Monday, December 28, 2015

What Would You Do?

I was sitting at the table when Ginger asked, "What would you do if you had six months to live?" Among my answers was to call friends and let them know their friendship had been appreciated, sail across the ocean, and eventually disappear into anecdotal sightings of a feral American burning up famous roads and courses in a De Tomaso Mangusta. I’d stop only to watch the sunset, and most reports would come from those who shared a drink with the itinerant.

Next she hit me with the question, "What would you do if you were given a million dollars?" I said, "Nothing. You can't do squat with a million. Make it a spare ten and we'll talk." Looking at me with the usual frustrated eyes, she agreed. My answer was to...

Actually, my response to that last question is unimportant. What counts is that both questions arrived at a time I was already stewing over a related thought - I'm running out of time and need to prioritize.
When I was in college, I created a list of things to accomplish in my lifetime. Today, most people call these bucket lists. By the time I was 26 I had done them all. It took me a while to realize it, but there were two valuable lessons contained within the experience. First, think big. You'll accomplish much of what you set out to do; therefore, make the items huge. Second, the size of your dreams directly relates to the amount of time they'll take to accomplish.

Back then, the second one wasn't a problem. Now that I'm older, my aspirations have increased to meet a crossover point with my remaining life expectancy. Essentially, my dreams and time left are at L/D Max. From here on out, my desires will have to work against the ever-increasing parasitic drag of decreasing time. Bummer. Now I have to make choices.

If you’ve ever experienced this yourself, you know it can be stifling. Similar to reducing your pack for a long hike, many items previously believed important are revealed for what they are, dead weight. Setting them aside can be tough. You might even have to walk away and come back.

I walked away to the blogs of others. Surprisingly, one friend had recently discussed the same problem. His post left me with company, but it also reinforced the idea it was time to trim and focus. Future objectives would have to be clear.

Do you have a list?

One report was that he sat silently as the horizon recaptured the sun.
Looking away to order a drink was all the time it took.
The American was gone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why Angels Have Wings

After escaping an endless string of near misses, the band of new friends loaded themselves, a suitcase of cash, and their pet elephant onto a military aircraft. An old friend was doing them a favor. What started as a forgettable end to life, became a few days of memorable madness. This was the crescendo. Then it was gone.
Lifting gracefully and unhurried from the runway, the takeoff was the escape. The island where they went, the environment, and a new outlook on life were the results. It was the aircraft’s departure, though, that represented freedom.
What I have described is a scene from a B-movie Ginger and I watched recently. Its plot was very familiar, as was a specific scene. Be it books, movies, or stories told, the moment of survival, the actual point where escape is made, is the moment people depart and are transported to another place. In all three, this is most often an airplane.
Think back to how many movies you’ve seen where the goal was to get to a plane and take off? The more you think about it, the more you’ll begin to see the pattern. There’s a reason for this.
Aviation offers humans what may be the greatest window to freedom. So much so that the mere sight of a plane lifting off washes you with the feeling of relief. That is why it is commonly used. It’s an easy way to trigger a positive emotion.
Since the beginning of aviation, pilots have attempted to describe it. Most have felt it, strongly. Nearly all are compelled to explain it. The expression of sights, scents, and sounds have been used. Emotions and physical sensations have been, too. Few, if any, have ever achieved a perfect verbal painting of that thing aviation offers most, freedom. As for me, I believe there’s a reason for this.
One cannot touch, taste, or own good. Good is good. This also means one cannot create good. It exists with or without us. Yet, though it is beyond what we are, we can see it, use it, experience it, and benefit from it.
When it comes to the language of physics, a common method of getting people to think about a dimension beyond ours is to say each is a cross-sectional shadow of the next greater. A one-dimensional shadow on the ground, a line, is cast by something two-dimensional, length and depth. Add width to length and depth and you have three dimensions. When light hits this, it will leave a two-dimensional shadow on the sidewalk. Can you imagine something that would leave a shadow in three dimensions?
Although there are many technical problems with the example above, it does serve the purpose of explaining what good is; something we will never be able to draw a picture of or easily explain yet something that is clearly present.
This is why I believe flight has captivated so many. Those who experience it, uncorrupted, see and feel what others do not - the freedom offered by another dimension; a dimension in which good is created. Read the works of aviation’s best poets and you’ll feel it in all of them. One man, John Gillespie Magee, finished off “High Flight” with the following words.
“And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."
This is why angels have wings. It’s why the soul is always said to lift from the body. And it is why only the coldest of hearts or pure evil seek to restrict it.
Flight is a medium in which good travels. Climb the highest mountain and you will still be Earthbound. Deliver open eyes to the heavens and you will glimpse another realm. It is there, behind the curtain of clouds. Enter it and you are changed. Life, from that point on, will be a battle between the chains of society and your unwillingness to accept them.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

How to Know if You're Qualified for the Aviation Job

I was perusing the internet today and came across a young pilot who was curious if his qualifications were enough to get him hired.  Sadly, it was easy to see his ideas of "employable" were not up to date with current hiring standards.  His big concern?  Did he need to add the "double I" to his CFI ratings.
After thinking this this through, I decided there needed to be a written set of rules of thumb for people like him.   Knowing they had to be easy to understand, even if you were on life support, I came up with these.  Please share them with everyone who dreams of a job in aviation.
Step one:
Do you have a pilot license?
If you answered YES, you could be employable with a little work.  See step two.
If you answered NO, click here. 
Step two:
Do you have a commercial pilot license?
If you answered YES, you are most likely employable.
If you answered NO, get a commercial license now.
Step three:
Are you a minority(includes female)?*
If you answered Yes - Congratulations, you are employable.
If you answered No, please move on to step four.
Step four:
What kind of aviation job do you seek?  (INSTRUCTIONS for completing this step.  Find the specific job you desire and answer the question yes or no.  If your answer is "YES" you are employable.  If the answer is "NO" see instructions for rectifying the problem.)
Can you pump gas?
Answered No?  Learn to pump gas.  Tug driving skills a bonus.
Was there ever a time in your life you could fog a mirror?
Answered No?  Lie; they expect it.
Passenger (regional):
Could you fog a mirror yesterday?
Answered No?  Accept the interview (everybody gets one).  Once in the interview, make it clear you are so excited about the job that the management person, in the panel part of your interview, begins to salivate.  If you are unsure how to do this, repeat after me, "I can't believe I'd get paid to do this job; I'd almost do it for free; it's my dream."  Commit it to memory and use it freely.
Passenger (major airline, except Delta and American - see Freight Major):
Assuming regional and or military experience, can you fog a mirror?
Answered N0?  Find a new medical examiner.
Freight (Major - includes Delta and American)
Can you fog a mirror, do you have a degree, are you in possession of internal references, and were you in the military?
Answer No?  It's too late.  Consider all other options unless your references are from management.
This one earns the Classic Foreshadowing Award.
After all, .orgs are reserved for non-profits.
I sincerely hope these rules of thumb make your job search easier.  If you or a friend find them helpful, and you wish to thank me for their creation, share them with all your pilot friends so they too will have a chance.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing people succeed.  Misery loves company.
*Use everything to your advantage


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Spirit of St. Louis Replica Takes Flight

Photos by Tim Haggerty
If you haven’t already heard, the Spirit of St. Louis Replica, at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, has flown. The project, spearheaded by Ken Cassens, lives up to its inspiration. Hopefully, it will do for Rhinebeck what the original did for aviation.
The long term project has spanned several decades, outlived a hostile takeover, and emerged during an overall decline in aviation. It all began in the 70’s when Cole Palen bought a batch of New Standard projects. Contained in the stash of old aircraft parts was a J-5 power plant. Those in the know say he felt this gave them what they needed to create a replica. He was right.
When the original NYP was built the J-5 was the key to its success. Everyone in the race knew it. The vast majority of aircraft registered with the Orteig Prize had the same Wright bolted to the front end. Since that day many have championed the pilot, aircraft design, numerology, and more. Ultimately though, it was the engine that drug man and machine across the pond.
Americans love a hero. Lindbergh knew this. Today, thanks to much of what he recounted, he remains one of the most famous people ever to live. Unfortunately, as we learn more about the man and his story, we begin to see how much of it was true (or wasn’t). In time, this will likely focus more attention on the plane, the engine, and the people behind the scenes who made it all happen. I think that would be fitting. After all, these are the things that made Rhinebeck’s project a success.
Notes on the first flight of Rhinebeck’s NYP replica:
From Rhinebeck's website - Cassens said of the flight, “It was uneventful, which is a good thing, and I was happy with the way it performed. I was pleased with the flight characteristics…nothing unexpected, other than it being nose-heavy. It trimmed out really well. A little bit hard to slow it down, because it’s so clean, and a little heavy on the ailerons, but that’s to be expected. No real surprises. It’s gratifying that it flew and I hope it keeps flying successfully. We have a lot more flight testing to do.”
From Rhinebeck's Chief Pilot Clay Hammond - "I thought a recap of the day might be in order. Morning broke clear and calm, no wind, blue sky. Ken had finished last items on checklist to completion. No reason not to. Frost this morning, but forecast temps in the 50's by lunch hour.
We pulled the Robin out about 11 and shot an hour's worth of landings with Ken in the back seat again and the cardboard blocking the forward view. After getting to the point where he felt a groove setting in we called it good and Ken decided to give it a go. Ken, Mike DiGiacomio, and I had a short discussion briefing the intended flight and Ken's intention to climb up overhead, circle for a short period, feel out the aircraft, and then return for the first landing.
Crew pulled the NYP out and Ken climbed in. We commenced with starting procedure. Took three proppers and ten minutes to get it going, still figuring that out a little. Warmed it up for 15 minutes or so. Good sound, good temps using an infared thermometer, ready to go.
Tim Haggerty and I climbed in the Robin to fly a high cover and to get some stand off photography. Launched in the Robin and started climbing for altitude. Five minutes later observed Ryan pull onto runway lane and start its roll. Ken climbed up to altitude promptly, around 3000 feet, we circled above him the whole time, making it a point to deconflict and also observe for other traffic.
Tim was shooting with a nice long lens the entire time. Observed Ken do a couple stalls, steep turns, dutch rolls...feeling it out. He circled for a while longer and then started heading down. We in Robin descended in trail, staying off the right rear quarter.
Ken made one low pass to shoot the approach at speed one time, and for the benefit of those on the ground, then came around for the landing. Stayed on his wing all the way around. NYP lined up on the runway, descended nicely down into the notch, rounded out just beyond the road and proceeded to float, and float, and floated some more. Touched down about even with the sausage factory. Rolled out and down the north end a ways. Mike D was down there to wing run and assist if needed. Circled around into pattern and landed the Robin.
Shut down and walked over to Ken, who was cooling down the Whirlwind on the NYP. He said the stalls are extremely docile, no tendency to drop a wing, everything straight ahead and sets up into a steady and stable mush rather than any hard break. Better visibility than Robin, which is good! Means the Robin served as a good trainer, making the job harder than it was.
Ken stated that on takeoff he noticed a great deal of nose heaviness, to the point that he subsequently inputted full aft trim and kept it there for entire flight, yet was still holding back pressure on the stick at all power settings. In calculating the weight and balance for the NYP on paper, everything had pointed towards a tail heavy situation, leading us to install a significant amount of lead ballast in the nose section just ahead of the firewall. After the flight Ken has decided to remove half of this weight to bring the aircraft into better trim. No adjustments necessary for roll or yaw tendencies. Additional test flights ahead to dial in the pitch. All in all Ken stated that it is a wonderful flying machine that he is very happy with!"
The crew celebrating the occasion.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Finding Christmas

On our way to town, Ginger mentioned a blog post she had read. A person well known to those who push boundaries had been at it again. Instead of the usual anti-wireless rant, he was singing cellular smartphone praises.
Accompanying his pro-instant communication words was a photo of people on a train a hundred years ago. They were isolated from one another by the newspapers they held outstretched at eye level. Riding along, they read about the world and contemplated it in a frame of mind relative to their beliefs; together, but alone.
I have often had this same thought. When others are crying out at the disconnect modern communication devices have created, my mind wanders to the people who have found their way into my life because of them. Today’s smartphones, tethered to the internet, have taken the world and made it our neighborhood. A friend for everyone awaits online. It’s wonderful – to a point.
Year after year Christmas sneaks up on me. I know it’s coming, the signs have been up for weeks, and yet it vanishes without a memory. My small and contracting family barely makes a family these days. And even if it did, we all have different tangents to address. As for Ginger, she's indifferent to my idea of a celebration. That leaves making this holiday memorable to friends.
Pondering this issue at length, the other day I came up with a fun and easy solution to my search for Christmas. I would tell everyone that I would be sitting at a certain establishment, between the hours of 4 and 8 pm, on December 12th and to stop by for a drink. The location was to be a piano bar, serving excellent bourbon*, to the sounds of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Since I couldn’t find such a thing in Louisville, The Old Seelbach Bar would have to do. It’s close.
While imagining the fun of seeing friends, sharing a drink, and swapping great stories, reality hit me. Chances are pretty good I’d be there by myself. Time and again, I have read the old adage, “If you have more than one true friend in life, then you are a lucky man.” I believe that’s true. Now, more than ever, in a society where everyone is called “friend,” true ones are difficult to find. I’ve been lucky enough to end up with a few. There’s only one problem.
This would have been a nice touch - an ugly sweater get-together.
Thanks to modern communication devices, my friends are out of reach. All but one live hundreds to thousands of miles away. Smartphones and the internet are largely to blame for this.
Combine a background of flying with technology and people are sure to spread out. Living almost anywhere and keeping a job is possible and that’s what many do. Add that mobility to families and some will live where the wife wants to live. Others will pick a place where their Olympic-bound child can get the best training. And others will be helping out elderly parents in some random town. Whatever the case, there’s a great chance friends aren’t going to be anywhere near each other. That sucks.
I wonder if my Samsung Galaxy likes bourbon?

*Reading over this now that it's done makes me laugh.   Although I rarely drink, someone who doesn't know me very well would likely think otherwise.   Oh well, when I do something I try to do it right.