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Houston, Texas American Flyers Flight School November 2009 Aviation Newsletter

Surgeon to Put Pilot License to Good Use
Dr. Stephen Fletcher is a pediatric neurosurgeon at University of Texas, Houston. He has recently achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. While the dream may have remained a constant in his life, what he plans to do with this accomplishment has evolved into a noble cause. South Texas has a large population of underserved medically needy and Dr. Fletcher’s goal is to fly to them and provide medical care they cannot otherwise get.

The dream to fly had been in Dr. Fletcher’s heart since he can remember. Between him and his dream, though, were the obstacles of life: college, children, and financial constraints. When the time seemed right, he began his training at an FBO. He accumulated 60 hours and was just ready to take the written exam, when a tragedy occurred in his workplace. He put his dream temporarily on hold. When the time seemed right, he came back to his training, flew another 10 hours and was again prepared to take the written. A partner quit the firm and Dr. Fletcher put his training on hold once more.

Although nearly ready to give up his dream for good, he decided to call American Flyers. A plan was developed to complete his training and the school was able to help him train around his haphazard schedule so he was able to complete his training successfully. Dr. Fletcher has been flying around Texas since earning his Private Pilot certificate and plans to get his Instrument rating in the future.

January Flight Training Student

Fly On…
Recently Dennis Smalley, 60, enrolled in the CFI Academy at American Flyers in West Chicago. He is looking forward to continuing his aviation career. However, earning his CFI may seem somewhat tame to Dennis, who retired from a long flying career in 2008.

In 1970, Dennis graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and went to San Antonio to complete his flight training. His first assignment was to a squadron of then-new F-111’s under the Tactical Air Command in Southeast Asia. Manufactured by General Dynamics, the F-111 Aardvark was designed as a multipurpose, supersonic, tactical fighter/bomber capable of carrying 25,000 pounds of ordnance. During his tour, he flew 75 combat missions in the F-111, and spent most of that time at less than 200 feet AGL at over 500 knots in an effort to evade enemy fire.

As his career in the Air Force progressed, Dennis found himself stationed in Europe commanding a squadron of new A-10’s. As Dennis explained, there were no two-seat versions or simulators of the A-10, so most of the pilot training was learned on the job, “Every tour and experience was new and exciting.” Before retiring from the Air Force in 1991, he totaled twenty-one years of service, and retired a Lt. Col.

The same year he retired, Dennis was hired by American Airlines where he got the chance to travel the world yet again. Instead of the agile fighters, Dennis was commanding 727’s, Super 80’s, 757’s and 767’s in his seventeen-year career with American.

Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Dennis started his training by collecting coupons from various magazines and redeemed them for flight instruction at his local airport. Having lived so close to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dennis knew he wanted to fly, and the large military base nearby was a “big motivation.”

Dennis retired from American Airlines in 2008, and just “didn’t want to walk away from flying,” so he decided becoming an instructor would be the next step in “staying involved” in aviation. As Dennis said, “There’s always learning” to be done.


Fly In Destinations
Not your average airport diner, Skyline 1949 is a real treat for an evening or weekend excursion. Located at New Smyrna Beach Municipal (EVB) in New Smyrna, Florida, Skyline 1949’s is housed in a former officer’s club building dating back to the 1940’s.

Having started as a small restaurant in Gainesville, Florida in 2000, Stella’s has since grown in popularity and size. In 2006 the restaurant moved to its present locale.

The menu is incredibly varied; one can order steak and fresh seafood or more traditional American fare. Even the kid’s menu is exciting. No matter what you choose, definitely leave room for dessert; the Florida Orange Cake is not to be missed.

For more information or to view the menu, visit http://skyline1949.com/ while you eat.

Fly In Destinations

A Labor of Love
By Mike Goodman
There it is again, the distant sound of a radial engine. What is it this time: a North American AT-6, a Howard DGA or one of those Nanchang CJ- 6s? I know I’ve got to ignore the temptation to stop what I’m doing and run out onto the driveway to gaze skyward. After all, I’ve done it four times already and it’s only mid-morning. I’m never going to finish my homebuilt unless I buckle down and keep working. It’s been nine years since I started this thing and I’m just now getting around to covering some surfaces with fabric.

Where has the time gone? Wasn’t it just yesterday I took delivery of the wing kit? I told all my friends and family that I expected to be flying in three years barring some unforeseen event. I promised all the youngsters in the neighborhood a ride just as soon as I finished and was able to carry passengers. Now most if not all those kids are off to college or moved away completely. Yes, time has flown but not I. The building continues.

I'm an old fashioned guy. I've always admired the simplicity of the Piper Cub, the jaunty stance of a Monocoupe or the sleek and sexy lines of a Staggerwing. I behold a Tiger Moth or a Stampe with the same fascination as an art critic might view the Mona Lisa. I have nothing against modern composite aircraft but they just don't stir the emotions like the plush interior of a Waco or the polished aluminum of a Spartan Executive.

My heroes were the racers of bygone days in their Gee Bees or little Formula One speedsters, the barnstormers in their surplus trainers or the pilots of all nations in the “Great War”. These were steely-eyed men who braved the bitter wind and caster oil in their faces surrounded by nothing more than wood stringers and linen. I can only imagine the courage of aviation's forefathers who risked their lives to cross an open stretch of sea or climbed to heights in vehicles that were not much more than powered kites.

It's my love of the older craft and simple materials that inspired me to build the project that now occupies most of our two-car garage. It's a high-wing, two place wood and fabric design that reminds me of a Piper Vagabond or Aeronca Champ. As mentioned earlier, this has been an endeavor that far exceeded the time frame I set for myself but then it's a labor of love and not necessity. It will get done when it gets done, period. I have been blessed with an understanding spouse and the patience of a tortoise. Besides, I want it to look like some extra effort was applied and not just slapped together to get it into the air however; I can't help but think I let down the neighborhood kids.

Well, back to covering that rudder. I'm on a mission to get this part done today so I can start on the elevator tomorrow. Wait a minute…is that a Stearman I see on the horizon?

Mike Goodman is a telecommunications technician and a private pilot. He is currently building a Fisher Flying Products “Dakota Hawk” in his garage. The Dakota Hawk is a two-place, highwing tail dragger designed for cross-country flying. Mike lives in Ventura, California with his wife Suzanne.


Did You Know

When Swedish astrologer, Anders Celsius, invented his centigrade temperature scale in 1742, he designated the boiling point of water at 0 degrees and the freezing point of water at 100 degrees. Shortly after his death, the scale was inverted to the one much of the world uses today. It has been called the Celsius scale since 1948, when the name was adopted by an international conference on weights and measures.


When is it Time for New Shoes?
By Rick Farmer, Director of Maintenance

During a preflight the tires are usually given a quick once-over to make sure the tread is OK, but are you actually looking at all problem areas? Everyone knows that the tire should be changed before the tread actually disappears and to definitely never fly an aircraft with any cord showing. However, there are other equally important areas to be checked during a preflight. If your aircraft isn’t flown on a regular basis chances are the tires will need to be changed before the tread wears out. A condition called “dry rot” occurs when a tire is exposed to the elements. A good tire should have clean smooth rubber on the sidewalls. Dry rotting can be detected by small cracks in the sidewall, which usually run parallel to the wording, in other words a circular pattern running around the sidewall of the tire. Dry rotting in either of these areas can lead to serious problems. Dry rotting on the sidewall can lead to sidewall failure and/or a blown-out tire. A valve stem with dry rotting can lead to loss of air pressure due to a slow leakage or a flat tire from a complete failure of the valve stem. If you pay close attention to these areas during your preflight you should be assured of many safe and happy landings.

Ask the Professor’s Desk
By Dr. Michael Bliss

Q: I’ve heard about “angel flights” but I’m not sure what it means. What does an Angel Flight pilot do and what are the qualifications?

A: To loosely quote from the www.angelflight.com website, Angel Flight was created by a group of people who believe in volunteering. It is a non-profit, charitable, organization of pilots who provide free air transportation for legitimate, charitable, medically related needs.

To qualify for an Angel Flight, the patient must be ambulatory and able to travel in a small, non-pressurized aircraft, without access to lavatory facilities, for the duration of the flight. They must have a legitimate medical need to avoid lengthy surface transportation and must be accompanied by a family member or support person. Since flights may be canceled due to weather, patients are required to have backup transportation. Angel Flight requires a pilot to have a current private pilot certificate and valid medical certificate, as well as be current and proficient in whatever airplane they fly. To carry passengers, the pilot must be instrument rated and current. VFR Pilots are also needed to help on non-patient flights and to serve as copilots on patient flights. Each pilot is in complete charge of the missions they fly.

Most Angel Flight pilots have their own airplanes but a number of pilots actually rent airplanes to provide this service. Being an Angel Flight pilot is a great way to provide a much needed service and to promote the value of general aviation in your community. You can find complete details at AngelFlight.com.

Ask the Pilot Professor

What is a Clean Airplane Policy?
By David Menconi, National Chief Flight Instructor

During winter operations, it becomes more difficult to keep the wing and critical surfaces free of contaminants. Anything that affixes to the wing or critical surfaces is considered a contaminant. Be it ice, snow, frost or slush, anything that changes the intended shape of an airfoil can result in a significant loss of lift. Combining this with increased weight and the negative effects of the uneven build up of ice or frost on airfoils or propellers makes predicting airplane performance impossible. For these and other reasons, many flight operations do not try to determine what is and what is not a critical surface. They require the entire airplane be free from contaminants. This is referred to as a “clean” airplane policy and includes:

  • Placing special emphasis on the upper surface of the wing, flight controls, high lift devices, engine intakes, sensors, windscreens and lights.
  • Using only approved deicing fluids and procedures to remove contaminants.
  • When using a heated hangar making sure that the air plane is heated long enough to prevent melted ice or snow from re-freezing somewhere else.
  • Preheating the cockpit placing special emphasis on control cables.

Removing wintertime contaminants from your airplane with an ice scraper and hot water or using your own homemade antifreeze/water solution is a poor and dangerous substitution for the approved method. It is well worth the money and time to make sure your airplane is clean, inside and out.


This Month in Aviation History

nonstop aroundthe-world flight was completed from February 27 through March 2. Capt. James Gallagher and his crew of 13 flew their Boeing B-50 Superfortress 23,452 miles from Fort Worth, Texas to Fort Worth, Texas. The trip lasted 94 hours and 1 minute and required four in-flight refuelings.

Source: infoplease.com


Inside the Cowl

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ATP March 6 April 3 May 9
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Join Us March 6th, 2010 at 12:00 Noon For a Free Pilot Seminar & Lunch

“VFR Navigation Refresher”

Do you recall how exciting it was to plan and fly your first cross-country? Even though the navigation tools and instruments were quite elementary when compared to today’s technology, it was all new and thrilling to us. Now we are thrilled by state-of-the-art, cutting edge navigation systems that reduce our work load and make navigation nearly automatic. Periodically, though, it’s good for all of us to review the basics. Please join us for a discussion of basic VFR navigation skills and a few “remember when…” stories!

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