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Special engine out procedures, Part 1

Every summer, it seems, there are days where the temperatures somewhere are hot enough that the media has reports that airplanes can’t take off. It is easy to scratch your head and ask how it is that an airliner can’t depart, even in a high density altitude environment. The most common place for this seems to be Phoenix.

Two things can drive this. The first is pretty simple: Hotter temps mean higher ground speeds for takeoff, and those speeds can mean that the speed limits for tires can be exceeded. Knowingly exceeding a limitation is never acceptable, and the result is usually a cancelled takeoff, or more likely, a reduced payload to reduce the speeds.

The second issue is performance once airborne. But it isn’t the all-engine performance that is the issue. It is single-engine performance, and more specifically, it is the single-engine performance that would be required when losing an engine at the worst possible time, which is right at the speed known as V1.

V1 is known as the takeoff decision speed, but more accurately, when the speed reaches V1, the crew is committed to taking off, with very rare exceptions (I know of one crew that aborted after V1 because the elevator was jammed). The FAA requires that manufacturers of FAR Part 25 certified airplanes be able to demonstrate that a takeoff can be safely continued after losing an engine at V1. They further define the climb segment as being four distinct segments, all of which have certain requirements: liftoff to 35 feet; 35 feet to 400 feet; an acceleration segment; and 400 feet to 1,500 hundred feet.

Further, all of this must be done while meeting certain climb gradient criteria without violating any of the TERPS parameters. One of the challenges comes with what can best be described as “non-standard” climbs. These can (and often are) be driven by obstacles or terrain in the departure path. This is especially true if an airport has been shoe-horned in or if the area around the field has been developed in such a way that it is no longer in compliance with FAA criteria.

When you learn to compute airline performance data, you aren’t all that concerned with all-engine performance. You are instead concerned with how to meet each of the four segments of climb. You may not know exactly where the TERPS concern is, but you know that something in the departure path is an issue, or that the runway is too short to accommodate the necessary acceleration after losing an engine at V1.

In my next post, I will discuss the work-around for some of these challenges, known as special engine out procedures. These procedures are essentially an alternate method of compliance that allow for the maximum possible payload (and revenue) without compromising safety. You don’t need to be Chuck Yeager to fly these safely, but you do need to thoroughly review and brief what the steps are, and be prepared for the unlikely to become your new reality.—Chip Wright

The humble O2 mask

Most passengers—especially frequent travelers—don’t pay much attention to the flight attendant safety briefings. That said, there is actually some good information being passed along, and as a potential professional pilot, it would be wise to start learning some of it yourself.

For instance, how much attention have you paid to the discussion about the oxygen masks falling from the ceiling? You might know that you need to put the mask on during a depressurization situation, but did you pay any attention to the particulars? If not, you should.

The oxygen that you will breathe during a depressurization actually isn’t on the airplane yet. It has to be produced, and guess who does that? You do.

Every jet uses some kind of a pressurization controller to maintain cabin altitude. If the cabin climbs above a certain setting (around 14,000 feet msl), the controller will (should) release the “rubber jungle” into the cabin. If the automatic system fails, the pilots can manually deploy the masks, but first they need feedback from the flight attendants that the masks didn’t fall. If there are a few units that don’t work, the flight attendants can use a tool to pop open the doors of the unit that is right over your seat.

Once the masks are out, there is a catch: Oxygen isn’t generated until you pull the mask toward you. You actually need to give it a little tug, because the hose is attached to a pin that needs to be tripped. When you give that mask a tug, the pin activates a chemical reaction that will then produce the oxygen that you will breathe. This is why you’re told that you should put on your mask first and make sure it’s activated. If the cabin depressurizes at a high altitude, there won’t be much time of useful consciousness, and if you can get your mask working, then you can help a child or someone next to you.

Once the canister is activated, it generates a tremendous amount of heat, so you don’t want to reach up and touch it. It can—and will likely—also produce a bit of a burning or foul odor. You don’t want to mistake that for a possible fire. It is instead a sign that the system is working as advertised. There may also be a bit of dust or smoke, both of which can generally be ignored.

What the flight attendants don’t tell you is this: The canisters only produce enough oxygen for around 12 minutes of breathing, though you may be able to get 15 minutes out of it. Worse, the oxygen is a continuous flow. It doesn’t matter how deeply or slowly you breathe. The good news with that is that if you (or a seatmate) pass out, air is available. The bad news is that if you pull down on two masks at once, you will still only have the 12 minutes of air to use. So, if you are in a row of three seats by yourself, you might have 36 to 45 minutes of air to use if you use them consecutively.

Why so little time? The assumption is that a depressurization at altitude is going to be followed by an immediate and rapid descent to (preferably) 10,000 feet. Since passenger jets are limited to 41,000 feet, the crew would be trying to lose 31,000 feet. In 12 minutes’ time, that works out to around 2,600 feet per minute, which should be very easy to do. Keep in mind that this is a worst-case scenario, because very few full jets can reach FL410.

So, next time you board, pay attention to the safety briefing. There are nuggets of information in there that really can save your life. And in this case, they will also be on a checkride if you are looking to fly professionally.—Chip Wright

Recurrent Lockdown Without a Pandemic

Before I get into the thesis of my post, I owe an update to the inglorious rant from last month. For those that got through my little post of horrors to the fourth section about my quest for the [Heli Coil] Holy Grail, I ended it on a positive note, as though the problem was solved. Well, it wasn’t. Within two hours of submitting the post, the distributor cancelled the order, even though we had spoken on the phone about it. Apparently, the package intermediary that they asked for was a problem and they washed their hands of it. I went back to the first distributor, who actually shipped it next day to the intermediary (should have used them in the first place!). Between overnight shipping to the intermediary, COVID delays, and FedEx Express to Europe, it took two additional weeks to arrive.

As is apparently customary with Swiss maintenance technicians, initial enthusiasm from the mobile Swiss A&P was replaced with a sudden reticence to schedule the job on his part now that the parts arrived. At this point, I remembered an American instructor I used in Germany in 2016, who equally had the daft idea to import and fly an airplane from America on this continent of misery. He had mentioned solving his mechanical woes not long after I left Germany, so I thought “why not see who he uses?”

I found a real solution for the long haul. A younger German mechanic, licensed under EASA and as an A&P/IA, he was billed to me as a “non-German German.” I.e., he will actually fix things instead of robotically demanding a major overhaul as a solution to all woes. The instructor said, “We’ll solve it. I’ll fly him down. That’s what pilot friends are for.” I was in such disbelief that I might have been dreaming, so I called the A&P, expecting some sort of catch. I slowly revealed my woes, progressively giving every last detail, and he said “It is no problem to do the heli-coil by hand. It will take one hour.”

Before he came, I did some more analysis, sent some photos, and we determined that the studs themselves were shot, so we pushed off another week to order them from the USA (which he did, adding to a larger order he had coming). Then the day finally came, where I could barely sleep the night before, expecting doom and misery. After all, if a mistake was made, the case would have had to go to the USA, effectively resulting in the major overhaul I was trying to avoid.

I had the jig on the cylinder, ready to go per the Swiss recommendation. The German arrived, looked at it, and said, “We must remove this as we cannot do the job with it in the way.” Ironic. Then he pulled out a bag and said “I brought some heli-coils in case we needed a different size.” He had them at his shop, rendering my month of misery acquiring them pointless. I do not have enough emotional impartiality to distinguish between my indignation at a wasted month of strife from the glee I should have that this guy already has what I need on hand for future repairs.

When it came time for actual drilling, like a parent watching a doctor perform surgery on a young child, I couldn’t watch. I paced on the other side of the hangar, and 20 minutes later: “This one is done. Now we do the other one.” What? It was that easy? 20 minutes later. “Ok, the heli-coils are in. Now we must put the cylinder on.”

While I was naturally quite pleased, it was an almost insulting crescendo. How many weeks of strife, misery, and struggle did I endure, and in the end, it was a one-hour affair? Why is it that every single maintenance technician in Europe (except this one) that I spoke to would not do it? While the German A&P did explain that EASA mechanics basically are not allowed to do such a repair on a European registered aircraft, he pointed out that it is “on the N register therefore it is allowed.” I shall mention that the last 5 mechanics I spoke to in Europe were also FAA A&Ps, who basically were repairing N registered aircraft while looking at the EASA book.

The saga with repair has continued and is mostly complete with a successful initial cylinder break in test flight completed. The whole affair took 9 weeks, most of which was spent on the phone, waiting for parts, or being told “no” by someone after previously having been told “yes.” In the end, when I add up the $6500 repair bill (many things were replaced in the troubleshooting process, and the jug was one of a few contributing factors), it cost roughly 40% more than if I was in the USA (VAT, middlemen, freight from America, nonsense). It took 6 weeks longer than if the airplane was in the States, with 85% of that delay due to Europe and 15% due to the pandemic. The single hardest problem was a lack of qualified mechanical assistance.

If any other owners of N registered aircraft in Europe are equally as frustrated, please contact me and I will arrange an introduction to this A&P. I highly recommend him. I believe that this recent misery is an investment in smoothing out future issues, as I have a fantastic resource vetted now. I also owe a huge “thanks” to my instructor friend who flew him down. One has to love the pilot community.

Now this brings us to my thesis, which is about how aviation has inflicted three “lockdowns” since 2014 with this airplane, lasting two, three, and four months. This one was the shortest, believe it or not. The longest was Germany in 2016, and the middle struggle was while in Colorado in 2014.

I traced the common thread to all of them, and it was a fusion to two issues: a very complicated, sprawling repair and a lack of a nearby qualified A&P. I.e., either a nearby A&P wouldn’t do it, or a maintenance technician simply did not exist in the area. In each of these instances, I would rely upon a complex web of removing what parts a pilot is allowed to (quite a bit) and shipping them for inspection, rework, repair, or overhaul to a willing A&P in another state, sending photos of the remaining situation, consulting extensively by phone, staging new parts, and bringing the whole thing to a finale by bringing someone in to help get it all done. In all three cases, one symptom on this old engine resulted in the revelation of other problems, or vagaries of the troubleshooting process (where the parts being replaced weren’t the problem). Untold hours are spent going to and from the airport, sourcing parts, shipping things, staring at delayed packages on tracking and the like.

In instances where major problems were resolved in a short period of time (not part of these long downtimes), professionals were close by. Two of these disastrous affairs were in Europe, which made it much worse, whereas one was in the rural Rockies. What is the lesson? If one relocates with an airplane to a new area, especially if it is extremely rural as I seem to choose, immediately begin the search for an available mechanic for an ongoing professional relationship, even if nothing is wrong with the airplane. It is one thing to fly in an existing resource, though that assumes that the airplane only breaks at annual inspection, that deferred maintenance can be caught up at that time, or that the airplane can be flown a long distance to the site of an annual. As 9 months of downtime over the last six years has taught me, it doesn’t always work that way. While most pilots in America live in a reasonable range of a metropolitan area where this problem largely doesn’t exist, a move to a rural or foreign location should treat this search with urgency as though the airplane is broken. While the Cub has gone hundreds of flying hours with minimal issues, it goes through occasional brutal maintenance and repair cycles and I cannot seem to predict when they will strike.

Many times I have wondered why I am living the life I am, and it took an hour and a half circling two miles above the airport during the test flight, gazing at the Alps, to remind me why I am willing to put up with this misery when it does happen. A great way to forget a hellacious downtime is to go flying again.

Château-d’Oex. Wandering around at 11,000 feet, in glide range of the airport during cylinder break in.

Gstaad Airport from 8,000 feet. 

 

 

 

Patience, Pivot, and Persistence: Get a new Certificate/Rating during COVID

Two steps forward and one step back. In early January I took the written exam for the Commercial certificate. I scored a healthy 86% and was anxious to get in the airplane to learn and master the Commercial maneuvers with the goal of a check ride by my birthday at the end of March.

We all know what happened next. As pilots we have had to exhibit some patience in order to try to tamp down the outbreak of the Corona virus. I would like to give a big shout out to my instructors, Mike Jesch [primary] and Christopher Keran [night] and my DPE Dave Koebel. We all had to exhibit patience, pivot and persistence. I am happy to report that on July 5th I took and passed my Commercial check ride in Hood River, Oregon. I hope that understanding and applying the following principles will help you to reach your aviation goals in 2020 and beyond.

The key to living in these times, psychologically speaking, is the use of Three P’s:

  • Patience

  • Pivot

  • Persistence

    Mt. Shasta en route to Hood River, Oregon

Patience

To say that these are unprecedented times would be an understatement. Our entire sense of “normal” has vanished like the many scheduled events on our flying calendars. Additionally with many working from home, off work, or recovering from illness, our ability to define normalcy has been decimated.

Personally I had two opposing forces; my desire to complete my training and achieve the Commercial; and my psychotherapy practice that was busier than ever. At the beginning of the pandemic I could have worked seeing clients virtually 24/7. There was [and is] so much need for psychological care. I had to develop some patience during this early transition to “COVID-normal”. Eventually I was able to strike a balance between work, study, and a personal life.

It is safe to say you haven’t lived through a global pandemic of this magnitude, so what I am about to say might seem a little strange. Let yourself be a learner; give yourself some grace. As information changes, life changes, and your feelings change, remind yourself that you are back to being a student-of-life. Try to show patience to yourself and others, as we all process at our own pace.

Pivot

Humans react differently to stress and trauma. For many the “shock” phase, in which the person feels foggy and is keen to deny reality, lasts longer. There comes a time where the shock wears off and we have to make new plans that line up with the new reality. This is where the concept of Pivot comes in. Flexibility is the key in learning to pivot.  Like many of you, I had a timeline for my new rating. Then 2020 said, “Hold my beer” and those plans that included in-cockpit instruction were out the window. Time to change course and do as much as I could on my own.

 

I used King Schools for my Commercial ticket. Luckily the online content was up-to-date and very complete. Another added benefit of quarantine was that so many outlets [AOPA, EAA, FAAST, Social Flight, etc.] were offering educational content. Owning my plane provided a major advantage during COVID. I was able to practice maneuvers and get the night cross country and required night landings in all while being in complete control of my aircraft environment.

Getting ready for check ride

 

Persistence

As days turned in to months in our COVID-normal, I found myself drifting a bit. In the “before-times” I used to work really hard, so I could play hard at aviation events. Now the play was all gone, replaced by work, work, work, then zombie. You see, when you are staring at a screen all day your brain downshifts your body to zombie mode. Yet other parts of your brain are on high alert, keenly aware you are working, being observed and on-camera. The combination of sitting for long periods, body on zombie, brain on high alert leads rather quickly to exhaustion or burn out.

After I finished my day, mustered up something to eat, and took my pup Mooney out for a walk, the idea of watching another Zoom video, or online education video just made me cringe. Another factor was that my attention span was about 20 minutes. What I had to do was exhibit Persistence. I set small goals for myself; every day I would do at least one thing that would make me a better pilot.

On approach in Bakersfield, CA.

In late May I talked with my CFI Mike Jesch about his feelings about resuming flight instruction. We agreed to wear our masks, disinfect the yoke/instruments, to use our own headsets and to be as socially distant as one can. We started up the flight training, specifically on the maneuvers. I had watched the King Commercial check ride prep videos repeatedly, read the Airplane Flying Handbook and did a fair amount of ground prep. CFI Chris Keran was on board for the night dual, which turned out to be a hoot from Santa Maria, to Bakersfield, then Fresno, CA.

Finally back in the air with Mike Jesch, CFII

The reality is, when you are in the air, you are back to being a learner. I had to exhibit the grace and grit I spoke of earlier. I can’t count how many people told me how much they loved flying the maneuvers, how graceful it felt to them. Let’s just say, at the beginning it wasn’t graceful for me. I had to apply my formula; patience in allowing myself to struggle, correct, and succeed; pivot by remembering how I learn best [by demonstration]; and perseverance in sticking to my commitment of becoming a better pilot.

Before I got my instrument rating pilots would tell me that there would be a moment in which instrument flight just “made sense”. I didn’t believe them, until it made sense for me. The same thing happened with the maneuvers and me. Instead of being afraid of the chandelle, power off 180 landing or 8s on pylons, I actually looked forward to it. Voila. All I needed now was a good flight to the Columbia River Gorge from California and the surface winds to take a chill pill in the Gorge.

T-Rex of a check ride

18 years ago I learned to fly in Hood River Oregon. Nestled in a natural wind tunnel at the base of Mt. Hood, we used to say if you could fly in the Gorge, you could fly anywhere. The 15 years I have been in California erased some of the high-wind memories. Back then it was 18G26 on my PPL check ride. Turns out that the CPL wasn’t going to be much different. Hood River Oregon [4S2] departure Runway 25 280 @10G15, The Dalles Oregon [KDLS] landings-Runway 31 [email protected] 13G21, [email protected] 16G26. There is nothing like demonstrating a soft field takeoff on a warm day with those winds. My track from Foreflight is a sort of Rorschach test… what do you see? I see a T-Rex, taking a bite out of those maneuvers!

New CPL and Dave Koebel, DPE

When I landed in Hood River after a successful check ride I felt proud of myself. Although the certificate was 3 months “behind schedule”, I am happy to have accomplished it during these trying times. My DPE got out of the plane and headed to his car. I was left on the ramp, gazing over N18213 the C150 that I got my private in all those years ago. The wind was blowing as I tied down Maggie. True to form my tears started flowing shortly after. Memories flooded my mind from 4S2, both good and bad. For today I was focused on the good. Another successful flight of Haywire Airlines and now on to the search for a fountain cherry Coke.

 

 

 

 

 

Onboard fires

Considering that the two worst things that can happen on a passenger jet are a fire or a structural failure, fire detection and extinguishing are significant parts of airplane design and emergency equipment.

There are fire detection systems in the engine and APU compartments, as well as in the cargo bins and various locations in the cabin (think of the lavs). There are also overheat detectors in the wheel wells, but generally with no extinguishing capability.

There are also extinguishers on board. There is always a fire extinguisher in or near the flight deck for the crew. The cabin is also equipped with multiple extinguishers based on the number of people the plane can seat.

Two types of extinguishers generally are carried on board. The red canister that you might have in your home or see in your place of work or school is one of them, and it is equipped with Halon. Halon is the preferred option if the fire is electrical in nature, and it works by smothering the flame and depriving it of oxygen as quickly as possible. Because it is also compressed gas, it is cold, which helps to cool the temperature quickly around the source of the flame. The risk for the user is that, in a confined area, a chemical extinguisher may displace the oxygen you are breathing.

Water fire extinguishers are less prevalent, but they are only used for what are termed as Class A fires, such as paper or waste. For this reason, you can expect to see a water extinguisher near lavatories and/or galleys. Water might be able to put out a small electrical fire, but it also increases the risk of shock or electrocution, and considering that you might already be dealing with a compromised system, adding more risk to the equation doesn’t make sense.

In the age of rechargeable batteries used in phones, computers and tablets, fire awareness and extinguishing are even more important. There have been a number of onboard fires related to lithium batteries, and at least one cargo plane was lost to such a fire.

These fires burn extremely hot and are difficult, if not impossible, to control. As a result, airlines require that they be handled a certain way, and if a fire breaks out in a cabin because of a faulty battery, it is common to see some kind of thermal containment bag that is used to corral the offending device. The bag usually has a pair of heat-resistant gloves (think of a large oven mitt) that can be used to get the device in the bag. Once it is sealed inside, the hope is that the fire will burn out from a lack of oxygen. If a battery fire can be extinguished, it’s OK to douse it with liquids in order to smother it and get the temperature under control. In fact, it’s critical to keep an eye on the source, since the fire could reignite.

Fires are less of a threat than they used to be, which means when they do happen, they can totally catch everyone off guard. Learn what you can use to extinguish each type of fire, and know where the extinguishers are located and how to use them. Pay attention during training drills, and always be ready to put that training to use.—Chip Wright

Crossing the North Pole (late night thoughts)


It’s 3 a.m. in a lonely hotel room in Northern Europe in the midst of worldwide quarantines. The world seems to be spiraling out of control in panic and fear, and once again, I can’t sleep. With the North Pole crossing looming over me just a few days away, my inner child just vomited with fear because he knows I’m taking him along like it or not—again. I keep tearing up when I think about all I’ve been through so far. I’ve been away for seven months and it’s looking like it will take another two months when I had originally planned for five months total. I’m fatigued, somewhat confident, and people still are calling me crazy—at least that last part is consistent.

This North Pole crossing has been perfectly planned just like the longer, and much more difficult, South Pole leg six months earlier. That 18-hour leg stressed me physically, emotionally, and broke me open spiritually. But that doesn’t keep my mind from thinking about all the possible issues the universe could throw my way this time.

The Citizen of the World is working well after the repair of two of my ferry tanks, which burst after a misalignment that caused a dumping of about 175 gallons of jet fuel inside the modified Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900, a starter-generator failure in flight, and a hydraulic fluid leak from the co-pilot-side brake caliper. Who can help but wonder what will happen next?

The North Pole Leg is approximately two-thirds the distance of the South Pole Leg. I can’t make it without the ferry tanks—two of which carry biofuels.

This is the ideal time of the year for an open ocean and ice flight as the Arctic temps are the warmest, which is good for avoiding potential fuel gelling and engine operating issues. But like everything in aviation, there is also a downside. There is a lot of fog down low this time of the year. Low fog makes it difficult for an emergency landing. Luckily, I have a ground radar that works pretty well for helping to determine my height above the ground or water in case I have to do a blind landing.

I’m well prepared with respect to survival gear, training, and support. In fact, I couldn’t be more prepared.

Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole is crossed often by commercial jets, maybe not as much now with the quarantines. That gives me some comfort that I will have some more experienced pilots in the air with me that could offer assistance if needed.

My route to cross the three north poles (magnetic, true, and the North Pole of Inaccessibility) has been charted out, along with the points to shift from magnetic to true navigation, as well as my alternates.

The plan is to leave from Longyearbyen Airport in Svalbard, Norway, after a 24-hour tech stop for fuel while being quarantined in the airport hotel. From Longyearbyen it’s just a 2,000-nautical-mile flight to Alaska. In this case, I would be up around 32,000 feet for only about 8 hours. That far north the winds aren’t too bad. But, as of today, the communications seem to have become confused and now require a departure from Kiruna in northern Sweden, which pushes the distance out to 3,000 nm and 11 hours of flight time, requiring the use of more ferry tanks. I’ll have more than enough time to think about all that can go wrong. At some point, I know from experience, I will relax into all of it and just accept my fate the gods have planned for me. You can’t be afraid forever—or at least I would like to think that on some level.

At least I know what to expect with respect to navigation this time. It will all fail except the iPad (which somehow did not over the South Pole and I still do not know why). My directional gyro will work, and of course, the position of the sun will be reliable, assuming I can see it. I will cheat the flight management system this time by putting a waypoint before and after the pole.

The incredible stress from the first flight opened me up and changed the person that I am, teaching me some of the most important lessons of my life. I’ve reframed my fear into looking forward to the growth that lies ahead over the North Pole; and, of course, praying to be an inspiration to others while having the most positive impact on the planet.

Miraculous. Impossible. I’ve got this.

Planned Decommissioning of the Chandalar Lake NDB impacts Airways

FAA is inviting public comment on their plan to decommission the Non-Directional Beacon (NDB) at Chandalar Lake (CQR), in Alaska’s Brooks Range.  The station has been out of service for a number of years, however the navigation aid has continued to serve as the anchor for low-altitude IFR airways.  Formal decommissioning will cause these airways to be shut down, although a GPS based T-Route will still provide a means for low-altitude IFR operations between the North Slope and locations in interior and southern Alaska.

Low-altitude IFR airways will be decommissioned when the Chandalar Lake NDB goes away.

Background
Chandalar Lake is a remote location in the central Brooks Range, with no roads connecting it to the outside world.  The 3,000 ft gravel/dirt runway provides access to this location on the shores of a beautiful lake in a glacier scoured valley surrounded by mountains.  The airstrip, owned and maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, provides access for miners and recreational users, as well as an  emergency alternate landing strip halfway between Fairbanks  (162 n miles to the south) and the oil fields at Deadhorse (162 nautical miles to the north).

The NDB serves as a ground-based nav aid defining two Victor Airways (V436 and V447) and a Colored Airway (A11) which will be decommissioned if the proposal is adopted.  The high altitude IFR routes (J115 and J155) will also experience an increase in the Minimum Enroute Altitude.  A low-altitude GPS airway (T227), will remain for aircraft suitably equipped.  FAA Tech Ops reports that the station is not repairable, and must be taken care of before environmental contamination occurs.

 Action to Take
The Public Notice  announcing the proposed change solicits comments through August 20, 2020.   If the loss of these low-altitude IFR airways impacts your operations, you may comment to the FAA’s Western Service Center at the following addresses:

Group Manager, Operations Support Group, AJV-W2
FAA Western Service Center
2200 South 216th Street
Des Moines, WA 98198

Or via email to:  [email protected]

Please also share your comments with AOPA at: [email protected]

Dear FAA

Dear FAA,

I am writing to you from the comfy confines of my pandemic-imposed quarantine-like shutdown, and like many Americans, I have gotten a fair number of things done around my house that needed doing or that I was told needed doing, or that I was told that I wanted to need to do. But I digress.

Doing these things made me realize that there are some housekeeping items that you should have addressed while airlines around the world were basically grounded. In fact, much of general aviation wasn’t flying much either, so you wasted a lot of good opportunity, which is almost as bad as wasting my tax dollars.

In the event that the world shuts down again, please consider using the following as a To Do list:

Clean the runways. Runways everywhere are covered with discarded rubber from tires, and these black patches are slicker than ice when they get wet. Speaking of ice, when that rubber gets snow and ice on it, slick doesn’t even begin to describe what one must deal with. The severe decrease in traffic is a great time to get the rubber cleaning equipment out of the garage and put it to use, so chop chop.

Fix the lights. There are, I’m guessing, millions of lights on and around airports. Runway lights, taxi way lights, approach lights, sign lights, and probably lights I’m not even aware of. Some of them I’m not aware of because they are burned out. I have yet to figure out when lights need to be fixed, but it must be some formula I don’t understand, because some are always (it seems) notam’ed out of service. With fewer airplanes to avoid, this would be a grand time to get all the lights working again. Even the Motel 6 leaves the lights on for people.

Paint! There is no better time than during an aviation-grounding pandemic to whip out some brushes and rollers and start painting taxi lines, runway stripes, lead-in lines, hold-short lines, taxiway markers, spot numbers and anything else that has paint in, on it, or with it. I’m going to cut you some slack on this one, because paint is hard to stay on top of, especially since it needs time to dry. It fades in the sun, gets scraped by plows, runover by vehicles large and small, and pounded by rain and even lightning. But, too many airports have too many lines that are too hard to see, especially at night and in the rain, and this really needs to be fixed, pronto.

This list could keep you busy for a while, so consider this a good starting point, but not necessarily an end point. Pilots everywhere will be grateful and less likely to get lost on one of your aerodromes.

Many thanks, and peace out,
Chip—Chip Wright

GA Strong: Pilots come together to help each other in extraordinary times

2020  has certainly been interesting thus far. I remember sitting down to create my calendar of events in December 2019 for the coming year of aviation events looking forward to traveling monthly. When AOPA, EAA and SNF made the tough choices to forgo their annual events to help keep us safe and reduce exposure to COVID-19, my delete button has been smoking from overuse.

Social Flight Live one of the many online offerings available now

In March and April I was heartened to see that thought leaders, local and state associations, and national groups began to make online content available, in most cases free of charge. This has been so valuable since I never could have attended these safety seminars and presentations from all across the country. I had the pleasure of being on Social Flight Live with Martha King, Pia Bergqvist, and Julie Clark discussing what inspired us to learn to fly and advance to being pro pilots.  The industry pivot toward virtual meetings and accessible content has given all an opportunity to set a goal to tackle a written exam, explore varied aspects of aviation, and educate ourselves all from the comfort of home or hangar.

It is June, and many of us are starting to fly more while maintaining safeguards for each other’s health. Early in the year I was getting ready to schedule my commercial certificate check ride. I have just now been able to get the check ride scheduled. My instructor is located in the LA Basin. It is a quick hop from my home on the Central Coast of California to Fullerton Airport. Recently I went down for a weekend of training and was pleased to see that General Aviation is waking back up, and with that awakening comes demonstrations of the interconnection of all pilots.

GA traffic starting to pick up in the LA Basin

I had worked a full clinical day [as a psychotherapist] and headed down to the airport for the one-hour late afternoon flight. After I landed, my CFI – Mike – picked me up and told me that several of my friends were at the airport planning a trip across the country to replace their cancelled Oshkosh plans.

We stopped by to say hello. It was fun to see a group of pilots with IPad in their laps talking about the best routes, fuel stops, restaurants etc. I even piped up about several airports that I always go to on my sojourn: St. John’s, Arizona; Wayne, Nebraska; Woodward, Texas; Ft. Guernsey, Wyoming. There were old-timers, younger pilots and lots of conversation, anticipation, and energy.

On the way out of the airport I found out that a fellow Mooney pilot was in a pickle. His plane was out of annual and he was not able to fly due to an injury. Mike asked if we could fly Maggie to Van Nuys, pick up the airplane [with ferry permit] and make the short hop to Whiteman Airport with the Mooneys. I have only been in to historic Van Nuys a few times for CalPilot events so I agreed straight off. Later Mike and I decided we would depart Van Nuys in formation and fly to Whiteman then break off for landing. We talked with Michael the aircraft owner, and the plan was set for a morning departure over to Van Nuys.

Van Nuys is a great airport. The VNY Prop Park is nestled behind the large FBOs. At the onset of this blog I mentioned the interconnections of General Aviation. Here are some of the 6-degrees of separation: I am a Vice President of California Pilots Association. VNY Prop is a CalPilots Chapter. Instructor Mike is an officer in the Fullerton Pilots Association [also a CalPilots Chapter]. Michael, the aircraft owner, is an active member of the GA community in SoCal. He is a member of SoCal Pilots Association and the founding member of the West Coast Mooney Club, which is hosting a Mooney convention in Sunriver, Oregon in late August. I recommended Kevin Schiff, the mechanic in Whiteman to Michael, as Kevin finished the annual on my Mooney earlier this year. However we all met, it was lovely to be able to help someone in my GA family out. I would highly suggest that you look for ways to stay connected to our aviation family. When non-aviation folks ask me “Aren’t you afraid you will have a problem somewhere along the way?” about flying from California to Oshkosh every year, I always say “no.” This is because if I put the word out that I need help in Yankton, South Dakota; West Jordan, Utah; Chicago, Illinois or anywhere in between, I know my GA family would help. In a way, I think the quarantine has been so hard on us because as pilots we are used to being interdependent and interconnected. We might give ourselves a hard time about lean-of-peak or a less than stellar landing, but we would also give each other the shirt off our backs.

These two are ready for some formation flight.

After arriving in Van Nuys we spent some time on the ground for inspection, orientation [to the ferry airplane], brief of the formation flight, taxi, then the short hop to Whiteman. I have to say that taking off in formation 16R was a hoot! After landing we taxied to Kevin’s hangar. Michael had already arrived in his car. We got the airplane in the hangar and then made our way for some commercial flight training and lunch.

Finding an open restaurant proved to be a challenge as 5 or 6 were already closed for the day. We flew to French Valley airport in Temecula. The airport is in excellent condition, had awesome fuel prices and a great place for lunch. It felt good to fill up with fuel and good food. While there we ran into a few other pilots that we knew and spent some time talking about the state of commercial aviation, GA and online education.

 

8s on pylons, chandelles, steep spiral, steep descent. Calgon take me away.

After practicing chandelles, steep descents, and 8s on pylons it was time to be done for the day. On the way back to Fullerton, Mike and I talked about charitable flying we enjoyed through Angel Flight, LightHawk, and Pilots n Paws. Also how much we were going to miss loading KOSH in our flight plans.

Though some things change, many remain the same

At the end of the day I was tired, but it was a happy tired. Being a student again for my commercial certificate is tough. It is hard to let yourself be a learner, to make mistakes and grow. It has been challenging to ask for help, but every time I do, I am met with a smile and the word “yes”. With the lack of flying events and travel, I am able to complete my commercial certificate and will move on to the multi-commercial add-on in late July.

Online education gives us all the ability to learn, ask questions and participate in our GA community while home. Continue to be on the look out for ways to be of assistance to others in our aviation family. Unfortunately many airports are under attack from encroachment and developers now that we aren’t flying as much. Join your local and state aviation associations and be a part of the solution. In many ways we are all feeling the effects of our world right now. Please know that we will all get through this time together. We are GA strong.

Flying the world in living color

When I started the Pole to Pole mission on November 16, 2019, which seems like a lifetime of challenges ago, my team and I were clear on our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.” One of our primary goals was, and continues to be, to see the similarities in people, not the differences.

As I learned on my previous circumnavigation, I knew I would encounter many opportunities and challenges along the way that would test me and my ability to connect with people of different cultures and beliefs along with a million other things and hopefully expand my awareness and growth so I could be of greater service to the world.

After successfully crossing the South Pole with its many challenges, I felt I had completed the hardest part of the Polar Circumnavigation and the rest of the trip would be the “Global Victory Lap.” As I was hit by overwhelming challenge after challenge on the South Pole leg, I kept asking myself, “How hard does this have to be? How strong do I need to be? What are you preparing me for?”

What I’ve come to realize is that the South Pole crossing merely served to break me open to be ready for what was to come. As weeks of coronavirus quarantine in Spain turned into months, it became clear that all those South Pole challenges were preparing me to respond to the coronavirus and its impact on humanity, the earth, and our mission of global peace. The virus has seemed to split the world apart with great intensity. Many countries have gone it alone by closing off their borders. Isolation seems to have become the solution to our global problems. From my perspective, locking ourselves away, hunkering down, and fighting the natural order of things to move and grow has become a new normal for the world.

While traveling over the past five years to more than 50 countries and working with over 100 sponsors and numerous aircraft mechanics and governments around the world, I’ve learned global issues can’t be solved by working independently—interdependence and collaboration on a local and global level are what build and strengthen relationships and economies. COVID-19 has given humanity an opportunity to come together to find a solution. The world, unfortunately, appears to have missed this lesson and is paying the price as more issues have been created with this contraction and resistance to the natural order of life. Fear has escalated to panic and riots, business decimation, and suicides, while the expansion of political and military control worldwide has ensued.

Clearly, I’m not a political expert, nor do I pretend to be, and I don’t know how things will ultimately turn out and what we as a global community are meant to learn through all this, but I am a global traveler in the “Citizen of the World” with an impossibly big dream of world peace. Our vision of connecting the South and North Poles and everybody in-between is more important than ever, and we hope it serves as an empowering example of connection, collaboration, and possibility in a time when it is sorely needed. As I continue to interview local people in the cities I visit on what it means to be a “Citizen of the World for the World,” it has never been more apparent that we are in this together and our shared humanity is what makes the world go round.


Another big lesson I’m learning, again from my first circumnavigation, is that all people regardless of their color share a common desire for safety, family, happiness, financial security, health, joy and happiness, and most importantly, love. The way to experience these things, especially when facing fear and adversity, is not by turning away or striking out against each other but by working together courageously with an intention of uniting in our similarities and appreciating our differences. This solidarity creates a better outcome for everyone that reduces fear, encourages understanding, and brings people and our own conflicted minds together in oneness with solutions-based thinking.

Shortly after the Chilean Air Force C-130 mysteriously went down over the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica with 36 souls onboard, I was advised to wait until after the Chilean government knew what happened since this stretch of airspace was on my route to and from the South Pole. I felt fear arise while I considered the risks and the potential delays and ultimately chose to trust in my airplane, myself, and our mission, and I flew. When the cyclone was about to overtake Madagascar, and I felt fear rise up again, I faced it, and again I flew. When Spain was locked down tighter than anywhere else in Europe as it became the epicenter of the coronavirus, I encountered resistance every step of the way, and continued to remind myself of our mission of global peace and that all impossibly big dreams have risks to be considered and dealt with, and then I flew. I chose to fight the urge to contract and instead focused on my purpose, expanded my love of life and trusted in Universe to guide me.

I share all this with you, not to impress you (well, maybe a little) but in hopes of inspiring you during these contracting times to hold your impossibly big dreams close and keep working on yourself to let go of limitations and embrace your possibilities. I won’t pretend these choices have been easy for me; in fact, I’ve been terrified at times. But what keeps me going is wanting to help as many people as possible around the world overcome their fears and take the courageous action that is needed to experience all that life has to offer.

Our Flying Thru Life team is dedicated to being a living example of what is possible when people from all countries work together. Rather than running from challenges, when uncertainty and difficult times show up, we revisit our ideals and support each other through them. This is what we stand for. This is who we are. This is what we dream of for the world.

We are all stronger together. As “Citizens of the World for the World,” we rededicate ourselves to our global community and our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.”

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