January 2008 Newsletter

A Bit Of Personal History
First, I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season. I know at our home there was the constant comings and goings with kids and grandkids. With five children and two grandchildren it gets pretty hectic around here during the Christmas season. I also hope you enjoyed “Twas The Night Before Christmas”.

When I started this newsletter I launched right in to aviation things I was interested in, but I never took the time to explain who I am and what I am trying to do. I also did not understand how quickly time passes, and how quickly I needed to write next month’s newsletter. I always am learning what my wife has known for years – I try to get more done in any time frame than I ever have time to accomplish!

Because of this I may be a little late with the newsletter, but I will faithfully send it out.

Perhaps you may be interested in a little about me, and how I came to be so interested in aviation.

I grew up in the mid-West, Michigan in particular, and I remember the first time I ever saw a real airplane. It was at the Monroe County fair, and it was a V-tailed Beech Bonanza that was on a rotating platform. As it went around the rotating beacon was on, and I just stood there looking at this airplane and immediately
knew I wanted to learn how to fly. My family was large and poor, and my mother died when I was quite young, so I knew it would be a long time before I could learn how to fly.

Because I had five sisters, and my mother was gone, the deal my father had with me was that when I graduated from high school I was to move out and live on my own. So, two days after graduation
I joined the U.S. Air Force, but because of my eyesight I couldn’t get into the flying program. It turned out I have a gift for language, so they sent me to Syracuse University (the Orangemen) where I learned to read, write and speak Russian. I was then sent to San Angelo, Texas, and there was a flying club!

I joined immediately and took my first ride in a small plane, a T-34, and I was hooked! Shortly thereafter the base commander lost his medical, and that was the end of the flying club. So, I wandered out to the flight line at the local airport and found the cheapest flying lessons I could get. Piper had come out with a new trainer, the 108hp Colt.

Well, this did not work out to well for me. Once you reduced power, even slightly, it sank like a rock and I never was able to flare the aircraft on landing! After a number of hours the instructor gave up on me, so I
went to the more expensive Cessna dealer next door, and began flying the Cessna 172. What a difference! I quickly soloed, and was on my way to my Private Pilot’s license. The thing I remember most about those lessons was the instructor always carried a rolled-up newspaper with him and would wack me on the head when I began sightseeing and not scanning the horizon for traffic. It worked well because scanning
the instruments for my instrument rating was a piece of cake.

During my short Air Force career I managed to get a couple of hundred hours of flying time, and when I left the Air Force I went to Michigan State University to get my college degree. In those days it had a very active flying club called “The Winged Spartans”. I got very involved in the club, became an instructor, acquired my Commercial Pilot’s license, followed by the CFI, Instrument Rating and CFII. After graduation I went to work for an FBO flying light twins on charter at night and giving instruction during the day.

After a while one of the customers hired me to sell credit life insurance and do a little flying in rented aircraft. Soon thereafter the company acquired a Cessna 411, followed by more aircraft including DC-3’s and a Turbo Commander. After seven years I left and started my own business selling aircraft insurance. I continued flying and have now flown many different aircraft ranging from the venerable Piper Cub to jets, and everything in between.

In 2004 I sold my business, acquired a Master’s Degree in Business, entered the
consulting business and started my own eBay store – Aviation Sources. I continue to consult and develop internet businesses.

But, enough about me – let’s talk about the accident results for 2006.

When the AOPA released it’s Accident Trends and Factors for 2006 report they concluded that 2006 was the safest year ever for general aviation. General aviation considers all aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds.

By category the numbers work out as follows:

Personal Flying:                      682 total accidents, 151 of which were fatal
Business Flying:                     32 total accidents, 14 of which were fatal
Instructional Flying:                 144 total accidents, 18 of which were fatal
Mechanical/Maintenance:        223 total accidents, 27 of which were fatal
Amateur Built Aircraft:             126 total accidents, 40 of which were fatal

As you might expect, night IFR accidents had a fatality rate of 74.1% for the highest fatality rate, while day VFR accidents had a fatality rate of just 16.3%, the lowest rate.

One question always arises when I talk with non-pilots: Why are small (General Aviation) airplanes involved in accidents than the airlines? Well, the answers are pretty simple:

1. General Aviation pilots conduct a wide variety of operations, including some
dangerous ones like crop dusting;
2. Airline pilots usually have an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot), the highest pilot
rating available, while general aviation includes pilots with all levels of pilot
licenses and flying experience;
3. General Aviation pilots are usually operating their aircraft with one pilot, and
have limited cockpit resources;
4. General Aviation pilots operate from a wider range of facilities ranging from
over 5,000 public-use and 8,000 private-use airports while the airlines
operate from about 750 larger public-use airports;
5. General Aviation pilots make far more takeoffs and landings making them
more vulnerable to accidents;
6. Most general aviation aircraft can not fly over or around severe weather like
airliners can.

As always, here is the picture of the month:

Photo of the Month


John M. White, Editor

Each month we bring you informative, educational and entertaining articles about all things aviation.

You can find more timely and current articles here at our blog:

All Things Aviation

Check Out Our Newsletter Archives

September 2007 Newsletter

The Golden Age of Flight
I don’t know about you, but I love old airplanes. In fact, I have had the privilege of flying many interesting older aircraft including a P51 Mustang, a Piper J-3 Cub and a Douglas DC-3. While I am type rated in jets, these aircraft are far more fun and interesting to fly! 

One of the more interesting periods in aviation was from the end of World War I to the start of World War II. During this time countless advances in aviation were made, many expeditions undertaken, and numerous records were set.

One such story follows.

Northrop 2B Gamma Polar Star

On November 23, 1935, explorer Lincoln Ellsworth, with pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon, took off in the Polar Star from Dundee Island in the Weddell Sea and headed across Antarctica to Little America.

This was not the first time that Ellsworth had attempted a transantarctic flight in the Polar Star.

Antarctica was the last continent to be discovered and the only one that was mapped entirely from the air. Aerial explorers from the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Norway, Canada, and France can be credited with this feat, and Lincoln Ellsworth was one of the most tenacious of these explorers.

Ellsworth, a World War I pilot, was the son of a Chicago millionaire coal mine owner. He went on his first polar expedition in 1925 with the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. In May 1929, Ellsworth, Amundsen, and Italian dirigible pilot Umberto Nobile made the first transpolar flight in history, from Spitzbergen, Norway, to Alaska, in the airship Norge. It was Ellsworth’s use of the airplane for exploration, rather than his skills as a pilot, that earned him his place in aviation history.

Ellsworth first took the Polar Star to the Antarctic in 1934. Sir Hubert Wilkins, the famous Australian polar explorer, went along as advisor, and the Polar Star’s pilot was Bernt Balchen. The expedition reached the Bay of Whales by ship on January 6,1934, and Ellsworth intended to make a round-trip flight with Balchen between the Bay of Whales and the Weddell Sea.

However, the 15-foot-thick ice on which the Polar Star was standing broke apart and one of the skis slipped through a crack. The aircraft was almost lost, but after long hours of work it was recovered and put back on the ship to be returned to the United States for repairs.

Ellsworth and the expedition went back to Antarctica in September. October and November were considered the best months for flying there, and this time Ellsworth planned to fly from Deception Island to the head of the Weddell Sea.

However, before any flight could be made, the Polar Star had to be shipped to Magellanes, Chile, for repairs to a broken connecting rod, and by the time the aircraft returned to Deception Island, snow conditions made it impossible to use the runway. The expedition then tried Snow Hill Island on Antarctica’s east coast.

On January 3, 1935, Ellsworth and Balchen made a successful flight to Graham Land, but clouds and snow forced them to return to Snow Hill Island after several hours.

That November. Ellsworth and Hollick-Kenyon finally succeeded in flying the Polar Star across Antarctica. After their takeoff on the 23rd, they flew at an altitude of 13,400 feet; on crossing the 12,000-foot peaks of the Eternity Range, they became the first men to visit western Antarctica. Ellsworth named a portion of that area James W. Ellsworth Land in honor of his father.

The Polar Star made four landings during its flight across the Antarctic. After a blizzard that occurred during the night at the third camp, the inside of the plane was packed solid with drifted snow. The two explorers spent a whole day scooping out the dry, powdery snow with a teacup.

On December 5, Fuel exhaustion forced them to land 40 kilometers (25 miles) short of their goal on December 5, and they walked for six days to reach their destination. They settled in the camp abandoned by Richard E. Byrd several years earlier.

The British Research Society ship Discovery II sighted them on January 15, 1936. Hollick-Kenyon later returned to recover the Polar Star. The total distance flown by the Polar Starbefore its forced landing was about 2,400 miles. The U.S. Congress voted Ellsworth a special gold medal for his Antarctic exploration and “for claiming on behalf of the United States approximately 350,000 square miles of land in the Antarctic representing the last unclaimed territory in the world.”

The Polar Star was one of two Northrop Gammas that were the first aircraft produced in 1933 by the newly established Northrop Corporation of Inglewood, California. The Gamma is a low-wing, all-metal cantilever monoplane with a 710-hp 9-cylinder Pratt & Whitney Hornet engine. The one built for Ellsworth had
two seats in tandem with dual controls. The other of these first two Gammas was built for Frank Hawks, who at the time was a pilot for Texaco. Hawks’s Gamma was a single seat model. On June 2,1933, Hawks set a west-east nonstop record in his Gamma, flying from Los Angeles to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, in 13
hours, 26 minutes, 15 seconds.

In April 1936, Lincoln Ellsworth donated the Polar Star to the Smithsonian.

Great Poems “Because I Fly”

Because I fly
I laugh more than other men
I look up an see more than they,
I know how the clouds feel,
What it’s like to have the blue in my lap,
to look down on birds,
to feel freedom in a thing called the stick…

who but I can slice between God’s billowed legs,
and feel then laugh and crash with His step
Who else has seen the unclimbed peaks?
The rainbow’s secret?
The real reason birds sing?
Because I Fly,
I envy no man on earth.


by Grover C. Norwood

What’s New

The Red Knight

I don’t think that there are very many people around today that don’t enjoy a good air show, including myself. Recently one of the customers to my eBay store, Aviation Sources, was the crew chief for the current Red Knight. Following is some interesting information on this air show exhibition team.

From 1958 through 1969 a uniquely Canadian aerobatic solo aircraft performer, known as the Red Knight, gained a reputation for providing flying exhibitions at smaller airfields which were not included in the larger flight demonstration team’s schedules. This demonstration aircraft was unusual in that all of the
maneuvers were performed within the boundaries of the airfield so that all of the action was in full view of the spectators throughout the show.

The aircraft used was a Lockheed T-33 MK III “Silver Star”, the Canadian version of the venerable Lockheed T-33. The T-33 was created by lengthening the fuselage of the Lockheed F-80 “Shooting Star” and adding a second seat with controls. Lockheed built over 5,690 of these aircraft, and Canada built an additional 656 which were known as “Silver Stars”.

The Red Knight program came to an abrupt end on July 13th, 1969 when the Red Knight pilot, 23 year old Bryan Alston, was killed after performing for some Italian Air Force Officials when the aircraft he was flying lost power and crashed inverted after attempting a forced landing. This crash effectively ended
the Red Knight program.

Enter Chris Rounds.

In 2002 Rounds discovered that the Red Knight aircraft was available, and he took delivery of the aircraft in June of 2003 returning the Red Knight flight demonstration to the air show circuit in 2004.

Chris Rounds is no stranger to aircraft cockpits, having flown over 10,000 hours in more than 70 different aircraft. Chris started flying when he was only eleven, and by the time he graduated from high school already had his Commercial Pilot’s license with an instrument rating. Continuing his education at Auburn University Chris graduated with a degree in Aviation Management.

After acquiring his ATP and A&P ratings Chris flew for an airline for a short time before pursuing his dream of owning his own business. Soon he had formed Rounds Aviation in Tullhoma, TN, and specialized in finding and restoring warbirds, and installing avionics. Chris provides instruction in formation flying, and T-6 checkouts at the Rounds Aviation facility.

Since the early 1980’s Rounds has performed in T-34’s, T-28’s and T-6’s, but he wanted something faster and more exciting to fly. The Red Knight provided that opportunity.

Photo of the Month

The Gamma Polar Star Aircraft 

The Red Knight


John M. White, Editor 

Each month we bring you informative, educational and entertaining articles about all things aviation.

You can find more timely and current articles here at our blog:

All Things Aviation


Check Out Our Newsletter Archives