Mutual inspiration

Cory Suttle, a school resource officer at Central Florida Aerospace Academy, was honored for earning his private pilot certificate alongside the school's students as part of an annual celebration. Photo by Jamie Beckett.

The ceremony went on this year, even in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. And while it has been an unusual year, there was one other uncommon element to the 2020 celebration: The final brick recipient wasn’t a student at all, but someone just as beloved and respected.

Cory Suttle serves as the school resource officer at Central Florida Aerospace Academy. Employed as an officer with the Lakeland Police Department, Suttle had long considered getting into aviation as a hobby. He never was able to take that first step, however, until he was moved by the students he has been charged to serve and protect.

As his young charges got involved in flight training and began to find success, Suttle had an epiphany. “Being out at the school and immersed in aviation,” he said, “I didn’t have an excuse not to do it.”

That decision to sign up for flight lessons may have been initiated because of a perceived professional necessity, or it may have been more of a personal quest. Whatever the ultimate cause, it happened. Today, Suttle is a private pilot.

John ”Lites” Leenhouts, president and CEO of Sun ‘n Fun and the Aerospace Center for Excellence, said of Suttle, “He saw the change in the students and he basically said, ‘I could sure use some of that myself.’”

“Part of the job of an SRO is to reach out and make connections with the kids,” Suttle explained. “Being such a specialized school like that I can’t think of a better way to connect.”

And connect they did. “When they found out I was learning, the kids would ask how I was coming along,” Suttle said. It wasn’t long before the students began comparing notes with their school resource officer, asking about their challenges and offering advice about how Suttle might overcome his own flight training hurdles. Over time the bond between students and the school’s SRO became stronger and more personal—enough so that Suttle was invited to participate in the school’s premier celebration of the year by accepting and placing his brick in the walkway with their own.

When asked about his feelings about being an SRO at a public high school where the students focus on aviation, Suttle said, “It’s a pleasure to be a part of it.”

A sentiment that is mutually shared by the students, teachers, and administrators at Central Florida Aerospace Academy as well.

iFlightPlanner integrates with iFly GPS

Integration a result of AOPA member requests

December 1, 2020

A new integration between iFlightPlanner and iFly GPS allows flight plans to be wirelessly synced on Android, Windows, and Apple mobile devices.

The integration comes as part of the Bring Your Own EFB program that iFlightPlanner launched earlier this year at AOPA members’ request.

AOPA members who use iFlightPlanner for AOPA, along with iFlightPlanner Core and Premium subscribers, can enjoy several new features:

  • Enhanced navigation log options to include AOPA kneeboard format.
  • More intuitive color-coded airmets and sigmets on interactive maps.
  • Notifications when amendments to flight plans are required.
  • Reformatted weather and notams in flight document to kneeboard format, combining pages to conserve paper.

Wirelessly syncing an iFlightPlanner flight plan with iFly GPS is available only to iFlightPlanner Core and Premium subscribers. AOPA members who use the free iFlightPlanner for AOPA version would need to upgrade their iFlightPlanner subscription. (iFlightPlanner is offering a discounted price to AOPA members.)

Learn more about the new features during a livestream hosted by AOPA Director of Product Development Eric Rush at 8 p.m. Eastern time on December 2.

Training Tip: In the nick of time

Making good landings is customarily the single most challenging skill for a new pilot to acquire, the path to proficiency paved with instances of floating, bouncing, drifting, tire-screeching sideloads, and go-arounds until finally, it all “clicks.”

Floating, a symptom of failing to bleed off airspeed just above the runway, can lead to bouncing, and taken to an extreme, to porpoising—that awful cycle of nosewheel-first impacts in which the pilot never quite catches up with establishing a proper landing attitude. The cycle bears a superficial resemblance to the sight of its namesake sea creature breaking the surface of the water and re-submerging in a manifestation of marine majesty.

Porpoises are common inhabitants of training-accident reports. A quick trolling of the NTSB accident database using the words “porpoising” and “porpoise” as bait brought 552 nibbles.

Witnessed from the sidelines, a porpoising incident is painful to behold; if it is easy to imagine how the pilot’s pride was bruised by the experience, be sure to go over the trainer for physical evidence of the impact when it comes your turn to fly it.

Don’t assume that if the trainer taxied back to the ramp under its own power, everything is fine from a structural or airworthiness point of view. Not all damage resulting from porpoising or other landing mishaps manifests as plainly as a collapsed nosewheel, blown tire, bent propeller, scuffed wingtip, or other obvious injury.

A prop striking the runway during porpoising won’t always do so with engine-stopping force, but may register only slightly visible damage noticed days later, as described by a pilot flying a Cessna 182 in an air race who filed a report with the Aviation Safety Reporting System (after a mechanic recommended grounding the airplane with its nicked propeller).

A tail strike can weaken an aircraft’s structure. Give your trainer’s rear areas careful visual inspection and be rigorous about verifying free-and-correct control movements.

Damage to the firewall—the “flameproof bulkhead” between the aircraft’s engine compartment and its occupants—is a common result of landing accidents, sometimes escaping notice by the pilot involved.

As you follow your aircraft’s preflight inspection checklist, pay close attention to the special risk factors associated with aircraft that suffer the routine wear and tear of the flight training environment.

CAU launches its aircraft maintenance technology program and many prospective students could not be more excited!

CAU has established itself as the premier aeronautical university on the West Coast, providing training and career opportunities through its professional pilot and aviation business degree programs. As the demand for aviation support professionals presents opportunities in the aviation industry, CAU will be offering the aviation maintenance technology (AMT) program starting in March 2021 and has begun enrolling students.

I am excited, as this program will help train the next generation of qualified aviation mechanics. Filling this void is part of the strategic vision and necessity for our aviation industry—CAU will play a role in that urgency!” noted CAU Provost Dr. Michael Berry. “There is a great shortage of young, dedicated men and women who are able to inspect, repair and certify the airworthiness of general aviation aircraft.
CAU has received an overwhelming amount interest in the AMT program. The requests have been coming in frequently, leaving many prospective applicants chomping at the bit awaiting the program launch. CAU began its planning in 2017, and a foundational meeting was conducted to establish the path for the approval needed to launch the program. Following that meeting, CAU established curriculum material and textbooks that included countless hours of writing and preparing.

CAU had on-campus inspections by the FAA and earned the Part 147 AMT Certificate on September 23rd. “When we set out to promote our professional pilot and businesses aviation degree programs, we were amazed at the overwhelming interest in the potential of an AMT program here at California Aeronautical University and knew we had to work on its development,” said CAU President Matthew Johnston.

The courses in the aviation maintenance technology program are designed to provide the necessary educational opportunities through classroom and laboratory instruction for a person to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to enter the industry as an entry-level airframe and powerplant (A&P) technician. Graduates will be eligible to take applicable FAA examinations. Upon successful completion of the written exams, graduates will be eligible to take the oral and practical examinations to complete the requirements for the FAA A&P Certificate. The program will run for seven terms, about 1 year and three months.

Graduates may enter a number of employment areas, such as general aviation, fixed-base operations, executive aircraft services, major airlines, aircraft contractors, modification operations, and manufacturers as A&P technicians or technical writers. Students who apply and are accepted into the program have the ability to stay in the CAU student housing at the Bakersfield campus, allowing them to focus on their studies and take part in the CAU culture where they eat, sleep, and breathe aviation.

California Aeronautical University

CAU prepares students for exciting careers in aviation. Serving students from all over the country, the University offers professional pilot degree programs and other aviation-related training programs from its unparalleled purpose-built flight training facility at Meadows International Airport in Bakersfield, California, as well as its Flight Center locations in Oxnard and San Diego, California. The University has developed career opportunities for its graduates with airlines across the nation, and offers financial aid and scholarships to those who qualify. For information, visit or call (661) 615-5915.

Aviation groups strive to protect warbird flight training

The case, Warbird Adventures, Inc. et al. v. FAA, challenges a cease-and-desist order issued to Warbird Adventures and its owner by the FAA in which the agency alleges that the company is operating a limited category aircraft for compensated flight training without a required exemption. However, depending on how the judge rules, the case could have a far-reaching impact on other types of training and the ability for flight instructors to charge for instruction and for aircraft owners to easily access flight instruction in their own airplanes.

The brief, which was submitted by AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the National Association of Flight Instructors, the International Council of Air Shows, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the North American Trainers Association, is designed to help the judge understand the broader issue of compensation for hire as it relates to flight training, said Justine Harrison, AOPA’s general counsel who is also representing ICAS, NAFI, and NATA in the case. “We don’t want broad language in a judge’s decision, which could lead to restrictions with sweeping effects on flight instruction, including the creation of barriers for owners of limited category aircraft to receive training in their own airplanes.”

Historically, limited category aircraft owners have paid instructors for training in their own aircraft just as they would in a standard category aircraft. However, the FAA’s broad arguments in this case assert that anyone flying limited category aircraft, including owners, must now have an exemption for any training involving compensation. The petitioner in this case did not have an exemption and believes he does not need one under his interpretation of the federal aviation regulations. His assertion is based on prior applicable FAA interpretations, the lack of any regulation that specifically prohibits training in limited category aircraft, and lack of a formal FAA policy announcement regarding exemptions being required for training. The FAA disagrees, and Warbird Adventures and its owner have exercised their right to elevate the case to federal court and ask the opinion of a judge.

Limited category aircraft, like experimental aircraft, are prohibited from carrying “persons or property for compensation or hire” (FARs 91.315 and 91.319(a)(2)). The FAA argues this means that in order for an owner to charge money so that a nonowner can use a limited category aircraft in flight training, the aircraft’s operator must maintain an exemption. Some experimentals are eligible for a letter of deviation authority (LODA), which is discussed in the experimental category regulations, but there is no similar LODA provision in limited category regulations. The Living History Flight Experience program is available through an exemption process, and allows warbird operators to provide rides to the public in historic aircraft with no training element.

The participants in this amicus brief are not advocating for Warbird Adventures or its owner, or the FAA. They are neutral on the merits of the case and instead seek to provide the judge with essential background information and caution the court to tailor its decision to the case at hand without creating sweeping precedent that could impact flight instructors and owners of limited category aircraft who need access to training.

Recent FAA arguments contain language that implies all training in limited category aircraft requires an exemption. Such an interpretation has not been previously articulated or enforced by the FAA and, if the court were to approve of such an interpretation of the regulations, it would devastate the warbird community and create barriers to training, which could also impact safety.

Before the end of December, the FAA is expected to file its response and Warbird Adventures will file a reply. The judge’s opinion is expected in the first half of 2021 and, because the case is in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (immediately beneath the U.S. Supreme Court), any precedent set in this case will be binding on FAA proceedings held before judges of the NTSB, Department of Transportation, and federal district courts.

ATC zero events in resurgence

November 25, 2020

Outbreaks of COVID-19 in some regions impacted a growing number of air traffic control facilities on November 25, heading into the holiday weekend.

As operational impacts spread, AOPA advised members to be aware of the potential for “ATC zero” events, situations where an air traffic control facility goes offline, and check the FAA website for the most current available information.

To see an up-to-date list of the affected facilities pilots can navigate to the FAA’s AirTraffic Control System Command Center webpage.

From there, at the bottom of the page, click on “Advisories Database Selection Form.” Without changing the preselected options, click “Show Selected Advisories,” and on the next screen click the number that corresponds to the most recent Operations Plan. Scroll down to the list of “Covid Impacted Facilities.”

AOPA also recommends that pilots review the Air Safety Institute’s Safety Notice about ATC zero events for a detailed discussion of what pilots should know about how the FAA is dealing with staffing and air traffic control issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida firm fires up hybrid powerplant

This new hybrid powerplant can be configured with more than one Jet A-burning motor to produce up to 1 megawatt, or 1,341 mechanical horsepower, the company announced November 10, a few months after the first test runs of the “Iron Bird” diesel generator system in August. An initial series of tests that followed validated the system at power output levels exceeding 150 kilowatts (201 horsepower), though that will increase as the company refines the system for use in aviation.

Built around a Continental CD-265 aviation engine rigged to convert Jet A into electricity, the VerdeGo hybrid generator combined with battery packs is expected to churn out 500 kW for short periods, and a continuous flow of 180 kW (240 horsepower).

The first customer went public about a week after “Iron Bird” was announced, when XTI Aircraft Co. announced its own plan to produce the TriFan 200, a scaled-down and unmanned version of the TriFan 600 in development for passenger service. The TriFan 200 is being designed as a short-haul cargo carrier, with VerdeGo’s hybrid power system enabling it to transport a 500-pound payload up to 200 nautical miles.

The TriFan 200 to be developed by XTI Aircraft will be unmanned and able to haul up to 500 pounds of cargo up to 200 nautical miles. VerdeGo will supply the hybrid powerplant. Image courtesy of XTI Aircraft Co.

VerdoGo is not alone pursuing hybrid aeronautical power, though the company said its solution can be scaled to a two-generator system that is able to produce 1 megawatt (1,341 horsepower) peak output, and run more efficiently than competing turbine-hybrid designs. It extends the endurance of electric powertrains that run on batteries alone by up to eight times, the company said.

“Getting the Iron Bird running not only validates the operating economics of our diesel-hybrid power generation system, it also enables us to perform hardware-in-the-loop simulations using mission profiles from our airframe customers,” said VerdeGo Aero Director of Advanced Concepts David Eichstedt, in the news release. “It’s a powerful way for customers to validate the economics of their aircraft designs value proposition using real powertrain hardware without leaving the ground.”

The Daytona Beach, Florida, company would require a nondisclosure agreement before supplying its system in simulation-ready digital form. It envisions powering a range of aircraft, including vertical takeoff and landing, short takeoff and landing, and more conventional aircraft weighing up to 7,000 pounds.

“VerdeGo Aero is positioned to offer the most efficient, most cost effective, low emissions hybrid system for demanding commercial aviation missions,” said CEO Eric Bartsch. The senior leadership team also includes Executive Chairman Erik Lindbergh and Chief Technology Officer Pat Anderson, who is also director of the Eagle Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The company website touts the team as uniquely qualified to propel aviation into a cleaner, practical future: ”As the only powertrain company with experience in hybrids, batteries, and fuel cells, VerdeGo Aero is best suited to quickly and efficiently understand and communicate complex design tradeoffs.”

VerdeGo Aero announced a successful series of preliminary tests of a hybrid-electric aviation powerplant the company hopes to scale up to an output sufficient to propel a 7,000-pound aircraft. Photo courtesy of VerdeGo Aero.

Paying it forward

“It really was unexpected,” said Gray a few weeks after earning the coveted rating. “But that’s kind of the beautiful thing about being around here.” In this case “here” is the Luke Weathers Jr. Flight Academy at Mississippi’s Olive Branch Airport. The community-supported flight school is an offshoot of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. OBAP started the academy to provide flight, maintenance, and air traffic controller training for students in the Memphis, Tennessee, area, the hometown of Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Luke Weathers Jr. After World War II, Weathers became the first Black air traffic controller at Memphis International Airport. After earning his instructor rating at the academy, Gray began instructing there in single-engine airplanes, hoping to earn enough money to earn advanced ratings toward his goal of being an airline pilot. Douglas followed a similar path.

Meanwhile, the Goetzes, recognizing the large disparity in gender and ethnic background in aviation, wanted to make a difference and were considering giving financial scholarships to three students at the academy for multiengine ratings. “We really believe that multiengine ratings are the gateway to big pilot jobs, because, of course, to fly most jets and to fly jets for the airlines you have to have a twin or multiengine rating,” Stephanie Goetz said. The third student was scheduled to receive the training in November.

While her husband has been an instructor for a number of years, Stephanie just earned her instructor and multiengine instructor ratings earlier this year. While Endre Goetz flies their Cessna Citation, both fly the family Piper Twin Comanche. They flew the Piper from their home near Minneapolis to Olive Branch Airport to provide the training. “It was a fun plane to train them in because the Twin Comanche is known for being a little tougher of the light twins to fly for training,” Stephanie said. “And I thought that that was helpful for them, because if they’re going to be flying advanced aircraft and they’re going to be flying Citations or Gulfstreams or a Boeing…or an Airbus, they’re going to have to be able to deal with situations that happen really quickly. And they all handled it beautifully well, very, very well and had no problem at all with it.”

The students agreed the experience was challenging.

“The training was pretty intense because we’re learning a whole new aircraft and learning different speeds. Because basically we were trying to treat it as a Cessna 172 at first, and then we later find out we can’t really do that,” Douglas said.

The program was a workout for the Goetzes too. “We got there on a Monday, we trained two students all the way until on Friday,” Stephanie said. “That’s when they did their checkride. And they were absolutely thrilled with the accelerated course, because you really just dedicate basically 7 a.m. till midnight. You even sleep thinking about flying. So, it was a really exciting time and incredibly rewarding for us, but incredibly remarkable for these students who got to go through it.”

The Friday checkride came around fast, according to the students. “We’re studying, we’re pressuring ourselves. But thanks to Endre and Stephanie, they made it happen for us. Their training was unbelievable—how fast they got us done and made sure that we were ready to go when the time came,” Douglas said.

Jonathan Gray earned his multiengine rating in a week of intense training. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Goetz.As it turned out, the Twin Comanche had a previous connection to OBAP. Before the Goetzes bought it last year, it had been owned by an airline captain whose son had used it for his multiengine rating and to build twin time. The captain was a member of OBAP. “It’s almost like the Twin Comanche was destined to be down there at some point,” Stephanie said.

Gray observed that the assistance from the Goetzes is typical of what happens around the academy. What’s amazing at Luke Weathers is the “support and all of the people that just come through just to lend a helping hand to people that need it. So yes, Stephanie and Endre came into our lives and funded our multiengine training. They were phenomenal people and they honestly have changed my life and I’m forever grateful for them,” he said.

Academy Director Capt. Albert Glenn said the students’ excitement was palpable. “They were overwhelmed. I mean, they enjoyed it. Some students get the ratings and you don’t see that big smile on their face. Plus, it was a surprise. This wasn’t something that was really in their future. They were busy saving the funds for it, so it gave them an opportunity to get the multiengine rating and to look forward to getting their multiengine instructor rating next.”

Glenn, who had a 40-year career at FedEx as a pilot and in management, now oversees the nonprofit flight school. The school’s success comes from the community involvement, he explained. On any given day, active and retired airline pilots, corporate pilots, mechanics, and avionics technicians may be there volunteering their time. The school is located just 10 nautical miles southeast of FedEx’s headquarters at Memphis International. All of them are there, like the Goetzes, to make a difference, according to Glenn.

In addition to offering ratings necessary for becoming an airline pilot, the OBAP program helps to give students headed to aviation colleges a leg up when they get to campus. “One of the biggest challenges for first-generation pilots, which is a lot of Black pilots…is that they show up at colleges or aviation programs and they’re there with students that, you know, my dad was a pilot. My mom was a pilot. And it’s a struggle for them because they might have never been in an airplane before.”

To address that need, the school developed the Solo Flight Academy to get them to solo before college or, in some cases, get them to a private pilot certificate. “We’re seeing some success around that now,” Glenn said.

Learning to fly in the 1970s, Glenn had trouble finding a mentor. Some instructors agreed on the phone to teach him, but “as soon as they saw me they were too busy to teach. And I finally met a gentleman who actually was a professor at Embry-Riddle, who ended up saying, ’Hey, I taught everybody from all over the world in the Air Force. I don’t have a problem.’”

Glenn said he always remembers that and said his role at the academy “gives me a chance to give back too.”

That spirit of paying forward is now transcending a new generation.

While Gray’s ultimate goal is to be an airline pilot, he understands the responsibility he has to help others the way he has been helped. “One of the biggest things that Endre and Stephanie taught me is that there’s always a moment that you can pay things forward. So that’s definitely within my plans. Any student that needs help, if I have the ability and the time to help them, then absolutely, that’s what I’m going to do. So that is definitely part of my future, part of my career now.”

Beaches rule during December Pilot Passport challenge

Use the AOPA app’s Pilot Passport feature while you log some time at the beach to earn island badges for your visits during December and to become eligible for the grand prize.

Make sure to use the AOPA app’s Pilot Passport feature during the month of December to check in at island airports and don’t forget to share your experiences with other pilots via social media.

Photo by Chris Rose.

While you’re at it, try the recently updated AOPA Airports and Destinations Directory that is integrated into the AOPA app and get the airport information you’ll need—including runway headings and elevation, services, and local amenities.

Before you take off, don’t forget to check AOPA Weather powered by SiriusXM Aviation, which provides national and airport-specific data in a mobile-friendly format via the AOPA app (or via a desktop computer). AOPA members can also take a look at the big picture, view hi-res charts, and file flight plans with iFlightPlanner for AOPA.

Photo by David Tulis.

The participant with the most island badges will win a 2021 Complete Island Guide Print Package and a watercolor stainless bottle from the AOPA Pilot Gear store, plus a noise canceling Bluetooth stereo headset provided by Jeppesen. (For complete details, see the official rules.)

If you don’t have the AOPA app, download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play so that you can take part in the December Pilot Passport challenge.

Mahindra Aerospace to sell Airvan manufacturer GippsAero

The shutdown of GippsAero, headquartered in Morwell, Victoria, Australia, was confirmed to AOPA by GippsAero CEO Keith Douglas.

According to news reports, Mahindra Aerospace assured operators of Airvan aircraft now in service that it will continue supporting the fleet.

The eight-place Airvan 8, powered by a 300-horsepower Lycoming IO-540 piston engine, is certified in 43 countries with about 250 aircraft in service, “many in demanding geographic regions or locations,” according to the Mahindra Aerospace website.

There are approximately 31 Airvan 8 aircraft of U.S. registry, according to online FAA aircraft registration records.

The stretched, 10-place Airvan 10, powered by a 450-shaft-horsepower Rolls-Royce M250 B-17F/2 turboprop engine, received Australian and U.S. type certificates in 2017.

On June 4, 2018, the first production Airvan 10 crashed near Mojave, California, during spin-certification testing. The two test pilots parachuted to safety.

In August 2020, reports in the region’s aviation press said Mahindra was “looking to cut their losses” following a rocky decade of trying to make its majority-stake investment in GippsAero produce the desired return, and that workforce and Airvan 8 production cutbacks were tied to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on aircraft sales.

Two U.S. companies and one in Australia were said to be “keen to buy GippsAero and keep it running,” according to one of the reports.