Monday, April 11, 2022

What's Up by LeRoy Cook

Unmanned package carriers?

Once again, spring winds blew straight across Butler’s one-and-only landing strip last week, thwarting a bunch of plans to commit acts of aviation. Gusts to 40 knots (46 mph) exceeded the control capability of just about any airplane. Through it all, Whiteman Air Force Base was holding a 4-day joint training exercise, hosting units from Utah, Virginia and California, coordinated with aircraft from Kansas, Texas, South Dakota and Louisiana. We don’t know how much wind the B-2 Stealth bomber can handle, at its maximum 336,500 pounds of takeoff weight.

It’s hard to believe, but the B-2 has been in our local skies for 25 years, becoming operational at Whiteman in January 1997. The first ones moved in three years before that. Most of us don’t even look up when we hear their signature four-engine roar, heading out across the world.

Among the few movements observed this week were a Mooney M-20 that arrived on Wednesday, as Eric Eastland and I were out battling the wind in the Cessna Skyhawk. Eric brought a Cessna 150 back from the maintenance shop, and Flight Instructor Jay McClintock was in from Harrisonville with his Piper Tomahawk trainer. A nice Beech T-34B Mentor restored Navy trainer was here over Saturday.

American Airlines is now busing ticketed passengers from its Philadelphia terminal to destinations in Atlantic City and Allentown, PA. These 50 to 70-mile hops aren’t practical for an airline connection, even for American Eagle commuter airliners, and the airline is struggling to find enough crews to meet all their schedules. Reportedly, the contracted busses are dolled up in American livery and are quite comfy. United and Sun Country airlines are doing similar arrangements.

Western leasing companies who bankrolled Russian airlines by providing them modern airliners are finding out their property has been expropriated in retaliation for the wartime sanctions imposed over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. About 100 of these airliners have been nationalized by the Russian government. They may want to arrange lease payments in rubles.

FedEx has entered into a partnership with drone startup Elroy, which is developing its Chaparral unmanned electric delivery vehicle; it’s supposed to be capable of carrying 500 pounds of cargo over 300 miles. Whether we’re ready to have these heavy-lifter package haulers buzzing around over our heads on their own is yet to be determined. Technology experts have assured us that “nothing can ever go wrong…(click) go wrong…(click) go wrong…”

Our question of the week was “name a cowboy movie star who flew his own plane.” Reader Phil Young responded that Gene Autry flew (a Twin Beech, as I recall). Others would be Roy Rogers and William Boyd. For next week, tell us the international emergency communications frequency for aviation. Send your replies to

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