Sunday, September 28, 2008
This is why I wanted to get into this airplane so badly - I miss flying overseas from my military days. Although I lived in Germany, I got to travel all over Europe and Southeast Asia. I also spent quite a bit of time in Central and South America. I love to travel, which is part of the reason I chose to stay a pilot after the original incentive had become irrelevant (some one told me it was the toughest job to get in the army... ha, a challenge!). We spend a lot of time going coast to coast (and at .92 mach or 525 ktas (972 km/h), it doesn't take long). We go into Canada quite a bit.
All right, any one who has been to Vegas knows this is actually the Venetian Hotel and Casino - I didn't actually go to Venice, Italy. The other pilot and I had quite a bit of time on the ground there so we walked around the "strip" as they call it. I'm not a gambler, so my interest was more in all of the amazing themed casinos. I'm sure you've heard of many of them, like the Stratosphere, which has rides on top (not for me), the Sahara, Circus Circus, Riviera, Stardust, Treasure Island, The Mirage, Flamingo, Caesars Palace, Bellagio, where we caught the big water show, and the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and many more.
Wikipedia: The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino is the largest AAA Five-Diamond rated Resort in the Americas.  This Venice-themed luxury hotel and casino is located on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada, on the site of the old Sands Hotel. The Venetian has 4,049 suites and a 120,000 square foot (11 000 m²) casino. Combined with the adjacent Sands Expo Convention Center and The Palazzo Hotel and Casino Resort, The Venetian is a part of the largest hotel and resort complex in the world --- featuring 7,128 hotel rooms and suites.
I got to play tourist, taking pictures of one of the performers in the hotel. This italian statue was actually a man, who spends hours posing in the maze of stores in the casino. He switches poses every once in a while, but once posed, it's hard to tell this is a person! Except when I gave him a tip - he winked at me.
Yea, every once in a while we get lucky. We just spent the night in Milwaukee, which though not a tourist hotspot, has a very nice downtown.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
As I mentioned previously, we not only get fuel for our airplanes at the FBOs, we get fuel for our bodies. Here's a picture of our catering being brought out to the airplane. Yes, bags and bags of it...
Aviation fuel is a specialized type of petroleum-based fuel used to power aircraft. It is generally of a higher quality than fuels used in less critical applications such as heating or road
transport, and often contains additives to reduce the risk of icing or explosion due to high temperatures, amongst other properties.
Most aviation fuels available for aircraft are kinds of petroleum spirit used in engines with spark plugs i.e. piston engines and Wankel rotaries or fuel for jet turbine engines which is also used in diesel aircraft engines. Alcohol, alcohol mixtures and other alternative fuels may be used experimentally but are not generally available.
Avgas is sold in much lower volumes, but to many more individual aircraft, whereas Jet fuel is sold in high volumes to large aircraft operated typically by airlines, military
and large corporate aircraft.
100LL, spoken as "100 low lead", contains tetra-ethyl lead (TEL), a lead based anti-knock compound, but less than the "highly-leaded" 100/130 avgas it effectively replaced. Most piston aircraft engines require 100LL and a suitable replacement fuel has not yet been developed for these engines. While there are similar engines that burn non-leaded fuels, aircraft are often purchased with engines that use 100LL because many airports only have 100LL. 100LL contains a maximum of 2 grams of lead per US gallon, or maximum 0.56 grams/litre and is the most commonly available and used aviation gasoline.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
All turbine aircraft fuels contain some dissolved water. It cannot be extracted because it does not exist as particulate water. When an aircraft rises to flight altitude, the fuel cools and its capacity to retain dissolved water is reduced. Some of the dissolved water separates out as discrete water that can form into ice crystals or remain as a super-cooled liquid. When super-cooled water strikes a tubing bend or a filter, it can freeze quickly and block a fuel line or filter. If suspended ice crystals are present, they can also block a filter. Prist Hi-Flash anti-icing aviation fuel additive controls icing in aircraft fuel by depressing the freezing point of water.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Yesterday I spent about five hours in the Cleveland Airport waiting for my commercial airline flight to take me to Michigan to start my tour. There was a mechanical problem with the airplane and the crew had to wait for the mechanic to come to the airplane and sign off the problem so the flight could go. "Sign off" means that the problem isn't going to affect the safety of the flight but it needs to be logged and fixed at a later date. I've talked about MEL's (or Minimum Equipment List) before, but real quick, the MEL is an FAA approved document that airlines must comply with when determining which items can be inoperative on a particular aircraft type during flight. In other words, the company can't decide that having one wing instead of two is ok just for a leg or two. It's often just for convenience or comfort items, but may be for items that are back up systems or needed for particular flight conditions, like flight into icing or nighttime.
On this flight, it was the air conditioning. The only passengers not moved to other flights to make connections were myself and another airline pilot riding along. When we got on the turboprop airplane it was HOT and muggy and we had to wait til the airplane was fueled before the crew could turn on the air - which turned out to be working in the cabin but not the cockpit. I didn't realize this during the flight.
We flew from Cleveland to Detroit at 6,000 feet through some very bumpy weather. I think the crew was more concerned about getting us straight to Detroit to make up some time and less concerned about the smoothness of the ride. I mention this because when people tell me they had a really bad flight with lots of turbulence, I tell them that although I don't know for sure what they felt, but I imagine it was probably in the category of "light" turbulence. When I tell them the categories are light, moderate, severe and extreme, I do so to give them an idea of how bad turbulence really CAN be and how much the airplane is designed to take.
So, as bad as it was for us in the cabin, when we landed in Detroit and the cockpit door was opened, a huge blast of warm air escaped. The poor flight crew had no fresh air for this hot, muggy, bumpy flight. Though it was a short flight, I can't believe they didn't lose their lunch! I have done such flights before without a good source of fresh air and trust me, they are not comfortable. Just another "glamorous" aspect of flying for a living...
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Finally . . . the complete story. Simon & Schuster presents the gripping, inspiring minute-by-minute account of the heroic battle in the skies on 9/11.
The story of the astonishing drama that played out in the skies and in the military installations and air traffic control towers on 9/11 has never before been pieced together and portrayed in a vivid moment-to-moment drama.
In this riveting book, commercial pilot Lynn Spencer brilliantly brings that drama to pulse-quickening life. She went on a quest to interview the vast number of people caught on the front lines in an unprecedented air war in which thousands of commercial pilots with flights in the air, air traffic controllers, military commanders, and jet fighter pilots snapped into stirring action.
Calling on their exceptional preparedness and unflinching readiness to put their lives on the line, they improvised a defense against a shocking threat the nature and extent of which they could have no comprehension as the events unfolded.
Her sources include hundreds of key players, from Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers to the FAA's command chief, to the general in command of air defense for the United States, the controllers who tracked the hijacked flights, and the fighter pilot, who, with no weapons loaded on his jet, unquestioningly accepted an order to take down United 93 with his own plane.
Lynn Spencer has crafted a powerful and vital account of the unknown story of the pivotal day in American life.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Anyway, I got pretty LUCKY this week, because I got to fly into the Denver area, where my best friend lives. Cindy is an America West Airbus pilot and Girl With Wings who I used to work with at Air Midwest, the regional airline. Yes, I know that AM West merged with US Airways - but I prefer AMW. She got to see the inside of the Citation X and meet the captain I was flying with.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Every successive airplane has gotten more complex, and the training facilities expect us less to understand HOW they work as opposed to how to PROGRAM them! Where we used to have to know how the ACM (Air Cycle Machine) worked during an oral exam, now we just need to know that there is one. All of the knowledge in this aviation business builds on itself.
There is also a lot of knowledge that people pick up along the way, depending upon their interest level, experience, mechanical ability, etc. The first jet I ever flew, I don't think I understood what the thrust reversers did until I was through with the course and a captain I was flying with noticed I wasn't using them appropriately. (I discussed TRs before in an earlier post. See Wikipedia for more info: Thrust reversal, also called reverse thrust, is the temporary diversion of an aircraft engine's exhaust or changing of propeller pitch so that the thrust produced is directed forward, rather than aft.)
Basically the strut on the right, or forward, has a pivot point that allows the tires to sink a few inches when the airplane is off the ground and the gear is extended. When the tires touch the ground on landing, it's enough give so that when the second strut, the hydraulic one, comes into play, it's not as abrupt. It used to take a pilot's skill to make a smooth landing, now the gear does it for us!
Thursday, September 04, 2008
First, let me say that post-flights (done after flying) are just as important as a preflight. I myself have been caught missing something before turning over an airplane to someone else. We can never assume the previous pilot left us with a perfect airplane. And once a pilot signs for an airplane, the issues with the airplane can be transferred to the new pilot; which means also the responsibility and accountability. A story at one of my previous places of employment concerned a crew that had an extremely hard landing at night. They didn't report the damage to the company and the crew that took the airplane the next day started before dawn. It wasn't until it was light that they saw the damage. They were held accountable for flying that airplane with damage that they should have caught! Dark or not - use a flashlight!
Bird strikes happen most often during take off or landing, or during low altitude flight. However, bird strikes have also been reported at high altitudes, some as high as 6000 to 9000 meters above ground level. The majority of bird collisions occur near or on airports (90%, according to the ICAO) during takeoff, landing and associated phases. According to the FAA wildlife hazard management manual for 2005, less than 8% of strikes occur above 900 meters and 61% occur at less than 30 m (100 feet).
A hawk stuck in the nosecone of a C-130
The point of impact is usually any forward-facing edge of the vehicle such as a wing leading edge, nose cone, jet engine cowling or engine inlet.
Jet engine ingestion is extremely serious due to the rotation speed of the engine fan and engine design. As the bird strikes a fan blade, that blade can be displaced into another blade and so forth, causing a cascading failure. Jet engines are particularly vulnerable during the takeoff phase when the engine is turning at a very high speed.
The force of the impact on an aircraft depends on the weight of the animal and the speed difference and direction at the impact. The energy of the impact increases with the square of the speed difference. Hence a low-speed impact of a small bird on a car windshield causes relatively little damage. High speed impacts, as with jet aircraft, can cause considerable damage and even catastrophic failure to the vehicle. However, according to the FAA only 15% of strikes (ICAO 11%) actually result in damage to the aircraft. The impact of a 5 kg (12 pound) bird at 240 km/h (150 mph) equals that of a 1/2 ton (1000 pound) weight dropped from a height of 3 meters (10 feet).
Bird strikes can damage vehicle components, or injure passengers. Flocks of birds are especially dangerous, and can lead to multiple strikes, and damage. Depending on the damage, aircraft at low altitudes or during take off and landing often cannot recover in time, and thus crash.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
The Wing Scout Program was a popular older girl Girl Scout program begun in 1941 for girls "interested in flying and wanting to learn enough about aviation to serve their country."1941 sounds pretty early, but would you believe the GS had an aviation badge in 1916!?! Makes you wonder why 92 years later we're still trying to get more women into aviation.
In 1959, Girl Scout Council in North San Mateo County was presented with an offer from United Airlines San Francisco Management Club President J. L. Burnside to start an aviation program for Senior Girl Scouts.
At that time, the council had been in search of a program that would challenge the interest of Senior Girl Scouts.
One of the highlights of the Wing Scout program was the courtesy flight provide to Senior Girl Scouts using United Airlines' jets. For many of the girls, this was the first time they had flown in a plane.
The Wing Scout program was not for show, participating girls took it very seriously. As a result of their proficient training and ability, Senior Girl Scouts who had been in the program for three years were given the opportunity to take over the controls during flight in a small aircraft.
The program continued into the 70s, when it was discontinued after United Airlines experienced financial setbacks.
If you would like to volunteer to speak at Girl Scout or other school events, please visit http://girlswithwings.com/volunteer.html. See the calendar of events or make a request. Pictures on this post courtesy of Kate, my niece.