Thursday, May 22, 2008

DC-3 Type Rating - Arrival



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I’m here! Flew commercially into Hartsfield - Jackson Atlanta International Airport this afternoon to attend one of Dan Gryder’s three-day second-in-command (“SIC”) DC-3 type rating classes at Griffin-Spalding County Airport (6A2), about a 45-minute drive south of Atlanta.

There are four people in this class. Dan picked up Tom and me at the Atlanta airport. Roland and Gerrit arrived from Germany a little earlier and drove a rental car to Griffin.


We gathered at the airport a little before 6:00 and got the tour. Dan maintains an office and crew quarters in the hangar at the airport. It’s really nice. In fact, that’s where I’m staying. High-speed Internet, comfy bed, bathroom, and a fridge full of caffeinated beverage. A reasonable facsimile of heaven, if you ask me. In any case, a great place from which to record a show.

Dan gave us an overview of the course and then invited us out to get familiar with the aircraft.


Gerrit and Roland came all the way from Germany to take the course. As you might expect of guys who are willing to cross an ocean to fly the Herpa DC-3, they’re both solid enthusiasts who clearly know a lot more about airliners and larger general aviation aircraft than I do. In the cockpit, they were both immediately all hands and businesslike. Looking for the specific locations of controls and immediately launching into an animated discussion about how it all works.

Tom took early retirement from the San Francisco Police Department and then spent 10 years or so as an airline pilot. He’s understated and easygoing and immediately hit it off with Dan and swapped a fair amount of airline conversation, most of which went over my head. But both were gracious enough to let me in on the conversation and let me feel like a colleague.


I’m probably the least experienced pilot in the group and probably the youngest. I think I’m going to have to be a little humble and do a lot more listening and less talking than I usually do. I don’t have any real doubts about my ability to fly this aircraft. But this is the first time I’ll be in a training situation in which there’s more than just the instructor and me in the plane. There will be three other guys (four counting Dan), all apparently very competent pilots, all of whom will be able to directly observe me – or who will at least be in the airplane if I do something stupid like float the cabin like I did on the multi checkride.

This isn’t self doubt. This isn’t even a change from what I thought the course would be like. But, after meeting everyone, having dinner, and seeing the aircraft up close, it’s dawning on me what a great experience this is likely to be, especially if I keep my eyes and ears open and put in the extra effort to give good account of myself as a part of this august group of aviators.


Remember the First Solo episode where I ruminated a little about the fact that, unlike other folks I know, I don’t really have a community of pilots in which to hang out? I work my ass off, love spending time with my family, and get to the airport for surgical strikes when I can. But all of that means that I don’t really get to unfold a lawn chair, sit down, and hangar-fly on anything approaching a regular basis.

But for three days, I’m going to be a part of a group that has come together from an area nine time zones wide to see, feel, hear, smell, and fly a grand old dame of the golden age of aviation. Dan Gryder’s Herpa DC-3. I came here to fly the legend. But it’s becoming very apparent that a big part of the experience is going to be the people with whom I fly her.

It only gets better. Hope I can get some sleep tonight!

5 comments:

Bertil said...

Steve, not being a pilot, only loving your podcast I now have to ask: what does floating the cabin mean? Sorry if that's a dumb question - reading it for the second time and have no clue...

All the best from Stockholm, Sweden,

Bertil

Stephen Force (Steve Tupper) said...

To "float the cabin" is to suddenly descend so that you get light in the seat and approach or exceed zero-gee. Im that case, i think I poth pushed the nose over too hard and simultaneously flew through a downdraft, making us sing quickly and causing anything not tied down to "float."

Thanks for listening in Stockholm! I love the international audience. Thanks for apparently not minding my US-centric perspective!

- Steve

Stephen Force (Steve Tupper) said...

There might be a secondary meaning that applies to other cases. Such as in the Civil Air Patrol's "High Bird" communications relay missions, which can sometimes require a bladder of steel.

Bertil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bertil said...

Steve, thanks for the reply! I had no idea... :-)

All the best,

Bertil