All Aviation Articles By Tori Patterson

The Balloon Corps of the Civil War

Thaddeus Lowe’s Union Army Balloon Corps poses with an inflated balloon and observation basket near an unidentified battlefield. Photo via.

If there is anything that has experienced an entirely unique and interesting history, it is aviation. From the Wright brothers to the Blackbird, the innovations and creative ideas that helped get us into the air have been nothing short of amazing. Recently I was studying aviation history and I came upon something I had never heard of before. I decided to do some research and find out more about this interesting piece of aviation history.

In 1861, the beginning of the Civil War had come upon America. The North and South were split, and President Abraham Lincoln was desperate for a new way to help the Union defeat their enemies and abolish slavery. It would take some creative ideas to get the upper hand against the Confederate Army.

A man by the name of Thaddeus Lowe was one of the top American balloonists and was also in the business of building balloons for other aeronauts. He successfully flew his balloon over 600 miles on an eastward wind to the coast. He traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio to South Carolina in about nine hours. He was convinced he could cross the Atlantic Ocean, a feat unaccomplished at the time, in just two days.

Unfortunately Lowe never had the chance to complete is Atlantic flight. After landing in South Carolina, the locals saw his Ohio newspapers and figured he was a Yankee. They ordered him to be shot, but he used his charm and wit to talk his way out of the situation. When he finally found a northbound train and headed home, he could see the beginnings of war in America. He decided then that his Atlantic flight was not important, and he was determined to serve his country. With a great idea and resources available, he went to President Lincoln to pitch the idea of creating a Union Army Balloon Corps.

On June 18, 1861, Lowe had the chance to show Lincoln exactly what his balloon was capable of. He traveled to Washington and discussed the possibilities with the president, who was intrigued and asked him to demonstrate with his balloon. To prove that balloons had value in the war, Lowe decided try something he had never done before. He ran a telegraph line from his balloon to the ground, and sent a telegraph to President Lincoln from the air. He was asked to spend the night at the White House and they discussed plans for a future balloon corps.

Lowe was placed in charge of all Balloon Corps operations, and successfully aided in several spying, land mapping, and other helpful missions for the Union Army. The creation of the Balloon Corps also brought along the first instance of an aircraft carrier in history. Although many enemies shot at the balloons, they were never hit.

This is just a brief overview of the fascinating story of the Balloon Corps. I highly encourage further reading and research into the subject, as the stories of these aeronauts are simply amazing!

Times are Changing

A log book is used to record how many hours you've gained flying - but are the hour requirements for upward mobility in the job industry becoming too strict?

In the world of aviation, times are changing. More specifically, the time required for a pilot to operate as the copilot of a commercial airline is changing. There are several factors involved in these changes, and in this article I will give an overview of the history and reasoning behind the recent modifications to the hour requirements in the Federal Aviation Regulations.

I enjoy spending time researching current events in the aviation industry. Naturally I like knowing the issues affecting my generation. I believe that most people in my position have heard about the laws changing regarding hour requirements, but have not dug deep enough to truly understand what it means for us. Obtaining the job position of first officer in a commercial airline operating under Part 121 is a very important step in any successful piloting career. This achievement has become much harder to obtain, but change is yet again on the horizon.

Here is the breakdown:

On January 12, 2009, Colgan Air Flight 3407 experienced an aerodynamic stall and crashed into a house in Clerence Center, New York. All 49 people on board were killed, as well as one person in the house. The accident was determined by the NTSB to have been due to the pilot’s failure to respond properly to stall warnings. Further investigation found that the pilot had previously failed three checkrides. It was also found that both pilot and copilot were severely fatigued at the time of the accident due to long flight hours the day before.

The friends and families of victims of this disaster formed a legal group. They took immediate action against airline regulations in order to create a safer flight environment and avoid future tragedies. They successfully implemented the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 in August. Amongst several regulations, they changed the crew rest requirements to provide more recovery time for busy pilots. The second huge change they implemented affected the hour requirements for flying commercially.

Prior to this disaster, pilots were able to obtain a commercial rating with only 250 hours, and immediately snag a job flying as first officer on an airline. From there they could gain hours and seniority with the airline that they were hired by fairly easily.

After the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 was implemented, all crewmembers in in an aircraft operating under Part 121 were required to hold an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) certificate. This particular certificate cannot be obtained until the pilot has 1,500 hours of flight time. So pilots on their way to achieving their commercial licenses had to gain 1,250 more hours of experience than those before them to fly in the airlines.

The requirements for other commercial aviation jobs did not change, such as flight instructor or agricultural positions. However, these high hour requirements force pilots to stick with these lower-paying jobs until they have their required flight time.

Due to concerns about a pilot shortage, special permissions were granted to pilots training under different circumstances for what is called a Restricted ATP. There are three tiers to these special considerations. Students with an associates or bachelors degree with 30+ aviation semester hours could apply for a R-ATP at 1250 hours. All baccalaureate university professional flight graduates with 60+ aviation hours could apply at only 1000 total hours. Most substantial of them all, any former military pilots could apply at 750 hours.

Several accredited flight universities are working on owning or successfully own authorization for the 1000 hour RATP. This saves students 500 flight hours from the previous regulation. The future of these special permissions looks bright, as they are now researching and considering allowing pilots in universities to obtain their RATP at 750 hours. The argument is that a Part 141 university truly devoted to proper training and rigorous testing of its pilots can be very near the same quality level as military training.

The change the airline industry is facing regarding hour requirements can be quite fascinating. I sincerely hope that a middle ground is reached, allowing for well-trained pilots to make the transition to a commercial airline with ease.

A Grass Runway with a lot of Heart

An aerial photo taken September 20th, 2014 during the "Wood, Tailwheels, and Fabric Fly-in" at Lee Bottom Flying Field.

Natural disasters can be absolutely devastating to the environment, architecture, and in the unfortunate case of Lee Bottom, grass airfields. Back in March of 2012, a massive tornado swept its way through Indiana, hitting Madison, Hanover, and other towns in the southern state with perilous force.

Lee Bottom Airport is a beautiful grass strip that has been opened for public use by gracious owners Rich and Ginger Davidson. Their 3000' by 100' runway regularly brings in all types of visiting airplanes to the strip on the edge of Indiana. I remember flying to Lee Bottom during my first few hours of lessons. My instructor wanted to show me what a soft field landing was like, and I'll never forget looking down and seeing such a huge expanse of dark green grass - that we were about to land on!

The tornado of 2012 did massive damage to the buildings on Lee Bottom property. Their house, hangar, garage, and many other buildings were hit and needed complete repair. Through the generosity of aviators who knew and loved Lee Bottom for many years, they were able to raise money with an "$100 Hamburger" fundraising event in September of 2012 to begin rebuilding.

However, construction caused their annual "Wood, Tailwheels, and Fabric Fly-in" event to be unable to happen the following September. In past years, aviators from all around would fly in, camp out, eat great food, enjoy the grass strip, and make unforgettable memories with friends. It has been a favorite flying destination for years, and brings in many guests from the non-aviation community as well.

This year the grass strip was back to business, and hosted their first official fly-in since the tornado. I had the awesome opportunity to fly over with my boyfriend, Daniel, in his Stinson 10A and take part in some of the festivities.

Before we had even taken off, we had a taste of what was to come. As we readied the Stinson at KLEX, a bright yellow Stearman was taxing its way towards the runway. Sure enough, this was one of his hangar neighbors making his way towards Lee Bottom. We headed out a few minutes later, a bit behind the vibrant plane.

A quick 30 minute cruise was all it took to reach our destination, which is situated right beside the Ohio River. Daniel made a perfectly smooth landing (grass runways have always been his favorite) and we were guided to the east side of the airport.

The Stinson 10A to the left of a Waco ASO.

The view was incredible from anywhere on the field. The sun was shining, the facilities were clean and ready for campers and day visitors alike, and the delicious smell of meat on the grill filled the air. I spotted one of my favorite sweets, honey sticks, at the souvenirs booth and made my way there first. I bought a handful of the sticks containing sweet honey (Which happens to be cultivated from bees owned and taken care of by Ginger Davidson herself - adorably named "Geez Beez") and enjoyed a couple as we began making our way around to see the other aircraft.

The beauty of the fly-in at Lee Bottom is that all types of aircraft are welcome, but many vintage and classic plane owners make it a point to visit any chance they get. There is an ongoing race between attendance of Stearmans verses attendance of Wacos. As the day went on, the count of which type was winning was updated live from their Facebook page. Stearmans ended up winning by one, but Wacos sure did try!

There was a Spartan Executive, T-6 Texan, 2 DH Tiger Moths, an RC-3 Seabee, and a Howard. I saw biplanes, high wings, low wings, seaplanes, tail wheels, twin engines, experimentals, vintage, modern, aerobatic, a couple helicopters... You name it, there was probably at least one of them there.

Many of these awesome planes did low passes before heading back to their point of origin, which was always such a thrill to see. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful weather and a slice of the wonderful world of aviation that had gathered here. The splendor of Lee Bottom is in how intimate it is. Everyone feels welcome and the Davidsons do a wonderful job of providing the perfect space to cultivate such a fun environment.

I want to personally thank everyone who helped in any way to put on this fly-in. It was as unforgettable as the Geez Beez honey.

Aviation is Synonymous with Innovation

The entire world of aviation was born from human innovation. We saw birds take flight and said to ourselves, “Why couldn’t we do that?” Since the beginning of time we have been looking for ways to be better, to move to the future, and to make tomorrow brighter and easier for mankind.

By now most people have heard of Nextgen, the nation-wide plans to move the aviation industry into the future. The Federal Aviation Association and Department of Transportation are pushing for this update to the National Aerospace System that will bring us into a safer and more efficient airspace environment.

The Nextgen mission is very fascinating, but I am interested in the projects that are put together by smaller companies. The innovators of tomorrow are truly the dreamers of today. They come up with amazing ideas, and decide to believe in their ideas with all of their might. Much like Steve Jobs starting the Apple empire in his garage in California, I believe that the future of aviation will be paved with innovations from individuals and small businesses.

I have recently come across a few companies that are doing just that. I am very interested to see where these innovators take their ideas in the future, and I can’t wait to see new realms of progress within the world of aviation.

"MakerPlane is an open source aviation organization which will enable people to build and fly their own safe, high quality, reasonable cost plane using advanced personal manufacturing equipment such as CNC mills and 3D printers.” Imagine being able to design your own aircraft and print the necessary pieces out. The technology this project is creating opens so many doors for the future of homebuilt aircraft.

Malloy Aeronautics has created a prototype for a stable and pretty great looking Hoverbike. They are currently still in the testing phase, but have plans for mass production of the hovercraft if they can secure enough funding for the project. I certainly can see a future where having a personal hovercraft is commonplace.

Terrafugia have created the flying car of tomorrow. Many have already heard of this project, but having an aircraft that is capable of converting into a car is an amazing feat.

I hope that showing you a few of these innovators inspires you to achieve more and create a better future for aviation. Here’s to the next great ideas!

Air Racing is not only for the Boys

The official route of the 2014 Air Race Classic shown in Max-Trax -yellow flags indicate nearby airports with the lowest fuel prices.

Now that I am a licensed pilot (passed my checkride on the 12th of May!) it’s time to start moving towards the next step in my aviation career. I’m beginning my instrument training at a flight university this fall, but I have big plans besides that. One dream that I have had for years is to race in the all-female air derby, the Air Race Classic. Seeing as this year’s race kicks off on the 16th, this seems like the perfect time to share information about this great competition.

Between the 16th and the 19th of this month, 52 teams of female aviators will take flight to compete in one of the most thrilling and fun events in general aviation. Competitors from all over the world come together and race during this event that is enjoyable for ladies at all levels of flight experience. Since the first female Powder Puff Derby in 1929, the 3 day flying marathon has enticed thousands to participate. This year teams will fly a route that goes from Concord, California to New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

The rich history of this event is too much for one blog post, but it is important to note the social impact caused by the creation of the race. Participants in the first race included Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, and Thea Rasche, amongst other legendary aviatrixes. The social stigma against female pilots slowly dissolved with every race thereafter. Despite several complications with aircraft, and the unfortunate death of one of the racers, the first race paved the way for future female air racers.

It is inspiring to think about all the hard work and preparation the pilots must go through. Months of planning lead up to 3 packed days of racing and competition. The honor of racing is perhaps one of the most sought after achievements for the modern female pilot. Many teams need a little help covering the cost of the race, and will acquire sponsors from local businesses or organizations. A favorite means of fundraising is hosting an airplane wash, or to post logos of their sponsors on the racing airplane itself.

This race is not simply a competition of "who gets there first." Each aircraft is given a certain handicap groundspeed that it is rated at, and racers must exceed this speed in order to gain a higher ranking. They must take advantage of weather, thermals, altitudes, and essentially fly the "perfect cross-country" in order to win. In theory, the last person to arrive at the finish line could be the winner.

I know several ladies from my local chapter of the Ninety-Nines who have raced in the past. They recall it fondly, and greatly encourage me to continue pursuing my dream of being a racer. I know that one day I will, but for now I am looking forward to hearing about this year's winners!

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