Pilot Culture 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.

What Aviation Items Would You Buy If You Won Tonight’s PowerBall Drawing?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

I am among the millions who bought a PowerBall lottery ticket as the jackpot hit $500 million.  On my drive into Frederick this morning, I daydreamed about all the aviation-related things I would do with the money.  My list included: an Embraer Phenom 300; an effort with AOPA to boost the number of minority pilots;  and major donations to the Delta Heritage Museum and Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum.

So I decided to put the same question to AOPA members via our Facebook page and Twitter account.  Below are some of my favorites. Enjoy!

FACEBOOK

  • Saving that money after seeing how this economy is going! lol. BUT were just dreaming so Id say C190, C180, C320, Cessna Mustang, King Air 300, Stearman PT 17. hehehehe TO START WITH!
  • Cessna 182. Simple as that.
  •  I suppose I’d have some cool jet in which to travel afar, but after I get that Mustang I’ve wanted since I was 6, I’d be hankerin’ for (relatively) slow, radial engined aircraft like a Beaver, C195, Twin Beech or Staggerwing.
  • I’m going with a Skyraider AD-5 (I think)….the big one…..to carry the family and dog…..a nice helo, and a Mustang of course. Then I’m going to donate money to a certain individual to get a B-17 done and I want naming rights and to fly it!!!
  •  I would have to add that I would love to make donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, Honor Flight, National Naval Aviation Museum, AOPA Air Safety, T.I.G.H.A.R., Sun ‘N Fun, The Commemorative Air Force, The 99′s, to W.A.S.P. Museums, and make scholarships available to those who have the desire and dedication, but who are struggling to afford being able to solve their dream.
  • BBJ for business jet, PC-12 for daily driver, Extra 300 for fun, Husky for more fun, and then take $20 MIL of it and fund my Welcome Sky Aviation Scholarship program to issue full-ride flight training grants to the best and brightest 16-21 year olds I could find.
  • An AOPA LIFE Membership for me and 100 people and a shiny brand new Cessna 182 JT A.
  • Im gonna finish getting my PPL, Then get every other pilot certification. Then I’m buying a Corvalis TTX, a Cirrus SR-22GTS, and a Citation Ten. I’ll of course buy a few Bose headsets for me and my Pax. I’d use the remaining money for fuel, maintenance, etc.
  • An HA-420, and a Quest Kodiak, The former Mary Talbot airstrip in Vinalhaven, Maine, a few bose headsets, attend aviation mechanic school, get ratings for those planes, and maybe buy all the abandoned salvagable airstrips around Maine.

TWITTER

  • P-51, J-3, Corvalis TTx, Citation Mustang. In that order.
  •  I think I will keep is lower key with a Cessna Mustang.
  • TBM 850, Carbon Cub…pay off debt…Build churches all over the world and keep working :)
  • Me? #Mooney factory, Kerrville TX.
  • With my $500 million #Powerballwinnings :-) I’ll first buy a @Terrafugia then work with @google (and @IBM) to make it self-flying ;-)
  • Five T-6Bs or Super Tucanos. And start an airshow team.
  • I would get a Cessna 210 and completely re-do it nose to tail. Oh, also, one of those little jets like the Cirrus or Piper.

 

AOPA members weigh in on GA prospects under second Obama term

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

As one of the administrators of the AOPA Facebook page, I thought it would be interesting this morning to ask members the following question:  “so, the election is over. What do you think the prospects for general aviation will be in a second Obama term? And please — let’s just stick to the GA issue.”  We’ve already had 58 comments this morning.  Below are some of them.

“It’s not ideal for GA growth, but I’m not convinced user fees are inevitable either. I fly for a living, but also for pleasure thanks to a flying club at half the rates of a FBO. With over 10k pilots retiring from US carriers in the next 8 years, something is going to have to give. The pilot shortage finally coming to fruition should have a positive affect. Support AOPA and similar organizations. They are our voice.”

“General aviation will suffer… we pilots won’t have the money to fly! And it’ll be regulated to the point where it’s pointless to fly anyhow.”

“I don’t think the political climate is what GA needs.. what GA needs is a much lower cost of entry to new participants (Next generation training) and new certified airplanes that are capable of at least some useful load which don’t cost $300K new (I’m looking straight at you, Cessna and Piper).”

“Not good. Good thing I have a professional pilot job, because I can’t attract a single student as a part-time CFI due to the overwhelming cost of learning to fly.”

“$20 per Gal AVGAS.”

“It will be the same. Administration proposes user fees, GA rallies its membership with advocacy efforts, and Congress dispenses with user fees.”

“Costs have got to come down. This includes everything from hangar rent, insurance, to aircraft purchases. The days are gone of flour drops and pancake flyins at local airports. Those days need to come back. Also, airports need to be public friendly and appear inviting, not restricting. The FAA needs to push back expensive equipment installs (ADS-B appliances) timeframes and increase training for controllers to handle “flight following requests.”

” I feel for those who are in aircraft manufacturing…. No reason to expect Obama will stop demonizing business GA aviation.”

” In my opinion, the US economy is in such bad shape that either candidate would have had difficulty coping with it. I’m not a fan of user fees – particularly since it already costs so much to fly. However money for economic recovery has to come from somewhere.”

“Hopefully people will start buying airplanes again and get down to the great business of flying again. Lets hope our leader stops criticizing business jets as well!”

” User taxes, higher gas taxes, greater penalty for being successful enough to buy an airplane.”

” It’ll be just fine. Obama is not one dimensional and he sees the economic benefits GA provides. The time for politics is over and we just need to work together for the greater good.”

 

Wisconsin’s Winnebago Flying Club Uses Fall Foliage Footage to Tout GA

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The first two general aviation flights I ever took were both trips to view fall foliage, one in Burlington, Vt., and one in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  AOPA recently created the AOPA Flying Club Network Facebook group, and one of the members – Sam Wiltzius (@wiredforflight) – sent in a comment that turned into this post.

The Winnebago Flying Club has been around since 1978, after the merger of two other clubs.  It currently has 28 active members and flies a 1972 Cessna 172L that’s been upgraded with GPS, said Wiltzius.  “We keep our aircraft up to date.  We believe in having a quality aircraft and keeping things  simple,” he said.  “Our membership ranges from people in college up right up to our president, who is retired. We have three CFIs and one designated examiner.”

The club wanted to do something in the area of new member recruitment and show people what they can do with a pilot certificate, said Wiltzius. “My friend Tom and his wife wanted to do a fun flight somewhere. His wife has early onset dementia, so we wanted to do something where she’d enjoy it and get something out of it,” he recalled.

They had many memories in Door County, Wis., which has beautiful foliage, said Wiltzius.  “So I came up with the idea to fly over the foliage and do a video for Tom and our club,” he said.

The results were amazing, both for the passenger and the club. “Tom’s wife was nearly in tears being able to see her old stomping grounds by air. She was thrilled and excited to see the area from a different angle,” said Wiltzius. “It brought back so many good memories for her and the colors were amazing. It was a magical time.”

Once the video was ready, Wiltzius used social media to get the word out. “Twitter and Facebook are our primary means, but we did do an email blast to our members as well,” he said. “I’m a big fan of social networking. Our membership is aging and social media is a great way to attract new and younger members and get them excited about GA.”

The club wants to show the beauty and magic of aviation in a social and non-negative way, said Wiltzius, and that’s not limited to Winnebago County.  “If I can get someone in Chicago to get excited about flying, that’s great.  They don’t have to join our club,” he stated.  “We just want them to become advocates for GA or even become a pilot. It’s all about joining the family that is aviation.”

You can view the Winnebago Flying Club’s video below. 

AOPA Flying Club Network Facebook Group Takes Off

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Last week at the AOPA Aviation Summit, our new Center to Advance the Pilot Community announced it was creating a network of flying clubs as part of a long-term initiative to facilitate flying club growth, which, in turn, will help grow the pilot population.  Center Senior Vice President Adam Smith did a PowerPoint presentation, “Special Interest Education: AOPA Flying Club Network,” to show benefits including the ability to share information and resources.

A mere week after starting the AOPA Flying Club Network Facebook group, we’re already at 639 (sorry, make that 644) members and growing.  The group was created to start a conversation among flying clubs and those who want to start or join a flying club, and what a conversation it’s been so far.  Topics already covered include:

  • Templates/models to create a club;
  • Aircraft used by flying clubs
  • Financing and insurance;
  • Setting club dues;
  • Attracting new members;
  • What members expect from clubs; and
  • Finding the time to fly.

So join the Facebook group, pass along your Twitter handle for our flying clubs list, and go here to join our email list to be updated on the latest news and events within AOPA’s Flying Club initiative.

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

An FAA inspector’s recollections of 9/11

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

We all remember where we were and what we were doing 11 years ago today, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Several of us shared those memories this morning, spurred on in part by the gorgeous, clear blue sky–just like the sky we saw 11 years ago.

Even after all these years, however, I’m intrigued by other accounts of that day. Today I read for the first time the 9/11 account of an FAA inspector who was then assigned to the FSDO at John F. Kennedy International in New York City, and posted today by airnation.net.

An interesting perspective and one I had not read before. Take a look and tell me if you agree.

Godspeed, Neil Armstrong

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

We lost an aviation icon, and perhaps the country’s greatest space hero, with the passing of Neil Armstrong on August 25. Armstrong, 82, was the first man to walk on the moon; his statement, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” both summarized his accomplishment and underscored his modest personality.

Although Armstrong generally shunned the spotlight of publicity, he continued to fly, moving from a Beech Bonanza to the Cessna 310 that he recently sold. He told AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Tom Haines in May that he was planning his next aircraft purchase. 

The New York Times reported that Armstrong died afterof complications from cardiovascular procedures, attributing the information to a statement from his family.

The statement is worth reading, and if it wasn’t written by Armstrong, it certainly was inspired by him:

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

“Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

“Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

“He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

“As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

“While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

Do you see similarities with the following quotes attributed to Armstrong, which I nominate as his best:

“This is one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.”

“Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying.”

R.I.P., Mr. Armstrong. An Eagle has landed.

Tanker exit could heat up fire season

Monday, August 20th, 2012

It’s been a brutal wildfire season in the western United States. And fewer large air assets are available for firefighting since Aero Union’s Lockheed P-3 Orion tankers were grounded last year.

10 Tanker Air Carrier (see the May 2012 AOPA Pilot article here or view the accompanying video on AOPA Live here), has modified the Douglas DC-10 for use as an airborne firefighter. Both of its former airliners have seen some service during this year’s fires. (Evergreen Aviation has modified a Boeing 747 for use as a tanker but said it has not been activated for service by the Forest Service.)

10 Tanker has invested millions developing, demonstrating, and deploying its technology. But the company says that its business model is viable only if it gets an exclusive-use contract from the Forest Service. An exclusive-use contract would provide more financial stability by paying the company to have the aircraft standing by and ready for almost immediate dispatch (the contract provides an amount per flight hour, as well). However, 10 Tanker has only received “call when needed” contracts—there’s no guaranteed payment, but the company agrees to respond within 24 hours of a call if aircraft are available (in this scenario the hourly rate is much higher).

“If used properly, [exclusive use] costs the government less to get the job done,” said Rick Hatton, 10 Tanker’s president and CEO; the cost per gallon of suppressant delivered is significantly lower, and high volume combined with short turnarounds can put more suppressant on a fire quickly. Without a multiyear exclusive-use contract, he said the privately funded company may well have to ground the airplanes altogether.

Evergreen notes in its statement that one reason the 747 is not flying is that the U.S. Forest Service’s specification for Next Generation Air Tanker aircraft limits tank size to 5,000 gallons–the 747 can carry 20,000 gallons, and the DC-10 tanker’s capacity is 11,600 gallons. The situation has prompted both companies to ask the public to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C. and ask them to examine current Forest Service policies regarding what it calls very large air tanker (VLAT) aircraft.

The call to action on 10 Tanker’s Facebook page is direct, and blog posts elsewhere indicate that absent a more suitable contract, the company could ground the aircraft in November. People in several towns credit the orange-and-white tankers with saving their homes–and I expect that some of them already have written their senators and representatives. 

 

Viral video of Idaho crash

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Some of you have seen the footage of a plane crash on YouTube that has gone viral on some of the social media networks. Although the three passengers apparently were not serious injuries, be advised that later in the video there are graphic images of the pilot’s more serious injuries.

The limited information accompanying the video says it took place in Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, and that density altitude was an issue. As best as I can tell, this is the preliminary NTSB report, which doesn’t offer many details. Nevertheless, it’s a dramatic depiction of density altitude’s effects on an aircraft that does not appear to be lightly loaded.

I’d love to read a Never Again by the pilot in this accident. I’d also love to know what he thinks about the video posted by his passengers, who apparently all were videotaping the flight. At the time of this post, the video had 338,978 views.