Thursday, June 21, 2012

A summer camp with airplanes

GRAND FORKS — Sixteen-year-old Matt Adamson spent his Wednesday morning with his head in the clouds — literally. 

 The Plymouth, Minn., native was flying a Cessna 172S aircraft with assistance from University of North Dakota flight instructor Jakee Stoltz, as part of the 29th annual UND International Aerospace Camp.

Taking place all this week, the camp invited high school juniors and seniors from all over the country who are interested in aerospace sciences to UND. The participants were treated just like UND students and given a chance to fly planes in the university’s fleet.

“I really wasn’t expecting it to be like this,” Adamson said. “I thought I would just be riding in a plane.”

Instead, Adamson and 26 other camp participants were allowed to control the airplanes they were riding in — with guidance from their instructors of course. It’s UND’s way of giving high school students a taste of what it would be like to study aviation.

Before the young pilots could take to the skies, they spent time in lectures and flight simulators to gain a better understanding of the science of flying.

“There’s quite a big difference between having goggles on in a simulator and actually flying,” Stoltz said.

The Wednesday morning flight was the second one of the week for the camp participants. In addition to completing an introductory flight and an instrumental flight, they also got a chance to try their hand at a night flight and a cross-country flight.

Before takeoff, each camper and their flight instructor completed an aircraft inspection. Then it was up to the camper to radio to the control tower and request permission to take off.

“It was a lot of fun,” Adamson said after he landed. “I was actually flying the plane for most of the flight.”

Also included in the camp schedule were sessions on air traffic control, aviation management and unmanned aircraft systems, allowing students to hear about more than the piloting aspect of aerospace sciences.

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Akron’s inflatable airplane is oddity of sky in 1950s

The concept had sky-high potential. Unfortunately, it went over like a lead balloon. 

 In the mid-1950s, Goodyear Aircraft Corp. of Akron designed, developed and produced an experimental airplane that could fold up into a bundle and fit in the trunk of an automobile.

The Inflatoplane was an aeronautical oddity made of rubberized nylon fabric that pumped up like a tire. Within 10 minutes of unloading, the lightweight aircraft was filled with air and ready to fly.

Goodyear engineers heralded the contraption, which maintained its shape by internal air pressure, as the first of its kind in the United States.

“Named the Inflatoplane, the new Goodyear aircraft plane, developed under joint Army-Navy auspices, can be flown from a small field and attain speeds that will satisfy anyone wishing to avoid the bumper-to-bumper Sunday afternoon traffic,” the company boasted.

The prototype was a one-person craft 19.7 feet long with a wingspan of 22 feet and an empty weight of 205 pounds (or 329 pounds with its 20-gallon gas tank full).

With the pilot seated in the front, the Inflatoplane resembled a glider — albeit one composed of mattress stuffing. The fuselage, tail and cockpit were made with two walls of rubberized fabric connected by nylon threads.

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Florida man flies, rescues, his 1,000th animal

GREENVILLE, Ala. — On a recent June day, Jeff Bennett flew his four-seat plane from the mangrove-dotted Florida Keys, past some angry thunder clouds to the fertile hills of Greenville, Ala. His mission: to save 23 dogs destined for death row. 

Bennett, a 53-year-old retired businessman, donates his time, fuel and plane to Pilots N Paws, a South Carolina-based charity that enlists small plane pilots to transport animals from overcrowded shelters that have high euthanasia rates to foster homes, rescue groups and less-crowded shelters that don't kill the animals.

Bennett's been airlifting animals for more than 3 years. Bennett is a dog lover; he has four of his own, including one that he adopted after a flight.

He's carried mostly dogs, some cats, the occasional snake and once, a potbellied pig — earning his small Cirrus aircraft the nickname "All Species Airways" around the Pilots N Paws community.

But this month was special. On the Greenville trip, Bennett picked up his 1,000th animal.

"This is a mile marker," said Bennett, who had a pointy party hat decorated with pirates picked out for the special canine.

It's a number few of Pilots N Paws' 2,800 volunteer pilots reach, said Deborah Boies, the group's president and co-founder.

"We have only one other pilot who has accomplished that goal," said Boies. "It's extremely unique. He is truly one of the most dedicated people to Pilots N Paws."

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