Thursday, November 30, 2006

My friend Joann sent me this picture today. Amazing, isn't it? It reminded me of a friend of mine taking private pilot lessons that was told by her flight instructor that it was too early in her training to fly at night. I thought this was so tragic when I heard it--flying at night is so amazing! But it made me start thinking(since this phase of my training is WAY far behind me), about all the differences between flying at night and during the day.

First, from personal experience, I can tell you it's amazingly beautiful. I've tried to take pictures of the New York City skyline at night, and there is NO way to hold a camera still enough to get anything but streaks of light. A person does lose their depth perception in the dark, though, making landings a little difficult. Knowing this and compensating for it (by checking your altitude over the ground, using other visual cues) can overcome illusions such as:

A Black-Hole Approach Illusion.

A Black-Hole Approach Illusion can happen during a final approach at night (no stars or moonlight) over water or unlighted terrain to a lighted runway beyond which the horizon is not visible. When peripheral visual cues are not available to help you orient yourself relative to the earth, you may have the illusion of being upright and may perceive the runway to be tilted left and upsloping. However, with the horizon visible, you can easily orient yourself correctly using your central vision.

A particularly hazardous black-hole illusion involves approaching a runway under conditions with no lights before the runway and with city lights or rising terrain beyond the runway. These conditions may produce the visual illusion of a high altitude final approach. If you believe this illusion, you may respnd by lowering your approach slope.

There are a number of visual illusions for day or night that pilots study in their training. A good summary of all of them is in an FAA brochure that you can find here:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

It had to happen. I am sick. The good news is that work didn't need me today anyway. The bad news is that since I thought I would have to work, I made no plans for a turkey dinner. Boston Market to the rescue!

So, let's talk about pilots and sickness...

Pilots need to have a current medical to fly. Every so often, they get a full examination by an Aviation Medical Examiner, which is usually good for six months (as a Pilot in command, Captain) or sometimes a year (second in command, First Officer).

According to the FAA:
What class of medical certificate must I hold and how long is it valid?

A first-class airman medical certificate is required to exercise the privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate. A first-class airman medical certificate is valid for 6 months plus the remainder of the days in the month of examination.

A second-class airman medical certificate is required for commercial, non-airline duties (e.g., for crop dusters, corporate pilots) and is valid for 1 year plus the remainder of the days in the month of examination. Those exercising the privileges of a flight engineer certificate, a flight navigator certificate, or acting as air traffic control tower operator must hold a second-class airman medical certificate.

A third-class airman medical certificate is required to exercise the privileges of a private pilot certificate, recreational pilot certificate, a flight instructor certificate, or a student pilot certificate. A third-class airman medical certificate is valid for 3 years plus the remainder of the days in the month of examination for pilots under age 40 or for 2 years plus the remainder of the days in the month of examination for those pilots age 40 and over.

Additionally, pilots need to evaluate themselves on a daily basis to determine whether they are fit to fly. There is no question if the pilot is taking a medicine that makes them drowsy or has other side effects. If the pilot has a simple cold, they can take some over the counter medications to reduce the symptoms. HOWEVER, it is always up to the pilot to decide whether they can perform as needed. This is especially apparent if the pilot is just plain tired. It causes a decrease in decision making ability and reaction time--not good traits in a pilot...

Says the FAA:
Am I prohibited from exercising the privileges of my pilot certificate during medical deficiency?
Yes. You are prohibited from acting as pilot-in-command or as a required pilot flight crewmember during any medical deficiency that would be disqualifying or may interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft.

This is a really broad answer, huh? Therein lies the problem. Most pilots want to do their job and do it well, so they don't want to "wimp out" because of a runny nose. Pilots ask themselves, "Am I really tired or do I just need another cup of coffee?" The question pilots need to ask themselves is, "Am I capable of performing at my best today?" That's what our passengers expect and deserve. Of course, those we're working for might not appreciate our taking the time to recuperate because it can really mess up their schedules. Since bad things rarely happen, it's easy for all of us to forget how horrible things can get if something goes wrong. Pilots never want an accident to be caused by "pilot error."

For more information, see 14 CFR §61.53§ 61.53
Prohibition on operations during medical deficiency.
(a) Operations that require a medical certificate. Except as provided for in paragraph (b) of this section, a person who holds a current medical certificate issued under part 67 of this chapter shall not act as pilot in command, or in any other capacity as a required pilot flight crewmember, while that person:

(1) Knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make the person unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation; or

(2) Is taking medication or receiving other treatment for a medical condition that results in the person being unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation.

A simple problem such as a cold, a broken arm, or an abscessed tooth may require nothing more than the appropriate treatment and a little time before you can safely return to the skies. A more complicated problem or the development or change of a chronic illness may necessitate consultation with an AME or the FAA before resuming flying. New medical conditions do not need to be reported to the FAA until you wish to return to flying.

There are some conditions that mean a person is unable to get their medical:
What medical conditions does the FAA consider disqualifying?
The following conditions are listed in the regulations as disqualifying medical conditions; however, in many cases when the condition is adequately controlled, the FAA will issue medical certification contingent on periodic reports.

Angina pectoris
Bipolar disease
Cardiac valve replacement
Coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic or clinically significant
Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic medications
Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of cause
Heart replacement
Myocardial infarction
Permanent cardiac pacemaker
Personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts
Substance abuse
Substance dependence
Transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without satisfactory explanation of cause.

Other conditions not specifically listed in the regulations are also disqualifying.

Have a great holiday weekend!

My niece, Delaney, *kind of* protesting her constant modeling of Girls With Wings apparel!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hi all,

I've been sitting in front of my laptop ALL DAY getting the merchandise numbers updated for the Girls With Wings store since I have a couple of retailers placing orders this week for GWW items to put in their stores! My back is killing me... I'm not complaining TOO much, though. I appreciate everyone's support.

I also contacted Women in Aviation, International, about their conference in Orlando, FL, next February. This is a great organization of women aviation professionals and their website is In last year's booth, I took video clips of conference attendees telling the interviewer what they did and why they LOVED it (aviation enthusiasts usually love what they do) and posted them on the website. I have asked to do it again this year, and hopefully I can get a quieter corner (the video online has some background noise). Have a look though, and hope to see you (and interview you) at the conference.

Talk to you soon...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Someone sent me this amazing picture showing the vortices from a large aircraft:

Although amazing just to look at, there's an explanation behind it that pilots need to be aware of...

An aircraft, like a ship, will leave a wake behind it. The lift on the wing is because of the difference between the higher-pressure acting on the wing's bottom surface and the lower pressure on its top surface. This difference in pressure causes the airflow near the wing tips to curl around the tips and move from the higher-pressure area below the wing to the lower pressure above the wing. The aircraft's wake is in the form of these two counter-rotating swirling rolls of air—the wake vortices—that trail from the wings of the aircraft. The wake vortex pair may last for several minutes and stretch for many kilometers behind the aircraft. The strength of the vortices depends on the aircrafts' weight, the air density, the flying speed, and the wingspan.

Vortices last longer in calm air, and atmospheric turbulence hastens their decay. Decay is the dying out of eddies. All aircraft produce wake vortices—much like two small horizontal tornadoes trailing behind the wing tips. The larger and heavier the plane is, the stronger the wake. That means small aircraft that follow larger ones can encounter turbulence if they are not kept far enough apart. The turbulence can be severe enough to cause a plane to crash.

Wake vortices are normally invisible, and pilots have no warning that they are flying into them. For this reason, the International Civil Aviation Organization has strict rules about the permitted spacing between aircraft, based on their sizes. In instrument flying conditions, aircraft may follow no closer than 3 nautical miles (5.56 km), and a small aircraft must follow at least 6 nautical miles (11.12 km) behind a heavy jet. However, the Autonomous Flight Formation (AFF) that NASA is developing could allow commercial planes the ability to use the vortices of other planes to save fuel, and fly safely.

Does it seem less awesome, now that you know why?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I had hoped to post a little more consistently, but I am dependent on how much time and energy I have after a long day of flying--and whether I have the internet access at the hotel where I'm staying. For example, the picture above is the Gulf Coast shoreline on the way into Pensacola, Florida, on the same day that I spent the night in Toronto, Canada (internet access at this hotel is $13!). At the FBO, though, it's free, so here I am.

So, what is an FBO? FBO stands for Fixed Based Operator and is basically the private terminal (as opposed to the standard commercial airport terminal you're probably used to). Privately owned airplanes use these as one-stop service centers from where pilots can get fuel, maintenance, cleaning of the aircraft (to include the toilet if applicable), overnight hangar parking/tiedown service, deicing in cold weather, etc., along with assistance with flight planning, hotel arrangements, etc. Plus, the passengers can get their catered food from here, rent a car or get a limo/taxi, use the lounge or meeting facilities (often), and more. Some FBOs also have flight training and aircraft rentals or charters.

The nicer ones really cater to the pilots, with crew lounges with big screen TVs and satellite systems, showers, snooze rooms, sometimes exercise equipment. This is because many pilots fly for one owner, and should that owner need to spend the day in one location, the pilots end up sitting for hours there. Usually these people in the FBO are especially friendly because there is a lot of competition between the different FBOs that might be on any given airport. Oh, and sometimes they can charge very high fees for their services, too...!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


It's been a very long day... I was awakened at 0500L (That's 1000Z in aviation speak: we use "Z" time to represent GMT or Greenwich Mean Time or UTC, Universal Time *something or other*--Oh, you know what, let's let the folks at NASA define it.

The world is divided into basically 24 time zones. For easy reference in communications, a letter of the alphabet has been assigned to each time zone. The "clock" at Greenwich, England is used as the standard clock for international reference of time in communications, military, aviation, maritime and other activities that cross time zones. The letter designator for this clock is Z.

Times written in military time (24 hour format) are four digits, such as, 1830Z (6:30 pm) with the Zulu suffix. Note that the phonetic alphabet is used for the letter Z (Zulu). This time is usually referred to as Zulu Time because of the letter assigned to this time zone. Its official name is Coordinated Universal Time or UTC. This time zone had previously been called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) but was replaced with UTC in 1972 as the official world time standard changed. While GMT is based on Earth's rotation and celestial measurements, UTC is a based on cesium-beam atomic clocks. The two clocks are rarely more than a second apart as leap seconds are applied to UTC.

Sometimes it's better just to ask a rocket scientist.

Anyway, we departed my Cleveland, Ohio, home airport and went to Kentucky to take some folks to a resort town in the Florida Keys!

This was a very small airport--they don't even offer any fuel services. So you have to make sure you have enough fuel when you land to be able to get to another airport with either a fuel pump or fuel truck. We had to stop in Miami, Florida, for fuel so we could continue on to Jacksonville, also in Florida. We spend the night here and its another early wakeup to fly some more!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hi All,

I skipped the weekend's posts so I could spend some time with family. This included taking a couple of pictures of my nieces in Girls With Wings wear...

To purchase visit these or other items visit:

Also, I would like to encourage everyone to visit
I do my best to post information about scholarships as I find out about them. I know money is an issue when researching pilot training, and there ARE resources out there!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Here's another "Did you know?"

Did you know that there are many smaller airports out there with "pilot controlled lighting?" This means that the lights are turned off when everyone goes home at night, but if someone decides they want to land at said airport, they can turn the runway and taxiway lights back on so they can operate safely. Sometimes this feature is helpful when trying to FIND the runway. It's an amazing thing on a dark night to watch an airport light up in the darkness.

The way the pilots do this is to tune up a designated frequency on their radio and then key the mike (break squelch, push the doohickey, etc.) for seven times rapidly. After the lights come on they can key the mike three or five times to decrease the brightness of the lights. After 15 minutes, the lights go back off--to save electricity! Most people recommend pilots rekey their mike when coming in on an approach, thereby reseting the timer--to avoid having the lights go off right as they're getting ready to land....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The only posting tonight will be to let you that the newsletter is up...

Unfortunately, the link to the slides from the NCASE Conference didn't work in the newsletter that was sent out. If you visit the link above, and open up the November newsletter, the link for the slides WILL work. Until my luck runs out again... ;o)