University of Michigan Flyers Fly It Forward

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As you may have seen on various aviation websites, March 3 through March 9 was Women in Aviation Worldwide Week and I was honored to help celebrate it with the University of Michigan Flying Club at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport. Almost 100 children, invited by Michigan Flyer’s members Anne Greenberg, Kathryn Robine, and Amelia Jayne, appeared through the snowy streets outside the Airport on March 7.  The students were given the opportunity to hear about aerodynamics, airplane systems, careers in aviation, and were able to sit at the controls at Michigan Flyer’s new Cessna Skycatcher and 172 in addition to a Piper Archer provided by yours truly thanks to my flying club Mang Aero Club based at the nearby Willow Run Airport.

Since the weather has been unusually harsh here in the Great Lakes, it was great to see some activity, both of current pilots and of the visiting students at the airport — many of which were so surprised at how easily they could get into an airport and fly off in an aviation career.

I can’t say enough good things about Michigan Flyers and the team that put together such a great event!

Students visit Ann Arbor Municipal Airport

 

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Michigan Flyers member and CFI Joe Morabito describes his previous airline career and what it takes to become a pilot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alaska Directory of Youth Aviation Education Programs

Youth participating in an airport "traffic pattern" event, under ATC supervision.

Youth participating in an airport “traffic pattern” activity, under ATC supervision.

Do you know a kid who is interested in aviation?  Whether it’s one of your own, a neighbor or someone you met along the way—knowing the programs that are available in your community might help the next generation of pilots, mechanics, air traffic controller or airport managers get their start.  With that in mind, AOPA in Alaska has started a directory of pre-college aviation programs to help connect kids with different aspects of aviation.  They range from classes in middle or high schools, to “build a plane” projects, to a tour program at the Alaska Aviation Museum at Lake Hood.  The Civil Air Patrol has cadet programs in a dozen communities across the state, which are all listed, including a person to contact and the day and time they meet.  Two schools have actual pilot training programs, where a student could end up with a private pilot’s license!

Start something new
I hope this listing of programs will encourage educators or interested parent who might be thinking about starting a ground-school class in their high school, or an after-school aviation club to take that first step. Using the directory, they can find out who is already engaged a similar activity and contact them for ideas on how to get started.

Be proactive!  As an individual, or as part of a local aviation group, find out what youth programs are active in your area, and offer to help. Consider providing (or being) a guest speaker, setting up a Young Eagles flight event, or organizing a visit to an aviation facility.  If someone has an airplane they want to donate for a build-a-plane project, look for a youth group interested in participating.

AV8RS icon path-coverAlso listed in the directory are some of the resources that AOPA has to offer, such as the free-online AV8RS Program for young people aged 13-18.  Teachers may be interested in the PATH Handbook—Pilots and Teachers Handbook—that helps integrate math, science, physics, history and technology using general aviation examples.

The inspiration for starting this project came from my counterpart Yasmina Platt, AOPA Regional Manager for the Central Southwest Region, who developed a similar directory covering the nine states she serves.  If you would like to see what kinds of middle and high school programs are available in her part of the country (New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa), have a look: http://blog.aopa.org/vfr/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Listing-of-Pre-College-Aviation-Programs.pdf.  There may be ideas worth borrowing.  Each program’s website is included, as well as a personal contact.  Kudos to Yasmina for assembling this document, which prompted me to do a similar thing for Alaska.

This is just the start of this directory. I hope to find other programs that are not yet listed.  If you know of a youth program not included in the directory, just let me know. Please include contact information so I can invite them to participate. Or forward a copy to someone involved in the program, and invite them to contact me directly.  Over the months and years ahead, I hope to see a lot more entries added to the list!

Alaska Flight Service adds InReach to satellite tracking program

A little over a year ago Flight Service offered a new service to Alaskan pilots, allowing them to incorporate satellite tracking devices into their VFR flight plans.  Named eSRS for Enhanced Special Reporting Service, pilots sign up for (or update) a Master Flight Plan to identify the satellite tracking device they use, and obtain contact information so that a distress signal will be received by FSS—along with your GPS location. (For a more complete description of the service see http://blog.aopa.org/vfr/?p=396)

The Delorme InReach has been added to the list of satellite devices used by the Alaska FSS to receive distress messages.

The Delorme InReach has been added to the list of satellite devices used by the Alaska FSS to receive distress messages.

While this was initially restricted to SPOT and Spidertracks devices, starting on March 10, 2014, FAA has added Delorme InReach to the list of supported devices.  The InReach has some features worth noting.  Its purchase price, in the $300 range, is attractive.  Like the other devices in this class, the user has to subscribe to a messaging or tracking service—which ranges between $10 – $25 per month.  Flight Service has already been paid for— so no added cost there.  And they operate 24/7, with someone always on duty to receive a distress call.  FSS already knows your aircraft type, number of people on board and other detail from your flight plan, and is poised to expedite getting help on the way during an emergency. Add to that the GPS coordinates with your location. This service could take hours off the time required to summon help, when you need it the most!

The InReach has some attractive features in addition to price.  It uses the Iridium satellite constellation, which provides excellent coverage in Alaska.  The unit also supports two-way texting, so in addition sending a HELP message, you may be able to communicate with rescuers to let them know exactly what assistance is needed. It is portable and can go with you outside the airplane.  The only down side, from an aviation perspective, is that it lacks the automatic tracking feature used in the Spidertracks system, which automatically sends a distress in an emergency—even if the unit is destroyed in the crash. That is a powerful feature that trumps a 406 MHz ELT, from my perspective.

AOPA and the Alaska Airmen have worked closely with the FAA in support of this service.  In a little over a year’s time 55 pilots have signed up and, almost 1,000 flights have been conducted under the program.  Hopefully more people will consider participating with the addition of the InReach unit to the program.  For more details on eSRS and information on how to sign up, see: http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/systemops/fs/alaskan/alaska/esrs-ak/

National Wind Turbine Map: A new Pilot Resource

As one of the fastest growing forms of renewable energy, wind turbines are sprouting up all over the country.  On a recent airline flight across the country, I was blown away to see areas in northern Texas with rows of wind-turbines that went on for miles—some of which included well over of a hundred turbines. Now I know why they call them wind farms!  This technology is increasingly popular in rural Alaska, where the cost of fuel to generate electricity is through the roof expensive.  As with all good things, they come with potential impacts.  As pilots, wind turbines provide several challenges: initially as obstructions we have to avoid during flight.  If located too close to airports, they interfere with instrument approaches resulting in higher minimums and reduced access.  Finally, when the wind  blows they represent a source of turbulence, which we still have much to learn about (more on that later).

Interface to the Interactive Wind Farm Map, starts with an overview of where towers are found around the country.

Interface to the Interactive Wind Farm Map, starts with an overview of where towers are found around the country.

Locating individual wind turbines
Recently the US Geological Survey has given us a new tool to locate wind turbines, on a nation-wide basis.  A new interactive mapping application, provides access to a database that not only shows us where wind turbines are found, but records their height, blade length, and other information on a tower-by-tower basis. Prior to this, while some states captured the locations of individual wind turbines, there was no uniform database that provided this information across the country.  Starting with the FAA’s Digital Obstruction File (through July 22, 2013), a USGS team led by Dr. Jay Diffendorfer located over 47,000 turbine sites, verifying individual tower locations with high-resolution satellite imagery. This data base gives us a much better way to find individual tower locations, with a location accuracy estimated to be within 10 meters.

While fewer in number, wind turbines are sprouting up across Alaska.

While still few in number, wind turbines are sprouting up across Alaska.

A row of wind turbines just outside Unalalkeet, on the west coast of Alaska. According to the USGS interactive map, they have a total height of 156 ft. tall

A row of wind turbines just outside Unalalkeet, on the west coast of Alaska. According to the USGS interactive map, they have a total height of 156 ft. tall

Understanding impacts
This database is designed to support research into environmental effects on both critters that fly, and wildlife habitat.  But these data may also be useful in the future to project the impact of down-wind effects on general aviation airports, which is still an evolving research topic.  A recent study at the University of Kansas has shown that the turbulence from a wind turbine extends further as wind speed increases, up to 3 miles in some cases.  This and the potential increase in cross winds could be a significant impact for small aircraft at GA airports.  Hopefully, more work will be done to quantify these conditions, leading to improvements in the FAA’s obstruction review process, which today only takes into account the height of an obstruction above ground when air space reviews are conducted.

Provide feedback
All maps are only as current as the date used to make them.  This data set incorporated information from FAA’s obstruction file as of last July.  And if you come across wind turbines that aren’t in the database, please capture what information you can and send an email with the location to jediffendorfer@usgs.gov.

Thanks to this effort, we have a better way to learn where wind turbines are located in the areas where we fly!

Milwaukee News Program Targets General Aviation…And Misses the Real Story.

A Milwaukee television station TMJ-4 is promoting an “investigative” report entitled “Small Airports, Big Upgrade” that will air tonight. The preview states: “Millions of your tax dollars dumped into tiny airports that you’ll never use. Why are Wisconsin’s smallest airports getting big upgrades with your money? You asked, we investigate.” (Link below).
AOPA contacted the reporter and was promised a call back, but never received one.
Here’s what you probably won’t see or hear on tonight’s report:
  • Total impact of general aviation on Wisconsin’s economy: $694.5 million in economic output/9,390 job/$259 million in personal income earned in 2010.
  • Total impact of all aviation in Wisconsin: $6.9 billion in output/90,900 jobs/$3.5 billion personal income earned in 2010.

A sampling of the impact of a few small and medium-sized airports:

  • WAUKESHA COUNTY AIRPORT –  $42 million in sales/$10 million in wage income/281 jobs in 2008-2009;
  • EAST TROY MUNICIPAL AIRPORT — $12.9 million in sales/$4.8 million in wage income/113 jobs in 2010;
  • EAGLE RIVER UNION AIRPORT — $8.4 million in economic output/$2.1 million in personal income and 122 jobs in 2004;
  • CENTRAL WISCONSIN AIRPORT, Mosinee — $71.5 million in economic output/564 jobs/$16.4 million in wage income in 2012;
  • OUTAGAMIE COUNTY REGIONAL AIRPORT, Appleton — $293 million in economic output/1,417 jobs/$79.5 million in payroll. (All figures according to Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics economic impact studies).

Contact the TMJ-4 vice president/general manager, Steve Wexler, at:  swexler@journalbroadcastgroup.com

Link to “story”: http://www.jrn.com/tmj4/news/you-ask-we-investigate/small-airports-big-upgrades-244707131.html

AOPA’s Mark Baker Comes to Michigan!

The Great Lakes Aviation Conference and Expo (GLIAC) will be held February 14th and 15th at the Lansing Convention Center in Downtown Lansing, Michigan.  It has been a major attraction for those in the aviation field in the Great Lakes Region for 14 years. The Conference and Expo is designed to provide an interactive and education event offering 60 breakout sessions for pilots, maintenance professionals, sport pilots, instructors, and students.

The GLIAC has a unique partnership with the FAA, Aviation Business Leaders, Industry Experts, and other individuals that strive to make it a complete and comprehensive event.

Among the talented keynote presenters including Barry Cooper, FAA Regional Administrator, General John Borling, and Art Mortvedt will be AOPA’s President and CEO Mark Baker.  Mark will discuss the Association’s ongoing work to protect our freedom to fly and his own mission to energize pilots and put the fun back into flying during the Friday 12:00pm Keynote Address.

Yours truly will also be in attendance will some great giveaways at the AOPA booth.  Please stop by and say hello!

Cessna owners: Check your Atlee Dodge Seats!

Recently an Airworthiness Concern from the FAA found its way to my email, regarding F. Atlee Dodge folding seats.  Designed by Atlee Dodge to replace the rear seats in Cessna 170 and 180 series aircraft, these seats are very popular in Alaska and other places that use their aircraft as a utility vehicle.  They not only fold, but are easily removable to accommodate the cargo many of us haul in our aircraft.  The concern stems from an accident where a passenger using one of these seats was ejected through the windshield of an aircraft when it nosed over.  The subsequent investigation determined that how the seats were installed may have played a role.  This prompted the FAA to look at other aircraft with these seats installed, which revealed that more than half of those examined were also not installed according to the STC.  To address this problem, F. Atlee Dodge Aircraft Services LLC has issued a Mandatory Service Bulletin which calls for a visual inspection of the folding seat installation.

I have a set of Atlee Dodge seats in my Cessna 185 that were installed in 1987, prior to the issuance of the STC. And sure enough—I needed to correct two problems: my installation had no seat belt guides, and the outboard belt straps were attached to the old Cessna anchors, not the slide rail.  A call to Dave Swartz at the FAA Aircraft Certification Office in Anchorage shed a little more light on the subject.  It turns out that not only is the strength of a seatbelt anchor important, the angle the belt crosses your body has a lot to do with how they function during a sudden stop.  The seat belt guides, and placement of the anchors are important details.  If you have a set of these seats in your airplane, take a copy of the diagram from the service bulletin and look at how they are installed.

Diagram from Service Bulletin showing point to check regarding installation of Atlee Dodge folding seats.

Diagram from Service Bulletin showing points to check regarding installation of Atlee Dodge folding seats.

Steve Kracke at Atlee Dodge had me email him photos of my installation.  That and a phone call got the parts I needed headed my way.  Steve tells me he has plenty of the parts that might be needed on hand.

Seat installation with newly installed seatbelt guide, attached to the end of the seat track.

Seat installation with newly installed seatbelt guide, attached to the end of the seat track.

 

Outboard seatbelt attached to the side rail-- not the original Cessna seatbelt attach point.

Outboard seatbelt attached to the side rail– not the original Cessna seatbelt attach point.

F. Atlee Dodge Aircraft Services is a phone call or email away: (907) 344-1755 or atleedodge@acsalaska.net.  If you have questions or feedback for the FAA Aircraft Certification Office concerning the  Airworthiness Concern, contact Aviation Safety Engineer Ted Kohlstedt  ted.kohlstedt@faa.gov or 907-271-2648.  You owe it to your passengers to check into this, and make sure your seats are properly installed!

I had a dream!

A lot of people (I would even venture to say “most people”) have dreams… some reachable, some unreachable. I could tell you that my ultimate dream would be to fly to the moon but, unfortunately, that is not a realistic dream for more reasons than one. Instead, I rather think of dreams as big goals and desires – things that you can achieve if you work hard at it, stay on task, and persevere.

Some people dream of their wedding, owning a big house and a nice car, or maybe buying a boat. Others dream of what they want to be or do. As a kid, I always remember thinking of one dream… to fly one day. It took all of those things that I mentioned earlier and more but, boy, was it worth it!

General aviation flying is something special that I wish more people could experience. The Oxford Dictionary defines “takeoff” as “the action of becoming airborne.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the moment when an airplane, helicopter, etc., leaves the ground and begins to fly.” Those are very factual and physics-based definitions. There is so much more to it… taking off (especially during the first solo) is something magical; it’s a feeling of enjoyment, adventure, freedom, power, empowerment, majesty, and departure from depressing world news among others.

Flying itself is also more than the physical part of it. It’s also about the wonderful people you meet, the events (fly-ins, airshow, air races, air routes…) you can participate in and attend, the destinations you visit, the 3D views you enjoy, the experiences you live and so forth. It brings some cool options and opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise enjoy it.

On a day when we remember MLK’s dream of equality, today is a good day to review and celebrate our own dreams. And, for me, today is a good day to celebrate the achievement of my dream with its main enablers – my parents. I could not think of a better way to celebrate it than to take them up flying for the weekend so I could share my dream and passion with them.

So… I had a dream that one day I would fly and it feels amazing to have achieved it. Now I’m working on my next dream because I believe in bettering yourself… looking further and challenging yourself within your limits and reach.

What’s your dream? Whatever it is, I encourage you to keep going through the fun times and the hard times. I especially encourage those of you who wish to fly and join the PIC ranks.

Airport Management Associations

Today’s world seems to require a specialized Association for everything!  Automobile owners have the American Automobile Association, (AAA); Gun owners have the National Rifle Association (NRA), and of course those of us who own or operate aircraft have the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA)—all of which I belong to.  There are many hundreds, possibly thousands, of similar Associations out there spanning most all industries—I wonder what the actual count is up to?

Naturally some associations, like those I mentioned, are more widely known than others.  Here are a few I previously never heard of:  National Limousine Association (NLA), National Parking Association (NPA), and slightly closer to home—Airport Ground Transportation Association (AGTA).  Knowing there are many other associations out there serving a distinct purpose for their member-base, I often wonder if there are any within GA I am not yet aware of that maybe I ought to be.

As I move around the region I talk to many members and businesses and am always trying to gauge their individual level of engagement with General Aviation.  Frequently I meet people who use aircraft for business and pleasure but maybe by the nature of their work or different life focus remain unaware of even local aviation associations—be they local pilot or airport associations.  Comprised of local businesses and residents (money and votes to a politician ;) ) these associations exude great influence over local and state legislation.

One particular type of association that many pilots remain unaware of is their State’s Airport Management Association.  Now it’s true not every state has one but if yours does, you may consider joining even if you don’t work in airport management.  Where I live, we have the Massachusetts Airport Management Association (MAMA).  Initially I joined because it made sense for me as a Regional Manager to be involved in statewide airport matters, but the more I worked with MAMA and others like it, I realized how they benefit me as a pilot—protecting the very system that allows me to enjoy the privilege of flight.  Airport management associations such as those in Mass (MAMA), New York (NYAMA), New Hampshire (GSAMA), and Pennsylvania (ACP), are often the largest state-based aviation lobbying groups.  These groups generally maintain close relationships with the respective division of the State DOT and this direct link serves advocates like you and me as an excellent communication medium with State officials and industry leaders.

Now like any association, there are usually annual member dues—these monies usually serve to cover quarterly member and Board of Director meetings.  Some Associations also hold annual conferences to bring the membership together with other state leaders and related entities for education and networking.  The most recent of which I participated in was MAMA’s Annual Conference held at Gillette Stadium—surely a place worth visiting even if you’re not a Patriots fan!  In addition to these annual Conferences, Massachusetts and New York host annual Capital Days in which the members gather to represent their respective airports and talk with State leaders about the benefits of our industry while highlighting the immense economic impact airports have on a state’s economy—nothing grabs the unsuspecting legislator like rattling off “Did you know” facts such as: Massachusetts’ 40 public use airports support 400,000+ jobs, and generate more than $4 Billion in annual economic activity.  Of course, these are the kinds of fun facts every pilot and aviation advocate should know about their own state!

So with this information in mind, considering joining if your state has one, of course if it doesn’t—Happy New Year—now is a great time to start one!