Aviation History - Page 3 Aviation Articles

My 2 Favorite Airlines

Since the beginning of airlines in the 1900s, aviation has exploded through the use of scheduled air service to transport people and goods from Point A to B.  The industry has certainly had its challenges, but remains a great example of how one invention can influence the world long after its creators are no longer around.  Today I’ll list my top picks for airlines when getting around the country, or around the world.

#1: SkyWest Airlines

While you may not see an aircraft painted in SkyWest colors, you probably have been flown by their crews more than you think.  SkyWest began in 1972 in St. George, Utah when founder Ralph Atkins bought Dixie Airlines – the operation was a little different than the airline it is today with a Fixed Base Operation (FBO), aircraft maintenance, air ambulance service, air charter service, and flight school.  The original fleet consisted of various Piper products including Cherokees and Senecas.  Fares between St. George and Salt Lake City were just $28 and in the first year, a whopping 256 people utilized SkyWest.

By the following year, the number of passengers had multiplied exponentially to over 2,000 and several destinations including Moab, UT, and Las Vegas, NV are added.  The Piper Senecas were replaced with Piper Navajos – despite these expansions, the company was still quite small which is demonstrated by the fact that Atkins’ wife wrote the customer service manual.  By 1974, almost 12,000 passengers are served (an increase of over 650%) and Atkins wondered whether or not to stay in business much of that year.  Over the next several years, SkyWest continued its journey upward in addition to facing many of the struggles many other airlines had back in the early days of the industry.

By 1982, code sharing—major carriers accepting regional partners—was born.  Code sharing became the bread and butter of SkyWest and by 1989, regional jets were being added to fleet replacing most of the turbo prop aircraft issuing in a new era of travel for this small regional.  By 2012, SkyWest had been in the business for 40 years and by 2014, it announced it would transition to an all-jet fleet which included various models of the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) and Embraer Regional Jet (ERJ).

 

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Over 40 years after it was founded, SkyWest partners with several major airlines including: Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.  According to www.SkyWest.com, With a fleet of 351 aircraft, SkyWest’s more than 11,400 aviation professionals operate nearly 1,800 flights each day to 216 destinations throughout North America. SkyWest is known for its industry-leading workforce, exceptional leadership team, and continued solid operational and economic performance.”  It boasts hubs all over the country in Chicago/O’Hare, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

So, while you may never see their signature blue and white CRJs or ERJs, you probably had many of their crews making sure you reached your destination safely and on-time.  Just remember, behind every major airline is a great regional airline.

 #2: Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines has its roots back when aviation was still new in 1924.  The Huff Daland Dusters crop-dusting operation was founded in Macon, GA and became the foundation for building one of the largest major airlines in the world.  That crop-dusting operation also became the first commercial agricultural flying company in existence.  By 1955, Delta had grown into a major airline and pioneered a route system of travel referred to as “hub and spoke” – hub and spoke worked on the principle of bringing scheduled flights (spokes) into a hub airport where passengers would then connect to other Delta flights.  This quickly became the most popular model for many airlines as it greatly increased efficiency, among many other things.

Delta had many firsts for the industry such as serving meals in-flight, offering jet service, non-stop flights from New York to Los Angeles, a cargo express service, and operating three different types of wide-body jets at once.  The airline continued to have many firsts, and relative to SkyWest, it was the first airline to use regional jets in North America through the Delta Connection program.  Fast forward to the early 2000s and Delta is still a leading major airline accomplishing many “firsts”.  Additionally, Delta has been a technological leader in the industry holding patents on many computer programs to manage the day-to-day operations of the airline and improve the overall customer experience.  By 2009, it had become the only airline (since PanAm) to serve 6 continents.

A notable day came in 2012, when Delta became the only airline to purchase its own oil refinery – this proved to be a smart move as fuel prices became volatile over the next few years.  Once again, Delta has proved to be a leader in the industry with the valuable ability to forecast future market conditions and plan accordingly.  Additionally, Delta through SkyTeam® has partnered with many airlines from around the world such as KLM, Virgin America, and many more.

What’s Your Favorite & Why?

Do you have a favorite airline that you don’t even think twice about booking through?  What is it and why is it your favorite?  Leave a comment about your favorites and your most memorable destination with that airline.

 All images courtesy of GoogleImages.

GARA: the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994

The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, or simply GARA, is a federal act that was implemented to amend the Federal Aviation Act (FAA) of 1958.

With a few exceptions to the law, it gave general aviation aircraft manufacturers much stronger protection from prosecution for accidents which were previously said to have been caused by manufacturer fault. Manufacturers embraced this amendment as it put an 18 year time-frame on how long they could be held responsible for a design defect. However, prior to the enactment of GARA, it was a different story altogether for many manufacturers of single and twin engine piston aircraft.

The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of General Aviation Aircraft Manufacturing

The late 1960's and early 1970's were said to have been the golden years for the aircraft manufacturing industry involved in building single and twin engine piston airplanes. However, towards the end of the 70s, during the period from 1978 to 1988, industry-wide employment fell by a devastating 65 percent. Aircraft manufacturing overall saw a massive decrease in new aircraft shipments, falling 95 percent, and over 100,000 people lost jobs in fields directly related to aircraft manufacturing in the United States.

Cessna Aircraft Company, Piper Aircraft and Beech Aircraft (now Beechcraft), the three leading general aviation aircraft manufacturers who accounted for over half the production of general aviation aircraft in the US, were among the hardest hit.

Cessna, who had been producing general aviation aircraft since its founding in 1927, posted the company's first annual loss in 1983. Virtually handicapped by previous liability exposure, Cessna was forced to halt production on all its single engine aircraft by 1986.

Piper Aircraft Company went in an out of bankruptcy, and was forced to suspend production on some of its most popular models, such as the Super Cub and PA-32 Cherokee Six / Saratoga.

Beech Aircraft shifted its emphasis away from piston / propeller aircraft, keeping the Beech Bonanza and Beech Baron in production and discontinuing all other piston / propeller aircraft models.

The cause for such a drastic drop in both jobs and the manufacturing of single and twin engine piston aircraft were the frequent lawsuits against the manufacturers. Manufacturers were able to be sued for manufacturing defects regardless of the number of years since the actual aircraft design had been developed, or used by customers. This was especially hard on aircraft manufacturers, as general aviation aircraft remained in use several decades after being manufactured, much longer than cars, or even most commercial airliners. These lawsuits became so prevalent in the 1980s that many attorneys began successfully specializing in targeting general aviation aircraft manufacturers and insurers with often frivolous lawsuits.

In fact, between 1983 - 86, Beech Aircraft defended itself against 203 lawsuits, each case costing them an average $530,000 to defend. Interestingly, while researching these cases, the NTSB found that none of the accidents could be attributed to manufacturing and design defects. Most were simply pilot error or another indirect fault.

The effect was widespread. In 1978, 18,000 general aviation aircraft were built, compared to only 928 aircraft in 1994, the year GARA was finally passed. The general aviation industry was suffering from a lack of new aircraft, particularly in the area of training, rental and charter use. The three most popular trainer aircraft, the Cessna 152, Piper Tomahawk and Beech Skipper had all been removed from the market by the mid 1980s, never to return. Russell Meyer, the CEO of Cessna at the time, cited product liability concerns as the sole reason for the halting production of single and twin engine general aviation aircraft.

The Birth of GARA

During the 80s and 90s, guided by Cessna CEO Russell Meyer and Ed Stimpson, the President of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the general aviation industry began applying pressure to congress. Their main request was for Congress to enact limits on product liability for aircraft manufacturers, and Meyer promised that if such legislation was enacted, he would bring single engine general aviation aircraft back into production at Cessna. Adding their voices to this cause were the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the largest US organization of private pilots and general aviation aircraft owners; the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union (IAM/IAMAW), representing workers at several general aviation aircraft factories; and a group of Kansas politicians, led by Senator Nancy Kassebaum. This proposed legislation became known as the "General Aviation Revitalization Act," or GARA.

GAMA, as one of the biggest advocates for the enactment of GARA, pointed out the fact that the money being put towards defending aircraft manufacturers against lawsuits could be better spent on improvements in overall aircraft safety and helping to develop new technologies for the good of the industry overall.

GARA is Signed into Law, and Aviation History

Finally, in 1994, GARA was passed by the Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton on August 17th, 1994. In its final form, GARA was a mere three pages long. Those three pages, however, provided manufacturers of general aviation aircraft (defined as aircraft containing less than 20 passenger seats, and not being operated in scheduled commercial service) with an exemption from liability for any of their products that were 18 years old or older from the date of an accident. There were some exceptions detailed, and this was a "rolling" statute, meaning that the 18 year time period was reset whenever modified or replacement parts were installed on an aircraft. In effect, a 25 year old aircraft could still be the object of a successful suit against a manufacturer if it contained manufacturer modifications or parts installed within the last 18 years.

GARA was immediately hailed by Cessna CEO Russell Meyers as a landmark step towards saving the general aviation industry.

"By placing a practical limit on product liability exposure, Congress has literally brought the light aircraft industry back to life."

Resuscitating a Dying Industry

Within five years of GARA coming into effect, the industry produced over 25,000 new aerospace manufacturing jobs. In addition, he U.S. Department of Labor estimated that there were also three extra support jobs created for every new manufacturing job. And the aircraft manufacturers begin to show signs of life, including the big three.

True to his word, Cessna CEO Russell Meyer brought back single engine aircraft manufacturing to Cessna, though in a much more limited manner. They resumed manufacturing their three most popular, and statistically safest single engine models. They began with the Cessna 172 and 182 in 1996, and added the 206 (developed from the popular retractable gear Cessna 210 model) back into the mix in 1998.

Piper Aircraft continued to experience financial troubles, but did continue producing the models that survived the 1980s, and even managed to restore some models to production that had been previously cut. This included the PA-32 Cherokee Six / Saratoga, and the twin engine Seminole and Seneca models. Eventually, Piper did emerge from bankruptcy, and some credit GARA for helping them survive that process.

Beech Aircraft continued producing the two piston-egine aircraft models that had survived the pre- GARA depression, the single engine Bonanza, and the twin-engine Baron, but never resumed production on any of the models it had cut during the 80s.

In addition to the increase in jobs, in the first five years following the passage of GARA, overall production of general aviation aircraft doubled. However, this was still far below the high point of the 1970s. And though production has continued to increase over time, it still hasn't returned to those levels.

In Conclusion

There is still ongoing debate about the overall effect, and effectiveness, of GARA. Opponents say that it had little effect, and mostly served to encourage attorneys to shift liability and lawsuits for accidents to new and different targets. Proponents, however, say that though the production rate has continued to climb, the general aviation accident rate has declined, pointing to safer manufacturing and advanced technology in the area of engines, avionics and navigation equipment. Glass cockpits now come standard in most new general aviation aircraft. National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen had this to say:

"GARA is a tiny, three-page bill that has generated research, investment and jobs. It is an unqualified success."

Others share this optimistic view of GARA, such as former Piper Aircraft President and CEO Chuck Suma, former AOPA president Phil Boyer, and Cirrus Designs co-founder Alan Klapmeier. And though this debate on the overall effect of GARA is likely to continue well into the future, this simple, three page document played a key role in helping shape the future of the general aviation industry.

Sources:

GARA: The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994..." 2003. 30 Sep. 2015: https://www.avweb.com/news/news/184254-1.html

Kovarik, KV. "A Good Idea Stretched Too Far - Seattle University School of Law..." 2008: https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1843&context=sulr

"General Aviation Revitalization Act | GAMA - General ..." 2009. 30 Sep. 2015

https://www.gama.aero/advocacy/issues/product-liability/general-aviation-revitalization-act

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Aviation_Revitalization_Act

Oshkosh: It's Not About the Airplanes


Okay, so maybe it's a little bit about the airplanes. (Did you see the Mosquito? The GoodYear Blimp?!) But for most people, Oshkosh is about so much more than airplanes. If you follow Oshkosh on social media then you've heard the buzz of engines during the airshow and you've seen your friends posting selfies in front of amazing airplanes. But what you can't see from the photos is something else that's deeper, more elusive, that only exists at Oshkosh. Maybe it's a feeling, or maybe it's just something in the air. It's probably different for everyone, but whatever it is, it's general aviation at its absolute best. Airplanes are just the backdrop. A friend (who I happened to meet at Oshkosh) said it best in this video when he said, "It feels like coming home."

So what is it that makes Oshkosh special? What is it that keeps thousands of aviation fanatics returning each year to a place that's not even easy to get to? It's about the people, the encouragement, the mentorship, the conversation and the camaraderie. It's about an industry that welcomes you into it without pause and allows you to consider it your home without even a hint of reservation. It's an immediate family where every single one of your sisters and brothers just "gets" you.

Over fifteen years ago, I entered the world of aviation by walking into a sleepy airport terminal in my hometown, completely on my own. I had been on a single plane ride before, and I knew I wanted to fly. There was just one problem: I didn't know how. I didn't have a mentor. I didn't have a family member to show me the ropes. I didn't know anyone in aviation. I didn't know where to go or what it would take to become a pilot.

I remember walking into that terminal, a nervous teenage girl, to ask about flight lessons. With a comforting smile and a gleam in his eye, the airport manager sent me across the field to the sleepy little flight school. The owner of the flight school, without asking me why a girl like me would possibly want to fly, without hesitating or commenting on my five-foot-nothing height, hired me on the spot as a secretary. I could answer the phones, he said, and he'd pay me six dollars per hour and let me sit in on the ground school for free. "It's a deal," I said.

What I didn't realize was that this deal would go far beyond six dollars per hour and free ground school. I didn't realize I was gaining an instant family. The flight instructors took me seriously, treated me with respect, and introduced me to the world of flying with enthusiasm and encouragement. Beyond that, each one of them shared their worlds with me outside of our flight lessons. They told me about air shows and scholarships and what airline life would be like. They taught me about the bigger, Part 135 aircraft they flew during their off time. On their days off, they came to the airport with their wives and kids. It felt like home.

Fast forward a few years, and I made another solo trek, this time to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I'd heard the stories, but wondered how it could be more than just another air show with expensive food. I'd seen enough air shows. I'd seen Tora! Tora! Tora! and P-51s and Sean Tucker and Kirby Chambliss. What would be different about AirVenture? I had to find out. I showed up at my room that year - a small bedroom in a lady's house that I booked on a referral from a journalist friend - and found a group of people who had been coming to Oshkosh for years together. But instead of sticking to their own group, they immediately took me in, inviting me to ride the bus with them and inviting me to their nightly dinners. And then I showed up to the media tent, once again by myself, and immediately found friendly faces there, too. I walked the grounds, and while running into old friends, I made even more new friends. One introduction led to another and before I knew it, I had new aviation family members all over the place. It felt like a family reunion - with a pretty spectacular air show on the side.

Last year, I made a few friends at Camp Scholler who have been camping together as a group for years. This year, I was invited to camp alongside them at what they lovingly refer to as "Camp Bacon." I showed up with my kids, but otherwise alone, without really knowing any of these folks beyond social media. As if on cue, they welcomed me - and my children - into their aviation family immediately. They offered good conversation, interesting aviation stories, hot coffee, and even wine. They invited me to the nightly campfire, and to join them during their yearly "Dawn Patrol" walk to the warbirds at five a.m. They shared their stories with me and I learned about their aviation work. By the end of the trip, there were hugs, with the sound of P-51 Merlin engines in the background. It felt like coming home.

This is my family.

This is Oshkosh.

Kids Flying Biplanes

Plane and pilots en route AirVenture 2015

At 19 and 22 years of age, my boyfriend Daniel and I are still considered "kids" by the majority of adults. For this exact reason, we got a lot of interesting reactions when we flew a 1931 Waco ASO open cabin biplane into EAA AirVenture Oshkosh last week. Most people cannot fathom flying such an antique aircraft themselves, and seeing us doing it seemed out of place.

This particular Waco has been in my boyfriend’s family since the 1960s. It was an old crop duster that had been sitting in a field in Louisiana and desperately needed a restoration. They obtained the aircraft and spent over 10 years restoring it to the stunning condition that it is in now. Although he grew up around this plane, Daniel got his license and spent a couple hundred hours flying a Stinson 10A before he was allowed to move to the Waco. His tailwheel skills still amaze me, and his transition into the Waco only took a handful of hours.

He debated for several days if he should fly the Stinson into AirVenture for a second year, or take the Waco. He finally did decide to take a leap and fly the Waco, and we are both so glad he did. Although it is pretty much the opposite of the type of plane you would want to go on a long VFR cross country with, the flights there and back were unforgettable and enjoyable. The flight up was 6.7 hours total flight time (plus a stop every hour to stretch our legs and snack), and the flight back was only 5.7 hours (plus hourly stops as well).

Wearing our "Straightwing Crew Hats"

The flight was a particularly enjoyable experience for me because Daniel would give me full flight control for entire legs of the trip while we were enroute. The seat in the front has a grand total of zero flight instruments besides the stick, rudder, and throttle control. It was a fun learning experience for me to fly entirely stick and rudder, and for him to give me constructive feedback based on what his instruments read. My first couple attempts I kept getting into what I called "The Dolphin," where I would over-correct for altitude changes and fly in a constant slight attitude of up and down, like a dolphin swimming near the surface of the water. Once I got the hang of how much input I needed to stabilize the aircraft, it was much smoother sailing.

Half the fun of AirVenture is relaxing in the shade of the aircraft wing and talking to fellow aircraft enthusiasts that walk past. We set out chairs and spoke with people for a couple hours every day. It was always interesting to see the reactions of people who had been admiring the aircraft from the other side, then came over to see us smiling and asking how they were. The most common reaction was "do YOU fly this?" and a general disbelief that such a young guy could be the pilot in command of such a plane. Most people congratulated him on his accomplishments and expressed their jealousy. There was one flight line personnel who saw Daniel climbing on the wing to reach his iPad and promptly came over to scold him for climbing on the aircraft and asked several times if he was REALLY the pilot. We did appreciate his concern for the well-being of the aircraft!

An interesting thing to consider is that the average age of WWI and WWII pilots was early 20's. Pilots younger than Daniel were flying more powerful aircraft in extremely dangerous circumstances. We kept that in mind during our journey and certainly feel reverence and respect for all veterans. Aviation has such a rich heritage and we feel honored for the opportunities we have had so far to experience flight as it would have been in the 1930s.

Beautiful view of Chicago and some sailboats off our right wing as we headed back south.

Daniel's father and my good friend Hayley flew in their Waco YKC, which is closed cabin. It was funny when we would land on the way back and they would be sweaty from all the heat the engine gives off combined with the hot day, and Daniel and I would be wearing two or three jackets to keep from being freezing. The higher the altitude, the colder the air, so we generally flew around 2000 feet.

It was an amazing year at EAA Oshkosh AirVenture and another great experience flying in. Hello to any of the brilliant people we met while up there, and I hope everyone enjoyed the week as much as we did!

Top 9 Things to do at AirVenture in 2015

  1. Test your drone flying skills with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Small Unmanned Aerospace System (sUAS) Challenge. The drone challenge will feature a 30-foot drone cage at Aviation Gateway Park, and will include both obstacle and speed courses designed for unmanned aerial vehicles. The competition will be held daily from 3 to 5 p.m. and is open to anyone age 10 and up. Or, for those who intend to bring a drone with them, a field next to Pioneer Airport will be designated for drone use. Small RC model aircraft (less than five pounds) may be used in the designated area from 7 to 9 p.m. every night.
  2. Visit the widely praised EAA AirVenture Museum to see more than 200 historic aircraft that are available for viewing. From the classic Piper Cub to the Spirit of St. Louis, EAA's AirVenture Museum has all of the best airplanes. From the museum, you can take a ride in a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor or a 1929 Travel Air E-4000. The museum also has four theaters and a special hands-on KidVenture area, and from May to October, you can take a short tram ride to Pioneer Airport and walk back in time through seven hangars that explore the 20s and 30s, aviation's Golden Age.
  3. Take your kids to Pioneer Airport, which is the place to be this year. From airplane and helicopter rides to drone flying to KidVenture, Pioneer Airport mixes old with new by introducing the next generation of aviation buffs to the aviation world in a variety of ways. Kids can complete a Future A&P course by visiting various booths and learning how to accomplish maintenance tasks like riveting or prop shaping. At the Young Eagles flight education area, future pilots can learn about airspace, lift and fly a flight simulator. Pedal planes are available for the youngest pilots, and older ones will enjoy a bit of history walking through the AirVenture Museum hangars.
  4. Watch the Valdez STOL aircraft show each other up. Each May, specially modified short takeoff and land (STOL) aircraft compete in a competition in Valdez, Alaska. More than a dozen of them will be at Oshkosh this year, and the competition is not to be missed. You can find them at the afternoon air shows, at the ultralight air strip and a final competition will happen prior to the night air show.
  5. If low-key is more your style, visit the Oshkosh Seaplane Base located at Lake Winnebago. Buses run from AirVenture to the Seaplane Base regularly, and beyond the weekly Watermelon Social event, it's a quiet respite from the crowds and heat.
  6. Celebrate the great moments of World War II. This is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the successful air war to defend England in the summer and autumn of 1940, forestall a planned invasion of the island by Germany, and the first major turning point of the war. This is the moment that Winston Churchill famously predicted, should it be successful, would be known as England’s "finest hour." Airshow themes celebrating this turning point in the European war throughout the week will include many of the 300 warbirds expected to attend Oshkosh, including a rare flying example of the de Havilland Mosquito fighter/bomber.
  7. Take a seat in a classic aircraft. In addition to the Ford Tri-Motor making its accustomed flights above the AirVenture Grounds, this year you can take a ride from nearby Appleton in the B-17 Flying Fortress Aluminum Overcast, one of the rare surviving examples of this heavy bomber that dropped more ordnance than any other Allied Bomber of World War II. The flights depart from nearby Appleton and a shuttle bus will depart the AirVenture grounds an hour before the flight.
  8. Join Burt Rutan for a week-long recognition of the 40th anniversary of his iconic early aircraft design, the VariEze. For four decades Burt Rutan has continuously broken the mold, creating one unusual aircraft design after another and popularizing concepts such as canard wings and composite construction, culminating for many with his design of SpaceShipOne, the first commercial space flight vehicle. Rutan will be at Oshkosh to share this celebration of his unparalleled history of innovation. His designs will be included in the Homebuilts in Review each morning at 10 and Rutan will be interviewed following at 1PM.
  9. Stop by the Globalair.com booth! Have we met before? Stop by and meet your hard-working GlobalAir team! We'll be in Hangar D, Booth 4028.

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