Hummingbirds as Aerobatic Flyers

Interesting feature at Science News about hummingbirds.

It seems "they pull more g’s than any known vertebrate stunt flier outside a cockpit."

And, "The stunt flier’s great swoop forms one of the centerpieces of his courtship display to win female attention. The bird orients his display dive in relation to the sun so that his female audience will get the brightest view."

"Clark took advantage of the males’ predictable dive orientation, setting out a caged female, or even a stuffed female on a stick, to inspire birds to dive right in front of his video cameras. Males flew up and plunged over the female typically 10 or 15 times in a row, but one enthusiastic stunt flier completed 75 consecutive dives with a break of only a few minutes."

Not much of a difference between the birds and most airplane pilots there, however.

TSA Report on General Aviation Security

The Inspector General for TSA issued a report in May about general aviation security and assessed the threat, if any, that GA poses. You can find the report (PDF) here.

It notes:

[T]his report addresses the current general aviation security requirements, the threat environment, and the steps the Transportation Security Administration has taken in the past 3 years to strengthen general aviation security. It is based on interviews with employees and officials of relevant agencies and institutions, direct observations, and a review of applicable documents.

…We determined that general aviation presents only limited and mostly hypothetical threats to security. We also determined that the steps general aviation airport owners and managers have taken to enhance security are positive and effective. Transportation Security Administration guidelines, communication forums, and alert mechanisms, coupled with voluntary measures taken by the owners and operators of aircraft and facilities, provide baseline security for aircraft based at general aviation sites.

Houston in the Media

Following an investigative report aired by a Houston television station concerning security at three local airfields, Chairwoman Sheila Jackson Lee requested that we review general aviation security at these airfields, and also at others in several other metropolitan areas. We performed announced visits to the airports, interviewed owners, employees and stakeholders, and toured the facilities. In the investigative report “Is Houston a Sitting Duck for Terrorism?” reporters visited three GA airports near Houston, Texas: David Wayne Hooks Airport in Spring, Texas; Sugar Land Regional Airport in Sugar Land, Texas; and Lone Star Executive Airport in Conroe, Texas. The television reporters identified what they described as “security breaches” at all three airports. Specifically, the reporters were able to approach an airfield or aircraft without identifying themselves. At one airfield, the reporter noted that a fence enclosed only part of the airfield…

This review was initiated in part because of the television station’s allegations. We reviewed the allegations and determined that they were not compelling…

In each instance, the allegation of weak security was based on reporters gaining access to airfields or aircraft. However, the reporters were unaware of some passive security and monitoring measures. For example, the airports had instituted security procedures, including 24-hour video surveillance, locking or disabling grounded planes, and controlling fuel access, which the television reporters did not test.

Combined, these airports service more than 440,000 aircraft takeoffs and landings per year, and each routinely operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The volume of legitimate activity would appear to limit opportunities for unobserved loading or movement of aircraft. Moreover, the issues identified by the television reporters were not violations of GA guidelines or any federal aviation regulations.

The current status of GA operations does not present a serious homeland security vulnerability requiring TSA to increase regulatory oversight of the industry. According to OI, there is no specific, credible information of ongoing plots to use GA in an attack in the near future. Other government agencies, including GAO and the Congressional Research Service, have examined catastrophic scenarios and have concluded that the GA industry does not represent a serious vulnerability (see appendix D)…

Congressional Research Service

In its December 2005 report and most recently updated January 2008 report on Securing General Aviation, the Congressional Research Service stated that “the limited capabilities of the typical GA aircraft to carry conventional explosives, noting that even the 1,300-pound device involved in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing would be beyond the carrying capability of a light GA aircraft. Thus, at least with regard to being used as a platform for conventional explosives, the threat posed by light GA aircraft is relatively small compared to trucks which have significantly larger payload capacities…. Executing an attack that involves loading a GA aircraft with a large quantity of explosives may be difficult without raising some suspicion at the airport, at least domestically where airport operators and pilots have been instructed to be vigilant for unusual activities.”

Garmin G1000 Checkout from Sporty’s

Sporty’s has released a new DVD-based training package, Garmin G1000 Checkout. It’s a great training tool for pilots and instructors who are working with what has become the standard glass cockpit for GA aircraft, because the two-disc set ($89.95) offers both a well-organized introduction to the system and the official Garmin G1000 PC Trainer (which Garmin sells separately for $25).

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The program features Cessna airframes, but it describes all of the latest features offered with the G1000, including WAAS, Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT) and electronic charts. It also covers the GFC 700 autopilot. Pilots flying Bonanza, Mooney, Cirrus, and other aircraft obviously must follow up with additional study of system-specific items and options, but all of the fundamentals apply, and the program covers the core features well.

Garmin G1000 Checkout also improves upon Sporty’s earlier training products. The video program on the disc is divided into 16 chapters, making it easy to learn and review specific features. The crisp images and real-time video show off the G1000 displays and controls in action and in sharp detail.

Like most training products, Garmin G1000 Checkout begins with an overview of the system. It explains the two displays and the bezel controls, and it shows how to use common options to configure specific items such as the HSI (360-degree v. arc view). A section on errors, failures, and emergency items ably demonstrates what happens when things go wrong.

Perhaps most useful to pilots who want to brush up on the system are a couple of scenarios that demonstrate typical VFR and IFR flights in a logical sequence, including approaches. Pilots, especially renters, who may not fly often can refresh their skills and get back in the groove without having to repeat a complete dissection of the system.

Garmin G1000 Checkout is a welcome addition to the set of tools available for pilots and instructors who are learning and flying with the latest cockpit technology, and it’s an investment that will rapidly pay off in time and money saved in initial and recurrent training. I recommend it to my G1000 students and customers who fly the G1000.

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