You Don't Need A Wing If Your Ship's Got That Swing...

Sun 'n Fun's Chopper Town provided a graphic reminder Friday that you don't need a wing if your ship's got that swing, as a turbine chopper and a Butterfly gyro amply demonstrate.

A Mosquito on floats—FAR 103 legal, by the way —hangs in a hover as the pilot concentrates on showing off the little ship's nimble handling.

The pilot of another FAR 103 version of the Mosquito waits for clearance from Chopper Town Tower as its float-equipped kin descends for a low pass.

Chopper Town serves as the rotorcraft equivalent of the Paradise City light-plane area, with steady flying entertainment every morning and evening for those willing to trek to the far east end of the Sun 'n Fun grounds.

The Heroes of Sun 'n Fun

Who are the true heroes of Sun 'n Fun? Are they the airshow performers, putting their lives on the line to entertain and thrill us? Or maybe they're the small army of volunteers, graciously donating their time to make the event as smooth as possible. Or the event organizers, who tirelessly work year after year after year to keep the event as safe and as organized as they can.

You could make an argument that it's really the kit manufacturers who keep Sun 'n Fun alive, spending a huge chunk of their annual fiscal and manpower resources to give us the chance to see their product and talk to their staff in person. Some would say it's the relatively deep pockets of the certified aircraft manufacturers that keep the annual event vibrant, as they pump in an incredible amount of coin year after year. You have to consider the ATC team as well, dealing with the daily onslaught of every conceivable aircraft type from ultralight to military war machines.

Then there's the plethora of commercial booths and tents, both inside and out, featuring every conceivable sort of aviation paraphernalia imaginable. And if it weren't for the food and drink vendors, the daily hoards would get downright ugly, indeed. Those guys who service the Porta-Potties deserve their due as well--without them Sun 'n Fun would get ugly. Or maybe it's the Florida Tourism interests that provide the foundation for the event, doing their best to keep a bright, smiling face turned toward the public eye.

So who really are the heroes of Sun 'n Fun?

In my book, it's the average American and his family who take the time and expend the energy to attend. He may not even own an airplane, or be building one, or have ever logged a single flight hour. But there he is, year after year, dragging the wife and kids out to the flight line. His clan waits in the traffic, hikes in from remote parking, pays the going rate for a pass, buys the pricey food and the pricier drinks, puts up with the crowds and even the occasional condescension from experienced fliers just for the chance to witness the magic of flight from a front row center perspective. Without having any dog in the fight.

So the next time you encounter that mom or dad pulling the kids in the wagon, sunburned, overheated, but with that unmistakable gleam in the eye, consider where our aviation celebrations would be without them.

I suspect we wouldn't have very many more.

TCW Technologies Introduces Intelligent Flap Controller

VFE. Do you know what it is? That’s the maximum speed at which it is safe to deploy the flaps on your airplane. You set it when you set up the various airspeed limitations on your aircraft before it was certified and, if you built a kit, you probably defaulted and used the airspeed the kit manufacturer suggested for your bird.

The whole reason VFE exists is to keep you from overstressing the flaps, and mechanics will tell you that it is a shame there isn’t some kind of switch to keep pilots in a hurry to “slow down and go down” from deploying flaps when the aircraft is moving faster than VFE.

Bob Newman, an electrical engineer by trade and an aircraft builder by avocation, and his partner in TCW Technologies, both designers of TCW’s popular Safety-Trim Intelligent Servo Controller, were convinced they could do for flaps operation safety what they had done for electric trim safety.

“The Intelligent Flap Controller is specifically designed for use with Van’s Aircraft series of flap actuators,” says Newman. “The IFC receives switch inputs from either of two flap switches, so you could mount a flaps switch on both the pilot and co-pilot’s sticks. If one goes inop, you’ve got the other. And the IFC resolves any conflicts between the switches automatically. Best of all, it gives pilots of Van’s aircraft a time-out switch so that the flap motor cannot get stuck on and run continuously.”

All of these features are great for eliminating wear and tear on the aircraft’s systems, but it is the airspeed sensing switch that will keep pilots from overstressing their machines, Newman says. The switch, which is identical to the airspeed switch in the Safety-Trim, prevents flap extension above a user-defined speed. “What is great about the switch is that it only prevents extension—if you need to retract flaps, you can still do that,” says Newman. The IFC system is compatible with the Safety-Trim, and can even use the Safety-Trim’s airspeed switch.

VistaNAV 3.0 Supports New Hardware and Tricks

The latest version of portable synthetic vision software manufacturer Mercury Computer System’s VistaNAV comes with some pretty cool tricks. First, the program, in version 3.0, has been optimized for the new compact Samsung Q1 SSD tablet PC with touchscreen technology. The Samsung Q1 runs the VistaNAV CIS-1000 Class I EFB and includes moving map on approach plate and integrated synthetic vision 3-D technology, which makes the transition from VMC to IMC virtually seamless for pilots. The $4300 (show price) package includes a solid-state gyroscopic unit with adjustable barometric pressure and WAAS GPS.

“The real beauty of the 3-D synthetic system is that everything it shows you is where you will be in 9 seconds,” says VistaNAV ‘s Jeff Simon. “That allows you to begin your corrections before you actually deviate from your course, so that you fly with incredible accuracy.”

If you are willing to upgrade to the CIS-2000 system ($7000), a Class II EFB, you can integrate Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) into the VistaNAV system. This means you can use the synthetic vision to navigate to the airport. Then, with one touch of a finger on the soft button on the ultra-high resolution screen, your FLIR camera will show you in real time the condition of the runway and any obstacles, animate or inanimate, in your way. “The integration of synthetic vision and FLIR is the ultimate safety enhancement for anyone who flies in low visibility situations or at night,” says Simon.

And Now for Something Completely Different

One of the great aspects of events like Sun 'n Fun is the frequency with which something new shows up. It's unusual for those new things to be really different, but this ZJ Viera is an example of something far from the norm. Light, low to the ground and, from watching it, nimble both on the ground and in the air, the ZJ Viera motors along nicely on its little single-cylinder engine, mono gear and cantilevered wing. Rather than ramble on about its singular traits, well, you can see for yourself that this ultralight definitely represents a departure from your typical very light aircraft.

For more information, visit InterPlane.

Something Old, Something New

It's probably just human nature that ogling what's new occupies so much of the attention of so many people so much of the time at events like the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In. After all, it is arguably one of the most important shows on the annual aviation calendar. But periodically it's something old that stops traffic and conversation, and when this American Aviation Eagle ultralight rolled out to the Paradise City runway this week, you could easily differentiate between the relative newcomers to the show and the ultralight veterans who populated the area 25 years ago--back when the Eagle was new and exciting and as exotic looking as it was easy to fly.

As old as the Eagle is, there is another historical note to attach to these photos. The pilot at the controls is none other than John Moody, the 1970s hang glider pilot credited for launching the ultralight movement when he first brought to Oshkosh an Easy Riser bi-wing hang glider with a small two-stroke engine mounted on the back.

Moody's demonstrations of launching a powered hang glider from level ground--using only his feet for landing gear--both stopped the crowds and started a movement that continues to evolve. Oh, yeah, he's still flying an Easy Riser with retractable, uh, feet.