Your connection with the sky

My First Cross Country

, March 17th, 2009

Sorry for taking so long for posting about my cross country.  School has been extremely hectic making it hard to simply sit down and blog.  Well, Wednesday was finally a success.  After coming home from school, I quickly packed my flight bag and sped to the airport.   Read More >>

My First Solo as a Deaf Pilot

, March 13th, 2009

It was a big day for me today. Flying for the first time without my instructor onboard, which means he will not handle the radio communication for me. I was excited and looking forward being the Pilot in Command. It was a beautiful sunny day, but windy. The headwind was kind of concerning me a little, but I could handle it. Read More >>

More interviews in Florida for A Pilot’s Story

, March 13th, 2009

The producers of A Pilot's Story just returned from a trip in Florida, driving over 1200 miles from Jacksonville to Tampa over a period of 6 days.  They conducted interviews with aviators such as Patty Wagstaff and Ret. Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger and many more notable aviation writers and professionals such as Amy Laboada, Jeb Burnside and James Wynbrandt. Read More >>

Landing a Glider – “But you can’t go around”

, March 12th, 2009

"How would you handle a go-around?" This is a perfectly logical question for a pilot trained in airplanes but it's likely to be met with a quizzical, "Why would you want to?" from a glider pilot. The question simply doesn't occur to a glider pilot who has been trained to land from every approach. So, how do soaring guys and gals manage to land nicely every time? Its a matter of energy management, judgment and planning - something any skateboarder or mountain bicyclist understands. Read More >>

Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined

, March 12th, 2009

Cole at the Airport Fence

Toward the end of 1996 or so, I was listening to WDET’s Folks Like Us show while cleaning my basement. I heard a spoken word piece by Mike Agranoff, a New Jersey -based folk musician and bard (in every sense of the word).

The piece was called The Ballad of the Sandman and it told the story of an apocryphal radio DJ on New Year’s Eve of 1969.  Oppressed by the new programming director and the encroachment of the mundane on the previously glorious landscape of early FM radio, the protagonist, Paul Sandman, barricades himself in the studio and weaves his magic until they break down the door.

Over the course of Sandman’s civil disobedience, his brother and sister DJs pass along his signal across the nation and the overnight hardcore radio listeners are treated to the swansong of this hero of radio. It’s some of the best spoken-word stuff I’ve ever heard. Read More >>

The Student Pilot: Inspiration

, March 9th, 2009

If, like many of the people who read this blog, you're a student pilot or a non-aviator, you might look with awe at those leather-faced aviators or advanced students around the airport and wonder if they ever thought about when they were students or non-aviators like you. You know the type. They walk around with instrument approach plates and IFR en route charts that don't even have ground features marked on them. Read More >>

Soaring – Sailplanes

, March 5th, 2009

All aircraft are beautiful in their own way but sailplanes are arguably the most visually stunning. Because sailplanes are raced and "racing improves the breed", the pursuit of pure, uncompromising performance has resulted in objects of unsurpassed beauty. They have been refined through thousands of prototypes until designers settled on long, thin wings, a "pod and boom" fuselage and a "T" tail. The result is beautiful, fast and has superb handling qualities. Read More >>

Another great reason to learn how to fly, to eat!

, March 5th, 2009

I kept busy last week washing an airplane and as I do with most menial tasks, my mind began to drift.  Perhaps I was hungry from the physical labor of washing, or maybe I have some kind of eating disorder, but I started thinking about food....a lot of food.  The first thought was simple enough, "I wonder what I'm going to have for dinner?" but then my mind really began to wander as I began thinking about the places that the aircraft I was washing has taken me to and what delicious foods I have eaten there. Read More >>

On My Own

, March 5th, 2009

Today was the first flight in which Dana played no direct role in (kind of).  Today, I booked the plane at 16:00 for a just-for-fun flight.  I planned on bringing my camera and GPS to do some ariel photography.  As soon as I got home from school, I jumped in the car and headed out to the airport.  When I got there, I swiped my club membership card at the lock boxes to grab my key.   Read More >>

Soaring – Surfing the Jetstream

, March 3rd, 2009

boulder waveTo pilots of piston aircraft, the flight levels are usually unreachable but who hasn't looked wistfully at jet contrails. Glider pilots, with no engine or pressurization, know how to get there.

Surfers have Hawaii's North Shore, mountain climbers have Mt. Everest, and glider pilots have the Mountain Wave. You don't participate in these extreme sports without serious training, top notch equipment and the ability to manage risk. Flying a glider in a mountain wave is all that and more. For adventurous glider pilots, wave flying offers the possibility of extreme heights and record distances.

High altitude winds blowing across big mountains like the Sierras in California, the Rockies in Colorado, or the Andes in Patagonia, can form atmospheric standing waves resembling those formed in water flowing over a submerged boulder. See:

On January 21st, 2003, Klaus Ohlmann of Germany flew his Nimbus 4 DM glider 1870 miles in the lee waves of the Andes starting from Chapelco Apt. near San Martin de los Andes, Argentina to establish a world distance record.

What is a wave flight like? Let me describe one of mine. It was an unusually warm January morning in Colorado 30 years ago. A great "Lenticular" wave cloud floated stationary in the fast moving air at 25,000' MSL above the Continental Divide. An hour before takeoff, arrangements had been made by telephone with Denver Center for access into a "Wave Window" - an area above 18,000 feet, defined in a letter of agreement and available to glider pilots by request.

The takeoff was into a very turbulent, 20 knot west wind. I wore an insulated flight suit, boots, thick gloves and a sheepskin lined WWII leather helmet with a tight fitting oxygen mask as protection against the cold and lack of oxygen. I pulled the tow rope release knob at 11,000 feet and the tow pilot dove away with a radioed "Good Luck". The turbulence rolled and pitched the glider like a raft on the Colorado River making me work hard to maintain control - but I was climbing.

The turbulence suddenly ended as the glider entered the perfectly smooth air of the wave itself and the rate of climb increased dramatically. I could actually see the mountain peaks falling away. Denver Center granted a clearance into the wave window just before reaching FL180.

Now, facing into the jet stream climbing 2500 feet a minute, I concentrated on staying inside the assigned airspace while navigating around the upwind edge of the Lenticular cloud. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the glider was above 30,000 feet and it was getting intensely cold. Ice was forming on the inside of the canopy as my breath froze. The outside air temperature was minus 40C and dropping but fierce sunlight provided a little warmth.

As the glider soared past 38,000 feet, I felt the "pressure demand" oxygen system automatically pushing pure oxygen into my lungs. At 42,000, the glider would go no higher. (I wasn't sure I wanted to go higher.) Jet contrails were visible BELOW my altitude. The slide rule glide calculator said I could glide more than 300 miles downwind to somewhere in Kansas. Instead, I just sat there for a few minutes taking in the view.

The cold seeping into my flight suit told me I needed to get down so I flew into the descending part of the wave which now carried the glider down even faster than it went up. As I rolled to a stop after a 40 minute flight, friends ran up with questions about how high the flight had gone. I tried to speak but my facial muscles refused to work - they were just too cold. I had surfed the jet stream at Flight Level 420 and no North Shore Kahuna could have been more satisfied.

Next time I'll write about sailplanes and their advanced technology. Meanwhile here's some great reading.

Exploring the Monster by Robert F. Whelan Amazon ISBN-10: 1891118323