack and a strategically executed backfire that stopped it and I will forever be thankful to the fire-fighting community.

If you ponder the subject, it’s clear that the creative team at Disneytoon Studios took on a very tough assignment to capture the realism, the excitement, the emotions and the dangers that real life fire fighters and first responders face every time a disaster or near catastrophe erupts. And, they did so in an animated cartoon that by necessity required its share of humor. Research was the key word used throughout the day and they also spent two full years perfecting the animation of fire which had never been done on this scale and to the level of realism depicted in the film.

Planes: Fire & Rescue is an adventure-comedy which masterfully uses animation to depict the true to life experience of the aerial fire-fighting community. It takes place in historic Piston Peak National Park, which was inspired by Yellowstone National Park. A crew of fire-fighting aircraft protect the park from a rampant wildfire.

The theme of the movie revolves around second chances. Similar to losing your aviation medical and getting it back, second chances are what all of us hope will be available if and when we need them. In the case of Dusty Crophopper, the famous air-racer from the first Planes film, full-throttle air racing had taken a toll on his engine jeopardizing his racing career. In light of that, Dusty decided to shift gears and try his wings in the world of aerial firefighting.

As it turns out, the films research department discovered that using a crop duster for firefighting was not a far stretch from reality. In 1955, a re-purposed crop duster, known as a SEAT (Single Engine Air Tanker) was one of the first wildfire attack aircraft used on Mendocino’s National forest fire.

As the new kid on the block, Dusty has to prove himself when he joins the seasoned fire-fighting team, which includes fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (whose tail number is the same as Cal-Fire’s helicopter based at Hemet-Ryan).  Like most mentors, Blade Ranger has his hands full with Dusty whose air-racing ego needs a little taming. Spirited super-scooper “Dipper” is a sexy and very capable female team member whose flirty character keeps Dusty on his toes. Heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter was created to honor the wisdom of the American Indian community. He is a man of few words, but when he speaks, everyone listens. Ex-military transport Cabbie (a C-119) has the task of transporting The Smokejumpers, an enthusiastic group of brave all-terrain vehicles that handle the ground mission. Maru, the mechanic tug, reminded me of the old-timers at my home airport (KTOA) who often have no budget for parts, but always manage to fabricate something from nothing usually claiming “it’s better than new”…which is often true.

Prior to viewing the film, I wondered if it would have any basis of reality. We’ve all watched aviation films and laughed as we noted that the airspeed indicator looked like it came out of a 1956 Chevy or the pilot used phrases that would never be used in real flying. So I called my friend and aviation legend Patty Wagstaff, an aerobatic champion who also worked as a pilot for Cal Fire. As it turns out, Patty had introduced the Disney team to Cal Fire which was essential for their research. I was a bit surprised to hear Patty say… “They truly captured the experience of uncertainty, turbulence and the intensity of communications necessary to accomplish a mission.”

Also validating Disney’s work was renowned Red Bull airshow pilot, Chuck Aaron, who greeted me in the Disneytoon media area. Being a friend, I took him aside, looked him straight in the eye and asked the key question. Could the specific type of helicopters in the film actually do every maneuver shown?  His answer was unequivocally… “Yes! After advising them on the capabilities of each helicopter, I watched each scene and they spent months making over 100 changes as a result of my input.”  Consultants in every field did the same and each time the animation was tweaked to reflect realism.

The level of research and attention to detail was unbelievable. As Director/Co-Writer Bobs Gannaway expressed, their objective was to build a movie out of truth making it exciting for aviators while paying sincere homage to the dedicated individuals who risk their lives every day while fire-fighting. I knew that aviation had captured their souls when Gannaway keenly likened an engine oil analysis to a “blood test for an aircraft”.  They spent countless hours with the Cal Fire group at the Hemet-Ryan and Grass Valley Air Attack bases as well as Redding where they hung out with US Forest service personnel and smoke jumpers. The perfectionist personality of Cal Fire’s battalion chief, Travis Alexander, served as inspiration for one of the main characters. When Travis was asked “What do you tell a pilot that makes the perfect drop?”  He responded, “There is no such thing”.

During their visits, they vigilantly listened to every word and phrase used by the firefighting community to select statements and context that would be used throughout the film. They would create a sequence and then ask…. “Does this sound realistic? How would you say this? What would this character do in this situation?” They had water dropped on them by aircraft and were given lessons on the how’s and why’s of aerial fire-fighting formations. Some team members flew in simulators or actual aircraft and the head of animation personally tested forestry service all-terrain vehicles to determine their maximum capabilities with the result being input into sophisticated animation software for absolute accuracy.

I’m happy to report that at least one of the film crew was inspired enough to get his pilot’s license and many of the animators, who took up flying RC aircraft to learn about aerodynamics, have kept up the sport. I left the screening with a renewed sense of praise and thankfulness for the brave men and women that serve us all so faithfully well and I kept thinking about the how the creators of Planes: Fire & Rescue had captured the most important element of all…there exists among us those who will fly in, when others fly out.

Scheduled to hit the theatres July 18th, Planes: Fire and Rescue has plenty of life’s lessons and lots of innocent, yet spicy humor created to keep both children and adults entertained.

Ramona Cox, aka Skychick, is an adventure pilot, speaker and aviation writer. Her air-camping expeditions can be seen at She can be reach via email at She is Sales Manager for MotoArt, a Los Angeles based company that fabricates corporate furniture from authentic commercial and military aircraft. Cox is scheduled to present a forum on her Adventure Flying at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Tuesday, July 29th, 1PM in Forum 7.