Friday, February 29, 2008

The Message Board is Back!

There are so many times where I am amazed by the kindness of others. I am flying with a great Captain this week, who took time last night to research a problem I was having with the Girls With Wings message board. Thanks to him, you can now once again register and post messages. Finally, a place specifically for women and girls to talk Flying, Education, Scholarships, and to explore our opportunities. Let's inspire each other!

Mike with his daughters (from left) Ashley, Elizabeth, and Angel with their "First Flight" Certificates.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Brenda - Girls With Wings Scholarship Winner!

Hi all,

You've seen Brenda on here before, but I thought I would call to your attention the journal Brenda has started on

Brenda was the winner of the First Annual GWW scholarship, receiving an award to help pay for her flying lessons. She is also studying at San Jose State University, majoring in aviation, so she is well suited to share her experiences not only with flying, but also with everything else she is learning in her classes!

For example, Brenda just made a visit to Oakland Center, which is "shorthand" for saying Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center (or ARTCC). See her pictures and read about her adventures!

So, what is an ARTCC and why do we care?

The United States Federal Aviation Administration defines an ARTCC as "[a] facility established to provide air traffic control service to aircraft operating on IFR flight plans within controlled airspace, principally during the en route phase of flight."

If you think of talking to ATC (Air Traffic Control) as layers of a cake, ARTCC is the at the top. When a pilot begins to go on a flight, she has to talk to a series of controllers.

In order (normally and simplified):

1. She gets her clearance from one frequency, and then once her flight plan is activated, she talks to ground so that she can taxi out to the runway.

2. She switches to tower to get her takeoff clearance.

3. She talks to departure (also called TRACON or Terminal Radar Approach CONtrol) as she climbs up to 10,000 feet.

4. She talks to center as she reaches the higher altitudes enroute to her destination.

5. During her descent, she talks to approach (like departure).

6. Then tower, to get her landing clearance.

7. Then ground, to get to her parking.

Would you like to know more? See Wikipedia's Air Traffic Control.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Weather Issues

Hi All,

I am in the Atlanta area, waiting to get down to southern Florida to pick up a passenger. Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating with our plans. We use a WSI (not sure what it stands for) computer terminal shown to the right.

WSI Pilotbrief provides a complete solution including WSI NOWrad® national and regional radar, radar summary charts, high-resolution satellite imagery, plotted SIGMETS, AIRMETS, and more. It's the choice of the nation's top FBOs, FAA Flight Service Stations and corporate flight departments.
Our picture is shown to the left. As you can see, there is a white box shown between Atlanta and Miami. The white boxes signify a SIGMET.

Wikipedia: SIGMET, or Significant Meteorological Information, is a weather advisory that contains meteorological information concerning the safety of all aircraft. There are two types of SIGMETs, convective and non-convective. The criteria for a non-convective SIGMET to be issued are severe or greater turbulence over a 3000 square mile area, or severe or greater icing over a 3000 sq mile area or IMC conditions over a 3000 sq mile area due to dust, sand, or volcanic ash.

A Convective SIGMET is issued for convection over the Continental U.S. Convective SIGMETs are issued for an area of thunderstorms affecting an area of 3000 sq miles or greater, a line of thunderstorms at least 60 nm long, and/or severe or embedded thunderstorms affecting any area that are expected to last 30 minutes or longer.

Above and to the left are closer pictures. The one to the left has red boxes - which signifies tornado watches! Sorry they're hard to see, that's the flash of the camera.
This weather system hit us early this am in Atlanta, and has been moving slowly across the country. The weather picture on the computer can be "looped" so you can see the movement over time. It gives pilots a good idea of how fast the system is moving, and if it's building or lessening. This colorful one is generating severe thunderstorms (hail, turbulence, high wind gusts). Green is light rain, and as the colors go from there to yellow to red (there's even purple), the precipitation (and associated storm characteristics) get worse. Flying through yellow is uncomfortable. Red is bad. Purple, well, we don't want to go there. Ever. (Of course, there are people who fly through storms for a living. That's not my gig.)
So, we're continuing to analyze, to see if the storm will break up or move on by (it hasn't been moving very fast). Remember how I said in a previous post that "we're going to go eventually anyway?" We have a couple of options in such situations. We can either pick our way through and around, or wait. Sometimes it pays to stay safely on the ground!
I know our passenger is restless, wanting to be on his way. Unfortunately, this is a safety issue. There's been reports of severe turbulence (again, severe turb is NOT to be flown through). We can't do that much deviating either, because it burns up so much fuel. We may risk painting ourselves into a corner. Again, people pay pilots to keep them safe. It's our job.

Friday, February 22, 2008


I have been asked to help find mentors to participate in this event. Can you help?

About WomenFly!
A Special Event for Young Women Interested in Aviation and Aerospace Careers
Audience: Young women (ages 13 - 19) interested in careers in aviation and aerospaceDate: Friday, March 7, 2008Time: 9:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
There will be an additional Women Fly! panel discussion held on Saturday, March 8, 2008, from 2:00 to 3:30 pm.
Women Fly! brings professional women in aviation to the Museum to share their career stories and life experiences with young women who are interested in aviation and aerospace careers.
Women Fly! is an annual event in support of The Museum of Flight’s public education mission.
The specific purposes of the Women Fly! event are:
To celebrate the significant contributions women have made and continue to make to the progress of aviation and aerospace;
To give young women who have an interest in aviation or aerospace careers the opportunity to interact with successful, professional women in those fields.
If you have additional questions, check the FAQs, e-mail, or call 206-768-7141.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Winter Weather

I've had a few emails lately from the scholarship applicants, frustrated with the winter weather, as it is delaying their progress toward their pilots' licenses. (Not everyone, however - Congratulations Cindy!).

Tongue in cheek, I replied to one:
We "professional" pilots - those that fly all the time, often joke: why should I look at the weather? It's not like we're NOT going to go... I know for training it's kind of tough working around the weather, but soon there will be very few weather events that will prevent you from going anywhere. Thunderstorms, icing, high winds, etc., at your destination, will eventually move on. Enroute, you just navigate around (or fly above) the icky stuff (thanks to some great in-flight weather radar and alert Air Traffic Controllers). Of course, we DO check the weather, not just because the FAA says we have to, but because it's the safe thing to do.

So why was your last commercial flight so late due to storms? Well, a large storm can funnel a lot of traffic into a smaller space. There are "arrival procedures" into airports coming from N, S, E, and W, and some of those may be shut down, forcing more airplanes to use fewer procedures. The same is true for "departure procedures." And even though a storm may be no where near your destination, the airlines have a domino effect. Late aircraft can send a ripple throughout the entire country!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ragged Edge

For those of you that don't recognize the picture from yesterday's post, that is Maj Jill Long, of "Ragged Edge" fame. Yes, she is a Girl With Wings, so you can read more about her on the website. She and I have also agreed to support each other's missions of promoting aviation to girls. So the GWW logo will now be on her stunt plane! (May be the closest I ever get again to flying upside down.) See her website at

Jill “Raggz” Long has been flying since she was 16. She is perhaps the most passionate aviatrix of the day. Her love of flying is tangible and obvious from the moment you see her “become one” with her aircraft. Her aviation passion is infectious and an inspiration anyone who has had the opportunity to glimpse her world. She has lived by the motto, ‘Never take “no” for an answer' and “Follow your dreams” and it has served her well.

Raggz has flown everything from the A-10 Thunderbolt aka the “Warthog” or “Tank Killer" to the venerable Taylorcraft. She has more than 3000 hours of flight time and has slipped the surly bonds of earth from such austere locations as Afghanistan to the more welcoming climes of Puerto Rico...but her favorite piece of sky remains over the good old USA.

She first fell in love with "those flippy things" (aka Aerobatics) when she took to the skies with her life-long mentor and friend Ralph Riddell in his RV-4. The passion for “anti-gravitational” endeavors hasn't stopped. Her current love is, of course, the nimble Pitts S2B.

Born in Michigan and raised in Oregon, Jill has called many places home; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; Boise, Idaho; Portland, Oregon; the United Kingdom; South Korea; Tucson, Arizona; and Columbia, SC... she, and husband Chuck, are currently hanging their chocks in Wichita Falls.

She has been involved in the Women Soar program at Oshkosh (July 28- Aug 3), WI. EAA has published a page on her as well.

When she was 6 years-old, Jill Long, (EAA 721591) was at an air show and remembers telling her mother that someday she would perform in the sky.
“You can’t do that,” said a man who overheard. “You’re a girl.”
“How dare you tell her that!” Long’s mother responded. “She can do anything she wants to do.”
And Long has done just that.

Upcoming Events:
March 15 San Angelo, TX
May 3 Dyess AFB, Abilene, TX
May 10 Laughlin AFB Del Rio, TX
May 16-18 Joint Service Open House Andrews AFB, MD (this great nation's' capital!)
July 28-29 Women SOAR! EAA Airventure 2008 Oshkosh, WI
August 16-17 Offutt AFB Omaha, NE
September 20-21Midland, TX
October 4 Vance AFB Enid, OK
October 18-19 Dobbins AFB Marietta, GA
TBD CAF Ranger Wing Airshow Waco, TX

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Women Soar

I have not been able to attend this event yet, because of my obligations otherwise (setting up my booth) at Oshkosh. I have heard great things!

Women Soar, You Soar: EAA Seeks to Spark Young Women's Interest in AviationNow accepting applications for the two-day summer program!

Inspiring young women to reach for their dreams in aviation is again the mission of EAA’s fourth annual Women Soar, You Soar event July 28-29 at the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh.
Registrations are now being accepted for this program, open to young women entering grades nine through 12 in fall 2008. Through the event’s introduction of aviation-based careers and a women-mentor network, the program encourages and supports these women to consider a career in aviation. During the first three years of the program, hundreds of teenage girls have benefited from the experiences and guidance of women actively involved in the world of flight.
This year, Women Soar, You Soar will host 150 girls in a variety of activities, including flight simulation, workshops, wing rib assembly, and mentor sessions.
Applications will be accepted through June 30, 2008, and are available online at The cost is $50, which includes lodging at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, meals and admission to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration.” Registration scholarships are also available for young women meeting financial need requirements.
Space in the program is limited. Additional information can be obtained online or by calling the EAA Development Office at 800-236-1025.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Simulated Emergencies

Hi All,
I'm sorry about the silence from this blog - especially since I've gotten a couple questions about this simulator that we do our pilot training in. I took a couple of pictures of the actual sim because it looks nothing like the Microsoft Flight Simulator computer game!

(Wikipedia) A flight simulator is a system that tries to replicate, or simulate, the experience of flying an aircraft as closely and realistically as possible. The different types of flight simulator range from video games up to full-size cockpit replicas mounted on hydraulic (or electromechanical) actuators, controlled by state of the art computer technology.

Obviously, we are not be able to do things in the airplane to accurately simulate potential problems we pilots have to react to. For example, an engine failure in a go around (also called a balked landing). The high power settings on one engine with no power on the other engine can result in a loss of directional control. The airplane can potentially veer toward the operative engine with a loss of altitude (and you can guess the consequence of this). With practice, this can become a "non-event" (not really, of course an engine failure is a big deal - but we learn how to instinctively control the airplane through repetition).

I had someone ask me once - after she had experienced (as a passenger) an inflight emergency. She asked how the pilots stayed so calm and how they knew what to do. I told her that the sim is an opportunity to see the "worst of the worst" so we knew what the airplane was capable of, and to make us pilots proficient in reacting to emergencies. We have a saying in the aviation community, "aviate, navigate, communicate." So the first thing the pilot is concerned with is making sure the airplane is flying. Once the airplane is under control, we can worry about where we are and where we're going, and THEN start talking to Air Traffic Control to get us safely on the ground.

Simulators have changed a lot since I first started flying 15 years ago. In fact, when I was training in the Army, our flight simulator was the actual fuselage of a Huey with the windows painted white so we couldn't see outside (not that it would have helped seeing a bank of computers). These computers were hooked up to the flight controls and the instruments so we could simulate flight. The simulator never moved. It was pretty simple - but got the point across (it also saved a lot of gas money).

As you can see by the pictures, simulators are now fully maneuverable, so the pilots still get the "feeling" of flying. The graphics inside are pretty realistic (though they can be a little disorienting - since they're two dimensional computer images).

Here's a more thorough explanation:

Modern High-End Flight Simulators (Wikipedia)
High-end commercial and military flight simulators incorporate motion bases or platforms to provide cues of real motion. These are important to complement the visual cues (see below) and are vital when visual cues are poor such as at night or in reduced visibility or, in cloud, non-existent. The majority of simulators with motion platfoms use variants of the six cylinder Stewart platform to generate motion cues. These platforms are also known as Hexapods. Stewart used an interlinked array of six hydraulic cylinders to provide accelerations in all six degrees of freedom. Motion bases using modern Stewart based hexapod platforms can provide about +/- 35 degrees of the three rotations pitch, roll and yaw, and about one metre of the three linear movements heave, sway and surge.

These limited angular and linear movements (or "throws") do not inhibit the realism of motion cueing imparted to the simulator crew. This is because the human sensors of body motion are sensitive to acceleration rather than steady-state movement and a six cylinder platform can produce such initial accelerations in all six DoF. The body motion sensors include the vestibular (inner ear, semicircular canals and otoliths), muscle-and joint sensors, and sensors of whole body movements. Furthermore, because acceleration precedes displacement, the human brain senses motion cues before the visual cues that follow. These human motion sensors have low-motion thresholds below which no motion is sensed and this is important to the way that simulator motion platforms are programmed (and also explains why instruments are needs for safe cloud flying). In the real world, after conditioning to the particular environment (in this case aircraft motions), the brain is subconsciously used to receiving a motion cue before noticing the associated change in the visual scene. If motion cues are not present to back up the visual, some disorientation can result ("simulator sickness") due to the cue-mismatch compared to the real world.

In a motion-based simulator, after the initial acceleration, the platform movement is backed off so that the physical limits of the cylinders are not exceeded and the cylinders are then re-set to the neutral position ready for the next acceleration cue. The backing-off from the initial acceleration is carried out automatically through the simulator computer and is called the "washout phase". Carefully-designed "washout algorithms" are used to ensure that washout and the later re-set to about neutral is carried out below the human motion thresholds mentioned above and so is not sensed by the simulator crew, who just sense the initial acceleration. This process is called "acceleration-onset cueing" and fortunately matches the way the sensors of body motion work. This is why aircraft manoeuvre at, say, 300 knots, can be effectively simulated in a replica cabin that itself does not move except in a controlled way through its motion platform. These are the techniques that are used in civil Level D flight simulators and their military counterparts.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Checkride Day

Well, the reason you haven't heard from me in the past week is because today is my recurrent checkride in the Beechjet. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 07, 2008


If you are wondering why I haven't been blogging, it's because I'm getting ready to attend my recurrent Beechjet training down in Texas. Every year pilots have certain training requirements. My employer goes above and beyond by sending us to a training center for a week and gives us refresher training on the FARs and our aircraft ('course, we HAVE to do a checkride - no way around that).

In addition to the studying, I'm still working on getting the Girls With Wings message out to girls. Today I went to a local elementary school and talked to 31 fourth grade girls about flying. I only had 40 minutes and that just "flew" by. The girls were so interested - I think they could have asked questions for hours!

Basically what I did was take a cockpit poster and talk them through an enroute chart, ATC, and the different instruments. At the end I told them that at first something can seem really difficult, but if you break it down in to parts, it's easy! Plus, you have to ask questions so you make sure you understand.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Thanks, Savvimama!

Lofty Aspirations for Girls
Posted by SAVVI MAMA on February 5th, 2008 in Cool Stuff, For The Kids

My lovely mother shared a really cool website with me last week. A dynamic woman and pilot, Lynda Meeks, located in the Cleveland, Ohio area (where I grew up, by the way), has a wonderful site called Girls With Wings . . . Dreams Take Flight.

The goal of Girls With Wings is to introduce flying to girls at an early age and to motivate them to create “flight plans not fairy tales.” In fact, this year, Girls With Wings is offering its first scholarship for aspiring pilots.

The site is cute and offers several games, inspirational stories about female pilots, and volunteer opportunities. It also offers girls’ and women’s clothing, most in some hue of pink, with messages such as “Yes, Girls Can Fly!”

If you have a daughter, you and she may want to check out the site at
In addition, I’ve learned that the founder, Lynda Meeks, makes presentations to schools (any grade level), Girl Scout troops, career days, and other gatherings in which she can inspire girls to explore all of their opportunities - using, aviation, of course, as a prime example. If your school or group would like that type of inspiration, contact Lynda through her website.

Monday, February 04, 2008

NPR Junkie

I'm kind of addicted to National Public Radio, because I don't have cable at home. Even on the road, I try to find the local NPR station to avoid turning on the boob tube in hotel rooms. I had a "driveway moment" as NPR calls them - where I sat in my car to listen to the rest of the story.

It was about Robin Epstein and her old job, "as producer and chief question writer on a game show for teen-age girls called Plugged In. It was one of the first shows to air on the Oxygen network, the TV channel for women created by Oprah Winfrey. Robin had hoped that the show could serve as a role model for young women, showing smart teen girls answering tough questions. But in the end, it sort of did the opposite. (10 minutes)"

I believe you'll be able to hear it by clicking on and looking for the last fifteen minutes or so.

The story opens with Robin talking about that up until age 12, girls are all about participating in class, knowing the answer, etc., so she bucked research and thought that a game show for teen girls would fill a niche - to show the world how smart girls are. Unfortunately, the questions were pretty obscure (politics, economics) for your typical teenage girl (would I have known who Bob Dole was at age 16?) and soon, the girls would refuse to even try to answer. So instead of getting questions that the girls might be able to answer - they seriously started making them go into the audience to get an autograph of the "cutest" boy. Yeah. Did this just reinforce the stereotype? Is it an all or nothing proposition? Is a trivia game show a good indicator of intelligence? Is there a disconnect between what we're teaching in schools and what we can regurgitate at will? Do we need to have kids study out of school to become really intelligent?

What do you think? In the words of Robin, do you agree "girls are dumb?" Should we decide its too difficult to "try and improve the quality of girls?" As she says, maybe we can find "a role model that could have this influence, but it's not a game show."

This American Life show #326 Quiz Show.