With development impending, aircraft club seeks new space to fly


The aerial view shows the land that the Palomar Radio Control Flyers club uses to fly aircraft. A sign advertises a housing project that will be built nearby. Courtesy and Alex Groves photos

Model aircraft enthusiasts have gone to an 85-acre plot of land off state Route 76 in Fallbrook nearly every weekday and every weekend for about 20 years to fly, but that tradition may soon change as development blossoms in that part of the village.

“You stand out there on the flight line, and you just know we’re going to be standing in the middle of a car wash, a McDonalds and a department store at some point,” Steve Gebler, next year’s president for the Palomar Radio Control Flyers Club, said. “It’s just inevitable that that’s going to happen.”

The club, which has roughly 200 members from Riverside, San Diego and Orange counties, has been using the plot of land near the intersection of Pankey Road and SR-76, just east of Interstate 15, to fly model fixed wing airplanes, model helicopters and drones.
The surrounding area is ripe for development. Housing will be put in about a mile away, and Palomar College’s North Education Center – currently under construction – will be about a half mile away.

Gebler said the Sacramento-based land developer that owns the vacant parcel of land where the club operates has been very communicative and has told club officials it will give them as much notice as possible when it starts to build on its land.

“But we know, if we don’t start looking for a new location now that it’s going to be a problem,” Gebler said.

He said he’s now trying to put out the word out that the club is looking for another space to operate and is trying to facilitate an agreement with another landholder in the area.

“We have 85 acres – we don’t need that much,” Gebler said. “We’ve been blessed to have that much space, but what we’re really looking for is five-plus flat acres.”

Gebler said he knows there are concerns over drones and the way they’re flown.

“There’s ordinances being put up because some of the guys who are flying these things are knuckleheads when it comes down to it,” Gebler said. “And they’re causing problems by flying into populated areas and stuff like that.”

Gebler said one of the advantageous things about the Radio Control Flyers is they observe bylaws put in place by the Academy of Model Aeronautics and make sure people who are interested in the drone craze are learning how to fly the toys properly and safely.

On Monday morning, it was business as usual on the land as a group of seven or eight people flew their model aircrafts.

They could be seen placing the aircraft onto a small takeoff strip and sending them off the same way a real airplane would take off at an airport.

Frank Burke, of Fallbrook, has been a part of the club since 2004. He was flying his model Republic P47 Thunderbolt, a World War II fighter plane that morning. The plane was painted bright hues of orange and silver.

“It’s not done in World War colors or scale or anything,” he said. “In Reno, they race planes, and that was my idea of what a Reno race P47 would be.”

Burke said he’s been building planes since he started 13 years ago and has gotten better and more experienced at it with each passing build.

He said the field in Fallbrook has been his go-to location to fly his aircraft and that it’s hard to imagine going somewhere else.

“I love the field,” he said. “It’s probably one of the nicest fields around our area, and we’re going to be losing it obviously, eventually. I hope we can replace it with something.”

For more information on the club, visit www.palomarrcflyers.com.

To contact the club about providing a space, email club member Steve Gebler at [email protected]

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The 2017 Houdaille Quarry Walk, Sunday in Springfield: Get on the Other Side of the Fence

SPRINGFIELD, NJ – The Houdaille Quarry, often called the “Grand Canyon of Union County”, and normally closed to the public, will be open on Sunday, November 19 from 1:00 p.m. to 3 p.m. for Fall Foliage walks sponsored by the Springfield Environmental Commission.

This is a rare chance to get to go on the other side of the fence and see the Quarry, which is an ecologically unique wild area in Springfield, located between Rt.78 and Mount View Rd.  Its trails lead to a deep basin and to a beautiful pond where wild turkeys, foxes, coyotes and colorful migrating birds have been spotted.  

The Quarry is an important 170-acre greenway linking Briant Park, Hidden Valley Park, and Watchung Reservation. Basalt, a hard-black volcanic rock, was once quarried here, and crushed to make gravel for road construction.  The site is owned by Union County Parks.

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Alyson Miller, Chair of the Springfield Environmental Commision, reminded potential participants that “The Quarry Walk is a once a year event. There is no other access to this pristine natural area. One of the highlights comes at the bottom of the Quarry where there is a pond and a tunnel under I-78.”

The Houdaille Quarry has been through many incarnations, beginning as part of a vast lava flow from an ancient volcano and continuing to its more modern use as a site for mining rock and gravel used for road building. Part of the site is now used as the Union County leaf composting facility serving ten county communities. Another section is used by the Union County model airplane Club for constructing and flying model airplanes.

The annual Quarry Hike offers a guided 90-minute tour of the area. Appropriate clothing including long pants, long-sleeved shirts and jackets as well as sturdy walking shoes is suggested. This vigorous walk is not for young children (under age seven) or anyone who is physically compromised. No children’s strollers are permitted.

The entrance to the Quarry is located on Mountview Road off Shunpike Road in Springfield, NJ.  Parking is on Mountview Road with some availability inside the gates.

For more information, please contact Mary Feldman, Springfield Environmental Commission at 908.239.2358 or marylfeldman@icloud.com

The Springfield Environmental Commission works with the Township of Springfield and its citizens to educate and advocate for positive changes to our environment and plays a significant role in municipal master planning, land use ordinance development and site plan reviews. The Commission sponsors several annual events including the Houdaille Quarry Walk, Clean Community Day and an Arbor Day Tree Giveaway.

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Helicopters highlight latest manufacturing figures

Rotorcraft shipments increased by 7.7 percent year-to-date, and general aviation airplane shipments increased 1.7 percent, GAMA said in its newly published “2017 Third Quarter Aircraft Shipment and Billings” announcement.

The $2.7 billion in rotorcraft billings represented an increase of 8.8 percent, in contrast to airplane billings, which ticked down 2.8 percent, to $13.2 billion from 2016.

Business jet shipments rose 1.4 percent, with 434 units shipped. Turboprop shipments declined 2.1 percent, from 382 to 374 airplanes.

GAMA President Pete Bunce framed his optimism for the future in the context of global initiatives to make aircraft manufacturing more nimble.

“We’ve been very focused on streamlining certification and validation processes around the world, which will help our member companies continue bringing new and safer products to the market and hopefully spur growth in future quarters,” he said.

The continued momentum in the rotorcraft segment registered most significantly with piston-helicopter shipments that increased from 168 to 190 units, a 13.1-percent rise, in the first nine months of 2017 compared to last year, GAMA said. Turbine helicopter shipments increased by 5.6 percent to 471 units, up from 446.

Airbus Helicopters shipped the most rotorcraft overall, its 242 units representing a wide range of models. A manufacturing standout for its piston-helicopter shipments was Robinson Helicopter of Torrance, California, which shipped 220 units in the first three quarters. Of those, 163 were piston R22 and R44 models, with 57 turbine-powered R66s also shipping. Robinson’s total billings came to approximately $117 million, according to the figures released.

Noteworthy in the four-percent increase in piston airplane shipments, from 696 to 724 units, were several individual company results.

Italian airplane manufacturer Tecnam shipped 132 airplanes for $31.5 million in billings across the first three quarters of the year, with light-sport models and the twin-engine P2006T accounting for more than half of the total.

Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft Corp. shipped 13 Baron G58 twins, and nine G36 Bonanza single-engine airplanes, along with 55 turboprops in the King Air line.

Cessna Aircraft Co. shipped 140 piston airplanes (of 317 total airplanes shipped) including 75 CE-172S Skyhawk SP airplanes, or 53.5 percent of the piston products shipped. Cessna also shipped 25 CE-182T Skylanes, 28 CE-T206H Turbo Stationairs; and 12 CE-240 TTx singles.

In an upbeat announcement, Piper Aircraft predicted continued sales expansion, especially of primary trainers. The company noted that 42 third-quarter aircraft deliveries—worth $48.6 million—contributed to a total of 99 units for the year to date, of which 68 were piston airplanes. They included 45 PA-28-181 Archer IIIs, and 12 PA-44-180 Seminole twins. Piper also shipped 23 of its PA-46-600TP M600 and eight PA-46-500TP M500 turboprop singles, for total billings of $124.1 million.

Archers are leading the company’s sales expansion, Piper said, with 55-percent more units delivered than in 2016.

“In Q3, our continued investments across all of our products as well as our commitment to a made to order business model has helped drive another quarter of strong growth and sales expansion and has also resulted in the lowest dealer inventory levels that we have seen in 5 years,” said Piper President Simon Caldecott. “As we look forward to the last quarter of the year, deliveries of our value leading products are expected to continue to increase with deliveries of our robust primary aircraft trainers expected to reach their highest level in 14 years.”

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Obits, Nov. 17

Keith Biggers

Allen Keith Biggers, 78, went home to be with the Lord on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. He passed away peacefully at his home in Georgetown, S.C.

​Keith was the son of the late Joe Allen and Eloree Rogers Biggers of Monroe, N.C. He was born on May 25, 1939, in Charlotte, N.C. He attended Wingate College in Union County, N.C. and served his country in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1965.

​During his military service, he was stationed in Germany where he met his first wife, Rita Muller. During his years in Germany, he was a member of Rider’s Rhythm Rangers, a country and western band, where he played the bass guitar.

Keith and Rita had three daughters, Linda, Kathy and Michele, and were married 24 years prior to her passing. He and his family were members of Sardis Baptist Church in Indian Trail, N.C. After his military service, he worked at Energy Control Engineering Corporation in Charlotte before opening his own company, Biggers Combustion Service.

​In 1986 he married Carolyn Glenn. They retired to Georgetown, S.C., in 2003 and were happily married for 25 years prior to her passing. He was a member of Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church in Georgetown.

​Keith is survived by his children Linda (David) Kiser, Kathy (Scott) Helms, Michele (Jeff) Smith, Robin (Nick) Broumas and Chip (Stephanie) Smith, and eight grandchildren – Matthew, Courtney, Krystal, Rachel Nichole, Rachel Ann, Sarah Grace, Lucas and Leah, his sister Judy B. Richardson, and his current wife Carolyn Bourne.

He is predeceased by his parents Allen and Eloree Biggers, his first wife Rita Muller and his second wife Carolyn Glenn.

​The family is holding a private memorial service in Georgetown at Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Tidelands Community Hospice at 2951 N. Fraser St., Georgetown, S.C. 29440.

Online condolences may be left at www.ridgewayfh.com

Ridgeway Funeral Home of Georgetown, 843 485-4242, is in charge of the arrangements.

Betty Hill

Ms. Betty Long Hill, 76, passed away Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, at her home, with her family by her side. Betty was a native of Andrews, S.C.; the daughter of Betty Merritt Long Piatt and Charlie Long. She was an independent woman of conviction. You always knew where you stood with her. Despite her sickness, her sense of humor remained intact. She loved so many people and led a life full of good-hearted gestures. Betty was preceded in death by her mother; her stepfather, E.A. Piatt; her son, Brian Michael Hill II; and his father, Brian M. Hill Sr.; and her stepsister, Joan Fulton Mercer.

Betty was a member of Woodmen of the World and the Carolina Red Hat Girls. She was also the Queen Mother of the Carolina Red Hat Cuties and the President of the Chipper Club. She was an active member of the Democratic Party, “even before she was old enough to vote,” as she would say. She was also a proud supporter of Compassionate Friends, volunteered at RCS, and loved the water and eating at the Sanitary restaurant.

The family will receive friends 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Pollock-Best Funeral Home and other times at her home. A celebration of her life will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Pollock-Best Chapel, with Rev. Grady Burroughs officiating. Online condolences may be made at www.pollockbest.com. Memorials in Betty’s name may be made to SECU Comprehensive Cancer Center, www.cancercentergive.org, 2007-B Neuse Blvd. New Bern, N.C. 28560.

Betty is survived by her daughter, Belinda Hill Barr, of Bridgeton; her brother Charlie J. “C.J.” Long, of Bridgeton; her grandchildren, Ashley Hill Faison, and husband Lee, of Raleigh; and Michael Aubrey Barr, of Bridgeton. She also leaves behind her daughter-in-law, Kaye Hill Smith; her Godson Aldon Mason Reel; and her caregiver Rick Phillips. Betty’s family wishes to thank Dr. Rick Gorman and Dr. Muhammed Ali for taking such great care of her. They would also like to acknowledge the great care of Craven County Hospice, especially Corey and Denise. Thank you to the friends and family who loved her, visited her and will make sure her memory lives on.

Pollock-Best Funerals Cremations is entrusted with the Hill Family.

Charles Holladay

Mr. Charles Thomas “Hap” Holladay, age 96, of Pawleys Island, went to his eternal rest on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. He passed away at home, surrounded by his family, listening to his grandson play the guitar.

He was born in Pikeville, Tennessee on February 21, 1921. “Hap” was the only child of the late William Joseph Holladay and the late Lula Pope Holladay. Along with his parents, he was also preceded in death by his first wife, Ann Gailmand Holladay, by an infant daughter, Linda Holladay, and by his second wife, Patricia Holladay of Columbia, S.C. He grew up in Cookeville, Tennessee, where he enjoyed Boy Scouts, building model airplanes, and reading. He received a degree in Civil Engineering from Tennessee Tech University in 1942. He served in the Army Air Force during WWII as a Meteorologist in the Pacific Theater. Following the end of the war, he worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority for a few years before becoming a Professor of Civil Engineering at Southern Technical Engineering in Atlanta (later Southern Polytechnical, now Kennesaw State University). His teaching career was interrupted when he was recalled into the military during the Korean Conflict. He resumed his teaching career at Southern Tech, where he remained for another 36 years. He served as the Department Chair for the majority of this time. He retired with the title Professor Emeritus in 1984.

In addition to teaching, “Hap” was Vice President of Kucera International, an aerial mapping company. Through his work with Kucera, he was active in several professional organizations in South Carolina, Georgia, and throughout the Southeast. He retired from Kucera in the early 2000s. He lived in Pawleys Island from 2001 until his death.

“Hap” was a lifetime member of the Church of Christ and a Charter Member of the Dunwoody Country Club in Atlanta, where he enjoyed playing golf on a weekly basis. Hap won several tournaments and attended the Masters Tournament in Augusta.

Hap’s surviving relatives include: 2 Daughters – Betsy ( Thomas) Easterly and Kathleen ( Matt) Alexander. He also had five Grandchildren – Shannon Easterly, Ryan Easterly, Patrick Easterly, Chris Alexander, and Stephanie Alexander. In addition, he had two Step-Daughters – Meg ( Steve) Collins and Meg ( Daniel) Cole, and there are 5 Step-Grandchildren – Joey Cole, Tori Cole, Gus Cole, Diana Antley, and Alex Antley.

A Private Memorial Service will be held in late December.

In lieu of flowers, Memorial Contributions may be made to the Salvation Army, your local VA Hospital, or to St. Jude’s Childrens Research Hospital.

Hap was a gentleman and a patriot. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Condolences may be expressed at: www.burroughsfh.com.

Burroughs Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 843-651-1440, is assisting the Holladay family with the arrangements.

Michael Roberts


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Michael Roberts

Michael Hamilton Roberts passed away Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, in his home in Cartersville, Georgia. Born June 29, 1937, a native of Georgetown South Carolina, he was the son of the late William Edward Roberts and Marguerite Ellen Hamilton Roberts. In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by: his brothers, William Edward Roberts Jr. and Leslie Howard Roberts.

Mike retired from International Paper Company after 33 years of service. He was also the organist at Screven Baptist Church for 36 years, where he was loved by many. In his free time, he enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and watching South Carolina Gamecock football.

Mike is survived by: his wife, Margaret Elaine Houston Roberts, of 53 years; his children, Donna Roberts of Charleston and Steve and Melissa Friedrich of Cartersville, Georgia; and four grandchildren, Drew Friedrich, Madison Friedrich, Tyler Friedrich and Rachael Roberts-Seel.

Graveside services will be held at Pennyroyal Memorial Gardens on Pennyroyal Road, Georgetown, South Carolina on November 25, 2017, at 1:30 p.m.

Memorials may be given to Amedisys Hospice, 102 Main Street, Cartersville, Georgia 30120, or a charity of your choice.

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Boeing & flydubai Ink $27B Deal for 225 737 MAX Airplanes

The Boeing Company BA has inked a deal with flydubai for 225 737 MAX airplanes. Valued at $27 billion at current list prices, the order was awarded during the 2017 Dubai Air Show. It marks the largest-ever single-aisle jet order from a Middle East carrier.

Order in Detail

The agreement comprises a commitment for 175 MAX airplanes and purchase rights for 50 additional MAX jets. Among these 175 airplanes, the order includes over 50 737 MAX 10s — the newest and largest member of the 737 MAX family — along with other MAX 8 and MAX 9 airplanes.

With this third aircraft deal, flydubai, which started flights in 2009, will surpass its previous record order of 75 MAX jets and 11 Next-Generation 737-800s that was signed at the 2013 Dubai Airshow. The current fleet of the carrier is all Boeing and at present only operates 737-8s.

Delivery of the 175 planes will commence in 2019 and be spread across 10 years with some coming ahead of the 2013 order. Given the size of the deal, it is expected that flydubai will get a discount on the list price of the aircraft.

Deals Inked at the Ongoing Dubai Air Show

Demand for Boeing’s commercial airplanes has been rising due to a steady increase in passenger and freight traffic.

Of late, at the Dubai Air Show, this aircraft giant received an order from the Kuwait-based ALAFCO Aviation Lease and Finance Company for 20 additional 737 MAX 8s, valued at $2.2 billion. Additionally, the company secured an order for five more 787-8 Dreamliners and a commitment to purchase two large freighters, valued at approximately $1.9 billion, from Azerbaijan Airlines.

Apart from this, the company sealed a deal for delivering 40 787-10 Dreamliners to Emirates,  the largest airline in the Middle East.  The purchase order also comes with equipments related to the 787-10 fleet, valued at $15.1 billion.

Given the enormous commercial demand in the market, Boeing is witnessing significant progress, especially in the single-aisle market.

Global Demand for Single-Aisle Aircraft

Boeing anticipates demand for 29,530 single-aisle jets, worth $3.2 trillion, in the next 20 years. The figure reflects a 5% increase over last year’s projection.

Moreover, the company expects single-aisle jets to be the major driver behind the increase in demand, comprising 72% of the total commercial jets’ demand projection. While the new 737 MAX and the 737-800 is likely to grab the lion’s share of the new orders, Boeing’s arch-rival Airbus Group SE’s EADSY A320neo is expected to pose significant challenges. Recently, Airbus received an order for 430 single-aisle airplanes valued at $49.5 billion at the Dubai Air Show.

Nevertheless, Boeing’s 737 model remains one of the best-selling planes in the single-aisle market, thanks to its fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. Therefore, to maintain its dominance in the commercial aerospace market, this aerospace behemoth continues to invest in research and development for upgrading and churning out upgraded versions of its existing planes.

The 737 model is the fastest-selling airplane in Boeing’s history, exceeding 4,000 total orders from 92 customers.

Price Movement

Share price of Boeing has surged 77.5% over the last 12 months, outperforming the broader industry’s gain of 35.6%. This could be because the company’s strong balance sheet and cash flows provide financial flexibility in matters of incremental dividend, ongoing share repurchases as well as earnings accretive acquisitions.

 

 

The stock also performed better than that of General Dynamics Corporation GD and Lockheed Martin Corp. LMT, which missed the industry mark.

Zacks Rank

Boeing carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here

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Tesla unveils its monster Tesla Semi truck and lets us step inside

Elon Musk has a plan to reinvent trucking, and it will ride on the sizable back of the new Tesla Semi.

The all-electric truck, which Musk unveiled Wednesday night in a Hawthorne Municipal Airport Parking lot (adjacent to his SpaceX headquarters) just outside Los Angeles and has a remarkable 500-mile range, may be most notable for what it doesn’t include.

There’s no transmission, no clutch, no big motor, and no after-treatments or differentials in the Tesla Semi. And even those facts to paint a picture of just how foreign the Tesla Semi may be to every red-blooded trucker on American roads today.

In part because of the lack of conventional truck parts, Musk made some of his trademark outsize claims about the reliability of the Tesla Semi at Thursday’s event. He said it’s guaranteed not to break down for “a million” miles of driving and that the brake pads last “forever.”

Musk also claimed the glass on the truck is “thermonuclear explosion-proof,” and (jokingly?) said he would refund anyone’s Tesla Semi that didn’t survive a nuclear explosion.

Tesla has taken the cabin, a place where the average trucker will spend 10-14 hours a day (and maybe more if they sleep in the ruck), thrown the components up in the air, and settled them into what the company believes are more ergonomic and useful spots.

Image: Lance Ulanoff/Mashable

All this is clear to me as I, under the rumble of overhead helicopters and gulf jets, examine the Tesla Semi cabin for the first time.

Tesla ferries small groups of journalists in gulf-wing Model X’s to around from the front of Hawthorne Airport to the back, past the famous first Boring Tunnel dig and an actual Hyperloop Test tub that extends down much of a side road, to a hanger just behind the Tesla Design Studio. Inside are two Tesla Semi truck prototypes and one Day Cab Class 8 truck, probably not enjoying the comparison with Tesla’s innovative cargo movers. 

Hello, beautiful

What’s instantly notable here’s that these are all-day cabins, meaning the first Tesla Semi trucks do not include sleeper cabin space behind the driver’s compartment. That’s surprising considering most full-time truckers do spend some time sleeping in their trucks.

Image: Lance Ulanoff/Mashable

Tesla tells us they’re considering a sleeper model in the future, which will extend the length of the cabin, but not the overall truck length.

The trucks will charge at new “Megachargers,” which will be located where the trucks unload cargo, and a 30-minute charge can add 400 miles of range. At the event, Musk said drivers are legally required to stop for at least 30 minutes when they’re on break.

Up close, the Tesla Semi truck is gargantuan. Thanks to the aerodynamic fairing affixed to the top, it towers above us. That half-cone of hard material rises to the exact height of a trailer, so the wind glides from the front of the Tesla Semi’s curved snout, up past the angled windshields (there are three) and over the top of the truck.

Up close, the Tesla Semi Truck is gargantuan

They lead us around to the back of the truck where, not for the last time, we encounter reused technology. The four “super singles” tires each have their own Tesla Model 3 motor, each of which can operate independently. Semi trucks typically use double or single wheels. Tesla put the singles on this prototype, but it could just as easily use “duals.” 

Sitting between these tires is the “Fifth Wheel,” the tire-sized, notched and heavily greased panel that truckers use to attach their trailers to the truck. It’s unremarkable and standard in design or, as Tesla put it to us, “trailer agnostic.”

Image: Tesla

Telsa later later notes that there are currently no plans to build custom Tesla trailers with extra battery power. This makes sense when you think about how truckers keep their trucks, but usually leave the cargo trailers behind when they’re done with a job.

Unlike a standard semi-truck where the fuel tanks are clearly visible on each side, the Tesla Semi truck’s power source isn’t immediately obvious. The battery is built into the truck chassis and hidden behind a rigid frame. This, Tesla notes, provides protection for the batteries and additional car safety.

Image: Tesla

As we make our way to the cabin. I notice tiny, fin-like sensors jutting out of the truck frame. This prototype lacks sideview mirrors, which Tesla claims they really don’t need but will include anyway because it’s the law.

Nearing the passenger compartment, I recognize a familiar door handle. it, too, is from the Model 3 and is placed just four feet above the ground, There will be no reaching up to open this Semi door.

We swing open the door and find a set of shallow stairs leading up into the cabin. There are handrails to grab, but it’s easy to get inside the cabin.

Image: Tesla

Cabin might not even be the right word. The all-gray plastic, and fabric-covered interior of the Tesla Semi Truck is designed like a tiny room. Tesla told me they’re still experimenting with materials for the interior.

Without the need for a giant motor and transmission, Tesla loses what’s known and the “doghouse” bump that juts into the passenger compartment of every semi-truck. It’s a huge space-saver.

Image: Tesla

There’s roughly seven feet of standing room space, at its highest point and somewhat forward, but toward the middle is an almost bizarrely centered driver’s seat.

The all gray interior of the Tesla Semi Truck is designed like a tiny room. 

In front of it are to equidistant, landscape touchscreen displays, also from the Model 3, and in front of that three impact-resistant glass windshields, one wide, bookended by two more narrow windows that angle in toward the driver. 

If Director Wes Anderson designed a tractor-trailer cabin, it might look like this. 

Tesla, though, tells us the centered seat is the safest position for maximum visibility around the long, seemingly blind corners of most semi trucks.

Putting the driver dead center means there’s no passenger seat. Well, there is one, but it’s basically a jump seat behind and to the right of the driver’s seat.

There’s no traditional dashboard or odometer, but there appears to be storage space everywhere (even under the front hood). Behind us and overhead is what looks exactly like airplane overhead bins. They function the same way, too.

Image: Tesla

I would like to drive the big rig

I settle into the incredibly comfortable driver’s seat, which bounces gently up and down as if finding the proper height for my body. I’m told it will stop moving in a moment. The side windows don’t roll down — they open casement-style, a supposed reliability choice. I grab the steering wheel and find that my foot can’t quite reach the gas or brake. I do not get to adjust the seat, press the horn, or drive the Tesla Semi truck in any way. In fact, it’s almost as if our mini tour is over just as it’s beginning.

Image: Tesla

Naturally, Tesla and Musk are promising a cargo-load full of superlatives from the Tesla Semi. It will brake and accelerate more smoothly, it will go further than a diesel in the same time and be safer doing it, it will identify jack-knifes before they even happen.

I do not get change to adjust the seat, press the horn or drive in any way in the Tesla Semi Truck.

As expected, the Tesla Semi will ship with Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot mode, allowing for automatic emergency braking, lane keeping, auto steering, and lane-departure warning, which should be especially welcome for long-haul drivers.Tesla would not specify the number of cameras or sensors.

The jack-knife prevention technology sounds particularly interesting and complex. Jack-knifing, often the start of major traffic backups, is when the semi cabin and its trailer shift out of front-to-back alignment, and the rear of the trailer spins left or right and moves in the direction of the front of the truck, making the shape of a half-open jack knife.

According to Tesla, the Tesla Semi’s sensors detect the start of any instability and instantly start countering it by applying torque to each wheel and activating all the regenerative brakes independently and as necessary.

Image: Tesla

Tesla and Musk wouldn’t tell us how much each truck costs, but they are conscious of how much it costs to operate a big rig. Instead of leaving connectivity to routing and tracking systems to third-party companies and costly accessories, connectivity is built in for communication with these route management systems.

There are, at this moment, many unanswered questions, like range, price, and availability. Tesla didn’t even reveal the weight (is it a lot less or more than a standard diesel truck?). We should be learning more shortly.

This story is developing…

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Texas teacher, students praise AOPA aviation curriculum

The banter between aviation teacher Nathan McAfee and his students was frank but informative as they discussed the pros and cons of a lesson associated with AOPA High School Aviation STEM curriculum. The students in McKinney, a Dallas suburb, were part of 29 high schools field testing the ninth-grade STEM lesson plans across the United States.

McAfee, who attended the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium, in Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 6 and 7, said he was “very impressed” with the curriculum. He noted that students were engaged as they learned critical STEM skills that could lead some into an aviation or aerospace career. “I was energized by the symposium,” McAfee added, “and I’m excited about where our program is headed.”

He explained that “flying is great but for every person flying there are probably 40 others who are helping to support them” in other aviation-related fields.

Branna Barrows, a sophomore in McAfee’s class whose father flies a Cirrus, said she enjoyed the experience of learning aviation concepts in a fun and engaging manner. Other students were impressed with field trips to airports that included a nearby airshow.

AOPA recognizes the importance of growing the pilot population and has put several programs in place to ensure a robust future for aviators. The goal of AOPA’s You Can Fly High School Initiative is to help build and sustain aviation STEM programs and to provide a quality workforce to the aviation industry.

Juniors and seniors participating in the public high school’s aviation academy meet in a hangar at McKinney National Airport rather than at the school so they can hammer, rivet, wire, and plumb aircraft during hands-on sessions that keep them tinkering well into the afternoon and on many weekends. A four-year preparatory program enables them to also study aviation history and careers, build and fly model aircraft, earn their student pilot certificate, and more.

Pilot and mentor Chuck Wilson patiently explained to eleventh-graders how they could determine which side of a wing rib a rivet should be driven into. A Cessna 150 in desperate need of TLC provided the backdrop as six students gathered around the aluminum structures that would one day become airborne again. “We’re trying to just create a sense that these kids can do anything” they put their hearts into, explained the air transport pilot and experienced aircraft builder. “They don’t have to be pilots and they don’t have to be mechanics. The goal is to let them understand there’s no limits as to what they choose to do and it’s really rewarding to give them that chance.”

He said McKinney students pursuing aviation have a “great opportunity” because they can train in the economical two-person Van’s Aircraft RV-12 that fellow students completed (under supervision) in 2016 and then flew to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “It’s fabulous [for training] and at very little cost to them.”

The aircraft build was partly funded by the students themselves and was conducted with mentors from the Eagle’s Nest Projects. When a second aircraft currently under construction is complete, the first RV-12 will be sold to continue funding the program. Students across the United States have built 17 Eagle’s Nest RV-12s with four more under construction, according to builder and mentor Phillip Campbell.

Gabriel Hatton, a third-year student who “always kind of had a passion for math and science,” explained that he valued the school’s aviation program for teaching him a variety of skills that empowered him to pursue his dreams. “It told me that I can do almost anything I want to do if I put my mind into it.” He advised younger students interested in aviation to “stick with it because it will pay off.”

Student Sean Rose also helped construct the blue-and-white RV-12, and he learned a lot about himself in the process—though he wasn’t too keen about certain parts of the fabrication process. Shaping the aircraft’s fiberglass pieces “during 10-hour days when school wasn’t even in session made me all itchy and it was just awful.” The senior stuck with it, though, and realized that “nothing is impossible. As a high school student coming in and [hearing] people say that you are going to build an airplane, you kind of just think to yourself, ‘That’s not going to happen.’ But now looking at the finished product it’s just incredible to see what we could all come together and achieve.”

Rose and classmate Bryan Soltys-Niemann planned to continue their aviation dreams together. They have both applied to the same colleges with hopes of being roommates and helping each other pursue professional aviation careers.

“In middle school, I decided that I wanted to become a pilot,” said Soltys-Niemann, as he buffed the leading edge of the aircraft he helped build. “I had to take at least the first year [of aviation classes] to see how it’d go.” He ended up in the right seat of the RV-12 for the six-hour flight from Texas to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and noted that the trip taught him a lot about real-world aviation. A key takeaway was learning how to “prep ahead for the next airport and then decide on a go, no-go decision” because the next airport might not be in VFR conditions.

Although there were setbacks and frustrations that could rattle any aircraft builder, Soltys-Niemann said participating in the high school aviation program was “definitely a one-of-a-kind experience and one of the best experiences you’ll ever have if you put your best effort into it.”

He advised other high school students interested in learning about aviation to “just keep on trying and never give up.”

The You Can Fly program and the Air Safety Institute are entirely funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit www.aopafoundation.org/donate.

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