Posts Tagged ‘Nate Ferguson’

The ethereal Arctic

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

The team arrived in Resolute on Aug. 19 after a five-hour flight from Cambridge Bay. Along the way they saw beluga whales and some otherworldly scenery. They are now stuck on the ground with freezing temperatures and snow showers. The next stop is Eureka before they reach the North Pole. The problem is that heavy pack ice is choking the bay where the team’s fuel barrels are located on the beach. In the meantime, the teams plans to have some some polar bear fun.

How to handle fuel in the bush

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Watch the GAAA crew go through the Gong Show antics of filling a de Havilland Beaver from 55-gallon fuel drums. They get help from a crew of boisterous Inuit boys. Because no avgas is available on portions of the trip, the team had shipped drums of fuel on Canadian icebreakers and cached them in strategic spots.

Engines make funny sounds over open water

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

It’s amazing what a little water crossing like, say, Lake Michigan will do to heighten
your sense of awareness to engine performance.

You did check the oil right? Actually, twice. Is that the right fuel pressure reading? Yep, it’s normal. Is it just me or did the engine suddenly change pitch? Nope, it’s just you. AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and I made the pilgrimage to Oshkosh in AOPA’s company Piper Archer (not to be confused with the sweepstakes one) on Tuesday.

The questions I was asking myself and my own answers to them were bouncing around in my head as we made the crossing. We were heading for Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, and over the radio we heard a P-51 Mustang requesting an overhead pass into the airport.

Although I’ve made water crossings before, my mind shifted back to World War II. Both of my grandfathers worked as engineers, building fighter planes. Another relative of mine was lost in a storm in a P-51 during a raid over Iwo Jima. Anyway, one of my grandfathers told me once how they gold plated engine parts in the P-47 in case pilots ran out of oil. It would give them a little extra burn time.

What’s astounding to me is how pilots flew tremendous distances over open ocean water to find enemy ships. Then they attacked. It’s also hard to imagine dog fighting without land in sight. As it turned out, though, the Archer did just fine and the only enemies we saw were phantoms.

The role of GPS in our lives

Friday, July 11th, 2008

One standout team at this year’s Tour de France has a familiar name to aviation emblazoned on their chests: Garmin.

After Stage 6 of the grueling 21-stage event, two members of the Garmin-Chipotle team — Christian Vande Velde (USA) and David Millar (GBR) — were in the top five for the overall championship. The team has been leading the fight against blood doping in order to clean up the sport. While I was cheering for Vande Velde as a torch bearer for American cycling, I was struck by the omnipresence of GPS technology in our lives.

The aviation segment at Garmin only represents a small part of the company’s overall business. Satellites in space are now governing all aspects of life from extreme exploration to day-to-day package delivering. While I love having the technology in the cockpit, the way it improves situational awareness, provides more direct routing, and keeps me out of restricted areas, I’m vowing not to completely part with old ways.

When I’m in the mountains I like to take along a compass and altimeter. I keep track of time as I’m hiking and pick out checkpoints. I’ve managed to keep myself out of trouble, even in some of the most confusing wilderness areas in Utah, Montana, and Wyoming. Mostly, it’s a matter of applying the same principle we learn about in aviation: trust the instruments.

For even more fun, I want to learn celestial navigation like super navigator Christoforo Colombo. AOPA Pilot published an interesting article on the subject back in 2003.

All this boils down to a greater respect and understanding of new technology. There’s nothing like hitting “direct to” and watching the box work its magic. Go Garmin-Chipotle! You’ve got a lot riding on your shoulders.

Are pilots afraid of heights?

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Comedian Steven Wright once said that he’s not afraid of heights, but he is afraid of widths. Oddly enough, many pilots also have a skewed perspective when it comes to dimensions.

I have no scientific evidence to prove it, but an unusually high percentage of pilots I know are afraid of heights. They, however, draw a distinction between being on board an aircraft and, as Alfred Hitchcock would have it, dangling off Mount Rushmore.

All it takes to keep the phobia at bay is a cocoon made of thin-gauge aluminum or treated fabric and some plexiglass. Never mind the fact that the cocoon might be moving at 150 knots.

What’s really interesting–and fairly unsettling–is if you’ve ever been on a formation flight and seen how much airplanes will twist in the air. Sea creatures do the same in the water, of course, so think of it as a sign of strength. But I just wonder if any of them are afraid of depths. 

The $200 hamburger?

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Economic forces and tribal knowledge have conspired to set the current price of an airport hamburger at $100. But, as I discovered from cruising through our magazine archives, it’s not a fixed price. We used to call it the $50 hamburger.

The price of the hamburger is supposed to account for the cost of the flight plus red meat. But with today’s high avgas prices, at what point does the tribe decide to amend the menu? Should we go for $150… $200?

Somewhat related to this, well, price fixing, is the FAA’s standard weight for an adult. It’s been stuck at a sprightly 170 pounds for as long as anyone can remember. Fast-food burgers, meanwhile, are packing more calories than ever.

What we’re really talking about here is energy. Sure, the FAA could give the entire GA fleet a gross weight increase to make us feel better about ourselves, but all we’d do is burn more fuel.

Could there be an inverse relationship between hamburgers and pilots? If the price of a hamburger continues to rise, maybe the actual pilot weight will go down due to less consumption.

The price of the airport hamburger is ultimately up to the tribe. It’s all about perception.