Saturday, May 31, 2008
This is an aggregated post with links to all of the show episodes that deal with the DC-3 type rating course that I attended 22-25 May 2008 with Dan Gryder in Griffin, Georgia in the Herpa DC-3.
I’ve put all of the material here so that I can offer a single URL from which you can jump to any of the various episodes. If you wish to provide this information to anyone who might me interested in the story, his or her own type rating, or any other purpose, simply invite them to visit this page’s URL:
Note that all of the links are to blog posts. Several posts are labeled as audio episodes, which means that there’s a link to the audio of the podcast episode just below the first picture in the post. Click on the link or launch the automatic player in order to hear the audio.
You can also subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or any other podcatcher and listen at your leisure. It’s all free!
Here are the episodes and posts . . .
Initial Interview with Dan (Audio Episode) - An interview with Dan for the show from January, before I had decided to take the type rating course. And, for that matter, before I had even decided to go for the multi-engine rating.
DC-3 Type Rating – Arrival (Audio Episode) – Self-explanatory.
DC-3 Type Rating – Day 1 (Audio Episode) – Self-explanatory.
DC-3 Type Rating – Day 2 (Blog Post)
DC-3 Type Rating Complete (Blog Post) – An announcement in blog form to let those who were following along know that I got ‘er done.
DC-3 Type Rating Complete (Audio Episode) – An audio episode that updates podcast listeners and tells them that I completed the rating. I quit posting audio episodes after the first two days because it was causing me to miss too much sleep and the primary point, after all, was to competently fly the airplane. Discretion is the better part of valor, after all.
Summary Episode – The whole enchilada, including original music.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-470-7944. There’s information about Herpa Miniature Models, the sponsor of this great airplane, at http://www.herpa.de/. You can also get in touch with Dan Gryder about your own type rating or anything else using the following information.
147 Sky Harbor Way
Griffin, Georgia 30223
This is a regular blog post. Please check out the other posts if you’re looking for show notes or audio.
I spent a little time at the public pit walk at Detroit City (Coleman Young) Airport (KDET) this morning. Really stinkin’ neat for any number of reasons. First is the other control tower that Red Bull brought in for the event. An apparently fully-functional control tower that’s customized for the race and fully portable. Unreal! Let’s get this thing to Fond du Lac during AirVenture Oshkosh this year!
This is really neat. There’s a full pit line with all of the aircraft and pilots in an L-shape. Between 9:30 and 11:00, the public can come in and freely walk the pit line, talk to the pilots, and get autographs. The lines are really reasonable and it would surely have been possible to obtain all of the pilots’ autographs within the space of an hour or less. I didn’t really feel compelled to talk to anyone other then Mike Goulian, but I did walk right up and got headshots of all of the pilots within 20 minutes.
I think that this is absolutely brilliant on the part of Red Bull. Make the pilots and the aircraft as available as possible and build bonds between present and future fans through access. Every single staff person (even security guarding the ingress/egress and tower) was cordial and friendly. The guy guarding the media center door went out of his way to look for my media pass and proactively invited me in.
Red Bull is really nailing it with this model. The fans really seemed to appreciate it. Especially the kids. No MLB or NBA, this. Red Bull is going out of its way to give as much access as possible. I didn’t see any access restriction at all that didn’t make sense in at least some way (e.g. airport security, integrity of the aircraft, etc.). How cool is this?
I kind of think of it as NASCAR without as much ass crack and beer. Am I wrong?
On another note, with the event being held in Detroit and all, I have high hopes that the audience will include lots of black and other minority folks. You’ve heard me complain that aviation in general is overwhelmingly male. It happens to be overwhelmingly white, too. I’m sure that (at least since the 1970s) been much more de facto than de jure, but any change is going to require that we get minorities (and especially minority kids!) up close and personal with 100LL, Jet-A, and JP-8.
I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see as many minorities at the pit walk as one might have hoped, what with City Airport being right in the heart of an overwhelmingly black population. Lots of folks down on the waterfront (which is great!), but I hope that we see more at the pit walks over the coming years which, to me, would be an indicator that there’s more interest. I say that because you kind of have to work at it to get to the airport and then park and then hoof it to the flight line. The demographics of those who show up at the airport (as opposed to the waterfront) are probably more indicative of who the faithful and the obsessed are, or at least more so than the general population.
Not going to make a big deal of it, but you guys know me and know that I’m all about encouraging as many humans as possible to get into general aviation. Black, white, green, purple, Nova Scotian, you name it. If you’ll stand still long enough, I’ll tell you about GA. It there's a population for which a special approach or more exposure would help, I'm all about it. And, by the way, I think that holding the race in Detroit in the first place is a great step.
(By the way, I tend to use the term "black" instead of "African American" becuase not everyone who's black is necessarily American and because Thurgood Marshall preferred the term "black" and that's more than good enough for me. I hope no offense is given because none is intended. Prefer otherwise? No problem. But you have to let me talk GA to you.)
We got to touch base again with Mike Goulian of the USA, who flies the No. 99 Edge 540. He’s also an airshow performer and appeared on Airspeed in November of 2007, featured in a July interview from the Battle Creek airshow. He finished fifth in the 2006 series and eighth last year. He hasn’t had a podium finish this year, but posted a second place in one contest during the 2007 series. He was upbeat and the only concern he seemed to have was the wind out on the course, which was exceeding 34 knots as I post this.
Kirby Chambliss of the USA, pilot of the No. 4 Edge 540 for the Red Bull team, takes time with a young fan. Kirby signed the little guy’s shirt which, from the looks of it, had already made the rounds of several of the other pilots. Chambliss finished first in the 2006 series and brought home third and fourth in 2005 and 2007 respectively. He has placed third in one contest so far this year.
Yeah, another tower shot. Not sure what this guy is doing, but who cares? A completely mobile control tower is just so cool!
Just heard that the winds caused the organizers to cancel the qualifying flights this afternoon. They’re planning to fly tomorrow and the weather looks good with mostly sunny skies forecast and winds of around 10 from around 300. I’ll be there the whole day with Rod and we’ll try to do a little hangar flying and post an audio episode from the media center.
This is a regular blog post. If you’re looking for show notes or audio, please check out the other posts.
We’re at the Red Bull Air Races on the Detroit River! Windy as hell with a constant breeze of about 25 knots coming more or less directly out of the south. I understand that this is pretty much directly opposite where they were for the practice runs yesterday, so all of the racers are paying a lot of attention to how that’s going to change matters.
We have a lot of riverfront upon which to do this, so this is the longest course (3.8 miles from end to end) in the four years of the Red Bull series. And the wind today is just about directly aligned with the long axis of the course, so that’ll have a big effect, depending on the relevant maneuvers.
Rod Rakic is here for the weekend and is helping out with coverage. Rod grew up in the Detroit area and did his primary pilot training at Detroit City (Coleman A. Young) Airport (KDET). He also spent a summer as an office manager at a flight school there. He’s visiting from Chicago and is going to be a key part of the Airspeed team for this event. We’re going to try to hangar-fly a little tomorrow and get an episode up from the media center on site.
The setup on the race course is pretty cool. Red Bull has brought along two of its own control towers (yeah, they brought their own control towers!). Here’s the one that’s down on the waterfront with the landmark Renaissance Center.
The High Flyers’ Club is just on the other side of the tower. As with any event like this, I like to go around seeing where my media pass will get me in. I can say with some certainty that, although it has gotten me many places, it has not gotten me into (or even near) the High Flyers’ Club. But I can hardly whine. Red Bull has provided free valet parking, lots of other access, a spectacular media center on the waterfront (and another really nice one at the airport) and, naturally, all the Red Bull I can drink. I am so wired right now I can barely stand it. And I’ve only just begun.
A couple of cans of Red Bull with the other cylindrical icons of the event in the background. A first class event in all respects so far. More posts soon!
Friday, May 30, 2008
Hey, I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to get back with you guys. I think I left you hanging after Day 1 of training.
It turns out that flying all day, having dinner with your instructor and classmates, whipping out the mandolin and sitting in with the ad hoc DC-3 band until the bar closes doesn't leave you with enough energy to record a decent podcast episode.
I posted a couple of items on the website at www.airspeedonline.com to keep folks updated, but not everyone goes to the website. So I thought I'd record a quick update to let you know how it went.
After 2.8 hours in the left seat over four flights, 14 takeoffs, 13 landings, two full startups and taxis, and one full-stop landing and taxi in this massive, taildragging icon, I can proudly say that I hold a second-in-command type rating in the Douglas DC-3.
It's a gorgeous airplane and I still fly her in my sleep. I'll get into this a little later in what I hope will be a cogent and mildly inspiring full-summary episode in a couple of weeks, but imagine a magical three-day period. You meet three other classmates and find that, as you expected, they're pilots through-and-through and "get it" on every level. Add Dan Gryder, an instructor who's an airline pilot probably on his way to or from Dubai as I record this, but whose clear passion is the DC-3 and - more importantly - sharing that passion with others. For fun, have author, pilot, and sometime Uncontrolled Airspace hangar denizen James Wynbrandt show up and cover the class and even get a couple of trips around the patch at the controls. And have Julie Boatman, formerly of AOPA and now of Cessna, show up. Fly a 1938 DC-3 around the countryside and notice that cars are pulling off the road at the approach end of the runway to watch you land. Finish the day at the bar where Dan, James, Julie and I walk in with assorted musical instruments and other implements of destruction and play whatever comes to mind until our fingers are sore.
I spent last weekend in a pilot's dream. If there's a more perfect set of friends, circumstances, and aircraft, I have yet to think of it, much less experience it.
So I'll leave you with this, my last landing in the DC-3. And the obligatory V1 cut on takeoff.
Thanks to Dan, Tom, Roland, Gerrit, James, and Julie for being part of such a great three days. You can see more commentary and pictures at the website at www.airspeedonline.com. I'm heading for the Red Bull Air Races tomorrow in Detroit with Rod Rakic and we'll probably be posting some content fairly soon, so, if you go to the website, make sure that you scroll down so you can see the DC-3 features. I'll also make a summary blog entry with links to all of the DC-3 show audio so that you'll have one-stop shopping for all of the DC-3 material.
More information about how to get your own type rating in the DC-3 is available as follows.
147 Sky Harbor Way
Griffin, Georgia 30223
And, if you have other questions, you can reach me at email@example.com.
We'll go out on my last landing and takeoff in the 'three and look for the summary episode in a few weeks right here on Airspeed!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
This is a regular blog post. For audio and show notes, please check out the other entries.
Sorry to leave you hanging on the podcast feed. For reasons explained below, I was just too tired to do a competent post and I needed to get some rest in order to complete the training on Sunday.
In any case, I finished the training and I’m type-rated (second in command) in the Douglas DC-3. Roland and Gerrit also completed their ratings and Tom was on track for his recurrent checkride for Tuesday.
And James got a low pass and a landing in the aircraft, so I’m sure that he’s going to have great material for his story.
(Pictured above: Dan, me, Tom, Gerrit, Ronald, and James.)
I’ll try to put out another episode covering the third day of training here soon and then another, more complete episode covering all of the training from beginning to end.
In the meantime, here’s where you can find more information about how you, too, can obtain your own type rating in the Douglas DC-3 (or just go fly the legend).
147 Sky Harbor Way
Griffin, Georgia 30223
For more information about Herpa Miniature Models, see http://www.herpa.de/ .
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Still in Griffin training on the Herpa DC-3. I initially set out to post a new episode daily, but discretion is the better part of valor in this case.
We closed the restaurant around midnight after having a few steaks and taking over the side room, where Dan, Julie Boatman Filucci, and James Wyndbrandt played guitar and banjo for the assembled group. I sat in on mandolin on a few tunes and took over on guitar for a few tunes. And sang. (Hope they let me back in the airplane!)
I don’t think I have it in my to go another day at full throttle for training if I don’t hit the sack now, so I’m just going to do a blog post and call it a night.
I was first in the left seat this morning. Got a normal touch and go, two high-speed passes, and two V1 cuts. Completely blew the V1 cuts and need to go over those tomorrow morning in order to improve. I think I’m in for one more stint at the controls, so I need to make it good.
Roland followed me in the left seat and I ran around the back of the aircraft shooting pictures and enjoying myself. There are only three headset jacks in back and they were all taken, so I just decided to have some fun before rotating back into the queue.
A few landings later, Tom (standing in the back of the aisle) got my attention and said that we had some hydraulic issues and that we were returning to Griffin. We had gone over the hydraulic systems in depth in the morning in ground training, so I wasn’t at all worried. The gear was down and our only worry was apparently brakes. But we belted in anyway for the landing.
Dan pumped up the system on final and we landed her at Griffin to check out the hydraulics. That took a couple of hours and a visit from the A&P, but we got the aircraft squared aware by dusk and Roland and Dan took her up to test fly it.
Dan had said that Plane and Pilot was going to be covering the training, but it turns out that the person doing the story is none other than James Wynbrant, a sometime denizen of the Uncontrolled Airspace podcast. Just after we shut down the aircraft and set about working on the hydraulics, I got James to head up to the cockpit for a picture of him in the left seat.
Here’s a shot of Roland in the right seat taxiing in after the test flight.
More in a couple of days, folks!
For more information about getting your SIC or PIC type rating in the Herpa DC-3, check out:
147 Sky Harbor Way
Griffin, Ga 30223
For more information about Herpa Miniature Models, see http://www.herpa.de/.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or listen online right here by clicking: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedDC3SIC2.mp3. It's all free!
First day of training today. Started out at 8:30 when everyone arrived. We headed out to the aircraft and split into two teams of two. Two did the interior preflight and two did the exterior preflight and then the teams switched.
Took a reasonably long time, but there’s a lot of stuff in a DC-3 that’s not in or on a C-172.
Dan walked us through both the interior and exterior inspections. Here are a few audio outtakes from each of those inspections.
We got up sometime around 11:30. We took off from Griffin and headed over to Thomaston-Upson County Airport (KOPN) for pattern work. Gerrit took the first tour in the left seat and did a really good job flying the aircraft. Had most of his callouts memorized and in sequence, but goofed a few. We all did. As much studying as we did before this course, you really have to just get in the airplane and fly it before the memorized events take on substance and start to have practical meaning.
I was second up. Okay. I get to fly the beastie! The ‘three basically flies like a big Apache. The only real difference in the feel is the greater mass and the fact that you turn using a lot more rudder than aileron. In fact, you start the turn with the rudder and follow with as much aileron as is helpful. And you need to figure out by feel how much that is. And it’s nowhere near as much as you might think it would be.
I started out by doing a few turns and by climbing and descending a little. Three or four trips around the pattern on the first flight. It’s actually weird how similar the airspeeds are to a C-172 or other lighter aircraft. You rotate at V2, which is 84 KIAS and make your way to a climb speed of 120 KIAS. But, buy the time you get downwind midfield, you’re basically doing 90 KIAS and then you come over the fence at a little over 75 KIAS.
Touchdown is pretty basic. You retard the throttles as you come over the fence and target maybe 80 KIAS and hold her off a little. The only weird thing is that you can’t descend all the way to a familiar landing sight picture because, at about 10 feet above where you think you should be touching down in a C-172, there’s an obstruction. It’s the main gear of the DC-3 squeaking down. So far, almost every landing has been a surprise that way.
But it’s amazingly well-behaved. I don’t think I’ve ever landed any airplane for the first time as well as I’ve landed the ‘three. Dan is following on the controls a lot and I can’t yet judge how much. But I’ll take some credit for the landings.
Here’s audio from one of my first landings. My callouts are really ragged here, but Dan rolls with it.
Roland was next. I think his second landing was one of the best of the day. After that, we taxied to the ramp and went for some lunch. After lunch, it was preflight inside and out again, then up.
Tom, the ATP, took the first turn at the controls. He’s really smooth and it’s clear that he’s flown for the airlines. He has as much of an issue internalizing the litany of the pattern as anyone else (and that gives me a little reason for relief), but his underlying technique is very smooth and Dan’s instructional comments to Tom are a lot more direct and assume Tom’s greater familiarity with Cockpit Resource Management (or CRM). It’s clear that there are two airline guys in the front at this point and it’s cool to hear.
Of the four of us, Tom is the only one who has a checkride coming up. The second-in-command course that Roland, Gerrit, and I are taking is a straight-up train-to-standards program with no checkride necessary. Tom, on the other hand, is prepping for a checkride on Tuesday. Dan gets Tom up front in the foremost jumpseat as often as possible and snatches moments when he can to point out things as one of the other guys flies.
I was third to fly on the afternoon flight and got another three landings, one of which was a circle-to-land. The first time around, I ran to the back to start the recorder before taking the left seat and, by the time I got situated, we were a little off-kilter in terms of the pattern. By the time I had her turned around onto something approaching final, we were pretty high and, although we could have gotten her down, Dan decided to have a little fun. We did a high-speed pass.
Yeah, a DC-3 at 160 KIAS barreling down the runway 50 feet off the deck and then a big pull and turn that ends beautifully on downwind for the next trip around.
Here’s audio from one of the trips around the pattern in the afternoon. Note that my callouts are a lot crisper and that I’m getting more of them. Plus, Dan’s holding me to a tougher standard, which is good and what I expect.
This is also going to be my circle-to-land approach.
Three last observations before I hit the sack.
First, I’m a fan of describing yourself at an uncontrolled airport by your appearance unless there’s another similar-appearing aircraft in the pattern, in which case you revert to your tail number. I flew with a guy recently who objected pretty strenuously to my doing that on the theory that another similar aircraft could appear in the pattern at any time. I’m not busting his chops here, but I think that, unless you’re at Oshkosh in July, the chances are pretty thin that another DC-3 will be sharing the pattern with you. I delighted in making the calls that “The DC-3 is turning left base.”
Second, this is a great way to train. When you’re not flying, you’re able to watch the other guy flying. You do the callouts in your head and learn from the other guy’s miscues – or get driven to perfect your own callouts when the other guy nails his. I noted in a couple of cases that we were taking cues from each other, integrating stuff that wasn’t expressly on the syllabus into our own routines because they made sense and enhanced the experience. That’s true teamwork.
Lastly, one could fly the ‘three solo, but it’s truly a two-person job. To learn to fly the ‘three is to learn to actively fly with someone else as a synchronized team. You’ll hear the callouts and the responses in the audio here and they’re all pretty necessary in order to safely and efficiently operate the aircraft. This is my first real experience with CRM and with operating the aircraft in the way an airline pilot would expect to. In some respects, the CRM is even tougher to get right than flying an airliner. But I like it a lot.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or listen online right here by clicking: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedDC3SIC1.mp3. It's all free!
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!
Saturday, May 17, 2008
This is a regular blog post. Show notes and links to audio are in the other entries. Enjoy!
Every once in awhile a pilot needs . . . Barbecue!
Cole and I went to Addison, Michigan this afternoon to get some barbecue at Fat Jimmy's, the new restaurant operated by my best friend, JimKreucher, and his brother, Alex.
The restaurant is right at the main corner in Addison on US 127 about 18 miles south of I-94. An easy drive from Jackson or anywhere else in the neighborhood of Michigan International Speedway. Jim does hand cut straks, seafood, and great barbecue.
The firebox. A real Michigan hardwood fire off to the side that provides a well-regulated 200-300 degree heat and smoke to the main chamber. The roaster accommodates a whole pig , several pork butts, chicken, and sauce (yeak, Jim even smokes his sauce), We did the Hillsdale High class of 1985 reunion a couple of years ago when he had first buoilt the smoker. Unreal amounts and quality of barbecue.
If you're anywhere near Addison, Michigan, make sure that you get to Fat Jimmy's.
For the navigation device, it's 110 North Steer Street in Addison, Michigan. For the telecommunications device, it's 517-547-5603. For your nose or stomach, it's obvious.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or listen online right here by clicking: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedCheckridePart2.mp3. It's all free!
Welcome to the second part of the instrument checkride. This is the second of two parts covering my checkride for the instrument rating. If you haven’t checked out Part 1, make sure that you download it and listen to it. It contains background information that’s helpful to understanding some of the material in this episode and will bring you up to speed on the checkride so far.
Also, if you’re following along at home, you can download the approach charts here.
Flint RNAV Runway 18: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/KFNT-RNAV-18.pdf
Flint VOR Runway 9: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/KFNT-VOR-9.pdf
Pontiac ILS 9R: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/KPTK-ILS-9R.pdf
To set the stage, we’re about an hour into the checkride and we’ve just completed the RNAV approach to Runway 18 at Flint, Michigan and gotten vectors for the VOR Runway 9 approach.
As we’re getting closer to the approach course, a hand reaches in from the right and places a cover over the attitude indicator. For those not familiar with the cockpit of most general aviation aircraft, that’s the instrument with the artificial horizon that helps you tell whether you’re pitched up or down or rolling left or right. It’s a central part of the instrument scan in most phases of instrument flight.
Mary asks me if I know what that means. It could mean that the individual instrument has failed. It could also mean that the vacuum system has failed, which would take out both the attitude indicator and the directional gyro. The directional gyro is in the middle of the bottom for of the “six pack” of primary flight instruments and it tells you which magnetic course you’re on. It’s your primary instrument for bank when you’re in most phases of flight because a change in heading usually means that you’re rolling.
I clarify with Mary that I’m not supposed to assume that I have a vacuum failure for the moment. If I was supposed to assume that, I brought along my own covers so that I could cover up the DG as well.
You cover an instrument in training to simulate its failure. But, if you have an actual failure, both the regulations and common sense require that you cover the instrument. If you don’t cover it, you’ll very likely continue to keep it in your scan and you’ll even rely on its indications at some lizard-brain level even though you know that it’s failed.
So now I’m relying on the altimeter for pitch. Soon, when Mary takes away the DG, I’ll be relying on the turn and bank indicator and the magnetic compass for roll and the altimeter, airspeed indicator, and vertical speed indicator (or “VSI”), in varying degrees, for pitch.
This is an opportunity for me to demonstrate that I can control the airplane using less than all of the instruments, but is also a reminder of the redundancy of the instrumentation in the airplane and the capabilities that we still have even if systems start to fail us.
By the way, when I say that I’m looking for the traffic that approach just called, it means that Mary is looking for it. As a part of our preflight briefing, we agreed that she’d do everything that required eyeballs outside the aircraft, but that I would run the radios just as though I was looking outside. She advised me whenever she had something in sight and I handled the communications to approach or the tower.
Also, I normally fly instrument approaches with the GPS overlay, which means that, even if it’s not an approach that requires GPS as such, I load in the approach and use the moving map and other elements of the GPS display to maintain situational awareness. It’s really helpful. For this approach, which is clearly going to be a partial-panel VOR approach, Mary takes me the rest of the way old school by having me dial down the brightness of the GPS screen so that I can’t see it.
Then we get clearance for the VOR 9 approach.
Then it’s over to the tower.
You heard the tower controller tell me that I was south of course, which is fine (I was, in fact, south of course), but then she asks my intentions.
I never know what to say that wouldn’t be sarcastic or taken the wrong way. You can hear me get tongue-tangled before Mary just tells me to say that I’m correcting. I actually wasn’t that far off. The needle was still well short of full deflection and I was correcting back to the center of the course. I was still eight miles out. The controller even said that I was only slightly south.
She may not know that I’m missing two of my most helpful instruments, have the FAA in the right seat, am gripping the seat cushion tightly with my butt cheeks, and am busier than a one-armed paper hanger. But I’m clearly trying to fly a bloody instrument approach.
Do I respond, “I’m flying the VOR 9 at Flint?” That would come off as sarcastic, right?
How about “I must have had problems in my early childhood that are now causing me to pollute your airspace. I am not worthy” Still not good.
Look, don’t piss off a controller on your checkride. But what to you say even if you’re trying to be respectful?
And how would that little dig from ATC go over in other circumstances? “Say, Mr. Woods, you seem to have failed to get it within 10 feet of the pin from the fairway bunker 250 yards out with your three-wood . . . Say your intentions.”
Hose off, eh?
Okay. Rant over. I’m pretty sure that the controller wasn’t being deliberately mean. Just bad timing.
But still, I get this.
What? I looked at my approach plate, I had thoroughly briefed the approach, I still had 100 feet to go. The transponder had the correct altimeter setting dialed in. I don’t know what the problem was. But Mary could clearly see that I had nailed everything and said nothing.
Okay. Time to just fly the airplane. Things don’t go as you expect them to all the time. You have to deal with unexpected distractions. This is especially true on an instrument checkride. I’m sure that the controller was doing her best and had her screen and other information to go by. Again, just bad timing.
And I’m pleased to report that I absolutely nailed this approach. A little after the tower gave me grief about being off course, I had the needle centered, power set, crab angle established, and all of the gages were like they were painted on.
I am not used to this happening, especially when partial panel. I actually tuned and re-identified the VOR on that approach because the VOR needle was centered and not moving and I entertained the thought for a moment that the VOR receiver or instrument was broken. That’s never happened to me before. Got to like it.
Okay. Here’s the final approach. I’m at the minimum descent altitude of 1,300. I maintain this until the missed approach point, which is going to be directly over the VOR on the airport. I can tell when I’ve passed the VOR when the indicator flips and tells me that I’m now going FROM the VOR instead of TO it. That’s what I mean when I say that I’m watching for the flip.
I also re-brief my missed approach procedure here because we’re going to be flying that missed approach out to an intersection called KATTY. KATTY is off the east of the airport at the intersection of the 097 radial of the Flint VOR and the 006 radial of the Pontiac VOR. I John King all of this to Mary so that she knows that I know what I’m supposed to do.
I also go through my pre-landing checklist.
So I complete the approach and tell departure that I’m going missed. Departure clears me to KATTY and tells me to hold as requested. Mary tells me that that was a good approach and I admit to why I re-identified Flint. She also gives me back my attitude indicator and DG, as well as the GPS. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
As we approach KATTY, I describe the hold and go through my cruise checklist.
A holding pattern is essentially a racetrack in the sky. You do all turns at standard rate (which means a minute for each of the turns, and you fly your outbound leg such that you get as close to one-minute inbound lets as possible. It’s trial and error for a few turns around and you usually get it nailed by the second or third time around. Unless there’s a massive crosswind. More on that later.
Then another snag. The scattered layer is such that we can’t stay far enough from the clouds at 3,500, so we ask for 3,000. No dice. I though that maybe we could hold somewhere else around Flint and asked for suggestions. I’ve held at various places around Flint and didn’t anticipate having any problems. I was pretty disappointed about not being able to go to KATTY, though. The outbound and unpound courses would have been more or less directly into or out of the wind, making the hold a lot easier. Remember, the winds aloft are howling along at around 50 knots.
But Mary decides to go to Pontiac. Not a problem because I’ve held west of the Pontiac VOR on several occasions and that would still give me a more or less directly into and out of the wind course for the outbound and inbound legs. Again, more on that later.
Okay, remember when I alluded that Korea had something to do with the checkride?
The ICAO identifier for the Oakland County International Airport (called “Pontiac”) is “KPTK.” But the VOR is “PSI.” Unlike Flint, where the airport is “KFNT” and the VOR is “FNT,” Pontiac’s VOR is different.
All of this would be less of a problem if it weren’t for the fact that there is, in fact, a VOR with the identifier “PTK.” But it is not near Pontiac. It is not in Michigan. It is not on the North American continent. “PTK” is a VOR-DME associated with a US military airbase near Pyeongtaek in the Republic of Korea.
Mary hints that I might have an issue. I know that the VOR is off the field and that, unlike Flint, there’s a material difference between flying to the airport and flying to the VOR. But I have it stuck in my head that I need to dial in “PTK.” “PSI” does not enter my mind until approach calls me up and ass if I’m taking the scenic route.
I reply that I’m going to the VOR, but by now I’m way off course for even the VOR. You can hear the departure controller key her mic and then let go of it trying to figure out what to say.
We finally get it cleared up and I admit that I’ve goofed up with the GPS.
Here’s the thing. I had the Pontiac VOR dialed in and was good to go before I started playing with the GPS. I wanted to get an overlay with the GPS so I’d be ready to have it help me with the hold. But I ignored the VOR needle that would have told me that I was deviating further and further from course as I gave my attention to the GPS.
I still recommend using redundant instruments to help navigate whenever you can. But always do two things. Make sure that you actually identify each navaid before you decide to fly to it and then cross-ckeck those instruments to avoid making the mistake that I made.
Alternatively, carry a lot of gas. You’ll need it to get to Korea.
Mary gives me my holding clearance.
North. She said north.
Hey, it makes a lot of sense. The VOR is west northwest of the field and they’re using 9R and 9L for landing traffic. Holding north keeps us further out of the approach path – even further than if we were to hold west with left turns (which would keep us on the north side of the inbound course).
But that means that I have to hold with 40 or 50 knots of direct crosswind. Get out your crab angles, ladies and gentlemen, because Mary’s going to be looking at the VOR out of her side window on the inbound course.
There’s nothing wrong with what Mary wanted to set up. And it’s safer from a traffic avoidance perspective. It’s just that I had put a lot of emphasis on nailing the inbound times during my training and fared that I was going to be all over the closk by the time I had my turns set up.
So we get the ATIS and call up Pontiac tower to let them know that we’re going to hold on the VOR.
So we get to the VOR, turn right, and fly outbound for a minute and then turn right again most of the way back to the inbound course. I’m trying to get to the course line, but we have a savage crosswind that’s keeping us from getting to the course line. I finally get to the VOR ar just about the same time as I finally intercept the inbound course. I just flew a course that would look a lot like one leaf of a clover. I didn’t even get to start my time on the inbound course.
Not horrible for the first trip around in a howling crosswind. At least I made it back to the VOR.
A little humming appropriate to the circumstances on the way back around for another trip. I tried to hit the timer when I got to the approach course, but the button didn’t engage. It wasn’t that far off, though. The amazing thing was that I had to take a 60-degree cut at the onbound course in order to maintain the proper ground track. That means that I was making a 180 course over the ground, but the nose of the aircraft was pointing at 120. The long and short of it was that, even though the button didn’t engage, I made it to the course line and tracked it in accurately in an amount of time reasonably close to where I was supposed to be. And Mary cut me some slack for the button, probably in light of the stupendous crosswind.
We call up Detroit Approach and ask for a clearance to shoot the ILS for 9R at Pontiac.
This will be the precision approach. The other two provided no vertical guidance. I had to monitor the altitude on the approach course myself. I still have to do that for the missed approach point on this ILS, but vertical guidance up to that point is provided courtesy of the glideslope broadcast and a horizontal needle on the panel that tells me whether I’m above or below the glideslope.
Detroit Approach gives me a vector for the ILS.
As I go through the approach briefing, we talk a little bit about the ground speed. It’s still pretty blustery at altitude, but it’ll likely slow down as we descend.
I do the last of the descent checklist and then talk through what I’m going to do about the pre-landing checklist.
Then I’m cleared for the ILS.
The approach tells me to contact the tower.
We’re flying the last part of the ILS. I’m inbound on the localizer and I identify WAKEL, which is the initial approach fix for this approach, by seeing that we’ve crossed the 199 radial of the Pontiac VOR and seeing that the outer marker light has come on. I start the timer so that, if I lose the glideslope, I can still fly the approach as a localizer approach and determine my missed approach point using the time.
The altitude ticks down and I announce out loud the remaining altitude down to the missed approach point. On the ILS for 9R at Pontiac, you follow the glideslope down to 1,180 feet, or about 200 feet above the runway surface. If you have a half mile of visibility and you can see the runway environment at that point, you can land. Mary tells me to tell her when I’m 100 feet above the minimum altitude. I get to about 1,300 feet and announce that I have a hundred feet to go. She takes the airplane to let me flip up my view-limiting device and tells me to land.
For the first time in about an hour and a half, I lift the view-limiting device and can see out the window. The runway is just as the instruments advertised – about a half mile in front of me and about 300 feet below. I follow the VASI light indications on the left side of the runway and maintain the glideslope all the way to the runway and put it down competently. Not the most graceful landing ever, but competent and safe. We’re a little fast because of the winds and the gust factor and I left the flaps at only 10 degrees, which seemed appropriate given the winds.
Then we clean up the airplane and taxi back to Tradewinds. As appears to be Mary’s custom, we sit in the airplane in the middle of the ramp for a couple of minutes after shutdown and she debriefs me on how the flight went.
Then she tells me that I passed. I’m not surprised by this. I trained hard for this ride and, other than a few moments en route to Korea, it was pretty solid. I never really got more than a few dots from the approach course on any of the approaches, kept the altitudes pretty solid, managed the hold reasonably well given the crosswind, and shot the best partial-panel non-precision instrument approach of my life.
A solid checkride of which I think I’m justifiably proud.
Having had a chance to think over the experience, I have the following reflections on the experience.
I used simulators a lot in my preparation for this rating. I knew it was a good idea from the beginning, but also got a lot of assistance from Tom Gilmore’s book, published by ASA, called Teaching Confidence in the Clouds. There’s lots of good information in the book about how to best use simulators for IFR training and you can also hear Tom talking with Jason Miller The Finer Points – Episode 91.
I took about three years to finally finish this rating. I started within a few weeks after getting my private ticket, but took breaks for the birth of my daughter and at the end of each calendar year when my law practice consumed all of my time, as it usually does. I took about 60 hours of dual training by the time it was all over, the excess over the Part 141 required 35 hours being largely knocking the rust off upon returning to instrument flight after long absences and getting to the point where I was actually improving and taking a few more flights in actual preparation for the checkride than I really needed to. I don’t have any problem with having taken that long. It allowed me to meet the other commitments in my life and, after all, it’s time flying an aircraft! How bad could that be?
If you really want to progress, you need to fly about twice a week and you need to reserve enough time to get at least 2.5 hours Hobbs for each lesson, especially if you have to go somewhere other than your primary airport in order to shoot instrument approaches. I shot most of mine at Flint, about 20 minutes from Pontiac if the winds permit. Early flights should be shorter because there’s a steep learning curve but, by the time you’re regularly shooting approaches and polishing your skills, you need enough time to shoot at least four to six approaches on each flight and the usual two-hour block that results in 1.3 hours of Hobbs time won’t cut it.
Many people find the instrument rating “the toughest ticket” and it is in a lot of ways. But I actually found it easier than the private ticket. It required a lot more cerebral stuff and book learning, but I’m a better book learner than a kinesthetic learner. If you’re like me, you’ll find the instrument rating a really wonderful intellectual exercise. I’m not saying that it’s not hard work, but it’s the kind of work I really enjoy.
If, like me, you do most of your training in Class C airspace with full ATC service and vectors galore. Make sure that you go fly in less congested airspace where you’re talking to a center controller who doesn’t baby you and wants to clear you onto the CTAF of your destination uncontrolled airport as soon as possible. Out there, you’re much more responsible for your own destiny and have to be a little more on your toes.
Also, get used to flying instrument approaches into uncontrolled airports and the techniques and communications that that involves. Bear in mind that you have VFR traffic at those airports that has no idea what you’re talking about if all you speak is IFR. “Cadillac traffic, Cessna Zero-Tango-Alpha is inbound on the localizer for Runway 7 at Cadillac” doesn’t tell the VFR traffic much. Say something like “Cessna Zero-Tango-Alpha is five miles out on the localizer for Runway 7 and will be making a long straight-in approach over the lake. Cadillac.” Describe what you’re doing in a way that VFR traffic will understand. And watch for that J3 Cub with no radio. Remember that, in some cases, he could be out there in the pattern with no radio even if it’s one-mile visibility and be completely legal.
Lastly, I’ve had some of the most inspiring experience of my flight career during instrument training. Three things here. Breaking out of the clouds or coming out from under the hood at 400 feet and a half mile after not looking out the window for more than an hour and finding yourself lined up on a runway more than a hundred miles from where you launched never ceases to amaze me. Flying broadside into a big, white, puffy cumulus cloud the size of an aircraft carrier in the sky is absolutely unmatched for inspiration. And that rare and precious flight where ATC gives you an altitude where you can literally drag your wheels in the clouds for miles and miles at a time. Those experiences just don’t happen if you don’t take the leap and go after your instrument ticket.
I remember coming up through an overcast layer for the first time with Eamon Burgess and Eamon saying “This is why we learn to fly on instruments.” He was right.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
This is a regular blog post. Please check out the other posts if you’re looking for show notes or episode audio.
Got some tailwheel time this afternoon at Sutton Aviation with Barry Sutton in a Citabria. I had been reading the materials that Dan Gryder provides and saw something to the effect that “if you can taxi the DC-3, you can probably fly it.” So I reconsidered the wisdom of flying the DC-3 while having had no previous tailwheel time. Taxiing or otherwise.
We flew a really nice Citabria, namely N157AC. Two high-speed taxi runs down 27L at Pontiac with Barry handling the stick and throttle and me on the rudder. Then eight takeoffs and landings for a total of 1.4 hours. All were wheel landings, with the idea being that you always do a wheel landing in the ‘three and it would be good to get an idea of what wheel landings are like and have an understanding of the forces involved. Obviously, the ‘three is going to be a lot heavier and more steady, but it’s still a tailwheel aircraft.
That’s Barry Sutton in the back. Thousands of hours in tailwheels and other aircraft. And a great manner as an instructor. I think he out-John-Kings John King. And, when you’re in a tandem configuration with the instructor behind you, it’s like you have this disembodied announcer voice coming from the sky that occasionally moves the controls, too.
Actually, it might be fun to just have the instructor be the voice of the airplane. “Hey, that hurt! Could you maybe point me down the runway now?”
I’ll post audio from this ride as soon as I can. Probably after the daily updates from the ‘three training May 23-25. But it’ll be fun. The tower was really chatty and it was a fun day to be in the pattern.
More information on Sutton Information:
Sutton Aviation, Inc.
Oakland County International Airport
6230 North Service Drive, Waterford, MI, 48327
Just got back from the Cessna event at Willow Run. No time to write much at the moment (going out for some tailwheel this afternoon), but lots of good pictures and other stuff to come.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or listen online right here by clicking: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedCannizzaro.mp3. It's all free!
A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Scott Cannizzaro. He’s a pilot, an Airspeed listener, and an audio professional at The Soundtrack Group in New York. Scott offered to take some of the Airspeed music and work it up, which is to say take it into the studio, remix it, pinch a little here, poke a little there, and see what he could do with it.
So I went back to my ADAT session tape, extracted the individual tracks (four drum tracks and one each of guitar, mandolin, and bass) in .wav form, dropped them into a .zip file, and sent them off to Scott.
A few weeks later, when I opened the files that he sent, I broke the space bar on my laptop because my chin hit it so hard. Scott took some well-intentioned recordings with passable (but not brilliant) performances, and turned them into something you might find as a theme for a prime time TV show.
I usually don’t like to talk about administrative or housekeeping stuff on the show. After all, people tune in to hear about airplanes and aviation. But I was so impressed that I thought the audience might enjoy it if I had Scott on and devoted an episode to the process.
So here’s the conversation with Scott. I’ve included all of the basic tracks and even put the new intro, its entirety, at the end of the episode. You can hear us discuss what Scott did with each of the elements (including tossing out the drums) and understand how it evolved in Scott’s capable hands.
Scott’s contact of information appears below. Thanks, Scott!
The Soundtrack Group
New York, NY 10010
212 420 6010
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or listen online right here by clicking: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedListenOtter.mp3. It's all free!
The wonderful thing about having a podcast is that you’re often producer, host, editor, engineer, and janitor. It also means that you can put any darned thing you want in the feed.
I normally record flights by plugging the MP3 recorder into a headset jack. There are only two in the Otter that I flew with Dave Schwartz of Skydive Chicago at Midwest Freefall at Kunstman Field in Ray, Michigan on Sunday, so I normally use a “Y” adapter to split the signal with one lead going to my headset and the other going to the MP3 recorder. I didn’t have the right adapter for the flight on Sunday, so I though that, rather than getting no audio at all, I’d plug in the microphone, set the sensitivity as low as it would go, and just get the ambient sounds of the cockpit.
What I got was about 24 minutes of noise, but it’s my favorite kind of noise. On the chance that it’s the kind of noise that you like, too, I thought that I’d just post the audio here in the feed. If you like it, that’s great. If not, just tune in to the next episode or download some back episodes to tide you over.
I’m flying from about 1,000 AGL to downwind abeam with the exception of the very end of the jump run and the start of the descent, when I was taking pictures that you can see on the website.
I’ve posted a rough time-indexed description of what’s going on the website at http://www.airspeedonline.com/ and it’ll be a part of the notes in the RSS feed so you can probably pick it up right there on the screen of your MP3 player, too.
The sound levels were just below maximum for the takeoff, climb, and jump run, so the audio is pretty good. Things get a little noisy and max out the recorder when the door opens in back and then it’s cacophonous during the descent (which, by the way, happens with an initial pitch down of 30 degrees and roll to 60 degrees of bank and then a descent at 160 KIAS, which is Vne for the Otter. So it’s noisy as heck and maybe even a little unpleasant to listen to during the descent.
But, overall, I think it’s a cool little piece of audio in the tradition of last year’s episode “Shut Up and Listen to the Airplanes.” (http://airspeedonline.blogspot.com/2007/04/airspeed-shut-up-and-listen-to.html).
This one’s for London Area Control Centre air traffic controller Andy Amor and for anyone else who loves the Twin Otter and/or airplane noise.
7:30 Throttle back
9:30 Synching the props
18:45 Door opens
20:15 Begin descent
24:30 Level-off downwind
26:00 Taxi (right engine shutdown and taxi on left engine)
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
This is a regular blog post. Show notes and links to episode audio appear in the other entries.
I spent Sunday afternoon at Midwest Freefall, a drop zone in Ray, Michigan between Romeo State Airport (D98) and Ray Community Airport (57D).
Dave Schwartz of Skydive Chicago was in town flying skydivers while the drop zone is between aircraft. Midwest had been using a Cessna Caravan or similar aircraft and is in the process of obtaining another one. In the meantime, the Otter is filling in.
Really nice, laid back DZ. Here’s the observation line right near the loading point for the jumpers. A pretty good group of family and friends watching the departures and landings. A guy had a grill going with steaks, burgers, and dogs and even delivered a couple to the cockpit after the second load that I flew. I’m the first to admit that I’m still a bit of a pretender in the cockpit of aircraft like the Otter, but it was really cool to be respected (and fed) as a pilot.
Here’s a load shortly before takeoff. More folks in the aircraft than we flew at Skydive Chicago (mainly due to the fact that we were flying on a Monday morning then and it was understandably slow) and there were more definite and pronounced changes in CG as jumpers moved back and departed the aircraft. Definitely had to pull and re-trim.
Here’s the last jumper of the second load. Wingsuit flyer. It’s kind of hard to get a picture that captures the fact that the jumper is heading out the door while still getting the jumper in the shot.
Here’s the view out the front window right after the wingsuited jumper left. You pitch 30 degrees nose-down, bank over 60 degrees, throttle back, pitch for Vne of 160, and get the airplane down as quickly as possible. Lots of planet in the window, as you can see.
On a busy day, you night save enough time to be able to get another couple of loads of jumpers up in a day.
That’s Romeo State Airport down there. Kunstman Airfield is between Romeo and Ray, and you announce on the CTAFs of both airports (122.8 and 122.7, respectively) before you greenlight the jumpers. You’re also talking to Selfridge ANGB (KMTC) approach, so you have good eyes on you.
If you’re interested in checking out Midwest Freefall, the contact information is below.
Midwest Freefall Sport Parachute Club
62912 Kunstman Road
Ray, Michigan 48096
586.75 2 JUMP (586.752.5867)
Midwest accommodates first-timers, experienced jumpers, and everyone in between. Tandems are available.
The DZ runs a United States Parachute Association's Accelerated Freefall (AFF) program.
You start with an extensive ground school session (6 - 8 hours). The club provides special student equipment that includes industry standard safety features and ground-to-air radio. You exit from more than 12,000 feet AGL and you and your two freefall instructors fly for approximately 60 seconds. You deploy your own parachute and descend to the landing area with the assistance of ground-to-air radio instruction.
Really nice DZ with really nice people.
Monday, May 05, 2008
This is a regular blog post. Show notes and links to episode audio appear in the other entries.
Flew another couple of loads of skydivers yesterday with Skydive Radio co-founder and co-host Dave Schwartz in a Skydive Chicago Twin Otter at Kunstman Airfield, home of Midwest Freefall Sport Parachute Club.
I arrived around noon, about 10 minutes before Dave returned from Romeo after having picked up fuel. This is a shot of the Otter on approach to the field. The wind was fairly light, so landing direction on the 18-36 grass runway was pretty arbitrary.
There’s Dave. Great guy. Always willing to give you the right seat so long as operations, safety, and other circumstances allow. He’s the first guy to tell you how much he appreciated it when people gave him the right seat during his early flying career and he gives back by returning that favor down the line to the next generation (which, as a new multi driver with only about 200 hours TT, includes me).
In case you thought that Dave’s patter on the two loads that appeared in episodes earlier this year was a one-time prepared thing, it’s not. Same checklists, same procedures, and same safety culture. Really neat to fly with him.
Here’s yours truly in the left seat with Dave behind the camera.
The takeoff run with 20 or so people in the back. Yoke in your lap, full power, release the brakes, and keep get up as soon as possible. The treeline does come at you rather menacingly, but there’s never any real doubt by the time you get close. The Otter climbs very well and you’re to 13,000 feet or more before you know it.
Here’s the approach to landing, coming the other way. Like I said, the wind wasn’t really a factor, so we landed on 36, the better to roll out the loading area at the north end of the field. This really showed off the Otter’s short field landing characteristics.
Another post coming soon covering the drop zone.