Face It, You Know Almost Nothing About The Batcopter

Eugene Nock with the original Batcopter and Batmobile.
Eugene Nock with the original Batcopter and Batmobile.

Fans of the original Batman TV series, and we are big fans, who want to get up close and personal with movie lore can do so at the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo, starting next week, where the Batcopter and Batmobile will both appear. The original TV series, starring Adam West as Batman/millionaire Bruce Wayne and Burt Ward as Robin, was a huge hit. And viewers who think of the Batcopter as being a regular part of the series are a little off. It did appear briefly in a couple of episodes, but it was developed for a one-off 1966 movie called, sensibly enough, Batman.

It was a real, functional helicopter, though, a Bell 47 which was fitted with a special paint scheme and which had wings affixed along the side of the craft. In order to fly with the wings, the craft had to be specially insured, as the appendages caused a marked decrease in performance. They were never fitted to a helicopter again, and the studio destroyed them 40 years ago as a hedge against them ever being used again.

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In the movie, the Batcopter is used for such stunts as Batman fighting off an angry giant shark from a rope ladder slung beneath the Bell. It was first-rate entertainment.

Unlike the Batmobile, the producers didn’t own the Batcopter. The helicopter was leased for the film and was returned to the leasing firm shortly after the filming was completed. Some addition footage was captured for use in the Batman series later on. The pilot was famed helicopter stunt flyer Harry Hauss, who has flown in more than 30 Hollywood movies.

After filming was completed, the helicopter was de-super-heroed and returned to regular service, doing things like news reporting and pipeline patrol. But shortly thereafter, it was, like just about all Model 47s, retired from service as newer, mostly turbine powered helicopters took its place in the commercial world.

Upon its retirement in 1978, the helicopter was purchased by Eugene Nock, a lifelong pilot and aviation education supporter who actually met Bruce Wayne, er, we mean Adam West, in the late 1960s and, well, this is where our story kicks in.

Nock has been bringing both the Batcopter and the Batmobile to the events for the past several years, and he will once again appear at the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida (January 23-26). Again, Nock’s Bell 47 is not a replica of the Batcopter. It’s the genuine article! Well, as genuine as a fictional helicopter can be, anyway.

Nock will be offering rides in the Batcopter at the Sport Aviation Expo. See our story on the upcoming event here. The cost is just $70 for an adult and $50 for kids. No preregistration is necessary. Just show up and say, “To the Batcopter!”

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TB-30 Epsilon Flight Keeps Pilot Hooked On Flying

TB30

As for so many pilots, it all started for me in a C-150. My very first flight in the small Cessna trainer was one I’ve never forgotten. In an extreme climb, my pilot friend took me high up, ending the climb with a stall. “That is what happens when you force an aircraft to stop flying,” he said after he took the aircraft out of its misery to head back to the airfield. I was immediately hooked on flying, with or without the aerobatics.

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I never progressed further into flying than obtaining a private pilot license for having fun in VMC conditions. I enjoyed the little Cessna 150 very much, but when my kids asked to come along with daddy for the hamburger flight, we ended up doing this in a most beautiful airplane called the TB-9 Tampico. This was one of the Caribbean models built in the south of France by Socata (now Daher).

I enjoyed the more powerful Socatas, the Tobago and Trinidad, as well but never took to flying those higher-performance planes, with retractable landing gear (the Trinidad) and constant-speed props. I was happiest when my kids and I were in the TB9, or when I was all alone in wide sky in the Cessna 150.

There is also a TB that Socata build at Tarbes from 1979 to 1989 for the French military. This military trainer, called TB-30 Epsilon, did not resemble the Caribbean line at all, except for the fin under the tail. I loved that plane from afar, as I frequently watched it flying at airshows all over Europe as the French military had set up a demonstration team, Cartouche Doré, that wowed the crowds on many occasions.

As luck would have it, my path would cross with the Epsilon trainer. The famous Breitling Jet Team, which performed all over the world and recently visited the U.S., has long flown the L-39C Albatros. The home base of this team is the city of Dijon in the mid-eastern part of France. The company behind the team, Apache, runs an on-demand charter operation that also provides upset and recovery training in, guess what, a six-plane fleet of phased-out Epsilon trainers. Jetfly, a huge FBO in Luxemburg, is already sending more than 100 pilots to Dijon for the course.

As it was becoming very clear to me that flying in the TB-30 Epsilon would make my Caribbean line experience complete, it appeared flashing on my bucket list. And guess what? On October 12, 2018, I was strapped into F-HEX by BJT-3 pilot Vincent Marteau, who took me for a ride in the TB-30. I was in for UPRT lesson 1: stall recovery under the hood. Here, as you can see in the accompanying photo, the “hood” is a linen canopy that blocks the rear pilot’s outside view of the world. As soon as the PIC puts the aircraft in an awkward position, it is up to the trainee to recover from that position by reference to the instruments alone. Here I was again, 40 years after that very first flight in a C-150, recovering from a stall.

The planes are so different, but the common denominator was this: It was just as much fun 40 years later as it was back when I was a newbie to aviation. The first experience got me hooked. The second one? Well, it’s what kept me hooked, as if I needed any help with that.


Do you have a great story about a time when you got to cross an item off of your aviation Bucket List? If so, we’d love to hear it! Check out the Bucket List submission details and send your story to editor@planeandpilotmag.com. In the meantime, you can find more aviation adventures in our Bucket List archives.

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News and Updates – U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces Several New Drone Initiatives

New initiatives encourage the safe testing and deployment of drones.

Video: Chute Save! A Spin In An LSA Nearly Turns Fatal

What do you do in a developed flat spin? If this question sends a chill down your spine, you’re not alone. 

The video, which shows a test pilot of an LSA trying to recover from a well-developed spin pulling the chute, finally. According to BRS, the plane suffered only superficial damage. Without the chute pull, the pilot would have had to have bailed out. The crash resulting from the spin into the ground would almost certainly have been unsurvivable. As far as the pilot’s flying technique is concerned, we won’t weigh in, except to say that commenters have tended to focus on his lack of convention spin recovery technique. Power back, stick neutral, opposite rudder, nose down. The video begins with the spin already in progress, so it’s possible the pilot attempted conventional spin recovery prior to the start of the footage. Regardless, he’s here to talk about it, something that most likely wouldn’t be the case without the chute. 

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Big Changes In Designated Examiner Rules

The FAA issued a Notice in October that allows more flexibility in how Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) conduct practical tests These changes are poised to help alleviate some backlogs in the scheduling and conducting of practical tests in the United States for pilots and students.

Specifically, the major points of change included allowing DPEs to conduct tests without being limited geographically (previously they were limited to operating only in their Flight Standards District Office—FSDO—area) and that applicants seeking initial CFI practical tests will no longer be required to contact those FSDO offices to assign an examiner for those tests. The FAA also increased and removed some limitations on the numbers of tests DPEs are able to conduct in a day.

These may seem like small changes, but the effects can be significant on the throughput of pilot test scheduling and conduct in the United States.

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First, the time it was taking to request an initial CFI practical test was a delay in the scheduling process. We all know that the staff at the FAA offices are busy with many tasks, and removing that extra hurdle in the scheduling process allows applicants to work directly with examiners and schedule with whatever examiner might be able to best or most rapidly serve their scheduling needs.

Removing the geographic restrictions on DPEs allows more flexibility for practical test applicants to seek the closest, the most available, or, in some cases, even most qualified DPEs to serve their testing needs. This is especially helpful for DPEs who live near previously restricted FSDO boundaries, allowing them to more easily travel to applicants and provide tests at airports that are close by but were previously outside of their districts. It is also going to be very helpful for applicants seeking specialty testing such as sea-plane and glider tests, testing for which there is a limited number of qualified DPEs around the country, and in many areas, no qualified examiners exist. With the removal of these boundary restrictions, DPEs could travel to where the testing is needed instead of having an applicant and their aircraft travel to the DPE’s district. The potential to reduce applicant costs associated with moving an aircraft to the test instead of the DPE to the aircraft are obvious.

While DPEs are still expected to provide primary service to the areas in which they were designated and reside, when available, they may elect to provide services away from home on an interim basis, during periods of seasonally bad weather at their home areas, or when their specialty services warrant their traveling to other locations for tests. This flexibility would allow some flight training providers to bring DPEs from other areas where the testing volume is lower to where it is greater than what is able to be served by the number of DPEs available locally. This isn’t intended to be a long-term solution to testing capacity concerns but could help alleviate any challenges when training expands in areas or as the FAA selects and trains additional examiners in high-density training locations.

Lastly, the FAA increased the allowable number of full tests a DPE may conduct in a given day from two to three and removed any limits on how many “re-tests” a DPE may give within a day.

The practical application of this doesn’t mean a DPE is going to conduct three full longer practical tests such as an initial private, a commercial multi-engine or an instrument practical test, but it is certainly feasible that an examiner might be able to appropriately conduct three seaplane, three commercial single-engine add on, or three or four retests for applicants who just needed to get a couple maneuvers done to finish up their testing. This additional flexibility allows DPEs to get more activities that are shorter in time requirement done in a single day, thus freeing up more time in other days to increase the testing throughput capacity in our pilot training and testing system.

In the notice, the FAA highlighted that,

“Traditionally, DPEs have been appointed and managed by a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and were limited to conducting certification work within the FSDO’s geographic boundary. The Future of Flight Standards initiative is removing geographic borders for many FS safety assurance functions because these limitations no longer serve the public interest. Geographic limitations contribute to increased difficulty in providing timely certification services across the country and exacerbate the pilot shortage that has resulted from a rapid expansion of the aviation industry.”

These changes are the result of work over the past year by FAA staff in Washington, D.C., and Oklahoma City and some dedicated industry representatives such as DPEs, the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA), the AOPA and some dedicated representatives from flight training operators. These changes are expected to be followed in the future by some additional efforts but are a first step in making modifications to our testing system to keep the pilot training pipeline flowing strongly for the foreseeable future.

If you are interested in seeing the full content of the FAA’s Notice 8900.485 that made these changes, it can be seen here.


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