Archive for September, 2012

Photo of the Day: Remos GX

Friday, September 14th, 2012


AOPA’s 2010 Fun to Fly Sweepstakes was unlike any other sweepstakes airplane that preceded it. For one thing, it was  brand new. For another, it was a Light Sport aircraft. The German-made Remos GX is unique in several other respects. You can remove the doors and fly it without them, exactly as you can in a Piper J-3 Cub. But the Remos can also do something you can’t do with a Cub. Its wings can be folded so that it can share a smaller hangar space or even trailered to an off-airport location, as AOPA did when we put it on display in downtown Frederick, Maryland. (Don’t believe it? Click the link and watch the video.) While AOPA was promoting the Fun to Fly Remos, it participated in a rally to Florida against a SMART car and even flew across the country so that it could go on display at AOPA Summit in Long Beach, Calif. In this shot, Chris Rose photographed Dave Hirschman flying the Remos over the Eastern Shore of Maryland.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Kestrel

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

The Kestrel composite turboprop was originally designed in the United Kingdom by Farnborough Aircraft Corp. In 2009, Alan Kalpmeier, founder of Cirrus Aircraft, brought the airplane to the United States. Kestrel Aircraft Co. now has manufacturing facilities in Maine and Wisconsin. Dave Hirschman interviewed Klapmeier for the February 2011 AOPA Pilot.

Photo of the Day: Balloon festival in New Mexico

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

What’s better than a single hot air balloon? Dozens, all in one location. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place this year Oct. 6-14, promising daily dawn patrols and morning glows, a mass ascension such as the one shown here, a race, twilight glows, fireworks, and more. Find out more at the website ( ).

Photo of the Day: Lockheed 12A Electra Junior

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

This Lockheed 12A Electra Junior–so called because it’s a bit smaller than the Lockheed Model 10E Electra that Amelia Earhart flew–became the 300th type of aircraft to grace Barry Schiff’s logbook. That’s not Barry in the captain’s seat–it’s Curt “Rocky” Walters, who pilots the aircraft for its owner, Ruth Holden of San Luis Obispo, California. Barry wrote about the Lockheed 12A for the February 2006 AOPA Pilot’s “Proficient Pilot” column.—Jill W. Tallman

Canceling the first flight

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

I’ve touched on the topic before of cancellations in this blog, but the reality is that there are cancellations…and there are cancellations, and you as a passenger may or may not be victim of one directly…or indirectly.

As an example, I recently had to cancel the first leg of the day at an outstation. In this case, it had been raining fairly hard all night, and when we got to the airplane, it was raining in the cabin almost as much as it was outside; one of the antennas had a bad seal that was allowing water to get past. It isn’t as big of a deal as it sounds, but we could not operate a revenue flight. We needed to get the airplane to a hangar (or an airport where it wasn’t raining) so that it could be resealed, then time allowed for the seal to cure.

From the airline’s point of view, the problems were just beginning. This was a city that has several flights a day, but they all have a very high load factor. Rebooking was going to be tough. Some passengers would be forced to drive, others would have to simply cancel their trip, especially if they were on a time-sensitive schedule (meetings, certain international connections, et cetera).

And then there was the issue of the effect on the schedule. Taking the airplane out of the rotation for the day meant that the potential for the down-line schedule to be hit was high. There would be a domino effect on every flight scheduled on this particular ship. We could end up running hours late all day, as has happened to me in the past. They might be late, or they might cancel. Fortunately, our leg was a short one, so at least we as a crew would be back in position fairly easily, and the repair we needed would take less than a full day in getting the bird back on line. Finding this squawk so early in the day made it more likely that a spare airplane would be available to cover the flying scheduled for the affected ship.

But it doesn’t always work that way. Often, a broken airplane will lead to a series of cancellations, either because there is no aircraft to pick up the slack, or because the crew will be out of position or time out. At times the result is obvious to see (it was scheduled to fly all of “these” flights, so we’ll cancel them), and at other times, it isn’t so obvious as the company will then strategically cancel flights based on a number of factors: loads, connections, scheduled maintenance, crew availability or even flights the next day.

But, the first flight cancelling in the morning always has the potential to cause major headaches that carry through the day. Ironically, it makes it easier to get the crew back on schedule at some point, but if the airplanes aren’t available to cover the flying, things get ugly…fast.

Lucky for me, on the day in question we stayed on schedule, and the only flight affected was the first one…but that didn’t help the passengers who were left behind.—Chip Wright

The August “Since You Asked” poll: Where’s your hand?

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Many student pilots are mystified when something their flight instructor has taught them is overruled by another flight instructor or a designated pilot examiner.

Such was the case in the August 2012 edition of Rod Machado’s “Since You Asked?” No Name Please (there are a lot of people with that monicker who write in to Rod, it seems) recounted that another CFI at his airport insists that a pilot flying have his hand on the throttle pretty much at all times and “goes bonkers” if he catches someone removing a hand from the throttle during final approach–no matter if a trim or flap adjustment is needed. He’s even been known not to sign off a pilot for a checkout if that hand comes off the throttle.

We asked digital readers to finish this sentence: “On takeoff or on final approach, the hand that’s not on the yoke is…”

The vast majority (94 percent of you) said their hand is on the throttle, but “I will take it off to adjust flaps or trim.”

The remainder (6 percent) said they keep that hand on the the throttle, “and it stays there.” Nobody admitted to keeping that hand in their lap.

Rod’s position is that while it’s reasonable to instruct student pilots to keep their hand on the throttle during takeoff or landing, but there’s no good reason whatsoever that a student pilot–or any other pilot–not be permitted to take his or her hand off the throttle to “do his cockpit business.” Those of us who fly airplanes with non-electric trim are thankful.–Jill W. Tallman

“Since You Asked” polls appear monthly in the digital edition of Flight Training. If you’d like to switch your magazine from paper to digital at no additional charge, go here or call Member Services 800-USA-AOPA weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.

Photo of the Day: Curtiss-Wright CW-1 Junior

Friday, September 7th, 2012

It’s a glider! No, there’s an engine on top. A radial engine, at that! It’s a flying boat! No, not exactly. The Curtiss-Wright CW-1 Junior resembles all of these things in various ways–see how the pilot sits out in front, which gives him the same sort of visibility afforded to sailplane pilots; note also how the hull looks like that of an amphibious flying boat. But it’s actually an an open-cockpit landplane. As Barry Schiff writes in the June 2006 AOPA Pilot, the CW-1 Junior was produced in St. Louis, Missouri, competing against the Aeronca C-2, American Eagle’s Eaglet, and the Buhl Pup. Some 270 were built before the Great Depression brought production to a halt in 1932. Barry says the Junior is an airplane that’s “easy to fly, but not easy to fly well.”—Jill W. Tallman

There goes the prop blade…did I pass?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

File this one under “things you hope don’t happen on your checkride”…

A sport pilot had to execute an emergency landing during his checkride after one of the propeller blades on his airplane decided to end things early. According to this article in the Longmont, Colo., Times Call, Brian Garrett was taking a checkride to become a private pilot when one of the blades of the three-bladed Sting Sport TL-2000 separated. By the time he and his designated pilot examiner had made an emergency landing in a field, a second blade had broken off as well.

Cheers to Garrett and his DPE, Drew Chitiea, for handling the situation–and extra cheers to Chitiea, who took the time to point out to a reporter that pilots train for emergency situations just like this—well, maybe not just like this, but close enough—all the time. According to the article, Garrett passed the checkride.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Huskys in formation

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

It’s supposed to be a big secret–or maybe not–but formation flying for photo shoots is one of the coolest things an AOPA editor does. Here, AOPA’s Mike Fizer captures Dwayne Clemens and former AOPA Pilot editor Nate Ferguson in a yellow Husky 200-hp A-1B leading another Husky A-1B with tundra tires flown by Greg Largen and Alex Clemens.—Jill W. Tallman

When do you upgrade?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

It’s no secret that, in aviation, the captain gets the big bucks and the first offcer gets—well, usually a whole lot less. Further, the pay discrepancy is magnified even more in smaller equipment.

By that I mean, the smaller the aircraft, the worse the FO pay is. When Beech 1900s ruled the commuter skies, top FO pay often did not go above $20-24 a flight hour; captains could top out at $40-plus at the right company. While there is still a noticeable discrepancy in pay even on the heavy iron, for the FO it isn’t nearly as significant an issue. Good luck find anyone who feels sympathy for the person who’s earning the top FO pay on a Delta ($160) or a United ($130) 747.

At the regionals, FO pay tops out in the ballpark of $45-$48 an hour, depending on whether  the RJ in question seats 50 or 70, and that top pay is usually in the eighth year of service, give or take. An equivalent captain is making $70 an hour, or close to it.

Given the financial incentive, should one upgrade as soon as possible? Well, that depends….

There are three issues that are hard to ignore: money, PIC time, and seniority unknowns.

Considering that so many pilots make such a huge investment in their careers, there is often a strong urge—if not need—to upgrade just so that the bills can be paid, or at least paid more easily (a problem made worse with student loans and/or credit card debt). You may just want to go from an apartment to a house or get a better car. Family issues factor in as well, especially if young kids are running around your house.

Pilot-in-command (PIC) time is probably as much of a motivator as anything, especially at the regional level. At the majors, most FOs have plenty of PIC time in their logbooks from previous jobs, and unless they are planning to switch carriers, the need for PIC time doesn’t usually enter the equation. Besides, PIC time is unusual in that its value doesn’t really change over time. While there is a difference between turboprop versus turbo-jet PIC, it’s not a major issue, and all another carrier wants to see is that you have exercised the responsibilities of the position without having an incident or an accident.

If you want to move on from a regional or a commuter, PIC time becomes a huge focus, because it takes so long to get it. Depending on who you want to fly for, you will need at least 1,000 hours and often 1,500 or more. Every leg you fly will help chip away at that goal.

Seniority is another issue that must be considered. It’s possible that a bid will open up that you can hold for whatever reason. Maybe guys just senior to you are finally getting the left seat, or maybe a spot will open up in the most junior, undesirable domicile. But seniority is not always hard and fast. With almost every upgrade class, you will notice that the slots don’t fill just based on seniority. You may see a few where a junior pilot unexpectedly gets the coveted captain position. Often, what happens is that pilots may have other reasons that prevent them from bidding a class. Remember, training is almost as long as new-hire training—at least three weeks, if not four or more, depending on sim and line check airman availability. Pilots may gamble and skip a class because of family commitments, weddings, vacations, et cetera. Or, they may be married such that the money isn’t an issue and they decide to wait for quality of life.

But skipping a class is a gamble for two reasons. First, if the upgrades suddenly stop, you may have to wait years for another chance. When things are slow, airlines wait longer than they should to upgrade captains because of the cost. Second, you may think you can hold a bid that is more to your liking, only to find out that some of those senior hold-outs are now taking the first available class. I’ve seen both issues really hit people, the first example being the more common.

To use my own company, for example, we had a very junior and less-than-desirable domicile at John F. Kennedy International. The main hub was a far more optimal place to be based for a number of reasons. JFK simply had way too much that was not in its favor: It’s expensive, delays were a huge issue, the commute can be difficult, the airspace is challenging, and did I mention that it’s expensive? That’s especially true if you are on reserve.

A number of our FOs who had the seniority to upgrade chose not to, opting instead for quality of life. They wanted to avoid reserve as a captain, and figured they’d wait until they could hold a regular line with a predictable schedule. Further, many did not want to commute. So…they waited.

When the economy hit the skids, so did their advancement. Yes, they were home more. Yes, they had more days off. Yes, they spent more time with their families. But, they topped out on the FO pay scale, and they did not get that coveted PIC time, and now many of them are having great difficulty moving on because they can’t differentiate themselves from other applicants. They face the risk of having to go to another regional, or overseas, in order to advance their career (these tend to be pilots who do not want to move overseas). While the most junior captains often lived a life of misery on reserve, they continued to add PIC time to their logbooks, and recruiters admire the resilience of someone who is willing to sacrifice so much to get their dream job. Believe me, at some point, upgrading is not about the money.

Deciding when to upgrade is a personal choice. You have to be emotionally mature to handle the responsibility. You need to have not only the skills, but also the confidence to use those skills along with good judgment. You need to be able to admit when you need help, as well as when you have made a mistake. If you have not had a chance to fly a lot in various weather conditions, then you need to get that experience in dealing with thunderstorms, icing, and everything in between.

In the future, you will be required to have 1,000 hours in the right seat before upgrading. In today’s environment, that’s a given, but as we begin to see the pipeline to the majors open, there was a built-in risk of seeing very junior and very inexperienced FOs begin to move into the left seat. The new rules will help minimize that.

Upgrading is not as easy as it seems. Quality of life on reserve (if you can’t hold a line) or even as a junior line-holder takes a big hit. It can be as much of an adjustment for the family as it is for the pilot. The new responsibility can be intimidating. When I upgraded, I went for being home 12-16 days a month to being home for six, and it was a jolt for my wife. I had to work holidays again, and I missed a lot of family events. We didn’t have kids, but she did get pregnant, and she had to handle most of that on her own.

But the rewards are many, and the personal growth is very rewarding. When, and if, you are ready, make the leap.—Chip Wright