APOD: Howard 500

Today’s APOD comes to you from Oshkosh 2013.

The Howard 500 is a striking aircraft. A beautiful twin-radial taildragger, the 500 is a golden-age executive transport, the Gulfstream of its time. Rumor has it that the interior is relatively spacious, and quite nicely appointed in leather and wood, though I cannot independently confirm that.

Of the original production run, only a few airframes remain, and last I knew only two are still flying. Both of these beautiful birds were at Oshkosh, and I vividly remember their pass over the show line sending chills down my avgeek spine. Aircraft like this are a treasure, and the fact that they can still ply the skies puts a smile on my face.

Due to some unfortunate technical limitations I couldn’t get a good action shot of the 500’s flying. But my camera has been substantially upgraded, and I have high hopes for Oshkosh 2014!

Until then, enjoy this photo of the Howard 500 taxiing down the show line, and think back to the glory days of general aviation.

Howard 500 taxiing, Oshkosh 2013

Howard 500 taxiing, Oshkosh 2013

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Ghosts of Sun n Fun Past

The Sun n Fun fly-in and aviation expo extraordinaire is happening NOW in sunny Lakeland, Florida!

I had had high hopes of attending this year’s Sun n Fun festivities. Alas, I am not there to partake. Things here at Airplanology HQ have been fairly hectic of late. But with any luck I’ll be at Sun n Fun 2015…

Since I can’t be there this year, I will re-live years past through photographs. Enjoy a few raw pics from the ghosts of Sun n Fun past.

F4U Corsair, SnF 2008

F4U Corsair, SnF 2008

Flagship Detroit, SnF 2009

Flagship Detroit, SnF 2009

Consolidated B-24 Liberator Ol' 927

Consolidated B-24 Liberator Ol’ 927

Ol' 927 airborne

Ol’ 927 airborne

 

F-22 Raptor

F-22 Raptor, SnF 2011

 

Aviation Bucket List: Top Eight

As part of my ongoing effort to re-focus after the much-bemoaned (and ongoing) FAA hiring debacle, I’ve decided it would be neat to make an Aviation Bucket List.

After all, aviation is a pretty broad interest. There are so many things to experience in the world of flight. From skydiving to ballooning to flying a sailplane or a helicopter, it all sounds pretty awesome. And while I may never get to sit in the left seat of a 747, there are a lot of very attainable goals I can put on my aviation bucket list. Here are my top eight.

1: IFR

First and foremost I need to finish my IFR ticket. I don’t suspect I’ll be doing a lot of IFR cross-countries any time in the immediate future, but having the instrument rating makes you a safer pilot. Whether it’s flying at night or being able to go when the weather is less than perfect, IFR is the top of my list. I may never have a panel as nice as the one below, but getting instrument rated is a must.

Dassault Falcon 2000 LX cockpit

By JetRequest.com (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2: Gliders

While it’s pretty well documented that the instrument rating makes you a safer pilot, I would wager that there are statistics out there proving that the glider rating makes you a safer pilot too. Two of the most famous plane crashes where everyone survived…United 1549 with Capt. Sullenberger and the Gimli Glider…were landed by pilots with extensive training in sailplanes. It’s one thing to fly when the engines work, but flying with no engines at all gives one a whole new appreciation for aerodynamics and the importance of good aeronautical skill.

US Navy 080921-N-4469F-002 Manfred Radius demonstrates the capabilities of his sailplane during the 50th Anniversary Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show

By U.S. Navy photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

3: Skydiving

Why would any pilot jump out of a perfectly good airplane?

Because it would be awesome, that’s why. I’ve experienced the sky from the cockpit and I’ve experienced it from a balloon, but free falling through the air would be something else altogether. And under my placid exterior is a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Which brings me to my next entry…

4: Upset Recovery Training

I feel comfortable with stalls. I practice stalls pretty regularly when I am able to go flying, because fear of the stall will make recovery from the stall much harder. It’s good to know how your airplane will feel when it’s about to dump lift.

That said, I am less proficient at spins and unusual attitudes. I’ve only ever spun a plane twice, both times on purpose and with an instructor. And that was in 2010, during my primary flight training. I’d really like to spend a day in an aerobatic airplane with an instructor practicing spins and unusual attitude recovery. It makes you a more proficient pilot AND it’s a boatload of fun!

5: Get my wings wet

I love my airplanes, but the only thing I love more might be an airplane that can get wet. Seaplanes have always taken up a lot of room in my heart. There’s something very romantic and appealing about the notion of pulling out of the hangar, flying off the pavement, and landing on some remote lake for a few days of camping or even just a few hours of seclusion. The seaplane rating is a must-have for this pilot.

6: Fly a warbird

I’d really like to own a warbird. Something like a T-6 or even a Pilatus P-3 could be a realistic warbird option for me in the future, depending how the financial situation stacks up in the years to come. But whether or not I ever get to own one, I would sure love to get some stick time. Places like Warbird Adventures and Stallion 51 give ordinary pilots the chance to take the controls of these remarkable airplanes for a few unforgettable minutes. I need to do this before the warbirds are gone.

7: Fly a jet

Outside the wonderful world of flight simulation (as an aside: fuck you, CNN. Flight simulators are awesome) I’ve never flown a jet. My understanding, primitive as it may be, is that jets are quite a different animal from pistons. They are a lot less ‘seat-of-the-pants’ and a lot more by the book than pistons.

It would be pretty radical to score some stick time in a jet. Even something like the SubSonex would be a blast to fly, and if the guys at Sonex can pull the SubSonex off as a kit plane we might start seeing more home-built jets on the market.

SubSonex

SubSonex

8: Build a plane

Speaking of homebuilts, I want to make one of my own. I’m no machinist and my experience with metal is…well, I don’t have any. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of other pilots and aviation geeks from building their own airplanes.

While the Sonex used to top my list for it’s phenomenal fuel economy, I think I might prefer the Vans RV-12. The -12 is well suited for my ‘mission,’ which is usually short-haul cross-countries to sightsee or eat lunch, and the Rotax engine takes Mogas as well as Avgas and is not particularly thirsty.

That said, the RV-7 could enable me to get lunch faster…and upside-down. Decisions, decisions.

:::

Aviation is pretty amazing. While there is so much more I’d like to do…multi-engine, helicopters, an A&P rating…these eight items make my to-do list for now. What’s on your bucket lists?

The hell with it, let’s go flying

Flying is within our grasp. We have naught to do but take it. ~Charles Duryea

My aviation pursuits have taken substantial damage of late. I’m on fire, my airframe is failing, and the ground is rising and twisting to smack me out of the air for good.

Time to bail out and start from scratch.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29S (9-13S), Russia - Air Force AN0196348
BAIL OUT!


My flying budget was eviscerated by my student loans. To add insult to injury mysterious hiring policy changes at the FAA effectively killed my career prospects in air traffic control. I’m right back where I started, only now I’m yoked to the bank until I die.

But all is not lost. It’s just time for a change of strategy. I think it’s time to stop fighting it so hard and just roll with the resources I have. I have some amazingly supportive family and friends. I have a career that can pay the bills and I have a deep seated love of flight. These are all good things. With some good thinking and good luck, I can rearrange my life so that I can afford to fly a few times a month. I think that would be far more beneficial for me than banging my head against the career wall indefinitely.

It’s time to pursue a life free of ambition and the chains that it brings. It’s time to relax, surround myself with good people, and go flying when I can. I may not be able to make a living with it, but maybe that’s for the best. I can enjoy it for what it is and not feel the stress that flying for a living brings. I can let work be work and play be play and improve my quality of life all around.

The plane of my ambitions may be on fire and screeching to a rude meeting with terra firma. But I will survive. As long as this parachute doesn’t fail I’ll live to fly again another day.

Letter from a CTI student

Edit: I’ve already gotten a few of the “Don’t think you’re better than OTS” comments. There are a lot of people who resent CTI students for being educated; maybe they feel threatened by people with degrees, or maybe a few too-arrogant CTI grads spoiled the reputation for the rest of us. Regardless, I don’t think that being a CTI grad makes me better than an OTS controller; ultimately the test of whether someone can be a controller comes during the training process.

That said, doesn’t it make sense to hire the pre qualified people who have already passed the ATSAT instead of random applicants with no aviation background? If FAA was going to destroy the benefits of the CTI program, why did they keep marketing it? Anyway, read on.

As you know, I have been let down pretty hard by the FAA’s inexplicable changes to their hiring policies.

I would like to think there’s a logical reason for what they have done. But when you have a pool of pre-screened, pre-trained applicants who have taken and scored well on the ATSAT, and you throw those people aside in favor of applicants from the general public…it smells fishy.

Not one to take such a massive slap in the face laying down, I’ve decided to write to my congressional representatives, and possibly go to the media. I have nothing to lose, and a big part of me really enjoys ruffling feathers, so…may as well run with what I’ve got.

For any other disgruntled former CTI students who were once told they were well-qualified before being told to piss off, feel free to take this letter and modify it for your own needs. If I get an answer from my rep I’ll be sure to share it with you here.

Dear (Representative),

I am writing to you to regarding recent changes to the FAA hiring policy for air traffic controllers. These changes remove qualified air traffic control applicants from selection, leaving less qualified applicants to fill positions in our nation’s control towers and radar centers.

I have two points to bring to your attention. First, the FAA’s changes to hiring pose a potential danger to the traveling public by hiring from a less qualified pool of applicants; second, the FAA’s actions have unjustly caused massive financial damage to thousands of ATC-CTI students.

Several years ago, the FAA instituted the Air Traffic Control College Training Initiative (ATC-CTI) program in order to pre-train and pre-screen applicants for air traffic control positions. ATC-CTI students were told they would be placed on a referral list and given preference over applicants from the general public for air traffic control trainee positions. Hiring preference would be based on GPA and scores on the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam, AT-SAT.

In December 2013, the FAA unexpectedly announced that it would no longer be using the referral list and that all previous applicant data, including AT-SAT scores, would be destroyed. Additionally, FAA would not be granting any preference to CTI students.  They would instead hire many controller trainees from the public at large. Many of these trainees have no background in aviation or air traffic control.

I find it difficult to believe that hiring from the general public is a better strategy for obtaining qualified controllers than hiring from a pool of students with degrees and training specific to air traffic control. Many of these students, myself included, have tested as “Well Qualified” on the AT-SAT. I think you would agree that this policy change is not sensible, and that the hiring of less-qualified individuals has the potential to harm the traveling public.

Furthermore, many thousands of ATC-CTI students are now left drowning in student debt holding worthless degrees. These students were told by the FAA that enrolling in CTI school was the best path to earn a training slot as an air-traffic controller, only to be told later that the FAA had changed their minds. The FAA’s inexplicable change in hiring policy has caused me and countless others like me great financial and personal harm.

I have two suggestions to rectify this situation.

First, Congress must investigate the FAA’s hiring practices. Only the most qualified individuals should staff our nation’s control towers and radar centers. There is speculation that FAA’s Office of Human Resources made these changes in order to massage their demographics by hiring more women and minorities, as CTI students and air traffic controllers in general are largely male and white. I maintain that race and gender should not be factors in the hiring of air traffic controllers.

Second, Congress should enact legislation to discharge CTI students from the financial burden of their student loans at the expense of the FAA. The FAA, an arm of the federal government, lied outright to CTI students about the value of their degrees. Their inexplicable policy changes leave us holding worthless degrees and burdened with unaffordable student loans. The FAA needs to be held accountable for their dishonesty and the harm it has caused many American college students.

I sincerely hope that you will look into this matter. If I may be of any assistance to you in any way, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time and for your service.

I know, I know. Many controllers working now were hired off the street, and they do exceptional work. This is not a slander against them, but rather an expression of frustration that the FAA told us to get a degree to maximize our chances and minimize their training costs, then turned around and slapped us in the face. And I think something nefarious is going on in the OHR; I think the FAA is playing with fire to try and massage their demographics. The letter is still a work in progress, but maybe it will get me somewhere. We shall see.

APOD: Bayflite

Medical helicopters are a great asset for EMS providers. When every second counts, when the time to transport a critically injured human being by ground would prove fatally long, helicopters come to the rescue. 

DSC_0113

In my career in the hospital, I’ve seen countless lives saved by the gift of air transport. Many patients would not have survived their traumas, or would have had much lower chances of survival, were it not for the men and women who fly these fantastic machines.

DSC_0120

As with anything aviation, it is a calculated risk. There have been mishaps, but the ratio of lives saved to lives lost leaves no doubt that medical helicopters are invaluable assets for EMS providers, and by extension for the public at large.

DSC_0116

So next time you hear the clattering thunder of rotor blades in the sky, look up and say a  thank you to an EMS pilot for the life-saving work that they do.

APOD: Piper 4923T

Image

Today’s APOD is a gorgeous PA-28R departing runway 25 at KSPG, Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Piper 4923T

Piper 4923T

Last spring I was planning to earn my high-powered/complex endorsement in an Arrow similar to this one. Unfortunately financial problems intervened and prevented me from flying that machine. I still lack my high-powered/complex endorsement.

One of these days the cashflow will improve and I will be back in the sky, hopefully earning endorsements and moving to my instrument and commercial ratings. Until then I take photos and wait. So it goes.

APOD: T-28’s at Temora

Today’s APOD comes courtesy of Mr. David Foxx, editor of Airscape Magazine.

This is a line up of T-28s facing the dawn for the recent Warbirds Downunder Show at Temora Aviation Museum, November 2nd, 2013. The sound when they all started up was bowel-loosening!
What a fantastic weekend it was! We camped on the airport with a couple of thousand other absolute aviation geeks – and I swear I could still smell avgas in my nostrils the day after I got home. Temora itself is a friendly little town in country New South Wales, Australia, that’s population trebles during the show. They take it all in their stride, with a welcome smile for all comers.
The Trojans are (from closest to farthest):
• T-28D “Mekong Moon” – registered VH-ZUK, cn 174-374, first assigned #51-7521
• T-28D “Just Dreamin’” – registered VH-ZUC, cn 174-429, first assigned #51-7576
• T-28B “Miss Stress” – registered VH-ZSH, cn 200-106
• T-28A “Littl Juggs” – registered VH-VBT, cn 171-27, first assigned #50-0221
• T-28D “DP-232” – registered VH-DPT, cn 200-303, first assigned #55-138232
YTEM T-28's; photo courtesy David Foxx.

YTEM T-28’s; photo courtesy David Foxx.

Truly the T-28’s are thunderous machines. I can feel my whole body rumble when they fire those massive radials up…thanks to Mr. Foxx for the submission, and be sure to check out Airscape Magazine, which is available through a lovely app on iOS and Android devices.

 

Do you have a photo to submit for APOD? Shoot me an email to airplanology@gmail.com with your photo and how you’d like to be credited!

Ground-Bound Flying

As I intimated in my earlier post, changes to my monetary situation mean I probably won’t be flying a real airplane for quite some time. I’m not happy about it, but until things improve there are other ways to stay sharp.

Reading

I read voraciously, and a large part of my reading diet consists of airplane books: Stick and Rudder, The Proficient Pilot, IFR ground-school books, and my old human-factors and aviation textbooks from ATC school all help me keep my head in the airplane game. And a little Bach or Ganz in the mix helps me smile.

Socializing

Talking to other pilots is always a good way to stay sharp because pilots love to argue. As the joke goes, ask four pilots a question and you’ll get five answers…pilots are very intelligent and very opinionated people.

Most of my pilot-to-pilot communication occurs on Twitter. This might sound silly but there are some awesome people on Twitter, and a ton of pilots who love to talk aviation. I do need to branch out more and begin attending local EAA meetings or hanging out at the airport.

Finally, a great way to stay sharp is…

Flight Simulator

I know it sounds dorky, but I have empirical evidence that it works. When I was training for my ASEL I supplemented my training with Microsoft Flight Simulator and felt it to be very helpful in cementing my flying lessons. It’s not the same as flying a real airplane by any means, but it’s a great way to practice IFR maneuvers, instrument scans, and cross-country flying. Recently I’ve switched from FSX to X-Plane 10, and I have to say that X-Plane 10 is pretty rad. Good scenery, great airplanes, and better flight dynamics than FSX make it a superior simulator in my opinion. I also have a desktop that runs Linux, on which I may install FlightGear, an open-source simulator.

Flying my desk is certainly no substitute for real flying, but it might keep me from getting too rusty while I get myself back on track. Plus it’s fun.

It's no substitute for real flying, but X-plane is still pretty cool. Plus you can fly neat planes like the MS760.

It’s no substitute for real flying, but X-plane is still pretty cool. Plus you can fly neat planes like the MS760.

It pains me to think that it could be years before I’m back in the left seat. But being grounded is only a physical limitation. I’ve been grounded before and I’ve always clawed my way back into the sky. My love for flight will stay alive through thick and thin…we’re just going through the thick right now.

 

Today’s photo: Tinstix!

PembertonStewart

 

This display of precise flying ability by Skip Stewart and Melissa Pemberton was without a doubt one of the most impressive acts I saw at Oshkosh this year. Dubbed Tinstix, the act features an incredibly precise routine with Stewart and Pemberton flying mirror-image aerobatics on opposite ends of the showline, swapping sides, then coming together in between for spectacular close formation flying. Remember those early 90’s break-dancing contests? It’s like that, but with airplanes and smoke. Tinstix is an awe-inpsiring display of precision aerobatics and masterful flying by both pilots, and this photo captures only a single moment in a routine made of awesome.