You know, I have avoided updating here because flying has been more frequent lately and the adventures are pretty similar, if you catch my drift. But they are still adventures, for sure! For example, I get to participate in Skyball this weekend, and I’m SO JAZZED!
Some highlights from this time around. I ended up taking some aerial shots of Pop’s new deer lease. For him, it was insanely helpful as they have been struggling with certain areas of the lease as far as brush and terrain. Its not been very easy to get back there. So Wade & I flew out there with the GoPro sticking on the back of the plane to take shots.
This was not the first time I had flown with the GoPro suction-cupped to a plane, but I will say that it was a very strange sensation. I almost wish I had rudder trim on that plane as I had to put a small input into the rudder to counter the drag from the camera. Even as small as it is, physics can be a pain.
Other than that, it’s been a day flight here, lunch run there, just enjoying being up in the sky. It’s been a pretty hot summer, so I’ve avoided getting up in the air for that reason. It’s great at altitude, but on the ramp it REALLY sucks. In fact, I went up yesterday for currency and was in and out of the airport in 45 minutes (from hangar door open to hangar door closed) and I’m sure I smelled lovely after that. For the short period I was up above 800′ AGL, it was LOVELY. But that was only a little bit of the time. Anyway, here are my stats thus far:
- 121.2 total hours
- 330 Takeoffs/Landings
- 6.1 night
- 3.1 Simulated Instrument
- 51.3 Cross country
- 33.9 Dual
- 92.6 Pilot in Command
Will see you guys in the sky soon!
It’s been an interesting winter here in North Texas. We had a White Christmas, it’s been very cold which has trashed batteries, and we had severe weather very early and late in the seasons. But today, I’ve got another 4.8 hours of flight time to tell you about!
First off, my BFR—which, incidentally, I realized I didn’t need to do after earning my high performance rating earlier last year. I had a great ride with my instructor and learned a new technique for dealing with a fire in the cockpit at altitude. Typically, procedures tell you to just get down as fast as you can in a structurally safe manner. But the FAA is now requiring students to demonstrate a new procedure for an emergency descent maneuver. Essentially, it’s a steep, 45° spiraling turn toward the ground. Here’s a good video explaining how it works. So even though I didn’t need to go for the BFR, I learned something new!
Next, the weather has kicked some batteries into submission lately. After failing to get one of the two planes to start, we took the Cherokee to get fuel (long story, fuel pumps at my field went under maintenance for a while). Fueled without issue, but the plane would not start after refueling. Jumped it, got clearances, and then lost all electrical power. Since we were only a few miles away, I got out the handheld and gave it to James to operate while we ferried the plane back to my home airport. Was good experience!
Finally, I had a great flight with my bro-in-law to Tyler a few weeks ago. We had some great sights, unrestricted visibility, great calm winds, and a very relaxing flight. He spent most of the time taking pictures of golf courses from the air! Next up, pictures of my father in law’s lease from the air!
Yep, been a while since I have posted, but I really have not had any super momentous flights to discuss—until this weekend! Did another downtown Dallas tour, but due to some photo shoots going on around downtown, they had to route me way east and over Fair Park. That’s OK though, it allowed James to take these two shots.
Kristen got to tag along as well! She is a mighty fine pilot I should add, so she needs to get down here and start training for real!
On the way back, we were routed south of Love Field, and directly over DFW Airport at 3,500 feet. Someone else flying 29W also was routed over DFW on Saturday, so maybe it was just a slow day and the controllers needed something to break up the monotony! Either way, James got to have his first flight directly over the airport.
The other thing I’ve been working on is keeping the bubble centered. I find that I get pretty lazy with rudders when I am flying, and I’m trying to break that bad habit. I’ll ask my instructor to keep me honest when I do my biannual flight review next month. Next time I go, I might have to get back in the saddle of 29W!
There is a video making the rounds from a crash that happened at my home airport of Northwest Regional Airport (52F) in Roanoke, TX, where a student pilot impacted a vehicle in a Cessna 172. As a pilot who has shot many approaches at that airport (and a true aviation enthusiast), I wanted to offer my perspective of what happened.
News reporters seem to be making a huge deal about Kelly Dr, the road that borders the north end of the active runway 17, where the word “STOP” is painted on the ground to warn drivers of aircraft overhead. This road is actually not managed by the airport, but I don’t see that as a safety issue. There are signs EVERYWHERE that help drivers understand where they are—not to mention that when you are on that road you see the runway right there. In the video it is unclear to me if the driver stopped and looked, but the result seems to clearly indicate that he did not. I’ve waited at the STOP line before in a car and watched planes flying in on final. If the weather is OK for landings at the airport (there are no instrument procedures here so fog or low clouds are not an issue), there is no reason why you can’t see or hear an aircraft. In the final NTSB report, the driver said he rolled his windows down and stopped, but I don’t believe he did that for a second. If he did, he would have heard or seen the aircraft and waited. The driver was the trigger that caused the accident—and if he had been paying attention like a self-proclaimed aviation enthusiast, he would have seen that aircraft and waited until it was over the runway to continue. But was it entirely the driver’s fault?
Landing and takeoff are the most dangerous portions of flight. Things happen very fast on landing, so pilots must be alert. If you go to YouTube and look for cockpit videos focused on the pilot’s face you will see very few eye blinks and a pupils-dilated, steady gaze out the window and at the instruments. Every time I fly that approach to 17, one of the things I am looking for is a driver who is not paying attention to the signs and crossing into my path. My hand is on the throttle and I can quickly goose it to go around if needed. And believe me, when I land, I’m going to find that car and give the driver a talking to. The pilot of the plane in question was a student, but a student at the flight school on the field. There is no question in my mind that he had landed aircraft dozens of times at that field and was well aware of the danger of cars (as well as other unwritten rules at that field). So, it’s not like this was his first time landing there. He should have seen the car and gone around.
But even that isn’t really the issue. Go watch the video and watch his approach right before he crosses the white fence on the north side of Kelly Dr. He sinks quickly which turns his descent into a dangerous curve.
One of the first things you are taught when shooting approaches is to have a stable, constant descent rate into the into the field. You learn this especially with fields with obstacles on either end of the runway, which is why the touchdown point you aim for is not at the end of the runway, but 1,000 feet from the end. Back to the video, you’ll notice that he sinks dramatically, clearing the fence by 2-3 feet, and slamming his landing gear right into the SUV. He wasn’t over the runway yet, but he was just 5 feet off the ground? That’s dangerous. Unsteady approaches during a checkride would cause an FAA examiner to think twice about passing that student. The final NTSB report shows calculations for what his altitude SHOULD have been, and it was much higher.
Was this a preventable accident? Absolutely! Both parties were at fault. A pilot with an unstable approach and a complacent driver who wasn’t paying attention to where airplanes are when near an active runway.
Does this impact my view of Northwest Regional Airport? No! I’m more concerned about the issues we’ve been having lately around working fuel pumps.
There have been a string of accidents related to that airport recently, but it’s nothing to do with the airport. In every case it was some form of pilot error. In fact, I went through all the NTSB accidents listed for that airport and this is the first time a car has been struck. When it comes down to who is at fault, the NTSB will blame the pilot for failing to maintain a safe altitude. I can’t say I disagree with that ruling, either. When talking to my family about this, I mentioned that steeper approaches wouldn’t allow something like this to happen, but as always, I will remain quite vigilant about traffic on Kelly Dr. when landing.
Pilots can use this as a safety reminder for airport operations. It could’ve been a whole lot worse. Thankfully it wasn’t. Everybody walked away with minor cuts and bruises. This is an easily preventable incident with a proper, stable approach and pilot awareness of the traffic around the runway.
Update: Here’s the final NTSB report.
Been a few flights since I have updated, but let me tell you what I’ve been up to. I got checked out on 29W a week after my first flight. James came along as ballast! She flies so much differently with a little more weight in the back. Was really fun!
Next flight was taking my uncle and cousin up for a tour around downtown. About halfway through the flight I looked over at my uncle and realized that the door was open! No big worries, she still flies fine. Just noisy. And if you happen to go searching for the ATC recordings (I’m too embarassed to post them here) you can hear how loud it was, and how hard communication was. Next time that happens, its an immediate landing to get the door shut, then we can go again.
Our club just got a new plane as well, a 1961 172B. Boy, she is a SWEET bird. She may not fly fast, but she is clean and has many upgrades both inside and outside the plane. I got checked out on her early this AM and loved every minute sitting in her left seat. I’m really looking forward to spending time with her in the air. Now, I also realized I have been counting my cross country hours incorrectly. According to FAR §61.1(3)(i), any flight as a private pilot where I land at another airport is technically cross country. So I’ve WAY underestimated my cross country hours. I fixed it on this page, but won’t go back unless I need it to justify a rating of some sort. Here are the stats.
- 104.1 total hours
- 294 Takeoffs/Landings
- 6.1 night
- 3.1 Simulated Instrument
- 40.0 Cross country
- 32.7 Dual
- 75.5 Pilot in Command
Will see you guys in the sky soon!
Well, it’s time for a new adventure. My previous facility has stopped renting planes, so unless I become a student again, I won’t be flying any of the beautiful planes at KDTO. That’s OK. After some searching, I found a FANTASTIC flight club back at the airport where I learned to fly, and they have a beefy Piper Cherokee Pathfinder PA-28-235B. It’s an old bird (1967), but she’s a sweetie. I’m going to work on convincing the flight club to spend money on a new radio stack and a 430 (or equivalent).
Anyway, in order to be fully checked out in this aircraft, it’s time to get a new endorsement! High Performance Aircraft, here I come!
I flew an hour this morning and will go back to finalize the endorsement. I was surprised at the sheer power of the aircraft as she clawed through the dense morning air. She LEAPS off the runway, and races to wherever you want to go. This is by far the most powerful craft I have ever flown, even though it is only about 30 kts faster in cruise than the DA-40.
Landing her is going to be a challenge I am accepting with open arms. After flying a stick aircraft for so long, switching back to the yoke takes practice with trim. Where small inputs and relatively light pressure makes a huge difference in the DA-40, this craft requires a steady hand on both the trim wheel and the yoke. I’m looking forward to spending lots of time with her!
Some of you may have seen some tweets from me last night about a strange issue that has popped up since American Airlines has gone into bankruptcy. Let me explain what I have learned so hopefully American can adjust their policy and the fantastic gate and telephone agents that support them won’t have to be the frequent bearers of bad news.
Flyers with certain kinds of elite status on American Airlines occasionally earn something called a “systemwide upgrade” (sometimes known as an eVIP or VIP). These upgrades allow you to move up one class of service, inventory permitting, on any flight operated by and ticketed through American Airlines and typically expire within the current or next calendar year. I’ve used these things over the years to upgrade into a Business class seat on a long haul flight that was booked on coach, and recently have even been lucky enough to use one to get into First class. Pretty sweet!
Then American Airlines enters bankruptcy. While the status, miles, and upgrades for elite fliers are kept intact, something strange is happening.
American Airlines is part of the OneWorld alliance that includes such prestigious airlines as British Airways, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific. These airlines partner in order to broaden their geographic reach by operating flights for each other’s fliers, known as “codeshares.” Essentially, this means that in some cases, you can book a ticket marketed and sold as British Airways but end up flying on an American Airlines plane, as I did this week.
Due to a number of factors, bankruptcy being a big one I suspect, airfares at American have risen dramatically over the last six months both domestically and internationally. In some cases, booking the exact same American Arlines flights under a OneWorld codeshare will save you money! In my case, I saved 15% on my fare by booking all of my flights as British Airways, even though I’ll be on an American Airlines plane for the long-haul components (Dallas to London).
But here’s the catch. I don’t have any status with British Airways! This means that as an American Airlines Elite flyer sitting on an American Airlines aircraft that chose the lowest fare by buying through a partner, my years and miles with American are worthless. American cannot touch the ticket if they didn’t ticket it, and British Airways won’t touch it because I don’t have status with them. I would not expect to use an American Airlines upgrade on a British Airlines aircraft, but I would expect to be able to use an American Airlines upgrade on an American Airlines operated flight regardless of how it was marketed to me.
Essentially, it’s a standoff—American Airlines tells me to call British Airways, and British Airways says ring or visit an American Airlines agent. In fact, I learned that the only way that an upgrade can occur is through a complimentary upgrade when a flight is oversold. So even though I have expiring upgrades with American Airlines that I am begging to use, their policy prohibits agents from allowing their best customers to use their status when the flight is marketed as a codeshare.
For the record, I love American Airlines. I’ve been flying them pretty much exclusively since I was a child on my grandfather’s Airpass. In fact, I have many fond memories streaking across the sky in those silver planes with red and blue stripes. I’ve been flying with American so long, I remember when they had 747s and MD-11s, and I flew on DC-10s and 727s with their sometimes-flaky tail-mounted engines. I am sure there are many people rooting against AA while they restructure, but as someone with over 2 million miles with the airline, I’m rooting for success. I’m rooting for a new executive team that takes competitive pay without ridiculous bonuses that hurt the pay of of pilots, mechanics, and agents.
American Airlines can’t forget their loyal customer base that is now having to justify staying a customer. I urge American Airlines to remember us so that we continue to fly the friendly marketed and operated skies while delivering revenue, growth, and seat sales for years to come.