Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

Time flies when you’re landing an Airbus on the Hudson

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Hard to believe that January 15, 2014, marks the five-year anniverary of the day that will always be known as “Miracle on the Hudson.”

As most of us recall, US Airways Flight 1549, piloted by Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, landed in the Hudson River in New York after striking a flock of Canada geese. Both engines failed on climbout from LaGuardia Airport in New York City en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sullenberger decided they didn’t have enough altitude to turn back or make an emergency landing at Teterboro, New Jersey. He told New York Tracon, “We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” and that was the last transmission from the airplane before it touched down in the river.

Just writing that last sentence gave me goosebumps.

Thankfully, all turned out well. All passengers and crew were evacuated safely.

Now retired from US Airways, Sullenberg remains an active and vocal figure in the aviation industry. Jeppesen created an approach plate commemorating the “Miracle” landing.

Skiles took a leave of absence from the airline and is working for the Experimental Aircraft Association. He eventually got a seaplane rating, too [insert your own joke here].

One of the passengers on that fateful flight went on to earn a private pilot certificate. I interviewed Clay Presley shortly after his solo for this Flight Training magazine article, and you can hear him tell the story of the Miracle on the Hudson from the point of view of someone who was sitting in the cabin section on this AOPA Live video.  —Jill W. Tallman

This entry was edited to correct the date to Jan. 15—Ed.

Under pressure

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

My flight to North Carolina this past weekend was one of those scenarios that causes me to have anxiety dreams about flying days before the actual event.

I had signed on to join Pilots’n'Paws’ “Operation Special Delivery” fall flyout. This fine organization helps to connect pilots with animal shelters around the country. The volunteers pull dogs, cats, rabbits, and other small animals out of high-kill animal shelters; pilots sign up to fly them to rescues and, hopefully, new homes. Once or twice a year, Pilots’n'Paws puts together a large event and moves hundreds of animals in a day. Last weekend’s big flyout originated in Hinesville, Georgia.

Jewel (left) and Pink get a ride to a new home, thanks to Pilots 'n' Paws.

Jewel (left) and Pink get a ride to a new home, thanks to Pilots ‘n’ Paws.

My Piper Cherokee 140 gets a little uncomfortable after three hours. Rather than fly all the way to Hinesville, I opted to go to Pinehurst, N.C.—about three hours from Maryland via Cherokee—where I would pick up dogs from another pilot, and fly them back up to West Point, Va. A third pilot would be waiting at West Point to transport the dogs to an airport in New Jersey.

So far so good. I’m instrument-rated but not current, so the next step was to keep fingers crossed that the weather would cooperate.

I asked my daughter, Maddie, if she would like to join me for the dog run, and for once her jam-packed college senior schedule permitted it. Things were coming together! Except…

We are getting a lot of morning fog in Maryland. If I tried to launch Saturday morning for North Carolina, I might be grounded for who knows how long until the fog burned off, and it would put the third leg of the long day behind schedule. OK, I’d fly down Friday afternoon, get a hotel room, and be at the Pinehurst airport as early as needed. Except…

My daughter said she’d leave College Park by 2 p.m. With luck on our side, we’d launch from Frederick no later than 4 p.m. I didn’t want to land at a strange airport at night.

I could feel the pressure of the mission mounting. If I wasn’t able to get to North Carolina, the chain would be broken and the dogs would have to be moved to other airplanes. But I would have my daughter on board, so it was crucial that I not allow get-there-itis to overwhelm my decision-making process.

At some point that week, I previewed the forthcoming Air Safety Institute online

The author (right) and her daughter, Maddie, on the final leg of a Pilots 'n' Paws run.

The author (right) and her daughter, Maddie, on the final leg of a Pilots ‘n’ Paws run.

course, Weatherwise: VFR into IMC. This great new course, optimized for use on the iPad, is coming out soon. It includes a video snippet with our own Rod Machado talking about how to break the mission mind-set. Rod said something to the effect of, “Don’t ask yourself what you have to lose by not flying; ask yourself what you have to gain.”

With those words, everything came into focus, and the pressure eased. If morning fog created a delay, so be it. I could launch late, or I could cancel altogether. Cancelling the flight would be hard, but if it had to be done, I would have the conviction to do it.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to cancel. We were able to make the flight down to North Carolina on Friday with plenty of daylight to spare. On Saturday, we were at the airport bright and early—but our Georgia pilots were grounded because of morning fog, so we had a pleasant wait at a nice FBO while Pilots’n'Paws volunteers provided a free lunch. The only downsides to the day were unseasonable heat and haze (90 degrees!) that made it rough on the poor dogs while we were on the ground.

In the end, I transported two dogs, enjoyed a wonderful weekend with my daughter, and worked through a go/no-go scenario with tools that will serve me on flights to come. It doesn’t get much better than that.—Jill W. Tallman

The Valley of Blue

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

I’ve written before about the fact that I am a warm weather guy—my wife and I very nearly moved our family to the Virgin Islands several years ago—but I prefer to deal with many of the inconveniences of winter flying versus one minute of dealing with a thunderstorm.

That conviction was reinforced in spades in July, when I was scheduled to fly a CVG-GSO turn. This happened during the stretch of 90- to 100-degree days when a front decided to assume a stationary stance along the I-70 corridor.

Our normal route of flight on this city pair takes about 50 to 55 minutes, and essentially is a direct line from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International to Piedmont/Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C. I’ve done it enough times that I could do it with my eyes closed.

On this day, however, little was going right. We were running late because the airplane was late getting to us for our first leg in DTW. We had some passenger connection issues as well as some other run-of-the-mill airline stuff go wrong that put us about 15 minutes behind all day. Had we been on time, we just might have made it out of the CVG area in time to punch the line and fly the normal route to GSO.
Instead, we were forced to take a journeyman’s route, flying from CVG due east until we were past Pittsburgh, and then finding a spot to turn south and race the weather. I held off on the controller’s request to start south until we were well clear of the eastern band of weather that was on our route, and as a result, we got a nice smooth ride into GSO.

The return flight, however, was not going to be any easier. Our dispatcher loaded us down with a truckload of extra Jet A and wished us luck. He confirmed to me on the phone that the weather would not be a factor in CVG, though the forecast would require an alternate. In reality, the worst of it was west and south of the field. The radar on my phone seemed to confirm that.

Getting home required almost a reversal of our route down, but with one major constraint: We were filed for FL300, but we could not get past FL220 because of traffic saturation. We could see it on our TCAS, and when we checked in with Washington Center, we could hear it on the radio. More than once, the congestion was so bad that our initial transmission was a press of the Ident button on the transponder—we simply could not get a word in edgewise.

We, along with (it seemed) every airplane on the East Coast, were stuck in a “Valley of Blue.” The sky above us was clear, and it wasn’t too bad going north either. East didn’t look great, but even if it had, it didn’t do us any good, and we could not find a clear hole to the west—not one that both of us could agree to try. When I liked one, the first officer didn’t, and vice versa. We kept going onward, again sneaking in the Pennsylvania area. The controller occasionally would ask us when we planned to turn. We never had a good answer. We tried to get a higher altitude, because in several places, it looked as though even a few thousand feet would get us over the weather. No dice. It was one of the few times that I heard a controller announce, “[a]ll aircraft cleared to deviate as necessary.”

Wow.

Finally, when I began to think that we might need to announce to the RCMP that we were coming to Canada, eh, we found a hole to our left and floored it. Three or four minutes later, we were firmly established on a heading that again paralleled the weather, going west. We had to argue with several more controllers as we worked around a sizeable cell, and we had to contact the dispatcher about the 8,000-foot difference in our altitude and the effect on our fuel burn, but the farther west we went, the better the ride got. A normal flight of an hour took 90 minutes. Two hours later, we were on the ground in Baltimore for the overnight.

I hate thunderstorms…but I so want to move to a tropical island and fly VFR for the rest of my days.—Chip Wright

How short is short?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

What’s the shortest runway you’ve ever landed on?

The runway at Sugar Valley Airport in Mocksville, N.C., shown here, is 2,424 feet long and 36 feet wide. That’s 36 feet–widened from 25 feet. There are trees at the approach end of Runway 20. No obstructions on the other end…but if you should run into the weeds, you might end up in in a little lake.

Seventeen-year-old Zahra Khan, who learned to fly at Sugar Valley, doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. To her, 2,424 feet long and 36 feet wide is perfectly natural. It’s what she trained on and what she’s comfortable with.  Many of you most likely are, too. We should all be so well-trained and comfortable.

What’s the shortest runway you’ve ever landed on? And when was the last time you practiced a short-field landing? Share in the Comments section. —Jill W. Tallman