Tom Haines Archive

Now hear this….

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

The following could ONLY come from a federal agency:

If you have recently had or if you will have an FAA Practical Test using a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) or a Designated Mechanic Examiner (DME), you may be contacted by the FAA for a survey. The questions will be limited in scope to the conduct of the ground and flight (if applicable) portions of your Practical Test.
This is part of an emphasis program by the FAA Designee Quality Assurance Branch, AFS-650. This program interviews recent applicants tested by a DPE/DME and also observes the DPE/DME conducting an actual Practical Test. The purpose is to observe the DPE/DME, not the Practical Test Applicant. The goal is to eventually check all DPEs/DMEs. These checks are prioritized based on, among other things, the type and amount of testing activity conducted by the DPE/DME.
What is a SEED? Special Emphasis Evaluation Designee Inspection.
For more information contact your local FSDO.

Translation: If you have recently taken a check ride or earned an A&P certificate, you may get a survey from the FAA.

NBAA 65th Convention–Challenges Galore!

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

When it comes to trade show challenges, the National Business Aviation Association gets a two-fer this week–a hurricane and a presidential TFR. And, oh yea, big time office construction issues back in D.C., but that’s another story.

For now, though, the association is dealing with Hurricane Sandy barreling toward the Northeast, where a lot of NBAA member companies are based; many of which will be making the decision on whether to leave their companies and come to Orlando for the big annual convention or stay at home and deal with the storm. By the way, the weather here in Orlando is great! Sandy just brushed by here a couple of days ago with no impact at all. And speaking of Sandy, is it just me or is it hard to take a storm named “Sandy” seriously? I mean, does anyone know anyone named Sandy who isn’t a nice person–easy to get along with, friendly?

NBAA is doing a nice job of keeping its attendees updated on the storm through a dedicated web page.

Meanwhile, last week, the NBAA staff learned that President Obama and his accompanying TFRs would be paying a visit to Orlando on Monday–set up day and arrival day for most attendees. The TFRs would be shutting down the airspace for hours. However, not even Air Force One is prepared to do battle with Sandy, so POTUS is now due here in Orlando Sunday evening, with the TFR time already changed a couple of times. Here is the latest from NBAA.

Host FBO for the aircraft display at Orlando Executive Airport is Showalter Flying Service. Owner Bob Showalter, normally a patient man, says he is fed up with Obama’s negative stance on business aviation–and the changing TFRs aren’t helping. He told me late last week that for the first time ever he has put up a political sign outside his FBO–and you can bet it is not for Obama.

But despite the challenges, the show must on, as they say. Earlier today I toured the exhibit hall, which is a chaotic scene of  people, gear and equipment. There’s a literal highway down the middle with a constant stream of fork lifts–looks like the Beltway at 5 p.m. on a Friday. Frantic and disjointed as it may seem, by 10 a.m. Tuesday when the halls open, it will be a showcase the business aviation community can be proud of.

Look for our reporting from the event throughout the week. AOPA Live This Week will be anchored from the hall. Look for it, as always, on Thursday, last day of the show.

Comments from an Alaska veteran pilot

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Every once in a while I get a letter from a reader that is especially encouraging and thoughtful. Today was just such an occasion when 30-year Alaska pilot Jim Gibertoni commented on my Waypoints column in the October issue . The subject is the use of general aviation for transportation and the associated challenges.

Given his decades of flying in challenging Alaska, his comments and observations are particularly valuable. He cut and pasted my article into his email and then inserted his comments into the article [I've noted his inserted comments in italics.] I’ve posted his letter verbatim below. What do you think?

Tom

I will save a copy of this article in my past great article file. Do not change anything it’s great. You are 200% correct and to me this is one of the pieces to the puzzle of why GA is going backwards.

My comments ( not to be confused with changes, do not change anything in this article) are in red. [I have put Jim's comments in ital--Ed.]

When I write about using my Beechcraft Bonanza for transportation, I frequently get questions from members asking how to best plan for weather contingencies when flying a single-engine piston airplane. Good question. I wish there was a single, simple answer.

My first question to myself when considering a trip where weather is a factor is about the capabilities of the airplane and myself. I do this all the time, sole searching myself has kept me safe I believe. Is this the sort of weather situation that can be handled in a single-engine piston airplane? Very good question, I ASK MYSELF THIS EVERY FLIGHT. Let’s face it, while we like to crow about the utility of flying ourselves, there are limits, especially when flying airplanes like mine. I agree 200%, my plane is the same as yours 1969 U206/G. The plane is non turbo, no anti ice and was set up for economy, lost cost, LOP, and carrying allot weight. My plane has got to return money to the coffers. I am a plumber in Northern Alaska traveling from village to village (my pickup). It not a toy. I fly it 300 hours plus per year and about 10% is in hard IMC. Did I mention that I live in Northern Alaska and we have icing here (350 days a year).

Without even turbocharging to get into the flight levels, no ice protection except pitot heat, and no pressurization, my options are limited. No airplane is immune to weather, but with a turboprop, pressurization, and icing protection—and maybe even airborne radar—you can get through more situations than those of us who fly more pedestrian machines. Agreed, exactly correct, Looked at getting a Caravan numerous times. While a Caravan would add to the utility it would not return money to the coffers. The Math simply is not there.

Putting the gear aside for a moment, how am I doing? Instrument current and confident? Rested, hydrated, and nourished enough and feeling up to a challenge that may be a couple of hours down the airway—after I’ve been sitting at 9,000 or 10,000 feet all that time? And am I really up to the challenge today? I’m usually game for going for a look-see, but there is an occasional day where I simply don’t feel like running the flight planning gauntlet and the hassle that may come from having to stop short of the planned destination. Excellent

Those are the days I just stay home or buy a ticket and let someone else do the work. This sentence and the timing of this article on my doorstep is so accurate. In the last two weeks I skip 7 days in a row going to Kaltag a village about 250 miles west. One the eighth day I went under published MVFR weather. Nine times out of ten I am single pilot VFR/IFR. This day I took a second  pilot with me (inner voice). I have an STEC 30 A/P. Trip was non eventful other then hard IMC on the way home. Three days later I got ridiculed by other CFI for flying that day because of potential icing. Point is I do not have your option let someone else do the work. That not feasible, so I just wait for my window. A very old woman ask me last year if I ever had an accident with the plane. I told her no, I am way overdue!

However, making challenging flights is how we grow in our weather experience and decision making. Thank you for this sentence, you truly are a master at your writing skills, wish I could do this. Staying home when the sky darkens is a sure path to not getting much utility out of an airplane. Preaching to the choir. All things in life are in balance, sway one way and the story ends sadly, sway the other way and you lose utility and money. I am 60 now and been flying up here since the 70’s. Sometimes I think I have a PHD in this balancing act until I get caught, and I still get caught at times. Old Sicilian saying “you can be arrogant, you can be ignorant, however you cannot be arrogant and ignorant at the same time” Never forgot that and how it applies to Aviation. Next step for a lot of people is to sell the airplane, because they aren’t using it enough.

Most important for me is a flexible schedule. As I’ve said before, I don’t plan on traveling by GA anytime I have a hard and fast deadline to meet. If I don’t have the schedule flexibility to leave a day early or later and the forecast is for severe weather along the way, it’s not a trip for an airplane like mine.

There is no such thing as a hard and fast deadline in Northern Alaska. Been there done that, never ever to go back to it!

If I can take off in visual conditions and face building thunderstorms down the road, but know I can easily turn back to improving weather, that sounds doable. If the weather is isolated enough that I can easily get around it without nudging into fuel reserves—another good possibility. If the weather is at the destination, I’ll want to know how far it is to the nearest airport with visual conditions. A fuel stop may be required.

Once you take off, the plan may go out the window. Maybe that big gap between those storms fills in or the fog that is expected to lift at the destination doesn’t; then what? That’s when you act on the plan you made before takeoff—turn back or go elsewhere, or you dream up another one with the help of the onboard weather gear, Flight Watch, and ATC. This is when it’s great to have a co-pilot aboard who can seek weather information for other airports and routes while you fly the airplane. Did I mention how nice it is to have even a basic autopilot for such trips? YIPEEEEEEEE, would not go anywhere without my STEC30, Call me spoiled,

but I won’t fly in weather anymore without datalink weather. I wish I could say that, however the reality is there is no Satellite radio, ADS-B or Datalink in northern Alaska, now and we are not scheduled to receive it for three more years. I live in Jurassic Park in dinosaur land.

 

It’s changed the way I fly and the utility I get out of my airplane.

Returning from EAA AirVenture in July, Flight Training Editor Ian Twombly and I left beautiful weather in Appleton, Wisconsin, bound for Maryland. A line of thunderstorms stretched from Cleveland eastward. More storms were developing over West Virginia, but it looked like we had a clear path over Pittsburgh. As we progressed that afternoon (our schedule didn’t permit a morning flight) the two systems began to merge. Climbing to 11,000 feet to stay visual, we maneuvered among cloud tops and had to turn due south toward Parkersburg, West Virginia, to get through the narrowest part of the line. Thanks to the datalink weather, Stormscope, and ATC, we were in clouds less than five minutes and never got wet—despite some impressive thunderstorms east of our course. Once south of the line we turned east and paralleled it all the way home.

Returning from Wichita after flying the Cessna 182 JT-A diesel airplane (“Jet A for Your Skylane,” page 52), AOPA Live Executive Producer Warren Morningstar and I skirted similar weather in about the same place—again at 11,000 feet and with supremely clear skies behind us. We passed through beautiful sunset-lit cloud canyons and dodged to the south as dusk turned to darkness. We could see lightning in the clouds well north and south of us, but we weren’t in IMC more than five minutes during the entire trip. Challenging and satisfying flying, but started only with options available.

Articles like this are why I subscribe to AOPA magazine

Flight planning ’70s style.

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Despite forecasts of rain for this late March Sunday, the weather turned out to be mostly sunny and warm. But instead of being outside enjoying the weather, flying, or even inside watching the NCAA March Madness craziness, I was sitting at my kitchen table planning a flight–the old fashioned way. I spent a couple of hours referring to old flight training text books, digging out my broken and bent plastic plotter, and downloading the Sporty’s E-6B app for my iPad. All this to show the South African authorities that I know how to plan a round-robin flight. It’s a long story, but the video explains more. And you will undoubtedly hear more about the trip in upcoming videos and in AOPA Pilot.

Here’s the video

Last Super Cub can be yours

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Often copied, never duplicated, the venerable Piper Cub and later Super Cub have become synonymous with light airplanes in the minds of the public–and for good reason. The classic airplanes are plentiful, practical, and a sheer delight to fly.

My first flight in a tailwheel airplane was in a new Super Cub at the Piper factory with then AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Richard Collins way back in 1988. The mission was a photo shoot for the magazine. I still see those photos around occasionally and laugh because Collins and I were both wearing neckties, which was standard office attire in those days. But in a Cub…..in Florida! What were we thinking.

At that time, brash Stuart Millar had just taken over Piper Aircraft from its previous owners, an investment company. Millar had made great public statements about his plans to revitalize general aviation, lower prices, fight product liability and turn around the general aviation world. He quickly failed in all of the above, but he certainly got his share of media attention, especially when the company went bankrupt.

One of his most lasting contributions, however, was to restart the Super Cub production line after many years of dormancy. Super Cubs continued to dwindle out of the factory for numerous years before stopping once again in 1994.

Now you can own a piece of that history as what is claimed to be the very last Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub produced is up for sale by owner Allen Pomianek. Based in Santa Monica, California, the airplane is absolutely stock, right down to the tires installed at the factory. The pristine airplane has only 550 hours on it since 1994. Pomianek is asking $175,000 for N41594. Interested? You can reach him at: allen_pomianek@yahoo.com.

That’s considerably higher than what Vref says a “normal” Super Cub of the era should be worth, even accounting for this one’s low time, but it will forever be the newest Super Cub. Having just canceled the Altaire jet and seemingly focused on its higher-end piston and turboprop products, Piper doesn’t seem likely to restart the Super Cub line anytime soon, if ever.

Don’t think you can swing that on your own, check out the new AOPA Partnership Program to help you find partners to help you afford this one of a kind airplane.

It seems as if most pilots have at least a little time in the  ubiquitous Cub. What’s your favorite Cub memory?

.

Remarkable tales from 9/11: Tammy Duckworth

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Thinking about the 9/11 anniversary, it’s hard to grasp the impact that the events of that day have had on so many.

Among those whose lives would be severely impacted is Tammy Duckworth. You’ll recall that we profiled her in AOPA Pilot in the March 2010 issue. The story and video includes her remarkable tale of surviving a helicopter crash in Iraq, losing her legs, getting back into flying, and starting her life over again.

She is among 40 people that TIME Magazine interviewed about the impact of 9/11. A remarkable Web site. Her story is here: http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,1139568115001_0,00.html

Putting deadly August to bed

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

 

August marked the anniversary of two remarkable aircraft accidents, the affects of which we feel on every flight, even 25 years later.

On August 31, 1986, a Piper Archer and an Aeromexico DC-9 collided over the community of Cerritos, California, killing all 64 on the airliner and the three occupants of the Archer. In addition, 15 people on the ground were killed and five homes destroyed and seven damaged by fire and falling debris. The Archer was squawking VFR with a Mode A (non-altitude-reporting) transponder and inadvertently penetrated the bottom of the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area (today we call that Class B airspace).

The accident led to the mandate for Mode C (altitude-reporting) transponders around Class B airspace and even beyond the Class B borders in what is known as the Mode C veil. The convulted airspace around Los Angeles is in part also a result of the Cerritos accident, as ATC attempts to separate loads of airline and GA traffic around dozens of airports.

I worked for an independent aviation magazine at the time and remember the remarkable effort by AOPA public relations staff to attempt to protect GA from onerous new regulations. Any time people on the ground are injured or killed from an aircraft accident, the potential for knee-jerk regulations escalates. Killing 15 on the ground was unprecedented. The media frenzy went on for months and AOPA staff worked admirably through it all, advocating for reasonable changes that improve safety without compromising the ability to take advantage of the versatility and utility possible with GA aircraft.

Discussions of requirements for airliners to carry collision avoidance systems was already underway, but the Cerritos accident escalated that talk. The TCAS mandate followed quickly, and today all airliners and many GA aircraft carry such systems.

Fortunately, discussions to require Mode C transponders in all types of airspace at all times–even from aircraft without electrical systems–calmed with time and thanks to AOPA’s input. The debate about the Mode C veil would continue for years before finally being implemented in the late 1980s.

However, what we learned about collision avoidance from Cerritos pales compared to what we learned about microbursts from the Delta Airlines accident at Dallas-Fort Worth International a year earlier on August 2, 1985. The Delta L-1011 was en route from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles with a stop in Dallas. On approach to DFW, the airliner tangled with a thunderstorm that slammed it into the ground, killing 8 of 11 crew members and 126 of the 152 passengers as well as one person on the ground. A massive investigation showed that the airplane encountered a little understood windshear phenomenon that became to be called a “microburst.” Essentially, a large burst of air near a thunderstorm that slams into the ground, robbing an airplane on approach of critical airspeed.

As a result of that accident, we soon saw the development of low-level wind sheer alert systems at major airports, more sophisticated algorithms in next-gen weather radars that look for microburst signatures, and new generation airborne weather radars that also seek to alert to microbursts and turbulence. In addition, training scenarios were established to help pilots recognize microburst situations and escape from them.

Here’s hoping we continue learning from such accidents and see no more of them.

How Jeppesen is transitioning to digital

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Jeppesen Digital Presses

With its new Mobile FliteDeck iPad app, you might think Jeppesen has only recently begun a strategy to move away from paper charts, but you would be wrong. During a recent visit to Jeppesen headquarters in Denver, I was once again reminded of a strategy put in place a decade ago by the company’s leadership to transition away from paper.

While the true paperless cockpit is just now arriving, the transition has been successful, if not complete. Not many years ago, Jeppesen printed some 8 billion (that’s with a “B”) pieces of paper–paper en route charts and terminal procedures. This year it will only be about 1 billion. An even bigger difference is that now, most of that printing is done as print-on-demand instead of offset printing on mammoth presses.

The digital print-on-demand process is much more efficient and cost-effective. Today, if you special order an approach book, for example, chances are it will come off the digital press today and be in the mail today. No longer must Jeppesen guess how many people will want that book and then print extras on the offset press.

Take a look at the video link at the top of this post for a quick look at how the print-on-demand presses work and stay tuned as Jeppesen continues to work with its customers to transition to an all-digital world.

A more indepth video look at Jeppesen’s charting operation is on AOPA Live.

The best replacement yet for paper charts is the iPad. A look at Jeppesen’s new FliteDeck Mobile app is also on AOPA Live.

Friends celebrate Hoover

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

What started out as a dinner and party with a few friends of famed aviator R.A. “Bob” Hoover several years ago has turned into an annual shindig that is a veritable who’s who of aviation. This year’s “Bill, Bob, Lou and Mike’s Annual Oshkosh Fireside P**s Up” attracted hundreds to fete Hoover.

Among those in attendance was emcee and aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker, Harrison Ford, Chuck Yeager, NASA astronauts Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell, civilian astronaut Mike Melville, Burt Rutan, Dick Rutan, actor/director/producer David Ellison, and “Sully” Sullenberger and his Miracle on the Hudson copilot Jeff Skiles.

The dinner was started and continues to be hosted by Bill Fanning of Pilot Insurance Center, Mike Herman, and Lou Meiners.

Filmaker Kim Furst showed a trailer of her upcoming documentary feature titled “The Bob Hoover Project.”

Rain Wednesday forced Fanning and the other volunteers to move the event from its planned outdoor location near a hangar on Wittman Field to the EAA Air Museum. The new location and threatening storms outside did little to dampen the camaraderie and friendship inside the museum and the adoration for Hoover, who received numerous standing ovations.

Visiting an old Mooney friend and wondering why

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Sliding into N152MP was like meeting an old friend. The bright white Mooney with its bold red, yellow, and blue strips looked like most any other late 1980s Mooney until you looked inside or walked around front. There, the tightly cowled nose gave a clue as to what powered the composite three-blade prop–a Porsche engine.

The airplane showed up in Frederick today as ferry pilot Anthony Eyre of Cross Junction, Virginia, stopped by Landmark Aviation, the local FBO, to get a GPS installed before he took the Porsche-powered Mooney to its new home in Ulm, Germany, near Stuttgart. The Stuttgart name, where Porsche is headquartered, dominated a large Porsche decal on the Mooney’s forward-slanting blue tail. Eyre is flying the airplane for Computaplane in Scotland, delivering it to its new owner in Germany, Uwe Sauter, who happens to be an aircraft mechanic and the owner of a Porsche 911.

The Mooney PFM was familiar to me because shortly after I started working at AOPA in 1988, the association purchased one of the unusual airplanes–only about 45 were built. Several of the editors were checked out in the airplane, including me. It was one of the first high-performance airplanes I’d ever flown. I was soon quite comfortable in the efficient airplane, especially since the engine was so easy to operate. Starting it was car-simple: Turn on the key. No cantankerous mags or balky carburetor or fussy fuel injection system to deal with. A dual electronic ignition system and computers handled the start procedure. Power was managed with a single lever that controlled the prop, mixture, and throttle–the holy grail of engine management that manufacturers attempt to bring to market today; and this was 1988.

The engine was smooth and quiet, but the gearbox necessary to amp the engine rpms down to a rate that could be absorbed the prop added weight–some 200 pounds by some estimates, and complexity. AOPA’s Porsche Mooney suffered numerous cracked and leaky gearboxes. The dual bus electrical system was unheard of in light airplanes in those days. Those of us checking out in the airplane found it a bit intimidating. The large red, guarded “Emergency Crossover” switch was your savior if certain electrical failures occurred; or your nemesis if other failures occurred and you threw the emergency switch tying the two buses together and allowed the failure to take out both systems.

In flight, the Porsche Mooney handled like any other Mooney–aside from the Porsche’s stone-simple engine management. It was quick and efficient. Eyre reports that he sees about 155 knots TAS at 9,000 feet on 9 gph.

So why have you probably never heard of one? Because, like many other products ahead of their time, it wasn’t perfect and the embedded competitive products of the day kept their market acceptance; inertia prevailed. The Porsche airplane was a bit slower and definitely heavier than the Lycoming-powered Mooney 201 of the day. There were a few maintenance issues, like the gearbox. Porsche, who was behind the project in conjunction with Mooney Aircraft, attempted to reassure buyers with guaranteed TBO pricing and other maintenance plans. But in the end, consumers wanted their speed and the Porsche model didn’t quite deliver.

In the end, Porsche bought back most of the airplanes through various programs and re-engined them with Continentals and Lycomings. You may be flying such a modified airplane today and not know that it was once N30MP, the Porsche Mooney that AOPA once owned.

Eyre is hoping to leave Frederick July 15 and make it to Germany within a few days, removing what may well be the last Porsche-powered Mooney from North America.

Certainly one of my most significant memories of my flights in the model was pulling up on a ramp with a few people around. To shut the engine off, you just turned off the key–like a car. At that point, the engine and prop simply thudded to an instant stop rather than winding down the way most conventional airplane engines shut down. The result was frequently curious looks from the crowd wondering what it was that you just broke.

My guess is that with a few tweaks the Porsche engine could have been made to run on high-octane auto fuel. Think what that might be worth today as we scramble to figure out a strategy for moving away from leaded avgas. Back to the future. Fly on N152MP.