Monday, March 31, 2008

Who's the boss?

Don't get me wrong, airplanes with no autopilot can always be trimmed - a poor person's autopilot! On the ailerons, elevators and rudder (the three flight control surfaces) there are often "trim tabs." Using wheels inside of the cockpit, a pilot can trim their airplane so that it flies straight and level. That's fine as long as you want to just fly straight and level. What about turns, climbs and descents, etc? More sophisticated airplanes (or at least avionics packages) can practically do an entire flight from start to finish. Unfortunately, it can cause a pilot to become lazy. It takes good control touches to level out at an altitude and adjust the power simultaneously so passengers don't even realize it's being done. Also, pilots must monitor the autopilot - since it's only as good as what's entered in there (just like any computer: garbage in, garbage out).

Ultimately, what the airplane does is ultimately the responsibility of the pilot in command (PIC). If the autopilot isn't programmed correctly, the airplane could fly the incorrect routing. If this creates a problem with air traffic control, the pilot could get "violated:" like getting a traffic ticket for pilots. It's no excuse to say that it's the autopilot's fault. The PIC must operate the airplane safely and correctly, and that includes the operation of the autopilot.

For example, say a pilot isn't able to complete an instrument approach into an airport and she has to execute the missed approach. Since she studied the missed approach in case this happened, she knows that she must fly straight ahead until 1000 feet above ground level (agl) and then turn left to a 300 degree heading, then climb to 2000ft agl. If she didn't program in a climb to 2000ft, the airplane may level off at 1000ft. As soon as the pilot realizes that the airplane isn't climbing to 2000ft, she MUST correct this - whether it is to quickly reprogram the autopilot or to disengage the autopilot to do what she is required to do. This is something that is looked for on checkrides: does the pilot have an awareness of where she is, where she's going and is she ready to make corrections immediately (some people will look at the autopilot in confusion, saying, "what's it doing?" until it's too late - hopefully busting the checkride will be the only consequence). Yes, it is said that pilots are almost now just "systems managers!"

I saw a great example in AvWebFlash:

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

I was doing practice approaches when I heard approach control contact another aircraft on a similar mission:

Controller:"N1234, what are your intentions after this approach?"

N1234:"I'll be missed approach, and I'd like vectors to the ILS 36."

Controller:"Missed approach instructions: Climb to 2800 and direct to the VOR."
[... sometime later ...]

N1234:"Approach, N1234 is missed approach direct to the VOR. Request vectors for the ILS 36."

Control:"Turn right to 1-1-0 degrees, vector for the ILS. Maintain 2800 feet. I'm showing you at 3400 feet."

N1234:"Descending to 2800. I'm sorry. I'm having a discussion with the auto-pilot as to which of us is actually pilot-in-command."

John Steinervia e-mail

Autopilot is great - although I have flown airplanes without an autopilot, nothing beats cruise control on long flights!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Flying and Pregnancy

I know I haven't been posting lately. My employer is keeping me busy flying!
I did receive an email from someone asking:
I have a good question to ask you, I dont know if you might know the answer to it but here it goes. One of my aunts was telling me today that she heard on the news that many women pilots have to face a decision on wether they want to be pilots or be a mother, reason being because they were saying that studies show that when a women flies in high altitudes it messes up their menstrual cycle and when this happens it cuts down their chances to be mothers to 50%. Is this true? Im curious to know if its true and why I have never heard this before. I kind of dont believe it but then again i dont know.
I did a little quick research (I'm a pilot, not a doctor), and have posted what I found. Do you have any experience being a pilot and pregnant? Visit the message board and let us know.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Today's Quiz

While I was in San Diego for the Women in Aviation conference, I went to the San Diego Air and Space Museum. There, I came across this display for Jacqueline Cochran.

From the WASP on the Web (the source for information on the Women's AirForce Service Pilots):

JACQUELINE COCHRAN: Founder and Director of the WASP.
Rags to riches doesn't even begin to describe her story. As her husband describes the picture below, it's "the little girl in the center surrounded by some of the women she made herself into during her lifetime." From barefoot girl stealing chickens to decorated pilot dining with kings, queens, presidents, pashas and premiers, Jacqueline Cochran was truly one-of-a-kind. She went from sweeping up the beauty parlor to founding her own successful cosmetics company. She worked as a shampoo girl and a dancer, had a audience with the Pope, was best friends with Amelia Earhart and was founder and
Director of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots--the WASP. She played poker with Jimmy Doolittle, was the first woman to enter Japan after World War II,
witnessed General Yamashita's surrender in the Philippines and the trials at Nuremberg, and flew to England and convinced General Eisenhower to run for
President (and she was a Democrat!).

But here's the quiz part. Do you see the shiny items in the bottom left of the top picture? Here's a closer view. They're a pair of brass, strap-on, ... well, whats? They look like they are put on over the heels of boots, with a protusion in the back with slots as if to fit over something. My cousin, who is really into aviation, though not a pilot, had not a clue. I thought they might be for flying high performance aircraft - so that during manuevers the pilot's feet wouldn't slip off the pedals.

Any insight, anyone?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum

I just heard about this Compton, CA, organization because of some of their students making a world record:

On March 15. 2008 TAM's young pilots will break more world records in Aviation. Witness this event. For the press release on this event or to read more about these young pilot's historical attempt, Click Here »
But there's more at Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum:
Learn To Fly At The World's First Non-Profit Flight School
Imagine, if you will, The Ultimate Flight School. The "Top Gun" of civilian flight training where you receive the best instruction in the industry while helping a child to achieve their dream of becoming a pilot. Boy have you come to the right place!!

We have brought together all of the proper elements to provide you with the most thrilling, rewarding, and complete aviation experience possible. We think the combination of seasoned professional instructors, clean, well maintained equipment, a wide variety of standard & exotic aircraft, state of the are facilities, and a staff that is focused on the same goal of providing excellent customer service is the right one for unparalleled satisfaction.The Aero Squad is based at Compton Woodley Airport, 961 West Alondra Blvd., Compton, CA, 90220. Click here for directions This school is a branch of Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum, a 501(c)3 non-profit educational institute that integrates youth mentoring with aviation, community involvement, outreach and social action. The museum is a dynamic integral part of the community serving the children, young adults and their families.

The Aero Squad is designed to fill the needs of potential pilots all across the United States and we will be opening new locations in towns across the country. All of the locations operate under one central management team who all share a passion for satisfied customers and helping the young adults of our communities.
There is also a mentoring program, Positive Vibrations Youth Mentoring Program

A Different Kind of Outreach Program; Positive Vibrations is a unique youth mentoring program that utilizes positive and constructive initiatives to teach and assist parents and teachers to motivate and inspire youth to reach their maximum potential.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Community Outreach

I am on my way to go give a presentation at a local (Cleveland suburb) elementary school. As a professional pilot, I enjoy speaking to girls about what I do and why I love it! I hope to inspire girls to consider all of their available opportunities (not just flying). At the Women in Aviation conference we put together a little video of other women talking about the same things - it will be on the website soon.

However, if you are in the Northeast Ohio area and interested in a Girls With Wings presentation (or elsewhere in the country I can locate a volunteer - like the two other pilots in this picture - willing to speak), please contact me.

Thank you!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Women in Aviation Conference

Once again, I am humbled by the willingness of others to help me pursue the mission of Girls With Wings. You have not heard from me lately because I don't like to announce when I'm out of town, but I am just returning from the Women in Aviation Conference in San Diego, CA. My group of volunteer workers (from left to right) are: Monika, who I am now coordinating with to promote her documentary, "Flyabout," an inspirational tale of her 30 day trip around Australia in an airplane. Then Adrienne, a Continental Airlines pilot; me; Dave, Kim's boyfriend and charter pilot; Kim, future C5 pilot and USAF Officer; and Kristina, pilot and loving mom of a GWW model!
This was truly the best WAI conference I've been to yet. I don't know if it was an East Coast v. West Coast thing (it was sunny but still cold for CA!), but there was a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm here. Thank you to all that stopped by the booth to talk and who also purchase GWW merchandise to help fund the GWW website and program. Thanks also to my cousin Mike and his family for helping me with merchandise shipping and receiving - at their house - and getting me back to the airport.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A 1st: the Distinguished Flying Cross awarded to a woman

I couldn't let this pass by - given it's the month of the woman!

Michelle Goodman's Historic Distinguished Flying Cross

For the first time, the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) has been awarded to a woman, Flight Lieutenant and helicopter pilot Michelle Goodman, 31, of the Royal Air Force. Flight Lieutenant Goodman earned the medal by last June flying her Merlin helicopter through heavy fire and mortar rounds into the center of Basra, Iraq, at night to rescue a seriously injured soldier. She flew at 160 mph at very low level across a hostile city using night vision goggles; her aircraft was hit with enemy fire and she executed an approach and landing at an unfamiliar landing site that was taking mortar fire and shrouded in swirling dust. Goodman kept the aircraft on the ground for a full five minutes as her crew retrieved the injured rifleman. She then flew her aircraft, which detected a missile threat and automatically launched countermeasure flares, through a path covered very closely with friendly artillery fire to distract enemy forces. Flight Lieutenant Goodman could have elected not to take on the mission at all, determining that it required too much risk, "But if it was me lying down there," she told The Daily Mail, "I'd like to think there was someone prepared to come and get me."

The aircraft touched down at a British Field Hospital 14 minutes after launch. Before the flight, Goodman had asked her crew if they were up to the task and they agreed. Without Goodman's leadership, and her Incident Reaction Team, the wounded man would have died within 15 minutes. Goodman has completed three tours in Iraq. The DFC is one of the highest military decorations offered, below only the Victoria Cross and Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.

The heroism gives me goosebumps - for all of the troops. They are always in my thoughts.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Happy International Women's Day!

I couldn't let this day go by - a special day within Women's History Month (and yes, there is an International Men's Day!).

India is celebrating with an all women flight on International Women's Day
--> All women flight on International Women's Day-->
Sat, Mar 8 08:16 PM
Chennai, March 8 (IANS) On the occasion of the International Woman's Day, an all women-operated Air India flight left Chennai Saturday for Colombo. A press statement here said captain M. Deepa and Flight Officer N.R. Veda Bakavati flew flight number IC 573/574 to the Sri Lankan capital. Besides Deepa and Veda Bakavati, airhostesses Upasana, Nancy, Shreyas, Dhanpreet and Maya completed the all female crew who greeted the woman passengers on the flight with rose buds to mark the day.

There is a website devoted to International Women's Day. Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. While there are many large-scale initiatives, a rich and diverse fabric of local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Special Messge for Ohio High Schoolers/Aviation Enthusiasts

Date = Wednesday, April 2, 2008.
Title = 121st Air Refueling Wing 2008 Job Shadow Day
Location = Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base
Description = The purpose is to introduce area high schools students to Air National Guard career options in Central Ohio. We are honored to showcase potential job opportunities at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base.

We anticipate a full day of activity including:
10:00 am– 10:20 am Arrival, Welcome, Introductory Briefings
10:20 am-12:15 am Shadow sponsor in the workplace
12:15 pm-12:45 pm Sack lunch eaten at the dining hall while visiting with sponsor
12:45 pm- 1:20 pm Tour KC-135 and “job fair-like” table top displays of various jobs
1:20 pm– 1:30 pm Bus pickup

Eligible youth include those who:
1. are in 9th to 12th grade,
2. have demonstrated maturity and good judgment,
3. are US citizens,
4. speak English, and
5. have no serious legal offenses.

Potential job shadow experiences include those in administration; public affairs, fire fighting, pilots, aircraft maintenance, personnel, life support equipment, logistics, civil engineering, security forces, computer technology, audio- visual, weather, and/or finance. For more information about our wing, please review the video at

Although we cannot guarantee we will be able to honor every student’s first choice job shadow experience, we would appreciate each attendee completing the enclosed RSVP form. Participants will be accommodated on a first come first serve basis as space will be limited.

Location = Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base (Columbus, OH)

For more information = SMSgt John Schmitt, (614)492-3572 or (614)348-3801. Please RSVP no later than March 19, 2008 via email at

Read Memo/RSVP.

See all other events on the Girls With Wings calendar.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Advice for an eZine reader...

With the message board back up and running, I would like to encourage everyone to post questions to the board so that all may have an opportunity to respond. New people joining the board would love to hear from you!

The best resource out there is all of us, combining our collective knowledge....

For example, I received this question:

Do you know anyone who has taken an excellent accelerated training program in
Florida to obtain the private pilot license? I want someone who can tell
me her experience and its upsides and downsides.

There is no way I
can complete this staying here in --. Too many obligations (work, family,
etc.) and crappy weather. I’m going to have to bite the bullet, crack into
investments and give up 2-3 weeks of needed income, and “just do it.” I
need the best, most effective program in existence in a reasonable climate near
friend with whom I can stay (or a cheap motel).

Please visit the message board to post your advice!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Crosswind landings

Wind strength and direction is so important to a pilot. Tailwinds (those coming from behind us) are usually good - they push us to where we are trying to go, getting us there faster. However, tailwinds are NOT good on takeoffs or landings.

According to AOPA (Airplane Owner and Pilots Association):
Don't underestimate the effect of tailwinds--no matter how small--on either takeoff or landing. Not only do they cause an airplane to use more runway in both situations, but on takeoff they'll also flatten the climb angle, which may hamper your aircraft's ability to clear obstacles. In addition, a quartering tailwind makes a tailwheel airplane difficult to control. If landing runway length is even remotely a factor, as little as two knots on the tail can take away your margin, so landing on, or near, the numbers (at the beginning of the runway) becomes critical. The best remedy is to avoid takeoffs or landings in tailwinds of any kind.
Headwinds are not desirable during the cruise portion of the flight, but they work to pilots' advantage on takeoffs and landings, increasing airplane performance and decreasing the amount of runway used. I would say "needed" except most pilots do not PLAN for the headwind (landing on a shorter runway), but just take the headwind's benefit as a bonus during landing. One wouldn't want to plan on a headwind and then have the winds suddenly die down or shift directions.

Speaking of shifting directions, what if the wind is not straight down the runway? It is then called a crosswind. Most airplanes have a maximum crosswind limitation (often 20-30 knots). An airplane compensating for a crosswind has to "crab" into the wind so it can continue to travel in the intended direction. To imagine what I'm talking about say you have to swim across a river. If you pick a point directly across from you, you will end up farther down the bank than you had intended because of the current pushing you UNLESS you swim an appropriate amount upstream to compensate for the speed of the river.

On takeoffs and landings, crosswinds can be a little tricky. Beginning pilots (and experienced pilots) practice and have to pay a lot of attention to the effect of the crosswind.

AOPA again:

The most commonly taught crosswind landing technique is the cross-control, or wing-low landing. The pilot slips the airplane to the runway with just enough cross control to keep the aircraft aligned with the centerline. Remember that
the ailerons control the airplane's lateral movement. Use them to counteract the downwind drift caused by the crosswind and put the airplane on the runway centerline. Use the rudder to align the airplane's longitudinal axis with the runway centerline -- keep the nose pointed straight down the runway. (The pilot transitions from a "crab" to a "slip" right above the runway so the airplane will land straight down the runway - to not land on the gear while going sideways.)

Remember that all control forces will change during the transition from final approach to the end of the roll out. Wind direction and speed often change with altitude, and the control deflections required to maneuver the aircraft will increase as the aircraft's speed decreases. In general, you'll need to increase the aileron and rudder deflection as the aircraft speed decreases. Don't release your control inputs once the wheels are on the runway. The wind still affects the airplane, and you need to use the appropriate control inputs all the way to the tie down.

Would you like an illustration? Here is a video of a large Lufthansa jet landing with a major crosswind. Watch how much the airplane is "crabbing." It almost looks like it should be flying to your left, but it is coming straight towards you. Then at the last minute the pilot tries to slip - but the wind is so strong that it exceeds the maximum crosswind component for the airplane. The wingtip even touches the ground!