Monday, June 22, 2009

Pre flight Planning and Briefings

Well, I am sitting in a car parked in front of a stranger’s house typing up my blog. Gotta be a first for me. This prep for the Women’s Transcontinental Air Race has kept us so busy so that I have run out of time to do anything. Like sleep. I knew this race would be a lot of work, but I had NO idea. Apparently for first time racers this is to be expected as we have a lot to prepare. So I woke up early and decided to leave the house and get a little quiet time in the car to type up this blog entry. (Now I’m sitting in more briefings, still typing.)

As I posted previously, I had arrived in Denver very late Friday night (or was it early Saturday morning?), and I am staying with the brother and wife of Cindy, a fellow Girl With Wings. It took us a little while to get going on Saturday but I eventually met up with my race partner, Heather, over at APA, or Denver’s Centennial Airport. Heather had flown our airplane in from VNY, or Van Nuys, CA, where her uncle owns a Cessna182T, tail number, N17572. I knew Heather and I were going to get along immediately. She told me that there was a minor mechanical problem with the aircraft and showed me some fuel that had spewed all over the nose gear. Our first order of business was going to get a mechanic to come over and check out the issue. The mechanic who was doing the inspections for the race airplanes came over and diagnosed the problem pretty quickly. It seems that Heather, who is from Australia, is not familiar with high altitude airport operations, the highest terrain in her country averaging less than 6000ft.

APA is at about 6000ft, but because of the heat, the density altitude (or “real” altitude) can be considerably higher sometimes. Heather didn’t keep this in mind as it is not a major factor back in Australia and ended up flooding the engine while doing a hot start. And so she was instructed in the future to make sure that the engine was leaned during start, taxi, take-off and every single moment along the road. (Leaning is reducing the fuel to air ratio in the engine, when you are at a higher altitude there is less air so you need to lean the mixture back to put less fuel in the engine and prevent flooding.)

So problem solved. I knew from her willingness to ask for assistance and concern with proper procedure that we would get along fine. She made a mistake because she didn’t know (of course during this whole thing I was learning as well, since I am unfamiliar with the course of action as well), but was very open to admitting her mistake and getting help. Many others would have tried to bungle through and caused further damage. She was embarrassed, as I would have been, but was a really good sport about it! I found out later we are both Leos, which might explain why we are so similar. Hopefully this will not result in a territorial war in the cockpit. Perhaps she will defer to her elders… =)

(Truthfully, Heather is the PIC or Pilot in Command of this airplane, so she has final authority. It is my job, as second in command, to back her up, offer my input where necessary, but at all costs to contribute to the crew concept so we can be safe and legal.)

So having figured out our minor maintenance problem we were able to proceed over for our inspection. Heather let me taxi. Again, I fly a Citation X for a living, and have been either Part 121 or 135 (Commercial) since 2000. I have rented an airplane on my own a couple of times to punch holes in the sky, but have been mostly flying for work on an IFR flight plan, having most of the paperwork for my flights done for me. So I am what you might call rusty on everything that we will be doing over the course of this race. Especially flying a single engine Cessna 182. So Heather, who is a flight instructor, had to talk me through what features were in this cockpit. Including, somewhat disappointingly, an autopilot. Here I’ve been telling people how I’m going to be roughing it this week in such a primitive aircraft…

Well, we taxied over and went through our inspection. The race officials wanted to see that not only were all the airplanes airworthy, but also that no one had snuck in some mod that would give them an unfair advantage in the race. We also had to tweak our numbers on the tail. For the race we will be “Classic 21” and you can follow our progress on the AirRace website.
Once we had taxied back to the FBO, TacAir, where the airplane is being “impounded” until the beginning of the race, it was time for us to get our credentials checked. Only those officials had gone home. So we had enough time to meet and/or refresh our acquaintances with some folks in the lobby and proceed over to a reception at the Jet Center. This was a wonderful event put on by the Colorado 99s group.

Sunday we did catch up on our credential check, and then finally began our preflight planning. Since Heather is from Australia, and I’m so rusty, this is taking us quite a while. Luckily (or unluckily) there are quite a few briefings to get us back on the same page. I will talk about the various requirements for the racers along the way. We had another dinner as a group that night, so if I’m not careful I will make the airplane exceed its GW (or gross weight). I’ve been told that I will be able to sweat off quite a few pounds over the next few days, though.

The Girls With Wings AirRace Page

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:23 PM

    Thanks for your updates, Lynda. It is great to be able to follow what you are doing. Heather didn't tell us about the mechanical difficulty!
    Jean (Heather's mum)