Ultralight Wing-Walking Act Goes Overseas
12th Year on Airshow Circuit
Quicksilver MXL II Sport pilot Bob Essell and wing walker Jon
Faulkner have been wowing airshow crowds for 12 years with their
aerial act. Flying a modified Sport II registered in the Experimental
category-Exhibition, Essell says that allows them to use the Sport
II for compensation and hire.
On November 1-3, the duo planned to end their twelfth season
on the airshow circuit by participating in the Santo Domingo airshow
in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. "We had to build a
special crate to send our plane by FedEx," says Essell, "The
Sport II is already down there, so we'll see how good a packing
job we did. We'll perform once a day during the 3-day airshow,
which marks the end of our twelfth year of wing walking."
First-Ever "Save" in a Certified Aircraft
Cirrus Pilot Deploys BRS
BRS marked another milestone on October 3, 2003, when pilot
Lionel Morrison, 53, of Dallas, Texas walked away from his Cirrus
Design SR22 aircraft following a "severe" loss of control
and subsequent deployment of his BRS parachute system. The aircraft
touched down in a wooded area near The Gold Club at Castle Hills,
a golf course near the Dallas suburb of Lewisville.
While BRS has been "saving" ultralights and Experimental
aircraft for years, what makes this event worth noting
is that it's the first-ever "save" of a certified aircraft.
Made by BRS of South St. Paul, Minnesota, the system was designed
for Cirrus Design Corporation of Duluth, Minnesota, who refers
to it as CAPS (Cirrus Airframe Parachute System). Cirrus manufactures
the SR22 model and also produces the SR20 model and reports more
than 500 of their aircraft are flying.
The SR22 and SR20 aircraft are claimed to be highly innovative
in a number of ways, including installation of the emergency parachute
system. Cirrus is currently the only certified aircraft manufacturer
that has chosen to make the parachute standard equipment in all
their airplanes, according to BRS.
"This is a very exciting day for BRS," says BRS president
and CEO Mark Thomas. "This is why we do what we do (the company
has now logged 156 saves), and it confirms the foresight Cirrus
had in equipping their planes with our emergency parachute system.
That decision has averted a catastrophe and Cirrus is to be applauded
for their vision."
The densely packed 55-foot diameter parachute is extracted
from the SR22 fuselage by a 1,000 Newton/second solid-fuel rocket
motor after the pilot pulls a handle mounted overhead between
the pilot and a right seat passenger. The parachute is mounted
aft of the baggage area and blasts out a specially prepared opening
in the fuselage when launched. Three Kevlar® webbing straps
connect the parachute to the airframe and allow it to descend
in a flight-level attitude just like it sits when on the
ground. The action of deployment is extremely fast and can potentially
save the aircraft from as low as 300 to 500 feet (under ideal
circumstances), says BRS.
Morrison's deployment occurred at 1,500 to 2,000 feet and the
aircraft appears to have fairly limited damage, according to BRS.
"The parachute appears to have performed as designed,"
says Thomas. "The canopy could be seen laid out perfectly
on the trees near the downed aircraft, and the airframe attachments
were stripped from the fuselage just as engineers planned."
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating
the incident and is expected to issue a report.
Questions Raised About Nebulusİ Flotation System
In the October '02 issue of Ultralight Flying! magazine
in "Industry Watch," news about the Nebulus an
emergency flotation system for powered parachutes was released.*
Since then, discussions about the best way to "crash-land"
into water have circulated in the ultralight community with some
resulting possible bad advice. Nebulus manufacturer JTW Associates
has released the following info.
"There has been some discussion in the ultralight community
regarding water crash landings of powered parachutes," says
JTW Associates contact John Weinel. "Recently it was written
that a pilot should unbuckle prior to hitting the water so that
he or she could dive forward into the water upon impact. In our
ongoing crash-testing of the Nebulus flotation device, we found
that in each case the powered parachute flipped over immediately
upon impact in a spectacular crash. Any pilot not harnessed would
have been thrown into the front of the craft and injured or killed.
"Some have also theorized that it is proper procedure
to leave the lap belt buckled and undo the shoulder harness [prior
to crashing]. We believe this would be equally dangerous, as the
crash would propel the pilot's head forward.
"In our crash-testing the powered parachute traveled forward
in the water only 5 feet after the rear wheels impacted, and the
inertia of the crashing aircraft immediately flipped it over upside
down in the water.
"The Nebulus device is designed to be inflated while the
powered parachute is still in the air at an altitude of 500 to
1,000 feet. The device slowly inflates a lifting bag capable of
supplying temporary emergency flotation for the submerged aircraft,
which remains tethered to the lifting bag. The lifting bag holds
9 cubic feet of inflated CO2, and has little effect on flight."
*See "Industry Watch: Buckeye Powered Parachute Test-Crashed
into Water," October '02 Ultralight Flying! magazine
Info: JTW Associates, 6950 West 146 St., Suite 110,
Dept. UF, Apple Valley, MN 55124.
Phone: (952) 431-6878.
PHASST in Bond Film
The PHASST designed to carry a paratrooper or skydiver
flying in a prone, head forward position has been described
as something you wear rather than something you ride. It is contoured
to fit the pilot, with the pilot's arms and legs fitting into
recesses in the fuselage.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's James Bond on a Kinetic Aerospace
PHASST the Programmable High Altitude Single Soldier Transport.
PHASST designer Jack McCornack, whose other design credits include
the Pterodactyl line of ultralights and numerous powered parachutes,
confirmed that the aircraft in the new James Bond movie advertisements
and movie trailer were indeed PHASSTs.
"We've been sworn to secrecy since we landed the contract,"
says McCornack. "That's what we do at Kinetic Aerospace,
we do secret stuff. However, with PHASSTs showing up on television,
I'd say the cat's out of the bag. So yeah, they're ours."
A story on the PHASST appeared in the September '01 issue of
Ultralight Flying! magazine,* but little has been leaked
since then. "We even took the photos off the kineticaero
space.com Website," McCornack says, "but they'll go
back up once the movie is out."
As this issue went to press, Die Another Day, the 20th
James Bond film, was slated to be in theaters on November 22.
McCornack, who pens the popular "Skywriter" column in
Ultralight Flying!, assures us we will have the full story
immediately after the release date.
*See "PHASST Makes First Flights," Sept.
'01 Ultralight Flying! magazine.
New Internet Site Uses Video
Flight Safety Information Dispensed
A new dot com company is on its way to the Internet. Called
UFlySafe, this Website plans to distribute ultralight safety information
in video and text format to the general public for free.
"If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then maybe video is
worth 1,000 pictures," says Barbara Chambers, in charge of
UFlySafe business operations and marketing. "We don't just
write about flight safety, we actually show you."
UFlySafe was born from a perceived lack of free quality flight
safety information for ultralight pilots. "There is a lot
of great information out there, and we want to pull all that info
together in one place," explains Chambers. "Websites
are the best way to get all the flight safety issues in one place
and out to the public for free." She notes that the UFlySafe
staff includes an ultralight flight instructor and an ultralight
mechanic. "That's a great combination of knowledge and experience.
It's like having your very own flight instructor and mechanic
looking over your shoulder, helping you along. You should be able
to go back and forth, from your ultralight to the videos on your
computer, or to the text files provided, and back to your ultralight."
It is recommended that users have high-speed Internet access
such as cable or DSL when visiting the Website. "We recommend
this so the user can view the video files in a reasonable length
of time," explains Chambers. "Most people have cable
TV or a telephone line in their homes already, and it's now very
easy to add high-speed cable or DSL Internet access to their existing
service. If you are using a regular telephone line connection,
you can still print the text files, but the video files will take
too long to download."
If you can download the files, you can build your own
fight safety digital library consisting of downloaded video and
printed text. "There would be HTML text files that accompany
each video clip," says Chambers. "After the text files
are printed, they could be placed in a 3-ring binder a feature
I really like. With all that information right at your fingertips,
whenever pilots need information on a particular subject, they
can go to their hard-copy resource quickly."
For those pilots who don't have computers, the company will
be offering CD-ROMS or DVDs for sale.
Info: UFlySafe. Website: www.uflysafe.com * e-mail:
Building a Phantom with One Hand
A Challenge Met
Assembling things that require "only basic hand tools"
can end up being daunting tasks. Just ask the parent trying to
assemble a bicycle or a dollhouse, or ask the first-time aircraft
Now take away the use of one hand and see how hard the most
rudimentary movements become. Buttoning a shirt, preparing a pot
of coffee, or tightening a screw can turn into marathon situations.
But it's "no big deal" for the person with an open mind
and the will to do things differently.
"It was a challenge, to be honest with you," confesses
George Haley. "I initially suffered from delusions of grandeur,
and thought, Well it's going to be no big deal, I can
do this." "This" was assembling a single-seat
Phantom ultralight with the added challenge of having only one
"For about 2 years I looked at different planes and settled
on [the Phantom]," says Haley. "I wanted an ultralight
with cross-country capability, yet I want to go low and slow if
I wanted to. I wanted a company that had been in business for
a while so if I needed some assistance or a part, it would be
there. And I wanted a company where if I picked up the phone
as I did 100 times they would not say, 'Oh, it's you again.
What do you want'?"
"I purchased the Phantom at a fly-in and a couple of months
later they delivered it. I leased a hangar, unpacked the boxes,
laid everything out on the floor, and thought, What did I get
myself into? My kids said, 'Oh Dad, you can't do this'. And
of course I said, 'This is no big deal, this is easy stuff'."
The first thing Haley had to do was design some special tools.
He purchased 15 different vice grips and modified them so they
were offset so he could clamp each bolt. "Where it might
take you a minute to put a bolt in, sometimes it took me 10 minutes,"
says Haley. "But through rigging and all types of weird ways,
I did it. I can't think of anything on [the plane] that I actually
couldn't do. Sometimes I would be in the hangar at 2 in the morning
looking at the thing and wonder, How the heck am I going to
do this? Sometimes it was like building a whole stack of stuff
and putting weights in certain areas to hold things in place.
"Of course the 150-hour [assembly] time didn't apply to
me. I started assembling [the Phantom] in March 2000 and I basically
completed it around December 2001. I'm guessing that I put close
to between 800 and 900 hours into this. And I had the advantage
too that I could pick up the phone and call the company for technical
advice. But the real challenge was devising ways of accomplishing
what normally would have been a simple task. So that was the time-consuming
aspect of it. Amazingly one went with 2 went with 3 went with
4. And before I knew it I had what looked like a frame to an airplane.
And things kept getting attached to it and then there it was."
A state police officer in Colorado for a number of years, Haley
lost his left hand when he was shot with a shotgun. "The
amazing thing that came out of that whole incident was before
I thought if you lost one of your hands, what would you do? The
most fascinating thing to me was that I could do anything; I could
do everything. I just have to do it differently. Like putting
a nut on a bolt meant that I had to devise a way to clamp that
bolt to whatever it was going to adhere itself to then put the
nut on. Then maybe put a second clamp on the head of it so I could
tighten it down so there were counter forces going both ways."
Then came the throttle. Haley laughs when he says he designed
600 different ones, but he had a problem: he couldn't pull the
throttle back. "Normally a throttle moves forward and back,"
he explains. "Well I could move it forward but I couldn't
pull it back. So I thought I would turn the throttle quadrant
sideways then I could lift it up and down by sticking what's left
of my arm in there and move it up and down. But the small, quite
complex thing that I had to solve was how to bring that throttle
cable in at a 90° angle. On a normal throttle it comes straight
in but if you turn the throttle quadrant sideways then you have
to bring that cable in at a 90° angle.
"I thought of everything from wearing a special jacket
with a cable attached to the jacket to where I could just move
my elbow back and it would retract it, to quite complex contraptions
that I would go to a machine shop and ask them, 'How would you
do this'? And they'd say, 'We can do it this way' and devise something,
and then that wouldn't work.
"Then I went to the engineering department at Michigan
State University and let the grad students dink around with the
problem. They could come up with mechanisms, but they really couldn't
be converted to my use."
Finally Haley devised a way to manipulate the throttle. "Picture
a potato chip tube cut straight down the middle," says Haley.
"I could lay my arm in it and it would be attached to the
throttle handle and then I had stops at both ends of that tube
so if I pushed my arm forward it moved it forward, and if I pulled
it back my elbow pushed it back. That seemed to work the best."
Haley is updating that with ball-bearing rails "like a
drawer that rides on a rail. I've already designed it and am in
the process of building it."
No other modifications were needed for Haley to be able to
fly his Phantom. "My other hand works good, my feet work
good, that throttle was the only thing that I used my left hand
for," Haley says.
At 53, Haley works out of the court system as an investigator
in Ingham County, Michigan. Married "to a very supportive
wife" and the father of three college-age children, Haley
still finds time to help raise funds for his club's sponsored
scholarships awarded each year at the local community college,
and of course to fly. "I really enjoy the camaraderie of
being around the different guys at Mason airport where I'm hangared,"
says Haley. "I have about 20 hours on the Phantom now.
"I wish I had done something extraordinary, but I did
it under a different set of circumstances and did it a different
way. I'd like to really emphasize that anything can be done. You
may have to stand on your head to do it, but go stand on your
head. And get it done. It was just a different way of going about
doing something," Haley insists modestly.