Don't forget to listen to me guesting on the Airplane Geeks podcast
Friday, August 30, 2013
TO FLY OR NOT TO FLY
THAT IS THE QUESTION
My apologies to Mr. Shakespeare for ripping off Hamlet. I have been accused by my friends, and enemies, of flying since the day I hand cranked the Wright Flyer. While not being quite that old, I have flown for a long time.
I started my flying career in a 172 as a passenger. The pilot was my neighbor and 3rd Chairman of Delta Airlines. Ever since that day as a teenager I knew I would fly airplanes. I went on to obtain my glider and power ratings which leads us to todays column, WEATHER, which can be a nasty 7 letter word.
We are preparing for our last trip to San Diego for the summer. It is imperative for anyone who lives in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area to travel to San Diego to regain their sanity from 105 plus degree days for 4 months, and those in San Diego call us Zonie's.
We have a unique feature in Arizona in the summer called the Monsoon. The flow aloft changes from a westerly flow to a northernly flow July through September. This brings moisture from Mexico into the Southwest. I have been very fortunate that I have had only 2 flights over the years where the weather was a concern flying from San Diego back to Phoenix. When flying to and from Phoenix-San Diego we have an 8 mile wide corridor to fly in. The north side is restricted airspace and the south side is Mexico. There is not much room for maneuvering. My first problem trip was thunderstorms with a squall line moving north to south. I had XM weather and the squall line was visible in flight. We had to skirt the Mexico-US Boarder to beat the weather. This year on July 17, it was IMC from San Diego to Phoenix. We worked out a flight change to go through the restricted areas north to Blythe, CA. These restricted areas are usually cold on the weekends and holidays.Yuma had thunderstorms that we could not vector around. ADS- B weather helped me plan our deviation along with the excellent Marine controller at Yuma Approach. Upon arrival in Phoenix we were then talked down through the clouds by Luke approach until we broke out from 9,000 to 4,500 feet AGL and proceeded to land at Phoenix Deer Valley (DVT) which was under visual flight rules. Our alternate at Scottsdale was IMC and traffic was backed up shooting the approach.
Richard Collins wrote a column years ago to go up and take a look if possible but to always have an out. Following this philosophy I have been able to make many trips that I did not know would be possible until I took a look.
I have learned more about weather being a glider pilot than I ever did being a power pilot. This knowledge has enabled me to better understand the situations along my route of flight. This week, Labor Day, we are planning to go to San Diego for our last trip of the summer. There is a large tropical depression located over Mexico in the Gulf and another in the Pacific moving south to north. For the first time in my flying career it looks like we will take 4 wheels instead of 3 and drive to San Diego. I hate driving and the trip will take around 6 hours versus 1. 9 hours flying each way. It is a tough decision but I think the right one. I do not fly in thunder storms and icing. If things change Friday morning we can still fly but my mindset is now on driving as getting back could also be a problem.
This trip also has some secondary aspects for me. I have a decision to make whether to keep the plane and along with it costs for hangar, insurance, maintenance and $6.40 aviation fuel. I’m sure it’s a lot nicer flying to San Diego every 2 weeks instead of driving. I could also fly the airlines for the same cost of my fuel bill but would not be able to bring my beach chairs, umbrella and cooler. It is another thing to evaluate after this trip is complete.
I will finish this column when I return and let you know how things turned out.
It is now Friday morning of Labor Day weekend. We could have flown to San Diego this morning but the weather in San Diego is predicted to be lousy all weekend. No fun being in San Diego in a hotel room, shopping center or movie theater. Therefore we decided to cancel this trip. It is a bummer for us, but the right thing to do. I do not like to drive anywhere but to the airport. After commuting the time involved driving versus flying my plane we have decided to keep our plane as long as I am comfortable flying. Three canceled trips this summer for weather and fires were disappointing but that is life.
Most of our winter flying will be in Arizona and Las Vegas as Scottsdale is not a place I want to leave October through May due to our beautiful weather.
Friday, August 23, 2013
July 22 SWA #345 lands nose first on runway 4 at LaGuardia. The nose wheel hits first, the nose gear collapses and the plane skids 2175 feet down a 7000 foot runway.
The question is why do pilots fly a perfectly good airplane into the ground? Just 2 weeks previous an Asiana crew flew a perfectly good 787 into the seawall at San Francisco (SFO).
The SWA flight had a 15 minute hold into LGA and weather was above minimums when the plane landed. The FO was flying and had 11/2 years with SWA. For some reason at approximately 400 feel AGL the Captain assumed control of the airplane from the FO. The FO had about 6 landings at LGA while this was only the Captains 2nd landing at LGA.
I have talked to several friends who are/were longtime airline pilots. I was surprised to find out that on average they have had to take control of a flight on an average of 2 occasions throughout their career. None had stated that they took over control so low to the ground, they figured out things were not right way before. They were also surprised that the Captain did not do a go around when she saw there was a problem.
I have been told that one does not want to abort an approach at LGA due to the high volume of traffic at LGA, JFK and EWR. Just recently a Delta 747 did a go around at JFK. A Delta connection flight departing EWR almost ran into the 747 passing within 100 feet. This is not easy airspace to fly in, and in the mix is a very busy GA airport at Teterboro (TEB).
LGA is a difficult airport to land at but not that difficult. Runway 4 is 7000 feet and would terminate into water. To give a comparison the runway at Renton, WA (RNT), where 737’s are produced, is only a little over 5000 feet with ocean at the north end.
Both pilots had to provide an independent report to the NTSB and SWA. They have both been placed on administrative leave until the airline makes a decision. If one is a longtime employee of SWA without any previous incidents chances are they will be sent to recurrent and retained. If they are a short term employee, such as the FO, things do not look good for retaining a job at SWA. Of course there are other circumstances involved we will never know about.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
THIS AND THAT
ICON is one of the very few LSA’s that has an “IT” factor. ICON is producing an airplane that is a fun and safe machine, but $139,000 is really pushing the limit for a 100 mile per hour airplane. ICON has around 950 orders, fully refundable deposits, on the books. Assuming that 350 of these buyers follow through and purchase the ICON at $139K where is the market to sell more.
At Oshkosh ICON announced the new price of their plane is going to be $189K. I call this the “kiss of death factor”. The market for this plane at $139K is limited. Now at $189K I believe that there is almost a null market.
Terrafugia has priced their flying car at $289K. I do not know what these companies are thinking, but after the few buy, there will be no one left. Will both of these airplanes go the way of the Fisker automobile? I certainly believe so.
I belong to a group in Phoenix that is comprised of ATC, Tower Managers and Airport Managers called the Phoenix Aviation Users Work Group. We discuss what is happening at airports and with the airspace.
It is sad to see that a lot of these FAA people are near retirement or are retiring. They paid they dues starting out as tower controllers at small airports. A good number of these people are also GA pilots. They have paid their dues and moved up through the system.
Due to the large number of openings to be filled, I do not see controllers working their way through the system. They are placed where a hole exists without any experience. It is sad for me to say that I do not trust these newer controllers, and I have to question their decisions to make sure my flight is as should be.
You “old timers” will be dearly missed by the aviation community.
ELECTED OFFICIALS A WASTE
I wrote a column in July on how turning on ADS B OUT 24/7 could save lives. For a $1,000 investment we could all see traffic on our IPads. I sent this column with a cover note to my US Senators and Congressman from Arizona asking them to look into this matter. I never heard back from any of them.
Unless I send them a check for $10,000 they just do not care. What a bunch of useless ingrates.
We had a horrible fire about 70 miles NW of Phoenix a month ago. 19 HOT SHOT firemen were killed trying to defend the town of Yarnell from being consumed.
The Arizona Business Aviation Association (AZBAA), chapter of the NBAA, went to work requesting donations for the surviving families in Yarnell. Clothing, water and shopping cards were donated and driven to Yarnell this last week.
AZBAA is the same group that flew a plane full of donations to those affected by hurricane Sandy. AZBAA raised so many donations that the Citation X would not hold them all, and they also had to drive an 18 wheeler to NJ with the balance of goods donated.
This makes me really proud to be part of our aviation community.
Monday, August 5, 2013
THIS AND THAT
OSHKOSH AIR ADVENTURE
I was not able to attend Air Adventure this year but have talked to several friends that did. Here are their opinions.
Not having a military presence this year did not hurt OSH. It brought the show and event back to it’s roots.
The most exciting product was the NavWorx TSO’d ADS B IN and OUT unit for around $3500 installed. This would make any aircraft compliant with 2020 ADS B OUT requirements. Traffic would show on IPad with wireless adapter and proper IPad APP. Unfortunately ForeFlight and Garmin are not allowing this on their APP. Now legacy aircraft can be compliant without spending $25,000.
Food offerings were more diverse and less expensive with a bottle of water costing $2 this year instead the the $4 I used to pay.
All said this was the best run event in years. A big thank you to Jack Pelton for this who will serve 3 more years as EAA Chairman.
EAA sued the FAA for illegal user fees for controllers in the amount 0f $497,000. I’m hoping that the EAA wins suit and request damages against the FAA.
In an earlier column I wrote about podcasts stating they are basically a radio show on the internet. If there is one podcast you must listen to it is the AIRPLANE GEEKS. AirplaneGeeks.com offers intelligent information covering all aspects of aviation inflecting humor when needed.
AIRLINE ACCIDENTS AND INCOMPETENT PILOTS
Two events in the news were #214 at SFO and SWA at LaGuardia. It looks to be that 214 pilot flew a perfectly good 777 right into the sea wall. SWA took a 737 and landed nose wheel first and it collapsed skidding down the runway.
The problem we have in airline flying is the automation. Even though these pilots have thousands of hours in their log books I wonder how much of it is hand flying the airplane. Being that I do not have an auto pilot, I wonder if I have more hours hand flying than these pilots did.
Flying an older airplane the most automated piece of equipment I own is an IPad with WingX and ADS B IN. On a recent trip from San Diego (MFY) to Scottsdale (SDL) the weather was horrible. You can read about this trip in my column on the Dang Monsoon. ADS B weather showed I would have encountered thunderstorms and heavy rain if I stayed on my flight plan. I was able to work out a rerouting with ATC that took me into Phoenix (DVT). After copying the new route I went to the 3 new waypoints on my IPAD, touched each waypoint and hit add to route. This took about 10 seconds. I wonder how many are familiar enough with their IFR GPS’s to change their route in flight in IMC which will take a lot longer. Safety demands that you be very familiar with your IFR GPS’s.
I have talked to a lot of pilots who are flying less. The cost of Av fuel in Souther CA is over $6 a gallon. My friends who would have flown their own planes to OSH took the airlines this year. Av Fuel used to be about $1 over the cost of regular auto fuel. Now it is over $2+ more. No reasoning for this.