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Category: GA community (page 1 of 16)

Exiting the hold by letting yourself be a flexible thinker

In last month’s installment of Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals we talked about understanding what type of learner you are to maximize your educational experience. This month we will focus on the importance of being a flexible thinker.

Neural pathways are like goat trails in the brain. We establish well-worn patterns of thinking and develop neural pathways, which become default ways of thought behavior. Thought, experience and behavior about events form schemas, a cognitive framework, that helps us to interpret and understand our world, and can be predictive in nature.

Humans naturally prefer to filter new information through an old “thought box” [schema]. Take a look at this video and see the concept in action: 

The habit of assimilation means that we often times take new information and try to make sense of it through trying to relate it to old learning or ways of thinking. However many times information or experience won’t fit in an existing schema. In those times we have to accommodate the information into a new way of thinking. An example would be a young child that knows what a dog is [four-legged animal], but when sees a cow incorrectly identifies it as a dog. This child will have to accommodate the information of a large four-legged animal into another thought box to know it is a cow.

As an adult, it is sometimes difficult to allow yourself to be a learner, yet that is what we need to do to reach our goals. Brain research in decades past pointed to brain development being completed in stages of childhood and remaining relatively fixed until death. However in the late 90s research began to show evidence of neural plasticity, the idea that your brain isn’t completely hard-wired. Through experience and training, we can re-wire or alter the brain’s functioning, forcing a cortical and neuronal re-wiring. Breaking out of a cycle of inaction or inactivity requires action. If we default to old ways of thinking we will do ourselves a disservice.

Flexible thinking is key to getting out of a holding pattern. Practice makes practice, and through practice you will gain mastery.   Having one achievement opens up the belief that you can do more. Learn from the best, and let yourself make mistakes, give yourself grace, and marvel how education can change your brain.

Right Seat Ready! at AOPA Camarillo, CA. Photo credit: David Tulis

I am getting ready to head to Longview Texas to teach Right Seat Ready! a companion safety seminar I co-founded with my teaching partner Jan Maxwell.  This national Mooney conference called MooneyMAX takes place October 10-14. The one-day Right Seat Ready! seminar is open to all non-pilot companions in single engine airplanes.

Jan and I toured with AOPA last year offering an abbreviated version of Right Seat Ready!.  It never fails to amaze me how much anxiety our students have at the beginning of the day.  You see, at the beginning of the day they are trying to fit all the new information into the old thought box that is labeled, “I am not a pilot.”  However, by the end of the day the anxiety is gone, replaced by excitement of new learning, smiles, practice and encouragement. Before long the old thought box is replaced with one labeled “I am Right Seat Ready!”

Right Seat Ready! at AOPA Camarillo, CA. Photo credit: David Tulis

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Antarctica – The Biggest Risk of All

If you asked me what part of the 26,000-nautical-mile, 23-country polar circumnavigation scares me the most, I wouldn’t have to think about it long to answer. It’s Antarctica! The earth’s southernmost continent, per Wikipedia, is 5,400,000 square miles of extremes. It is the coldest and driest continent on earth, has the highest average elevation at 7,545 feet above sea level with an elevation of 9,300 feet at the South Pole.

There are six things about flying to Antarctica that chill me to the bone (pun intended) and that keep me up at night.

1 – Weather

The Antarctic is known for some of the worst weather in the world! Winds and temps are intense and it is not uncommon to sit at Punta Arenas, Chile, for a week or two waiting for tolerable weather. On a 20-hour leg, there will be multiple fronts to cross before I can make it safely home.  On the positive side, Punta Arenas has a good weather reporting station and has allowed my team to monitor the weather a year in advance for temperatures, fronts, pressures, and winds.

2 – Distances

The distance from Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile to the South Pole and back is 4,457 nm. This will be my longest leg. My aircraft, a Gulfstream Turbine Commander 900, was originally designed to fly unmodified for 2,000 nm. With the addition of six fuel tanks, five-bladed MT nickel tipped scimitar props, RVSM, and two zero time refurbished Honeywell TPE 331-10T engines (the same type you find on Predator drones), we are estimating a 5,000-nm range, but nobody knows for sure how far and efficiently the airplane can fly that heavy. This is the equivalent of flying from San Diego to Hawaii and back nonstop. I have been asked where I could land if I had an issue. Theoretically, I can land anywhere. It’s just taking off again that is the issue.

3 – Navigation

A magnetic compass doesn’t work at the magnetic south and north poles and GPS doesn’t work where the meridians meet at the true north and south poles. I’ve been told that an old fashioned directional gyro with a metal ball spinning at 15,000 rpms is the solution. One expert told me, “Just fly the heading you are on for about 50 nm and then everything will be fine.” Recently I spoke with the Avidyne engineers who said that when they simulated the poles their units did “fine.” Possible solution: Use a GPS waypoint before the pole and one after it, and the unit won’t get confused. But will I?

4 – Fatigue

How does one stay up for 18-plus hours in an extremely cramped, stressful space loaded with 948 extra gallons of JetA1 in six aluminum fuel tanks expanding and contracting in the cabin near an HF radio and power supply? When I asked a pilot who set a world record flying for 20-plus hours how he stayed awake he answered, “Honestly, I was afraid the entire time.”

The pilots of Solar Impulse, the first solo pilots in a solar airplane ever to fly through the night between two continents, stayed up for longer periods of time but were also flying at very slow speeds in friendlier conditions compared to the Citizen of the World. They took micro naps and were monitored by their team in different parts of the world. I’ve been advised to bring a timer, set the STEC 2100 digital autopilot, and sleep in 30-minute intervals. But even the best of the autopilots can be persnickety at times.

5 – Extreme Cold

With outside air temperatures as low as minus 67-degrees Celsius at 35,000 feet, we were concerned this could result in below-freezing temperatures in the cockpit for up to 20 hours. The airplane’s environmental system, designed 35 years ago, has been unreliable, inefficient, and incapable of handling extreme heat or cold. This has presented a great opportunity to update the Citizen’s environmental system with a Peter Schiff system, giving us 60 extra horsepower, reducing weight by 150 pounds, increasing the pressurization, providing a backup pressurization system, providing non-contaminated air in the cabin, and allowing me to pre-cool the cabin on the ground using ground power. Problem solved!

Outside the cockpit, there are things to consider as well. Jet A1 gels at minus 47 degrees Celsius and Jet A gels at minus 40 degrees Celsius. During the month of December 2017 when we monitored temps, the South Pole got as cold as minus 67 degrees Celsius. You see the issue: Even though my TPE 331-10T engines have heat exchangers to warm the fuel with hot engine oil, the airplane doesn’t have anything in the wings to prevent the fuel from gelling before it gets to the heat exchanger. If you know what the low-temp gel point is or know anyone who does, please comment on this blog post or email me at [email protected].

6 – Survival

The last guy to attempt this trip didn’t bring any survival gear with him. He figured that the extra fuel he could carry was worth more pound for pound than any survival gear. He thought that survival would only prolong his misery. I have heard a similar belief from the highest-time ferry pilot in the world who has more than 500 Pacific crossings. I’m more optimistic. Thanks to modern satellite technology installed in Citizen, my potential rescuers will know where I am within 20 feet and two minutes if the airplane should go down. My survival suit and gear will give me the extra time to stay alive while they get to me.

To help improve my chances for a successful trip, I will fly the longest and hardest leg over Antarctica at the front end of the trip. This will ensure the Citizen of the World is working the best it can rather than letting it degrade over three months and then attempting the hardest leg at the end as I did in 2015 flying from Honolulu to Monterey during my equatorial circumnavigation in the Spirit of San Diego.

When it comes down to it, my team and I are doing everything humanly possible to plan every detail and mitigate the risks associated with flying over Antarctica. In my Zen Moments, I’ve learned that at some point you have to either accept the risks you can’t control or simply walk away. I choose to accept the risks and keep flying. The opportunity to expand the boundaries of general aviation, to inspire present and future generations to live their impossibly big dreams, and to be able fly in the name of world peace makes all the risks worthwhile.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off December 2018 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Exiting the Hold: Choose your course of study wisely

Get to know your learning style and choose your course of study wisely

This is the second part of six in my series Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation goals. Last month we focused on the importance of timing and the Greek concepts of time: chronos and kairos. This month we will be delving in to choosing a course of study or preparation for your meeting your goals. Having just returned from Oshkosh at the beginning of this month, the use of my instrument rating in actual weather conditions is fresh in my mind. The decision-making I used for the 26-hour solo flight relied heavily on my IFR training. The smoke, rain, low visibility, thunderstorms and clouds with ice, I encountered gave me real-world experience that tested me.

Learners are as variable as the airplanes they fly. Now that you have made the decision to reach your goals, set yourself up for success. Are you choosing a professionally developed curriculum or leaning on a variety of books and study guides? Do you need the pressure of having a time-based weekly program, or are you self-motivated enough for home-based study? Whatever you choose, choose wisely to maximize your chance of success.

A decision on the best course of study must take into account the following components:

  • Quality of study program
  • Mode of study [in-person, online, self-study]
  • Level of accountability [peer pressure, schedule, community]

Quality of study program

The aviation community is very lucky to have wonderful educators and educational institutions that have been around for decades. Over the years I have used King Schools, Rod Machado, Sporty’s, Gleim, and AOPA’s Air Safety Institute. Don’t skimp on the quality of your study program. My advice is to purchase the best that you can afford. Think of your education being an investment in you, your life and longevity.

Mode of study [in-person, online, self-study]

As one of my IFR instructors said to me, “Here is where we are going to go to school.” I am a psychotherapist with 26 years of experience. In that time I have become fascinated in the differences between males and females, specifically in terms of brain differences. I am not a brain researcher; my thoughts are based on a basic review of the current science, and are by no means exhaustive. You should also know that there are exceptions to the facts and we can train our brain to do less than innate activities.

Here is the short story: I versus We:  Competence versus Connection.  The male brain is organized and focused more as an individual, striving for mastery.  The female brain is wired for communication, connection and cooperation

Men have slightly larger brains even when adjusted for their larger heads. They have larger parietal cortices (in charge of space perception), and amygdala (which regulates sexual and social behavior). This might explain why visual-spatial tasks are easier for men. They tend to be able visually manipulate things in their brain, whereas women tend to need to see spaces and shapes on paper.

Men also have more gray matter in their brains, which is full of active neurons. This might explain why there are more men in physically or mentally active professions like airplane pilots, bush guides, racecar drivers, and mathematicians. Men also tend to be more systematic in their thinking.

Women’s brains are 8-10% smaller than the male brain, yet on average, are much more active. Women have larger volume in both the frontal cortex (the inner CEO) and the limbic cortex (involved in emotional responses). This, in conjunction with speedy connections facilitated by the white matter, is another reason why women’s brains work faster. Renowned brain researcher, Dr. Daniel Amen’s research shows that women have greater activity in the brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that helps store memories.

In addition, the female brain has a larger corpus callosum, which is a bundle of nerves that connects emotion and cognition. As a result, women are better with language abilities and rely more heavily on oral or verbal communication. They also tend to have a better time controlling emotions, although they are more emotional. Women, on average use four words to every one word a man uses. The female brain secretes more serotonin and oxytocin, which connects them further to the emotional world. These differences are important because when you know what lights up your brain, you will be better equipped to make the best “course of study” decision.

In sum, males will be excited about the individual mastery, competition, or competence in aviation. Females will be excited to be part of a collaborative, interactive group of students. Males might be better with conceptualizing basic principles of flight. Females would learn better by hands-on demonstration. In sum, think about yourself, your learning style and make the choices that support an optimal environment for your education.

Level of accountability [peer pressure/community, schedule]

I decided that 2017 was my year to get my IFR rating. In late 2016 I started studying for the IFR written exam. I used online training, attended a weekend intensive seminar, and had individual tutoring. Although my friends knew I was studying, I kept my test date a secret. I didn’t want anyone to know I was testing, but once I passed with a healthy 90% I did put it out to my friends and family that I would complete the rating in 2017. I know myself. I knew that I didn’t want the social pressure of folks knowing I was taking the written. But I did want the social pressure of publicizing that I was committing to getting done in 2017. Think about your personality and the impact peer pressure will have on you. It might be a good thing to put in to words your goals and methods for attaining them.

There is never a good time to do anything. As discussed in last month’s column there are instances where you just have to leap. Think about your life, responsibilities and energy level. You might be best served by a weekly course of instruction, slow and steady toward the goal. However, your work or family schedule might be better suited for a two-week intensive program.

Good luck in determining the course of study to help you reach your goal. Next month we will tackle the third element in Exiting the Hold: Quieting the Critic. For those of you on the West Coast, if you would like to come see my multi-media presentation of Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals, I will be presenting at the Capital Airshow in Sacramento, CA [Mather] on Sunday September 23rd at 10:40 a.m. in the education pavilion.

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals

Timing: Part 1 of 6

Fly for a minute, turn for a minute, fly for a minute, turn for a minute. In instrument flying you might be instructed to enter a hold because you cannot land due to weather being below minimums, inbound traffic congestion, or runway unavailability. At some point you must assess whether landing at the intended destination airport is feasible or flying to the alternate is more prudent.

Much like flying an actual hold, there comes a time in every pilot’s career where an honest assessment of performance, desires, and goals needs to happen. Are you one of the many pilots are stuck in the hold, unable to complete your aviation goals?

For the next few months I will be highlighting one of the six keys to exiting the holding pattern and reaching your goals. If you plan on attending EAA AirVenture/Oshkosh this year, please come and see my multi-media presentation on Exiting the Hold on Saturday July 28th at 11:00 a.m. at the AOPA Pavilion. The presentation is fast paced and lively. You might also win the door prize of a King Schools IFR course.

#1 Timing

The two Greek words for the measurement of time are chronos and kairos. Chronos describes linear, chronological time such as minutes, hours, days, and years. In regard to aviation, chronos timing would be calendar or time-based. For example, an 18 year old getting a PPL and attending a university aviation program would expect to complete instrument, commercial and CFI in a certain number of months.Contrasted with the other Greek word for time, kairos, meaning the indeterminate moment that is propitious for action and this instant of time must be seized with great force. A decision based on kairos would be a gut feeling, or a chance opportunity that presents itself.

Many pilots stuck in the hold are waiting for the “right time” [chronos] to pursue their next goal, or rating or hopelessly feel like time has passed them by. However, they don’t realize that they can make a decision based on opportunity and effort [kairos].

Winged Statue of Kairos

 

Here is the inscription on the statue of Kairos above, which explains the Greek myth of Kairos.

And who are you? Time who subdues all things.
Why do you stand on tiptoe? I am ever running.
And why you have a pair of wings on your feet? I fly with the wind.
And why do you hold a razor in your right hand? As a sign to men that I am sharper than any sharp edge.
And why does your hair hang over your face? For him who meets me to take me by the forelock.
And why, in Heaven’s name, is the back of your head bald? Because none whom I have once raced by on my winged feet will now, though he wishes it sore, take hold of me from behind.

“Kairos becomes a fleeting moment, one that must be grabbed forcefully as it passes. But it is also a dangerous moment, one with razor-thin margins. It is both dangerous to any who are unprepared to meet it and dangerous to those who may be subdued by them who wield it successfully. Even more danger lies in kairos as the fountainhead of regret—once kairos has passed by, opportunity closes its door forever.”  [http://www.mzhowell.com/seize-the-day/]

Time is really on your side. Take chances when they present themselves. Be prepared. Keep an open mind. Your history does not have to define your aviation destiny. If you are at Oshkosh next month, come by Mooney, or my presentation at AOPA and say hello, if you have the time!

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

I have more than I need, so I give back

Many of us have friends on Facebook that we follow but may have never met in person. Such is the case for Joshua Knowlton and me. It all started with Oregon and airplanes, but my esteem for Joshua has grown over the years so I want to tell you about him. He is 40 years old and has been working in aviation for about 7 years. He has been an A&P for 5 years, and an IA for 2 years. He says, of his careers, “I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and didn’t go to college until I was 32. I have worked in a slaughterhouse, I’ve been a professional cook, a sewing machine technician, a painter, and I drove a tow-truck for 7 years before starting college. “

He attended Lane Aviation Academy at Lane Community College in Oregon and was awarded several scholarships and finished first in his class with a 4.02 cumulative GPA. He started working at PJ Helicopters soon after graduation from A&P School and worked there for a little over 3 years. After that he started working with his friend and fellow alum Kyle Bushman, restoring antique airplanes. “Since I have my own 1942 Piper L4A Grasshopper that I am restoring I thought this would be a good transition. We worked together for about a year before I decided to get back into rotor craft since I was so attracted to them. I started working for Hillsboro Aviation about a year ago. That is where I currently work and I love my job”, he says.

Joshua is a humble person when talking about his work as a philanthropist. He probably would bristle at me calling him that. He states simply, “I am in a position now where I feel like I have more than I need and I want to be able to give back. This is why I am trying to do good and help others and raise money for causes I support.” I remember he posted on Facebook saying he wanted to take his daughter and her school friend to Disneyland. That quickly turned in to her school friend and her two sisters who were all homeless. He was able to raise over $1800 to help pay their expenses and had a fabulous time at Disneyland. If that isn’t philanthropy I don’t know what is.

After that he decided to start his own scholarship at the A&P school that he attended. “I wanted to pay for one student’s written FAA mechanic exams (about $500) but after talking to a couple of people I raised $300 from them and decided to pull a couple hundred more dollars out of my pocket and pay for the written exams for two students” he says. He calls this scholarship the “Anna Marie Shurden Scholarship for Positive Change”, named after a fellow student who beat the odds and overcame many personal difficulties to finish school and get a job in the aviation industry and continues to be a success. His goal for 2019 is to raise enough money to pay for both the oral and practical exams as well as the written exam for one deserving student. The link for the fundraiser for 2019 is: https://www.gofundme.com/annamariescholarship

Joshua says, “I would like to point out that I am a member of Women in Aviation and my scholarship is geared toward (but not exclusive to) females that are pursuing a career in aviation maintenance. I am a firm believer that this industry needs more women. Not just pilots but mechanics also. “

Joshua was poor as a kid and didn’t have a lot of opportunities. He’s never been out of the country. “Aviation has given me the life I always wanted and has given me opportunities that I never thought I would have. Whenever I have the chance I want to help out other people who are in the place where I was. They just need a hand up to get to a better place and have a chance at the life they have always wanted. I do my best. I am grateful. I work hard.” Be like Joshua.

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

The Sun, the Fun and a bit of Rain

The Sun, the Fun and a bit of rain: SNF18 shining example of what is right in aviation.

A few weeks ago I returned from Sun n Fun, the weeklong aviation event held in Lakeland Florida. And while it seems like we experienced every season, we all shared in the camaraderie of aviators.

Before I left California for the East Coast, I received a phone call from airshow announcer co-chair, Amy Arnold. She asked if I would like to do an interview for a new TV show that would not only be broadcast live and on the jumbo-tron, but would be online as well. She explained that Live Airshow TV created a morning show called the Preflight Show.   I was to be on with Jamie Beckett from AOPA on Saturday morning. I jumped at the chance, and am so happy I did.  (You can view the full show here; we are about minute 44)

When attending events, I typically have a broad spectrum of activities. I had work duties with AOPA and Mooney. As is my life, I juggle a lot of roles and carry a lot of boxes.

Arriving at SNF loaded down with numerous boxes for my display at Mooney, I was so happy to notice a phone number for Media assistance on the back of my credentials. That phone number gave me a lifeline in the form of a volunteer driver and golf cart. When I called I spoke with John who was super friendly and sent Sam to pick me up and take me in to the show. That phone call would repeat on a twice-daily basis for the next four days. I met at least five different drivers. Many have volunteered at the event for numerous years. I was quick to thank them profusely and eager to learn a little about their history.

Probably one of the funniest things came when I was getting my last ride of the show from the Media carts. As I mentioned, I got to know each of the drivers a bit in our five-minute drives to and from the Media lot. I called and asked for a 4:30 pick up at Mooney. I was able to see the grass lot from my table in the Mooney pavilion. I looked up and saw three golf carts, proudly placarded Media, driving in formation to pick me up. This made me laugh so hard. The thing is, I took the time to get to know the volunteers, and they got to know me. Striking up a conversation with a stranger, such a simple thing yet it yields such connection.

What I experienced at Sun n Fun is an example of how aviation folks are the best folks. I never met a stranger, always greeted with a smile and a helping hand. We had every season weather-wise from 92 degrees to rain and wind. Through it all, I saw dear old friends, made some new ones, and found inspiration in the spirit of aviation ambassadors. Count me in for #SNF19.

So this week culminates with a big weekend for those of us volunteering at Oceano Airport: Salute to Veterans. Rain, fog, wind or shine we will welcome visitors to our beachside airport. Volunteers have been working for months on our airport day. We celebrate those who have served our country and those serving now. Breakfast and lunch are free for veterans, active duty military, law enforcement and first responders. We never have an admission charge and all our events are family-friendly. We are collecting items for military care packages again this year.

As the founder of Friends of Oceano Airport my goal is that our events are as friendly, heart-felt and fun as my annual trips to Sun n Fun or Oshkosh. In our small way, we, fiercely protect our airport, welcome aviation visitors and our community members and give back to our veterans and active duty military.

My second daughter played basketball in middle school. You might ask what this has to do with GA and protecting airports. She was petite, less than five feet, a bit on the short side for point guard. What she lacked in stature, she made up for with guile. I would always say she was short, but scrappy. She was out there on the court, being a focused leader, using every gift God gave her, and I was in the stands hooting and cheering for her.

My point is that we don’t have to have the biggest events at our airports, be nationally known or have an extensive social media presence. What we need to do is be scrappy. Protect our pilot and airport resources, welcome folks to our aviation family, and be the person who shows up with a smile.

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Generation Three

I fell in love with flying more than 50 years ago. I had just graduated with a degree in mathematics from Dartmouth College, and had a summer job in Phoenix, Arizona, prior to starting work on my Ph.D. at Princeton University. As a kid, my dad introduced me to free-flight model airplanes, in high school I toyed with piston-powered control-line models, and I had occasional fantasies about flying real airplanes. So, when I found myself in Phoenix that summer where the weather is CAVU about 360 days per year, I figured it would be a great time to learn to fly. I drove to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport one afternoon, walked into the offices of Sawyer Aviation, and signed up for my first introductory flight in a 1959 straight-tail no-rear-window Cessna 150. I was hooked and never looked back.

When the summer was over, the ink still wet on my private pilot certificate, I joined the Princeton Flying Club and started flying rental airplanes. Over the next few years, I earned my commercial and instrument rating and flew all over the eastern United States. After a few years of graduate studies at Princeton and Columbia, I moved to California to start my first full-time job as a computer scientist with a Fortune 500 company headquartered just south of LAX. That’s when I bought my first airplane.

Cessna 182 Skylane N2638XN42648 was a brand-new 1968 Cessna 182L that I picked up at the Cessna factory in Wichita, Kansas, and flew home to California. That was heady stuff for a 24-year-old. Over the next four years, I put nearly 1,000 hours on that Skylane, flying it all over the West plus at least one transcontinental trip per year. I learned a lot about weather flying, including the fact that a Skylane can carry an inch of structural ice without falling out of the sky. (Don’t ask.)

Fast forward about 25 years. By now I’d left the Fortune 500 world to start my own software company. I’d sold the Skylane (which I’m pleased to see remains on the active FAA registry), bought a 1972 Bellanca Super Viking, sold that, married a gorgeous blonde named Jan, bought my first house, sold that, moved from L.A. to a semi-rural part of California’s central coast, bought a house there, and ultimately bought my third airplane, a 1979 Cessna Turbo 310 that I’ve owned, flown, and maintained for more than 30 years and 4,000 hours and still am flying today.

Generation Two

The Cessna 310 and I found ourselves in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one day. I was en route from California to the East Coast and decided to stop in Tulsa to visit with my wife’s brother and sister-in-law. It was then that I met their 10-year-old son Justin, who seemed like a great kid, but his life seemed to lack focus. I learned he had a history of running with the wrong crowd and repetitively getting himself into hot water. On impulse, I offered to take Justin up in the 310 for his first ride in a general aviation airplane. Little did I know what an impression that would make on him, and what impact it would have on his life trajectory.

Fast forward another 10 years. Justin was a senior at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He’d joined the OSU flying club, earned his private, commercial, and instrument tickets, and was working on his CFI. He was engaged to Carrie Beth, a gorgeous blonde he’d met at OSU, and had decided to apply to the airlines after graduation for work as a professional pilot. He was hired by regional carrier Great Lakes Airlines as a first officer flying Beechcraft 1900Ds.

Justin and I occasionally kept in touch by email. From time to time over the next 10 years, we’d hear one another on Center frequency when his Beech Airliner and my Cessna 310 happened to wind up in the same sector at the same time…and we’d say “hi” to one another on frequency, violating AIM communication protocol.  Justin accumulated hours and seniority at Great Lakes, working his way up to captain and check airman, then applied to and was hired by Frontier Airlines as a first officer on the Airbus 320. Now he was spending most of his time above FL300 and we seldom heard one another on frequency. Carrie had become a senior manager at Anheuser-Busch and took a promotion that caused her and Justin to relocate from Denver to St. Louis. They had a son that they named Ethan, and another one that they named Jacob. By now I hardly heard from them at all, much to my regret.

AirVenture 2017

Three generations of pilotsLast summer, Justin reached out to me quite unexpectedly to let me know that he, Carrie, and the two boys were planning to attend AirVenture 2017 at Oshkosh—something Justin had been promising me he’d do for decades but never happened. At first, my attitude was “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but soon my anticipation grew. I was now nearly 73 years old, hadn’t seen Justin or Carrie Beth for more than a decade, and had never met their sons. When we finally rendezvoused near Aeroshell Plaza, I was thrilled.

Ethan Citrabria cockpit checkoutThe boys—now ages eight and six—glommed onto me as if I was their long lost uncle (which I guess I was), and we went whizzing around the AirVenture campus on my golf cart with big grins on all our faces. Ethan, the eight-year-old, was especially vocal about wanting to become a pilot when he grew up.

As things wound down at AirVenture, I asked Justin and Carrie whether there was any possibility of them and the kids coming to visit me in California. They said they’d love to but couldn’t commit to a date because Justin was on the verge of upgrading from first officer to captain at Frontier and couldn’t yet predict his schedule. They looked at the boys’ school schedule and told me that if everything went without a hitch, they might be able to visit during Easter break.

Captain JustinLast March, after much grilling and torture in the Airbus simulator, Justin succeeded in making captain. I learned of this when he texted me a photo of his new four-stripe shirt. Not long afterward, he texted me a photo showing him in the left seat of the Airbus with check airman Kelli Cammack in the right seat, overseeing his Initial Operating Experience (IOE) trip as Captain.

(NOTE: Kelli is the longtime partner of my good friend and JetBlue Captain Adrian Eichhorn. Aviation sure is a small world.)

I’m so damn proud of Justin!

Generation Three

Ethan by airport signYou probably already see where this is going. Justin, Carrie, and the boys did indeed come to visit me in California over Easter break. The April weather was glorious. The family walked on the beach, took part in an Easter egg hunt, even visited some local wineries to do some tasting. Then on Easter Sunday, we had a religious experience: Ethan, his dad, and I drove to the airport at Santa Maria to go flying in my Cessna 310—the same 310 in which Justin had been bitten by the flying bug—to give eight-year-old Ethan his first ride in a GA airplane.

Captain Justin climbed into the back seat and declared himself the official photographer. I took the left front seat and Ethan the right. Even with the seat cranked up to maximum height and slid to the forward stop, Ethan could barely see over the glareshield and his feet came nowhere near the rudder pedals, but that didn’t seem to bother him a bit.

Mike & Ethan flying 38XWe taxied out, took off on Runway 30, climbed straight out to the Pacific coastline and levelled off at 1,200 feet msl. As we crossed the coastline, I asked Ethan to place his right hand on his control yoke and follow me through as I executed a few shallow turns, climbs, and descents. Then I asked him if he was ready to take the controls, he smiled in the affirmative, and I released my yoke and said, “Your airplane!”

Ethan flying 38XEthan predictably overcontrolled a bit at first, but with a constant stream of voice coaching he managed to keep his altitude within 200 feet and his heading within 30 degrees. Within minutes, his performance improved to the point that he was holding within 100 feet and 10 degrees—that’s private pilot checkride standards, folks—and mind you he was flying a 5,600-pound twin, not a Cessna 150. The kid clearly had an aptitude. I was jealous. Justin was delighted.

I programmed the GNS 530 for a route up the coast to Big Sur, then east to King City, then back down the inland route to Santa Maria. I showed Ethan how to keep the little airplane symbol on the magenta course line on the 530’s moving map, and he caught on instantly (it was just like Waze). Approaching Big Sur, we climbed from 1,200 feet to 7,500 feet to cross the mountain range, then descended to 5,500 feet for the inland return leg. Approaching Santa Maria, I talked Ethan through a descent to pattern altitude, then took back the controls on downwind leg.

Ethan & Mike with 38X in hangarBy the time we shut down the engines, climbed out of the cabin, and pushed the plane back into my hangar, it was pretty obvious that Ethan had been bitten by the flying bug big time. I was teary eyed the next day as the clan drove off in their rental car, headed for San Francisco and then home to St. Louis. Justin is now seriously committed to buying his first GA airplane—very likely a Cessna 182, following in his uncle’s footsteps—so he can take the kids flying on a regular basis. The family has already made their campsite reservations for AirVenture 2018, and I’m looking forward to seeing them there in July.

I want to be a pilotNow if I can keep flying until I’m 90, maybe I’ll be able to catch First Officer Ethan on Center frequency. Would that be cool, or what?

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).

GPS Testing Part of Military Training this season

Sample of the map included with a GPS Testing NOTAM. Pilots filling out online GPS anomaly reports may help develop a better understanding of the real impacts of these activities.

Military Training is a routine part of the flying season in Alaska.  Sporting the largest contiguous complex of special use airspace in the country (the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex or JPARC), military planners last week announced the dates of four Red Flag exercises over the coming months.  The thing that is a little different is that each of these 10 day exercises this year will include “GPS testing” where military forces on the ground will jam the GPS signal from participating aircraft, to test this real-world threat now faced by our armed forces.  The challenge is, it may also impact civil aircraft, outside the boundaries of the MOAs and Restricted Areas used by the military aircraft.

When/where will this happen?
The GPS testing will take place within the ten-day windows of the Red Flag Exercises.  At a briefing last week, the dates of this years exercises were shared with civil aviation operators.  We also learned that some of these exercises will have as many as 120 aircraft, participating, including visitors from several foreign countries.  These are dates you may want to put on your calendar, and pay attention to as you plan your flying activities:

JPARC Airspace Complex, largest military training airspace in the country, will be again host Red Flag flying exercises this summer.

26 April – 11 May
7-22 June
9-24 August
4-19 October

On the dates within these ranges that GPS testing is planned, NOTAMs will be issued at least 72 hours in advance, with defined date and time ranges that will limit the testing.  Even though the testing is highly directional in nature, aimed at military participants, the potential for it to disrupt GPS signals outside their airspace is significant.  As we progress into the NextGen era, where GPS is the primary basis for IFR as well as VFR navigation, this is something we all need to plan for.

What if I lose my GPS?
We still have a lot to learn about the impacts of GPS testing.  If you lose GPS signal while flying please do two things:

(1) Notify ATC, whether it be Anchorage Center, approach control, a control tower or a flight service station.  Let them know when and where you lost GPS signal, or experienced any other problems with GPS navigation. This holds for both IFR and VFR operations.

(2) After your flight, please fill out a GPS Anomaly Reporting Form to help us learn the extent and nature of impacts that may be caused by this testing.  https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/nas/gps_reports/

AOPA is working this issue on a national level and getting reports from Alaska will help define the impacts of this training activity—which influences all segments of civil aviation. Through time, we hope this will result in more accurate NOTAMs, or other accommodations to provide more precise understanding of the impacts of these training activities.

What else can I do?
As pilots, we are trained to have back-up plans.  If you are operating IFR, remembering to tune in the VOR and ILS frequencies from our “legacy” equipment.  For those of us that fly VFR, it might be a good idea to make a flight or two this summer just navigating with a good old paper chart—and re-discovering the joys of pilotage.

Help NWS monitor river breakup, with PIREPs or pictures

Looking for a reason to go flying—even though it isn’t exactly summer yet?  Like to provide a public service at the same time?  With ice starting to melt in Alaska’s rivers, the National Weather Service (NWS) is once again happy to receive Pilot Reports and digital photos as they monitor breakup, and forecast possible flooding along our major rivers.  Pilots willing to supply observations are invited to participate in the River Watch Program.

2018 Breakup Forecast
To get a preview of breakup predictions this year, NWS has posted a five minute video with an overview of conditions going into the season.  Some parts of the state have an elevated flood potential, given snow pack, ice thickness and forecasts of the weeks ahead.  If you live in one of these areas, participating in River Watch could be very helpful, as the melt season progresses.

What is River Watch?
NWS established the River Watch Program to enlist the aid of pilots who are willing to provide information on the ice conditions as they fly. Pilots voluntarily participating in the program are provided basic information on the mechanisms of river ice break up, and asked to file Pilot Reports (PIREPs) while on routine flights.  FAA Flight Service specialists have also been trained to take these PIREPs, formatted with a special syntax.   NWS river hydrologists receive the PIREPs, providing them with a valuable set of observations in a timely fashion, describing ice or flooding conditions as the spring season progresses.

While the voluntary program initially targeted air taxi pilots, making their daily rounds, reports are welcomed from any pilot wishing to participate.  NWS has posted information their website that provides details about the program including the PIREP format to use, and terms to describe river ice conditions.

This document, available on the NWS website, describes the format for River Watch PIREPs, and common terms used to describe ice conditions at different stages of break-up

What’s new?
This program has been in place for many years, but technology is providing some new ways to interact.  While calling Flight Service with a PIREP is probably the fastest way to convey river conditions, here are some additional methods to provide information:

  • File a PIREP online. Last year, the Aviation Weather Center provided a portal that allows pilots to file PIREPs online.  It takes two steps: first establish an account with the AWC (it’s free), and then request the ability to file PIREPs.  After that one-time approval you will now have access to the PIREP submission form under the Tools menu, while signed into your account.  (See link below for details). Study the details on River Watch PIREP formats in the reference links below.
  • Send an e-mail, directly to the river forecasters. If you have a more detailed report than fits in a PIREP, providing the information in an email after you land may be a better way to go.  To help with geographic reference, NWS has marked up flight charts segments with river miles along major river basins. You may print one of these for the intended route, making it easier to communicate locations of ice jams, or other features.  It may also be worth printing the River Ice PIREP format, with standard terms to describe ice and flooding conditions.
  • Send pictures directly to NWS forecasters—with the locations imbedded in them. If using an iPhone

    A photo taken using the Theodolite App on an iPhone. GPS coordinates are displayed on the image, with the viewing direction and other data. More importantly, the coordinates are also included in the EXIF file associated with the image. This allows NWS to import the image directly into their system, showing the location where the image was taken. Other apps also capture GPS locations, if permissions are set to enable that feature.

    or other camera that has the ability to attach GPS coordinates, (typically in the form of an EXIF format file), NWS may be able to import the photo location directly, to see where each picture was taken. In some cases, a picture is worth a thousand words!

  • Phone calls are yet another way to report river conditions. Call the River Forecast Center directly at 1-800-847-1739 during the hours between 6 am and 5 pm, especially if you observe a flood developing, or other hazardous condition.

Regardless of how you choose to provide information, consider using the increasing hours of daylight, and the need to monitor river conditions as an excuse to peel off the wing covers and take to the skies.  It is a good excuse to go flying. It also helps the river forecasters and the residents who live along the rivers, who need to know what to expect as the ice goes out this spring!

 

Reference Links:
River Watch Program overview: https://www.weather.gov/aprfc/riverwatchprogram

Filing PIREPs online: https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2017/may/16/nws-website-accepts-distributes-pilot-reports

River Watch Poster: https://www.weather.gov/media/aprfc/rwpflyer.pdf

Alaska Aircraft Owners: Think Spring and the GA Survey

As we start to see the end, hopefully, of another long winter in Alaska, one of the signs of spring is the emergence of the GA and Part 135 Activity Survey.  This survey is conducted by an independent research firm, Tetra Tech, and gives AOPA and other aviation organizations one of the few ways we have to quantify the activities of our segment of the aviation industry. Airlines and some categories of air taxi operators provide routine statistics directly to the FAA quantifying their operations and passengers hauled.  No comparable measures exist for the wide range of general aviation activities.  Consequently, the data collected by Tetra Tech is a very valuable resource, when it comes to advocating for our needs.

Advocating for better weather reporting is one of AOPA’s efforts in Alaska.

Alaska IS different
While we are often heard saying “Alaska is different,” we need your help to prove it.  We know Alaskan pilots use airplanes in place of pick-up trucks, as there are no roads to 82% of the communities in the state.  We know about our very sparse network of weather reporting stations, in contrast to the rest of the country.  But when it comes to making the case to improve this and other infrastructure, it is essential to be able to quantify how much flying we do.  And what kind of flying it is—business, pleasure, aerial observations, etc.

The folks at Tetra Tech also know Alaska is different, and to help us out they do a 100% sample of Alaskan aircraft owners.  So I am pretty sure you will have a postcard, email, or some kind of invitation to participate in the survey.  To take the survey, follow the instructions on the Survey invitation when you receive it.  You need your log book, the total time on your aircraft and how much fuel you burn/hour.  The few minutes it takes to complete the survey will help AOPA and other aviation industry groups to advocate on your behalf.  The survey results are confidential, with only summary statistics made available to the FAA.  For more information, see AOPA’s article, and if you have questions, call Tetra Tech at 1-800-826-1797. Or write to [email protected]  To take the survey online, go to: www.aviationsurvey.org.

If you have already completed the survey, Thank You!

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