Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aerospace Education Appearance - CAP Goes to School

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio, please check out the other posts.

While many of you know about CAP’s flight operations (we handle more than 95% of the USAF-supervised inland search and rescue operations in the United States), we also boast, in addition to the cadet program, the largest aerospace education operations in the country.

I got a unique opportunity last week to do an aerospace education (“AE”) appearance at Hickory Grove Elementary School where my son is a first-grader in Mr. Gayta’s class. I was a “secret reader,” which means that, at 11:30, I knock on the door, all of the kids assemble on the rug by the reading chair and close their eyes, and I go sit down in the chair for the big reveal.

I then read for five or ten minutes from John, the Airport Kid by John Perry Jopling and Hazel Joan Jopling, who we met at Podapalooza 2008 at Oshkosh.

To help increase the impact, I went decked out in my CAP flight suit and turned the occasion into a bit of an AE appearance. I got a lot of questions from the kids and there were minor skirmishes over who would get to wear my cover (flight cap). Cole was the proud wearer in this particular shot, although the cover got passed around pretty evenly.

I took advantage of the opportunity to tell the kids as much as I could about their local airports and the kinds of aircraft and pilots that one could find there. We also talked about CAP and its missions.

I also made sure to hit on the opportunities for women in aviation, which took some of the girls by surprise. The names of Patty Wagstaff, Marsha Ivins, Samantha Weeks, and others therefore crossed my lips more than once.

If you’re a pilot, put your time and energy where your mouth is and take the message to the kids whenever you can. Who knows what fires we can light!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

How a Pilot Does Thanksgiving - Turkey at the Hangar!

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes or links to audio, please check out the other posts.

It might be overcast with low icing on Thanksgiving in the KTVC Class D airspace, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t hang out at the airport and get your turkey done! Hangar-side! Using a rig that you can actually carry around in a C-152 with full fuel!

I learned this in Boy Scouts a long time ago and have since perfected the process. It’s an excellent means of smoking cigars and drinking your choice of beverage outdoors for extended period of time and it’s one of the few ways of doing so that is likely to result in a beautifully-cooked turkey!

It's mostly useful for camping and other outdoor applications, but why in the world would you pass up the opportunity to use this method next to your hangar at the airport?

Double-bag the bird in Reynolds oven bags (turkey size). Orient the bird nose-down with the leg bones sticking up. Get some binder twine and tie the bags closed at the top using a wrap-style fastening (much like the coiled part of a hangman’s noose. Double the twine because you’re going to be dangling the bird from the protruding length for three of four hours and you don’t want the twine to break or stretch too much.

Also loosely tie some twine around the widest part of the bird to keep those square corners of the outer oven bag from sticking out and getting burned.

Using a knife or the Phillips screwdriver from your fuel tester, poke a couple of holes through both bags about three inches below the know to let steam escape.

Start about 50 charcoal briquettes going in a pit nearby so the charcoal is good and gray around the edges by the time you’ve assembled your rig. About 25 minutes.

Pick a grassy spot next to the taxiway (preferably outside the movement area of the airport and near your hangar) for the rig. Mine consists of five two-foot lengths of electrical conduit and five tubes of chicken wire about 3.5” to 4” in diameter. Drive the stakes at the points of a pentagon and drop the chicken wire tubes onto the stakes. You should be able to dangle the bagged bird down between the stakes with at least 8” of space between the widest part of the bird and the nearest chicken wire tube. Try for between 8” and 12” on all sides of the bird.

You can get away with four stakes, but I find that you have to make a square shape too big to keep the wide part of the bird from getting too close to the corners of the rig. Five is orders of magnitude better.

Wrap the entire apparatus in tin foil. I use the 18” industrial foil and go twice around so you have coverage up to about two feet off the ground. The foil both breaks the wind flow around the bird and reflects some of the heat from the charcoal back toward the bird.

Drop a sheet of tin foil on the ground to cover the floor of the rig. Then, using tongs or other tools, drop about 10 charcoal briquettes into each chicken wire cylinder. The rig is ready.

Dangle the bird into the center. I use a tripod made of three five-foot lengths of electrical conduit. If you happen to have an engine hoist or other interesting equipment in the hangar, feel free to be imaginative. Don't use the wing of C-172 if you can help it. Or, if you do, don't use the left wing, which has the fuel vend right next to the best attach point.

Use a meat thermometer in the breast of the bird to track the internal temperature. You want at least 170 degrees internal temperature before you eat it. Lower temperatures risk incrimination the next day.

Now drink the beverage of your choice and smoke good cigars until the bird is done. About three hours for a 14-16 –pound bird and maybe up to four for a 23-pounder.
You might want to douse the bird in some beverage every now and then to make sure that the twine wrapping the bird doesn't catch fire. That could compromise the bag(s) and get interesting. Remember that, after the bird really gets cooking, you have a bag of heated flammable liquid in close proximity to ignition sources. In other words, a dangling turkey-fat bomb.
Don't leave the bird unattended. Both because you want to be able to deal with any potentially explosive contingencies, but also because there are beverages to be drunk, cigars to be smoked, and hangar-flying to be done and the volatility of the bird is an excellent excuse to stay at the airport continuously doing these things.

You’ll probably need to start another couple of rounds of charcoal and add briquettes to the rig as the earlier briquettes burn down. But resist the temptation to load the rig to the top. This year, I did a 16-pounder in 2.5 hours with the cylinders only half full and the KTVC METAR temperature hovered around freezing the whole time.

The nice thing is that the bags keep the bird moist even if you hit 170 early and have to keep it dangling longer.

Here’s the bird, just extracted from the rig. Eat right there at the hangar or take it home. It’s up to you!

With the outer bag removed and about to remove the inner bag. Just look at that golden brown! Not also the sag of the bird in the bag. It just completely loosens up and basted in its own juices. We didn’t brine this bird or do anything else other than put two sliced lemons in the cavity. Note that the amount of liquid preserved inside the bird makes this method a poor choice if you want to do the stuffing inside the bird, but modern technology makes separate stuffing a breeze. And it more than makes up for the non-conventional stuffing in the extra juice available for gravy.

Ready to carve. Actually, if you do this right, you can sometimes just reach in and pull the bones out and take the bird directly to the table. Carving becomes mostly unnecessary.

Always moist, always tasty, and a great way to do your bird at your hangar or any other outdoor venue. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Farva Returns - Air Force Blues

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These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen online right here by clicking:

With this episode of Airspeed, we welcome back one of our most popular guests, Austin “Farva” May, the author of the stupendously popular web comic, Air Force Blues.

Farva started drawing Air Force-related comics in 2003 with the series “AWACker,” named for the term given to anyone involved in the operations of the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft. Farva was an airborne surveillance technician on the E-3 for four years.

In early 2007, Farva launched Air Force Blues, a web comic that features F-15 driver 1Lt Kenneth “Barbie” Dahl and a cast of characters that runs the gamut of Air Force personalities, locations, and situations. Since then, the comic has spawned a substantial fan base, an expanded website, and one book.

We last talked to Farva in May of 2007, so let’s get an update on what’s happened over the last 18 months.

Additional information:

Air Force Blues website:

Buy the Air Force Blues book:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Airspeed Aircrew Visit Washington DC

This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes or links to show audio, please see the other entries.

Mary took the kids to DC this past weekend. She, Cole, and Ella are big Obama fans. I maintain neutrality for purposes of the show in order to keep it all about aviation. But it’s very cool to see Cole, especially, so excited about government and the leadership of the country. Whatever your persuasion, there’s a definite feeling of Camelot in the nation’s capital and there’s something to be said for giving kids an optimistic experience of this kind early in life.

Mary got this shot of Cole posing outside of our favorite aviation regulatory agency.

The spent some time over by the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in the course of the day. Cole recognized the Air Force seal on this monument and wanted a picture with it. No doubt where the boy’s loyalties lie, that’s for sure!

And we close with this picture. We could all go on and on with scripts of what’s going on in Cole’s head and whether he understands what he’s seeing. Do any of us who weren’t there understand it? Enough said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

You Might be a Pilot

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These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen online right here by clicking:

The following was compiled from Twitter responses to an Airspeed request for things that might indicate that one is a pilot. With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy.

You describe the weather in METAR code in casual conversation.

You cause a traffic slowdown passing the airport because you’re scanning for traffic and identifying departing and arriving aircraft.

You perform a flow check when starting your car.

Your personalized license plate is something only another pilot would get (LAHSO, SIMOPS, TU, etc.)

When your watch has more features than your first computer.

You read back your fast food order at the drive-through and end it with your license plate number.

You ever thought of a playground swing as a steam catapult.

You’ve ever missed an anniversary, the birth of a child, or a spouse’s birthday because the ceiling had finally come up to 1,500 AGL.

You preflight your car.

The first thing you do when getting on a United Airlines flight is tune to channel 9.

You scour iTunes weekly looking for new aviation-related podcasts.

You secretly get angry with aviation podcasters because they can't keep up with your need for MORE material.

You plan a romantic trip with your significant other to Dayton but forget to tell him or her about the six-hour detour at the USAF museum.

You’ve ever inadvertently slammed on the brakes in your car because you intended to command left rudder.

You bring taxiway diagrams, en route charts, and approach plates along as a passenger on a commercial flight so you can follow along.

A burly man with a government haircut and a bulge under his suit jacket has ever moved seats to sit closer to you upon noticing all of your taxiway diagrams, en route charts, and approach plates.

You have an airline safety demonstration loaded on your car mini-van DVD player or your aircraft MFD so you can play it for your friends.

On the highway on-ramp, you think of yourself as joining Victor whatever and resuming own navigation.

You gauge the all income and expense in terms of flight hours represented.

You've told everyone you know that the only gift you want for Christmas, birthday, Father's Day, etc. is flight time.

You’ve ever kicked the tires on a static display at Oshkosh.

You’ve started a podcast and poured untold hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into it on the theory that it might one day get you a ride with a military jet team.

You've ever walked out of the Kennedy Space Center gift shop with more than $500 in merchandise.

You're making $190,000 a year but drive a '98 Metro since most of it is going out the door in alimony.

You secretly enjoy telling your boss “roger” instead of “wilco.”

You'd look up at the sound of an engine overhead even if your guy was on one knee proposing.

If you've ever popped the clutch on you car causing the engine to “quit.”

You've ever watched a depiction of aviation in a mainstream movie and said, “Oh, puhlease!”

You've ever scared the hell out of a floor salesperson at a Garmin store by marching to the big G1000 display thingie in the back and appearing to know what you’re doing with it.

The GPS Velcro-ed to your car dash weighs more than five pounds and contains FBO data.

You do a GUMPS check while turning final. Into the driveway.

When your kids ask what kind of cloud that is, they get a science lesson.

If you refer to your car by the last three characters of the license plate (e.g. the Ford is “three niner golf”)

You have only two expressions for weather. VMC and IMC.

You’ve gotten a flight briefing using the speakerphone in your office hoping that your coworkers would overhear and be impressed.

You’ve ever used the phonetic alphabet while making a restaurant reservation.

You have more than three spare flashlights on your person.

You plan a road trip with a nav log, a plotter, and an E6B.

You’ve ever identified your highway exit and then contemplated which STAR will take you into town.

You've ever tried to slow your car by pulling on the steering wheel.

You've ever unconsciously started to drive down the road with the yellow line under the middle of your car.

You’ve ever fantasized about the flight crew on your commercial flight “having the fish” so you can charge into the cockpit, take the controls, and save the day.

You “go on the gauges” when you hit a rain squall while driving.

You go to accelerate in the car and reach for the center console.

You wish the compass in your car read 315 instead of NW.

You want an altitude readout in the car's GPS, speed trends, and distance to stop calculated in real time.

You call the local ASOS or AWOS for weather, flying or not.

You use “niner” in everyday speech.

You bring your headset to the showroom when shopping for a new car . . . and leave when there are no phone jacks in the panel . . .

You complain when the spoiler on the car can't move up and down.

When you go to start the car, you roll down the window and shout “CLEAR!”

You’ve ever been on a rough road and called the state police road-condition hotline to ask for higher.

You have an iTunes playlist called Current Flying Podcasts.

You have more than three iTunes playlists associated with flight.

You have an iTunes flight-related playlist entitled “If They Leave the Keys in the F/A-18 and I Can Find an AUX Audio Input.”

For Glider Pilots:

You wish that spiral staircases would just go on and on and on.

You switch off your car's engine once you are on top of the hill.

You turn tight when you hear a beep beep beep sound.

You love roundabouts but keep craning for all the cars around you.

Wherever you go, you make sure that you have third waypoint on the way back.

Thanks to the contributors, whose Twitter IDs or other identifying information follow.

adamjs83, falcon124, Captain_Ron, MDNomad, DaveFlys, meme, danwebbage, tendancer, PlaneMadness, MaxFlight, jenniferwhitley, mike_miley, StephenForce, jackhodgson, ajakobs, matthammer, nycmixer, Dave Higdon

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chicago Sortie and More Taildragger Training

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

I attended my law firm’s partner meeting in Chicago this past weekend. On Sunday, I connected with Rod Rakic and James (jetstew on myTransponder) to have breakfast and hang out. We his Orange on Harrison for breakfast and then took a cab to the Museum of Science and Industry. Really cool to go to that museum with a couple of pilots and walk around talking aviation and aerospace. Wyen I go to a museum these days, it’s usually with the kids and I’m pointing stuff out and playing tour guide to make sure that the kids get the important stuff.

And, yeah, I admit that I’m often tempted to bring along Post-It Notes and stick little corrections on some of the exhibits, but that’s how I roll.

But I was the junior pilot here in many respects. James is an ATP (ATR 42/72- SIC and EMB 135/140/145 SIC) and Rod has about twice the hours that I have. Really nice to just shut up and listen more than I usually do.

Monday, I snuck out at the end of the day and got 1.8 hours in the Citabria. Started out with wingovers, loops, and rolls. Clearly, my aerobatic tolerance has gone away since the summer. I was done after about 25 minutes and feeling about 60/40 that I might hurl. Not beating myself up. It’s just that I have another data point about what kind of duration my aerobatic tolerance has. I’d really like to go up twice a week for a month and see where the tolerance goes. I’m pretty sure that I could get back over an hour again and actually put together series of maneuvers and fly a routine. (How cool would that be!)

But that’ll have to wait until after the first of the year. The usual end-of-year push at the office is in full swing and I need to bust out some work.

We went to Lapeer (D95) and did six or seven takeoffs and landings. Stiff 14-knot crosswind, but I managed to really nail the last few landings. I think I might have had a breakthrough in tailwheel technique. I’ve been stirring the coffee way too much. If I just get the airplane reasonably aligned by the time I’m 200 yards from the threshold and hold the stick pretty still laterally and control the touchdown with pull, I seem to get it nailed down. Proper position of stick on rollout is tucked right there next to the windward gonad.

It’s really kind of like my experience finally getting the landing as a primary student. One day, I couldn’t seem to get it and the next I was greasing them in. Yes, there are some empirical things I can point to, like stick position and relative amount of coffee-stirring, but it’s mostly kinesthetic. You experience success a few times and get a sense of it. I wish it were more empirical, but it isn’t. At least not for me.

I need to do an entry on cold-weather flying. If you can get the ceilings and the visibility, it’s really wonderful. The airplane climbs well and aerobatics seem even more fun.

Sutton Aviation has a new Super Decathlon on the ramp. Which might not be such a big deal except that you can actually rent it! I don’t know of anywhere else in southeast Michigan where you can rent a Super-D. Yeah, you have to get checked out in it, but that’s true of any rental. Yeah, the Super-D is a lot of airplane and it might take some more effort to get the checkout, but it’s a Super-D, after all.

If you’re interested, contact Barry Sutton at Sutton Aviation:

Sutton Aviation, Inc.
Oakland County International Airport
6230 North Service Drive
Waterford, Michigan 48327