June 25, 2004

Seeing America from the Cockpit of a Small Plane

www.AirportMainStreet.comOne of the things I have enjoyed most about my flying experiences to date has been seeing new places. I love looking at a view from above after being constrained to the view from the ground previously. It's like going from the one dimensional Atari games to the multi-dimensional vidoe games available today. I also enjoy visiting airports that I have never been to before.

When I complete might flight training I look forward to the freedom of being able to fly to new places to enjoy new experiences. One resource I have found that appears to be great for planning a weekend getaway by air is Pilot Getaways Magazine.

There are also two sites I have stumbled upon recently that I wanted to share. The first site is AirportMainStreet.com. This site contains the log of a Mooney pilot that is flying around the country visiting America's small airports. I enjoyed the posts and the photos on this site.

The other site is Coast to Coast a log of a Cessna 172 flight across the United States from California to Florida and back with a lot of interesting stops along the way. The site includes flight planning details, photos, and movies.


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June 21, 2004

A Flight into Space

spaceshipone.jpgI am back from a much enjoyed vacation. While I was out an exciting leap into privatized space flight took place.

SpaceShipOne piloted by Mike Melvill flew into the edge of space, over 62 miles in altitude and leaving the Earth's atmosphere, then returning to earth safely.

Space.com has put together a variety of great articles about this historic event. Additionally, they have a image gallery showing the history of flight from the Wright Brothers to Mike Melvill's flight this weekend.


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June 15, 2004

Flight of Discovery - Lewis and Clark

flightofdiscovery.jpgI was unable to fly this evening due to work commitments. But, I was not so bummed out when I looked outside an saw it was raining.

So instead, I thought I would share a cool site with you. I am bit of a history buff and enjoy the history of Lewis & Clark's great adventure. There is a neat site that combines my passion for flying with my passion for history - www.flightofdiscovery.com.

Their site explains their mission best "The Flight of Discovery is a team of general aviation pilot/scientists who will fly the river corridors and overland routes of the Lewis and Clark expedition - the trail of the Corps of Discovery - during the 200th anniversary of the search for the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition is slated to depart from Clark County Airport (JVY) and the Falls of the Ohio on June 1, 2004."

They have some really great aerial photography of Lewis & Clark's path to the west like the photo displayed to the right. Visit their site for photos from each leg of their trip.


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June 4, 2004

WWII Hero's Incredible Story

hurricane.jpgI came across the incredible story of British Royal Air Force Pilot Ray Holmes today. Ray Holmes was the brave pilot of a RAF Hurricane during the Battle of Britain in 1940. His Hurricane was out of ammunition when he saw a German Dornier bomber heading for Buckingham Palace. What would you have done?

According to an article on AVWeb.com when Ray Holmes was asked what goes through a young pilot's mind as he confronts the Germans he responded "Nothing particularly, Except he just has to go and have a bash at him. That's all." Holmes decided without ammunition his only opportunity to protect the palace would be to ram the German Bomber. He did so causing the bomber to crash at Victoria Railway he then safely jumped from his plane and parachuted to safety. This struck me as an amazing tale of courage.

The resulting crash of Ray Holmes's Hurricane caused it to be burried for years. Just recently the BBC taped the uncovering of Ray Holmes's Hurricane Aircraft which was recently discovered underneath a road near Buckingham Palace.

According to the Independent the escavation of the Hurricane was lead by Christopher Bennett an Aviation historian who has spent 13 years tracking the remains of Holmes's aircraft. when asked about the find by James Burleigh of the Independant Mr. Bennett said "I'm totally elated. I've been working on this project for 13 years. This crash site was a result of one of the most famous incidents of the war and this Hurricane crashed on 15 September 1940, the day now commemorated as Battle of Britain Day. After all these years, the engine is still in remarkable condition, probably because of the oil around it."

Lastly, on a bit of a tangent, a cool site I found while learning about this storry was Archaeology.org the online publication of the Archaeological Institute of Amercia.


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May 23, 2004

Window Seat - Deciphering the View From Above

window_seat1.jpgI was reading the June issue of Men's Health, in their Guy Wisdom section they referenced a book by Gregory Duncan, Window Seat: Reading the Landscape from the Air. The book contains more than 70 aerial photographs and a foldout map of common flight paths in North America.

The maps and photos are meant to help the window seat passenger to decipher what they are seeing below. Whenever I travel I always select the window seat. I usually plan ahead and think about what direction we will be approaching the destination city and choose which side of the plane to sit on in order to have the best view of the city. For instance flying into Newark I find more often than not sitting on the left side yields a great view of New York. During flights like the one to New York I often see a ton of towns and cities and wish I knew what they were. The only landmark I usually recognize is Niagara Falls. I always regret not having brought along some sort of map.

This book sounds like it helps readers see cities, landmarks and geography from 30,000 feet and understand what they are and what is coming up next. Photographs in this book are said to include the Rockies at Aspen, Mississippi River, the GM Lansing assembly plant, the San Andreas fault, Disney World, Niagara Falls, the Chesapeake Bay, Chicago and much more.

In an Arizona Daily Star book review, the author was quoted, "A century ago, nobody on Earth could have hoped to see this view, and yet it's yours -- free -- with every flight you take."

As soon as I read the reviews about this book I decided I needed to check it out. I ordered a copy today. I will keep you posted.


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May 20, 2004

Cincinnati City Council Says No to Commuter Traffic at Lunken

lunken.jpgThe Cincinnati City Council voted Wednesday on three issues related to Cincinnati's Lunken Airport. The council approved two motions - extending the main runway (21L/3R) by 900 feet to 7,000 feet and increasing the weight limit for planes to 100,000 pounds from 70,000. The City Council unanimously voted down a motion to allow regularly scheduled commercial service.

This issue has been a hot one in Cincinnati as neighbors of the airport have been complaining about the noise the airport generates. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported, "Neighbors feared that scheduled service would lead to more noise and hurt their property values. They formed the Lunken Neighborhood Coalition four years ago."

Councilman Jim Tarbell, who at times has been open to commercial service at Lunken told the Enquirer "I would hope as time progresses there will be options to revisit this again. But, for the time being, it's better to just get this part behind us and focus on the noise study and master plan." I think the time to review this matter again may come as soon as June when a current study of noise generated by aircraft using Lunken is going to be presented to the City Council.

A local radio station 550 WKRC is hosting a poll on their website "Should commercial passenger flights be allowed at Lunken Airport?" As of Thursday morning 84% were in support of passenger flights. I live in the area near Lunken and I too would support the easy access to commercial flights.


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May 19, 2004

Taking a Tour of a Control Tower

tower_small.jpgToday I had the opportunity to tour the control tower at the Cincinnati Lunken Airport. I have been watching the "Learning to Fly" series on Discovery Wings and in a recent episode the CFI and student took a tour of the tower to better understand how the control tower works. The theory was that by meeting the people in the tower and learning more about what they do it would make the student more comfortable communicating with them.

I decided I too wanted an opportunity to see the inside of the control tower at my airport. I was not sure how easy it would be to get in touch with the right person about taking a tour. I submitted a post on StudentPilot.com asking if others had taken control tower tours. Consensus was that it was a great idea to take a tour and could probably be accomplished by simply calling the main tower number and asking for a tour.

When I called, the tower manager was more than happy to offer me an opportunity to see the facility. Today I stopped in and talked with him for about 15-20 minutes then went up to the main control tower room. There I met two controllers, one in charge of ground communications (for taxiing) and another that handled takeoff and approach clearances. I was amazed at how open they were to sharing with me what they do. They spent time explaining how they can read their radar scope and learn the location, altitude and speed of an aircraft.

The controllers walked me through some more of their many duties in addition to managing traffic, such as recording the ATIS weather report (Automatic Terminal Information Service) used prior to taking off. This helped me put in prespective some their responsibilities other than simply manageing aircraft flow. So pilots, be patient when the control tower takes a moment or two to get back to you.

One of the most interesting things I learned was that this facility is privately managed. The government started privatizing smaller towers in order to save money. The Lunken Tower is managed by Midwest Air Traffic Control, Inc. The FAA will not hire Air Traffic Controllers over the age of 32. So, retired military controllers do not have the opportunity to work for the FAA towers. But since the move to privatize towers many of them have found employment with small to mid-size towers such as Lunken. Of the seven tower employees at Lunken, at least four are former military controllers.

For those non-pilots reading this blog, you can listen to what pilot-to-tower communication is like at some of the busiest airports in the country from these two sites: www.LiveATC.com and www.4VFR.com

All-in-all it was an eye-opening experience that I recommend every pilot take advantage of. In departing, the controllers continually expressed that I should encourage other pilots to take the tour. So get out there and learn more about your fellow airport inhabitants.


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May 12, 2004

Forest Fighting is About to Get a Lift

Forest fighters are about to get additional air support. Evergreen International Aviation is retrofitting 747s to carry up to 24,000 gallons of fire retardant. Spokesman Richare Marchand said "I like the analogy 'why send in a single soldier when you can send in the army".

Not only will the 747 be able to get to the forest fires more quickly than the typical forest fighting aircraft, it will carry seven times the load. Evergreen International hopes to have FAA certification for the retrofit aircraft by July 4th, in time for the heat of the summer and the wildfire season.

Evergreen's website has many great photographs in their gallery, such as the one displayed here, of the 747 forest fighting plane. To learn more about how the 747 will be used to fight forest fires, check out Evergreen's great FAQ.


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May 9, 2004

Is Flying Safe?

According to a recent study 2002 set a record low for the number of accidents in General Aviation aircraft.

One of the questions I hear often when I tell people I am learning to fly is: Is it safe? They cannot believe that with minimal amounts of training flight instructors willingly hand over the controls to their students. I am not sure they realize the instructor has matching controls and is always there to assist. Until I came across the 2003 Nall Report, I did not have any statistical information to share in regard to the safety of flying General Aviation aircraft.

The Nall Report is released each year and is considered to be the most complete review of General Aviation safety and General Aviation trends. You can download the report from the Aircraft Owners & Operators Website (www.aopa.org).

I found this fact particularly interesting: "The vast majority of General Aviation accidents in 2002 (79 percent) were fatality-free, a statistic that has held true every year since modern aviation safety record keeping started in 1938. This contrasts strongly with the popular public misconception that a light aircraft crash is nearly always an automatic death sentence."

Unfortunately, the majority of General Aviation accidents are related to pilot error (72.6 percent). According to Bruce Landsbert, AOPA's Air Safety Foundation Executive Director, "Accidents that simply should not happen - those due to fuel mismanagement and flights into bad weather, mostly under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) - continue." These accidents are avoidable with proper preperation and training.

While having my safety hat on, I also found it interesting to see how the aircraft I am training in fared safety-wise in the last year. The Cessna 152 had 22 accidents in the past year. Sadly, one of those was fatal, five involved serious injury, four had minor injuries and twelve had no injuries. You can review the Air Safety Foundation Accident Database on the Aircraft Owners & Pilot Association (AOPA) website.

I am off to continue studying and making sure I am best prepared to safely manage the pilot-in-command responsibilities.


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May 7, 2004

Rocket Cam & In-Flight DSL

There was a post on BoingBoing.net in January that I missed. I came across it this evening while googling for information on in-flight DSL access, more on that in a moment.

What I came across was a post about a model rocket launched with an in-flight video camera attached. A couple of Aussies were interested in the possibility of transmitting live video and audio from a model rocket to the ground. They documented their experiences, which are pretty interesting to read. Additionally, they have a few great video samples.

Now, you know where my time goes. I was originally looking into more information on in-flight DSL services and then spent 30 minutes reading about rocket videos. So back to the DSL - A recent eMarketer.com newsletter explained Boeing's plan to offer In-Flight DSL. In that report it quoted Forrester Research as saying "our research shows that 38% of frequent travelers are willing to pay at least $25.00 per flight for full, high-speed access to the Internet and their corporate network."

In response Boeing has unveiled the following pricing: $29.95 for long haul (more than six hours) flights, $19.95 for medium-haul (between three and six hours) flights, $14.95 for flights shorter than three hours.

I would think it would be a great idea if only I could get my laptop battery to last more than a half hour.


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