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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Want to fly for the Airlines?


At the just ended Paris Air Show Boeing announced their projections for future aircraft sales and crew requirements. Maybe you’ve read about the huge number of new airplanes sold by Airbus and Boeing at the show—more than 800! Anyway, the pilot and mechanic numbers projected by Boeing are fantastic. Boeing says that between now and 2030 (nineteen years) airlines will need 466,500 new pilots and 596,500 new mechanics. Just those operating in North America will need 82,000 new pilots and 134,800 mechanics. Do the math: that’s more than 4500 new pilots plus almost 7100 new mechanics per year just for US airlines. The numbers are staggering. The Asia/Pacific area will require 180,600 new pilots, Europe 94,800, Africa 13,200, the Middle East 32,700, Latin America 37,000 and Russia/CIS 11,000. The total number of needed new pilots comes to 2,046 PER MONTH, every month, for the next nineteen years!


Some are wondering if US carriers will have to follow in the footsteps of the overseas airlines by training, and paying, pilots ab inito, meaning from the beginning; no more skimming the existing pilot pool. Almost ALL flight training occurs in the US because the costs here are so much lower than elsewhere. Who knows, the flight training business could morph into a way to actually make money instead of just being a fun way to lose money. And maybe pay for airline pilots will return to the good old days when the hump in the 747 fuselage was to make room for the pilot to sit on his wallet…


Stand by for news.

4:29 pm pdt

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hope and Despair


I’m not a Republican (or a Democrat). Mostly I’m just fed up. But maybe there’s hope. To wit: supposedly at the recent Republican presidential candidate “debate,” there was, so they say, some dissension among the ranks. Imagine that. If there’s one thing Republicans are good at its goose stepping in time to the mindless beat of whatever moronic, tone deaf drummer is calling the ancient cadence of lies that benefit their thieving campaign “contributors.” Not that Democrats are much better. If Republicans are still flogging the lies that Ronald Reagan told, Democrats seem unable to come up with any ideas not first given voice in the New Deal (not that it was a bad deal). Change, Mr. Obama? What Change?


So where did the Republicans break ranks? According to the New York Times none could articulate a reason for continuing the Iraq or Afghanistan wars and some even want to end them. “End” meaning, of course, end-less occupation by American forces, that is. A bit late, but a sort of progress, I guess and while not good, better than actual, live warfare. In just a few months it will have been ten years since 9-11. We’ve been at war almost continuously ever since. Actually, we’ve been at war since long before then, 9-11 just being the first retaliatory attack occurring on US soil.


I’m still waiting for Change. When it happens, I’ll believe it.

10:40 am pdt

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Flyin biz


Many of us in the flight training world are concerned about the number and quality of pilots being turned out by the system, stagnant accident statistics and the seemingly inexorable decay of the whole flying industry. AOPA, EAA, NAFI, SAFE, FAA and others are busy assessing the status of regulation, training practices, aircraft etc. to see if improvements can be made. Me, too. Having been involved in flight training since the early 70’s I’ve seen many changes in airplanes (mostly home-builts and avionics), regulations, experience levels and quality of instructors, quality of instruction and the types of folks who want to learn to fly. The whole flying business, including everyone from manufacturers to pilots and airlines, has gone downhill. Maybe especially airlines. And therein lies the problem.


Some changes have been good, others not so good. Regulatory changes, many intended to simplify training requirements and the airplanes typically used for training, have had mixed results at best. It’s been obvious for a long time now that all of the innovation in general aviation is coming from the Experimental world. Certificated airplanes, excepting LSA and avionics, haven’t really changed in many, many years. In part that’s because certificated airplanes are pretty good, but the nearly total absence of new US aircraft manufacturers in the certificated world should tell us something is amiss, as should the outrageous prices of new airplanes and avionics. The only really new thing about airplane manufacturing is that so many new airplanes, including nearly all LSA, are now imported from Eastern Europe—good on them, not so good for us in the US of A. Can’t we do better?


While LSA have some good things going for them, in many respects they’re a step backwards and don’t really address the problems of cost or the absence of innovation. Have you noticed that they cost way more than most people could ever hope or would expect to pay? We’re talking very basic airplanes. Those that are US manufactured are mostly just re-hashes of old airplanes, like Cubs. Can’t US manufacturers come up with something better than Cubs? Aircraft manufacturing has got to be the most hide-bound business in the world! Look at how much better cars are than they used to be. Is a Cessna 172 really better engineered, better built and more expensive to build than a Rolls-Royce or a Ferrari? You can buy TWO new Ferraris for the price a one new 172. “Aircraft quality” has fallen well behind what passes for everyday in the automotive world. Which would you rather have? Huge improvements in productivity and quality have totally bypassed the aviation world.


Avionics, especially GPS, the only innovative area in general aviation, reflect the world of computing. They’re capable of some pretty wonderful things, especially compared to the old tube radios of the 50’s and 60’s, but also have the same handicaps as computers: rapid obsolescence, disappearing manufacturers, needless complication, high costs and a complete lack of standardization. And, of course, they’re still attached to the same old airplanes so nothing has really changed, especially for the VFR pilot, regardless of what’s in the panel. And most are not certificated, especially for IFR flying.


So what does all this have to do with flight training? The same hidebound mentality of legal maneuvering and dreams of monopoly that has stifled innovation in aircraft manufacturing for decades is at the heart of the problems in flight training. Old thinking (meaning NO thinking) is the rule. "New" thinking is almost totally the same old re-packaging of old ideas (mostly advertising) in new wrappers, designed to promote monopoly and stagnation benefitting only the very few who profit from the status quo.


But it gets worse. First and foremost, let’s face it, flight training is really the farm system for the airlines. Yes, flying is fun, but the primary motivating factor in folks who get into the flying business, students, instructors, pilots and manufacturers is the Dream of the Airlines. Most would-be pilots dream of seeing the world and making some respectable money while working for the airlines. So problems in flight training have everything to do with the airlines. So what is the problem in the airlines and flight training—in aviation--that no one wants to talk or do anything about? It all comes down to that same old common denominator: money. The whole flying world--like the rest of the US economy--has become a backwater. The average pay of Americans has been stagnant since the 70’s. Airline pilot pay has actually decreased substantially. Does anyone really want to become an airline pilot any more, with endless starvation, long hours, always away from home as you struggle to work your way up the ladder (if you’re lucky), unending cuts in pay and benefits at every level and the total absence of any sense of fair play? No glamour (or money) there. Corporate flying means more lousy pay, never being home, always on call, no regular schedule (so no life), sitting in the terminal waiting, waiting, waiting in case the client wants to go NOW. No glamour, no fun, no money. CFI pay, CFI flying skill, teaching skill and experience levels are abysmal. Why: absolutely, positively no money in flight training because the demand for pilots has disappeared. Yes, CFI pay has always been lousy, but the Dream of flying for the airlines made it worthwhile to tolerate, but just for a short while until the Big Job came along. All of the big training schools make their money training foreign students who have already been hired by foreign airlines. Where have all those upwardly mobile Americans gone? Broke is where they’ve gone. The only ones who’ve seen any real improvement in pay in the last forty years are those at the top 5% of the income scale, especially those at the very top of that 5%. Wall Street monopoly and big bonus for the CEO is what its all about.


Until we go back to the idea that we are ALL in this together, that we should ALL benefit from increases in productivity and innovation we're ALL (except that lucky few) going to be stuck in this endless Great Recession. Wall Street monopoly and legal maneuvering to enshrine and enrich the few who benefit from the status quo are NOT how to build an economy or a nation. Neither is endless war.


So why would anyone want to become a pilot? There is an almost total absence of pilot career paths that are worth striving for. Who wants to spend years working 80 hours a week for a flying school or commuter airline at minimum wage—or less? Nobody dreams of becoming a professional pilot any more. Most of the “lucky ones” in the airline business complain endlessly about how miserable the business has become. Why spend huge amounts of time and money training for non-existent or miserable, low-paying jobs? When people ask me about careers in aviation I have to be honest: forget it, there’s no money in aviation any more. It’s lots of fun, but there’s no money in aviation.


Yes, better regulation, better airplanes and better instructors could turn out better pilots. Avionics improvements are great, LSA are fun (though the training rules are bogus) and we all love to fly. But a profession? Forget it. General aviation has become a recreational activity for a bunch of old duffers who can finally afford to fly for fun. Look around the airport café: nothing but gray hairs. Nobody else is interested. Why should they be? Until the piloting profession becomes something worth striving for—meaning more pay at every level--nothing is going to improve in aviation. And it has to start at the airlines. No money at the airlines means the American pilot’s Dream has disappeared.


Time to wake up.



There is one "bright" spot: radar screens at your local FAA ATC facility. Remeber the controller strike back in the 80's? That's when Ronald Reagan illegally fired ALL of the controllers because they went on strike. None were ever been hired back. FAA had to hire and train a whole new corps of controllers, ALL AT ONCE. That was 30 years ago. Now, they're all retiring, ALL AT ONCE. Thousands of good paying jobs are opening up. If you like sitting on your butt staring at a radar screen a stop at the jobs page at the FAA web site might be a good spot to investigate. 

12:55 pm pdt

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yesterday when Bob Granley was here we got to talking VG's (Vortex Generators). You've probably seen them on the tops of airliner wings. They're just little t-section pieces of plastic or aluminum placed at an angle to airflow that impart a bit of energy at spots that need a little boost to get the to air behave better. They work miracles. Bob wants to put some on his Glasair.
I put some on my Cessna 172 last winter, hoping to get better rudder response and maybe lighten up the pitch forces a bit. I also expected a reduction in stall speed. I got the kit from Micro Aerodynamics in Anacortes, WA, http://www.microaero.com/, which is what Charlie White calls his business. The kit is very easy to install. They are mounted on the wings a few inches aft of the leading edge, on the bottom side of the horizontal stabilizer just forward of the elevator hinge line and on the verrtical stabilizer just forward of the rudder hinge line. The VG's not only make the rudder and elevator more effective and reduce the stall speed by about 10%, they also make the stall much more benign. You can hold the stick all the way back and the airplane just sits there, maybe a little hobby-horse nose bob, with fully effective rudder and ailerons. The indicated stall speed is ridiculously low, about 25 knots indicated, actually well below the graduated range of the airspeed indicator! Of course, that just shows how inaccurate the pitot-static system is at high angles of attack. The important thing is that it used to indicate almost 50 knots (flaps up) and now its clear down at the bottom of the range with much better control response. Fantastic! Give Charlie a call to put a little magic on your airplane. 172vgs3.jpg172vgs2.jpg172vgs1.jpg
10:06 am pdt

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bob Granley's Glasair
Bob Granley came by today for a Flight Review. After the usual ground review we took a ride in his just acquired Glasair TD. Bob traded his trusty clip-wing Super Cub for it, requiring a flight from Point Roberts, WA, to Binghampton, NY, 36 hours worth round-trip. You don't see many of these early Glasairs and very few have tailwheels. It cruises along at about 170 indicated, has nice light controls, but is pretty short coupled and not for the faint of heart on the runway. FUN!glasairatWBA.jpg
1:32 pm pdt

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What can be done to improve Flight Training and Safety?

Yesterday and today the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (”SAFE”) has been hosting a Flight Training Reform Symposium in Atlanta to discuss “lack of growth, decreased student start, increased student attrition, and flat accident rate trends vis-à-vis our current flight training system.” Unfortunately, I have to work for a living so can’t attend, but wish I could. See http://www.pilottrainingreform.org/.


There has been lots of talk for many years about improving flight training and safety. Airplane hardware and software, like everything else these days, have undergone some amazing changes and improvements, mostly avionics and displays. Glass panels may be nice to have, but are no substitute for the pilot pushing the buttons, most airplanes don’t have them and they have an entirely new set of problems that have actually increased the accident rate. All those buttons and colorful displays are still attached to a stick and rudder being manipulated by a pilot who is still too often the weak link in the whole operation. So, sad to say, no real help on that front. Flight Reviews have been required for a long time now, but haven't had much effect on pilot skills or safety. Many, many pilots lack basic stick and rudder skills, to say nothing of the judgment and skill required to deal with demanding situations. Amazingly, most pilots, once they have their pilot certificate, don't pursue additional training of any kind. AOPA has done some interesting research recently, showing the student pilot dropout rate is even worse than suspected, nearly 80%. Light Sport airplanes and Sport Pilots haven't worked the miracles some hoped for. Of course the economy is in the doldrums, fuel prices keep going up and airplanes keep getting more expensive, which undoubtedly have an effect on how much flying pilots can afford, to stay current and safe, let alone pursue additional training to improve and expand skills. But that doesn’t change the fact that regardless of cost or the economic environment, flying has always been pretty unforgiving of pilot error, even in the most prosperous of times: there is no substitute for pilot skill and judgment when the crunch comes. All of us who’ve been around for any length of time have had friends killed in airplanes. The question is what to do about it, how to design and implement training that provides the skill and judgment to prevent experiences none of us wants to have.


As I’ve said on this blog and in an article published by the National Association of Flight Instructors, flight training is not just a business in the usual sense. It’s not about “sales.” Airplanes aren’t commodities like copper or pork bellies and student (or any other) pilots aren’t just “customers.” Flying may be pretty easy, most of the time, if you’ve mastered and maintained the required skill set and have the judgment required to stay safe. But the situations can literally be as variable as the weather. Some airplanes are simple, some not so simple. Flying around the local vicinity snatching up $100 burgers with your buddies in a Cessna 172 is not the same as an IFR (or VFR) flight over serious terrain or to unfamiliar places, especially in nasty weather, and even more especially in an airplane you’re not intimately familiar with. Getting stuck someplace because of weather is no fun, but sometimes the best alternative is to keep the airplane on the ground. The range of pilot certification available, Sport, Recreational, Private, Commercial, ATP, CFI, plus all of the add-on ratings, covers a pretty broad range of training, designed to incrementally add to a pilot's skills. Most of us don't have A&P certificates, mechanical experience or training, at least as far as relates to the airplanes we fly, but that's a pretty handy skill set to have, too. Most of us don't take advantage of any of the additional training available. But almost any pilot, regardless of training (or lack thereof), certification level, ratings or experience can hop in an airplane with a load of family and friends and head out wherever adventure calls. Usually it’s a lot of fun, but sometimes more than expected, and maybe even more than you can handle. None of us wants to die in an airplane, let alone kill family and friends. It’s supposed to be fun, right?


Take a look at the Symposium web site http://www.pilottrainingreform.org/. Even, if like me, you couldn’t attend, there are some pretty interesting items on the agenda worthy of consideration. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Email me at FlyWBA@gmail.com.

2:27 pm pdt

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My View


This article was published in the May 2011 edition of The Mentor, journal of the National Association of Flight Instructors


In a previous life I was a Land Surveyor.  It's what I did to pay the rent and then the mortgage, pay for flight training, feed the kids, buy the cars and pay the tuition. It was a lot like flight instructing, which I did full-time for a few years, starved to death and reverted to part-time while I worked at joining the American middle class.  Both flight school and land surveying businesses tend to be relatively small, dependent on clients who generally don't have and don't want to spend a lot of money, but demand a high degree of competence and value, while simultaneously expecting the consultant--the CFI, flying school or surveying business--to accept a potentially high (if remote) level of risk.  And every land surveying business has the same set of problems as flying schools: not enough business, the weather, the economic cycle, lots of on-the-job training required, employee turnover, high start-up cost and overhead. 


Now that the kids are grown, my wife has a good job (big smoocherinos to you sweetie pie!) and we have a little bit of security, I've gone back into the flight training business full-time, the sole proprietor of a one-man flying school. The pay is still pretty poor and the hours are long, but you know what?  I love it!  After fifteen years I'm still at it and still love it. But I have lots of advantages compared to the usual flying school and other CFI's:  I have no debt; no employees (so low overhead and no turnover), I'm an A&P so I can do most of my own maintenance and I have no ambitions of "moving up" to the big iron. I like what I do and am proud to say I'm pretty good at it.


Both surveyors and flying schools/CFI's grouse about the low pay and are continually being advised to be more "professional," to look sharp, have a nice office with a comfy customer lounge and to provide a high level of "customer service"; to spend more effort on "sales," to recruit and retain "customers;" and to keep up with the latest and greatest. They say "success" is a function of having the right business strategy.


Sorry, but I don't buy it. 


Call me a stick in the mud, but I operate out of a hangar with a small office in back; the door is always open and I'm here seven days a week. I never close. My airplanes are kept inside, are clean and squawk free and are sometimes being serviced or otherwise maintained right out in the open where everyone can see and even participate in the action. Students are shown what's under the cowling, how to change oil, put air in the tires and gas in the tank. They help me give them a bath on nice days and vacuum the insides out; cleaning the windshield is part of training. I don't have a pretty secretary or bookkeeper and I don't take credit cards. But we bar-b-que brats and dogs on sunny days and have beer in the fridge (other things, too) for leveling the wings at the end of another great day of flying. I help folks maintain their airplanes and usually don't charge them for a little help and supervision. I spend hours and hours just sitting around talking airplanes with my friends--flyin' buddies, current and former students. I don't push Light Sport or glass panels. Nothing against them, but let's be honest: its mostly just sales talk. Airplanes is mostly just airplanes. I don't throw around buzzwords like "scenario-based training" or the latest FAA acronyms.  And I can't quote FAR by paragraph number (tho I can look them up). I think a bit of "macho" attitude is more than just desirable, its a necessity. Hey, this flyin' stuff requires a little bit of a self reliant mind set, dontcha know? I'm a regular customer at the airport coffee shop, don't wear a white shirt with epaulettes or a tie, or shiny shoes. I wear clothes that are comfortable and that I don't mind getting a little dirt and oil on. I look like most of my customers, just a plain, regular guy. I don't tell people they can learn to fly in twenty hours or lie about the real cost. I encourage them to buy their own airplanes to save money and enjoy the pride of ownership—might make a little money, too.  Then I teach them how fly and maintain their new airplane. I proudly call myself an airport bum. 


I concentrate on seeing to it my students understand and can do basic stick and rudder flying, can handle crosswinds and actually move their feet. We fly needle, speedle and airball, use paper charts and look out the window.  And we keep the ball in the center (unless we have a better idea), hold a heading, altitude and airspeed. Tailwheels are a Good Thing. So are rainy, nasty VFR weather, gusty winds and a little dirt under the finger nails. We fly over mountains and water. And we love to take a bunch of airplanes to Reno for the races. We like round engines and aerobatics, gliders and floats, old airplanes and even some a them airplanes from furrin' countries, too.  Experimental airplanes are cool, as are low and slow. We fly for fun, even if some of us do it for a living. I don't worry about getting my airplanes wrecked because I don't let folks fly beyond their skill level. I monitor everything my students do so I can help them become better pilots, keep the sheet metal straight and live to tell the tale. I don't do "customer service," I don’t have to: my "customers" are my friends.


When I ask folks why they fly with me many say "You don't look or act like you're trying to sell me something. And you don't charge me for every minute I'm here."  I don't need to because flying sells itself and I love talkin' airplanes. Flyin' is what I do.  Almost all of my students finish the program and keep on flying with me for many years, always "training", no rentals. This ain't Avis or Hertz. Folks literally call and come from all over the world to fly my little Cessna 140 (apparently tailwheel instruction is hard to find), to talk gliders, Nanchangs and Yaks.


I do what I like to do, messing around with airplanes and flyin' folk. I don't expect to make a bunch of money; just enough is fine by me. I enjoy being an airport bum. 


There's nothing I would rather do.


Jerry Painter

Wild Blue Aviation


7:32 am pdt

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bud Granley gets another year Old(er)
Yep, happens to all of us.  Sometimes you can't wait, sometimes you wish you could.  Anyway, time don't wait for nobody and Bud Granley is no exception.  One of the best airshow and all 'round stick and rudder types anywhere and a great guy (and one of my favorite "students"), Bud had another birthday so we had to have a party.  Everybody loves parties.  We all got together at Amici, a great little restaurant in Mukilteo near Paine Field (KPAE) run by Gianni and wife for a bit of celebration and good times.  Present were Bud, wife Carol, son Ross and wife Sheri, Charlie Wright (fresh back from watching the final Space Shuttle launch in Florida), Rick Davis, Bill Ammirrato, Keith McMahon and wife Debbie, Curtis Thompson, Tom Cathcart and many more.  Happy birthday Bud!
1:39 pm pdt

FAA Inspector/DPE Evaluations?
Over the course of time I have been receiving and providing flight instruction there have been numerous changes, major and minor, to FAR, flight training standards, FAA training publications and the way in which Examiners conduct flight tests.  However, with the exceptions of avionics improvements and many of us getting bigger and fatter, the airplanes have pretty much stayed the same, though we now mostly train in 172's instead of Cubs or 150's so we can squeeze our bigger, fatter selves in.  A G1000 172 is still a 172 and they still fly about the same as they did in 1956, regardless of pilot size, changes in electronics, regulations or airspace designations. 
We've all met pilots who claim to have soloed and completed their training in miraculously low times, who've had little if any further training and yet are knowledgeable, safe and competent.  They even used to do flight tests (maybe they still do) with the Examiner watching from the ground! And they also say you can train a Sport Pilot in only 20 hours (maybe they can, but I can't, not with a clear conscience, and not in 35 or even 40 hours, either, with very rare exceptions). On the other hand, we've all given checkouts and Flight Reviews to folks who were ignorant, unsafe and incompetent, regardless of experience.  I'm not sure training changes or Flight Review requirements have made much of a dent in that population.
Written tests still cover mostly the same material. 
On the other hand, Flight Tests have changed a whole bunch.  There is greater specificity in the (now) PTS, but the standards of success for the flights themselves haven't really changed that much except for the requirement to cover the whole curriculum. A bigger difference is in the oral exam portion, which has turned into to a multi-hour if not all-day-long affair that virtually duplicates the written exam, but often in greater detail.  
When I made the leap from Student to Private Pilot SEL in 1970 the oral exam lasted about 5 minutes and the flight portion took 0.7 hours.  When I got my Commercial the following year the oral was a few minutes longer and the flight took 1.0 hours.  I took my initial CFI ride a few months later (with an FAA Inspector, as was required for all CFI rides then) and the oral lasted less than half an hour and the flight 1.3 hours.  Likewise, ME, instrument, A&P etc.  Maybe the fact that I got high scores on all my writtens was a factor, but it worked about the same regardless of type of test or Examiner, so I don't think so.  And it wasn't  a matter of shopping for "easy" Examiners, or in any way out of the ordinary, either.  As mentioned, ALL CFI rides were once given by FAA Inspectors, not designees.  135 rides were about the same.  I have had the pleasure (?) of renewing my CFI four times by flight test, all but once with FAA Inspectors, and the orals and rides were all about the same as the first time. 
I bring all this up because I have a bone to pick.  A couple of years ago I had my second Applicant failure, for a Private SEL certificate.  The "ride" went like this:  Following a couple hours of increasingly stressful oral grilling that had my student nearly ready to have an emotional break down (just kidding, sort of), the DPE threw up his hands, declared the exam over, no flight test today, get re-trained and come back again, but not for another three weeks or so since the DPE was going to be out of town until then.  Oh, and bring another $250 (after having collected $400 for the aborted first test).  The Examiner had the courtesy to call and brief me with some emotion and increasing criticism of me and my Applicant.  Yes, among a few other minor offenses he had failed to properly note a few things on the Sectional and so had made some errors in flight planning for the hypothetical x-country, so bad on him and me.  No, his written score was not impressive, but not that bad, either.  After all, he had PASSED the exam.  The chart reading errors he had made would have hit him smack in the face had they actually made the flight (VFR, of course) and would have been corrected by necessity.  In any event, we covered the material again and my Applicant took another ride, no problemo (with a different Examiner--neither he no I wanting anything to do with the first DPE), including another multi-hour oral and very thorough flight test.  No, the second Examiner was not a "pushover."  And, no, I didn't have any prior experience with the second DPE or prep him for the ride.  I didn't even know or select him.  In any case, it should be noted that my Applicant was (and is) an excellent pilot.  Is military-style hazing of Applicants an acceptable way to conduct a flight test? Was the DPE's conduct out of the ordinary?  He's been at it for 25 years... Doesn't an Examiner owe the Applicant a full ride for his money? Any wonder the pilot population has dropped by nearly a third in the last couple decades?
If I'm still a bit emotional about this its because over many years and many students I have had good reason to think that I am a competent CFI who does a proper job of training students and preparing them for their check rides and flying careers.  We all know the endorsing CFI is being tested at least as much as the Applicant, so I feel absolutely responsible for the outcome of all tests undertaken by my students.  I own my airplanes, don't employ newbie instructors (no offense, I was a newbie once, too) at less than minimum wage and insist on very high standards of performance for my own peace of mind as well as theirs.  I don't want my students or my airplanes damaged. People tell me I am a notoriously careful and thorough CFI.  My Applicant success rate is about 100 to 1, with only two failures in nearly forty years of instructing (the first failure was a fluke, but that's another story).  Although the first DPE's conduct was not (in my experience) typical, I don't think its that unusual, either, so I'm not just whining about a bad experience.  Orals always last a long, long time these days. A woman friend (not my student) broke down and cried after being grilled for eight (yes, eight) hours on an Instrument ride oral with another local DPE (I don't use him, either).  The same DPE nearly killed them both on her MEL ride by giving her an engine cut at Vr and ground looped the airplane (a Baron).  Does FAA know about these DPE's?  Maybe a bit of DPE evaluation by Applicants would be in order.  I'm sure many CFI's can tell similar stories. 
I hesitate to say this, but have to wonder, given that FAA has apparently instructed DPE's to fail at least 25% of Applicants, if that directive doesn't provide motivation, intentional, subliminal or otherwise, for DPE's, in particular those who are associated with a flight school, to respond to pressure to reach that 25% goal by arbitrarily and capriciously failing applicants "not trained here." 
Back in the early 70's FAA made some significant changes to Parts 61 and 141, intending to place greater responsibility and authority with the CFI.  There's been lots of contradictory regulation since.  Have they decided we're not worthy?  Has any of it made any measurable difference?  Jason Blair (National Association of Flight Instructors honcho and DPE) says in the latest NAFI online newsletter that his FAA POI says a sterile cockpit should be the order of the day on check rides--no friendly conversation.  Maybe.  I guess that would be better than hazing, but not much.    Personally speaking, I've always thought a competent pilot or Examiner could pretty well sum up another's skill by the time they got to the runup area...
In any event, I have a couple of questions:  have the changes in flight tests, particularly the oral portion, resulted in better pilots?  Is it really necessary to completely re-hash the written exam material during the oral?  Does it really take two or three hours of flying to determine whether a Private Pilot Applicant is competent and safe?  Does setting a failure "quota" improve the quality of DPE's, flight tests or pilots? Should there be more of those DPE-on-the-ground flight tests (just kidding)?  How about some form of DPE evaluation, too?  Should CFI's be given the credibility, responsibility and authority promised nearly 40 years ago?
FWIW, once upon a time, long, long ago, in a place far, far away, I, too, was a government employee and have some insight into the workings of the bureaucratic mind (and I don't mean to pick on gov't emploees here--the "private sector" mind works about the same)...  We all know from personal experience that a "dialog" requires a two-way conversation, not just a sender and receiver. For every "vendor" there has to be a "customer", too.  While DPE's and Inspectors don't quite have a monopoly, its about as close as it gets--doesn't encourage a lot of creative thinking.  Government (including FAA and their designated representative) claims to be responsive.  Is it?  Most universities and many secondary schools give students an opportunity to critique instructors.  I always ask students for a critique and have learned a lot over the years from their comments.  I think it has made me a better CFI.  Wouldn't that be a good idea for Examiners, too?  Ideas?
PS (June 4, 2010)
A couple days after writing this I got a response from Jason Blair.  He says the FAA has NOT instituted a "failure quota."  OK, but that's not what I hear.  He does say if an Examiner has too high (or low) a success rate they may be subject to review.  But dontcha think we should all be shooting for 100% success? Given the Silver State Helicopters (and other, similar) debacles, the state of California has decided to place some very stringent (and expensive) requirements on flight schools and even independent CFI's, all intended to ensure students get what they pay for (good) and that all training is at least equivalent to that expected in a Part 141 environment.  The CA legislature is showing their ignorance here (Part 61 actually requires MORE training than Part 141, but less paperwork), but I understand their intentions and concerns. Government (like all bureaucracies) always seems to think form (paperwork) is at least equivalent to (if not even better than) substance.  But that's another discussion...  In any case, every student should have every right to expect full delivery for payment (of course, the student has to deliver, too).  And a bit of two-way feedback on what is a pretty demanding and expensive undertaking would help both sides of the transaction function better, too. Actions on the basis of pre-conceived notions don't improve anything for anyone. Kinda like basing go-nogo decisions on careful review of the real-time facts, not external factors that have nothing to do with whether or not the flight can be made safely. Of course, that requires judgment, something we expect every CFI, DPE and Inspector to possess. Pilots, too.
12:35 pm pdt

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Watch out for Rattlesnakes in the gear wells!
Being located here in Boeing Country, lots of my friends, fellow pilots and students are Boeing types. Boeing also offers employees some great deals on training programs, including Flight Training.  If you're a Boeing employee and want to FLY, contact the company for more info.
Anyway, with all of the new designs rolling out, 787, 747-8 freighter etc., there's flight testing to be done.  Several of "my" guys are involved, including James Kruse (F-22), Azim Khan (787), Wade Stoelting (787), Dave Patterson and Gary Lackey (both 747-8) to name a few.  They're a great bunch of guys.  Dave and Gary are off to the southern California desert next week (Palmdale) for six months to a year of 12-hour days and seven day weeks.  Friday night we had a send-off party for them here at the hangar.  They plan on keeping their flying skills shiny while in the desert, possibly at Barnes Aviation at Fox Field in Lancaster.  Anything to do with Pancho or son Billy?  Don't know, but hers is a great story, what with the 1929 Travel Air Mystery Ship, Happy Bottom Riding Club, Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover, Jack Ridley, Al Boyd, The Right Stuff etc.  See www.panchobarnes.com for more.
And have a Great Time Dave and Gary!
2:08 pm pdt

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Upcoming Events--Mark your Calendars!
Here's a list of events not too far away for WBA pilots to attend:
5/15  Paine Field (KPAE) General Aviation Day including flights of warbird aircraft from Paul Allen's Heritage Flight Museum and John Sessions' Historic Flight Foundation (and whose B-25 made a low pass here at KAWO today)
6/11-13  Marysville, CA
6/19-20  Olympia, WA (KOLM)
7/7-11    Arlington, WA Fly-In
7/24-25  Fairchild AFB Skyfest (Spokane, WA)
7/26-8/1  EAA Airventure (KOSH)
8/6-8     Seattle Seafair
8/13-15  Abbotsford, BC, Canada
8/20-22  Hillsboro, OR (KHBO)
8/21-22  Chilliwack, BC, Canada
9/3-5      Watsonville, CA
10/21-23  Copperstate Casa Grande, AZ
1:36 pm pdt

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

14 CFR Part 43 is the section of the FAR's that describes what sorts of aircraft maintenance are required, who can do what, what approvals are required etc.  Paragraph (c) of Appendix A lists all the items that are considered "preventive maintenance," so long as they don't involve "complex assembly operations," and that can be performed by the aircraft owner, provided the owner meets several requirements and has the proper documentation to do the job properly etc.  The FAA says one of the top causes of aircraft accidents is maintenance incorrectly performed by aircraft owners.  Sorry to say, but sometimes A&P's screw up, too.
To wit:
Late Saturday evening the pilot of a Pitts S-1T (a type-certificated, production model of the famous Pitts Special aerobatic airplane) dropped in for some emergency brake repair.  The right brake had failed while taxiing following landing and was puking hydraulic fluid.  Note that, contrary to popular opinion, brake repair, other than replenishing hydraulic reservoirs, is not on the list of things considered "preventive maintenance" by the FAA.  Now, I don't know who had last worked on this aircraft's brakes, but I can say that whoever did the work re-assembled them incorrectly (see pictures below).  They are Cleveland hydraulic disk brakes, common to many models of both certificated and experimental aircraft, simple in design and easy to work on, but repair is NOT considered preventive maintenance. 
The piston in the brake caliper (just like the piston in an aircraft cylinder) moves back and forth in reponse to hydraulic fluid pressure on the caliper side of the piston.  There is an "O" ring to seal the fluid within the caliper cylinder.  The "O" ring fits in a groove machined into the piston, which is offset to the side of the piston.  The "O" ring, which functions just like the rings on an engine piston, is intended to be on the "pressure" side of the piston, providing better sealing and, not incidentally, allowing the piston quite a bit of movement within the cylinder without allowing the "O" ring to escape the cylinder, allowing hydraulic fluid to bleed by the "O" ring.
The picture above shows the brake piston next to the caliper cylinder bore.  It should go into the caliper cylinder as shown, with the "O" ring on the "inside," or pressure side of the caliper, away from the brake disk.  You can see that the piston isn't very thick and that if installed backwards wouldn't have to move very far before the "O" ring would escape the cylinder bore and allow fluid to escape.  The upper side of the piston (in this picture) is adjacent to the brake backing plate which has friction material riveted to it which rubs against the brake disk. The brake caliper and "shoe" (or "pad," backing plate and friction material) ride back and forth on the pins you can see in the picture to squeeze the brake disk, causing friction and braking action.  This picture is of the "floating" or "moving" side of the brake.  The brake pad on the other side of the disk (not shown) is bolted to the caliper flange on the upper left.  The whole caliper moves a small amount on the pins to squeeze the disk and accomodate friction material wear.
The next picture (above) shows what we found when we disassembled the calipers (both wheels). The pistons of both brakes had been installed backwards so that the "O" rings were on the disk side of the caliper (not the pressure side).  That meant that only a small movement of the piston would allow the "O" ring to escape the caliper cylinder and allow hydraulic fluid to pass.  Not good, especially in an aircraft like a Pitts, that is short-coupled, lands fast and seems to have a built-in swerve on both takeof and landing roll.
Fortunately, the pilot didn't suffer brake failure until he was taxiing after landing.  If the brakes had failed on either takeoff or landing the results could have been disastrous.
So, all you owners who are tempted to perform maintenance, whether it is or isn't on the list of "preventive" measures, and you A&P's, too, make sure you know what you're doing, have the required documentation that shows you how to do it and are properly supervised when required.
1:46 pm pdt

Saturday was another Great Day here at WBA.  Why?  Cubbies!  We had about 20 Cub Scouts, moms and dads for a fun day of learning about airplanes, flying model airplanes, taking rides in REAL airplanes and then hot dogs and burgers.  Fun!
12:36 pm pdt

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cody, Wyoming, and Big Sky Country

Spring weather has finally made its appearance here in the rainy Pacific Northwest (actually its not so rainy here—a lot less than New York City—but we like to tell people it rains a lot so they won’t move here), so the warmer weather flying season is finally getting underway.

Saturday morning I got up early to fly a Yak-52TW to Cody, Wyoming. I hadn’t been to Wyoming in many years. My dad had an uncle who had a ranch in Jackson Hole (the “Elk Ranch”—appropriate given the elk antler arch in downtown Jackson), back before it became glamorous, and he and his brothers worked summers there and at West Yellowstone during the Depression. Once or twice we visited when I was a kid and my brother, sister and I and various cousins got to play cowboy. I drove through there in the mid-70’s expecting to find a place to stay without making reservations. Wrong. We arrived late at night and I was stupefied to find the sidewalks jammed and “No Vacancy” signs lit up all over town. Oh, well. We drove on down through Afton (then the home of Aviat, the Husky, Eagle and Pitts factory), passing through at about 2AM, lights out, as we continued down into Utah. Back then I could drive all day and all night, take a quick nap and do it all over again. No more.

Anyway, it was a long time since so I was looking forward to seeing the big sky and cowboy country again. There are some big mountains there, too.

The forecast was mostly VFR, except expect thunderstorms in the mountains, forecast to deliver lots of turbulence, wind, rain and even some hail. The forecast said thunderstorms would push through Billings, Red Lodge and Cody in the afternoon, so I was eager to get going. I got to the Arlington airport about 7AM after listening to the AWOS reporting fog. The fog was even thicker than reported, unusual this time of year, though pretty well confined to the airport and immediate vicinity. After about a three hour wait and leisurely breakfast at Ellie Mae’s I finally launched about 10:30.

Yak-52TW’s are fun and versatile airplanes. Fully aerobatic and light on the controls as a good aerobatic airplane should be, they’re also pretty good x-c airplanes, carrying 74 gallons of fuel. Cruise performance is a function of fuel flow and 400hp burns quite bit, so after climbing to 9500 feet to clear the Cascade Range I throttled back almost to “Granley Low Cruise,” so called because Bud and Ross Granley like to go REALLY SLOW to conserve fuel in their Yak-55 (Bud) and Yak-18T (Ross) when they travel to airshows, trying to stretch the range. But then -55’s and -18T’s don’t have 74 gallons. Still, I like having lots of fuel in reserve, and the engine has a sweet spot at about 1860RPM and 22” MAP, so that’s where I like to cruise. Fuel burn comes down to about 14GPH, so with 74 gallons I can fly for over five hours if needed to circumnavigate weather or whatever. Not a lot of places to stop in the mountains of central and eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana or Wyoming, so I like to keep my options open.

I flew by Spokane and through Mullen Pass without unexpected adventures, though there were some pretty big cumulus clouds in the pass, bases about 8-9000 feet, thermals that pulled the -52TW upwards at over 1500fpm at times and provided some pretty good bumps. Continued on through the mountains to Missoula for fuel and lunch. It was hot and I was glad I had on my baseball hat, long sleeves and long pants. Turned my collar up, too, but still got sunburned on the back of my neck. Maybe the glider guys are right, bucket hats do provide a little more protection. The air was nice and cool at 9500’ so the sun protection provided a little warmth, too. Fuel was $4.55/gallon at Northstar Jet in Missoula, compared to the $4.458 I paid at the Pilot Shop (hi Rick and Jan) in Arlington. I put on 41.0 gallons after covering about 340nm, the M-14PFXDK giving a little over 8nmpg at a true airspeed of about 125 knots. They loaned me a car and I drove over to the terminal for a quick lunch of a chicken salad sandwich and a cup of soup that looked like a combination of leftover chili, elbow macaroni and chicken broth. Don’t remember what they called it, but it was better than it sounds.

Got back on my horse at about 2:50PM and headed for Helena. Did I mention there are lots of mountains in Mountana? REAL mountains, not little kiddie stuff like some places. Lots of thunderstorms were brewing up, too, as forecast, so I detoured a bit, trying to pick my way over lower ground (such as it is in mountain country), past Bozeman, almost went as far as Livingston skirting weather and mountains, dropped by Red Lodge and finally to Cody. All in all uneventful, though there were some BIG cu’s in the mountains I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with, black, rain-filled air below them and hail forecast to be one inch diameter. Fortunately, the front stalled a bit and didn’t get as far east or north as fast as forecast. I made position reports (used Flight Following and filed a VFR flight plan, too—nice to have some radio company when there’s nobody around on the ground), there wasn’t a lot of traffic on FSS, Center or Flight Watch, but I gave them PIREPs anyway.

Cody is an interesting place. Home of the Buffalo Bill Museum and a 100-year-old hotel built by Buffalo Bill himself, it lies just east of Yellowstone at the foot of the mountains and is a big tourist attraction. The airport terminal isn’t much (fine by me), but they have airline service with Delta Connection and United. There are a few BIG privately owned hangars occasionally used by a few prosperous folks to park their Gulfstreams when they’re in town, but otherwise its a pretty sleepy place. While shutting down and pushing into the hangar, chatting and getting the circulation in my butt going again, I was not at all surprised there was zero airport traffic. The terminal was empty, too. Nobody home nowhere except the security folks who came by to see what we were doing. Guess I’m a dangerous looking character, especially in a Russian airplane.

I didn’t have time to see much of the town or environs, but it looks like a combination old western town and booming tourist spot. We had dinner at one of the old time watering holes and then I went to the “Beartooth Motel” close by the airport to spend the night. Got up at 3:30AM (Seattle time), caught a ride to the airport, arriving about 4:15, checked in, grabbed a quick bite and cuppa joe, got securitized and departed on Delta at 5:30. Arrived in Salt Lake after a quick ride, then waited a couple of hours for the flight to SEA and home just before noon, where I was met by my wife (thanks for the ride, sweetie pie!) and, after a not so quick stop for her to shop at the Bead Store, we finally got home about 4PM.

The Delta ticket cost $349.60 and the trip took eight and a half hours, including checking in an hour early and the drive home from SEA, but not including the shopping stop. The Yak burned about 70 gallons, or about $300 worth (I don’t have the exact figure because we didn’t fuel up in Cody before I left). My Yak flight time was about 5 hours from leaving home to arriving at Cody, and took about 11 hours total, including my 3-hour breakfast at Ellie’s and leisurely lunch and refueling in Missoula. Except for the fog, fuel and food time, it took me under six hours, home to destination, compared to more than 8 hours by airline jet. Not bad.

I not only saved $50 and a couple of hours flying the Yak, it was a lot more fun, too, though my butt got numb both ways. The cowboy and big sky country are spectacular places and I wish I could have stayed longer to see more, but I’m always glad to be back home

5:54 pm pdt

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

F-104's etc.
Today I received this month's Barnstormer's Eflyer. David Rose has a wonderful story about flying F-104's and Tom Delashaw. See www.Barnstormers.com for a link. His story reminded me of a post I wrote to the "Yak-list" (see www.Matronics.com) when Tom was killed a few years ago in a Hawker Hunter. Here it is.

From: "Jerry Painter" <wild.blue(at)verizon.net>
Subject: Tom Delashaw
Date: Jul 24, 2003

The death of a fellow airman is always a sad event, but for some reason
the death of Tom Delashaw strikes a particular chord. I never met Tom.
I never saw him fly. I don't know why they called him "Sharkbait,"
something from his military career, I suspect. Maybe its because he
flew F-104's, the absolute top of my airplane wish list, that I feel a
connection with him.

Today, airplanes are taken for granted by everyone, they're nothing
special. So we complain about FAA frufra, TFR's, delays, security
checks, lost bags and all the bureaucratic minutia that accompanies
flying, particularly on the airlines. When I was growing up in the
pre-jet-airliner 50's, flying could still be dangerous, particularly
military and test flying, and even airline travel was considered a bit
daring, to say nothing of expensive and fairly unusual. I kept up to
date (as much as a schoolboy can) on the latest X-planes, fighters and
bombers and read the same books and magazines from the school and public
libraries over and over again. I've seen "Strategic Air Command" and
all the other movies countless times. Russ Schleeh (record-setting B-47
pilot--the model for Jimmy Stewart's movie?--and unlimited hydroplane
driver) was one of my heroes. I had Green's and Jane's just about
memorized. I built hundreds of models and even had a "hobby shop" in
the basement to supply me and my friends with the special model stuff we
couldn't get otherwise. I knew all about Chuck Yeager, Pete Everest,
Ivan Kincheloe, Bob Hoover, Scott Crossfield, Eddie Allen, Bill Dana,
Bob White and all the other gods in the pantheon of test pilots. I even
had some of their autographs. They were what I wanted to be. They were
my heroes. I suspect many of you may have felt the same.

So, Tom Delashaw's death leaves me deeply saddened. But he didn't die
in an F-104. He died flying a Hawker Hunter, a jet from the days when
the British were still contenders in the aviation race. Hunters are
still standard equipment at many test pilot schools because of their
spin characteristics, among other things, and to my eye, beautiful
airplanes, but nothing like the F-104's Delashaw flew that drew my
attention to him. F-104's deserved their sobriquet of "the missile with
a man in it" and are the most extreme of the Century Series. Absolutely
gorgeous airplanes. They look like they're doing mach 2 parked on the
ramp. Nothing else can match their look of pure single-minded
aeronautical purpose--speed, speed, speed. You could seriously injure
yourself if you bumped against their leading edges because they are so
sharp they had to have protective covers. I have a cherished picture of
an NF-104 on my wall, climbing nearly vertically, rocket lit, on its way
to the neighborhood of 100,000 ft. I would love to be the pilot in that
airplane. But for pilots that didn't receive proper training or pay
proper respect, they were killers.

What I have read of Tom indicated he was a pro among pros, a man who had
earned his spurs (yes, F-104 pilots wear spurs for the ejections eats),
a veteran of combat and many hours in F-104's, a man who was
meticulously methodical around airplanes, especially the F-104, an
airplane that killed far too many good pilots, including Ivan Kincheloe.
He was the kind of pilot I still want to be, a man I could respect and

It is ironic that Tom should die in a relatively benign airplane like a
Hunter, a pussycat compared to an F-104. I know nothing of the cause of
the accident, but doubt carelessness played a factor. When someone like
Tom is killed it reminds me that airplanes are still dangerous, not
always trustworthy, that you can still be killed even when you have
taken every precaution. Those of us flying "experimental" airplanes
especially, without benefit of much in the way of documentation,
training, FAA, military or factory support or "supervised" experience,
sometimes to the airplanes' limits and with modifications of dubious
airworthiness, have to be especially cautious. Sometimes it feels like
this Yak-list and fellow pilots and mechanics are about all we've got to
lean on. And sometimes you have to wonder about them, too. Nobody
should die in an airplane. I can't think of many worse ways to die.
But some of us probably will, even though we've taken "every
precaution," or think we have. Doing what we love won't make it any
easier or more pleasant.

Blue skies, Tom.

And let's be careful out there.

Jerry Painter

10:02 am pdt

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Let's go Flyin'!
If you've noticed my "Reno" pages you may have figured out that every year a bunch of us get together to go to the races. Well, that's just a taste! We got lotsa places to go, things to do and folks to meet.

Here's a short list of some of the places and events on the schedule. You're invited so mark your calendar!

May 16 Paine Field (PAE) GA day w/warbirds!
May 20-26 "Aluminum Overcast" B-17 at BFI--rides!
June 12-14 Bellanca-Champion Fly-in Columbia, CA
June 12-14 Golden West Fly-in, Yuba City, CA
June 20-21 Olympia Warbird Show, Olympia, WA
July 8-12 Arlington Fly-in
July 27-Aug 2 Oshkosh
August 21-22 Madras, OR Fly-in
August 22 Tillamook, OR Fly-in
Sept 16-20 Reno Air Races

'Course we do lotsa little fly-outs to wherever strikes our fancy, like real short field training at real short fields. Mountain flying to real mountains (the Cascades, Siskiyous and Olympics are not little baby hills, dontcha know!) Plus lotsa $100 burgers. Lotsa seminar stuff, too! Drop me an email and I'll put you on the list for event notification. Stand by for news!

3:03 pm pdt

Back on line
If you're one of those loyal folks who checks my web site every now and then you may have noticed that things haven't changed much for a while. That's because your and my favorite phone company/web site provider managed to booger the works so I couldn't edit this site. Today they got it fixed. Thank you so very much Verizon folks!

Stay tuned for more useless diatribes! I got lots more coming!
2:49 pm pdt

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Wall Street Party and the Piper's Bill: we get to clean up the mess, again, but at least Great Depression II, the sequel, has been averted, for now
Well, the party's over and the bill's in the mail. The piper has played, he and his friends have fallen down drunk on debt, misplaced tax cuts and bad policies, soiled themselves, the furniture, the carpets and the floor, puked all over the place, stolen your car and wallet, robbed the bank, burned down your house, raped your wife and murdered your children.  And your neighbors' too.  So, now, (god bless 'em!) they're sending us the bill for the cleanup.  Its in the mail, though the blanks after the dollar sign haven't quite been filled in yet, but you're gonna love it.  And your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will, too. 
This is how all the great empires of history passed into oblivion.
Considering that the piper's song was played for the benefit of only a very, very few, and only they got to taste the wine, caviar and cigars, the bill's gonna be awfully, awfully big.  Really, really, REALLY big--like a $$$Trillion Dollar$$$ just for the Wall Street mess.  That's NINE zeros worth, added to $$$3Trillion$$$ for the Iraqi fiasco and a mounting national debt figure with another nine zeros.  But now that the bill's in the mail, we shouldn't be surprised.  That's the name of the game--has been since Nixon.  Like Rumsfeld says, "stuff" happens.  And McCain's pal, top economic advisor and compatriot in the fight against government oversight of any kind (maybe he'll get the nod for next Teasury Secretary), Phil Gramm (whose wife sat on Enron's board) is right:  stop whining.  What did you expect?  Everybody knows it's messy and expensive living in a whorehouse! 
Heads they win, tails we lose.
Of course, we could refuse to pay the bill.  But is the alternative any better?: meltdown of the international monetary and economic system.  In case you hadn't noticed, Russia had to close down its stock market (after a 57% decline) for several days this week . China, the rest of Asia and Europe were all gazing into the abyss, too.  That's the New World Order.  No, the WTO couldn't help.  It came down to some frantic calls between capitals and the obvious need to act in concert before the barn burned down completely--forget about the horse.  After more than a year of denial and dithering, with bloody toes dangling over the precipice, Bernanke and Paulson blinked and backed away from financial suicide while Bush just mumbled to himself about everything being OK, the economy is "sound."  And, just like the war in Iraq, you and I were lied to the whole way.  Just be sure to send in the money, if not blood.  If some of the malefactors walk away with multi-million$$$, that's just the magic of the market at work.  Not to worry. 
And, of course, McCain, who has been vigorously anti-regulation his entire political life, and was famously one of the prime recipients of largesse from one of the Keating Five bank robbery perps (wasn't that an awful lot like what's happening now?), to say nothing of Bush Brother Neil's Diablo Savings and Loan heist, is now calling for a "study" and--incredbly for him--"regulation" of the markets, whatever that might mean under a really, really laissez faire McCain administration. Right.  What's that term Republicans love so much--"flip-flopper?"  Especially if lying wins votes.  BTW, contrary to his campaign speech lies, McCain got TEN times as much money from Fannie and Freddie as Obama.  So much for his often touted military code of "honor."  Lies are so much better than the truth when you're running for President, especially if you have McCain's voting record.
Meanwhile, Bush is hiding under the bed, hoping it will all simply go away so he can go back to playing "war president."
Ever notice that all this turmoil happens when the Republicans are in charge?  Remember how Nixon gave us a "secret strategy" that prolonged the Viet Nam war for five years (yes, it was Johnson's war), wage and price controls (don't you just love the hypocrisy of these "free-market" Republicans when their policies go bad?), a recession and the first oil shock--the oil embargo of '73-74.  I remember it well:  unemployment, inflation and gas lines.  Reagan gave us another, really serious recession and the 23%-in-one-day stock market drop in October '87, Irangate (he sent the Iranians--yes, the Iranians--weapons in exchange for funding his illegal war on Nicaragua, remember?), plus some really hideous budget deficits. Reagan and Bush I teamed up to give us another recession, more monster deficits and the Savings and Loan bailout debacle of the late 80's/early90's.  Sound familiar?  Then Bush I gave weapons to Iraq so his buddy Saddam could bleed the Iranians (that's really smart--give weapons to BOTH sides), then went to war with his Iraqi friends and gave us another recession.  And more deficits.  And now W has given us even more monstrously gross deficits, another war in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding--funny, but our friends in the Middle East don't seem to like us any more, can't imagine why not--Karl Rove politics, Alberto Gonzlez' politicized Justice Dept., Don Rumsfeld, the K Street project, Jack Abramoff, a diet of non-stop lies and the meltdown of '08, to mention just a few. 
And McCain has been right there with W the whole way, "maverick" grandstanding not withstanding.
Could it be something in their economic and political philosphy?  I thought Republicans were supposed to be war-averse and financially "responsible."  No?  Oh, well.  I guess they just love disaster, eh?  Especially if they and their buddies can profit from it.
You say you're worried you might lose your job and your house, to say nothing of your retirement, healthcare and all the money you put into your 401K?  Poor baby.  A little economic disaster from time to time is good for you.  Builds character.  Don't worry, your money's been going to your betters.  After all, as Cheney says, its their due.
At least we haven't gone to war with the Iranians and Russians.  Yet.  Of course, W still has until January--its only September, dontcha know.  Hang on to your hats because October is traditionally the month of the really, really big debacle.  Still time for another Surprise.  At least they didn't get away with their attempt to gut Social Security and Medicare.  Yet.  But don't you fret--that's just the job for McCain.  W is such a wimp.
Rigging the game is kids' stuff.  The hoi polloi never guesses what's going on until the bill's in the mail.  The "little people" (to quote Barbara Bush) are so "pathetic."
Am I a democrat?  Yes.  Of course.  And a Democrat, too.  Given the alternatives, what else is there?  Not perfect, but a damn site better.
Don't forget to vote in November.  Enough is enough.
And stop whining--we've had our "free" lunch.
12:16 pm pdt

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I have to tell you right up front that helicopters are a sore point with me.  No.  Let me re-phrase that:  helicopter pilots are a sore point with me.
Bear with me for a moment while I get this off my chest.  Arlington Muni, the home drome, was one of the sites of the late but not lamented Silver State Helicopters.  Oh, we've had helicopters for a long time, but not in concentrated doses like with SSH.  I'll let SSH die its painful and probably criminal financial death and let it go at that except to say that they did more to raise the hackles on airplane pilots hereabouts than anything I've ever seen in aviation--and in a very short time, too.  How?  By taking the attitude that they had the right of way at all times, that everyone else was just going to have to fit into their modus operandi, that runways and taxiways are really for helicopters and only secondarily for airplanes, that their stealth mode invisible grey paint (it rains a bit around here and the skies have occasionally been known to be severely overcast for prolonged periods--perfect camouflage for dark grey helicopters, even with their cloaking devices in the "off" position) was exactly how every helicopter should be painted, an insistence on flying traffic patterns (why would you want to fly a rectangular pattern in a helicopter?) that interesected with airplane patterns, and cutting off airplanes while they were at it, resulting in more than a few near-misses with airplanes and even gliders etc. 
I'll give them credit for a couple of things, tho.  They did paint a single blade on a couple of their rotors white, which helped some, and later they got a yellow helicopter, so they weren't entirely uncooperative. And with all their incessant radio chatter I finally learned the names of all the taxiways and intersections on the airport.  And they were absolutely right that FAR and AIM are virtually silent on helicopter operations, so no rules against their practices.  Except the rule that says needlessly endangering and pissing off people is just plain stupid.
So SSH is gone, good riddance, but their legacy lingers.  Seems now the monkey see monkey do factor is in force--if SSH did it, evey helicopter pilot seems to think that's the way to do it--even guys that formerly were perfectly sensible and cooperative!  Things like long straight-in approaches at about 50 knots (KAWO is an uncontrolled, er, "un-towered," ha ha, airport), followed by a prolonged hover over the numbers, then a hover-taxi the length of the runway (to where they're almost invisible at the far end), followed by a leisurely liftoff and pattern back to the runway, or maybe a taxiway (you never really can tell for sure until they're about ready to actually touch down) do it again, repeat, repeat again, dc al fine, do not pass go, don't collect $200.00, maybe throw in an autorotation or two through interesecting traffic flows, all the while completely pissing off every airplane pilot in sight.
In nearly forty years of pre-SSH flying I had never seen helicopters operate like that--hope I never do again!  Alas, "Phoenix" Rotorways (get it?  ha ha) is trying to resurrect the SSH torch, so the dog just won't die.  Worse, PR doesn't have their own fuel truck like SSH, so they want to land in the middle of a gaggle of airplanes at the pump, rotor blades flashing within inches of airplanes, pumps, windows, people etc., stirring up a big wind that just about blows half the airplanes away and then take off with a big flourish just to rub their arrogance and stupidity in.  Sheeesh!  Maybe part of the training for helicopter pilots should be a required Dale Carnegie course in acceptable behavior at the sandbox!  Come on, guys, can't you see that a little common courtesy and horse sense would go a very long way? 
Show a modicum of consideration will ya?  Please?  Let SSH die its welcome death!  We'd like to be friends.
9:23 pm pdt

Friday, May 2, 2008

L/D redux
From: Jerry Painter
Date: 5/2/2008 10:16:28 AM
Subject: L/D redux
Another factor that can play a big role is that many M-14 powered aircraft
have MT, Whirlwind and other 3-blade props that become very effective
airbrakes when pushed to high rpm at low power. I was reminded of this
yesterday flying with Jim Bourke, owner of RC Groups.com, in his Yak-54
(formerly owned by Eric Beard and known on the airshow circuit as Russian
Thunder). It has an MT. Jim likes to fly a "high-speed" (200-225 kph or so,
all the way to flare), close-in pattern, giving him better visibility, then
as he begins to flare he simply pushes the prop up to high rpm, followed by
reduced throttle. It's like flying into a big bowl of mush. The airplane
screeches to a halt, squats and lands. I've occasionally used this technique
myself, traffic permitting. The huge drag of the prop gives huge control of
speed at a moment's notice. If nothing else its a fun technique and keeping
the speed up on final can only be a good thing safety-wise. Not exactly your
typical (though it could be, in fact not a bad idea) practice "emergency"
landing technique, high, fast and steep. Not sure about MT's, but Whirlwinds
go high pitch with lost oil pressure.
There aren't many geared flat (or round) engines around any more and I've
read about alleged problems pilots of geared T-Bones and Commanders had with
reverse-loading of their engines, though I'm not sure "reverse-loading" is
actually happening, and its very short term during flare in any case. Anyone
have anything to offer on the subject re M-14's? Facts, not conjecture and
old-wives tales, please. Some of you old bomber pilots must have some info
on Pratts and Wrights, no?
On another subject, the -54 has very pronounced roll-coupling with rudder,
even though the rudder tapers significantly, with most of the area down low.
Not having much experience with big-rudder-optimized-for-gyros aerobatic
airplanes (like "none"), I'm wondering whether this is common and if it may
have contributed to some of the -54 "odd quirks" and "killer" stories, in
that that one was apparently spun in in Alaska (I understand it was the only
other -54 in the US). I didn't get much chance to explore it and its (way)
beyond my skill set anyway, but its a bit surprising to have the airplane
roll opposite rudder input, I.e., skid right and the left wing drops a bunch
  A big help for some tumbling maneuvers no doubt, but may make some typical
maneuvers (like say, slips) and, especially, recovery techniques a bit odd
if not plain inappropriate.
BTW, Eric and Bud Granley are the only people I've seen hover an airplane
(Bud in his -55, preferably while inverted, flying formation with a
helicopter at very, very low altitude), though it may be common now. Didn't
get a chance to try it myself, but would love to one fine day.
Jerry Painter
Wild Blue Aviation
10:29 am pdt

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Company LogoWild Blue Aviation
Hangar 28
18228 59th Dr. NE, Arlington, WA, 98223 USA
Arlington Municipal Airport (KAWO)
mail to:  1521 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201-2057, USA
phone 425-876-0865