Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’

Scatter plans and diversions, part one

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

This is Part One of a three-part post about a single flight from Eagle, Colorado, to Newark, New Jersey, with an unscheduled stop in Albany, New York. Parts two and three will appear in the coming weeks.—Ed.

StormI was recently working a trip that involved some bad weather at the destination. Further, because we were departing a geographically challenging airport (Eagle County Regional [EGE]), which is a high-elevation airport with a mountain at one end, we were limited in the amount of fuel we could carry so that we could maximize our payload. When the aircraft started holding for Newark, we were severely limited in the amount of time that we could spin circles in the sky.

Our scheduled alternate was Albany International (ALB), just a few minutes north of Newark Liberty International (EWR). However, our hold was on an arrival that begins closer to Cleveland. At this point on a flight, the perspective of the crew and the company often begins to diverge. When the weather is down and airlines know that diversions are likely, they need to be fairly strategic in choosing alternates. Otherwise, crews will all race for the same couple of airports. For instance, at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, the closest and often the “best” is Lovell Field (CHA) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Unfortunately, CHA quickly gets overwhelmed, and it takes far longer than it should to get the airplanes refueled and on their way. Crews like CHA because its close proximity means they can hold longer, thus improving their chances for getting into ATL on the first try.

My company has been using a “scatter plan” in which computer software tries to selectively spread out the diversions so as to avoid overwhelming one or two airports while minimizing the risk of a diversion (and minimizing the turn time when a diversion occurs). Other factors may include selecting a diversion that also happens to be the final destination for a number of connecting passengers.

Scatter plans aren’t without problems. First, the weather needs to cooperate. Second, so does the crew. In our case, ALB was a legal alternate, but the weather wasn’t very good. It was right at legal minimums. We started collecting ATIS reports for Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse. Several had either great visibility with a low ceiling, and some had a poor selection of both (in the Part 121 world, visibility is all that matters). When we contacted the company about Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), the best option, we were told that the ramp was full. Getting to ALB also meant flying through the worst of the weather.

This brings up another issue: crew legality. The company also needs to take into account which crew members may run into duty time issues. One of our flight attendants had started so early in the morning that she didn’t have a lot of time with which to work. Second, I was on my sixth day of flying, so an abnormally long delay in PIT—a very good possibility—was going to strand me as well. Further, the airplane would be stuck until they could bring in another first officer, because I would not legally be able to fly the next day.

As we began studying the weather, we pushed for a change in the alternate. The ALB weather was dropping, as was our fuel load. But there were not a lot of options. Finally, our dispatcher, who had a much bigger picture than we did, sent us to ALB. So, off we went. Could we get in, and how long would we be there?—Chip Wright

Barter website creator is now a private pilot

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Great news in a happy email from Stephanie Thoen of Aurora, Colo., today: “I am writing to let you know I completed my PPL last week with Mary [Latimer].”

Stephanie, you may recall, launched a website earlier this year that seeks to connect student pilots with CFIs who are willing to barter flight intruction in exchange for goods and services. Flight instructors can register for free at WillWorktoFly.org, whereas student pilots pay a one-time registration fee of $18.95. A portion of the fee goes toward establishing a flight training scholarship, and all registered student pilots are eligible for that scholarship, which is to be awarded monthly.

Thoen came up with the idea after falling short of funds in pursuit of her pilot certificate. (I think it’s a fabulous idea, and am half-tempted to see if I can trade my husband’s comic book collection for a commercial certificate. On second thought—scratch that; he might barter my airplane to get the comics back.) She reports that a mention in Flight Training magazine and on our website helped to boost traffic to the site, so that she will be able to offer a scholarship in June. “Any additional amount I get above and beyond…will go toward putting together a free flying camp once a year for several students,” she said.

It’s safe to say that Mary Latimer likely provided the inspiration for the free flying camp. Latimer has held free flying camps for women for three years in a row at her home airport in Vernon, Texas. I spent a few days at one of her camps in 2013, and wrote about it for the magazine. Schoen sought Mary out to finish her training.

Congratulations to new private pilot Stephanie, and kudos to Mary for inspiring others to give back to aviation.—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resources for student pilots. Click here for more information.

 

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: Diamond in the Rockies

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

It looks like it’s taking a sunny-day flight in the high country, but this Diamond C1 Eclipse is on a mission: It’s actually simulating landing too long at an airport. Mike Fizer shot this photo in 2004 near the front range of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado. Why was the Diamond pilot settting up for a too-long landing? Because we asked him to. We keep a catalogue of images to illustrate our magazine articles, but in general we assign one of our photographers to work with a pilot to get the imagery we need.—Jill W. Tallman