captbrando

Branden Williams could easily be described as one of the industry's leading experts, but that title does not encompass his robust talents. With a penchant for speaking about payments and security, a list of publications, and an enviable knowledge of technology, he has earned the respect of global, top named clients and industry insiders.

AIF, 100.1 (2.1 hours last two flights)

Photo courtesy of @jsokoly

Well, it’s finally happened. After three and a half years of flying I hit the 100 hour mark! This time with a couple of Infosec friends as we hit up the classic Hard 8 in Stephenville (KSEP) for lunch. What a great day to fly!

The only thing about yesterday’s flying was the stiff northern winds at altitude. Did get some Class B time on the way back in, and saw a few big aircraft in and out of the DFW Terminal Area. This time we had our primary radio go out on N204SG. I love this aircraft, and haven’t flown it in several months. Getting back behind those big glass screens was awesome, and I just wish we had both radios working. I like having two sets of radios as it allows me to snoop on other frequencies without leaving ATC. Alas, was a bit clunky yesterday.

Did also get to make some good use of the autopilot on the cruise portion of the flight. Hand flying when you are altering the plane’s configuration is fun, but holding straight and level for 20-30 minutes is kind of boring. Yaay autopilot!

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AIF, 98 (1.8 hours last two flights)

N204SG on the ramp

Yep, lazy again. I had two flights in the last few months totaling 1.8 hours and 15 landings. Nothing super fun.

WAIT! Except THIS!

Nice little exchange between a rather happy tower controller and my crew while flying around. The airport was not terribly busy on the second flight, but there were jet operations happening and a bird can cause problems with those things. Enjoy that!

On the earlier flight, it was pretty much business as usual, but it got super busy toward the end. Five planes in the pattern, and others getting turned away that wanted to do touch & gos. It was race weekend so I couldn’t head over to Alliance, but wanted to.

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AIF, 96.2 (2.6 hours last flight)

Preflight!

Now, on to the flight I had last weekend! Yes, still behind, but here we are.

James & I took the DA-40 up at the last minute to get some currency time and test out a route I want to do later in the year. We FINALLY made it to Tyler! For those of you that read often, you might remember I have tried this trip nearly three times now, all of them scrubbed due to weather at Tyler Pounds Field.

This flight was unique for a few reasons.

  1. While this was a DA-40, I had never flown this DA-40 before.
  2. I was back to using steam gauges, glass cockpit (G1000 panels) in this bird.
  3. James learned how to taxi! Steering with your feet is hella weird if you have never done it before.
  4. I am becoming increasingly comfortable with RPM/manifold pressure settings in climb, cruise, and descent on this bird.
  5. For whatever reason, we were flying at 10-15 KIAS slower than we should have been. Neither one of us put anything on the airframe to cause this, but it slowed our progress down considerably.
  6. I was cleared into Class Bravo on the way back (not on the way out), but skirted the edges of the shelf for the most part, per ATC request. Frankly, I think I was hastily given clearance into Bravo upon departure and I was never given the instruction from the tower. When I asked the controller, he said I was cleared, but then immediately started to vector me underneath Bravo.
  7. The controller at KDTO (who will remain nameless here) got a little antsy with me as this one tends to do. I was cleared to land, read back my clearance, and then was asked by the controller minutes later what my intentions were. For real.
  8. Got the HD video going, but again had some audio issues. I will get this resolved FO SHO on the next one. I know exactly what I need to do to make sure it works. Frankly, it’s not my top priority (flying the plane is), but I want to get some good video for you guys.

So I’m good for a few weeks! Next flight may be over to Pop’s new lease, or back down to Tyler to see friends.

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AIF, 93.6 (.6 hours last flight)

I’m slow to post, but that’s OK. I took Garrett and Dad up in the DA-40 for currency reasons. It was so quick that when I walked back up to the dispatch to return the keys the guy asked me what was wrong with the plane.

Also, this was the first time I got to use my new HD camera to record the flight. Unfortunately, not only is there an interesting isolation that happens in the in-flight audio management, but my Garrett was just humming in the mic. So that’s pretty much all you hear. To make matters even worse, the camera was faulty and making some terrible recordings (since fixed).

Anyway, quick three takeoffs and landings!

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What does it sound like when a pilot makes a mistake?

I have some audio here from a flight that I was on this year. I wasn’t sitting in the pointy end, but back in steerage. The mistake I am highlighting isn’t the fact that he was too high in the approach (as you will hear on the audio), but that he told us passengers that there was a plane on the runway and that’s why we needed to go around.

Click here to listen to the audio: DFW to Boston High Approach

Transcript (in case you can’t pick up the conversation):

Pilot: Tower, American 1152, We’re a little too high, we’re going to break off the approach.

Tower: American 1152, Roger, climb and maintain three thousand, fly runway heading.

Pilot: Three thousand, runway heading, American 1152.

Essentially what has happened here is the pilot realized that he had too much altitude on his descent to the runway, and could not lose that altitude safely and within the operating regulations of his airline. So he called the tower to go around. He didn’t execute a missed approach here as he was on a visual approach. The main difference is that missed approaches have a specific flight path to follow and the pilot would let the tower know he is executing a missed approach. He would then, most likely, be handed off to departure as soon as he was not a factor to other planes the tower was responsible for directing. Since he was doing this visually, the tower had him climb to an altitude of 3,000 feet and maintain the runway heading as to not affect other arrivals or departures.

Tower: American 1152, fly heading 360, maintain three thousand.

Pilot: 360, three thousand, American 1152

Tower: American 1152, turn left now heading of 290, remain this frequency.

Pilot: 290 on heading, remain this frequency, American 1152

Tower: American 1152, 360 and just, uh, remain this frequency

Pilot: 360 and this frequency, American 1152

Now this part is standard vectoring around traffic and getting us set up to do the approach again. But it appears there was a slight miscommunication, or just some quick jogging as in a very rapid fashion the heading changed by 70 degrees.

Tower: American 1152 contact Boston Approach 133.0, Good day.

Pilot: 33 0 American 1152, Good day.

At this point, the tower needs to transfer our flight back to one of the regional approach controllers so he can focus on the incoming and outgoing traffic. And if I must say, in the original, unedited audio, this controller sounds REALLY excited when he clears someone for takeoff. I get a kick out of it every time.

Pilot: American 1152 back with you about… uhh. uhhbeddebydyyuh the ILS 27.

Tower: American 1152, Boston Tower, wind 320 at 19, Traffic is a CRJ, short final, runway 27, cleared to land.

Pilot: 27, cleared to land, American 1152.

Now we land.

Tower: American 1152, right on Kilo, contact ground, point niner.

Pilot: Right on kilo, point niner, American 1152.

Then we exit the runway, and contact a ground controller on 121.9.

Afraid to fly? Don’t be. Even with all the minor issues here, you can observe MULTIPLE safety nets that keep us all safe when we fly.

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AIF, 93.0 hours (1.1 hours last flight)

N204SG on the ramp

This was a very enjoyable flight for me for many different reasons. For one, I was able to share it with my cousin! Was awesome having Alex flying right seat. The weather was beautiful, and we had a reprieve from the crazy winds that we’ve seen in North Texas.

I also got to play with my new Drift HD170 camera and Panavise mount! Check out the video on Vimeo here. It’s a little bumpy while we are on the ground simply because the ground is BUMPY! The only runways I have ever landed on that were as smooth as glass were recently repaved ones like Stephenville (KSEP) or the north 1-2K feet of Denton (KDTO). I’m going to take another look at the mount that I am using to see if there is a potentially better option that might have a bit more cushion for the runway activities. Also, there is no intercom audio on this one because I was missing an adapter cable (should have read the WHOLE review), but that will be remedied for the next video!

We took off to the north and headed south east toward Dallas. I’ve learned that when the winds are from the north, air traffic around downtown Dallas gets pretty complicated. We had to do some circles outside of Addison’s airspace to wait for a path to be opened up for us. Once we were granted in, we had to stay east and south of downtown Dallas (you can see in the video). I was OK with this because for some reason the G1000 was kicking out a strange error that I had seen before, but was not part of the normal operations. Apparently there are other conditions where you want to leave the fuel pump on (as opposed to following the checklist which instructs you to turn off the fuel pump in many scenarios). I found another screen that I can use to diagnose issues around fuel PSI that is not in the main engine readout on the MFD. Also would LOVE to figure out how to get that readout back on the PFD. Low fuel PSI did not negatively affect the FLOW of fuel, but I think it made the engine run leaner than it should have, and one of the cylinders started heating up a bit. Nothing that would have caused an unsafe issue because I had Dallas Love very close if we had an emergency, and flipping on the fuel pump immediately resolved the problem.

You will also see me using the autopilot a bit. If you can get set up on an altitude prior to entering ATC control, the autopilot absolutely helps from a workload management perspective. See me enter a heading change at 3:40 in the video when we were cleared over the top of DFW Airport.

If you are wondering why my right hand seems to eternally have a pen in it, it’s because I will write down instructions from ATC if they give me rapid fire details so I can read it back. When in congested, controlled airspace, it’s pretty critical to be on your toes and focused.

Anyway, great flight! Hope you enjoy the video!

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AIF, 91.9 hours (1.3 hours last flight)

Preflight!

One week before this flight, Chris asks me how long it takes us to fly to the airport by her sister’s house (about 20 minutes) after she sat through some Friday afternoon traffic to get home. I said, I’d be happy to fly us as a family down there, but just remember that the amount of time will be pretty close to the same because we have to drive to and from the airport and pre-flight the plane. She said, let’s do it.

So we did!

This was the first time that we flew as a family where everyone was outside the womb. Payton flew once before when Chris was pregnant, but not since she would need her own headset.

We got to the airport, moved all of our gear into the DA-40, and got started! Unfortunately, Chris had to hold Garrett’s car seat on the way down because the seat was too large to allow me to fully control the yoke to fly the plane (which could be a very serious problem). Garrett sat right seat and enjoyed!

This is how she rolls!

It was a busy day, and ATC vectored us around several areas of congested airspace and around other airports. We did not have clearance in to the class Bravo airspace on the way down, but did get cleared on the way back (FWS AFW DTO). I took FULL advantage of the autopilot so I could monitor the radios and watch for traffic (in addition to relying on the collision avoidance feature of the G1000).

We landed without incident, were marshaled in, and met the cousins outside the FBO. This was the first time that they saw a small plane, and both kids were crawling all over it while we unloaded our gear.

We loaded all the kids up in the van, waved Buh-Bye, and then headed our way back to the plane to get going! Upon takeoff, we saw the kids in the van and flew right over the top of them before heading back to KDTO. We went direct Alliance first, then direct Denton to avoid traffic. We landed on a very warm ramp, expedited our taxi off the active, and parked right back where we started just an hour prior.

Fun little flight, and my new audio cable works FANTASTIC! See the video below!

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AIF, 87.8 hours (1.9 hours last flight)

I’ve been lazy. I had another flight since my last one, and neglected to blog about it. I have one more you will see immediately after this one as well from this past weekend.

After getting rated in the DA-40 with that beautiful glass cockpit, Cayce, Nancy, and I made a run down to Stephenville for some BBQ! The original plan was to go into Tyler, but low ceilings and en-route IFR conditions sent us west.

PRETTY!

Initially, we had to hang close to the ground, which makes me very uneasy. We finally got a hold of a flight service station that helped us decipher the clouds we were looking at outside the glass. Sometimes clouds are an optical illusion, and you can’t really tell where the lines are until you are in the clouds. For someone not on an IFR flight plan, that can be terrifying and illegal! After we determined that climbing was acceptable, we shot up a few thousand feet.

We had some serious headwinds on the way down that turned into tail winds on the way back. 160Kts over ground on the way back is pretty fun! Makes for a very short flight.

We had some fun with ATC on the way back as we usually do at some point during the flight. We were cruising at 6,500 feet heading direct to KDTO from KSEP, several miles outside of the Class Bravo airspace (including the 30NM ring around KDFW), and we heard the following conversation from Ft. Worth Center:

ATC: “Eagle 1234: Traffic, twelve o-clock, fife miles, traffic is a Cessna at six thousand, fife hundred.” (At this point, I started looking around because any small plane is often entered into the ATC system incorrectly as a Cessna. Shortly after I started looking around I saw a blip pop up on my traffic avoidance system.)

Eagle 1234: “Roger, we’re looking but don’t see him yet, Eagle 1234.”

Two minutes pass.

ATC: “Eagle 1234: Traffic, twelve o-clock, tree miles, turn left heading 270.”

Eagle 1234: “Turn left, heading 270, Eagle 1234.”

At this point, I looked out the right side of the aircraft and saw the wingspan of an ATR-72 banking away and behind us, but coming up quickly from below. At this point, there is no way the pilots could see us because they would almost have to look through the floor to find us.

Me: “Ft. Worth Center, 4SG, we have that Eagle traffic in sight and he will pass behind us.”

ATC: “Roger 4SG, maintain VFR.”

Then a few minutes later that poor eagle flight got the call to re-intercept the intersection or point they were shooting for on their departure. So thanks to us, fully abiding by regulations, some poor schleps on their way to Abilene or something had to fly around us in our glorified lawn mower in the sky. It’s amazing flying in the system and watching all of the various elements of the air traffic system work to prevent accidents.

Was a great flight, and a great airport! Hard 8 in Stephenville is SO MUCH better than the one in Coppell.

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AIF, 90.6 hours (2.8 hours last flight)

Eclipse 500, BEAUTY!

Been about two months since the last flight in 4SG, and enjoyed this one as well! It’s not as sexy as this Eclipse 500 that was parked on the ramp next to US Aviation, but still lots of fun!

This flight had Ryan and Doug as my passengers and again we tried to make the run down to Tyler. One of these days, I’m going to get there! This time the weather was nice and VFR to the west and north, but all IFR like to the east. Even two hours later when it was supposed to be cleared up Tyler still showed marginal VFR to IFR conditions. That’s no fun.

So we decided to make a turn north and head up to Ardmore. I’d been there before, and was hoping we could grab lunch after landing. Turns out, The Blue Pig closed over eight months ago. DOH. And that airport was freaking deserted. One guy in the tower, three guys in the FBO, and a Snickers to fight over. So we talked to the guys there and they suggested we hit Gainsville and eat at Dieter Brother’s Restaurant. We took back off and headed south to Gainsville and had an interesting interaction with ATC. We were flying at 4,500 feet mainly because the run to Gainsville from Ardmore is only thirty-three miles (20 minute flight). We’re headed south and get the following call:

ATC: “4SG, traffic between 2- and 3-o’clock, eight miles, traffic is descending through 7,000 feet, type unknown.”

Me: “OK, we’re looking, but don’t have the target in sight, 4SG.”

Essentially what that communication was is a warning to me to avoid traffic that is not in the ATC system. Since there is no requirement to always stay in contact with ATC outside of controlled airspace, you might often run into another plane that is not in the system. At this point, we were looking but didn’t see him, and I looked down at my traffic avoidance system and noticed that it was not functioning (for some reason).

ATC: “4SG, traffic, now 2-o’clock, fife miles, traffic descending through 6,000 feet.”

Me: “We still don’t see him, do you want to give us some vectors to avoid, 4SG?”

ATC: “He’s not in the system, so I have no way to tell you what he is doing. Standby.” (ATC did not want to give me vectors in case it ultimately made things worse for us)

Me: “OK, still looking, don’t see him, 4SG”

ATC: “4SG, traffic now tree miles, descending through fife thousand, do what you need to do.”

That was a new one. I’ve never been given that instruction by ATC before, but I figured if he didn’t have a better option for me, it was time to climb over him and turn right to have him pass below and to our left.

Me: “OK, we’re going to climb over and turn right, 4SG.”

Right about the time we zoomed up 500 feet, I saw this guy. He was moving pretty fast, and possibly headed into the Sherman/Denison area, but would ultimately pass in front of us by about two miles.

Me: “FT. Worth Center, 4SG, we have the traffic in sight and he will pass in front of us. Won’t be a factor.”

ATC: “4SG, good to hear (could almost hear the ‘phew’ in his voice), maintain VFR, resume own navigation.”

Me: “Resuming own navigation, 4SG.”

After that excitement, things went pretty smoothly from then on out. Denton was VERY busy all day with the nice weather, but we didn’t have to hold anywhere on approach and landing. Nice flight!

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AIF, Page Turning Time!

Another page of my logbook filled up! The only exception here is one line is crossed out due to a typo (so instead of the typical thirteen entries, I only have twelve). Here are the stats.

  • 85.9 total hours
  • 248 Takeoffs/Landings
  • 6.1 night
  • 3.1 Simulated Instrument
  • 27.1 Cross country
  • 30.0 Dual
  • 58.9 Pilot in Command

I have fallen in love with the DA40. Am going to enjoy flying this more!

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