July 19, 2014

Disney Planes: Fire and Rescue Review

disney_planes_fire_and_rescue.jpgAs a pilot and father to twin four year old's the opening weekend of Planes: Fire & Rescue, the second movie in the Planes Trilogy, was a day we have been looking forward to for some time to come. A year ago my family and my kids fell in love with Dusty, a loveable crop duster modeled after an AT-301 Air tractor. The first film, released in 2013, followed his journey of qualifying and then competing in the Wings Around the World Rally. After our first viewing, die-cast airplanes started to multiply in our household faster than a emergence of baby bunnies, I even bought a few for the kids.

At first I wondered if maybe my enthusiasm for airplanes was driving most the excitement but I soon learned the kids genuinely enjoyed the movie and its interesting cast of characters. The original film did well, grossing nearly $220 million in revenue, a drop in a bucket of what Frozen generated ($1.2 billion), but not bad for a film that was originally planned for direct to DVD.

Secretly, I was hoping the second film in the franchise might offer a brief respite from Frozen which seems to be on a continuous loop in our household. Much like the first film Planes: Fire and Rescue has received less than stellar reviews from movie critics. Though, I think critics often just get frustrated when they need to review animated films. However, I very much enjoyed this movie and the continuation of the Planes franchise, though I admit to being a certified aviation geek and may be a bit biased. Dusty makes his third career change having gone from crop duster to international racing sensation to learning the ropes of being an aerial fire fighter. This film benefited from a stronger cast, musical score and improved animation over the first film.

Dusty, voiced by Dane Cook, of course returns as do a few of the characters from the first film. Much of this film focuses on Dusty's new friends, an elite team of fire fighting aircraft. Dane Cook is joined by a strong cast including Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, and Hal Holbrook. After hearing Frozen's "Let it Go" nearly nonstop in our household over the past six months seeing my kids dancing in their chairs to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" was well worth the price of admission. I should note that although nearly the full version of Thunderstruck is played in the film, it does not appear on the Planes: Fire & Rescue soundtrack for the film. However, songs by Brad Paisley and Spencer Lee are. The animation seemed more advanced especially some beautifully powerful forest fire scenes. Pilots will like the accuracy of most of the aerial communications. Quite often aviation films are awful at their accurate portrayal of aviation. Iron Eagle IV being one of the worst offenders when they used an F-16 for Aerial shots and then an F-5 for the shots on the ground. So I was happily impressed that the Disney team continued to work with aviation consultants to give as accurate a portrayal of the flying as they could.

This movie is sure to entertain most kids and any parent that has a passion for aviation. I am hopeful these films might inspire some kids to fall in love with aviation as well. I was of course pleased when we returned home from the theater and I heard the kids running around the house with their Dusty's in hand as they doused imaginary flames with their newly learned aerial firefighting skills. To all the pilots out there, go support this film and bring your kids, nieces and nephews along too!

Posted at 9:46 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (69) | Save & Share This Story

February 26, 2011

Listen to Live ATC Communications for Chicago Executive Airport

liveatc.jpgIf I had known it was so easy to setup an online feed for air traffic control communications for my home airport I would have done it years ago. This afternoon I install a scanner at the Leading Edge Flying Club that will broadcast live ATC communications feed for Chicago Executive Airport (KPWK). The feed is now available via, a site that broadcasts communications from air traffic control towers and radar facilities around the world allowing you to listen to live ATC via the internet and also via an iPhone App.

Although has a great list of airports that feature communications they never had a feed for my home base KPWK. So, I reached out to the founder of Live ATC, Dave Pascoe, to inquire about the requirements to add my airport. I learned that Dave relies on the support of local aviation enthusiasts to setup each feed. Dave walked me through the process of setting up a new feed, sounding simple enough I volunteered to setup the Chicago Executive feed.

liveatc_kpwk.jpgDave sold me a used scanner for a reasonable price and even pre-programmed it for the frequencies at my airport prior to delivery. Once I received the device I simply followed the easy to follow instructions for installing the scanner and connecting it to the computer at the Leading Edge Flying Club office. Literally within about 15 minutes of arriving at the club today I had a live ATC feed up and running. You can now here a combination of Clearance Delivery, Ground and Tower frequencies for Chicago Executive Airport.

As easy and cheap as it was to setup I am surprised one of the flight schools or clubs on the airport had not set up a feed already. I am a firm believer that one of the best ways to learn to communicate well in the air traffic control system is to listen to yourself and others. Live ATC is a perfect tool to assist you with honing your ATC communications, in fact the Mastering VFR Communications DVD I reviewed a few months back recommends this method of learning. keeps a 45-day archive of most feeds which will allow a student to fly in the morning then replay his or her communications with his CFI upon return to the airport. This is an invaluable tool for improving your communications skills. Just as valuable as hearing your own communications is listening to others within the system. I am just now preparing to work on the Instrument Rating and I have enjoyed listening to clearance delivery and readbacks via the site.

If you have an iPhone you can listen to Live ATC feeds on the go. I love looking up airport feeds whenever I am near one to listen in to the aircraft overhead.

If your airport does not have a feed I strongly recommend you look into setting one up. All you need is a scanner and an always on internet connection near the airport. The Live ATC team could not be more helpful. They will provide you with some free software that is easy to install. Once up and running the transmission only takes up a small amount of internet bandwidth. Less than an hour of work can provide a ton of enjoyment and education for the aviation community.

Special thanks to my club, Leading Edge Flying Club, for allowing me to setup the scanner in our office and to use the internet connection to broadcast the Chicago Executive feed. Enjoy!

Posted at 9:31 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (103) | Save & Share This Story

May 13, 2010

Learning Not to Fly?

slow_transition.gifAviation enthusiasts are promoting May 15 as Learn to Fly day. I am proud of my accomplishment and very much enjoy the privilege of flying. However, as we approach Learn to Fly day, I am pondering should I learn not to fly?

One of the easiest decisions I ever made was to learning to fly. It was something I had always wanted to do so from that standpoint I am not even aware of when I made the decision or deliberated about it. It was just something I always wanted to do. Achieving the goal was a little harder but in retrospect not all that challenging. It was just getting around to taking the first step and of course to funding it that took some time. In the Spring of 2004, I finally made the commitment and earned my licenses three and a half months later.

Now, I face a more difficult challenge, one faced all too often by pilots, the decision whether to continue to fly or to hang up the flight bag. I would never have imagined being at this point, and pondering that as an option after all those years of dreaming of flying and the wonderful six years as a pilot.

But I am a month, maybe weeks away from becoming a father to twins. They occupy much of my thoughts these days as I assume they always will. In thinking of them I have thought about flying and how my passion for aviation fits with my expanding family.

At a recent aviation get together I heard many pilots explain that they just recently returned to flying after 15-20 years away from aviation in which they focused on raising their families. This helped spur the conversation in my head in which I am continually debating what role aviation should play in my life over the next twenty years.

One side of the argument says what a great life lesson it is for children to see their father went after one of his dreams and is passionately continuing to pursue and foster that dream. I would love sharing my love of aviation with them. Additionally, the benefits of general aviation could offer us greater flexibility in travel and entertainment. Flying also brings me great joy, satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment that would be tough to forgo. A flight does not go by in which my wife does not positively comment on the glow on my face or the happiness in my voice after I return from flying. Each flight is an experience like no other that I truly treasure.

On the other side of the conversation are things like cost, time and safety. Let's face it: this is one expensive hobby. My mind is swirling with the costs of diapers, day care, and college tuition and flying seems like an expense that brings great joy to me but maybe not to the entire family. In addition to the monetary costs it is a time investment. Each flight represents a few hours away from the family (at least at first when they are so young) not to mention any time spent planning flights or continuing to learn. I may be naive (everyone says I have no idea what is about to happen in my life) but I cannot imagine wanting to spend hours away from these little ones on a weekend. I wonder will I prefer to take them for a walk or to a park on a sunny day rather than heading off to the airport.

I also wonder if I can find the time to continue to be a safe pilot which leads to the safety issue. Am I putting my family at greater risk by participating in a hobby that is more dangerous than your average hobby of home improvement, gardening, golf or tennis?

No matter what the decision I have to say I feel so blessed to have followed this dream and now to be given the opportunity to raise twins with my wife. If I do choose to continue to fly I do know then I need to go into it full bore. I need to invest the time and money to fly more frequently and work towards an instrument rating to help make me a safer pilot.

Most of you, my readers, are pilots. So I am sure you all have gone through periods of your life where you have wondered if you should take a break or keep at the controls. I would love to hear your advice.

Posted at 7:20 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (8) | Save & Share This Story

April 12, 2009

Who Do you Fly With?

whodoyouflywith.jpgHave you ever noticed that when you ride in a cab you never wear a seatbelt? Why is this? Do we blindly trust that fact that if the driver does this for a living we should trust their skills? Independent of all the other miserable drivers on the road?

Are you the same way in the air? Are you willing to climb into the cockpit of anyone's plane just to log a few hours or share the cost of flying? Or do you take greater precautions in the sky? I have noticed that I take flying much more seriously than land-based activities. Not to say I live recklessly when fully weighted down by gravity, just that I realize the inherent dangers of flying and was trained early on to respect the airplane and those flying around me. I have found, right or wrong, I have strict standards for those I choose to fly with. I realize that as a relatively new pilot, I still have much I can learn from fellow pilots but realize the habits I could learn can be both positive and negative.

I receive frequent invitations to go flying. I admit to not thinking twice when it is an invitation from the trained pilots of Lima Lima, Aero Shell, or Bill Leff and his T-6 Texan. I might jump at the opportunity to fly with them because I have seen their skill firsthand, or just because I would do nearly anything to fly the T-6 Texan or T-34. However, when I receive an invite from someone I have just met I am more skeptical. I have not seen their logbook to see their flying experiences, frequency of hours, etc. How do I know they believe in the same standards of safety that I do? How do I know their flying history?

Let's all admit it. We have met pilots that we know we would never fly with, let alone choose to share airspace with. I was especially concerned when I joined a safety seminar put on by the air traffic controllers at my home airport a few weeks back and they were asking simple questions like "Can you explain what the hold short line is used for?" and pilots (not students, licensed pilots) were answering the question wrong.

Earlier this week a person I met through the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group was looking for some people to join him on a flight to deliver a dog from Chicago to its new home in Southern Indiana. It sounded like a great way to enjoy a few hours in the sky while helping out a worthy cause. I had a scheduling conflict but even if I had not, I wonder if I would have flown along for fear that I would show up to learn the pilot had a lower standard of safety than I was comfortable with or lacked the experience I would want in the pilot-in-command. Worse yet, what if I did not learn about their lack of concern for safety until we were airborne?

Last night I had the opportunity to meet the pilot in question in person. Within a few minutes of speaking with him I immediately realized this pilot was one who knew the responsibility bestowed on pilots and took flying seriously. We not only talked about each other's flying experiences but I also learned about his knowledge of his plane. I realized that I would happily fly with him in the future. I realize now when an opportunity arises a quick phone call or in person chat will likely provide me the clarity I need to determine whether I want to share responsibilities of flying a plane with a fellow pilot.

How do you decide with whom you will fly?

Posted at 8:24 PM | Post Category: Continuing Education, General | Comments (6) | Save & Share This Story

December 28, 2008

2008: A Pilot's Year in Review

yearinreview.jpgAt this time of year I always enjoy taking a few minutes to pull out my logbook and also to pull up the blog and look back at flights and posts from the past year and think of the great aviation experiences I have had. I broke some of my favorite moments into two categories: Flight Experiences and Aviation Community.

Flight Experiences
Going into 2008 I wanted to fly more regularly and start to build up some cross country time. My first flight of the year pushed me over the 100 hour mark of flight time. Shortly after I completed my second Biennial Flight Review. Both of those accomplishments were nice but more valuable was returning to a more frequent flight schedule that allowed me to become as confident in the cockpit as I was when I first learned to fly. I took advantage of that confidence to log several cross country flights with nearly 45% of my 2008 flight time being on cross-country flights. This will help should I decide to seek out an instrument rating in 2009.

Here is a list of a few of my favorite flights from 2008:

Aviation Community

Part of my enjoyment of aviation has come from meeting other aviation enthusiasts. Every pilot is aware that the pilot population has been dwindling and if we are to protect the interests of general aviation we need to start rebuilding the aviation community. In 2008 I had several ways to help spread my love of aviation.

I enjoyed meeting many fellow aviation enthusiasts through the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group. Although we had fewer meetings than I would have liked we did enjoy checking out a flightline, Flying-in to Lansing for lunch and meeting Meeting AOPA President Phil Boyer at an AOPA Town Meeting.

Another great aviation community moment in 2008 was when several Midwest members of the online aviation community, myTransponder, met in person at Janesville, Wisconsin for the first myTransponder fly-in. We had 15 members from three different states fly-in to talk aviation over lunch.

Although, this is my year in review post I hope to fit in one more flight before the year concludes. I will post an update on that flight should the weather hold-up.

Posted at 1:25 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

December 21, 2008

Blogging While Grounded by the Weather

letsgoflying.jpgMother Natures continues to prevent me from flying this winter. I have had two flights scrubbed due to extremely high winds and one due to all-around bad weather. I am hoping while I take some time off around the holidays I can fit in one more flight for 2008.

In the meantime I have been thinking about flying and writing about flying, just not actually getting airborne. I have agreed to write periodic posts for AOPA's Let's Go Flying blog. The blog is dedicated to encouraging aviation enthusiasts to learn to fly.

Please check out my first post for the AOPA Let's Go Flying blog - "A Dream Deferred No Longer". While you are there check out the posts from many great colleagues: Evan of FlyingToga, Paul of Ask a CFI, Andrew of 2fly, Jason of FinerPoints, Steve of Airspeed Online and Francois of Flyin' and Ridin' and Lauren.

Posted at 4:07 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

November 25, 2008

My First International Flight Scrubbed Due to Weather

versailles.jpgI recently returned from a wonderful trip to France. I spent several days for work in the south of France then met my wife in Paris for several days of exploring Paris.

As soon as I learned I would be going to France I started thinking about trying to fit in a flight while visiting. I was excited about the opportunity to see Versailles and the sites of Paris from above.

I had troubles locating fixed based operators or flight schools. So, I contacted PlasticPilot who is based in Germany for some advice. He suggested Air & Compagnie based at the Toussus le Noble airport near Versaille about 30 minutes from Paris.

I reserved a safety pilot and a Cessna 172SP for an afternoon during my visit. My wife and I planned to tour the Palace of Versaille in the morning then fly in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the morning of our day trip to Versaille we woke up to a terentual downpour. But, as all pilots learn to do I did my best to not focus on the weather hoping it would clear in time for the flight.

eiffeltower.jpgSure enough while walking the grounds of Versaille the rain stopped and the closed began to clear. I started to think we would fit the flight in. Although we had a high enough ceiling and visibility the winds were in the 20 - 30 knot range and with 10 knot gusts. The problem is that the Toussus le Noble airport has two runways but they are parrellel to each other and the winds were directly perpindicular to the runways.

I waited another 30 minutes after the initial flight time but the weather did not improve so I had to scrub the flight. I often say one of the hardest parts about being a general aviation pilot is the let down of having to scrub a flight. I look forward to visiting France again and will be sure to look up the friendly folks at Air & Compagnie. For now a flight in Microsoft Flight Simulator X will have to do.

Posted at 8:57 PM | Post Category: Flight Experiences, General | Comments (8) | Save & Share This Story

April 23, 2008

Aviation Town Meeting Spurs Passion for Flight

aopa_townmeeting_group_small.jpgI enjoyed a great night of aviation at the AOPA Pilot Town Meeting tonight. Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association President, Phil Boyer, spends about a week each month traveling around the country to meet with pilots and to talk about issues that are near and dear to pilots. I remember attending a Pilot Town Meeting several years ago and was excited to see Phil was bringing his show to Chicago.

I arrived nearly an hour early so that I could save some seats for fellow members of the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group who were going to join me for the event. As is often the case at any pilot get together or at a local airport it is nearly impossible to be alone long around pilots. Within seconds of sitting down I was engaged in a conversation with several fellow pilots. One of which was a remarkable man, Clarence (Clancy) Hess. Clancy was one of the first members of AOPA when he joined for the price of $3 in 1940. He was a Marine Aviator in WWII and also was a co-founder of Wings of Hope, a non-profit organization that delivers food and medical assistance to third world countries. He shared with me and a few fellow pilots some amazing photos including one of him with Jimmy Doolitle who inspired Clancy to pursue aviation. Clancy was recently inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.

In looking around the room it was obvious why AOPA is working so hard to bring new pilots into aviation as the median age had to be close to if not over 50 years of age. I knew that this particular AOPA event had both presentations for current pilots and for prospective pilots. I was excited that three of the six members of the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group who were able to attend were interested in learning to fly. Mid-way through the evening those interested in learning to fly were taken to a separate room to learn about the steps it takes to learn to fly. As a special gift, AOPA presented them each with a voucher for a free introductory flight. It was great hearing from the three future pilots after the meeting, each of them sounded very excited about taking the introductory flight. A.J. commented that he always knew he wanted to fly, he even was close to attending Embry Riddle to learn to fly but chose another career path. He now wants to get into aviation and stop putting off his dream of flying. He said this event just fueled his interest in learning to fly which was great to see.

Another fun story was from Mark, a private pilot who has not flown in several months. He mentioned this weekend he was outside when his young daughter pointed to the sky and said "airplane". He was so excited he took her to the local airport and showed her the planes up close as they watched from the fence line as planes came and went. He is looking forward to getting current again this spring and taking his daughter flying.

Tonight my eyes were opened once again to what I already knew but just needed a reminder of; all of us pilots are very passionate about aviation. In most cases it is a love affair we have had since we were children. It is our duty as pilots to be good ambassadors for aviation. We need to be vigilantly looking for the twinkle in one's eye when the topic of aviation comes up or one's attention is drawn to an overflying plane and we need to seize that moment to share our passion for flying with that person. I know I find great joy in helping people step away from the fence line and cross over to the tarmac to take an introductory flight or simply to visit an FBO or look at the inside of a General Aviation plane.

Tonight was one of those great nights where I enjoyed the camaraderie of other pilots and remembered again what a joy it is to have the privilege of flying. Thanks AOPA for looking out for the interests of pilots and offering this great forum to bring fellow aviators together for a great evening!

The photo above is of several Chicago Aviation Meetup Group Members along with the President of AOPA Phil Boyer and Clancy Hess. (Left to Right: Rob, Catrina, Phil, Clancy, A.J. & Myself.)

November 30, 2007

Roger Wilco Wear Line of Aviation T-Shirts Launched

rogerwilcowear_launch.jpgAs frequent readers of this site know, I have been mostly disappointed by the lack of quality aviation apparel available through catalogs, websites or at airshows. I decided to do something about it and create a line of t-shirts inspired by aviation.

Roger Wilco Wear was developed with the pilot in mind; our line of t-shirts utilize elements familiar to pilots. After spending hours looking at sectionals I realized that images from the sectional chart would make for great t-shirts and many of our offerings feature those images.

The site currently features airport specific t-shirt designs including Door County Cherrlyand Airport, Lunken Field Airport, New Garden Airport, Palwaukee Municipal Airport, Van Nuys Airport. Each week we release a new airport specific shirt as our Aviation T-Shirt of the Week. Let me know if there is a shirt you would like to see featured.

Additionally, we offer several customizable t-shirts. We have a General Aviation Pilot t-shirt that can be customized to include your home airport three letter identifier. Additionally, we offer custom t-shirts that let you commemorate where you flew your first solo or learned to fly.

One last note, our t-shirts are being sold through They will handle fulfillment of your order and unfortunately, I will not know specifically who has bought a t-shirt. So please drop me a line if you buy one!

Visit the store today at

November 1, 2007

Win a Free Hat from a Cool Aviation Art & Furniture Design Company

moto_art_desk.jpgAs a pilot and aviation enthusiasts I love pretty much all things plane related. A few years ago Discovery Channel had a show called Wing Nuts that followed two artists who founded a company called MotoArt. MotoArt builds and sells furniture made out of used airplane parts. Their work surely makes any aviation buff salivate. Sadly, because these are functional pieces of art and not just plain old furniture they cost a little more than I currently want to spend on a desk. But, I keep their site bookmarked for the day when I am ready for a slick airplane wing desk.

MotoArt is not the only group that fuses art, furniture and aviation heritage together. I came across InterFlightStudio recently, they create not only aviation furniture but contemporary art and design as well.

moto_art_hat.jpgI went the cheap wrote a few weeks ago and instead of ordering a desk from IFS or MotoArt I simply bought a few MotoArt t-shirts and a hat. My order was slightly delayed as they had run out of hats. Though they made up for it by sending me an extra hat with my order - thanks MotoArt! So, that means one of my readers lucks out. Leave a comment below or drop me an e-mail via the contact form between now and November 15th and you will be entered to win the extra MotoArt Baseball Cap.

Good Luck!

Posted at 7:35 AM | Post Category: General | Save & Share This Story
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