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My Live KATU Flight 370 broadcast presenation

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Malaysian missing 777 - My presentation on local KATU news


Every once in a while I get a call to present aviation knowledge or commentary on TV. Here is my engagement with the news anchor on KATU the other day, regarding the missing Malaysian 777 Flight 370, as they began the investigation in the southern Indian Ocean - 

 My live TV news presentation on Flight 370


Rob Bremmer

Monday, March 17, 2014

Aviation Animation - How ice makes an airplane fall from the sky



The Point here is to notice how ice builds over time. It sneaks up, accumulates, and distorts the shape of the airflow around the aircraft, which is very bad when it happens on the wings! This animation also shows what happens over time, if the pilot elects to stay in the icing, (or can't escape it) and tries to stay level by pitching up as the airspeed drops off from the extra drag. Pitching up just makes the situation that much worse overall.

There are two solutions - Don't get in icing - and if you DO get into icing, get out as soon as possible. 

Rob Bremmer

Monday, July 8, 2013

How the ILS could have made a difference in the San Francisco plane crash

One of the reports from the Korean air flight Boeing 777 that crashed in San Francisco states the instrument landing system was inoperative at the time. If it were fully functional would it have made a difference? Absolutely. The ILS, or Instrument Landing System, provides runway centerline guidance and glideslope angle guidance to within half a degree of accuracy all the way down the approach to a safe landing. If it were operational, and if it were used, the pilot would not have rifted so low on the approach without having to disregard the ILS glideslope display entirely. Watch this video to understand - the glideslope appears as the pilot sees it in the top left of the screen, and the profile view at the bottom shows how it works from a side view.

                            http://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=KVtEfDcNMO8&ns=1



Without the ILS the pilot had to rely on visual clues. Approaching on a beautiful clear day over water creates two unexpected problems, the first that it is easy for even experienced pilots to look around instead of focusing on the runway, especially since they are watching for other traffic during visual VFR conditions. The second problem is the approach over smooth clear water. An over-water visual approach is hazardous because it offers few clues of height and motion. If the pilot were approaching over a city or even over a forest or field, there would be natural and human objects that would appear to move, and grow larger as the plane descended, offering critical visual clues. An overwater approach does not offer these clues. One report states the pilot had only 43 hours experience in a 777 and this was his first landing. Given the conditions mentioned and his low experience, the landing should have been handled by the more experienced co-pilot.

Condolences to the victims and their families and a wish for speedy recovery for the rest of the passengers.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Renting planes like cars from Avis

Ever wish you could rent a plane like a car? I mean, why not? Look at all the extra effort it takes to get a pilot's license, yet you always have to check out, at each and every facility  Well, maybe no more. An organization is working to change that, called 'Open Airplane. I first saw an article about them in Flight Training magazine.

Fellow pilot's, we have waited for a logical step forward like this for a long time! I've signed up for their newsletter and am wishing them well as they proceed towards launching their network. You can learn more, perhaps even help. Here's a link:  http://www.openairplane.com?kid=T4CB

Onward and Upwards,

Rob Bremmer

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Air Camping at Historic Columbia California






Some pilot's have a secret - air camping. Air camping is like regular camping, you arrive, set up your tent, eat under the stars, have a fire and marshmallows and a hearty breakfast over a wood stoked fire the next morning before you leave. Except in Air Camping, you don't drive in, you fly in.

There is a network of air camps around the country - some better known than others. One of my favorites is at Columbia CA. The campground is located along a grass strip, and all manner of aircraft can be found one the line. It's easy to find, it's about 45 miles north of Modesto and on all maps, but you have to research a bit to learn about the campground.

On one trip in my Aeronca - NC 3236E -  flying north to watch my brother graduate from Chico State, I camped overnight at Columbia. Touching down on the soft grass felt like a dream, and my Aeronca Chief came to a gentle taxi speed without any additional input from me. Turning off the runway I say a Stinson with space next to it and pulled alongside. As I got out to admire the view and take photos of the moon rising as the sun set, A pristine red Taylorcraft flew overhead. My feeling was right, it turned out, the pilot was looking down as I looked up. He circled back and entered the pattern, touching down just as the light faded away. It turned out he had just won 'best-in'class' at the antique aircraft show in Watsonville and was heading home. Looking down and seeing all the tailwheel aircraft, he decided to stop overnight in Columbia. We spent several hours that night talking around a campfire before retiring to a peaceful sleep.

Waking up at an air campground is different. No screaming, singing, or otherwise annoying signs of typical camp life. Everyone gets up peacefully and respectfully  and goes about their business, breaking camp and loading their airplanes. Soon the grass field was left to me and a few other planes. I had a different goal for half that day. I was going to visit the historic section of Columbia, the part made a state park and honoring California's gold rush years. It's a living museum of sorts - you can even ride a horse-drawn stagecoach down Main Street, then try your hand at really panning for gold.




The story of how Columbia became a State Park is fascinating in itself. Basically a dentist and his wife were friends with then-governor Warren in California, and despondent at the decaying condition of the town and the potential loss of its historical value, they worked together and had it declared a state park. Governor Warren went on to be on the Supreme court.

But there is more to the story. The dentists wife was Geraldine McConnell and she lived to be 99.  Part of the deal about the town becoming a park was for Geraldine to live in her house as long as she lived. So she became the last resident of the historic town. Traveling once to the town with a friend who became the state historic architect, we got a tour inside the house from Mrs. McConnell. She was proud of it's history and spoke of many movie stars they'd hosted and the movies filmed in and around their home. The most famous was 'High Noon' with Gary Cooper. The house where Gary Cooper's character comes to recruit help to fight off the 'Miller gang' is the McConnell house. More can be learned at these links: http://www.movie-locations.com/movies/h/highnoon.html and http://www.columbiacalifornia.com/mcconnell.html Here's a photo from the trip we took to visit Mrs. McConnell.



If you want a fun destination where you can stay overnight in hotel or camping, fly in and visit a restored gold mining town - Columbia is the place, even if you just want to sit by a fire and watch the moon rise into a darkening sky over a field of antique aircraft at rest for the night.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Accessing the AN 124 cockpit with a Bic Ballpoint Pen




Getting into the Cockpit of a Russian AN 124 with a Bic Ballpoint Pen turned out to be easier than you might think. San Diego Brown field was hosting the largest airshow in the world outside the Paris airshow, and it was just after the cold war. The AN 124 was a surprise addition to the show, sneaking up and landing, almost effortlessly, despite it's enormous size. The school bus on the taxiway on the other side of the runway shows the scale for this airplane - at least two school buses could drive side by side into the plane, with room to spare. 





As it turned off the runway and came towards me, it's size was gigantic! At least two homes could be built inside it's fuselage. Nobody was supposed to go near it. Nobody really knew how to act with the Russians, and besides, we didn't speak their language. But the Navy pilots had a plan, and they found the Russian pilots, and a lot of hand gesturing occurred then an opportunistic Navy pilot came to me (the driver of the transport golf cart) and said: 

"This is your chance - take us out to the AN -124 and we can probably get you inside with us."  So now we were heading past all the barriers, a couple of Russian pilots, two Navy pilots, all in uniforms or flight suits, and one skinny young flight instructor kid, driving the golf cart -  and the pilots were getting waved through past security!  I stayed silent, but I was glad I had my camera in my backpack. 




At the transport plane, the pilots gathered around, pointing and talking. Another golf cart came out, this time a pilot brought his girlfriend or wife. A navy pilot came up to me, grinning ear to ear.

"What do you have to trade?" he said

What do you mean?"  

"If you have anything to trade them, trade it, and they'll take you inside!" 

I assessed what I had. I didn't want to trade my camera. "Will this work?" I held up a Bic pen. 

"Let's go see." he said, so we walked to the gaping rear ramp, where one of the Russians was on guard. I held out my pen. The Russian looked at it, took it, smiled, and we were in! 

It took a while to walk through the cavern of the airplane, and at the other end of the cargo bay, we started climbing a small steep ladder to the flight deck. Inside, I was amazed. Everything was spotlessly clean, but there wasn't as much electronic gear as I would have expected. Everything, even the switches, were large. 

I wasn't sure if I would get in trouble if I tried to take a picture, nobody else had their cameras with them, and at best it would be uncool, and at worst, maybe commit an international offense. So I waited for the others to all be looking elsewhere, and I took a quick picture of the most interesting thing close to me, which looked like a systems control panel for the aircraft. Note the Russian lettering. 




Too soon it was over. One of the Navy pilots started looking concerned, and said "We have to get back." So we all went down the stairs and rode the golf cart back to the public side of the yellow tape. 

I will always remember how happy that Russian looked to get that Bic ball-point pen!



Onwards & Upwards,

Rob Bremmer



Monday, January 9, 2012

Joyriding in the Concorde - Pattern work, supersonic style!


Pattern work is about circuits; up and down, round and round, in and out, and back to where you started on the airport. But I noticed a funny thing, the faster the plane, the longer it takes. With the Concorde, one circuit takes about an hour, as it turns out.

It was the last century, and I was just starting as a flight instructor in San Diego. Some Admiral decided (and good for him!) that it was time to put San Diego on the map with an international airshow - a big one! So they committed to ticket sales and marketing, and found people from around the world to bring interesting aircraft. Only the best.


To staff the event, they recruited pilots and flight instructors from the region - free access to the shows, in exchange for running crowd control on the ramp, handling radio calls on the hand-held as needed, and keeping small children from being sucked up by jet engines on the taxiway.


That's how I found myself on Concorde duty. My job? Look official, and keep the crowd to the edges of the taxi way and beyond, meaning I had the best view possible. The promoters sold tickets for rides on the Concorde, about $1,000 a seat, for a departure from Brown Field (SDM) halfway to Hawaii, getting their picture taken by the mach-meter while sipping champagne, and turning around back to Brown for a landing, all within the hour. They had lines of people waiting to go, and ran joyriding light all day!


Going halfway to Hawaii worked out well, when they cracked the sound barrier, they were safely out over the Pacific, nobody was bothered by the sonic boom.


I had mixed feelings watching the comings and goings. I would have loved to take the ride, but if I had the $1,000 disposable cash (which few young flight instructors possess) I would have sooner converted it into 12 hours of Multi-Engine time. Those passengers were looking very happy as they deplaned, though!



Thinking back, the most striking aspect was the sound. The whole process and watching the takeoffs and landings was fantastic, but it was other-worldly to hear the power in the thrumming high speed shriek of those engines, moving the plane along the taxi-way then roaring to life for the takeoff. To stand next to it, 40 feet away, was to be awed by the power and potential of those engines. Truly a memorable day!

(And I'm glad I found all my old flying slides in the box at the back of the garage)!

Onwards & Upwards,
Rob Bremmer

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Blackbird Singing in the Middle of the Night"





So here's the full story. When I lived in San Diego and ran my little flight training business, I accidentally came into a situation where I could and did, perform a favor for the US Navy. Here's how it unfolded: 


One day, while flying my Aeronca out in the back country, I got into some low level lift with some hawks and followed the lift, being mindful of the chaparral hillside close below. Suddenly a metal shape loomed up from the hillside - a green oblong cylinder. I dropped a little lower and made a second pass. It was obviously military and I guessed a fuel drop tank, it didn't look like any typical guided explosives. On a hunch I circled up a few thousand feet for a better look. Yup! Sure enough, I was on the extended center line for Miramar, but many miles up into the back-country. I took two sight lines and estimated it's position. 


Later that weekend, I told my neighbor, who I knew as  Master Chief at Miramar. He listened to my story with a smile and said 'That's interesting!"


The next day was Monday. At work in El Cajon I heard several large helicopters, and stepped outside for a look. There were two Navy choppers, heading in formation to roughly where I'd flown that weekend. 'Coincidence.' I thought, and went back to work.


That night my neighbor came over all smiles and exuberant. "I have permission to extend a special 'thanks' to you!" He said. Turns out, I found a Navy drop tank they'd accidentally released on a landing at Miramar coming in from the east, and they had no idea where it was. "We hoped we found it before a hiker did." he told me. They were glad it was found by a pilot and not some kid hiking in the wilderness. 


My reward was wonderful - half a day spent flying the F-14 full motion sim and the full dome sim (A big deal back then) and some time flying the E2-C, which flew just like the twins I knew, just with more power. I got an escort through the sim area, and an official Navy flight jacket with my name on the leather patch and the title 'Instructor',  and I got this photo.


Now, about the photo. It was relatively fresh, taken from the forward turret camera of an F-14 flying cover for the refueling mission. I was told the image was shot from many miles away, and it is IR enhanced - that's why the odd colors, and the glow on the SR-71 nacelles is engine heat. The optics and tracking capabilities are amazing when you think the target aircraft must have been flying at least 250-300 mph, and the camera plane, much faster than that, flying towards them and looking down at an angle, and tracking the target ship through cloud cover as well!


Our pilots do amazing things, things most of us will never know. Here is just one hint at the edges of what they do or did, in daily life. 


Onwards & Upwards,
Rob Bremmer

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Value of an Airport

Airports are special places but when they are converted into trailer parks, shopping centers and cookie cutter track houses, the average person never thinks about the loss. But for pilots and for anyone interested in aviation, there are fewer and fewer destinations and homes for aircraft. This is tragic - it diminishes opportunity for aviation to flourish. 


I started thinking about this when I ran across a website, http://members.tripod.com/airfields_freeman/index.htm, that looks at the history and images of airports now buried beneath houses and stores, and lost in time. The goal of the website is to help keep these airports alive by understanding their stories. It's also a worthy goal to remind people once an airport is lost to development, it never comes back - so if you care about aviation and the freedom to fly, you'll care about the preservation and even the development of - small airports. 

I encourage you to click on the link http://members.tripod.com/airfields_freeman/index.htm and read a few of their stories, you'll be richer for the time spent!

Onward & Upward, 
Rob Bremmer

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Galloping Ghost and Jimmy Leeward - R.I.P.


September 2010 -
I took this photo of the Galloping Ghost at Reno Air Races, last year. It was a world class event, un-marred by tragedy, and a weekend of phenomenal precision flying, fast and low.

September 16, 2011 -
Today, sadly, the Galloping Ghost crashed. The pilot, Jimmy Leeward,  and some attendees were killed. A beautiful plane, a spectacular event championing American spirit, flight, and the quest for speed, beauty and perfection - and today - a fluke - a tragedy, with at least 7 lives lost.

Peace and prayers to those involved, those injured or killed, and their families.

This will be on YouTube, and some will arise and try to shut down the races. Civilization is, however, on the side of going forward. Paying tribute to those hurt and died, honoring the rescuers, supporting those grieving, and then, learning from any mistakes made, and going forward - stronger, better. The pilot would have wanted it this way and so would anyone else who knows, understands, and loves aviation.

Condolences to those involved.

Onwards & Upwards,

Rob Bremmer
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Impressive piloting


I don't often submit video to my blog that I didn't create but this was so impressive I had to do it! This helicopter rescue pilot gives new meaning to the concept of 'ground reference maneuver.'

Onwards & Upwards!

Rob Bremmer

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Learning to fly from a WWII Ace



I can honestly say I learned to fly from an 'Ace' Flight Instructor. After earning my Private and Instrument License at Santa Paula airport in Ventura County,  I moved to San Diego to study Aeronautical Engineering at San Diego State University. It wasn't long before I 'supplemented' my official University studies by starting on my Commercial, Flight Instructor and Multi-Engine ratings at Gillespie Air at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, just east of San Diego My advanced instructor was an 'old guy' named Mac, who was surprisingly soft spoken and calm, and very hard of hearing, but he knew a LOT about flying and had a lot of wisdom that I and the other students soaked up each time we flew with him. Everyone just called him 'Mac.' 


One day someone said "You know, you are learning from a World War II ace!" I had not known, and looking at Mac it was hard to imagine him as a fierce fighting pilot. I pictured all fighter pilots as fierce. Mac reminded me more of a retired librarian with an extra occasional glint in his eye. Mac never got mad if we made mistake, he would just say something like "You better study some more if you want to be ready." 


One time, I was preparing to fly to retrieve a light school customer on the other side of the Julian mountains at Borrego Springs, in the desert.  A storm looked like it was brewing on the horizon. I was torn between flying and to - the weather was one of those conditions where you coudl go, but you'd better expect to be bounced around a bit. While I was preflighting the twin Duchess, Mac walked out , and looked at me then at the clouds then back at me and said "You can fly it if you want but I wouldn't go." that's all he said. I looked at the clouds again darkening over the mountains, and without another thought pushed the Duchess back onto the line and tied her down. Mac had that type of gentle effect - you listened closely to what he said, and he only needed to say it once. 


Years later the internet arrived, and one day I looked up his name on the internet and was amazed at the information I learned about my old instructor. He's now passed away but those eyes and that smile you see in the photo of the combat ace are the same as I would see when he was in his seventies and  we were lifting out of the pattern into a bright blue San Diego sky, and the props would be a little out of synch and Mac would just nudge me and roll an eye to the prop levers "prop" would be all he'd say. Now looking back at his signature 'McWhorter" line in my yellowed first log book, I smile at the skill and gentle strength exhibited by this man.


You can read more about Mac's exploits here: http://www.acepilots.com/usn_mcwhorter.html


Onwards and Upwards!


Rob Bremmer







Monday, September 20, 2010

The Amazing Production story of P-51 Mustangs



- Reno Air Races, September 2010 - 


Here is one amazing fact - the Mustang, one of the fastest, best looking and most effective aircraft of World War II went from an idea sketched on paper to flying in 120 days. Think about anything complex we try to get done in 2010 - big difference! I admire that 'Just get it done and done right, and right now!" capability. Think of how long it takes to get a permit to build a house, or how long it takes to get any new aircraft now, military or commercial, from paper to flying. This goes to show it is very possible to do things right and do it fast, too. This aircraft is proof of that fact. 


If you have never heard the roaring hum of a Merlin engine pulling a Mustang over 400 mph (this weekend, touching over 500mph) then mark your calendars for the Reno air races in September, and plan to be amazed, and plan to have a very good time.




Onwards & Upwards
Rob Bremmer

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saturday at the Reno Air Races


September 2010 - Reno Air Races!


Here we are, my brother and I watching the Reno air races. they are Amazing! If you like airplanes, and you like things that go fast, this beats it all. First, you can get right up near the action. Second, they fly fast - between 400 and 500 mph! Third, they fly low, within 50 feet of the ground. Sometimes they are so low you can see their shadows as they fly over the terrain. I'll write more later, we are heading back out there today!


Onwards & Upwards,
Rob Bremmer

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Grand Canyon image from Flight Level 360


A recent trip between Memphis and Las Vegas reminded me why you should ALWAYS carry a camera and look out the window often. You just never know what you will see. This photo is worth a 1,000 words so I won't write any more at the moment!


Onwards & Upwards,

Rob Bremmer

Saturday, September 12, 2009

List of planes flown

I thought it would be fun to list all the aircraft and simulators I've flown. Here is the complete list. The Aeronca Chief was by far the most fun, followed by the Great Lakes. There are memories and stories attached to each, but that can be for a later post.


Aeronca (2)
7AC (Champ), 11AC (Chief).

Aerospatiale (1)
Rallye.

Beech (7)
BE-77, (Skipper), C-23 (Sundowner), C-26 (Sierra), A-36 (turbo straight-tail Bonanza) ,
V-35A-TC (turbo-V tail), BeD76 (Duchess), B-55 (Baron).

Bellanca (3)
8KCAB (Decathalon), 7ECA (Citabria), B17-30A (Super Viking).

Blanik (1)
L-13.

Cessna (12)
C-150, C-152, C-172, C-172R, C-172S, C-172RG, C-182, C-182S, C-182RG, C-206, C-177, C-T210, C-320.

Diamond (2)
DA20, DV20 (Katana).

Great Lakes (1)
2T1A.

Grumman (5)
AA-1A, AA-1B, AA-1C (Tr2Õs), AA-5A (Traveler), AA-5B (Tiger).

Kachina (1)
Varga.

Maule (1)
M-5.

Piper (14)
PA-22-125 (Pacer), PA-28-141 (Cherokee), PA-28-151 & 161 (Warrior), PA-28R-180 (Arrow),
PA-28-181 (Archer), PA-28-181-R, PA-28R-200 (Arrow III), PA-28RT-201 (T-tail Arrow IV),
PA-24-250 (Commanche), PA-32-300 (Cherokee-6), PA-38-301T (Turbo Saratoga),
PA-30-B (Twin Commanche), PA-44-180 (Seminole), PA-31-350 (Navajo).

Robinson (1)
R-22.

Rockwell (2)
RC-112A, RC-114(Commander).

Schwieser (3)
SGS-2-33, SGS-1-26, SGS-2-8 (TG2).

Simulators (11)
ATC-510, ATC-610, ATC-710, ATC-810, Pacer Mk II, F-14-D (NASMiramar full motion and dome),
PCprograms, Macintosh programs, Frasca 141, AST-300, E-2 (NASMiramar full motion), F-14 (visual only).

Stinson (2)
108-1, 108-3 (Voyager).

Onwards & Upwards
Rob Bremmer

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flying - The Quick Escape from Los Angeles


A friend just got a job in Los Angeles. A dream job - creative, fulfilling - his work will appear in the movies, he knows it, he already knows the title of the film he is working on.



But he lives in LA, and not in Oregon. As a few of you may know, LA can get hot, smoggy and just downright annoyingly brown-skied too often.

The solution? Use a small plane, and fly to Catalina or Big Bear. In less than an hour you can be at either location!

Think it's too pricey? Nope! Here are some options:

Go out to an airport a small one, not one of those annoying time-sucking big ones, with a few hundred dollars. Get a flight instructor to take you and two friends to either destination. Have a fun day, and the flight instructor will have fun too, he or she gets to fly!

Another option: Learn to fly. Easier than you think. about $4,500 if you do it right (more on that subject - if you ask), and then it costs about $150 per flight hour, and you take three friends. Planes charge by the flight hour, so that is an hour there, an hour back, and no charge for the plane while on the ground, unless it has a rental minimum of three hours or so.

Another option: Buy a plane. Spend $20,000 to $50,000, get a decent basic four seater, used but in good condition. Now it costs you about $50.00 for either destination, assuming you have your license. If you do this right, the plane can be a tax right-off, and you can sell it for more than you paid for it when you are done. Aviation can be that way.

So next time you are in LA and the traffic is bad and the air is brown, remember, clear air, fun and excitement and relaxation of small resort towns, diving, sailing, other sports - all can be yours, and it is as close as a mile away - straight up.

So that's how you do it. Now, what are you going to do about it?


Onwards & Upwards!

Rob Bremmer

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Scary but true story with a happy ending




And here is one from real life - I was a Chief Instructor on a cert. ride with the FAA and I'd had everything thrown at me including left and right engine failure while flying IFR under the hood. We were approaching McMinnville on the ILS with one engine reduced to idle thrust and I went to lower gear at the outer marker and it wouldn't go down so I said "look my situational awareness tells me to utilize all resources available in the cockpit, and you are one of them. Would you please undo whatever you just did to the gear?" And he responded, in a low voice, "I didn't do anything to the gear, the simulation just ended." And I took the hood off and we trouble-shot (electrical issue) and got the gear down working together.


Onwards & Upwards,


Rob Bremmer

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New video spreads the word about flight!


When you look at the history of aviation and compare it to something like automobiles it's clear to anyone observing, autos got the lion's share of attention from marketing.
Autos are now integrated into every aspect of daily life, and planes are not. There is no comparative right of passage for flying such as getting your drivers license when you turn 16, unless you take extraordinary efforts to make it happen.

The reasons for this are many and clear, yet far beyond the scope of one blog post. What is certain is that any efforts made to correct the silly yet damaging myths which float about willy-nilly in society and are clung to as facts by the average non-pilot should be championed, and such is the case with "A Pilot's Story" being developed by Rico Sharqawi and Will Hawkins in Watsonville, CA.

Using a Piper Arrow, they travel, fly, interview pilots and create a script to show the wonders of flight and illustrate anyone with the knowledge of how to start and the will can do so. I'll look forward to following it's development and distribution!

You can read the full story by writer John Sammon, at this clickable link. If you want to help another learn about the pleasures of flight, make a small donation on this site to help take a child flying, or take one flying yourself and write to me about the expereince and I'll post your story on this blog.


Onwards & Upwards!

Rob Bremmer

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Perspectives from a flight with a young child





Few things make me feel more philosophical when I fly then taking a young child, and watching their reactions, particularly as they explore their visual world and try their hand at the controls.

Low level flight, and by low level I mean under 5,000 feet, is where the action is – at least in terms of appreciating what you can see in the natural world outside the cockpit. A recent low level flight through the Willamette valley supported this idea quite well. A still morning with visibility under a quarter of a mile and ceilings under 100 feet. I knew on the way to the airport it would be both a wait and that it would clear; the fog had that cheery bright glow which only seems to occur right before the sun breaks through, and indeed it DID breakthrough, bathing the freeway and cars in sunlight and shadow beneath a blue sky before popping back into the fog again.
Sure enough, it did clear after about a 30 minute wait at the airport. First movement was a landing Baron off the ILS. Next a fellow Cessna pilot warming up, and us, waiting to lift off in a venerable Cessna 152. At takeoff the sky was scattered and visibility was about 10 miles below the clouds and unlimited above. We climbed out at Vy for practice and settled into maneuvers routine. By then the sky was clearer and the natural wonders began appearing . On the way to Mulino , a local area airport, the sun glistened off the river and over the green fields wet from the recent rain and still radiating wisps’ of fog in some areas. A few touch and goes and we were heading back, when we saw two hawks fighting, at our altitude and about three plane widths away. Both were red-tails, and one was on his back, talons up and wings outstretched, with the hawk on top flapping towards him, claws facing down. Their muscles rippled beneath the feathers, you could see the waves of energy flowing through them in their exertion; you could also see their flight feathers, the long feathers at the tips of their wings – flexing and twisting as they maintained their balance through their duel. The tail feathers on the hawk on the bottom were widespread like a fan. They twisted, to counteract the body roll induced by a defensive movement made with its wings.

All of this could be seen in a split second as we went by. Remember, we were flying too, and climbing at about 80 knots. The hawks could only remain in our view angle from about the 11 o’clock opposition to the 8 o’clock position and they were very close to our aircraft so they went by in less than a second, yet the image was so powerful it will remain in my memory, perhaps for a life time.
Like the late night commercials say, “But wait! There’s more!” A few minutes later, practicing short and soft fields into Lenhart, another Willamette valley airport famed for its small size and tree lined approach and departure, I’d just completed a soft field landing on the grass and now, having taxied back, was on soft field and short field (combined!) take off roll, which demands considerable focus at Lenhart; the soft field really is soft, and the trees at the end of the runway really are there. My focus was all attitude and airspeed until reaching Vx, whereupon I relaxed pitch and trimmed for Vy. Upon stabilizing at Vy I looked out to enjoy the view and the conifer treetop to my left was bent over at the top, under the weight of a bald eagle. These are really large birds; there is no mistaking it. He turned and cocked his head slowly towards the plane and I could see his eye move. The bird did not flinch feather or twitch one muscle. He was aware of our presence and our presence did not matter to him. Then we were past yet still reveling in the moment. Just another moment flying, the most spectacular activity possible on the planet, certainly in the view of many pilots.


Onwards & Upwards!
Rob Bremmer

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Where to go for Antique Aircraft parts

What if there was a store where you could buy parts for your antique aircraft - you know, the one that went off the assembly line over 50 years ago?
Well, there is! and it is called Aircraft Spruce. I never knew they existed until I bought an Aeronca Chief (11AC) in the mid eighties, and decided to install compression tailwheel springs. There is something a little bit like being a kid at Christmas when your package arrives. You may not know this, but as an owner/operator of an official antique aircraft you can make arrangements for supervision with an A&P, which allows you to do the installation work of non-aerodynamic parts (such as tailwheel springs) and then he can certify the work and log the maintenance after he inspects it. It's a good way to really get to know your aircraft and the inspection process too.

Onwards & Upwards!
Rob Bremmer

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Launching Student Award Fund!

Helping a struggling student obtain a goal, or helping someone awaken to their potential, is always a good thing! Here's how you can help.

I've set up a donation link. Donate anything, even a dollar. When a significant amount is reached, and I figure $1,000 is a reasonable threshold, I'll make a donation to help some student obtain a flying goal.

I am motivated when I think of how hard it was for me to obtain flight hours, equipment, books, training - every aspect of flying had a cost and it was not easy to do it. It took me a long time, and I had no assistance. There were people I met who could've have benefited even more than I, from assistance and I'd like to help some of those students. I'd also like to help awaken young people from difficult backgrounds to the wonders of flight, and the experience of learning to control an aircraft, and observing your world from a new perspective.

While the account is growing, I'll be looking for the best way to help a student or young person, and I am open to suggestions from you, the reader. I am particularly looking forward to reporting the results - how we have together actually made a difference. Let's see what type of a difference we can make!

Onwards & Upwards,
Rob Bremmer

Tailwheels! The Critical Link


Learning to fly tailwheel aircraft will make you a better pilot and be richly rewarding, but you must pay attention to the most critical part, the tailwheel assembly and the springs.

Flying a tailwheel aircraft is exactly the same as any other airplane - in the air! For takeoff, landing and taxiing however, it is exceptionally different, and it takes a refined set of skills to safely and comfortably operate one on every flight. But before we get to the skills, let's look at the components. From my experience owning and operating an Aeronca Chief for about 400 hours and teaching many others to safely operate their own tailwheel aircraft, there are several critical areas to examine.

First, look at the springs. The illustration shows compression springs installed, and typical tension springs not installed but next to the compression springs for comparison. You should use compression springs, for several reasons. Compression springs in their unactivated state, or when the rudder is neutral, are not applying any force on the tailwheel. They only apply force when the rudder is moved left or right, and then only on the side of desired movement. Tension springs, on the other hand, apply tension all the time, so if one breaks, (and tension springs are typically more inclined to occasionally break) the broken side whips free and the tension on the other side pulls the tailwheel to the side. Not good at critical points of a landing or while taxiing! Compression springs also give better handling. When you are taxiing with a tension spring, and you push rudder, it stretches the spring and the wheel thinks about moving then responds, in a springy sort of way. When you do the same with compression springs, the response is tight and immediate, which means as pilot and operator, you get immediate feedback as to whether you need more or less rudder input; you don't have to wait and see what will happen. Also, compression springs are typically thicker. Thicker metal outlasts thinner metal every time.

Next, the wheel must track straight and sit straight on the ground. A worn wheel where one side of the tire is angled and higher than the other, is a sure sign of a badly angled wheel, and while this can be compensated for with rudder pressure and brakes, why do that? It is like driving a car that's out of alignment. Most tailwheels on antique aircraft and some newer aircraft that I have seen have some misalignment and tracking problems. If you have any doubts about your tailwheels alignment and tracking, have your A&P check this out thoroughly. Since many older tailwheel aircraft have the same assembly they've had for 40 years or more, you probably should just buy a new tailwheel assembly. They are only a few hundred dollars, and the performance and peace-of-mind benefits are immediate and well worth the cost.

The next step is to examine and restore every component of the steering system. Those tailwheels are tiny, in comparison to the rest of the aircraft, yet they take the most beating. They are also the most exposed to weather and since the plane tilts 'downhill' towards the tailwheel, when they are sitting on the ground all condensation and rain runs down and drips on the components. When I say restore all parts of the steering system I mean start at the rudder pedals. Look at the bearing surfaces. Replace the rudder cables with new cables; I prefer stainless steel, since it is more corrosion resistant and part of the cables do run to the outside of most tailwheel aircraft. Check the cable guides along the entire path, they must be smooth and straight. Check the exit pat through the fuselage, there should be the smallest hole possible, it should not rub, and it is best if there is some type of shield to reduce the chance of bugs or moisture getting inside. Check the bearing and attachment points at the rudder horn, the entire system should be in good shape, not loose, no corrosion, and the bearings should be in good shape. Any bolts should be safety wired. The compression springs should be well attached to the rudder horn, and should have no slack and be equally taught going back to the rudder steering assembly. If you pay attention to all these areas, you will know your aircraft at a new level, and you will have a new sense of security and accomplishment as you operate your airplane.

It might be useful for you to know how I came to this position on tailwheels. In the late '80's I bought an Aeronca Chief. It had flown for years, successfully, yet the previous pilot just got used to the tailwheel quirks and foibles. One day I was looking closely at the clevis bolt connecting the rudder cable and there was a small spot of brown. I 'scritched' at it with the screwdriver in my hand, and instead of it cleaning off, like I expected, the clevis snapped in half! It was corroded nearly to the core and their was no sign of that on the exterior. This is what sent me down the path of straightening and replacing everything, and it was a fantastic decisions. For only a few hundred dollars and a weekend's worth of time, the steering immediately improved, tight turns were suddenly easier and did not need brake-assist, and the peace of-mind was very good.

If you came to me and asked me as an instructor to teach you tailwheel flying, (I am available, by-the-way) This is the first conversation we would have, as we looked closely at your tailwheel.


Onwards & Upwards!

Rob Bremmer

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's New Year's Eve!

Let's put down serious talk about flight, reminiscing and everything else and play a few games. I've embedded a fun little game gadget at the bottom of the blog, and here are a few links to other online flying games.

Airfox Squadron Angel A quick fun game of Helicopter, A site for Many free flying games A site to Demo games before purchase and this site is good for kids of all ages. Enjoy!

Onwards & Upwards!

Rob Bremmer