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October 1, 2014

Boeing Working to Inspire Children in South Africa

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I’ll be the first to admit that I am a Boeing guy.  It’s not that Airbus makes a bad plane, I am just your stereotypical prideful American that wants all of the best stuff to come from the states.  So sue me. (please don’t, I can’t afford it)

I have written in the past about some of the cool things that Airbus is doing to educate and inspire young people to pursue aviation like the Fly Your Ideas Challenge and the Airbus Lycée.  I’m happy to see that Boeing is following suit with their newest joint venture with South African Airways.

One of the things that I spend a lot of time thinking about these days is how to get young people, including my own kids, excited about aviation.  Kids like my son are easy because they just love airplanes, but there are so many that never even see a life in aviation as a possibility because they don’t realize all of the opportunities that exist.

That is why this venture is so cool.

Boeing and South African Airways have taken a normal shipping container and turned it into a mock up NextGen 737 including a flight deck, passenger cabin, and even a demonstration engine.  This is the kind of hands on experience that kids need to really spark their interest in aviation and inspire them to pursue a career.

What makes this shipping container aircraft even more valuable is that it is accompanied by actual people who have careers in aviation that can show the kids that anything is possible.  They can be role models for these young South Africans and give them hope that they can actually pursue their dreams no matter how lofty they may be.

As a kid I always loved airplanes and would stop playing to look up as they flew over my house.  That really hasn’t changed since I grew up, and I hope to find a way to do my part with inspiring young people who have the same dreams that I did, but just don’t know how to make it a reality.

I’m glad to see that Boeing and South African Airways are doing their part as well.


July 20, 2014

Disney’s Planes Fire and Rescue: A Sequel That is Just as Good as the Original

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The star of the show is once again Dusty, but he has more great company in this movie.

The star of the show is once again Dusty, but he has more great company in this movie.

With all of the negative press in aviation right now, it was really refreshing to take a step back and just enjoy a beautifully made movie about planes.  Planes Fire and Rescue is the much-anticipated (at least for avgeeks) sequel to the Planes movie that was released last year during Osh13.

I was so excited to see it that I couldn’t wait to get back home to go with my kids, so I just went by myself.  After I got past the creepy looks people were giving me as they walked in with their kids, I was able to sit back and just enjoy the show.

I’m not one to just recap a movie because you can get that on IMDb or a dozen other movie sites.  I prefer to focus on the sights and sounds of the planes which is what we all love anyway.

One of the first things that really caught my attention in this movie was the excellent use of music to add to the story.  The first occurrence was the playing of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck as the fire crews are preparing to fight a fire.  It really added to the momentum that was building in the movie.

There were also a couple of great songs by Brad Paisley that I really enjoyed.  One in particular is called All-in that is a great tribute to all firefighters, but particularly to those who fight wildfires.  This song will never have the following of Let it Go from Frozen, but it deserves even more attention because of the message it shares.

To go a long with the great music, there was of course the great sound of airborne engines.

Cabbie is probably my favorite character, but I am biased.

Cabbie is probably my favorite character, but I am biased.

My personal favorite of course was the old cargo plane “Cabbie”.  They never say exactly what type of plane he is, but my best guess is that he is Fairchild C-119 better known as the Flying Boxcar.  Sure I’m a little biased since my current squadron flew them back in the day, but it is a great plane that sounds even better.

I even enjoyed the helicopters that are an essential part of the firefighting effort.

There was also a lot of great little one liners from the various characters in the movie that even make grown-ups laugh.  I actually enjoyed these characters a lot more than the supporting characters in the first movie.  They did a much better job of translating real people into these characters, much the way that the Cars movies did.

The story had its typical unrealistic and cheesy parts just like any Disney movie, but I really enjoyed the overall message, and the real emphasis that was placed on the team in this movie.  I can only hope that it will strike at the heart of more young people and get them excited about flying.

At the end of the day it was a highly entertaining movie with stunningly beautiful animation.  It is the perfect movie to sit down and enjoy with your kids, or even by yourself.


July 16, 2014

Want a Flying Motorcycle? You can get one in a couple years.

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The three wheel design, along with a carbon fiber body, allows you to lean into turns.

The three wheel design, along with a carbon fiber body, allows you to lean into turns.

For as long as people have tried to develop a flying car, I am a little surprised that no one has succeeded yet.  There have been some models that had short lives, but nothing that has really entered the market and stayed there for awhile.

That being said, modern technology is helping companies to get closer and closer.  I believe it was just last year that there was quite the buzz around Terrafugia and there flying car that is in development.  It looks pretty promising, but they haven’t had much to say since last year when they announced their plans to develop an electric VTOL (vertical take off and landing) version.

Maybe that has been the problem to this point.  These companies are looking so far into the future that they don’t create anything of real value to the customer right now.

On the other hand, PAL-V (personal air and land vehicle) out of The Netherlands has a pretty cool gyrocopter/motorcycle that is probably the most realistic option I have seen.  The PAL-V One is not only multi-functional, but it looks pretty cool too.


After a short 10 minute transition you can fly off into the sunset.

After a short 10 minute transition you can fly off into the sunset.

You can find more of the specific details about the PAL-V One in this BBC article, or on the company website, including lots of cool pictures and videos.

Oh yeah, just in case you thought you could save your lunch money to buy one, they are going for just under $400,000.  For that much you could buy a decent little plane, and a nice car, but what would be the fun in that?  You’ll also have to wait until some time in 2016 to have it delivered, but it is probably worth the wait.


July 15, 2014

The Many Faces of a Flying Career

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Weather can affect your flying in unexpected ways so learn how to deal with it.

Weather can affect your flying in unexpected ways so learn how to deal with it.

I think most of us grow up dreaming about flying fighter jets or jumbo jets high in the sky, or fast through the mountains.  That is exactly the way it works out for some people, and for other people it works out for them flying smaller planes in remote destinations that they love more than they ever expected.

I know my aviation career hasn’t followed the path that I thought it would, and I’m okay with that.  In fact, it wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized how much I actually loved aviation.

I’ve worked in aviation for about 7 years now in a number of different roles, and there has been good and bad in all of them.  Working at an FBO provided an opportunity to see some incredible planes, meet some famous people, and becoming friends with people who changed my life.

In my four years in the Air Force I have met some incredible people, visited some incredible locations, and experienced some incredible struggles.  That is the part of a career in aviation that most people don’t tell you about.

Before I go any further let me be totally clear that I feel it is completely worth it, but there are some aspects that I had never anticipated.

I have spent far more time in a classroom than I have a cockpit.  Now maybe that is more of a factor in the military flying community, but either way you have to be ready to do a lot of learning.  That learning also never really stops.  Whether you are a weekend flyer, or a 747 pilot, if you want to be good at what you do then you can’t ever stop learning about flying.

There is also a lot more to learn about than just stick and rudder skills.  In fact, there is more to learn about flying than just flying.  There are all kinds of other areas that you can learn about to make you a true aviator rather than just a pilot.

Safety is one of the biggest topics you need to spend time learning about.  Read accident reports and learn as much as you can from others’ mistakes.  I know some pilots are intimidated by those types of things, but it can only make you better.

The reason this is on my mind right now is I am currently attending a two-week power point fest that makes me fall asleep just thinking about it.  However, it is an essential part of my career that will open doors that would otherwise be inaccessible.

It is entirely possible that something I learn during this training could save my crew’s lives someday.  Hopefully, I will never have to use any of it and we will remain safe anyways, but it is reassuring to me to know that the knowledge will be there in case I ever need it.

I guess what I am trying to say is to not be afraid of the many aspects of becoming an aviator, but to embrace those opportunities to learn.  With any luck you will never have to use it, but just ask Capt Sullenberger’s passengers if they are glad he took some extra training.


July 9, 2014

Mountain Flying to Restock Fish

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Two of my favorite things in the world are fishing and flying.  As luck would have it, there are some great videos on YouTube by Ted Hallows, about dropping fish out of planes into Utah mountain lakes.

The challenge with these high mountain lakes is that there is no way to get a truck full of fish up there to restock the lake.   So the answer is to fly a plane up there and have it make low passes over the lake and dump the fish out.  It looks like a lot of fun to me, but you be the judge:

If you want to see some more feel free to check out Ted’s YouTube channel.


April 1, 2014

Opening Day: Planes and Baseball, Does it Get Any Better?

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I have been in a complete and utter rut recently, mostly because I feel a little overwhelmed with managing, work, school, family, and the things I want to do like talk about planes.  As the country song goes, “sounds like life to me”, and it is.

Nothing has really changed today, but honestly it is hard to not say something about Opening Day, and in particular a picture I just saw on Twitter.

After planes, baseball is my next love and one of my favorite things at a baseball game, or really any event are the flyovers.  Probably my most memorable I saw in person was a flight of F-16s at a BYU football game that seriously looked like they dipped into the stadium.  It was nuts.

As cool as that one was, I think the above picture would have been even more memorable in person.  It doesn’t hurt that it was at my favorite ballpark, The Ballpark in Arlington (I know they sold out to a sponsor, but it will always be the Ballpark to me).

I don’t really have much to add as the picture speaks for itself, but I will mention that the planes are from the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.


February 27, 2014

Crew Resource Management: A Crew Save is a Good Save

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Flying is a part of my life is most everything that I do.  At the very least I think about flying during just about anything else that I am doing.

Growing up I always thought of flying as a solitary exercise.  Even if I had become an airline pilot with a plane full of people it just seemed like most of the work would be done alone.  Even as I went through training I thought I wanted to be on a plane with just me and the pilot.  I could not have been more wrong.

The C-130H generally flies with a crew of two pilots, a navigator, engineer, and two loadmasters.

The C-130H generally flies with a crew of two pilots, a navigator, engineer, and two loadmasters.

I ended up on the mighty C-130 Hercules with a crew makeup of up to 6 people on most missions, and honestly, that is one of the things I like most about my job.  I love the chance that I have to work with other people to accomplish things that could not be done otherwise.

Sure, technology is great, and it can do a lot, but there is really no replacement for a group of people working together to get things done.  I have already seen this numerous times in my short career.  There have been times where a crew member simply came up with a better idea, or easier way to do something, and other times they have literally saved my life.

When we go in for a check-ride one of the common phrases that the evaluator often uses is, “a crew save is a good save.”  What they mean is that even if the person being evaluated misses something they won’t be penalized if someone else on the crew catches it before there are any adverse affects.

I’ve always loved the message that sends.  The message that you are all there as a crew and that the actions of the crew as a whole are what will bring the final results.  While it is true that any individual can do things that lead to an unsafe result, there is almost always a chance that someone else on the crew can save them before any damage is done.

I am so grateful for the hundreds of different people I have flown with in my career already.  They have each provided me with insights and knowledge that could not have been developed in any other way.

Our crew with a special guest visitor.  Best crew I've ever flown with.

Our crew with a special guest visitor. Best crew I’ve ever flown with.

In particular I am grateful for the crew I flew with while in Afghanistan.  I learned more in the two months I had with that crew than in the rest of my flying time combined.  Our most experienced crew member was a loadmaster who taught all of us every chance he got, and I will forever be indebted to him for the lessons he taught me.

That is the other message that I want to share today.  Whether you just started flying, or have been flying for 50 years, you have worthwhile knowledge that should be shared with others.  As aviators we can never stop learning if we want to remain safe.  We must constantly be broadening our understanding of the wonder that is flight, and it is the duty of all who have gained experience to share it with others so that we all may stay safer.

Even if you are the only licensed pilot in a 172 with friends, educate them on the basics so that they are an active participant.  You never know when their eyes may spot something that saves everyone’s lives.

Never forget, “A crew save is a good save.”


February 12, 2014

Boeing Phantom Eye Promoted to Experimental Status by US Air Force

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The Phantom Eye could change the future of ISR forever.

The Phantom Eye could change the future of ISR forever.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record with how much I talk about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being one of the most exciting and interesting topics of discussion in aviation, but they are.  Right now the focus is really on their value as an ISR asset, and I think that is largely where the focus will stay for quite a while.  One of the most intriguing stories is the development of the Boeing Phantom Eye.

I have written about the Phantom Eye in the past and all of the incredible goals they have set.  It is a high altitude long endurance (HALE) airframe that is designed to cruise at 60,000 feet for anywhere from 7 to 10 days at a time.  Yes you read that right, over a week which is made possible by the liquid-hydrogen powered engines.

The platform has only performed six flight tests, but was just promoted from unproven to experimental status by the US Air Force 412th Operations Group.  That upgrade was based on the recommendation of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

This promotion allows the Phantom Eye development team to expand testing by flying to a nearby test range instead of strictly flying in the protected airspace over Edwards Air Force Base.  The team will now be able to really push the altitude and endurance limits that they are shooting for.

Military use is often the first thing people think of when they talk about UAVs, but there are so many other uses for a platform like this.  What other uses can you think of for the Phantom Eye, or other similar platforms?  Please share in the comments below.


January 4, 2014

Becoming a Licensed Pilot This Year

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By the end of the year I will have one of these with my name on it.

By the end of the year I will have one of these with my name on it.

I know I say it all of the time, but I love planes and everything about them.  Most of you probably do too, and that is awesome.  I read about aviation all of the time, I write this blog, and I talk about it every chance I get, much to the dismay of the non-avgeeks I interact with.

Despite this passion, I have an admission to make, I don’t have my private pilot’s license.  I started it about six years ago, but the birth of my daughter and dozens of other excuses have since gotten in the way.  I currently have just over 22 hours in the C-172 and DA-20 aircraft which is roughly less than half of what I would need to finish.

However, the writings of others, namely Dan Pimentel and Brent Owens, has inspired me to commit to finishing my PPL this year.  I already shared Dan’s article about increasing the number of pilots on the FAA records to 1 million which is really where this all started for me.

Then last week Brent wrote about how if you really want to fly that you can find a way.  Pretty much all of us have things we could cut out of our lives that would allow us to spend more time/money on flying.  The reality is that if you want something bad enough, you will find a way, and after dreaming about being a licensed pilot for essentially my whole life I have decided now is as good of a time as any.

The reason that I am posting this is because I would greatly appreciate your support and encouragement as there are a few challenges in my way.  The difference is that I am trying to find ways to make it happen as opposed to just making the excuse and moving on.

The first challenge that I have is that I am in the middle of a Master’s degree program that I have to finish first.  I have to have it for professional reasons, and I am already financially invested so I can’t just set it aside.  There is no reason that I shouldn’t be able to finish it by the end of the year and still have time for the PPL though.

I think I know what my goal for next year is going to be already.

I think I know what my goal for next year is going to be already.

The second challenge is one that I have written about before, and the one that prevents so many of us from finishing, or even starting.  I have to have the money.  I still haven’t figured this one out yet, but I am determined to beg, steal, borrow, and cheat to get it done.  Okay, I’m not going to steal or cheat, but I am begging you to support me through visiting this blog as well as any other suggestions you may have.  Brent has provided me with quite a few ideas in his great eBook The Pilot’s Guide to Flying on a Budget, but I am always open to new suggestions.

The last challenge is a wife who doesn’t think it is possible.  However, if I can find a way to help her see the possibility I know she will be supportive because she always has been with the adventures we have taken together.

I intend to post occasionally about my progress for anyone that may be interested.

Lastly, I am looking for people who are also willing to commit to this challenge of mine.  I have found that I am more successful when I have people with the same goal as me where we can help encourage each other.  If you already have your PPL then by all means pick a different flying goal and let’s support each other in that.

If you are interested in working together, please leave a comment about what your goal is and how I can help you reach it.  You can also contact me on Twitter or Facebook.  I am always willing to help in any way that I can.  Maybe we can create a community of people that are committed to helping each other get there, and not just talk about it.

Then by the end of this year we can all celebrate reaching our goals, and make new ones for the next year.  I look forward to hearing about your goals and dreams.


January 2, 2014

Angel Flight Video by Radney Foster Featuring the C-130

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Like most avgeeks I am a sucker for a good airplane video.  While one of these videos is just a compilation of pictures, those pictures, along with the words to the song brought tears to my eyes.  Maybe it is my current position, but it just really hit home for me.  It truly is the most sacred work that we do on the C-130.

It is only four minutes long so please take a minute and watch it.  I actually found a couple of different versions people have made.  There are even more on YouTube.

You are gone, but never forgotten.

Angel Flight Video by Radney Foster Featuring the C-130

Huge props to Radney Foster for writing such a moving song.