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.

Paradise City: The Few, The Proud, The Very Light

Ahhh, yesss! Paradise City as it used to be, as it should be. Thanks to days of drier weather, smooth winds, blue skies and more planes, the action picked up Thursday. The queue taxiing for the Runway 9 operation started forming the instant the main-side airshow ended, and when the green flag went up to signal the opening of the evening flight window, well, it's a combination of sights, sounds and smells that even the best photo can't completely portray.

But maybe you can get a sense of what it's like if you sit back, zoom the photo up large and make a strong buzzing sound...brrrrrhhuuummmmm.

Avemco Offers Hull/Liability Insurance for Part-time CFIs

Avemco’s Jim Lauerman was honestly happy announcing the insurance company’s newest product for flight instructors Friday morning at Sun 'n Fun. The program is designed specifically for CFIs who own their own airplanes and want to give occasional instruction (such as someone with a kit aircraft who might want to do some transition training work with other builders). The program will allow the flight instructor to simply call Avemco to add the student pilot as a named insured on the airplane’s policy, without forcing the CFI/owner into a commercial policy that costs four or five times what a typical leisure/business policy costs.

Lauerman was quick to point out that the program is not designed for the active CFI with several concurrent students, and that the company will recommend another policy to CFIs who are trying to use it under those conditions. Still, the new program does offer an affordable solution for part-time flight instructors/aircraft owners who would like to teach a couple students each year.

For more information, visit Avemco.

National Association of Flight Instructors Helps Kit Builders Become Safe Fliers

The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) held its Master Flight Instructor Breakfast Friday morning at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, and one Master CFI, Ron Galbraith, of Odenton, Maryland, took time to speak with KITPLANES about his own work as a Lancair ES builder, an A&P;, and a test pilot and checkout pilot for other Lancair builders around the country.

“Skysmith Insurance knows me now as the guy who checks out people in Lancairs,” explains Galbraith. “What’s nice is that because I’m building my own, I know what to look for on the projects before they fly. And I’ve flown a lot of Lancairs now, so I know how they are supposed to fly." Once he’s helped an owner tweak the airplane so that it handles properly, he’ll transition the owner/builder into the machine.

“Sometimes it takes just a few hours, and sometimes I have to come back,” he said. “It varies. But one thing is always true. Builders have a lot of emotional attachment to their high-performance, complex projects, and it really isn’t a good idea for them to test-fly them unless they are qualified and have already done a transition training course. It just makes sense, from a safety standpoint.”

Galbraith points out that at NAFI you can find a listing of Master Flight Instructors and their specialties. It is a great place to begin looking for the right instructor to transition you into your prize machine. With the right training you’ll be ready to handle anything your project throws at you—and ready to safely reap the benefits of your hard work for years to come.

Aerospoiler System Foils Storm Damage

Tim Tuinder knows about hurricanes. He and his wife, Sharon, run a missionary air service, Harvest Air, out of Puerto Rico, supporting orphanages in the Caribbean, and he’s seen his share of wind-damaged airplanes.

To keep the wind from disappointing the people who depend on the Tuinders and their airplane, they designed a system of wind spoilers called the Aerospoiler system, which provides protection for aircraft that cannot be hangared. The system consists of several commercial-grade suction cups that are operated by a lever on the assembly housing. Each spoiler blade slips neatly into receivers on the suction cups and destroys 96% of the lift generated by the wing. The Aerospoiler system comes in its own compact, high-grade lightweight plastic casing and can easily be carried in most baggage compartments. It retails for $379, which doesn't seem like much after your first windstorm passes and your airplane is intact.

LightSPEED Aviation Announces Improvements to Zulu ANR Headset

A lot of buzz has surrounded LightSPEED Aviation's newest ANR headset, the Zulu, introduced at AirVenture 2007, with the first sets shipping in September 2007. Featuring Bluetooth connectivity between the headset and your cellphone, MP3 player or other compatible devices, LightSPEED has integrated current (and convenient) technology with the headset's aviation-specific features. It's drawn a natural comparison with Bose's Headset X; however, at $850, it's priced at about $150 less than the Bose.

We caught up with Allan Schrader, president of LightSPEED Aviation, at the LightSPEED booth (Hangar D) to talk about the headset's review featured in the April 2008 issue of sister publication Aviation Consumer. He told us the headsets that were reviewed were produced about 2000 sets prior to the headsets that are currently available. Schrader adds that two of the issues—music muting and noise gating—identified in that review had been brought to LightSPEED's attention in advance of the review, and were corrected in February.

Music muting is the process that brings the volume of the music down when there's an overriding signal such as an ATC call or in-cockpit conversation. Testers had observed that when the voice signal was weak, it would not mute the music sufficiently (for instance, if you're monitoring ATIS 30 miles out). The threshold was lowered to eliminate that issue; the music is now muted about 80%, so low you'd hardly notice it. After the voice signal has stopped, the Zulu will bring the music back up over 5 seconds. Schrader added that this feature is selectable so that a backseat passenger can rock out to Chris Daughtry's latest without the continual interruption from ATC.

Noise gating was added to the headset to mitigate the hiss produced by noisy intercoms, "basically a squelch for audio," explains Schrader. "Noise gating disconnects the audio plug from the intercom until such time as there's a signal on the audio line," such as an in-cockpit conversation or an ATC call. Again, the audio threshold was lowered to prevent a conflict between a weak signal and the headset's noise-gating capability. You can read Schrader's complete response to the April review in the May issue of Aviation Consumer, which will be available within a few weeks.

For more information, visit LightSPEED Aviation.