Free Aviation Guy Newsletter Want to receive the latest on aviation delivered to you? Get all the latest and greatest aviation insights for FREE! Join your fellow Av Geeks who subscribe to Aviation Guy for FREE!!

A New Year, Some of the Same Thoughts

I’m not really sure where I am going with this post, but I find that sometimes just writing about the things that are on my mind can help me come up with solutions, or at least help me to feel more comfortable with my decisions.

I am at the point in my flying career where a change of some sort must happen and I have some mixed feelings about which direction that I want to go.  It doesn’t matter if you fly in the civilian wold or in the military, change is just a part of the industry, and as technology improves, sometimes we are forced into change whether we want it or not.

In my case The C-130H is finally being entirely replaced by the C-130J in the Active Duty Air Force.  I had previously thought my time in the Herk was going to be over a couple of years ago, but as luck would have it, I got almost another two years, and some of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life.  Unfortunately, the end is officially here, and I have to make some changes.

The Air Force is more than happy to retrain me into a new airframe, or more likely just another version of the C-130, but that would most likely mean a move to the Special Operations community, and that is just not the right place for me and my family situation.  The other options leave me in essentially the same position again in a few years as they phase out their navigators, and would ultimately lead to every aviators’ worst nightmare, flying a desk.  There is one opportunity that would keep me on the beloved Herk, and on active duty, but unfortunately bureaucracy has made that not an option.

That leads me to the path that I am likely to take at this point.  The National Guard and Air Force Reserves are still chock full of H-models, and every unit in the country, except maybe Texas, is hurting for experienced Navigators.  After much deliberation with my wife and some trusted advisers, I have come to essentially the same conclusion that Rob Burgon over at TallyOne did as he reached a similar transition point.

Moving to the National Guard allows me to keep flying the plane that I love while also being able to put my family, and our future, first.  If I am being honest though, I can’t help but wonder what opportunities I am leaving behind by making this switch.  There is obviously no way of knowing what the future down either path would bring, but it is in my nature to wonder what could happen.

As I write this, I find myself feeling more and more certain that making the switch is the right move, and that it will pay the greatest dividends in the long run.  I wish I had more to say in terms of certainty and knowing that the whole thing is going to work out as I would like, but then that would not be military life would it?

If I had anything to pass along to others who may be in some sort of similar situation I would say stick with your heart and don’t be afraid to pursue a path that is different from what you intended or that others expect of you.  Listen to those that have gone before and take into account as much information as you can, but at the end of the day you will find happiness doing what you love and are passionate about.

January 1, 2017 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

The F-35 vs the A-10: Does it Really Matter Which is Better?

The A-10 is one of the most applicably designed aircraft ever.

The A-10 is one of the most applicably designed aircraft ever.

I just read an interesting article that compared the value of the A-10 against the complete waste of money that is the F-35.  The general essence of the article was that the A-10 is the greatest plane ever designed and that the F-35 is the biggest waste of money in US military history.  The writer makes enough good points that it is hard to disagree with that summary however extreme it may be.

I will admit that I jumped on the F-35 band wagon when it was first announced years ago.  It was a beautiful looking plane that was advertised to have amazing capabilities.  The technology involved was fascinating, and it sounded like it would be the most versatile and effective aircraft in the inventory.

Unfortunately, the reality has been almost completely the opposite.

The F-35 could be incredibly effective if it ever lives up to the hype.

The F-35 could be incredibly effective if it ever lives up to the hype.

The F-35 program has been one delay after another with unlimited amounts of controversy at every turn.  On the other hand the A-10 has been a dream of a plane that for some unexplainable reason the Air Force has tried to get rid of on numerous occasions.

There are pictures and videos all over the internet of A-10s that are seriously damaged that finished their mission and returned the pilot home safely.  On the other hand, the internet is flooded with stories about the problems the F-35 has had before ever flying an operational mission.  The most recent issue being that the F-35 can’t operate with fuel that is too warm.  This could be a bit of an issue considering the fact that most of the conflicts currently taking place are happening in areas that can be extremely hot.

The problem that I see with this debate is the general point that the aforementioned article makes.  Who is considering the real benefits of the aircraft we are buying?

I do feel that there is value in stealth aircraft, not because it makes planes invisible, but because it does make it more difficult for enemies to detect our aircraft.  But does the F-35 provide that much of a stealth advantage over the F-15 Silent Eagle proposal to justify that dramatically higher price tag?

The one thing I have never understood is why we are dropping so much money on completely new aircraft designs when we have amazing airframes that could continue to operate with new technologies applied to make them even better?  I look at aircraft like the A-10, F-15E, and F-16 and wonder why we aren’t just continuing to upgrade these incredibly effective platforms.

I guess it comes back to the problem mentioned in the first article, the Air Force is generally run by fighter jocks that like shiny new toys and not necessarily the ones that will do the job the best.

The C-130 is one of the most effectively employed airframes in the Air Force as evidenced by its longevity.

The C-130 is one of the most effectively employed airframes in the Air Force as evidenced by its longevity.

The interesting aspect of that theory though is that the problem is not quite as evident when you look at the mobility side of the Air Force.  The best example of course being my beloved C-130 Hercules.  It has been in service with the Air Force for 60 years now and simply continues to receive upgrades.  While I feel there are some deficiencies in the newest variant, the C-130J, it is still an incredibly versatile and effective airframe.  Fortunately, the Air Force has not tried to force in a new airframe, but has realized the real value of this aircraft.

When you look at the mobility fleet of the Air Force it is currently made up of three planes the C-17 (~25 years of service), the C-5 (~45 years of service), and the C-130 (~60 years of service).  I’m not really sure how the longevity of these planes is so completely overlooked when it comes to assembling the strike fleet on the other side of the Air Force.

I realize there are significant differences between mobility and strike aircraft, but I also don’t think the differences are so dramatically different that strike aircraft need to be completely replaced that much more often.  Maybe I’m wrong?

In the end, it really feels like the original article is preaching some pretty serious truth about the Air Force.  There really does seem to be a systemic problem when it comes to acquiring new aircraft.  There seems to be a disconnect between the war-fighter and those tasked with supplying them.

But rather than just complaining about the situation I have to wonder how that problem can be fixed.  The simple answer to me as a brand new Captain is to get more real feedback from the operators that are actually flying these planes everyday.  That means getting feedback from Lieutenants, Captains, and Majors that are actively operating these airframes. Most importantly, that feedback must actually be implemented in the development and purchasing processes.

We shouldn’t be going to Colonels who are busy with a lot of things other than flying when it comes to understanding what our planes currently do, and how they can be improved to support the current environment.  Obviously, we shouldn’t let Lieutenants and Captains make the actual purchases but if we aren’t allowing for input from the people who are actually using the product then we are completely missing the point.

Way too many of these decisions are being made by people who have biased agendas rather than by the people who are putting their lives in the cockpits of these planes.  We need to reassess the process and make sure that we are making the right decisions to defend our country, and not the decisions that will line anyone’s pockets.

I realize this is much easier said than done, but the discussion has to start somewhere.  I think there are enough people in the process that genuinely care about the situation to make a change if they will simply DO something about it.  At the very least maybe they will do something to get others thinking that may ultimately lead to effective changes throughout the entire process.

For now we can only hope that the incredible operators that are tasked with employing these airframes will continue to be the best trained and most capable operators in the world to make sure that we continue to be the world’s finest Air Force.

 

December 20, 2014 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

The Final Flight of a C-130H: The End of an Era

Tail #2070 served her country well for over 40 years.

Tail #2070 served her country well for over 40 years.

I had a bit of an interesting experience this week that I don’t think most people ever really get.  I had the opportunity to be a part of the crew that took a plane on its very last flight.  With the development of the C-130J it is quickly replacing the older, and better, C-130H.  Yeah, I know, I’m biased.

Many of the older planes have gone to National Guard units around the country to finish out their service lives.  However, there are a couple of planes that have finished their flying lives and need to be taken to their final resting place.

The disappointing part was that none of us knew this was the planes’ last flight, or fini flight, as we like to call them.  Had we known I would have come prepared with my good camera and not left you with these weak images from my phone, but I did what I could.

It really was an honor for me to crew this plane on its last mission.  That aircraft served for 40 years in all corners of the globe performing an incredible variety of missions.  I don’t know any specifics, but it is reasonable to assume that it carried Soldiers and Marines to critical missions that brought freedom to people in all different countries.  It likely carried young men and women that were injured in battle to a hospital that saved their lives.

In the case of those that weren’t so lucky, it likely performed that most sacred mission of returning them to their loved ones draped in the colors that they sacrificed everything for.

This tail flash will never fly through the air again, but her legacy will live on in the hearts of those who flew her.

This tail flash will never fly through the air again, but her legacy will live on in the hearts of those who flew her.

It hurts my soul a little to think about these great pieces of machinery having their careers come to an end, but they served their country well, and in the case of this plane, tail #2070, it will continue to serve on the ground for another couple of years.  You see, we passed it off to one of the Air Force’s test and evaluation squadrons where it will aid in developing various different products and processes that will make the planes still flying safer and more effective.

It really made me stop and think about how cool my job is.  I fly a historic plane that has served our country, and many others, for 60 years now.  I get paid to fly in the footsteps of real heroes.  It is truly a privilege to try in some small way to carry on the heritage that they left us with.

While most people will never have the opportunity that I did, nor will I likely ever do it again, we all have the opportunity to keep their heritage alive by visiting aviation museums, and by listening to the stories of those who flew these amazing aircraft.  Most of us have at least a little bit of aviation history in our own backyards if we only look.

I would encourage you to look around and see what you might find, and please share it with the rest of us because that is the only real way to keep aviation history alive.

October 29, 2014 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Crew Resource Management: A Crew Save is a Good Save

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 27, 2014 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

C-130 Hercules Flying Low-Level Through the Mountains

With all of the somewhat depressing news in my two biggest passions (sports and aviation) this past week I just needed to post something that is 100% awesome.  Fortunately, we have YouTube to make such endeavors incredibly easy.

As a C-130 navigator myself, I am quickly becoming biased, but no matter who you are, if you love the thrill of flying, then this is definitely a video you will enjoy.

This video is of C-130s from the 36th Airlift Squadron based out of Yokota AB Japan.  The views are picturesque, and the flying is quite impressive considering the size and agility of the Herc.

So please, enjoy the next five minutes of flying at its finest in the video below.

 

January 22, 2013 I Written By

I’m Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.