30 July 2011

Print Your Own Aircraft?

That may not be as far-fetched as it sounds, in fact it has already been done!

Scientists in the UK designed a small UAV using CAD-CAM software, printed it out with a 3D printer, assembled it and flew it all in a five day period. This is a sophisticated design, too, with a geodesic structure.

3D printing is a relatively new technology that works similarly to a paper printer, except that the 3D printer builds up layers of plastics to form a three dimensional shape.

Now it is true that this is only a small aircraft with a wingspan just under 5 feet, but you have to start somewhere. It wouldn't take a lot to scale this up to man-carrying size and essentially print your own kitplane. The main advantage here is the speed at which this can be done.

* Story
* Video

29 July 2011

Canada eh! ForeFlight on my iPad


ForeFlight is nice software for the iPad. It even has some Canadian information.

You have several options for chart and airport information. The first option below is really US based and gives only coincidental Canadian information along the border. The second option adds dereferencing to approach plates in the USA, not sure if this is true in Canada. The third option adds Canadian IFR information such as departure, approach and arrival plates. As well as Canadain Low and High Enroute charts, but no IFR Terminal Charts. The last choice is the same as the number 1 but for three months.

  1. ForeFlight HD 1 year    74.99
  2. ForeFlight Pro 1 year  149.99
  3. ForeFlight Mobile Aviation Weather, Flight Planning, EFB, and Charts, Canada IFR (1 Year), Seller: ForeFlight, LLC  149.99
  4. Foreflight HD 3 mos 24.99

I selected the 3rd choice above and was immediately billed 149.99 plus HST for a total of CAD$169.49.  I assumed the software is priced in US Dollars, but no, I was charged the same prices in Canadian Dollars at a loss of exchange of about 5%. Thanks Apple!

Canadian pilots that fly under the Instrument Flight Rules IFR  will get most of what they need. The weak link is for Canadian Visual Flight Rules guys like me. The Sectionals are just that FAA charts that happen to include parts of Canada along the border. This is not serious if you live in Southern Ontario, but even there it could mislead one into missing Mandatory Frequency (MFs) airports where one is obligated to use the radio. Also, some Class D Transponder areas could be missed such as around Ottawa. FAA Sectionals always warn pilots to use Canadian Charts and publications in Canadian airspace. There are no Canadian VFR Terminal Area Charts (VTAs).

Most Canadian aerodromes at there. I assume they are also in the US versions of the software. I believe the source is the US defense department data. The current update includes correct frequencies even for pretty small aerodromes, such as Embrun, CPR2. In past versions of the data, frequencies were missing for small airports  like Embrun.

I have not explored the whole package, but clearly the ForeFlight folks have done Canada well in this update.

Michael Shaw


22 July 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 14

Our non-flying day in Anchorage was spent - flying. We got a ride in a Cessna 206 floatplane of Rust's Flying Service up to the glacier. It was neat - we landed on the lake at the end of the glacier and taxied beside the ice walls. Not in the same class as the icebergs in Ilulissat, Camilla, but still pretty impressive. Also there were a few moose on the river flats.

Later in the day, we took off and flew VFR around Mt. McKinley (the highest mountain in North America at 20,300'). Not too sure about the regs regarding height above terrain that goes above 18,000', but ATC said we could not go above 17,500', so we actually never went above 16.5. Got some spectacular photos.

Next day, I was able to convince Wei that 1300 miles direct without a guaranteed tailwind was not a good plan and we decided to stop for breakfast/lunch at Juneau, the state capital (population 30,000). We were IFR at FL270 and could see Mt Logan (~19,000') off to the east, so asked ATC for a deviation to fly around it. No problem. Imagine trying this in China!

We grabbed a burger in Donna's Diner at Juneau (first burger of the trip) and continued on top of a cloud deck down to Boeing Field Seattle. The hotel Wei had booked turned out only to have one bed in the room, but our friendly taxi driver found another. I snuck out at 5:45 next morning and took the high speed ferry to Victoria BC, where I was met by Roy Olmstead, a long time friend from AECL days. Now enjoying some R&R in Campbell River BC before returning to Ontario on Sunday.

That's it, folks. The last update. I hope you enjoyed the tale.

Al Hepburn

19 July 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 13

We had great weather for the trip across Siberia to Anadyr and the Russians were really efficient, so everything went on schedule, until we got to Anadyr. It seems the ferry schedule across to the town has changed. We were told that it now runs only 3 times a day, and the last one was at 5 o'clock, so we'd missed it. They had arranged for us to stay at the airport hotel. No restaurant, no internet, and all for $180 a night. We bought some food in the store and made our own supper and breakfast. It turns out that a private boat could have been arranged. I suspect they were just trying to generate business for the airport hotel.

Next morning, we had a one-hour delay getting fuel and finding a form which had been given to Wei on arrival in Russia. Then we were off on the leg to Anchorage, based on the TAF and a text message from Air Journey about enroute conditions, which fortunately were not complicated. So now we have a day's rest in Anchorage before heading down the coast to Seattle tomorrow. We had hoped to do some sightseeing along the way, but that isn't going to happen, due to a low over the Alaska panhandle and the Queen Charlottes. The good news is we should have some help from the wind, so should be able to make the trip direct. That should put is in to Boeing Field mid afternoon.

17 July 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 12

We had one full day in Harbin, during which the only activity of note was a visit to the Siberian tiger park, a safari park where view the tigers from the safety of buses. Two or three chickens and a couple of ducks were not so lucky. There must have been at least a hundred tigers in the park.

I tried to have our flight plan brought forward an hour next morning, but as this would have involved a change in permits via Moscow, I decided it was not worth the risk and we left our departure at noon local time. We finally got the nod at 1:30. The delay was blamed on military activity, but Wei says he thinks they were waiting for a bribe to speed things up.

We had a few build-ups to dodge on the way to Khabarovsk, but on arrival the weather was severe clear. We were in our hotel with refuelling complete within an hour of touchdown, so if we have an equally efficient start, things look good for tomorrow. Khabarovsk has a pleasant park with fountains in the middle of town, and an impressive Russian Orthodox cathedral.

A long day is planned tomorrow, from here to Anadyr, with a fuel stop and Magadan. The weather looks good, however.


15 July 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 11

On July 12, we flew from Xian to Beijing. I believe we were the first single engine airplane to be permitted to land there. On arrival the visibility was advertised as 3000m, but it was more like 1000. There is a business aviation center there and that's where we went for another big welcoming committee. Carolyn got in around 5 p.m. This stop was managed by Chinese AOPA, which has 1000 members, a beautiful magazine (at least it is nicely printed and has nice pictures - I couldn't read a word of it, of course), but I doubt if the own an airplane amongst them, unless you count Wei, who I'm sure is a member.

Next day, Carolyn and I went out to the Great Wall and there was an AOPA meeting in the late afternoon, featuring Wei. Only trouble was, he failed to show. He had taken the media out to see the airplane at 08:00, and it took all day to get permission to take them out to the ramp. He finally showed about 10 minutes before the mandatory banquet.

The following day, Carolyn and I visited Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. We went by subway, which was an experience in itself, and a guide picked us up as we left the station. He was a school teacher, moonlighting to make a little extra money. Both sites were interesting. Lots of Chinese tourists wanting to be photographed with the round-eyes. The traffic in Beijing was heavy, but not impossible. You might credit this to the fact that, ten years ago, there were only bicycles, so the car population is relatively young. But there's another explanation. Your licence plate in Beijing is only valid one day a week!

On the 15th, we left the hotel at 05:00 to be airborne by 08:00, as mandated by ATC. Carolyn headed back home later that day. When we were ready to taxi, it emerged that there was a problem. The yellow line from our parking spot crossed another parking stand, and there was an A320 parked on this stand. No matter that there was 300 feet between it and the next airplane, and our wingspan was about 45 feet. The system says you must follow the yellow line, so if something is parked on that yellow line, you're screwed. And nobody knew when the A320 was going to move. We weren't the only ones affected - there was a bizjet sitting with his APU running as well. Finally, after 3 hours, they moved the offending airplane, and after a long delay due to departures, we were airborne for Harbin, in northeastern China.

On arrival, there was a presentation of cheques to some deserving school children to further their education. The poor kids had, of course, been waiting for several hours also. It was pretty touching, actually. One of the girls had tears running down her face as she accepted the cheque. This will probably make a huge difference to their lives.

So now, I am in Harbin, a little provincial town of 12 million or so, where we expect to see the Siberian tiger collection at the zoo this afternoon. Tomorrow at noon, we head off to Khabarovsk, Russia, assuming the permits arrive in time. The original plan was to go to Sakhalin, but the airport there is closed for runway repairs, hence the change in plan.

Stay tuned.


14 July 2011

Morrisburg Aerodrome (CNS8) not Closing, For Now.


Pilots fly to Morrisburg to show their support. This photo is looking east towards the golf course from the button of Rwy 25 at Morrisburg CNS8.

Over the past year or so, there had been rumours that the St. Lawrence Park’s Commission was planning to close its Airport (CNS8). On 12 July 2011 a group of Eastern Ontario pilots flew into the airport to meet with the Darren Dalgleish, the Commission’s GM and CEO.

Darren Dalgleish is at the head of the table in the photo.DSC_2870

As requested by Patrick Gilligan of COPA, Darren Dalgleish and some of his staff met us at the airport. We then walked over to the Admin building across the road. 9 planes flew in and about 20 pilots from Cornwall, Iroquois, Ottawa, Carp, Bearbrook, Ingleside and Embrun dropped in to show their support. To use the Darren's language, there is no current plan to close the airport, but the Commission must rationalize each asset, and so far see no revenue and fortunately little cost is associated with their airport. The Parks Commission wants the airport to complement their primary activity at Upper Canada Village. Dalgleish noted that the Parks Commission has to ask the Ontario Government to cover its operating short fall each year to the tune of $1.8M. He noted that he has no experience in running an airport and would welcome any suggestions from the flying community.

Various models of management and operation of the small airports were discussed. JD Ross from Iroquois (CNP7) describe how the City of Iroquois manages their airport successfully in a town recreation park using local pilots to manage the airport under an agreement with the city. The Rockcliffe model was described where the Museum owns the land, they have an Airport Commission, and management and operation is by Rockcliffe Flying Club. Capital projects are shared between the Museum and the Flying Club.

The Parks Commission has no idea how much use the airport actually gets. Their primary concern is exposure to risk and liability. Several pilots noted that the CARs put responsibility for the airports they use directly on them, not specifically the airport operator. That said, it was also noted that aerodromes must follow the CARs too. The Ontario Government self-insures the Park. The pilots suggested that the airport ask pilots to sign a book to keep some record of usage.

Pilots talked about how the airport draws them to Upper Canada Village, the Golf course, Restaurant and marina several times a year. In fact, several attendees arrived early enough to lunch at the Golf course. It is this ability and the easy access to Upper Canada Village that makes the airport an attraction for local pilots. Some suggested wider advertising to draw other flying visitors, perhaps even Airport of Entry status for visitors from outside Canada. Pilots pointed to Lamacaza airport near Mount Tremblent as a successful small airport. As well some suggested hangars and a flight school might work to improve revenues from the airport. Several private airport operators present noted  that when the paved runway is no longer useable they switch to grass which is cheaper to maintain. Only the Mooney pilot from Cornwall indicated he preferred asphalt.

Patrick Gilligan suggested that an annual fly-in breakfast associated with a visit to Upper Canada Village could be used to involve the local communities and pilots, and perhaps raise revenues.  This could be arranged by one or more of the local COPA Flights and take advantage of COPA’s insurance.

It was an upbeat productive meeting introducing aviation to the St. Lawrence Parks Commission management and the Park’s Commission to local Pilots. COPA Flight 8 thanks Darren Dalgleish and his staff for inviting us to meet.

11 July 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 10

Our first internal leg in China, from Changsha to Xian was uneventful. The main impression is that the visibility in the cities is mostly less than 3 km. Wei wants people in China to fly GA. Well, they're going to need an instrument rating before first solo!

Carolyn and I visited the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, and found it most interesting. The had amazing technology 2200 years ago - armour, bronze weapons, pottery in massive quantities, archers, cavalry etc.

Tomorrow, we leave the hotel at 04:20 local, as the want is to be on the ground in Beijing before 09:00 local. The main challenge looks to be low visibility in what the Chinese euphemistically refer to as "mist". Also, some scattered CBs.

Next report from the capital city, which apparently has been the forbidden city for private aircraft up until now.


07 July 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 9

We got off the ground at 11:52 local, and arrived in Changsha, China at 1:37. Despite our agreement to use English unless clarification was required, Wei insisted on talking to the controller in Mandarin, which I think confused him a bit. However, everything was quite unremarkable. Altitudes were, of course, in metric. The weather on arrival was hot and humid. The advertised visibility with 10km+, but I think this is a public relations move. Right now, they are still calling at 7km, but looking out the window, it can't be better than 3km.

This is Wei's home town, so again there was a big welcoming committee. They are saying this is the first single engine airplane to be allowed in to China, but it seems to me a Spanish airline captain flew a Kitfox to Oshkosh via China several years ago. Maybe he went through Taiwan. Also, I think a few single airplanes flew in from Burma during the Second World War. I'm really puzzled by what all the fuss is about. You'd think we'd achieved something remarkable. Now, if we'd been flying a Kitfox, I could have seen cause for celebration.

We were warned by the Boeing Business Jet captain who briefed us yesterday to expect a track offset clearance, but that did not happen. I suspect there is not much demand for the levels at which we fly. Frankly, things were pretty quiet all the way.

We are here for 3 nights, then off to Xianyang, followed by Beijing. Hopefully, based on today's performance, Wei will be able to negotiate a more civilized arrival time.

For some reason eurofpl would not accept our route BEKOL A461 LIG ZGHA. It changed the EET to several hours, so obviously it thought one of the waypoints was on another continent.

Al Hepburn

06 July 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 8

We have permits to go in to China, and it appears we will be operating under English ATC at the airports we will be using, so tomorrow, in we go. Apparently, this will be the first time that a foreign-registered single engine airplane has been allowed in. Also, we are being allowed in to Beijing in a few days, but they are not taking any chances. Arrival after midnight and departure before 6 a.m.

WX tomorrow is forecast to be OK, just some scattered thundershowers. Wish us luck.

Al Hepburn.

03 July 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 7

We had another uneventful flight down from Laos to Ho Chi Minh City yesterday afternoon. There were a few potholes in the road as we descended into Vietnam, but nothing unusual. The handling bill in Laos was again fierce. No wonder, they flew the handler's representative up from Bangkok to look after us, kept her there two nights, then flew her back again! Nobody said anything about GA being competitive in this part of the world.

I shudder to think what the handling bill here is going to be like, since the airplane is occupying an airline stand for the best part of two days, and these stands normally rent by the hour. Ah well, that part of it is not my planning and not my bank account, thank God.

Today, we visited an orphanage, where Wei and his friend (who has been with us since Bangkok) made some donations. The theme of his flight is helping kids around the world. This afternoon we went out on the river for lunch at a small town, Mytho, on another arm of the Mekong Delta. These Chinese never stop eating! We stopped at three different locations and ate at each.

Tomorrow morning we're off bright and early to Hong Kong, where Carolyn should join us. I guess I screwed up on her flight, with the date, airline, etc., so she will arrive a few hours after us, rather than the day before. I had advised Wei before the start of the trip that he should get a qualified Chinese pilot to accompany him in to China, and he said he had one. However, this guy is a Cessna 172 instructor who has difficulty communicating with ATC, as he speaks Cantonese, so that is not very promising. I want to check the Chinese AIP when we get to Hong Kong, but I suspect that, on non-English ATC routes (which he will be on) there will be a requirement to have a crew member with a "Mandarin Competent" statement (similar to our English competent statement) aboard, and Wei does not have one, of course. While Mandarin is his mother tongue, he does not know Mandarin ATC speak, so I don't know whether this proposed trip into China is going to work. He does, however, have the permits from the Chinese government to go in. Maybe he can get a Chinese pilot to brief him in Hong Kong. Stay tuned for the next episode!