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Into the Alligator's Mouth: Final Chapter

We have had a fun journey exploring personal minimums through the wisdom of over a dozen pilots in the past few months. I hope that you enjoy this final installment and apply the concepts to your flying.  I am thrilled to be presenting a seminar on the content for the Los Angeles 99s virtually on Wednesday June 2nd, and in person for AOPA at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Thursday July 29th.

My goal in writing this series is that as PIC you do everything in the airplane intentionally and with forethought.

So here we go.  In the past few months, we began our journey into the mindset needed for the functional implementation of minimums.   I reached in to my address book of pilot friends  to ask questions about minimums, guidelines, self-restrictions and the like. I spoke to range of folks from pretty newly minted private pilots, to those working on an instrument rating, commercial, CFI and DPE.  I talked with female and male pilots with hours ranging from low hundreds to 25,000.

How far can you put your head in an alligator’s mouth and still be certain you can get it back out?

I had a fabulous time talking with a baker’s dozen pilots and I got a little gem or a pucker factor from each of the conversations. My hope is that our words might start an honest discussion on ways that we can keep ourselves safe in the airplane or on the ground. In the end, cheating on your minimums is cheating yourself.

This series centers on the psychology of personal minimums.  Like most relationships, we will focus why we create them, why we commit them to paper [or not], when we fudge on them, what we learn from them, and what we hope never to again experience.

Interviews

For the interviews I asked starting questions and interchangeably used personal minimums and personal guidelines.  The reason for this is some pilots initially thought when I spoke of minimums, I was referencing charted instrument approach minimums.  The following answers will be in their voice, the first person.


Questions:

  • Do you have a current set of personal guidelines or minimums for your flying?
  • If yes, do you have them written down?
  • If so, do you ever review them or alter/update them?
  • What are the areas you consider when you think of your own minimums?
  • Have you had a time where you cheated on your personal minimums?
  • Has there been an experience in the airplane you would like to share that gave you a “pucker factor” that others might learn from?”
  • Do you have a “hidden gem”, or learning tip, to share?

*[For the sake of this article, in their responses, I will simply use the word “minimums”]


CK, Corporate Pilot, Jet, Turbo-Prop, CFI

My Private Pilot License [PPL], as they say, was a license to learn. I learned the basic structure of 3 miles visibility [VFR].  Yet as you gain experience you realize 5 miles isn’t that much and then 3 miles is really not that much. At the beginning of my flying, my personal minimum was 5 miles because that was my level of comfort as a VFR pilot.

As you gain experience, you can do more.  Your minimums grow as you gain that experience. For me, this is the difference between the FAA regulation vs. what I am comfortable with.

Right now, as pro-pilot flying a single engine—it is all on me.  I have to make sure I am good to go with health and wellness. Additionally, I have 1-12 passengers on board that are my responsibility. They don’t necessarily understand minimums the way I do. It is my job to make the best decisions I can based on the advanced planning and the reality of the flight conditions. One thing I’m firm on is that I won’t  go unless I see minimums or better forecast at the destination airport. To depart I need to see an upward trend in the weather.

As a corporate pilot I am always looking at my detailed flight planning vs. reality of flying.  My alternate airport might be pretty far away—especially when my destination is remote.  I have to be thinking [if needed]

  • Where am I geographically?
  • Do I have maintenance available?
  • What is it going to cost?
  • How do I get a mechanic to me?

Pucker Factor:  Caffeine isn’t always your friend. I was knee deep in twin training as a very green pilot.  At the time I was drinking several energy drinks during the ground school portion. When it was my time in the simulator, I was so jittery I couldn’t fly the airplane like I was supposed to.  My rule now is no caffeine on the day of flight.

Hidden gem: Loss affects all of us, put it in your checklist.  About ten years ago, I lost a parent, had a relationship break up, and lost a friend. I was flying left seat in a two-pilot operation.  I remember looking at the controls and thinking. “I should not be flying.” “I don’t feel like I am 100% here.”

 


RS, Commercial MEI, SEI, Glider

My minimums are not written down, but they are staunch in my mind.  For me it all starts at the planning table. I don’t write stuff down because after decades it is locked into my brain as what I will do, or not. I recognize the chain of errors with pilot, airplane, environment, and weather especially.

Error in the  links of flight planning, real world conditions or execution equals extreme caution for me. If you recognize the broken link and mitigate it, then you are okay. A lot people let two or three links break and bad things happen in the airplane.

Pucker Factor:
The setting is Estrella Sailport, 1981. I am a fledgling Glider pilot, that had a perfect soaring day with 2000 fpm thermals ! I went right up to 12,000 feet where it was cool and was just tooling around for about 45mins before I started down.  When I did start down NOTHING and I mean NOTHING looked familiar at all. Turns out that the winds aloft were howling the ride was smooth so I didn’t feel like I was getting blown downwind. I was concentrating on milking every foot per minute out of those killer thermals that I completely lost my situational awareness. I pointed the nose into the wind and went to the best glide speed, yet I was not moving. There was a road that paralleled the runway with about a half a mile of desert with a sea of huge cactus between it and the runway. I thought I could make it and stupidly went for it. Fortunately I made it but I literally had to dive to the cactus tops for the last 50 yards before I ran out of energy just clear of the cactus with just enough left rudder to land across the runway at a 45 degree angle.
The owner of the flight school said he was watching me and said if I had not dove into ground effect I would have never made it to the runway clearing.  NEVER AGAIN, I should have taken the sure thing, I should have taken the ROAD.

Hidden Gem: My advice is to break the first link, and mitigate the risk. If one link in the chain is broken, I am on high alert, immediate reset of the situation so the one broken link is eliminated.  It is easy to see how accidents happen with the second or third broken link, especially if they are congruent.


DK Commercial, CFII, DPE, Cessna owner

I sort of have a unique experience with minimums as a pilot, CFI and Designated Pilot Examiner [DPE].  It’s tough for student pilots to figure out minimums as they have so little experience to work with.  For their solo cross-country, the weather has to be perfect.  As a private pilot, the only way you find you minimums is by experience. Instrument training gives you flying in the soup and you can find out your minimums with an instructor. Young commercial pilots are looking at reasons why to do the mission, instead of why they shouldn’t.

As a DPE the private pilot candidates I see have no clue about minimums. It seems to me that ACS risk management isn’t being taught.  Instructors are not working on the risk assessment enough with students.  Many times, students don’t think there is risk because they don’t see it [the risk] if CFI is signing them off to go on a flight.

I have fixed personal minimums on the flights I do a lot for my work as a DPE.  These are built through experience flying in the Pacific Northwest. My commute minimums: 2500 feet ceiling in the valley— hard limit Winds aloft Easterly at 3000 feet more than 25 kts= no go. Cross wind:  if I cannot straighten the nose with the rudder, I will not land.  Any cold or sickness-I am not going. If I don’t feel 100%, I don’t have to go.

Pucker Factor:  I was commuting to a check ride. The ceiling was right at my minimum. As I got closer to my destination it was 50 feet lower than my minimum, then 100 feet.  I landed and thought. “What kind of example am I setting for the applicant?” the only thing to my credit is I never did it twice. Once was too often- I know better. Never again. Now if the ceilings refuse to cooperate, I go back home. Instead of find reasons to continue into worsening conditions. I need to reward myself for being smart and heading back to better weather

Hidden Gem:  You don’t want to get bit by cheating on your minimums.  Think of this question: “How far can I put my head in the alligator’s mouth and get it back out?”


I hope you enjoyed this final installment.  Please consider using one of the AOPA templates to write your minimums down whether VFR or IFR.  If you have feedback about the interviews, please feel free to use the comment section below.

In the meantime, keep up with online safety seminars, join your state aviation association, and stay involved with your local airport. Make sure that you consider all aspects of minimums; airplane, pilot, and environment before you yell. “clear prop.”

My plans  EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As my Dad used to say when we touched down, I am looking forward to another successful trip of “Haywire Airlines”.

 

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Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Into the Alligator’s Mouth: Installment 1

For the next few months this series will center on the psychology of personal minimums.  Like most relationships, we will focus why we create them, why we commit them to paper [or not], when we fudge on them, what we learn from them, and what we hope never to again experience.

As I thought about personal minimums in a pandemic, I decided to reach in to my address book of pilot friends and reach out to ask questions about minimums, guidelines, self-restrictions and the like.  I spoke to range of folks from pretty newly minted private pilots, to those working on an instrument rating, commercial, CFI and DPE.  I talked with female and male pilots with hours ranging from low hundreds to 25,000.

In regard to minimums a DPE pondered,  “How far do I put my head in an alligator’s mouth before I can’t get it out?”

I had a fabulous time talking with the 12 pilots and I got a little gem or a pucker factor from each of the conversations. My hope is that our words might start an honest discussion on ways that we can keep ourselves safe in the airplane or on the ground. Because in the end, cheating on your minimums is cheating yourself.


Interviews

For the interviews I asked starting questions and interchangeably used personal minimums and personal guidelines.  The reason for this is some pilots initially thought when I spoke of minimums, I was referencing charted instrument approach minimums.  The following answers will be in their voice, the first person.

Questions:

  • Do you have a current set of personal guidelines or minimums for your flying?
  • If yes, do you have them written down?
  • If so, do you ever review them or alter/update them?
  • What are the areas you consider when you think of your own minimums?
  • Have you had a time where you cheated on your personal minimums?
  • Has there been an experience in the airplane you would like to share that gave you a “pucker factor” that others might learn from?”
  • Do you have a “hidden gem”, or learning tip, to share?

D.L., Instrument rated, commercial pilot, Mooney owner

I do not  have my personal minimums written down, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have them.  Over the years I have general rules, based on avoiding the most common failures.  For example, I carefully study conditions and airport environment prior to departure.   I simply won’t take off anywhere I can’t follow the approach back in to airport should I need to.

Ice is very much part of my thinking living and flying in the Pacific Northwest. I will avoid ice at all costs. That is a personal minimum for my planning. I will not go if there is forecast icing.

Another rule is to be very cautious about fuel. I have flown across country by myself. I like to have at least an honest hour of fuel when the wheels touch the ground on landing. I don’t ever want to be one of “those” pilots.

When it comes to my VFR ceiling and visibility minimums, my minimums have come down when I got my instrument rating.  The rating has made my flying safer and increased the utility of the Mooney.

Aircraft maintenance and condition is a consideration for me.  This is something on my go-no- go list.  For example, I know what to expect on my engine monitor, and when that is not right, I figure it out, be it a mag check or oddly low EGT.

Pucker Factor: I was flying in rising terrain lowering ceilings, scud running getting in to the Las Vegas area.  I was crossing a hill trying to stay below the ceiling, following the interstate that went through the notch in the hill.  At that point there was no room to go left or right, I was at a pinch point.  It was then I realized I had flown into a bad situation where I didn’t have options.

Most people don’t have minimums written down. But in their heads, they know when they have exceeded them. It is only then they realize that they should have them written down and follow them.

Hidden Gem:  Just because it worked once, doesn’t mean it will always work.


J.G., Former Airline Captain, Corporate Jet Pilot, Decathlon owner

These are timely questions. We all say we have minimums 1000/3 or 1500/5, but we cheat. We cheat on ourselves.  For me, there has to be a hard-line thing. Currently I fly to gigs in my VFR-only airplane.  If I have less than 1500 feet on my altimeter I will turn around.  I have to be hard on myself not to cheat on myself.  I have to have a firm limit.  I have cheated on myself a year ago, what I call a “normalization of deviance” I went down to 1400. My thinking was, “It is only a 100 feet.”  If you normalize violating your rules you risk doing it again and again.

I really consider external pressures.  I worked with a guy who always had his assistant book him an airline ticket as a back up when he was flying his GA airplane to do a presentation.  When I fly to my gigs, I know that I can turn around, or have my son-in-law can come and get me.

Pucker Factor: I was flying from Dallas-Ft. Worth [DFW] to Portland [PDX] in an MD80. I flew lower en route for a smoother ride but that resulted in burning more fuel. During the descent into PDX the turbulence over Mt. Hood was severe. When I finally got to Portland the entire airport was closed. We were diverted to Seattle, bumping around in severe turbulence landing with minimal fuel.

Hidden Gem: If I land because I need fuel and cannot find fuel due to inoperative card reader/pump/empty tank, I don’t take off without getting it. I have it brought to me in Perrier bottles if I have to.


J.B. Instrument rated, A&P, Cub owner

As a younger pilot I didn’t have any minimums.  I would simply do what I want, without a focus on safety.  As I have gotten older, I play it way safer, but I don’t have any minimums that are written down. Now, I am a lot more cautious with weather and particularly runway conditions. I study the weather en route and at my destination using all tools available.  I have a habit of checking out runways, including comment sections, at unfamiliar airports for sure.

Pucker Factor: I was flying in Oregon [Corvallis] with a  solid cloud deck below.  My inner voice was saying “I need to turn back now; I don’t have enough fuel to continue.”  Went through a hole, and landed.  Some locals tried to talk me into continuing on but I am glad I set down. It rained for three days solid. I ended up staying there, weathered in, for three nights.

Hidden Gem and Pucker Factor:  I was landing at a neighboring airport on runway 14. I did check the wind sock, but It was missing, torn away from a previous storm. I assumed the wind, if any, would be from the South, so I continued my landing on 14. I made a faster than usual touchdown, but it was a greaser landing. As I slowed to enter the taxiway, GROUNDLOOP to the left [first one in 1200 hours]. I soon realized that I had a left quartering tailwind! After this experience, I always confirm wind direction, visually, by looking at smoke, trees or flags.

Hidden Gem:  If I am at an unfamiliar airport, I will overfly the airport at 500ft above TPA and look for a windsock and any other wind direction clues.


S.S., Private Pilot, Bonanza owner

 

I don’t have any minimums written down, but I am VFR only. My flying is mostly recreational now, though a lot of it is night flight.

I am a stickler about weather, I do lots of weather planning which, I suppose is a minimum of mine. I need to feel comfortable with the planning I have completed. I am careful to choose routes avoid terrain, and like to have lots of airports [options] below. A minimum of mine is that I don’t like to fly below 5500 feet ever.

In recent years I flew a lot for business. I used the  IMSAFE model to make sure I was good to fly because the homeward leg was at night.  Throughout the afternoon I assessed myself,  particularly my level of concentration. While I love to fly at night, the work load is higher and I am VFR only and I want to give myself every safety measure.

Pucker Factor:  I have to say I got complacent at 500-hour mark.  I like to fly high and would look for holes in layers to fly through to get to VFR on top. It wasn’t smart and I put a stop to it.


I hope you enjoyed this month’s installment.  Please consider using one of the AOPA templates to write your minimums down whether VFR or IFR.

http://www.airsafetyinstitute.org/vfrcontract

www.airsafetyinstitute.org/ifrcontract

If you have feedback about the interviews, please feel free to use the comment section below. In the meantime, keep up with online safety seminars, join your state aviation association, and stay involved with your local airport.

For me, I am looking forward to some fabulous capital improvements at my home ‘drome Oceano Airport, heading up to the Pacific Northwest for work, an planning my cross country to OSH21 this summer.

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Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Airplanes break

What airplane doesn’t have a squawk list or things that are found during an annual or 150-hour inspection? Despite our best intentions as pilots to keep our cherished airplanes working perfectly for our safety and that families and passengers, things happen. Airplanes break. You may achieve mechanical perfection for a brief time like I hope to on the Citizen of the World when I take off on my polar circumnavigation beginning June 1, 2019, but let’s be honest: It’s a standard that’s hard to maintain, maybe even impossible.

Working the bugs out is part of the process of preparing an aircraft for a circumnavigation or even the much more difficult polar circumnavigation. Part of my preparation for my flight has included upgrading the airplane so it could fly at Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum altitudes of Flight Level 350, or 35,000 feet. For the previous 24 years, this aircraft flew at 28,000 feet. You may remember that on Jan. 11, 2019, my TPE 331-10T engines (the same type you will find on Predator drones) let me know they needed some extra love to accomplish this task. They would not respond to throttle inputs at 34,500 feet and minus 33 degrees Celsius over Arizona. And while this issue may sound like something you wouldn’t like to experience personally, in hindsight, I’m glad it happened here in the continental United States before the trip. In addition to that timing, I had the good fortune to have Rob Louviaux, a senior mechanic for Gemini Air with 30 years of experience on Turbine Commanders, sitting right next to me. Looking at all this from a metaphysical level, I believe Citizen of the World was simply letting us know what it needed to make this trip happen safely and keep us focused on our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.”

From a safety standpoint, the engines had been refurbished and tested at sea level on a test stand for 90 hours before they were installed as required by the Honeywell MSP program managed by CTEC (Copperstate Turbine Engine Company, or what is now simply called TAE). Short of bolting the refurbished engines onto a test aircraft and flying them up to 35,000 feet, TAE’s test process probably works 99 percent of the time. The fuel controllers were not due for overhaul for quite some time, so the assumption was that they worked when they produced 1,147 horsepower and 1,150 hp on the test stand at sea level. They had not caused any problems prior to the refurbishment, and because TPE only required 1,000 hp output on each engine and these numbers were so much higher, it was reasonable to believe the engines were fine.

For the refurb, the Honeywell team and TAE’s John Phoenix went the extra distance and replaced many components that they could have let slide. The engine team had only one goal in mind, which was to ensure that Citizen of the World makes it around the planet and over the poles safely and reliably.

Since that event, we have made great progress on Citizen of the World‘s engines. Honeywell (the engine manufacturer), Honeywell MSP (the engine insurance company), TAE (the company that refurbished the engines), and Gemini Air (the mechanic) have all been amazing in helping to resolve this issue. In a meeting that involved the most senior technical advisor at Honeywell, everyone stepped up to express concern. Collectively, we came up with an immediate game plan to resolve the lack of response on the controllers. Within days, Louviaux had removed the inlet sensors, fuel pumps, and fuel controllers and sent them for testing at Honeywell. The Honeywell team cleared their schedules and checked the sensors and controllers in a temperature-controlled environment. The inlet sensors are being replaced even though they tested within the acceptable range, and the fuel controllers are being rebuilt even though the engines produced horsepower well above what was required of them on the test stand and they had time remaining on them.

This engine team is standing behind its engines 100 percent and working with me to achieve the absolute maximum performance possible at 35,000 feet even on components that were not included on the original refurbishment list. Many thanks to this dedicated team. Having this level of excellence for customer support and backing on my pole-to-pole flight gives me a welcome feeling of confidence and leaves me, my passengers—and Citizen’s engines—with smiles on our faces.

www.PoleToPoleFlight.com #TAE #Honeywell #HoneywellMSP #GeminiAir #TPE331 #CTEC #MTPropellerUSA

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Champions of Aviation: Inspiring the Next Generation to Fly

Derek Rowe is a retired British military helicopter pilot who teaches the AOPA Aviation Curriculum at McGavock High School in Nashville, Tennessee. I was introduced to him through Cindy Hasselbring, senior director of AOPA’s High School Aviation Initiative, who is responsible for AOPA’s aviation program that is now being taught in 100 classrooms across the United States.

Rowe has put together an ambitious project to support the AOPA curriculum. Students are learning to virtually fly an aircraft around the world (equatorial circumnavigation) using five Redbird simulators. They will be exposed to the many challenges that flying internationally entails including fuel planning, weather, navigation, communications, and pilot fatigue in addition to experiencing what it takes just to fly an airplane.

To prepare the students for some of the real-life challenges they would experience on this kind of flight, Rowe is having the students read, discuss, and write a book report (remember those?) on my book, Zen Pilot: Flight of Passion and the Journey Within. They’ll learn how to respond to air emergencies and international travel, including my airplane’s engine failing over the Strait of Malacca at 14,000 feet, coasting without power 19.6 nautical miles while overloaded with 600 pounds of fuel and oil spraying on the 1,500-degree-Fahrenheit exhaust, getting put on trial for walking across the tarmac unsupervised in Oman, being charged $22 dollars a gallon for fuel, and clearing out full-sized crabs from under my bed before going to sleep on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

To give the kids additional incentive, I provided Rowe with five serialized “Courage Coins” and signed courage coin cards for the best five book reports. The coins are intended to be given to aspiring pilots to carry for inspiration and courage until they earn their pilot’s certificate and then “flown forward” to other aspiring pilots to encourage them to do the same. The coins can also be a keepsake to inspire people to go after their impossibly big dreams and hold at moments when they need courage to fly through the turbulence they may experience in life.

To help the kids who are afraid to fly or who are spooked by something they read in Zen Pilot, I also included my DVD jointly produced with Gleim Aviation titled, Overcoming the Fear of Flying: Unleashing Potential for Pilots and Passengers. The video helps to release pre-flight anxiety, calm racing thoughts, and transform terror into positive action so you can fly through life and the air with ease, grace, and joy.

To bring the experience together in the real world, we have planned a field trip for the kids to come and see the Citizen of the World with its two Predator drone engines, huge five-bladed nickel-tipped props, and 52-foot Twin Commander wing span while the airplane is getting the environmental system upgraded at Peter Schiff’s facility in Cookeville, Tennessee. Our hope is that the students will be able to experience firsthand an aircraft that is being prepared for the most challenging circumnavigation possible from the North Pole to the South Pole. They will be able to see what a general aviation aircraft is capable of with the latest technology, persistence, and a tremendous amount of support and love from many generous sponsors.

During the field trip we will light the Avidyne avionics panel so the students will be able to see what modern technology has to offer a pilot, including an Apple iPad Mini with Xnaut cooling, MaxViz infrared camera, L3 battery backup, Avidyne IFD 550/440 touch screen with synthetic vision/Bluetooth/Wi-Fi/glass panel touchscreen GPS, SATPhone Store satellite communications, Lightspeed noise-canceling headsets, and a STEC 2100 3-D digital autopilot.

And equally important, the kids will see that aviation is an inspiring and empowering vehicle for the following messages that can positively affect all of us:

  • “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity” – Citizen of the World’s call to action to connect the North Pole to the South Pole and everyone in between on a mission of global peace.
  • There are more similarities than differences among people. Look for the similarities and seek to understand the differences.
  • We all are Citizens of the World and stewards of our planet.

If you share our vision for changing the world through general aviation and are interested in sponsoring an event like this for a local high school or aviation group, please reach out to us at [email protected]. We need more champions of aviation to bring about positive changes in the world.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Physical Preparations For a Polar Circumnavigation

Robert DeLaurentis, author of “Flying Thru Life” and “Zen Pilot”

I was speaking to the Santa Barbara pilot group, “Serious about Aviation,” and asked the question, “What is the most likely part on the plane to fail during a Polar Circumnavigation?” A retired 747 female pilot blurted out with all the confidence in the world, “The pilot.”

The answer caught me off guard and everyone else. The silence in the room was a reality check. We all knew her response was true the instant she said it.

Since then, I have been focusing on how in the world (pun intended) I can reduce my risk of pilot failure to a level that I can accept and will allow me to sleep at night. What you will read in this blog post on “Physical Preparations for a Polar Circumnavigation” and the next one on “Mental Preparations for a Polar Circumnavigation” are my attempts to mitigate risk as much as possible. This allows me to make an informed decision to accept the risk or walk away and piss off a hell of a lot of people.

I believe these nine preparation tips will be of value to all pilots. While you might not intentionally put yourself into a similar situation over the South or North Poles at 40% over max gross, we all know as pilots you can never predict 100% what the Universe will throw your way wherever you’re flying in the air or in life.

Bionic Vision

There is probably no single thing you can do to improve your chances of survival in an aircraft than to improve your vision. Spotting an airport or hazards even a few seconds sooner can save you. Knowing that, I have made my vision a major focus of my pre-flight efforts. I don’t want to have to rely on glasses or contact lenses that could fall off or out during a critical phase of the flight. I would literally be “flying blind” if that happened. For that reason, I had corrective eye surgery and not just the refractive procedure that lasts about five years. I decided to skip that procedure and have the lenses inside my eyes replaced as they do with cataract surgery. One eye needed to be set closer to see the panel and the other further away since the eye muscles of a 52 year old are not as strong as someone younger. The new lenses they put in are clearer than what I had and can actually focus like my original lenses do, which allows me to see both near and far uncorrected.

Bionic Ears

The amount of time you will waste in a cockpit saying, “Say again all after” or worse yet, misunderstanding a critical communication, can be more costly than anything you will ever spend on a noise canceling headset. The technology today is absolutely amazing. The Lightspeed headset I use actually charts the surface of my ear and calculates a mathematical equation to cancel out noise based on the environment where I’m flying. Not only does this keep the cockpit “Zen,” but it makes your flying experience so much more enjoyable. Buy the absolute best noise cancelling headset you can afford. If you need to have a garage sale, work an extra shift, or combine your birthday and Christmas presents from family members, do it.

Train for Life and Be the Athlete that You Are

Pilots are rarely referred to as athletes. In my mind however, pilots are athletes that play in the game of life and death and can’t afford to lose even once. This doesn’t mean you need to hire an Olympic trainer and run marathons, but you do need to get moving. I spend 60-90 minutes a day walking, running or riding my bike in Balboa Park. You need to get your heart rate up. My resting heart rate is currently 50 beats per minute which I’m told is very good. Normal resting heart rate is 60-100 bpm and a well-trained athlete’s resting rate is closer to 40 bpm. As someone who spent years in a gym trying to force my body to be something it was not and nursing one injury after another, I learned we need to train at a rate we can maintain forever and we need to be a little gentler and more loving with our bodies.

Heal Your Body

Next, I did an inventory on my body, noticing anything that would be a physical distraction to me in the cockpit whether on the ground or in the air. If you don’t know where to look, start with any pain you have. I had developed some ingrown toe nails from my days in the military and decided I was tired of dealing with the pain and having them cut out every month or two. This recurring situation could be an issue for me in a foreign country on my three month polar expedition, given that it took three procedures with a month’s recovery for each before the nails stopped growing in the wrong direction. But now I’m free of that pain and can bring my focus back to where it belongs when I’m flying.

Eat Right

I’ve changed my diet. After doing a few three-day juice fasts this past year, I dropped my weight by eight pounds. I started to focus on my energy level based on what I ate. I eliminated meat from two of my three daily meals. I noticed how gluten made my stomach bloat and how meals late in the day caused me to sleep hot for half the night. Processed foods tasted great but made me tired. When I ate steamed veggies or drank a fruit shake instead, I performed better and felt like I was doing something good for myself.

Mix It Up

I learned to fly my Turbine Commander from a very proficient instructor with 10,000 hours in that type of aircraft. When he wasn’t available for recurrent training, I had a moment of panic and then realized I could benefit from someone who had flown in many types of turbo prop aircraft. My new instructor from Access Flight Training Services taught me a few new tricks and I’ve become a better pilot in the process. Before I leave for my Pole to Pole trip I’m scheduled to fly with Mike Jesch a 20,000 hours airline pilot and Master CFI, as well as a factory expert on the Avidyne avionics system that is being installed in the Citizen of the World. Flying with other pilots can teach you new things and build your confidence.

Dress the Part

Flight suits and bomber jackets were designed in the 1940s. Aviation has come a long way and there are now street wear style shoes, compression socks, pants, shirts, sunglasses and helmets designed specifically for pilots. They are functional, highly engineered, hip and cool so you can wear them in or out of the plane. For example, the sunglasses I will use on my Polar Circumnavigation were custom designed by Scheyden for me to handle two light conditions – one below the clouds and one above – with a simple flip of the frame. Aviation and apparel company, Lift Aviation, manufactures clothing that has more engineering design in it than the B-1 bomber.

Robert DeLaurentis, wearing special Scheyden eye wear for the upcoming Pole to Pole flight

Put Yourself First

This one can be tricky and equally critical to your well-being, relationships and productivity. I came to realize that I had people in my life who were making too many demands on my time and were not helping me get where I needed to go. While it’s important to me to be supportive and be there for others, the clock is ticking for my trip. To keep my plans on track I had to start buckling down and focus on my trip and myself. Now I let people know upfront I will make time for them if they are a supporter of my trip, but if not they will have to wait until after I return. I’ve learned to let in people who add to my life energetically. I know this because when I leave an interaction I feel uplifted and I sense they do too.

Build Your Team

When I realized I couldn’t do it alone and no one person has the expertise or time to do everything I started to look for experts in different fields. To train me to survive in the harshest conditions on the planet, I found Tim Kneeland, a survival expert. To help me with go/no go decisions based on weather I asked Mike Jesch, an Airline Captain and master CFI, for his expert advice. To tell me what day to be over the South Pole and what I should expect, I sought out astrophysicist, Brian Keating. To help outfit my plane with the very best aviation gear on the planet, I found over 50 sponsors, all experts in their businesses and, thankfully, willing to help me go the distance with mine.

This list is far from complete but a great place to start as a GA pilot. Please remember that being a pilot is a lifestyle and staying safe requires you to live a healthy lifestyle every day.

Please feel free to share your ideas with the community. The best suggestion gets a signed copy of the second edition of Zen Pilot: Flight of Passion and the Journey Within.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

It’s About Time!

I just added ADS-B Out to my airplane. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a very long time—48 years to be exact.

Air Facts (May 1970)

Air Facts (May 1970)
click image to read article

It was 48 years ago that my very first aviation article was published. Its title was “The Role of Computers in Air Traffic Control.” I was 26 years old at the time, not long out of college, and starting a career in computer software at the dawn of the computer age. I’d only been a pilot for five years and an aircraft owner for two.

I timidly submitted the 3,000-word manuscript to Leighton Collins (1903-1995), the dean of general aviation journalists (and Richard Collins’ dad). Leighton founded his magazine Air Facts in 1938, the first GA magazine to focus primarily on safety. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Leighton became a pioneer in using GA airplanes to fly IFR, something that was considered risky business at the time. In 1970, I was a newly-minted CFII and Skylane owner, and Leighton was my hero and Air Facts my bible.

Leighton loved my article, and published it in the May 1970 issue of Air Facts.  I was thrilled. I was also hooked and went on to write more than 500 published aviation articles between then and now.

How big is the sky?

I’d been instrument-rated for about four years when I wrote that article, and had thought quite a bit about the differences between VFR and IFR flying:

A pilot flying VFR in clear weather is unlikely to see more than a few other aircraft on a typical flight; to him the sky seems to be a rather empty place. Yet to the pilot stuck in an IFR hold with an estimated-further-clearance time forty-five minutes away, the sky seems to be an order of magnitude more crowded. Why? Clearly there is no shortage of airspace; every VFR pilot knows that. The aircraft flying under IFR have the best equipment and the most proficient pilots aboard. Where does the congestion come from?

My conclusion was that the fundamental difference between VFR and IFR lies in who is separating aircraft. VFR pilots are responsible for their own separation, while IFR pilots rely on air traffic controllers to keep them separated from other traffic. Thus, I reasoned, the comparatively low capacity of the IFR system must be attributable to some failing on the part of controllers. Yet as someone who has spent many hours visiting ATC facilities and observing controllers at work while plugged in beside them, I can testify that these folks are amazingly sharp, skilled, and well-trained professionals who do their jobs exceptionally well.

So why can’t these hotshot controllers separate IFR aircraft nearly as efficiently as VFR pilots are able to separate themselves? My conclusion was that the very nature of the separation task is fundamentally different:

A pilot is concerned solely with the one aircraft that he’s flying, but a controller must keep track of several aircraft at once. Give a person several things to do at once—even simple things like head-patting and tummy-rubbing—and his performance in each task drops sharply. Keeping track of a high-speed airplane is considerably harder than either head-patting or tummy rubbing. Keeping track of a dozen such airplanes travelling in random directions at random altitudes is simply beyond the capabilities of any human.

Our IFR system is designed to simplify the controller’s job to the point that it is within the realm of human capability. It does this primarily by eliminating the amount of randomness the controller must deal with. It strings airplanes along a few well-defined airways/SIDs/STARs, confines them to a few standard altitudes, and sometimes slows them down to a few standard speeds. Doing these things makes the airplanes much easier for the controller to keep track of and keep separated, but it also wastes most of the available airspace and reduces the capacity of the system.

Do we really need ATC?

It seemed to me that the capacity of the IFR system could be vastly increased if we could just stop relying on controllers to separate airplanes and enable pilots to self-separate, much as they do when flying VFR. In 1970 when I wrote the article, we were right on the cusp of two major technological breakthroughs that I believed had the potential to make that possible.

GPS ConstellationOne of them was the promise of accurate satellite navigation. The Naval Research Laboratory had launched its Timation satellites in 1967 and 1969, the first ones to contain accurate atomic clocks suitable for navigation. Meantime, the Air Force’s Space and Missile System Organization was testing its more advanced system (codenamed Project 621B) for aircraft positioning between 1968 and 1971. These were the progenitors of today’s GPS system—something I could see coming in 1970, although a seriously underestimated how long it would take to become operational. The first constellation of 10 “Block-I” GPS satellites wasn’t in orbit until 1985, and the system’s full operational capability wasn’t announced until 1995.

MicroprocessorThe second breakthrough was large-scale integration (LSI)—the creation of integrated circuits containing tens of thousands of transistors on a single silicon chip—and the emergence of the microprocessor. Microprocessors weren’t yet invented in 1970 when I wrote the article, but as a computer scientist (my day job at the time) I could see them coming, too. As it turned out, Intel introduced its 4004 microprocessor in 1971, its 8008 in 1972, and the 8080 (which really put microprocessors on the map) in 1974. This watershed development made it feasible to equip even small GA airplanes with serious computing power.

The ATC system of tomorrow

Traffic DisplayIn my 1970 Air Facts article, I painted a picture of the kind of ATC system these new technologies—GPS and microcomputers—would make possible. I postulated a system in which all IFR aircraft and most VFR aircraft were equipped with a miniaturized GPS receiver that continually calculated the aircraft’s precise position and a transmitter that broadcast the aircraft’s coordinates once per second. A network of ground stations would receive these digital position reports, pass them to ATC, and rebroadcast them to all aircraft in the vicinity. A microcomputer aboard each aircraft would receive these digital position reports, compare their coordinates with the position of the host aircraft, evaluate which aircraft are potential threats, and display the position, altitude and track of those threat aircraft on a cockpit display.

Such a cockpit display would enable IFR pilots separate themselves from other aircraft, much as VFR pilots have always done. It would permit them to fly whatever random routes, altitudes and speeds they choose, giving them access to the same “big sky” that VFR pilots have always enjoyed.

I theorized that pilots are highly incentivized to self-separate and would do a much better job of it than what ground-based air traffic controllers can do. (Just imagine what driving your car would be like if you weren’t allowed to self-separate from other vehicles, and instead had to obtain clearances and follow instructions from some centralized traffic manager.)

What took so long?

NextGen controllerWhen I re-read that 1970 article today, it’s truly eerie just how closely the “ATC system of the future” I postulated then resembles the FAA’s “Next Generation Air Transportation System” (NextGen) that the FAA started working on in 2007 and plans to have fully operational in 2025. Key elements of NextGen include GPS navigation and ADS-B—almost precisely as I envisioned them in 1970.

I was wildly overoptimistic in my prediction that such a system could be developed in as little as five years. If the FAA does succeed in getting NextGen fully operational by 2025, it will be the 55th anniversary of my Air Facts article.

NextGen also includes improved pilot/controller communication (both textual and VOIP) and various improvements designed to allow use of more airspace and random routes. Sadly, it stops well short of transferring responsibility for separating IFR aircraft from ATC to pilots as I proposed in 1970—although our aircraft will have the necessary equipment to do that if the FAA would just let us. Maybe that’ll have to wait another five decades until NextNextGen is deployed (and there’s an autonomous self-piloting octocopter in every garage).

Mike Busch is arguably the best-known A&P/IA in general aviation, honored by the FAA in 2008 as National Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year. Mike is a 8,000-hour pilot and CFI, an aircraft owner for 50 years, a prolific aviation author, co-founder of AVweb, and presently heads a team of world-class GA maintenance experts at Savvy Aviation. Mike writes a monthly Savvy Maintenance column in AOPA PILOT magazine, and his book Manifesto: A Revolutionary Approach to General Aviation Maintenance is available from Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions (112 pages). His second book titled Mike Busch on Engines was released on May 15, 2018, and is available from Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions. (508 pages).

If you Build it, They will Come.

Determination, passion and connection in the heart of the Rockies.

Amy Helm became the airport manager of Glenwood Springs Airport [KGWS] in April of 2017 after interviewing and presenting a petition with the signatures of 60 local pilots who supported her candidacy. The daughter of a private pilot, Amy didn’t set out to be an airport manager, but nonetheless she has devoted her time, determination and passion to this Colorado airport nestled in the heart of the Rockies.

Amy Helm

Amy loved aviation as long as she can remember. She worked at Glenwood Springs Airport in high school and earned her pilots license there. After college and fulfilling some wanderlust, she returned to Colorado wanting to get a job as a back-country pilot. As is often the case, Amy soon discovered that she needed to learn about maintenance and repair in order to pay for her flying. She received her A&P and after completing a stint as an apprentice, she moved to SE Alaska working as a mechanic for a bush pilot. The next stop on her grand circle tour was Juneau Alaska where she earned her IA and worked as a helicopter mechanic for Coastal Helicopters.

Amy and I talked about the qualities of character it takes to be a pilot, mechanic and airport manager. I asked her if her job is hard. She laughed and said, “There are days that are hard, and there are days that are a lot of fun.” Amy said that the number one factor in both her work as a mechanic and an airport manager is determination. Anyone who has volunteered at an airport knows a lot about determination. At Glenwood Springs it took two separate work parties and 30 volunteers to get the airport back in tiptop shape for visitors.

Development has encircled their airport with housing tracts on both sides. Over the years there have been threats to the airport from developers. Thus Amy’s first tasks as the new airport manager were to spruce the place up, replace worn signage, increase community awareness, and start planning on a community aviation expo. The first event was very successful giving 150 airplane rides, hosting 500 people in attendance, over 30 types of airplanes and helicopters on static display for the community to walk around, sit in, ask questions about and  a vendor display. The second annual event will be held August 18th, 2018.

Glenwood Springs is a tourist destination with skiing, skydiving, white water rafting, climbing and of course the world’s largest hot springs pool. Camping on the airport grounds is allowed. Although the fourth oldest airport in the country Glenwood Springs Airport does not receive FAA grant money, nor any funds from the City of Glenwood Springs. Funding for the airport is based solely on donations, fuel sales, tie-down and hangar income.  Amy and I spent some time talking about mobilizing pilots and promoting General Aviation to communities.

Call to Action

Pilots are “do something” people. Fly the airplane; don’t let the airplane fly you. We all are airport, and airplane, lovers. When it comes to your local airport,  think small and big; local level, community-based. How can your airport serve your community in non-aviation needs? Perhaps a space for community meetings, a host of a canned food drive, or a fund-raiser for the local humane society. With our home airports,  step up, raise your voices and let your opinions be known. This might mean speaking in front of the airport board, or county commissioners. Use your local airport as a resource. Bring the community inside the fence. Be able to tell the truth. If someone wants to do something unsafe at an airport, speak up. Be on guard for encroachments, misapplications of directives, and oppressive policies. The second level of involvement is in between micro and macro, it is the state level. Are you involved with your state aviation association? Do you know who your regional director for AOPA is? Do you have a Representative or Congressman from your state on the GA Caucus? Have you thought about becoming involved with aviation at the state or regional level?

If you Build it, They will Come

In order to promote General Aviation define it for the non-flying public effectively.  It is very important to be positive and focus on the ways that G.A. helps our communities and our citizens.  When I meet someone at an event I ask if they are a pilot, or know a pilot.  If not a pilot, I ask if they ever wanted to learn how to fly.  If yes, have they made steps toward learning, and if not, why not?   Even those folks who do not wish to become pilots would benefit from knowing how General Aviation affects them on a daily basis. Here are some ideas you might try at your home airport:

Oceano Airport Salute to Veterans May 11-12th, 2018

Toys for Tots

Airport Day Fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly-In Movie Night is always a big hit. All you need is a large screen, projector, sound system and popcorn. Toys for Tots is a great feel-good event that will benefit the children in your local area. Take a page out of Amy’s playbook and have an Airport Appreciation Day. Young Aviator Camp: Approach your local YMCA, Parks and Recreation, or Boys and Girls Club and ask about putting on a day camp for children.  Most airports have a green space, campground or empty hangar that can be used as a classroom area. Topics could include: What is General Aviation? Fundamentals of Flight, Basic Navigation, Mechanics, How to Become a Pilot, Careers in Aviation, and Charitable Flying. Young Eagles: EAA chapters have a tremendous amount of impact on the youth in our local communities when they hold a Young Eagles day. Public Radio and Television: Those of us in GA oftentimes overlook public radio and television, yet they are constantly on the look out for community-based stories.  Why not contact your local station about an upcoming event at your airport?  4-H Aero, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts: Both Boy and Girl Scouts have merit badges in Aviation.  Why not offer a daylong workshop to help the kids get their badges? Service Club Speaker: Why not talk with your local service club, or chamber of commerce about using YOU as a speaker?  This is a perfect opportunity to talk with a captive audience about the value of general aviation and general aviation airports. Emergency Responder Appreciation Event: Each of our communities have unsung heroes. Why not have a pancake breakfast, spaghetti feed, or burger fry and invite your local ambulance, search and rescue, law enforcement pilots, fire fighters and other emergency responders.  School Assemblies: Elementary schools have requirements about science education.  Aviation falls into that category.  Why not talk with your local principal about doing a fundamentals of flight assembly for your local school?  You could have RC models to illustrate lift, thrust, drag and gravity.  End your presentation with ways that the children can come to your airport. Remember children, bring their parents!

For many in the country the aviation season is beginning. We are making our reservations for Sun n Fun, or one of the four AOPA Regionals, or Oshkosh. But please remember to support our small GA airports which host events. Get your airport on the map like Amy has with Glenwood Springs. Host, volunteer, or attend a cool event. Invite your friends and more importantly your community. You will be rewarded with the joy of flight, connection with others, and keeping our airports vibrant.

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Think like an upside down wedding cake: three-tiered airport advocacy works

Unique airplanes on display at AOPA,Norman

Having just returned from Norman Oklahoma and the AOPA Regional Fly-In I was impressed to see the record attendance numbers at the two-day event. Over 7500 people and 500 airplanes came to enjoy the Friday educational seminars and the Saturday events. This year, AOPA broke the mold of the wildly successful regional fly-in by adding Friday seminars, which educate both the pilot, and non-pilot (as with Pilot Plus One/Right Seat Ready). In observing the event at Norman, I was reminded of the three-tiered model of airport advocacy. In action were local pilot groups, the eleventh annual Aviation Festival, the University of Oklahoma, state-level aviation associations, and of course nationally AOPA.

Jan Maxwell, co-founder Right Seat Ready! companion seminar.

As pilots, we are all used to looking at Class B airspace as an upside-down wedding cake. We understand that the first level extends from the ground upward; a larger ring sits on top of that, and a still larger ring above that. I have long believed that in terms of airport advocacy we need to subscribe to a three-tiered model. Much like Class B, we have the central core being the boots on the ground, local level. Above that are the state level and finally the national level. Let’s take a closer look:

Tier 1 – Local Advocacy: Local wisdom is the best source of information at an airport. Who better understands current issues, history, and future needs better the pilots who are based there? What can you do locally?

  • Join your local airport organization.
  • Find out who your AOPA ASN volunteer is.
  • Attend Airport Land Use Meetings.
  • Host community events at your airport.
  • Form a business relationship with your City or County Planners.
  • Attend all City or County sponsored airport meetings.
  • Attend Airport meetings.
  • Look for chapters of state aviation organizations in your town/area/region.
  • Use media to the airport’s best interest [newspaper, radio, social media, TV].
  • Create a good working relationship with your airport manager.

 Tier 2 – Statewide Organizations: Not every state has its own general aviation organization. But a quick Google search will tell you if your state does. Statewide airport advocacy organizations are important because they maintain statewide contacts, information, and strategies. Further, our statewide groups can also advise and assist the local airport groups when issues arise.

Tier 3 – National Organizations: Our national aviation organizations are a critical piece of the three-tiered airport defense strategy. Membership insures that each maintains its ability to support statewide or local airport/pilot organizations. If you do not belong to AOPA, EAA, NBAA, you should. Critical to interfacing with our congressional representatives, lobbying that national pilot organizations provide a large presence in Washington, DC. This voice serves to remind DC of the importance of general aviation to the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

As a resident of California, I get the pleasure of seeing the three-tiered model in full effect coming up October 13th and 14th at historic San Carlos Airport [KSQL]. The California Pilots Association  in conjunction with the San Carlos Airport Association is presenting AirFest 2017. The two-day event sponsored by ACI Jet,  features a Friday night wine and food reception with AOPA President, Mark Baker. Saturday’s workshops range from safety seminars and airport advocacy to disaster preparedness. All three levels of local state and national are working together to provide educational, social and advocacy.  I would encourage everyone to think like an upside down wedding cake when it comes to advocating for GA and airports. Think globally and act locally. The more we promote general aviation the more we protect our airports.

CalPilots Airfest 2017

 

 

 

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Make Their Eyes Light Up

Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in California is Columbia Airport [O22]. I am just back from attending the 51st annual Father’s Day Fly-In. This two-day event is really a model of community involvement, fun interactive aviation activities, aircraft displays, and opportunities to fly in historic airplanes.

Future Mooney Pilot

I have had a Mooney Ambassador display and volunteered at the fly-in for many many years. Columbia is one of the few “camping” trips I go on. They have a fly-in campground that has lovely hot showers and power! But more than that is the welcoming down-home feeling of this little gem of an airport. I am always amazed at the turnout of young and old at the event.

Here is a rundown on the half-century event; maybe it will spark an idea for your home base or local fly-in. The weekend started with the Friday night Volunteer Engine Company dinner supporting the local fire department. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings began with the Boy Scout Troop Pancake Breakfast in the campground. On the ramp were a variety of vendors and displays.

Airplane Rides in the white Stearman named Snowball or a 172 were available from Springfield Flying Service, who has a super cool domain name: http://letsgofly.com

Tiger Squadron

Tiger Squadron

 

 

 

 

The afternoon both days featured aerial demonstrations that thrilled the audience. The Tiger Squadron started the airshow with a formation fly-over at the end of the singing of the national anthem. Nine members flew military airplanes including the Chinese Nanchang CJ-6A, Russian Yak 52, Yak 50, and the Yak 18T.

The Baybombers mass formation military display team delighted us with precision, speed, and sound: A shiny Beech 18 was hopping rides and provided some fly-bys. There’s nothing like the sound of radial engine to get your attention.

Moo Pool

During the heat of the day, we were treated to several drag races featuring muscle cars. There were several Airplane vs. Car Races, but my favorite was the Stearman vs. Model A “Race.” Two pieces of history battling it out for top honors.  My Moo Pool was a hit again this year.  Probably the best $10 I have spent a few years ago was a kiddie swimming pool.  It became a gathering place to cool down and we had a birds-eye view of the airshow. Later in the day on Saturday, we were treated to watching pilots test their skills with the Flour Bombing & Spot Landing Contest.

Executive Sweet

Pilot Alex Nurse

A slice of history, Executive Sweet [B25J] attended, offering rides to those who wanted to go back in time. The American Aeronautical Foundation located in Camarillo, CA, owns the B25 Mitchell Bomber. They are a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to helping preserve the aviation legacy of World War II Veterans and the aircraft they flew.  I actually met a couple of the crew when they were admiring my airplane and the shiny paint job. I mentioned that I have a small oil leak that was making me crazy.  One of the pilots, Alex Nurse, said if I wanted to see oil to come over to the B25. I took him up on the offer and got a tour of the mighty airplane. Looking up at the airplane I was just mesmerized by the history it has seen. Standing under the bomb bay doors was sort of eerie; it was almost like I could feel the hopes and dreams of the men who flew her oh so many years ago. Climbing in to the cockpit was quite a feat and really gave me an appreciation for the airmen who scrambled around in challenging flying conditions. Alex described his passion for the AAF and his commitment, as a volunteer pilot, to sharing the history of Executive Sweet with the community. He talked about getting older veterans in the airplane [some who even flew in a B25] who walk slowly to the B25 and how once in the plane they are able to move around nimbly and their eyes light up.

I suppose young or old the goal of these community airport days is to have your eyes light up. I applaud the Airport Manager Ben Stuth and Kalah Beckman [whose real title is Administrative Assistant, but I think she should be Fly-In Organizational Queen] for their hard work and commitment to both safety and enjoyment. I worked side-by-side with a team of volunteers for the weekend. Many times the Fly-In is the only time we see each other. There were many volunteers from the communities of Columbia, Sonora, and Twain Harte that didn’t have a connection to aviation, but shared the love of flight. One young volunteer asked me if I loved having my pilots license and being able to go in the sky. As I packed up the airplane in the 100-degree weather, I smiled, looked up, and said, “Yes.”

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Last chance for Sweepstakes 172 automatic entry

 

Take a last good look at the Sweepstakes 172 with her current livery, because the next time you see her she will be wearing new accent colors on top of that gorgeous base coat.

The Sweepstakes 172 is shown at KD Aviation’s shop at Stewart International Airport (SWF) in New York. Ken Reese and his brother, Don, offer superlative aircraft painting services at two locations: SWF and Trenton-Robbinsville Airport (N87), Robbinsville, New Jersey. On the day we arrived, the shop was completing work on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s helicopter.

May 31 is next week! Your AOPA membership must be current as of May 31 to be automatically entered to win. See the complete rules here. 

 

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