If you fly two thousand hours over eleven years you will see some equipment failures (and some pilot failures). This was the first time I had a failure and didn’t know it.
Friends who follow me on Facebook are familiar with these two pictures:
As I was flying Dexter from Santa Monica, California to New Orleans, Louisiana for SICB’s annual conference we stopped for fuel (of human and engine both) in Austin, Texas. We took off into a night sky. I could spot traffic coming off Houston’s main airport more easily and watched the passenger jets coming in from the north heading for a long downwind leg to land.
A good pilot is always scanning everything. I take photos and on long, daylight legs will read a book, but I don’t read more than a sentence or two before I glance at all the important information. My ears are tuned to the hum of the engines and when they cough or mumble I am instantly alert and double-scanning everything. More often with the twins the propellers will get out sync, with the left engine at 2090 RPMs and the right at 2100 RPMs. A little nudge on the throttle and they are back humming evenly again. But I am always checking the groundspeed, comparing to the true airspeed, the tailwinds, the estimated time en route (ETE) to our next navigation point, and then a glance to check on the passenger (snoozing). Continue reading
I would love to document a perfect flight. I know that I did a little round-robin of airport hopping a few years back and I was really happy that I had not made a single mistake on the radio. Since the radio is the source of my least-favorite mistake, I still work hard to match that.
On small airplanes things pop open. That sounds sort of scary, but the engineers designing the planes are away of the fallibility of latches, so almost everything that CAN open on an airplane is attached in a way that makes it popping open immaterial to the continuing flight. (One of the rare modern exceptions is the two seater version of our plane, the DA20. The canopy opens up and back, which is different than the four-seat models. There were two accidents early on where the canopy popped open on instruction flights and the canopy acted as a huge speed brake, bring the airplane down. They changed the latching system.) Continue reading
Always safer with two pilots
This was my first real icing flight. Oh, all sorts of things spring to mind, like “Shaken, not stirred” and other bartending jokes. Since I’m not a drinker I’m not even aware of all the great possibilities. I’m going to stick strictly to the facts instead.
In a decade of flying I have encountered icing twice, both time inadvertently and both times in our original plane, a DA40 which has no icing protection. The first time was during an IFR instruction flight with my CFII. She had a bad experience in ice when she was a student, so we took it really, really seriously and had all sorts of different plans for what to do and when. It was a non-event. The second time I was the only pilot on board and, once again, I had a succession of plans to address my situation if certain things happened. They didn’t, I descended into warmer air and everything was fine. Continue reading
From October 9 to December 6 I did not fly an airplane. That’s the longest I have gone since learning HOW to fly an airplane. That was disorienting and a little depressing. It coincided with dropping Dexter at school and having a truly empty nest for the first time, so it was difficult to know what part of being despondent was about not having the usual energy and enthusiasm of the boys around and what part was not being able to visit the sky.
Nell and I decamped to New York City, rather than being in the empty home. That was a good decision, except that it’s pretty hard to be in Manhattan and still bum around at the airport and get up in a little plane. I debated going to a simulator club in midtown, but always decided that the aviation dollars were being Hoover-ed up fast enough by the factory. I could try to not add to that side of the ledger.
While in New York I received rather desperate looking photographs of the plane up in London, Ontario. Continue reading
When I wrote up my impressions of the Diamondstar after my first few flights, I didn’t dwell on the three drawbacks that I noticed even after my first test flight in the plane:
1. The canopy offers incredible views, but that means that you get warmed by the sun. A lot.
2. The seats, which are engineered to help you withstand a 27g crash, do not move. That position you are in when you sit down? You’ll be in that position for the duration of the flight.
3. The controls for the airplane are the rudder pedal and the control stick. That comes up through a hole in the seat, right between your knees. It makes you feel like a fighter pilot, but it might not be that nice for the passenger in the right seat.
I have now moved to a new plane, but those three disadvantages remain. And I have a few other minor ones that I have added to the list. Part of the time with the plane is nudging forward (toward perfection), looking for solutions to each of these issues. Continue reading
Please stop flying below mandatory FAA regulations over Venice. Actually, stop flying over Venice period.
That was a comment posted on one of the pages of the blog. I don’t approve comments if they are from an anonymous account, I think that’s a bad policy for a web presence unless there’s some sort of physical danger to the poster revealing their identity (whistleblowers, people under oppressive regimes). I wrote to the email given (email addresses do not need capitalization) and it bounced back. So it’s someone spoofing an identity. They misspelled “principal,” which flatters all sorts of prejudices about the Los Angeles Unified School District (which does not actually seem to use the identified domain).
So, basically, we have a drive-by authored by a coward. That’s an excellent time for a civics lesson. Continue reading
(Many thanks to Demetri Martin for the hours of laughs as we buzzed through the sky. Dexter found Demetri on YouTube, then downloaded his comedy albums and would often be laughing hysterically in the back seat as I was preparing for an instrument approach. Demetri has a bit about batteries and how D batteries must be difficult for foreigners to ask for.)
There are small upgrades like the little circuit breaker collar to call out the autopilot circuit, large upgrades like the new autopilot, and the medium upgrades, like LEMO. Continue reading