Around the Airport

Monday, April 29, 2013

Which Post Generated the Most Comments Ever?


Thanks to all of you who wrote in response to my thoughts about EAA and my suggestions for ways to get the group back on track.  Written to get people thinking and looking for solutions, it appears to have done just that.  Never before have I received so many different comments, in so many different ways, from so many different people.  Of course, not one person from EAA contacted me.  But, that’s ok.  The number of hits from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to the NORDO News blog, were off the charts for a while.
By the way, did you see the EAA AirVenture Cup Race is back?  Yeah, it still has that goofy “AirVenture” name but it is a step in the right direction and I’m pretty sure member input is responsible for its return.  Keep up the pressure and maybe some of your bigger better ideas will eventually see the light of day.
Click here to see the previous post.

Trivia question:  Which post generated the second most comments ever?

The Dreamlifter

A cold foggy night in Anchorage.

When I took a new job in 2012 flying 747’s, I knew it would entail flying three different models; the 747-400 (aka “the four hundred”), 747-8 (aka “the dash eight”), and the LCF.  The previous model 747’s were the “the one hundred” and “the two hundred”, although they are now more affectionately known as “the classic”.  The classic was a round gauge flying machine and if you could look inside the cockpit, it would be apparent why everyone calls it that.
When the four hundred came along most of the cockpit instruments were replaced with six screens.   This change, along with many others, symbolized a huge jump ahead in airline and cargo transportation.  It is also these updates which make the 400 appear relatively modern to this day.  Yet, Northwest Airlines placed the first 400 into commercial service on February 9th, 1989.  Now, 23 years later and with the 747-8 numbers growing, the 400 is rapidly becoming known as “the new classic”.
Bonus points if you can count all the rivets.
The 747-8 builds on the 747-400 lineage with updates being made to the cockpit instrumentation, powerplants, and airframe.  The final product is something that hauls considerably more for considerably less with a lot less noise.  Not bad for an update.
Then there’s the 747-LCF.  This is a special beast all its own.  Designed and built to haul internationally constructed 787 components to assembly factories in the US, this flying machine cannot be mistaken for anything else.
Among my fellow pilots, given the option of flying the 747-400, 747-8, or 747-LCF, few to none would choose flying the later.  Much like a military machine, it was built with a single purpose in mind and creature comfort was not it.  Although it flies ok it does occasionally require the use of rudder, a concept foreign to most large aircraft operators; it also vibrates, is terribly loud in the cockpit, and depending on the destination, it often “traps” four crew members in a room smaller than a master closet for 9 hours.  But wait; let me clarify those statements.
The LCF vibrates but not much; it needs rudder but not much, and it is loud but, well, there’s no getting over how loud it is in the cockpit.  Amazingly though the noise has nothing to do with the odd shape of the fuselage.  It’s all due to the large amount of airflow from a standard 747 pack (air cycle machines) setup being pumped into such a small cockpit.  If you could turn off the packs, it would be as quiet as all the others which, by the way, weren't very quiet to start with.  Being able to get more that ten feet from the cockpit would also do the job.  Yet it is doubtful those things will ever change, and therefore most pilots avoid the aircraft when they can.  Myself, I love it.
Check out those curves.
Among the different aviators I call "friend", there is a small circle of flyers which one buddy calls “type whores”.  These are pilots who get the biggest thrill out of flying new and different aircraft.  Obviously, most pilots enjoy entering new planes in their logs.  Few though have, as their biggest goal, the addition of different types to the record.  For those who do, the knowledge of how each model flies, how it compares to the others, and what led to the design is the passion that drives them.  They also love the quirky.  That’s me; and for these reasons, I enjoy flying the LCF.
The Large Cargo Freighter is a wonderfully odd looking flying machine which represents so much more than what is seen on the surface.  To start with there’s the obvious; it delivers the 787.  “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going” is a well known phrase in large aircraft circles and I count myself as a believer.  Nay-sayers love to point to recent 787 troubles but those same people are usually too young to remember the 747's somewhat troubled beginning.  Any machine sufficiently advanced to change an industry is almost guaranteed to have teething problems and the 787 fits this category.  But remember, here we are 43 years after the first commercially flown 747 and it’s still going strong.
Atlas, where I work, has a contract to operate these for Boeing.
Where I worked before, a lot of pilots were afflicted with the little aircraft syndrome.  They absolutely hated that they weren’t flying something big; as if the size of the machine made them what they were.  And despite the facts they were flying an airplane that sat 50 people and most of them were great pilots, when someone would walk in the cabin door and express “Wow, this plane is small”, it sent them to the moon.  Myself, although I’ve always liked flying bigger and bigger aircraft, the gross weight of the plane never mattered. Given an option, I would always choose the better job over the heavier airframe.  Most young pilots would not.
I can't help but wonder how many vintage airplanes I could fit in here.
That said, I must admit I love flying the LCF; it’s big, ugly chic, and an important part of the 787 story.   Additionally, since there are only four of these big suckers they’re somewhat rare.  So uncommon are they, even controllers at large international airports have to ask, “What is that?”  Being incredibly broad-sided it’s also not unusual to cross paths with another aircraft in the flight levels and hear the following conversation; “Center, Delta 107",  "Delta 107 go ahead", "Uuuuuh yeah (drawn out like they just saw a UFO), that aircraft that just crossed left to right said Dream Lifter on the side; what is that?",  "Hold on. Uuum Giant 4231, what exactly are you flying today?”  That's always good for laugh.
Finally, if you're going to talk about this machine, you have to mention all the people that somehow find out when The Dreamlifter is going to arrive or take off and line the fences to wave and take photos.  In the music world she'd be a rock star.  Last week in Italy, one crew member even reported seeing a group of people flying an American flag as they taxied out.  The airplane has a personality that can’t be ignored, people love it, and it’s fun to a play a part in that.

Here's a video I found on youtube that was produced by Boeing.  Click this sentence to see the tail swing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Events, Everyone Keeps Asking About Events


Yes it’s true; we still do not have any events scheduled for 2013.  We’ve been talking about it and would like to step back into it slowly.  What I can tell you so far is that we know we’d like to have one Sinful Sunday and the September fly-in.
Unfortunately, “would like to” and “will have” are two vastly different things.  Although there’s an obvious demand for our events, the problem continues to be time and infrastructure.  One Sinful Sunday alone takes days to get prepare for with the overall prep starting a week in advance.  Additionally, my schedule with the new company is barely predictable thus making events that much harder to organize and man. 
There’s also the issue of facilities.  Although we are slowly rebuilding and doing so with an improvement of infrastructure in mind, we’ll be lucky to have the hangar rebuilt by the end of September.  The fly-in fundraiser at the end of last year was a big help but the timing of the repairs now works against us.
So, what to do, what to do?  Clearly, with an eye on the future, going forward the events at Lee Bottom will change.  Aviation has changed, is changing, and in ten years it will look vastly from today.  These changes are what we’ve been watching and planning for.  They will affect everything we do from here on and even if the tornado had not happened, the events were going to change.  In some case, an event may only change slightly where others may become something altogether different.  Ultimately, the changes will be a reflection of a new and well plotted course for the field.
Keep your eyes out for a decision on events in May.  Until then, please remember the field is open and, as always, here for you to enjoy.

A Heartfelt Thanks to Our Supporters


Sitting here pondering the future of aviation and a new course for Lee Bottom, one which will be required for long term survival, I can only think of the many amazing people this place has brought into our lives.  As most of you know, each year we send out our limited edition calendars to 1500 people around the world.  Treated as a fundraiser, the responses we receive in return equate to some of our best memories.
For weeks and months after the calendars go out, a stack of notes from our friends grows.  Every time I come home, it’s a little taller.  Eventually though, but not before we’ve sat down to read them all, the letters go into a box of memories.
Many of these notes thank us for our efforts to keep the airport alive and well; some of them are personal letters from close friends far and wide who we rarely get to see but wish we could; there’s always a bunch of them expressing a desire to someday visit the field the authors have heard so much about; and then there is a growing percentage of letters sent from surviving spouses to let us know how much their husband or wife enjoyed their time at Lee Bottom.  The latter ones are not only heartbreaking but almost always somewhat of a shock since we obviously did not know this airport family member had passed.  With so many facets of aviation covered by our airport family we never really know what to expect.  Yet, when all the letters have been read and their messages fully absorbed, one thing we can count on is a renewed desire to secure the future of Lee Bottom.
Thanks to all of you who’ve maintained your love of aviation in the face of so much anti-aviation adversity.  We hope this little, lush, green, flying field in the middle of nowhere feels to you like the safe haven we’ve attempted to create.  You are the reason we’re here.
Once upon a time, this was the predicted future of aviation.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FAA and Unions Perpetrating Mass Fraud

Even the airlines are getting in on it.  This is the remarks section of a release sent to me  by a friend .
(Note: When first published, Americans had yet to fall for the trumped up delays.)
If you’ve read NORDO News for any amount of time, you know it is rare for us to use another person’s creation in an attempt to communicate something of importance.  Today though is a special day.  Having watched my fellow aviators allow themselves to be suckered into this “FAA furloughs are causing aviation delays” BS perpetrated by the FEDS upon the American public, I had to find a way to bring them back to reality.  This editorial in the Wall Street Journal online does it as well as anyone could.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Are Drivers as Passionate About Stop Signs?


Each and every one of us has a few stop lights or signs in our lives that make zero sense.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  They restrict the flow of traffic and often exist in areas of low volume.  Close your eyes and think of that place you always have to stop when you could safely continue moving and I’m sure you’ll get a little agitated.   But why do they bother you so?
Following are my guesses as to why.
They are unnecessary.  They exist because one person didn’t pay attention and there was a wreck.  Or maybe a “good intentioned” citizen proclaimed we needed a stop light there to keep others safe (because the area scares them).  And quite possibly, it was a guess by an engineer as to what may be needed at the intersection.  Ultimately though, and for whatever reason, they are senseless, useless, restrict the free flow of traffic, cost money to maintain, and therefore generate moving violations (tickets) to pay the bills.  Am I right?  Was that close?
Well then I have to ask, if your local government decided times were tight and, in order to trim costs, they were going to remove unnecessary stop lights and signs by turning them into yield signs or round-a-bouts, what would your reaction be?
Think about it.  Can you imagine your local government actually trimming costs?  Furthermore, would you be in shock if their method to accomplish this was to remove over-bearing government oversight of citizens?  And finally, assuming those things had been decided, can you imagine the American Sports Car Club protesting their removal?  NO?  Really?  Hmmmm, then why are all our aviation groups clamoring to keep all these damn CONTROL towers?
I believe the most likely answer to this perplexing question is this; the board of directors of our groups are little more than microcosms of Senate and House committees; each individual member playing the game in a manner that will serve them, not their constituents, best.  A great example of this is NBAA.
Have you wondered why NBAA would so strongly support saving of all these towers?  There are many possible reasons.  First, it could be a tit for tat political publicity stunt from a group that claims to disagree with pretty much everything President Obama does.  It is possible NBAA believes the typical corporate or charter pilot is incapable of safely flying without ATC oversight?  The group may have decided USER FEES are actually a good thing.  It’s also possible Ed Bolen is supporting this position in an effort to build his political resume for a position he knowingly covets; FAA Administrator.  There is the chance this is nothing more than evidence aviation is lost for good.  Or again, maybe NBAA is out of touch with its membership.  
As for the reasons mentioned above, with mascots like Warren Buffet, it’s possible it is nothing more than a protest done for political appearance.  I have to believe NBAA thinks better of its corporate and charter pilots.  Surely NBAA understands someone has to pay for these towers.  Mr. Bolen does want the administrator’s position.  Most groups are out of touch with their members in the same way our federal representatives are.  And, if members support this aviation is lost, the last aviator nears, and so goes the freedom of aviation.  But most likely, NBAA is simply out of touch with its members; something every member of every aviation group has become accustomed to.
As for me, I’m torn on the tower issue.  Some of the best controllers I have known, many of them being among the best people in aviation, work at these towers.  Yet clearly a large percentage of these towers are unnecessary to aviation, are expensive to operate, and do nothing more than restrict the free flow of traffic and offer the increased potential for violations.  They are “that stop sign” which aggravates you so much.
Yes, I understand closing the towers, along with the other disproportional cuts on all things aviation, are nothing more than a continuation of politics as usual.  Sometimes though while trying to poke you in the eye, your enemy accidentally does you a favor.  The closing of many of these towers would be such a gift.  Their closing is the rollback of government, a reduction of costs, and a great boost to the freedom of flight.  But there are all those controllers, many of which we like so much; what about them?
Is it possible aviation has room for them elsewhere?  Are there companies out there willing to talk to them?  What options do they have?  Admittedly I do not know, and because of this I would love to hear from any of you who work at these contract towers.  It would be nice to find a solution that would both allow removal of most of these towers, perhaps over a larger time frame, without leaving you high and dry.  Ideas?
Finally, controllers aside, am I the one who is out of touch with aviation; is it truly so far gone that pilots would rather have a tower than not?
Click here for a map of the proposed tower closings.

Note:  Since writing this, the aviation community stepped up to demonstrate why the USA is in such a world of butt hurt.  Congratulations; you saved towers that weren't needed, expenditures which demand payment (can you say user fees?), and retained controlled airspace which does little but offer the opportunity for violations; genius.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Weekend Walkabout - Your Suggestions, Your Links


This is a photo of one of the most revolutionary machines of all time.  The Concorde was fairly impressive also.
What is The Weekend Walkabout?  In the spirit of talk shows which all seem to have Free Form Fridays, Free-for-All Fridays, Open Lines Fridays, we have decided to try something similar  with NORDO News.  If you are unfamiliar with how "Free Form Friday"  radio shows work, basically they are days (Friday) when listeners are allowed to call in and discuss whatever they would like.  Often callers keep their subjects in line with typical topics of the show, but often other fun or crazy things work their way in due to the format.  Since aviators are typically fun, free spirited types, this could lead to some interesting links.
Because this open format always has a name associated with the time frame in which it is held, I decided the NORDO News "free-for-all" would be called "The Weekend Walkabout".  During the day of Friday, people are encouraged to send links to anything they find interesting.  These can even be things that we would otherwise never post.  And just like call radio shows, unfortunately not all things make it on the list because sometimes the lines are busy or the screener just can't handle them all.  Yet, don't let that stop you from trying.
To get the ball rolling a post a note placed on our facebook page requesting people send us links to interesting aviation items.  It is from that post we received the following links; a pretty good sampling of items.
If there is something you would like to add, feel free to post it in the comments.  If you would like to discuss one or more of the links, post that in the comments also.  Whatever you do, we hope you take a little time to chill out and look at what we ended up with in a very short time frame.  Watch or view them all and you will likely have fun, shed tears, be amazed, or plan a vacation to Italy.
All the contributed links are listed below.  A few of them may be from facebook and other social websites therefore if you don't have accounts with the sites you may or may not be able to see all the links.  Otherwise, the rest should be available to everyone.  In the interest of keeping these random they are numbered but not titled.  Click on each number to see something new.



1  2   3  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13 

A Good Friend Earns Great Recognition


One of my biggest thrills in life is seeing a friend succeed; it doesn’t matter at what.  Some people want to help society, others want to start and build a successful business, a few merely dream of being a pilot, and others just want to do what is right.  Of course, when they start after something most people are more specific.  For instance, a pilot may say he/she wants to fly for Delta.  Yet in the end, whatever the details were, when you boil it down, they wanted to be a pilot.  And, if they made it I am happy for them.
I just realized I need to back track.  Through the years I have refined, over and over again, who I would consider a friend, what makes a friend, and how friends are made.  It seems to me most people start out being friends with anyone who likes them.  Then one by one, as they peel off or are dropped from the formation, a core group is revealed.  This method of friendship always seemed like wasted effort to me.
Of course, if you prescribe to my method of friendship, you will never host a Christmas party overflowing with people, your birthday will go almost unacknowledged, and when you die the chances are pretty good few would notice unless you passed away in their presence.  And yes, I realize to many people that sounds horrible, or maybe like a sob story, but it is not.  Real friends are rare and therefore, by definition, exist is limited numbers.  If three devastated people show up to your funeral you had more true friends than most.
So, why all the talk about friends?
Well, the other day Ginger walked into the house with an armful of mail.  Among the items were plenty of junk mail, a Northern Tool catalog, the latest edition of “The Aviation Historian”, 33 pieces of mail from various aviation groups trying to get one or both of us to re-join (exaggeration alert; it was 32 pieces), and a fancy square envelope entirely out of place in our home.  That last one is the one she opened first.
Looking it over for a moment, then looking at me as if there was yet another thing I hadn’t told her about, she said, “Did you know Ron (Alexander) is being inducted to the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame”?  Fortunately, I had been away for a while and it was news to me.  “No. Why?” I said with perfect husband brevity.  To which she responded, “Well, he is and we got an invitation to the event”.  Like I said, it was completely out of place in our home.
How in the world we ended up deserving an invitation to Ron’s big day is beyond me.
Years ago, when I first talked to Ron, he had called to say hello.  Admittedly, although I don’t think he knows this, I was very stand-offish and when I hung up we questioned his intentions.  Living aviation has taught us this.  Stay with this sport long enough and you’ll understand why we don't trust everyone who claims to love it.  Sure, Ron’s name was well known in aviation circles but we've also learned popularity is no measure of a man.  Therefore, Ron and I spoke about a few things and hung up.
A few weeks later we spoke again and exchange emails about big ideas for aviation.  Then the next time I heard from Ron he asked me to fly one of his planes to Oshkosh.  Now although that may seem to most like the offer of a true friend, you have to understand that at the time I was flying rare old planes around the country for people I hadn’t even met; to me it was just another ferry job.
When I arrived at Ron’s, my new friend Dr. John Burson was driving.  Earlier in the day, I had delivered a Canadian Tiger Moth to Dr. Burson and since he wasn’t too far from Ron’s, it worked out well for everyone.  Ron showed us around, John left, and Ron and I began to discuss the future of aviation.  When the day was over, Ron was like family.
What I’ve learned about our friend since that day is that he has been a benefit to both society and aviation, started and built several successful businesses, done some amazing things as a pilot, and always made it a point to do what is right.  None of us are saints, but when it comes to being a great all around person, Ron ranks toward the top of the list.  Put simply, he's one of the good people in aviation in an age when being one of the good people is extremely rare.
Easily I could go on about Ron’s life in the air and all the reasons (several pages worth) he's being inducted.  Instead, I am going to keep it short by saying only one additional thing.  When someone gets recognition like this, many people are inclined to express the notion “that person deserves it”.   In Ron’s case I can only say “he earned it”.
Congratulations Ron.  Ginger and I both are extremely happy for you.
Click here to see the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame website.
(Note: Since this was published, Ron has had his big day.  Congratulations again.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Live Life by Helping Others


When I was just out of high school, I watched one of the most genuine, sweet, kind, and fun ladies I had ever met fade away and die from leukemia.  She too was just out of high school and at the time was dating a good friend of mine.  Having never witnessed my buddy show much emotion, it was additionally eye opening to see him torn apart by her death.
When you are 18, very few things are serious.  Everything may seem important but the reality is  few things are treated that way.  The day of Delina Denney's funeral, I watched all the people affected by her passing and realized life is no game.  Harshly apparent was the fact you could be having fun one month, and dead the next.  With that in mind I began to live that way.
Four years later, some friends visited me at college.  Later that night, while my friends and I discussed the good old days, her name was brought up; the room fell silent.  Sitting there, no doubt all of us thinking the same things, nothing was said for at least thirty seconds.  Still being a bunch kids, one of us eventually changed the subject and we never mentioned it again.
Delina was easily the best individual among our group; her smile would light up the darkest of rooms, she had turned my friend into a softie, and when all was said and done none of us could understand why it was her who had died.  We were all better candidates for an early exit and not long after that night in college, I gave a small amount to the fight against Leukemia in her name, and have done so each year since.
______________________________________________________________________
Help a survivor help others:
If you would like to contribute to the fight against leukemia, please do so by clicking here.  The link will take you to a site where, on the right side of the screen, there is a donation button.  The main part of the page includes the story of an upstanding man, Tom McCord, with whom I have  had the pleasure of knowing for almost ten years.  Having been affected by leukemia himself, he has now been nominated for the Indianapolis Man & Woman of the Year campaign benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).   Every dollar contributed to the fight is also vote for Tom as the Indianapolis Man of the Year.







Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Weekend Walkabout - Your Suggestions, Your Links


Gotta love the Giant Moth.
What is The Weekend Walkabout?  In the spirit of talk shows which all seem to have Free Form Fridays, Free-for-All Fridays, Open Lines Fridays, we have decided to try something similar  with NORDO News.  If you are unfamiliar with how "Free Form Friday"  radio shows work, basically they are days (Friday) when listeners are allowed to call in and discuss whatever they would like.  Often callers keep their subjects in line with typical topics of the show, but often other fun or crazy things work their way in due to the format.  Since aviators are typically fun, free spirited types, this could lead to some interesting links.
Because this open format always has a name associated with the time frame in which it is held, I decided the NORDO News "free-for-all" would be called "The Weekend Walkabout".  During the day of Friday, people are encouraged to send links to anything they find interesting.  These can even be things that we would otherwise never post.  And just like call radio shows, unfortunately not all things make it on the list because sometimes the lines are busy or the screener just can't handle them all.  Yet, don't let that stop you from trying.
To get the ball rolling a post a note placed on our facebook page requesting people send us links to interesting aviation items.  It is from that post we received the following links; a pretty good sampling of items.
If there is something you would like to add, feel free to post it in the comments.  If you would like to discuss one or more of the links, post that in the comments also.  Whatever you do, we hope you take a little time to chill out and look at what we ended up with in a very short time frame.  Watch or view them all and you will likely have fun, shed tears, be amazed, or plan a vacation to Italy.
All the contributed links, plus one or two I added (sorry, I had to), are listed below.  A few of them are from facebook therefore if you don't have a facebook account you may or may not be able to see them.  Otherwise, the rest should be available to everyone.  In the interest of keeping these random they are numbered but not titled.  Click on each number to see something new.

1   2  3   4  5   6  7   8  9  10  11  12  13a  13b  13c  13d  13e