Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Several years ago, the flight school I work for had a very competitive flight team.  There are stacks and stacks of trophies shoved in closets, on top of file cases, and in trophy cases from when previous year's flight teams ruled the region, and even in some cases nationals.  Over the past few years, we have had some budget issues as well as student motivation issues.  We made it to the 2007 national SAFECON as an alternate only because the host school had enough space for us on the ramp and the assistant chief at the time managed to weasel his way into it.  We did not end up going to regional competition in 2007 due to lack of student motivation.  There were guys that said they wanted to go, but they really didn't give a darn about committing themselves to it.  Last year, we managed to send only four guys. I was planning on going as an adviser, but for reasons beyond my control I was unable to attend.  We placed last out of all the schools in attendance; however, we did manage to win the sportsmanship award for outstanding sportsmanship during the event.

This year we did one better.  We sent 12 students, which in and of itself was an improvement over last year, and I went as the adviser. Eight of the twelve students were freshmen and only one out of the twelve guys had ever participated in a regional SAFECON before.

It was an interesting five days to say the least.  The whole thing started off with bad weather.  We were only able to send one airplane, a C-172, because the other additional airplane we planned on using, a DA20-C1, was certified for VFR only.  We managed to knock out all the ground events on Wednesday sicne we could not fly due to weather.  Thursday, we only were able to accomplish the preflight and ground trainer events. Finally on Friday, the weather cleared up enough for everyone to get some flying done.  We began with the power off precision landings, followed by the short-field landings, and wrapped up the day with the message drop event.  Unfortunately, due to time and weather we were not able to do the navigation event.

Our team placed sixth out of seven teams this year, but we did manage to walk away with the Team Safety Award.  This award is given to the team that excercises the best safety practices throughout the whole event.  Also, one of our co-captains placed fifth in the preflight event.  He aslo barely missed placing in the top five in the SCAN event.  He tied with another competitor but the other guy finished his test a minute earlier, so our guy placed sixth.  Several of our other students also placed within the top twenty of their respective events.

While we had a really young team this year, I think they all learned a lot from their experiences.  I am very proud of the way my crew conducted themselves during and after the events and am looking forward to having a stronger team next year.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Flight Plan - ATP: Want to make God laugh? Just tell Him what your plans are.

Wow, what an insanely crazy week!  On Wednesday, my wife and I were surprised to find out that we have kiddo #3 on the way.  I was 99% excited and was experiencing 1% shear terror... ok perhaps the scale tilted more towards shear terror initially, but we are still pretty darn stoked.  Anyways, the initial shock of realizing that I am going to be a father again overshadowed my ATP study schedule, and understandably so I would think, but am now getting back to business and studying for this written test. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Flu Season

With all the diffent types of flu strains going around, it's important that pilots take even the slightest signs of illness seriously.  A simple way to check your physical and metal fitness for flight is the IMSAFE checklist.
  1. Illness - Are you sick? Running a fever? Allergies? Cold? ... or even worse, the flu. Even something as seemingly simple as seasonal allergies can wreak havoc on a pilot at altitude. 
  2. Medication  - Are you taking any medication for your illness? The FAA asks us to consider the underlying condition being treated, your reaction to the medication, your reaction to the medication, as well as the potential for adverse reactions.  Just because the medication does not warn against operating heavy machinery or just because your family practitioner says it's ok, does not necessarily mean that it is.  A list of accepted medications can be found on AOPA's webstite: FAA Accepted Medications Database.  When in doubt, ask your AME or simply don't fly.
  3. Stress - Are you stressed out about anything?  Do you have to take a final exam right after your flight?  Do you have a big budget meeting with the boss after you plan on returning from a flight?  
  4. Alcohol - When was your last alcoholic beverage?  Everyone should at least remember the "eight hours from bottle to throttle" rule. In addition to that though, the FAA, 14 CFR 91.17 to be exact, also says that no person may act as crewmember if  under the influence of alcohol or have a alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater in a blood or breath specimen.  The caveat here is the phrase "under the influence".  In my opinion that could mean just about anything.  If it's been more than 8 hours and you are certain you are less than 0.04 percent but have a miserable hangover, you are in my opinion still under the influence of alcohol.  Pilots should also be aware of the consequences for flying wile intoxicated.
  5. Fatigue - Are you tired?  Have you been up all night preparing for that final exam or that big budget meeting and are planning on to depart at 0800?  When was the last time you ate something?  If you're fatigued, don't fly.  
  6. Emotion - (Some resources say "Eating", however in my opinion "eating" belongs with fatigue.) This one can also go hand in hand with stress.  Did you just go through a terrible breakup or divorce?  Are you feeling depressed?  Is your self esteem really low?  If so, it's probably not a good idea to take command of an aircraft if you're mental health is in question.
If the answer to all of the above questions is "no", then great!  Go forth and put some holes in the sky.  If the answer is "yes" to any one of the checklist items, then at the very least get more information before you decide to fly off into the wild blue yonder or simply just don't go.  Following this simple, yet very effective, personal checklist can help you decide whether or not you are physically and metally healthy to take to the skies.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Got a photo approved!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Go-arounds / Missed Approaches

There is little to no shame in performing a go-around or a missed approach. One should take pride in sound judgment; however, the consequences of uncertainty may haunt you for the rest of your life.

Pilot Error: A Gear Up Landing

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Flight Plan - ATP: Review

Yet another busy week.  Between preparing our team for the regional NIFA SAFECON competition, flying with a brand new load of eager students, and a few other projects I have picked up at work, I haven't had as much time to reveiw as I originally thought I would.  In a round about way though, that's a good problem to have.  Now, time to quit yapping and go stick my nose in the ATP written test prep guide.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flight Plan - ATP

Finally finished the chapter over weight and balance.  I studied for about three hours last night going over the rest of the Beech 1900 weight and balance and c.g. shifts.  Then this afternoon I quickly finished up floor loading limits.  Now on to reviewing regulations, flight operations, meteorolgy, etc. and then I should be good to go!