Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 in review

I began this blog on January 20th 2010, which was 2 days before my 28th birthday. Ten years ago on this date in the year 2000, I was a senior at Mays High School and awaiting my 18th birthday. My acceptance letters from various colleges were beginning to pour in, and the financial aid chase had begun. I had loved aviation and flying all of my life, and was awaiting the opportunity to persue that dream. Although I had always loved children, I never had any intentions on becoming a school teacher. I wanted to be a pilot and later an astronaut.

Adulthood happened. My inner activist took over as I began to explore the world and community development would become my focus for a great deal of my life. My travels would take me to St. Louis MO, Greenfield MA, Southwest Florida, and then back here to Atlanta GA where I would finally commit myself to becoming an instructor at AYA Educational Institute in 2005.

I love teaching and I am happy that I have committed myself to the profession. But my desire to fly has never gone away. Ten years after I originally committed to becoming a resident of the sky, I renewed that commitment in my first post on this blog:

My current focus is flying ultralights. My most burning interest for the past couple of years is to fly hang gliders. Hang Gliding has been a popular sport since the 1970's and has recently come a long way in its development. Also, the FAA has since created the Sport Pilot rating.

I am back at it this year in 2010 and am determined to make this happen. My goal is to reach the following USHPA Ratings:
  • Hang II certification by spring
  • Hang III certification by Fall

I earned my H2 rating on April 11th 2010. I haven't made it to H3 yet and I am not going to rush it. I had intentions to spend my entire summer at Lookout Mountain, but that didn't pan out. But the summer was not a complete waste, as I joined the Academy of Model Aeronautics and took my modeling skills to another level, and incorporated model aircraft into my science and mathematics pedagogy.

This has been a fascinating year in Commercial Space Travel, where watching the accomplishments of private corporations and backyard astronauts have motivated me to pursue the up and coming commercial space travel industry.

  • Virgin Galactic has completed its construction of SpaceShipTwo. As of this blog, Virgin Galactic has successfully completed a drop test of the Vehicle from the VSS Enterprise. They are making moves to get space tourism underway, so that people can ride their private sub-orbital shuttle just as a person could take an airline flight.

  • Several Model Aircraft builders have sent homebuilt UAV's into near-space altitudes. The Brooklyn, NY based father-son team of Luke and Max Geissbuhler constructed a UAV with a weather balloon, a video camera, and an iPhone. The UAV traveled to an altitude of 19 miles. While this altitude is 41 miles short of the Karman Line (Edge of Space), which is defined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) as 100 KM (61 mi), it was able to reach an altitude that far exceeded the altitude of passenger jets and was high enough to see the blackness of space and the curvature of the earth that is experienced by astronauts.

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

Despite the difficulties posed by the continuously souring economy, it is an exciting time for an air & space enthusiast to be alive. People are giving it all they have in order to accomplish their dreams.

2011 will build on everything that I have accomplished this year. I will
  1. Continue to work towards becoming a flight instructor for ultralight aircraft... sticking with hang gliders for the time being, and eventually expanding to sailplanes and powered parachutes.
  2. Launch my own near-space UAV
  3. Offer Model Aeronautics educational experiences to Metro Atlanta K-12 students using AMA resources.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

UAV Aerotowing?

So ever since I started hang gliding, I began wondering how UAV's could be used for aerotowing. Lo and behold...

... somebody did just that!

The flight looks marvelous. The video was a lot of fun to watch. However, there remain some safety concerns...

1. What type of protection is there for the pilot in the event of the various types of mishaps that can cause the pilot to come in contact with the propellers?
2. Where is the prop exhaust?

Nonetheless, this video proves that it can be done. With more design improvements, this could be a new era for aerotowing in hang gliding?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Plane Crash W/ Senator Ted Stevens

There comes a time in all aviation that we have to deal with these very sobering moments. I was no fan of Senator Stevens and will not pretend to be in the least bit, but my political opinion of Senator Stevens is irrelevant for the purpose of this particular blog entry.

It takes a special type of person to dream to be a pilot of any kind, regardless of the aircraft. Whether it is hot air balloons, hang gliders, supersonic jets, helicopters, powered parachutes, gliders... you have to be the type of person that loves to be in the air, and loves the idea of flying through clouds, etc. Those of us that love the air will look up at the sky at circling birds and wish we could join them. We get excited when we go up the elevators of tall buildings.

But then there's that whole thing about returning to the ground. Sometimes that can be more complicated than getting in the air. And every now and then, there is a tragedy that occurs that reminds us of this. Those of us that fly must take a minute to pause for the sadness of any loss of life that occurs from a crash. But then the time comes to stop morning, and to start studying.

Every crash is a lesson. There a many different ways to crash. Most crashes are caused by pilot error. Then there are crashes that are caused by atmospheric conditions. Others can be caused by hardware failure. Crashes are examined by the NTSB and reports are released afterwards. NTSB investigations can take quite some time, as they should. Examining a crash is a scientific process... you must examine all available evidence to reconstruct what happened. In general aviation, they have many tools for this.

A big deal that is coming out in light of this crash is the fact that the pilot did not file a flight plan. Flight plans are very important for helping the pilot to establish an idea of how they will navigate their aircraft from start to finish. The thing is that deviations from flight plans are not uncommon, and sometimes they are necessary. I have watched multiple broadcasts from CNN where several of their anchors, such as Rick Sanchez, have been raising a lot of hoopla about the fact that the pilot did not file a flight plan.

The following is an example of what a general aviation flight plan looks like...

That is a flight plan for domestic flights. A international flight plan is slightly more detailed.

How much good would a flight plan have done in this particular situation? Reports from pilots say that the weather in the area of the intended landing site was horrible, which would have been a great reason for the pilot to find another landing site. But this is apparently in a very remote, mountainous part of Alaska.

I am going to continue to watch this story, as more details will come out. It is hard to come to any hard conclusions without having so many details.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black Children, Bicycles, and Helmets

"There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. But there are no old, bold pilots."
- Aviator Expression

According to the CDC, Black children are at the highest risk for suffering a head injury than any other ethnic group in the United States. And every summer, I am reminded of one of the major factors as to why this is the case. It never fails: whenever I see Black children outside on their bicycles, they seldom wear helmets. And when I ask the children why this is the case, they always respond with the same excuse: "I am good enough to ride without a helmet."

My frustration is not with them, but with parents that allow their children to ride outside without a helmet. And if you are a parent that allows your child to ride a bicycle without a helmet, then yes I am talking about you! If a child does not want to wear their helmet, then they should not be allowed to ride a bicycle. Period. Bicycles are not toys. They are transportation vehicles, and all transportation vehicles have safety precautions. Cars have seatbelts, airbags, and anti-lock brakes. Bicycle helmets are an integral part of making bike riding safe. When a rider gets on a bike without a helmet, then that bike rider is making an unnecessary risk.

Why it is so widespread for Black Children to ride without helmets is something that I am sure could be examined, and root causes could be found. But no possible reason is a valid excuse. Bicycle helmets do not cost as much as bicyles. Helmets can cost as little as 12 dollars from K-Mart or Target. If you buy a bicycle, then you should buy a helmet.

A helmet can mean the difference between living a normal life and living in a vegetated state. It can mean the difference between having full intellectual capabilities and having a loss of cognition due to brain injury/shrinkage. But most of all... a bicycle helmet can mean the difference between life and death. Accidents can happen in a matter of seconds.

In addition to the revolutionary improvements to the design of Rogallo gliders, helmets played a huge role in making Hang Gliding a safe sport.

Take a look at this video...

This is a Hang Glider Pilot that forgot to do a hang check, which is a procedure that hang glider pilots perform before every flight to make sure that they are properly hooked into the hang glider. The pilot could have lost his life because of this mistake. But fortunately, he only received a concussion. What saved his life? His helmet.

There are thousands of pilots in the USHPA, and only a handful of injuries each year. Be assured that one of the reasons for this is because of the adamant usage of helmets by all pilots on USHPA flying sites. On the other hand, bicycle-related head injuries are far more common, resulting in 3% of head injuries in the United States. Why? Because there are more bike riders that ride around carelessly with no helmets.

So if you are reading this blog and you are the parent of a young cyclist, then buy them a helmet and make sure that they wear it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review of the Falcon Jet RC Helicopter

This is a review of the Falcon Jet RC Helicopter. I owned this helicopter a few months ago. I use owned in past tense because it met its fate at the hands of one of my students. :)

From my category of 1-4, where
  1. Beginner
  2. Novice
  3. Intermediate
  4. Advanced
This would definitely fit as a #2. This is an easy to fly RC helicopter if you've flown them before. It's not for someone that quickly panics when a helicopter suddenly shoots upward, or someone that has not grasped the concept of when to use light touches. A pilot should definitely spend some time flying Air Hogs RC's before moving up to this one. It is a fairly durable RC Heli, but it will break. The tail and tail rotor are especially sensitive and will come right off with a hard-enough impact. The screws that hold the outside casing of the body are also rather sensitive and will break (although this does not interfere with the ability of the heli to fly).

The RC Controller sticks can break quite easily.

This helicopter can be especially beautiful to watch in flight, as it has various different color lights that will light up during flight. Flying this RC helicopter at night in the dark can be a mesmerizing experience.

It flies forward and backward very smoothly and is fairly easy to trim. It turns gently as well.

You can purchase this RC Heli from Bestbuy for a very affordable $29.99, and it can be found online for an even cheaper price.

Grade: B-

Review of the Air Hogs Sharpshooter

I've been preparing a list of RC helicopters that can be flown by pilots at 4 levels (Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced) for an upcoming website. Most of Air Hogs Helicopters would belong in the beginner category. There is one in particular, the Air Hogs Sharpshooter, that I have purchased and flown over the last month, that would serve as a good helicopter for absolute beginners to begin to develop the dexterity that is needed to advance in RC pilot skills.

Air Hogs rates this helicopter as an intermediate helicopter. However, the only real difference between this helicopter and other helicopters that are rated by Air Hogs as beginner is that it can fire two orange missiles upon pushing a red button on the right side of the controller.

  1. The motor power is just right for the beginner. It is not so powerful so that it can provide an overwhelming amount of lift to the beginner, who is still learning to do basic tasks such as adjusting the trim of the heli, as well as make basic position changes
  2. The controls are fairly responsive. As long as you face the helicopter at all times, you should have little problem with getting the helicopter to respond to your commands.
  3. The laser remote allows the pilot to easily fly in formation with other helicopters.
  4. The helicopter is extremely durable and is able to take an enormous amount of punishment. My sharpshooter has flown through a variety of indoor air current conditions. My girlfriend even flew it into her ceiling fan! My students have ran it into walls on numerous occasions. And it still works. This is important, because the beginner RC pilot is going to crash... numerous times, and crashing a helicopter and breaking it beyond repair is a discouraging experience.
  5. One set of batteries can provide numerous flights and charges. The controller uses battery power very efficiently.

  1. The missiles fire at a considerable delay. That could be annoying to anyone that's playing air combat with a buddy. It's not a big deal to me because I bought it for educational purposes, but Air Hogs should work on that if their main selling pitch for the helicopter is it's ability to fire missiles.
  2. The drawback to having a laser controller is that the response time of the helicopter can slow down as your angle becomes more obtuse. You have to face and view the helicopter at all times in order to get the most efficient response time with the helicopter.
  3. The helicopter, like most Air Hogs RC Heli's, does not move backward. It naturally drifts forward, and you have the option to turn the helicopter left and right. I don't expect super-extensive maneuverability with beginner RC Heli's, because the beginner should not concern themselves with acrobatic maneuvers before learning how to perform basic flight maneuvers. However, it would still be nice if these heli's could move backward, as this is a skill that the RC Pilot must understand as they move forward.
Overall, I like this helicopter and would recommend it to anyone that wants an affordable introduction to flying RC Helicopters. For the beginner, it is worth every penny. It also makes good party entertainment for all ages.

Grade: B+

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Obama Administration and NASA

Recently, Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil Armstrong and Apollo 17 Astronaut Eugene Cernan has criticized the Obama Administration for a number of things. One, for allowing the Space Shuttle Program to be canceled, canceling the Constellation Moon Program, Canceling the Ares 1 Vehicle and not aggressively pursuing planetary exploration. They have described the president's program as "ill-advised" and voiced their concerns during a senate hearing.

I wasn't surprised so much by Eugene Cernan voicing his concerns. Cernan makes appearances in the media quite a bit. But Neil Armstrong tends to be a bit of a recluse. For him to make these statements is quite out of character for Armstrong.

I've always had a pretty neutral stance toward the Obama Administration. There are things that the administration does that I like, and there things that it does that I don't like. And I think the Obama Administration has done some wonderful things to advance science, such as lifting the ban on Stem Cell research and increasing funding for essential university science programs. And while I understand the need to make funding cuts by the current administration, the general public should be advised that Space Exploration is not expendable. There are several very important reasons why any industrialized country should have a strong space program:
  1. The modern-day telecommunications industry would not be possible without space travel. GPS, Cellphones, Internet, and various other technologies that we take for granted in 2010 are all possible because of space travel. Many of the satellites that we use were deployed by the space shuttle and placed into orbit by shuttle astronauts.
  2. A lot of medical knowledge about cardiovascular, muscular and skeletal health is the result of NASA research.
  3. A strong space program will be the key to stopping any impact objects from striking the Earth.

Delaying the Constellation project is understandable with the economy into consideration. But canceling the Space Shuttle until a viable replacement is available isn't such a good idea. Relying on the Soyuz Rockets of Russia for transport to/from the International Space Station is relying on obselete technology in the hands of a country whose relations with the US has continued to sour over the past 5 years.

While I can certainly agree that the Obama Administration's central focus should be the creation of jobs, the improvement of healthcare, and the elimination of poverty, it is important that people recognize that space travel is no small matter and that NASA should not be allowed to falter as an agency.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Black Pilots of Homebuilt Aircraft

Ultralight Airmanship is not just for "crazy whiteboys." There have been Black ultralight aviators since the earliest days of the homebuilt aircraft craze. Along with the fascinating stores of these aviators come stories of the equally fascinatting aircraft they flew. Examinin the lives of these individuals can give insight into the motivation behind their flying machines.

A particular homebuilt aircraft aviator that comes to my mind is a man by the name of Lewis Jackson. Jackson was also a school teacher that taught 8th graders in a small school. His interest in aircraft was cultivated as a child. Eventually, Jackson became a pilot, a barnstormer, and later a flight instructor. Jackson was the trainer of many of the Tuskeegee airman.

After training pilots at Tuskeege, Jackson began building and designing aircraft. Jackson's main desire as a airplane builder was to create an airplane that every household could own. He set out to accomplish this task by designing an airplane that was "roadable." He had many different airplane designs that had folding wings. When the wings folded, the airplane could drive on the road as a car. He began test flying his designs in the 1950's and continued into the 70's.

Dr. Jackson continued to test these planes for the remainder of his life. He passed away in 1994 after a long life of promoting roadable aircraft and helping many Black Americans get into aviation.

But good ideas never die...

Greene County - Lewis A. Jackson airport is named for Dr. Jackson.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Walk... Jog... Run

To say that I am happy after my trip to LMFP is an understatement. There are 50 flights in my log book; three aerotow flights and 47 flights from the training hills. I did not get a chance to launch off of the mountain just yet, but it is on my list of things to do when I go back in May. I still have two aerotow fligts left. I used 3 out of the 4 aerotows that came with the Eagle Package, and I purchased another, leaving me with two aerotows for my next visit.

When foot launching a hang glider, a pilot holds the glider at the correct angle of attack and looks at his/her target. Then the pilot starts to walk, trots to a jog, then runs. The glider acquires enough airflow to generate lift and eventually carries the pilot into the air. This process has become my analogy for getting anything in life accomplished: First, you aim to do something. Then, you make gradual steps to getting it accomplished, and increasing your intensity until it get's "off the ground."

This is precisely how I managed to finally get into hang gliding after wanting to fly for so many years. It took small steps... saving money from each check from the beginning of this year, getting support from Blackstar Educational Institute, buying books to study, watching videos on youtube, exercising, talking to veteran pilots, and finally... showing up to Lookout Mountain Flight Park to dedicate an entire week to study.

This is far from over. I still have much to learn as a hang glider pilot. On my list of things to do this year is
  1. Gain a strong foundation in mountain launching and learn how to ridge soar.
  2. Get surface tow rated.
  3. Get aerotow rated.
  4. Learn how to thermal
  5. Learn how to ridge soar
  6. Take at least one cross country flight.
  7. Achieve my H3 rating.

One of my aerotow tandems...

Some foot launches from last week...

Friday, April 2, 2010


I began this blog in January, discussing how the dream of flight has always been elusive. I discussed how time and money have always been obstacles. Four months after I have started this blog, I am on the eve of my dream becoming a reality. Finally, I have found the money and the time to begin persuing my flight dreams. Tomorrow, I am heading to Lookout Mountain Flight Park. I will begin training under their Eagle Package. Over the week, I will fly as much as the atmosphere allows me to.

I had the opportunity to listen to NASA director Maj. General Charles Boden speak today at the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Chemists and Chemical Engineers Science Fair Awards Luncheon. Gen. Boden gave a very motivational speech about setting out to do what you want to do, and not letting anything deter you. The Irony of this was that Gen. Boden was one of my idols as a teenager. Back then, he was Col. Charles Boden the NASA Astronaut. Two of my students at Blackstar Educational Institute won awards in the science fair. They were around my age when I followed Boden's career as an astronaut and aspired to become one myself. Seeing them listen to Boden on the eve of my flight training was a powerful moment.

If weather permits, then tomorrow will feature my first Aerotow flight. I am going to try to get my aerotow flights done within the next few days, and my training on the hills on tuesday and wednesday. Thursday and Friday's weather forecasts call for thunderstorms. Realistically, I can expect some rain sometime during the week, because that is the nature of spring. But I think I can pull a good 6 days of training out of my spring break, and come back with my H2.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Perigine Falcon is an amazing bird. It has a very natural ability to master the energy trade-offs that are necessary for amazing speeds that have been clocked at over 200 mph. I have taken it upon myself to take up birdwatching as I continue to study hang gliding. The birds are the ultimate mentors of all ultralight pilots.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

19 Days

And in time, I will be this good. :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dan Buchanan is a trike stunt pilot. In the above video, he is seen flying at night, performing several acrobatic manuvers while releasing a brilliant display of fireworks. To make matters even more impressive, Mr. Buchanan cannot walk, and uses a wheelchair.

Who was James S. Adams

After the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, a frenzy of adventurers, hobbyists, engineers and inventors began to concentrate their heads together on ways to improve the speed, longevity and altitude of aircraft.

Here, we have arrived at a patent filed by a man named James Sloan Adams. Other than the fact that Mr. Adams was a Black man, not much else seems to be known about him. I have also been unable to find information on any particular aircraft that Mr. Adams' propulsion system may have been used for.

The patent was filed in 1918 and approved in 1920. This could mean a variety of things. World War I reached it's end in 1918. The airplane had just seen its first applications in warfare as fighters, bombers and scouts. Dogfighting had created the need for faster and more manuverable planes. Bombers needed to be able to fly high, carry heavy loads, and fly for a long distance. It was also around this time that commercial aviation was born. There are many possibilities for which this propulsion system could have been used.

I am going to continue to look and see what turns up. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

23 Days

This video sums up everything...

Man, I can't wait. :)

Ultralight Airships?

So a couple of years ago, this man duplicated the attempt to fly with a bunch of helium balloons that was done by a man some years earlier...

... now, this isn't exactly the safest thing to do. This is mainly because the fact that even the most professionally manufactured hot air balloons can only control their vertical position. Hot air balloons must have a ground crew to follow them and literatly go wherever the wind blows.

"Lawn Chair Larry's" attempt to do this almost ended in the loss of his life, and made national headlines. He went into airspace occupied by commercial aircraft

But the success of Kent Couch proves that there is hope for this type of ultralight airmanship, if better designs are put into place. There are several ideas that come to mind:

Video courtesy of Journeyman Pictures

  1. Make this a structly indoor activity: There is a french inventor that made an indoor 1-person airship that allows a person to fly around like a bird. What if "indoor flight parks" could be made for people that want to make personal airships?
  2. What if Electric Duct Fan (EDF) motors could be made to help control the steering of personal airships of this type that fly outdoors?

Hang gliding once started out as this super psychotic thing that only the most hardcore thrillseekers did, and many of them got killed in the early days. But as time went by, the technology improved and organizations such as the USHPA began to develop a body of knowledge for pilots to enter the sport safely, and now hang gliding deaths are extremely rare.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

27 Days

I've had the opportunity to talk with several experienced pilots on the forum, and asked about plyometric exercises to prepare for my training. The consensus among them was to stick with basic walking exercises, and to try not to overprepare. One interesting point was that human habit normally causes a person to slow down when running down a hill so that a person will not loose balance and fall over, while this is a bad habit in hang gliding.

I am going to stick with my regular workout routine.

Meanwhile, I am reading Dennis Pagen's Hang Gliding Training Mannual and observing the many different hang gliding videos on youtube. I make it a point to observe videos of good flights, as well as videos of crashes and bad landings.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

29 days: The workout routine begins.

Different websites describe the level of physical activity in hang gliding in different ways. My general idea is that hang gliding is much easier when you are in good shape. You must be able to lift a glider, run at a good speed (when foot launching), and move your body by using the armbars to shift your weight while airborne. Endurance, arm strength, and leg strength seem to be essential.

I have always been physically active. I walk a lot, and I have always been capable of moderate to extensive workouts. But this month, I have been stepping it up a notch in preparation for the first week of April.

In the book Hang Gliding Techniques, Dennis Pagen explains that a lot of pilots have to land their gliders after having grown weary from shifting their weight after long flights. I have responded to this by beginning a pull-up routine. On any given day, I can do at least 30-40 pull-ups or chin-ups with without having had a meal or even a good nights sleep. By month's end, I want to raise this number to 60-80 (albeit, I want to avoid loosing sleep and missing meals as much as possible). I love pushups and think that they certainly wouldn't hurt, but I want to focus on pullups, as this exercise involves me pulling my own weight from a bar. as a hang glider pilot would do.

Running is also important. I don't have an airplane so I won't be doing much aerotowing, unless I am at a flight park like Lookout Mountain, Kitty Hawk or Wallaby Ranch, and even truck towing and scooter towing would take a considerable amount of investment that I'm not ready to make yet. So I'll need to be able to foot launch with ease. I can sprint pretty quicky already, and I also have a reasonable amount of endurance. But I'll be seeking to increase my running speed, as well as the ability to run at full speed while carrying the weight of a glider. An instructor at Lookout Mountain Flight Park advised me to practice running down a hill while looking straight ahead at a target, and I will be doing this as well.

I'll also practice jumping exercises that will challenge my foot-eye coordination to prepare for my foot landing skills. Today, I will be purchasing some jump rope and a soccer ball, as well as cheap materials that could be used to put together an obstacle course. I already have exercise cones and they will be put to use.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kid Controlling Air Traffic at JFK

So today my lady tags me in a note today on Facebook, putting me on to a news article where a guy brought his kid to JFK airport and allowed his son to direct the air traffic. I found this video on youtube that plays the recording...

Now, I have mixed feelings about this event. Overall, I think it was dangerous and unprofessional of the air traffic controller to bring in a child to direct planes filled with hundreds of passengers at one of the world's busiest airports. A plethora of things could have gone wrong within a matter of seconds that could have costed many people to die. Air Traffic Control is no small matter. It requires knowledge of meteorology, mathematics, management, telecommunications, and an understanding of the principles of flight.

My father brought me to work many times during his tenure with the Atlanta Police Department. I got a chance to meet Eldren Bell (who is now the Commissioner of Clayton County), Thetus Knox (who went on to become the Chief of Police of the City of Riverdale). But never did I respond to a call with my father. Bringing me along taught me a lot about the police profession and about how police departments work.

I am not against the fact that this guy brought his kid to work... only that he allowed his kid to control airplanes with passengers. There are ATC simulators that can simulate the duties of being an Air Traffic Controller, where a person can learn by wrecking virtual planes, instead of real ones, and only virtual lives are lost when someone makes a mistake.

Now... what if this was a very small airport with very little traffic? Perhaps a gliderport? It would be really cool if the FAA could set up internships or summer camps where high school kids could get a taste of being an air dispatcher, after having gone through weeks of training. That would be really good for the FAA's development of future air traffic controllers.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Springtime Approaches...

As of today, I am officially one month away from seeking my Hang II certification and foot launch rating. During the week of April 3rd, I will go off for a week of training. Sometime after this week, I will then look into procuring a hang glider that I can use to continue to fly and accumulate flying time. I believe that Hang III by October is a realistic goal.

I love hang gliders, but I certainly do not want to stop there. There are other aircraft that I want to move into. Immediately following my Hang Gliding studies and practice will be a transition from hang gliders to foot-launchable ultralight gliders that move with rudders, ailerons and elevators. And this video has made me wonder about the possibility of lighter-than-air flight.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Human Powered flight

The preceding video is the result of a project done by the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. Several champion bicyclists took carefully designed ultralights and flew them for many hours. These ultralight airplanes were powered by human-driven propellers that moved in the same way that wheels move when humans pedal bicycles.

Ironically, the Wright brothers were bicycle shop owners before they constructed the Airplane. I would not be surprised that this idea did not cross their minds at some point. Before inventing the first airplane in 1903, they begin improving the designs of gliders made by Otto Lilienthal. I am sure that they pondered a "flying bicycle" at some point. But materials back then were much heavier and less durable.

The 21st century has seen many years of ultralight pilots and aircraft builders. If aviation and transportation is to become more green as people like, then this has a lot of potential that could be expanded with time and research.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Radio Control Aircraft

Flying Radio Controlled Airplanes is a big hobby all over the world for children and adults, males and females. It allows a person to experience the thrill of controlling an aircraft. There are many different types of model aircraft, which perform in a variety of different ways. My father bought me a Tyco Jetstream airplane when I was about 10 years old...

I remember it being a very exciting experience. Flying it around involved many different skills, including...
  1. Learning to operate electronics.
  2. Learning to fix the plane when it broke during flight.
  3. The skill of replacing parts.
  4. Learning how the wind affects the plane in flight.

Then there was the point where I had destroyed the aircraft so much that it was unflyable. What did I do? I salvaged the engines and made my own body from paper, wood, duct tape, and played around until I got something that was flyable.

To this day, I still enjoy RC Aircraft of many different types, and commonly use them as teaching tools with students. Over the years, RC aircraft have become less expensive, more durable, and more electronically sophisticated. There are even flight simulators that help assist people with understanding how to fly the aircraft before flying them.

EDF jets are particularly fun to fly. They are inexpensive and generate a pretty good amount of thrust for the plane. These particular aircraft inspire me to look into furthering the technology of electric power in ultralight aircraft, as many people are already doing (which shall be the topic of some other post).

From a pedagogy perspective, RC Airplanes allow schools to start Aerospace programs. This allows for many schools to provide a child to learn about all of the key principles of Aeronautics without the costs that come from having real airplanes/helicopters.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Flying Dog...

I wonder if my rabbits Photon and Bucky would like to fly?? :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi - Ghana's first woman to become a licensed ultralight pilot

Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi recieved her Private Ultralight Pilot license last year on her 21st birthday. She is also a holder of the Rotax Engine Certification. She's a very gorgeous lady too. :)

Ghana and Ultralight Aircraft

Ghana's government has recognized the potential of ultralight aircraft and has created a license for flying them, which is called a "Private Ultralight Pilot" license. The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, which is Ghana's version of our FAA, began issuing this license recently.

The organization WAASPS works closely with the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and provides training for ultralight aircraft. They also provide crop dusting, aerial advertising, and airshows.

Ghana's GCAR Part 25 is very similar to the FAA's Light Sport Aircraft rule. It requires a pilot to have at least 30 hours of flight time, in which 10 of those hours must include solo flights.

This is very fascinating. There is a lot of potential for ultralights to help the continent of Africa build its infastructure. I hope that other African countries will duplicate this. It would certainly help with tourism, as well as with various different agricultural applications. And this seems to be what sets the GCAA apart from the FAA. The Ghanaians seem to have a clear understanding of how ultralights can further their economy down the road, whereas getting the FAA to create a license for flying ultralight aircraft was like pulling teeth.

Perhaps the commercial potential of ultralight aircraft should be the subject of another blog.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Corporal Bullard's Airplane

The Lafayette Flying Corps used the S.P.A.D. VII during WWI. Here are some of the technical specs...

Armament: One Vickers .303-cal. machine guns
Engine: Hispano-Suiza 8-Aa of 180 hp
Maximum speed:
127 mph
Ceiling: 17,500 ft.
Span: 25 ft. 8 in.
Length: 20 ft. 3 in.
Height: 7 ft.
Weight: 1,550 lbs. maximum

Source: The National Museum of the Air Force

The S.P.A.D. VII was the most widely produced airplane during WWI. There were also other versions of this airplane that had slightly different technical specs.

The early days of air combat were up close and personal. There was no firing a missle at a target beyond visual range as today's F-22 pilots have the luxury to do. WWI fighter pilots had to fly in close to their targets and shoot a considerable amount of ammunition to bring their opponents down.

Pilots had to become skilled at Air Combat Manuvering, or "dogfighting."

The first black fighter pilot

Many people now know of the Tuskeege, and their long list of accomplishments over the skies of Europe during the second World War. The Tuskeege Airmen flew in the segregated 99th Pursuit Squadron and carried out several missions. By the end of WWII, they were the most requested squadron for bomber escort. When the United States Air Force became it's own seperate entity after World War II, segregation in the Armed forces had completely ended and fighter pilots of all races flew in the same squadrons.

But the Tuskeege Airmen were not the first Black fighter pilots. There was at least one Black fighter pilot in World War One, which was known then as "The Great War."

A man by the name of Eugene Bullard, hailing from Columbus Georgia, was a fighter pilot for the French in World War One. Bullard was born in 1894. After growing up in [and tired of] the Jim Crow South, he caught a boat going to Scotland, and later found himself in France. Bullard made a good life for himself as a boxer and as a musician before the start of WWI. He and many other Americans flew as pilots for the Lafayette Flying Corps. His accomplishments in the Lafayette Flying Corps include flying over 20 combat missions and two confirmed kills.

The United States entered the war in 1917, and sought to recruit some of the Americans that were already flying for the Lafayette Flying Corps. Bullard passed the medical examination, but was denied the opportunity to fly for the United States Army Air Corps because of his skin color. Bullard would be transferred from the Lafayette Flying Corps to the French Infantry after getting into a fight with a French Officer.

When World War I ended, Bullard went back into his life as a socialite in Paris, France. Bullard was a Polymath: He was good at many things. But when Nazi Germany invaded France, he found himself on the run. He managed to escape France and return to the United States, were he was subjected to the brutal system of oppression that he had once escaped. He wad once beaten badly by an angry mob during the Peekskill riots.

Bullard never obtained the status that he once had in Europe. He died of stomach cancer in 1961.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My elusive dream of becoming a flight instructor

I have loved flying things for as far back as I can remember. I have a love for just about every form of human flight there is, as well as a love for unmanned aircraft/spacecraft. One of my many goals to accomplish within my lifetime is to become a pilot and flight instructor.

That goal has been elusive. The main reason has been finances. It has been really difficult to save up for the costs of flight training over the years. But nonetheless, I am still determined to make this happen.

My current focus is flying ultralights. My most burning interest for the past couple of years is to fly hang gliders. Hang Gliding has been a popular sport since the 1970's and has recently come a long way in its development. Also, the FAA has since created the Sport Pilot rating.

I am back at it this year in 2010 and am determined to make this happen. My goal is to reach the following USHPA Ratings:
  • Hang II certification by spring
  • Hang III certification by Fall