Weight Shift Control Light Sport Aircraft in New Mexico

Trike flying in New Mexico. A really nice video of one pilot's view of trike flying in New Mexico.  It is good to see more exposure for this unique form of aviation.


A Bad Idea

The FAA has announced some proposed new rules that will significantly affect light sport aviation.  Basically, they are proposing to limit operations to single seat flights (initially in SLSA aircraft transitioning to ELSA status).  This proposal demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the history of light sport aviation and the requirements for 2 seat operations.  Presented in the disguise of instructions to safety inspectors and DARs the proposed regulations will negatively impact the future of recreational aviation.

For more information see this article in Powered Sport Flying Magazine and to read the proposed FAA document see this link .


The Air Creation Racer is back

After discontinuing the FAA FAR103 compliant single seat Racer awhile back, Air Creation has introduced a new version.  The new Racer renamed the Pixel comes in 2 flavors the XC version and a standard version.  With a 13 sq meter single surface wing it is analogous to the old Fun 14 wing.  The main difference is the power plant.  With the loss of the Rotax 447 a new power plant was required.  Air Creation chose the Polini Thor 250 engine, a single cylinder water cooled 2 stroke to power the Pixel.  Below is a photograph of the aircraft's specifications.

single seat ultralight
Specs on the new Pixel from Air Creation



Another trike pilot raising the bar in video production.

Sky Surfing

A different take on the concept of Sky Surfing by a pilot in California.


Aerial Photography

Nothing is more fun than going for a flight and grabbing some photographs to document the experience and many pilots use only small inexpensive digital cameras on flights because of safety and ease of use.  The popularity of the digital camera has fundamentally changed how people take pictures and cameras are now built into a variety of electronic devices from smart phones to tablets, my gps even has a camera.

I was recently asked to present a digital photography workshop demonstrating how I shoot images and what processing techniques I use on the resulting photographs.  The major take home lesson from the talk was that images are no longer made in the field but rather afterward, taking pictures in the field is now a matter of  data collection.  This approach is especially useful for photographs taken while flying where quick snapshots are the rule.  If you are not satisfied with your aerial photographs perhaps applying some of these techniques will help make your photographs jump off the screen.  While I do not claim to know what makes an interesting photograph these techniques have helped garer over 500,000 views on images I created and submitted to Google Earth.

I have uploaded a pdf of the workshop power point presentation which shows how to manipulate images and lists all the software resources (free).  The pdf may be found here.

Photo book

Below is a before and after of the same image  where the input levels were slightly decreased, contrast was slightly increased, and unsharp mask was applied. Note the apparent increase in resolution and increase in photographic depth.

Tanarg image before post production processing.JPG
Tanarg after post production processing.JPG


Trikes from around the World

A compilation video of trikes and their pilots from around the world.  Combined from still images posted on Trike Pilot Social, this video shows the passion of pilots from around the world who fly trikes.

Early Aviation in Arizona

The history of early aviation in the desert southwest and particularly around the boot heel is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things.  But from aviation's inception people here were expressing an interest.  The first transcontinental flight crossed the valley in 1911 and was followed by the installation of an intermediate field north of Rodeo.  But aviation history stretches back even further in the area.  As reported in the Douglas Dispatch, in 1908 a group of local aviation enthusiasts formed the Douglas Flying Club and went on to build a glider based on Wright brothers designs which was flown locally.  "The first phase had no motor or wheels and was pulled by horses running down 15th Street between A and Washington Ave. Once it would get airborne, it would break free from the harness that attached it to the horses and fly for several minutes before coming back down, landing on its skids."

The Douglas Glider


The Dolly Zoom and Aerial Videography

The dolly zoom  or the "Hitchcock zoom" is a camera technique developed by Irmin Roberts, a second unit cameraman at Paramount and is used in a variety of television and movie productions. Perhaps best know from Alfred Htichcocks film Vertigo, there are a number of other notable examples  in more recent productions. Shown in this clip from Vertigo  (starting at 2:04) the dolly zoom is an effect used to heighten tension in scene by inducing a feeling of "falling-away-from-oneself" or creating a feeling of unreality by distorting the perspective of the viewer. A more technically correct description of the technique is zoom in/dolly out or forward zoom/reverse track. But this description may be reversed and used as zoom out/dolly in or reverse zoom/forward track. This reversed application of the dolly zoom technique is applicable to trike videos and may be used to highlight a particular view while in flight.

The idea is that in a scene with a clearly defined foreground, midground, and background the foregroun/midground is held constant while the background moves away from the viewer. As originally concieved this technique requires a ground based camera on a dolly and the zoom adjusted as the camera moves in or out to create the effect. With an aircraft mounted video camera forward motion is a constant and it is difficult to correctly manipulate the zoom while piloting the aircraft, so it falls to post production processing to create the effect. In post production it is a simple matter to ramp the zoom (in or out) at a rate that holds the foreground/midground stable while allowing the background to fall away.

The video at this link, and shown below, shows 3 examples of the dolly zoom effect using an aircraft mounted video.  The 3 examples start at 1:07 (flying through saddle), 1:29 (flying through a rock outcrop), and 2:05 (runway view upon landing). This is an anaglyph video (3D video requiring glasses with the red lens on the left, green on right) and without glasses there is somewhat more distortion, but the effect is still obvious.

In the first example the bottom edge of the foreground holds while the background falls away as the aircraft passes through the saddle. In the second example the foreground again holds while the background as viewed through the outcrop falls away from the viewer. In final example the zoom is moved in and then out which shortens then lengthens the view of the runway while landing.

Distorting the perspective of the viewer is just one more tool the flying videographer may use to impart their feelings while piloting a trike.


Rodeo Intermediate Field, the First Airport in the San Simon Valley

Note:  This first appeared in Blogging from the Boot Heel

An ongoing project for the past several years was the documentation and submission of the Rodeo Intermediate Field as a site worthy of a New Mexico historical marker.  It began with the discovery of the site while flying one afternoon several years ago.  Long straight lines in the desert and a big red arrow pointing east toward El Paso stood out on the desert at the mouth of Antelope pass along Highway 9.  Exploring further on foot, building foundations and runways became apparent.  Inquiries to local residents produced no concrete information and many were unaware of the sites existence.  Information about the site required a longer memory and after consulting author and the local historian Jr. Gomez and explanation arrived, an old airport.  The local memories only went back to WWII when the site was an Army Air Force Auxiliary field with lighted runways visible in Portal, but further research turned up a longer history which extended back to the late 1920's.  Developed by the Department of Commerce and known for a year as the Pratt Intermediate Field, the name was changed to the Rodeo Intermediate Field.  The site was developed in support of early commercial aviation along a route from California east.  Early commercial aviation, both transport and mail relied on the iron compass as a navigational aid and the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad running from Douglas to El Paso was an ideal navigational aid along a southern route.  Other intermediate field routes were established across the U.S. and in New Mexico an early route also extended across the northern part of the state through Albuquerque.

Standard Airlines, a subsidiary of Aero Corp and later to become TWA, began flights from California to El Paso on Feburary 5, 1929 as an Air-Rail line where passengers would fly part of the route then continue by train east from El Paso.  In support of this commercial activity the Department of Commerce had been locating a series of "intermediate fields" along these air routes.  Located 40-50 miles apart these intermediate fields provided a measure of safety for early commercial airlines in cases of mechanical or weather related problems.  Along the southern routes air traffic converged on Phoenix and Tucson then proceeded via Douglas around the Chiricahua mountains and up the San Simon Valley to Antelope pass where air traffic would again turn east following the rail line to the "planeport" in El Paso, see the video for air traffic maps.  Passing the Rodeo Intermediate Field early air traffic then continued through intermediate fields located in Hachita, Columbus, and Mt. Riley before arriving in El Paso.

From an intermediate field to an Army Air Force auxiliary field the Rodeo Intermediate Field slowly grew.  More buildings were constructed including a supply depot and radio building which after relocation into Rodeo became Rodeo Cottages.  But after the end of WWII the need for auxiliary fields disappeared.  Although still in use after the war, see this photograph, the Rodeo Intermediate Field began it's return to nature.  As it sits today the Rodeo Intermediate Field lies on BLM land on the east side of the San Simon Riverbed north of Highway 9.  The site is marked by a concrete tank stand and building foundations as well as a runway may be seen from the road, while the historical marker is located at the intersection of Highway 80 and Highway 9, 2.25 miles to the west.

A short slideshow of Standard Airlines and the Rodeo Intermediate Field

Rodeo Intermediate Field historical marker

Points of Interest 
The new historical marker was submitted to the "Historical Marker Data Base" for inclusion. The marker will also be included in the next edition of "Roadside New Mexico:  A Guide to Historic Markers".