Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Girls With Wings Flying Video

Thanks to Kristine, a Girls With Wings role model, for putting together this video of preflight, takeoff, enroute, and landing portions of her flight. It's a great visual aid for talking to girls about being a pilot.

Oh, and did I mention that Kristine just passed her instrument checkride? Way to go Kristine!!

IF the video doesn't play properly, its also on the homepage of

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fuel Farm

I took this picture on the ramp of one of the FBOs we stopped at last week. As pilots, we usually call these Fuel Farms. I decided to find out what the heck we were calling it that for...

I found out (via Wikipedia, of course) that they're supposed to be called oil depots.

An oil depot (sometimes called a tank farm, installation or oil terminal) is an industrial facility for the storage of oil and/or petrochemical products and from which these products are usually transported to end users or further storage facilities. An oil depot typically has tankage, either above ground or underground, and gantries for the discharge of products into road tankers or other vehicles (such as barges) or pipelines.

Most airports also have their own dedicated oil depots (usually called "fuel farms") where aviation fuel (Jet A or 100LL) is stored prior to being discharged into aircraft fuel tanks. Fuel is transported from the depot to the aircraft either by road tanker or via a hydrant system.

How dangerous is it to have large quantities of fuel this close to airport operations? How are these fuel tanks inspected? Is fire an issue?

Here is an exerpt from a NTSB report on a major fuel fire at the old Denver airport:


About 0915 mountain standard time, on Sunday, November 25, 1990, a fire erupted at a fuel storage and dispensing facility about 1.8 miles from the main terminal of Stapleton International Airport at Denver, Colorado. The facility, referred to as a fuel farm, was operated by United Airlines and Continental Airlines. From the time firefighting efforts were initiated immediately after the fire erupted until the fire was extinguished, a total of 634 firefighters, 47 fire units, and 4 contract personnel expended 56 million gallons of water and 28,000 gallons of foam concentrate. The fire burned for about 48 hours. Of the 5,185,000 gallons of fuel stored in tanks at the farm before the fire, about 3 million gallons were either consumed by the fire or lost as a result of leakage from the tanks. Total damage was estimated by United Airlines to have been between $15 and $20 million. No injuries or fatalities occurred as a result of the fire.

United Airlines' flight operations were disrupted because of the lack of fuel to prepare aircraft for flight. Airport facilities, other than the fuel farm, were not affected by the fire. The duration and intensity of the fire, however, raised concerns about the ability of airport and local firefighters to respond to a fuel fire of this magnitude. The origin of the fire also raised concerns about the safety oversight and inspection of fuel farm pumping operations.
According to FAA regulations:

22. Do fuel farms not located on airport property serving the airport need to be inspected for fire safety in accordance with Part 139.321? If so, how far away from the airport would this requirement apply?No. Part 139.321 fuel fire safety requirements are specific to fueling operations on the airport. Under Part 139.5, an airport is defined as 'an area of land or other hard surface, excluding water, that is used or intended to be used for the landing and takeoff of aircraft, including any buildings and facilities.' Buildings and facilities included in this definition are those adjacent landing and takeoff areas that support aircraft operations. While an off-airport fuel farm is a facility that supports aircraft operations, if it is off airport property, it is considered outside the scope of Part 139. However, any fueling trucks that use such off-airport fuel farms and come onto the airport must be inspected under Part 139.321.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Interest in GA not dead!

I thought this was a great story (and promotion for the flight school!). I read it in my edition of AOPA ePilot, which can be found online. Here's a portion (and it can be read in its entirety by clicking the link above).

Radio listeners grab 100 flights in 60 seconds By Mike Collins

Would you believe that a flight school could book 100 introductory flights in 60 seconds? US Flight Academy in Denton, Texas, did just that in conjunction with Dallas radio station KLUV. A special promotion offered discovery flights in light sport aircraft to the station’s listeners for $40, half the normal price.

Justin Shelley, the academy’s director of sales, heard about the radio station’s half-price promotion and contacted the producer. Shelley agreed to take five of the station’s announcers up for discovery flights, which are intended to be the first lesson leading to a sport pilot certificate. Enthused about their flights, the announcers raved about them on the air. They positioned the flights as a bargain at $40 and promoted them heavily for several days.

Listeners were directed to a special Web page at a specified date and time, and the station’s webmaster confirmed that all 100 flights were booked in less than one minute--setting a record for the KLUV program, which has been running for nearly two years.

The radio station listed US Flight Academy on its Web site, along with the phone number, and an additional 50 flights were booked directly through the Academy. The first several people to show up at the airport with their certificates announced plans to pursue a sport pilot certificate, Shelly said.

US Flight Academy offers training for the sport pilot certificate, as well as training for advanced certificates and ratings.

Note that the rides were in a a Light Sport Aircraft. You might wonder how that is different than any other airplane (from Wikipedia):

Several different kinds of aircraft may be certificated as LSA. Airplanes (both powered and gliders), rotorcraft (gyroplanes only, not helicopters), powered parachutes, weight-shift control aircraft, and lighter-than-air craft (free balloons and airships) may all be certificated as LSA if they fall within the weight and other guidelines established by the FAA.

Light-sport aircraft, or LSA, is a classification of aircraft specific to the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration defines a light-sport aircraft as an aircraft with a maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 600 kilograms (1320 pounds) for aircraft designed to operate from land, 649 kilograms (1,430 pounds) for seaplanes; a maximum airspeed in level flight of 120 knots (222 km/h); a maximum stall speed of 45 knots (83 km/h); either one or two seats; fixed undercarriage and fixed-pitch or ground adjustable propeller; and a single electric motor or reciprocating engine, which includes diesel engines and Wankel engines.

Aircraft which qualify as LSA may be operated by holders of a Sport Pilot certificate, whether they are registered as Light Sport Aircraft or not. Pilots with a private, recreational, or higher pilot certificate may also fly LSA, even if their medical
have expired, so long as they have a valid driver's license to prove that they are in good enough health to fly. LSA also have less restrictive maintenance requirements and may be maintained and inspected by traditionally certificated Aircraft Maintenance Technicians, by individuals holding a Repairman: Light Sport certificate, and (in some cases) by their pilots and/or owners.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Ride, My Job

Courtesy of Eaglesoft, Citation X flight simulator software promotional video. This is a very good representation of the airplane. Almost as good as a video I would take myself -pretty cool! Be sure to click the 'watch in high quality' option.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

FOD: Foreign Object Damage

Previously I talked about bird strikes, which is a form of foreign object damage (FOD).

I was at an FBO in Louisiana this past week, and while we were waiting for our passengers, I saw this "street sweeper" cleaning up the ramp.

I have never seen this before. Although, again, just like cleaning the rubber off the runway, I assumed it was done. But why go to this trouble? Won't the airplanes just "blow" the FOD off the ramp? Why even bother?

Wikipedia: FOD costs the aerospace industry $4 billion USD per year[3] and causes expensive, significant damage every year to aircraft and parts and may cause death and injury to workers, pilots and passengers. It is estimated that FOD costs major airlines in the United States $26 per flight in aircraft repairs, plus such additional indirect costs as flight delays, plane changes and fuel inefficiencies.[4]

Foreign object damage or foreign object debris (FOD) is a substance, debris or article alien to the vehicle or system which would potentially cause damage.[1] Foreign object damage is any damage attributed to a foreign object that can be expressed in physical or economic terms that may or may not degrade the product's required safety and/or performance characteristics. Typically, FOD is an aviation term used to describe both the damage done to aircraft by foreign objects, and the foreign objects themselves (i.e. any object that has, or is likely to, cause damage.)[2]

"Internal FOD" is used to refer to damage or hazards caused by foreign objects inside the aircraft. For example, "Cockpit FOD" might be used to describe a situation where a clipboard, water bottle, or other item gets loose in the cockpit and jams or restricts the operation of the controls. "Tool FOD" is a serious hazard caused by tools left inside the aircraft after manufacturing or servicing. Tools or other items can get tangled in control cables, jam moving parts, short out electrical connections, or otherwise interfere with safe flight. Aircraft maintenance teams usually have strict tool control procedures including toolbox inventories to make sure all tools have been removed from an aircraft before it is released for flight. Tools used during manufacturing are tagged with a serial number so if they're found they can be traced.

Just FYI, Charles Brooks of Newark, New Jersey invented improvements to street sweeper trucks that he patented on March 17, 1896. His truck had revolving brushes attached to the front fender and the brushes were interchangeable with scrapers that could be used in winter for snow removal.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's Day

Last thursday I was honored to speak at the Holly Lane Elementary Veteran's Day Assembly in Westlake, Oh. They were recognizing "Women in Service" and Celebrating 20 Years of Honoring Veterans (November 7th, 2008). I served seven years active duty army after 2 years of ROTC in college and three years in the Ohio National Guard.

Along with my speech, the students of the school heard from Staff Sgt Kimberly Middleton, an Army Recruiter in my town of Lakewood, and Community Liason for Senator Sherrod Brown, Matthew Kaplan.

Believe me when I say that from the Viet Nam veteran color guard's posting the US Flag, to every grade's (1st - 4th) presentations of songs and flowers to attending veterans, I don't think I've ever seen a better behaved group of kids or more respectful program. Kudos to organizer Marilyn Lester).

Since I have resigned my commission, I am unable to wear my uniform, but I read exerpts from the following Commentary by Airman 1st Class Joshua Wilks 796th Civil Engineer Squadron to illustrate my ongoing respect for the uniform, and, of course, our country's military veterans.

When I dress in the morning, I try to remember I wear the uniform of a military that protects the greatest symbol of democracy and freedom in the world.
But sometimes, I forget.
I also try to remember people who dress as I do every morning, the ones who have dressed this way so many days before me, and those who will follow me.
But, sometimes, I forget.
I try to keep in mind just one of the fallen heroes who wore this very same uniform. The ones who lost their lives in it, and the one who still wear it as they lie in their final resting places in a national cemetery.
But sometimes, I forget.
Every morning, when I go to work, I try to remember to say good morning to my coworkers, military and civilian. I try to remember these people protect my freedom as I work beside them each day.
But sometimes, I forget.
I try to remember that my job is the greatest in the world.
But sometimes, I forget.
I try to remember that although this uniform may be a little too warm in the summer and just not warm enough in the winter, thousands of my comrades remain missing in action, and others were imprisoned for years on foreign soil, suffering torture and abuse inconceivable to humanity -- all this while wearing this uniform.
But sometimes, I forget.
During the day, when I think of all the other things I would rather be doing with my life, I try to remember the role I take part in while wearing this uniform. I try to remember this world is still a dangerous place, and we must work extremely hard to safeguard the freedom we take for granted so our children will know the freedom we have always known.
But sometimes, I forget.
I try to remember as I pledge my allegiance to Old Glory, this awe-inspiring symbol of freedom and democracy, that others entrust my comrades and me with her safekeeping.
But sometimes, I forget.
At bedtime, as I kneel in prayer before God, I try to remember the hundreds of thousands of families who lost their loved ones in the defense of this great land.
But sometimes, I forget.
I try to remember that I would die for this country, but I would much rather live for it.
But sometimes, I forget.
Yet at times like this, (of war) when I remember to take these things into account, there is no way I can explain the pride I feel and the honor I embrace while wearing this uniform and serving this country. And when I leave this world, my spirit will echo words known to me since childhood, "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Groovy, baby, yea!

If you were to fly into the Ft Lauderdale, FL, airport, or KFLL, you would see the following information about their longest runways:

RUNWAY 9L/27R Dimensions: 9000 X 150 ft. Runway Edge Lights High Intensity Surface: Asphalt / Grooved

So the runway is made out of asphalt, but it's grooved? What does that mean?
Runway pavement surface is prepared and maintained to maximise friction for wheel braking. To minimize hydroplaning following heavy rain, the pavement surface is usually grooved so that the surface water film flows into the grooves and the peaks between grooves will still be in contact with the aircraft tires. To maintain the macrotexturing built into the runway by the grooves, maintenance crews engage in Airfield rubber removal in order to meet required FAA friction levels. From Wikipedia.
Well, I have to admit I saw the hyperlink on Airfield rubber removal and didn't have a clue. I have never even thought about having to clean off those black "skid" marks on the runway (left because the tires aren't spinning when an airplane touches down). I learned something new, too. Which, in all honesty, is a lot of the reason I do this blog - I am still learning. The picture of the runway (below) is from my home base, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Airfield rubber removal, also known as runway rubber removal, is the use of high pressure water, abrasives, chemicals and/or other mechanical means to remove the rubber that builds up on airport landing strips. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) specifies friction levels for safe operation of planes and measures friction coefficients for the evaluation of appropriate friction levels. Individual airports incorporate rubber removal into their maintenance schedules based on the number of take offs and landings that each airport experiences. Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Standing By

I've been spending some time sitting standby at an FBO in Florida. Since most of the FBOs have wireless, I can get a lot of online things done. Usually I don't sit in the crew lounge, since it's hard to be productive sitting in a La Z Boy in front of the TV. Sometimes I will see if I can't sit in a conference room - it's got a good environment for making me feel business-like and productive. However, I prefer the FBOs that have separate little workstations, kind of like phone booths with desks. Even better, like this FBO I've been hanging out at, with a view of the outside. Either overlooking the front door, like the one elsewhere in Florida where I've seen folks like Kenny Chesney, Shaq, Michael Jordan, etc. walking in (Note: these are not necessarily owners in the airline I fly for - so I'm not giving anything away here). Or I can get a view of the ramp, like in the picture above. Note my company's airplanes lined up on the ramp. I'm pretty proud of working for such an airline. You can't go anywhere without seeing another of our airplanes. Here in particular, you couldn't spit in the FBO without hitting one of our pilots (if that's what you wanted to do - I wouldn't recommend it). But it shows we're still doing well despite the currently poor economy. I know I did a good thing when I came here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunny California

The Captain and I were discussing, on our way to California, how rare it is to see a thunderstorm in this part of the country. Well, weren't we proven wrong! There was a 6000ft ceiling when we flew in, with flash flood warnings issued for the area. Luckily, it only drizzled, and the view from yesterday looked much improved the next morning as the front moved through. In many parts of the country winter is characterized by increased rain, rather than snow, and meditteranean - like portions of the country near the Santa Ynez Mountains go from .03 in of rain in July to as much as 4.28 in of rain in February.

Conversly, the city we had flown from was in the northern, central US (and there it WAS sunny). They have more than 4 1/2 in of precip in the summer months, but in the winter, snow brings around an inch a month.
Read more about weather fronts on Wikipedia:
A weather front is a boundary separating two masses of air of different densities, and is the principal cause of meteorological phenomena. In surface weather analyses, fronts are depicted using various colored lines and symbols, depending on the type of front. The air masses separated by a front usually differ in temperature and humidity. Cold fronts may feature narrow bands of thunderstorms and severe weather, and may on occasion be preceded by squall lines or dry lines. Warm fronts are usually preceded by stratiform precipitation and fog. The weather usually clears quickly after a front's passage. Some fronts produce no precipitation and little cloudiness, although there is invariably a wind shift.[1]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wing Walkers

If I say wing walker, what do you think of? Well, you might think of a wing walker like Girl With Wings Jenny, who stands on top of a plane while it is flying and doing acrobatics. Jenny’s personal website. Jenny’s American Barnstormer team website.

The US Centennial of Flight Website has a great article on the origins of Wing Walkers.

Scholars generally credit Ormer Locklear as the first man to wing walk, or at the very least, the person most responsible for the growth of the phenomenon. Locklear was working as a carpenter and mechanic in Fort Worth, Texas, when he joined the U.S. Army Air Service in October 1917, just a few days short of his 26th birthday. Stationed at Barron Field, Texas, Pilot Cadet Locklear started climbing out onto his Jenny biplane's lower wing while in mid-air to resolve certain problems. His first trip out onto his wing occurred when he could not see some communications clearly that were being flashed at him from the ground because the plane's engine housing and wing were blocking his view. Because he needed to interpret the communication to pass one of his pilot's tests, Locklear decided to leave the plane in the hands of his instructor/copilot and climb out onto the wing and read the message. He passed
the test, but his instructor was less than happy with him.

Or you might think of this kind of wing walker: The kind that walks along the wings of an airplane as it is being towed or taxied around the ramp. Usually wing walkers are used for large commercial airliners squeaking into the gate. You might have noticed someone walking alongside your commercial flight holding a plastic orange wand. Raising the wand lets the rest of the crew know that the wing isn't going to hit anything. This is a pretty small airplane, so you might wonder why the tug operator needs two guys on either side of the airplane (I mean, can't he see the whole airplane??).

Well, kudos to the FBO we were visiting. They obviously were trained well and they are held to a high standard.

From Procedures and their Impact:

The key for hangarkeepers and FBOs is to follow industry practices and procedures for careful aircraft handling and employee training. It's a good way to win repeat customers and is also the right approach to zero in on costs, not just for damages but also for insurance. Underwriters pay careful attention to standardized aircraft movement procedures before issuing a policy. Running a clean operation pays off all around.

An example:

A G-IV aircraft was directed on the hangar's ramp with a marshal at the nose of the aircraft and left and right wing walkers. The aircraft was stopped and both wing walkers moved to the left side of the aircraft to move two of the FBO's vehicles blocking the path. Both wing walkers remained on the left side of the aircraft while the marshal signaled the pilot to continue taxiing. The right wingtip struck the rudder of a King Air parked near the hangar and in the FBO's care.

These and similar accidents are a constant concern for hangarkeepers and FBOs as well as aviation insurance carriers. The FlightSafety Foundation believes that the bill for all ground accidents involving aircraft, including the indirect costs associated with injuries and deaths, to be about $7 billion a year. Although figures aren't broken out separately for general aviation, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) estimates the cost of GA ground damage at about $100 million per year in direct costs.