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
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Monday, March 17, 2014
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.
Monday, July 8, 2013
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.
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
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,
Sunday, March 18, 2012
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
Monday, January 9, 2012
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,
Friday, January 6, 2012
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,
Friday, November 25, 2011
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.
Friday, September 16, 2011
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,
Monday, August 15, 2011
Sunday, March 6, 2011
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!
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Monday, September 20, 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
Sunday, September 19, 2010
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,
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
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.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
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!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
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!
Sunday, January 4, 2009
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,
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.
Onwards & Upwards!