Sunday, April 27, 2008

Oshkosh Fever Begins to Build

This is a regular blog post. Please see the other entries if you’re looking for show notes or interview audio.

93 days to Oshkosh! Am I obsessing early?

I picked up the new hardware for this year’s Firebase Airspeed a few weeks ago at Costco and the weather was nice enough this weekend that we set it up and slept in it last night. Partially to figure out how the tent goes together, but also to get Cole in the tent and make sure that he’s accustomed to sleeping there before we hit Camp Scholler in earnest.

We also cooked out. Velveeta Mac and Cheese – the official Airspeed meal of choice for Oshkosh.

We’ll podcast and post our GPS coordinates once we get settled in and will be delighted to see any visitors who decide to amble by.

We’re planning on Wednesday through Saturday again this year, but might expand it a little one way or the other. I’ve been in contact with EAA Radio and might be doing some volunteer work for them, both in pre-production and onsite during the event. It comes down to what Fareed and his crew need and what I can provide. Watch this space!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Multi-Engine Rating - Day 2 - Rating Complete!

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The feeling is starting to come back in my right leg and I can almost open and close my left hand again.

But it’s all worthwhile because I just added Airplane Multiengine Land to my ticket! And it doesn’t have the VFR restriction. Too cool!

I just finished the two-day accelerated multi-engine course with Tom Brady of Traverse Air. We flew at Wexford County Airport in Cadillac (KCAD) Saturday and Sunday. Two flights of 2.0 each and four instrument approaches and nine landings Saturday. Sunday was two shorter flights of 1.5 hours each and four instrument approaches and seven landings. Then the checkride Sunday afternoon with 1.2 (pilot in command!) hours, one instrument approach, and two landings.

I also got my complex endorsement as part of the process.

Lots of studying for this. A lot to get into your head in just two days. Here’s the obligatory parking-lot engine failure drill. I think I had just stomped on the ball and was going to full forward on the levers here.

That would be the left engine and prop and, yes, that would be the prop feathered and not turning. We did two or three full-feathered shutdowns throughout the training and the checkride. This is the second one – on the last flight with Tom. Pretty benign, actually. It’s really amazing how much drag you get with a windmilling prop that’s full forward. Other than a fair amount of rudder and some bank into the good engine, it’s pretty much like flying with both engines at lower power once you get the dead engine shut down and feathered.

Capt. Force at the controls. This was on the way out to the practice area after an engine failure on the runway and another right after takeoff. Note the maneuver cheat sheet stuck in the headliner, ready for reference. Whereas I simply memorized the setup for other checkrides, there’s just too much information and too short a time to internalize all of the maneuver setups. Memorize the stuff that is truly memory stuff (e.g. push up, clean up, gas, pumps, verify, feather) and use checklists for the other stuff. I made a lot of outlines in law school, but the primary benefit of the outlines were actually making the outlines. It usually took only a couple of glances at the cheat sheet in the course of setting up for a given maneuver, but it was very helpful knowing that it was there.

Multi instructor extraordinaire Tom Brady in the right seat. Tom made the whole thing systematic and as easy to digest as possible. I’m not saying that it was easy. It wasn’t. But Tom did a great job of presenting the material in a cogent way that could be rapidly absorbed by a competent pilot who arrived prepared.

It’s an accelerated course. In Tom’s or any other accelerated course, you’re going to have to show up having read all of the materials and having a good understanding of the theory before you get in the car to go to the airport. You should be current and proficient in single-engine aircraft and it would be a great idea to have some complex time, too. (I got my only complex time just a few days before the multi training, but even that little bit really helped.)

You’ll have to have all of your stick and rudder skills second nature because you will spend the entire weekend working on the multi-specific stuff. You must have your A-game together so that you can pay attention to the multi-specific information. There’s only enough time (and you probably only have enough energy) to learn the multi stuff. If you’re not used to holding an airspeed within five KIAS, holding an altitude within 50 feet, and otherwise doing what you need to do in a single, all of those basic things will take up bandwidth that you need for the multi. You don’t have time or energy enough to take the rust off of your single-engine flying skills while picking up the multi skills. I’m usually pretty good with airspeed, altitude, and other precision matters. But I was consistently 100-200 feet high and a little fast in the Apache until late the second day. I don’t want to think about what this weekend would have been like if I hadn’t gotten up in the Cutlass a few days before.

Lastly (at least until I get an episode out covering the whole training experience), is it just me or does everyone draw great designated examiners? Kevin Spaulding gave me a great checkride. He started with a measured and thoughtful discussion of what we were going to do and used that discussion as an outline to talk through the required information. Weight and balance, performance, the elements of Vmc, how those elements affected maneuverability, etc. Then he was relaxed and objective during the checkride.

I floated the cabin once on the instrument approach. I think I pushed at the same time there was a downdraft, but if there really wasn’t a downdraft, I’ll take the responsibility. But that was a huge float.

Unlike many of the training approaches, I nailed the heading the whole way down the stairs. I got a little busy playing with the power and that might have contributed to some of the pitch oscillations. As soon as I relaxed a little on the corrections, things got a lot smoother. Funny how that works . . .

If you’re near Traverse City or Cadillac, Michigan (or if your family can find ways in those places to amuse themselves while you’re flying your ass off for a couple of days), consider the accelerated multi-engine program at Traverse Air with Tom Brady.

Traverse Air, Inc.
294 West Silver Lake
Traverse City, Michigan 49686

Tom also does seaplane ratings in a PA-12! Hmmmm. I think we’re going to Traverse City for vacation this summer . . .

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Multi-Engine Training - Day 1

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Day one of multi training. I am a noodle. Nothing like four or five hours of mortal combat in the skies to take a little out of you.

Two flights today with Tom Brady of Traverse Air in his 1957 Piper Apache (PA-23-150) N3207P. Met Tom at the terminal building at Cadillac (KCAD) this morning at about 9:30. We talked about the training and the maneuvers and then went out to see the aircraft. After a brief tour, it was time to start her up and get airborne.

The maneuvers are fairly straightforward and basically amount to all of the elements of flying that you don’t get in a single-engine aircraft. The most similar stuff to single-engine flying was the stalls and steep turns. Steep turns are essentially the same, except that there’s no power change involved. You just go around at 20” MP and 2,200 RPM.

Stalls are a little different in that we didn’t go to full break. Additionally, power-on stalls are done at 18” manifold pressure (as opposed to 25” of more manifold pressure on a normal takeoff takeoff). Fine with me. I’d rather not be at full takeoff power with 150 HP on each wing with the possibility of asymmetric evils if the break happened in an uncoordinated way.

The other maneuvers are concentrated on engine-out operations. All of this is brand new territory. The instructor fails an engine in one way or another, depending on the circumstances, and you compensate in all of the appropriate ways.

If you’re close to the ground, the instructor will simulate an engine failure using the throttle, which isn’t as authentic, but is safer. We did a couple of failures on takeoff, at least 500 feet AGL. Failures at altitude are usually done by the instructor pulling the mixture.

In any case, you look at the ball of the inclinometer and step on it hard and then bank about five degrees into the good engine. Then it’s “power up” (all of the handles – throttles, props, and mixes full forward), “clean up” (flaps and gear up), check the gas, and check the electric boost pumps.

After that, you configure the aircraft to fly as best it can with just one engine. That means identifying the dead engine (“dead foot, dead engine” – whichever foot isn’t pushing on the pedal is the “dead foot” and that tells you which engine is out). You pull the throttle on that engine. No change? Leave it off. Same with the prop. No change? Leave it off. Then you secure the dead engine by pulling the mix.

Then you fly the airplane at blue line (Vyse or 95 MPH on the Apache) until told to recover or land.

The other maneuver is Vmc demonstration. This amounts to flying the airplane to (but not over!) the edge of its control envelope. This amounts to flying the airplane to or near Vmc (generally 78 MPH) in the configuration that has the most asymmetric thrust condition with as many factors as possible set to make control difficult and, generally, producing the circumstances most likely to put the airplane on its back. Left engine out and windmilling (not feathered) right engine full power and prop full forward. Gear up. No flaps. You get into this condition and then you slow up the airplane to Vmc and recover at the first sign of incipient loss of control. That means a buffet, a heading change, or similar indications.

And here’s the thing. Unlike a lot of single-engine maneuvers that are very reminiscent of this condition, you don’t push the good engine to full power. After all , it’s already there and that’s part of what’s getting you into the situation. No, you push the nose over and decrease the power on the good engine. That’s so the good engine doesn’t whip its side of the airplane over when the other wing stalls.

And here’s the other thing. Big thing, kind of. Unexpected anyway. I assumed that I was just getting the rating VFR. I assumed that the multi-engine VFR and multi-engine IFR ratings were separate things. After all, I’m getting the multi primarily so that I can qualify for the SIC type rating in the DC-3 in May down in Georgia. But it turns out that there’s simply a multi-engine rating and, if you don’t do the IFR part, you simply get a restriction saying that the multi-engine rating is VFR only.

I know. Six in one and a half dozen in the other. And I may still have it wrong. But I found out when Tom and I sat down that I can get the rating without the VFR limitation this weekend. All I have to do is fly an approach as a part of the checkride with an engine failure thrown in for fun.

I flew four localizer approaches today, the first two without the hood and the second two with the hood. Talk about being busy! Holy crap! I won’t be disappointed if I end up having the restriction on my ticket, but it would be really nice to get the rating without the VFR-only restriction. I’m going to have to chair fly a few approaches tonight in preparation.

More later!

Multi-Engine Training - Off We Go!

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes or audio? Please check out the other posts.

Headed to Traverse City last night as base of operations for the multi-engine rating. Packed everything from the instrument ride in case I needed it for the checkride (e.g. IACRA documents, etc.). that pretty much filled up the back of the family dinghy.

Cole’s going along. He’ll hang out with my folks in Traverse City while I head down to Cadillac (KCAD) to fly.

Serious bugs on the windshield! This is just north of West Branch on I-75 with two hours to go. We had to pull off in Grayling to wash ‘em off. They were actually beginning to constitute a hazard to navigation.

Study, study, study! Got up this morning, got a weather briefing, and tried to study the materials again. The fact is that no amount of reading is actually going to keep be from being surprised in a lot of ways, but I’ll have the book learning part as complete as possible before launching.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

First Flight for Checkout in the 172RG at Flight 101

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“Yeah, maintenance? Somebody left a blue knob, a lever, and a couple of new gages in the dash on one of your 172s. And the tach is gone. Could you check that out?”

Started the checkout in the RG yesterday at Flight 101. Wind 240 at 14, gusting to 22. (Active runway 27L-R.) Peak gust 26 and bizjets reporting shear of plus and minus 15 on final. That’s not bed-head in the picture. The wind was even blowing back the gel.

But we got up. This is the first flight of the checkout in the Cessna 172RG (the Cutlass). Flight 101, the FBO to which I’m transitioning for my airplane rental needs, has 152s, 172s, a 172RG, and Diamond DA40s. Checking out in the RG qualifies me for all of the other Cessnas on the line, so it’s efficient to go up in the RG, even if I need five hours in which to check out. Plus, I’m scheduled to go for multi training with Traverse Air this weekend and having a little experience with a complex aircraft would be a good thing.

Plus, I needed to go land something – anything – a few times to get the muscle memory back. I’d flown only twice since the instrument checkride last October and even that flying involved only two takeoffs and two landings (although I got an IPC out of the February flight).

There’s a lot to learn. I’m really glad that I flew something complex before getting into Tom Brady’s Apache. I understand constant speed props better now and also have a better sense for how busy I’m going to be on takeoff and landing.

I goofed up the first takeoff for the simple reason that I hadn’t positioned my seat correctly. The dash is a little closer to the pilot in relation to the pedals in the Cutlass than it is in the late-model 172Rs to which I’ve become accustomed. I set up the seat to put the throttle about the right distance for my arm. Taxiing was okay, so I figured that the pedals would be fine.

So I gave her full power and immediately went left because I couldn’t get enough pedal travel with my right foot. Lesson learned. Make sure that you get full travel of all of the applicable controls before you get to the hold short line.

Here’s the cockpit. The blue knob is the prop control, the gear lever is to the left of the carb heat, and – yeah – there’s carb heat (after having flown fuel-injected aircraft since 2003). Procedures also call for using the electric fuel pump on takeoff and landing and that switch is at the far left. Plus, there are cowl flaps that you need to close to help avoid shock cooling of the engine. It’s nothing that thousands of pilots don’t deal with every day, but it’s new to me and I was as busy as a one-armed paper hanger in the pattern.

After a couple of steep turns, we headed over to Romeo to use Runway 18, where the wind was a little closer to the runway heading. It was a little too bumpy anywhere below about 5,000 feet to do slow flight productively, so we’ll do the rest of the high airwork later.

Four full-stop landings. Pretty happy with them except for the third one, in which I imposed a fair amount of side load with a nose-right touchdown.

The Cutlass cruises fast and beautifully. And it’s heavier, so it’s a little better behaved in the shear and turbulence. There’s a pronounced difference when the gear comes down. You can really feel the drag.

That’s Dr. (!) Andy Mawdsley in the right seat. Nice guy. Very good at letting you know his pet peeves and operational preferences, but doing it in a constructive way. Ever fly with a crusty instructor who seems to be pissed off that you don’t automatically know all of his (or her) foibles and doesn’t seem to care that you might have learned something differently and are performing to the letter of your training? Andy’s not that guy. He took the time to talk for a half hour or so before the flight, helped with the idiosynchrasies of the RG preflight, and gave me a clear expectation of what to expect on the flight.

Weather not looking good for the multi training this weekend, but I’ll call Tom today and see what he thinks.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cockpit Shot of the Herpa DC-3 with Dan Gryder

This is a regular blog post. Please check out the other entries if you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio.

Got a great picture from Dan Gryder last night of the cockpit of the Herpa DC-3. Not sure what kind of lens was used, but it captures the whole cockpit beautifully. Just look at that! And, what, 17 feet off the ground? Enough to make a 172 jockey drool on his kneeboard.

(I’m assuming that it’s the lens and that Dan doesn’t have a Popeye left forearm and a Tyrannosaurus Rex right arm – unless his left arm is overdeveloped from helping left-seat students manipulate the center-console controls. We all know that Dan is darned generous with the left seat and spends most of the time in the aircraft in the right seat.)

I put in this week for the first training group in May and am hoping to get in for one of the two groups that Dan thinks will come through in May. Of course, he’s an airline pilot and does lots of other things, so the schedule won’t firm up until Dan gets his airline schedule for the appropriate parts of May. But I’ll be sure to update you guys when I get the schedule locked down.

Remember that you, too, can become type-rated in the DC-3. And might even have the experience of flying with Capt Force and getting on the podcast episode(s) about it. Such as that experience might be. (I’m more into the idea of flying with Capt Gryder myself . . .). Dan's contact information follows.

147 Sky Harbor Way
Griffin, Ga 30223

I also put in my order with a US dealer for my very own 1:200 scale Herpa model of the Herpa DC-3. Many thanks to Herpa for helping Dan get the aircraft out to events like Sun 'N Fun and for providing great ways for guys like me to connect with the golden age of commercial aviation. Check out the full line of Herpa aviation products here.

Depending on the timing, I may also try to get over to see the distributor of the Sky Arrow 600 for the eastern US while I’m down in Georgia and take a test flight. They’re located near Atlanta, so I’m going to go see them if I can swing it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Airshow Ops and a Preview of the 2008 Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival with Barb Haluszka

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We continue the annual tradition of calling up Barb Haluszka, the executive director of the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival.

The show takes place at Battle Creek, Michigan (KBTL). The festivities begin on Wednesday, July 2 this year when the amusement park opens at noon and there’s a scheduled balloon ascent at 6:30 p.m. They start burning avgas and JP-8 in earnest on Friday, July 4 and keep it going for three days with such attractions as the Shockwave Jet Truck, Dacy’s Super Stearman and Wingwalking, Oliver’s DeHavilland Super Chipmunk and Skywriting, Skip Stewart’s Biplane, Herb and Ditto’s Smokin’ T-28, The Aerostars three-ship Yak flight, Bill Stein’s Edge 540, military demonstrations, an F-104, an F-15 demo, a P-51 heritage flight, and The Starfighters F-104 demo team.

And the USAF Thunderbirds are headlining the show!

If you are or were at Sun ‘N Fun this year, you probably heard me doing some of the audio production for Sun ‘N Fun Radio. That took a couple of months of preparation and, although very satisfying, was a lot of work. Today, as we do every year, we talk to someone who really knows the meaning of preparation. Barb Haluszka spearheads all aspects of putting together a major air show and has been running at or near full speed essentially since the 2007 show in preparation for this July.

We caught up with her at her office at the airport to talk about preparations for this year, including her trip to the International Council of Air Shows (or “ICAS”) convention, what goes into selecting performers, interactions with the FAA, and more. Let’s go to the interview.

[Interview audio]

I’ll be at Battle Creek again this year along with photographers and Airspeed team members Tim Reed and Dan McNew and I hope to see you there.

And, if you go to an air show this year, take a moment to think about the preparations that go into them. It may be April out there now but, for many professionals and volunteers, June, July, and August and the rest of the airshow season is just around the corner. Be sure to take a moment to thank every airshow organizer and volunteer you meet!

Check out the show's website at!

Stay tuned to Airspeed in the coming weeks. Airspeed goes retractable this week as I start my check-out at Flight 101 this week in a Cessna 172RG. Then I’m scheduled to train for my multi-engine rating in a 1957 Apache with Traverse Air at its winter home in Cadillac, Michigan April 19-21. The extended weather forecast for this week looks good for the RG training at Pontiac, but dodgy for Cadillac next weekend. In any case, if I get up, so do you as I plug in the MP3 recorder in the back seat and take you along for the ride.

"Ask Capt Force" No. 1 - How Do You Record Cockpit Audio?

This is a regular blog post. Please browse the other entries if you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio.

Here’s the first in a series of answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs). This time: How do you capture cockpit audio?

I use the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 (the most recent model of which is available from Sweetwater Sound and other places). I select the 1/4" input with low sensitivity and the levels cranked almost all the day down (to avoid overdriving). An attenuating cable would also work, but I just haven’t gotten around to finding the right one (which would involve a lot of experimentation and, as long as this setup works and it’s not hurting the MicroTrack, I’m good to go). I plug a 1/4" guitar cable into the intercom in the back seat of the C-172s that I fly and plug the other end into the left side input of the MicroTrack. At the lowest setting (MP3 format, 44.1 KHz and 96 Mbps), I can get 4-5 hours of audio onto a 512MB CF card (well beyond the roughly 2.5-hour battery capacity of the unit if you don't use external power). The MicroTrack has a mini-USB port, so you can get auxiliary power using lots of devices available on the net or at your local electronics store or drug store.

Frankly, any recording device will work if you can get the 1/4" intercom to feed into the input of the device. But remember that there's enough juice there to drive a headset, so you'll need to turn the sensitivity way down or get an attenuating cable.

Charlie Thompson also has some good commentary in his February 14, 2008 blog post.

There's a picture above of the MicroTrack (it's at the lower right in the picture of the back seat of the airplane). There's video equipment in the shot, too. I put a bullet camera on the dash and had the actual camcorder in the back seat, too. Haven't done any video on the podcast and am unlikely to, but it was a cool experiment.

If you want to do video, check out The Student Pilot Journal and contact Greg Summers. He's the best podcaster out there at recording his own cockpit experiences on video. And the audio quality is excellent. Probably better than my audio-only recordings. Will Hawkins of The Pilot's Flight Podlog is an excellent videographer and editor and would be a great resource, but he doesn't currently post video of himself in the cockpit.

The MicroTrack is also very useful outside the cockpit. Here, I’m interviewing USN LtCdr Craig Olson, the Opposing Solo of the USN Blue Angels on the ramp at Battle Creek.

And here I’m interviewing Viper East commander and F-16 demo pilot USAF Maj Jason Koltes at the same event.

Here’s a shot of my remote production setup. The MicroTrack plugs directly into the USB port of my laptop and acts just like any other outboard storage device, so I can bring the audio into Audacity and edit it right there at Starbucks. I had the interview with Maj Koltes posted within an hour of sitting down at Starbucks.

Hope all of this is helpful. Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2008

What I Was Doing while You Guys Were at Sun 'N Fun

This is a regular blog post. Check out the other entries for episode information and links to audio.

Got the call from Mary at about 6:00 saying that she was stuck on I-75 just north of M-59 (about 15 minutes away in rush hour traffic) with both our kids and one of the neighbor kids in the car. If anyone lost a big honking spike-like thing on or near I-75, I’ve got it. You can come by and pick it up any time.

In better news, I got a call from Dave Shalbetter of Sun ‘N Fun Radio last night and he held the phone to the monitor to let me hear Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined playing on the overnight loop. How cool that (a) they’d play it and (b) Dave would call to let me hear it. I’ve already put in the request with Mary to see if I can go down and volunteer with the station in person next year.

Multi training next weekend at Traverse Air (actually in Cadillac because the Apache lives there until May 1 each year. Got the manuals this week and I’m studying every day. Hoping for good weather.

Then it’s on to Griffin, Georgia for the DC-3 type rating in the first part of May once I get the dates nailed down.

Lots going on. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sun 'N Fun Update for April 8, 2008 - DC-3 Pilot Dan Gryder Reports In!

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or listen online right here by clicking: It's all free!

We’re crazy lucky to have as our ad hoc correspondent at Sun ‘N Fun in Lakeland, Florida Dan Gryder, captain of the Herpa DC-3, banjomeister extraordinaire, and great guy. We called Dan earlier today and actually caught him in the air. Once he landed, we hooked up for this interview and discussion about the events so far at Sun ‘N Fun.

If you’re interested in flying the DC-3 (or, like me, going for a type rating in the aircraft) or want to book Dan and the Herpa DC-3 for your event, please call Dan’s office at 678-688-7069
or e mail

Herpa builds the world's finest die cast miniature models and has again sponsored the Herpa DC-3 for 2008. Herpa has also funded flight operations at 2008 Sun n Fun. Visit the Herpa web site at
Thanks, Herpa, for sponsoring such a gorgeous aircraft and amazing pilot.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Welcome Sun 'N Fun Listeners!


If you’re here because you heard an episode or two of Airspeed on Sun-N-Fun Radio, welcome! We’re glad you’re here! Even if you’re not (whether because you’re a regular visitor/listener or you’re visiting for the first time and not because you were at SnF), please pull up a folding chair and hangar-fly some with us.

We’ve been working with Dave Shalbetter of SnF Radio for a few months now, doing production and other stuff to run in the loop when the station doesn’t have live content. In addition, we provided a few of our pithier episodes to run on the station and we hope that, if they brought you here, you like what you heard and want to know more about Airspeed.

Airspeed is a podcast (kind of like radio for the Internet, only more flexible). You can subscribe to Airspeed for free through iTunes or any other podcatcher. Or, if you wish, you can just listen right here online (as some 18% of listeners are doing these days). We put a link to the MP3 audio right here on the website right under the picture that leads each episode.

If you’re looking for links to the material that aired at SnF, they appear below.

Instrumental music that ran under a few of the announcements

The Lake Parker Arrival (

Theme from Milliways (Go for TMI) (

Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined

Blog entry and text (

Just the reading (

Why I Fly

Blog entry with text and a link to the episode audio (

Take Your Kids to the Airport

Blog entry and text (

Audio (

Other stuff of which I’m very proud, but that didn’t get on SnF Radio

First Solo

Blog entry with text: (

Audio (

The show is more than two years old and is approaching something like 100 episodes. Please feel free to browse the site, listen, read, or otherwise enjoy yourself. That’s why all of this is here.


- Steve