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Can We Save Old Hangar Queens and Forgotten Planes?

I’m sure the rest of you are just as familiar with old forgotten planes as I am.  The ones that are tied down in the back corner of the airport or FBO because whoever the owner is can’t afford to do anything with it, or for all I know, they completely forgot they even own a plane.

It kind of reminds me of the island of misfit toys from the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer movie, only at least those toys had each other.  Most abandoned planes sit all by themselves and watch all the working planes go out and have adventures.

The worst offender I have seen of this is a group of planes that were, or rather are, abandoned on the side of a road here in Arkansas.  They have been in the same place since I first moved here eight years ago.  A friend of mine found the owner to see if they would be interested in selling them, but got the cold shoulder and an, “absolutely not”.  What a waste of what used to be salvageable airplanes.  From what I can see from the road there are 3-4 152 or 172 types and a couple of multi engine planes that look like barons from a distance.

What a waste!

Pretty much every airport you go to has planes like this, and a lot of the smaller airports have numerous planes like this.  For someone that is dying to own an airplane, but simply can’t afford it right now, it breaks my heart to see them out there rusting away.

There has to be a way to get more of these planes back in the air.  Maybe having them back out there would even help bring the cost down if the supply was a little higher?  I realize it wouldn’t make a dramatic change, but if we could just get more of these planes back working with their simple avionics it might give a few more cost effective options to people.  There is no need to put G1000s in them, or other crazy things, they just need to get back in the air where they belong.

It is unfortunate that restoring planes is not the same as restoring cars.  I love watching those shows on Discovery where they buy a running but ugly car and spruce it up a little before selling it for a decent profit.  The regulatory aspect of aviation alone probably makes this a non-starter, but from everything else I can find, the math just doesn’t work because in most cases, the cost to restore simply outpaces the price you could sell it for in the end.

The one variance I have considered over the years is what if you could get the owner in on the deal.  They clearly don’t want the plane anymore, or they would be using it, but they also can’t sell it for much in its current dilapidated state.  So what if you were to agree to restore it back to flying condition, and then sell it and split the profits?  The owner doesn’t have to put in the time or money to get it running again, but they still walk away with a little money from it.  You wouldn’t have to front the cost of a busted up plane, but could also benefit from your time and effort.

And the big winner is that we have another plane back in the air.

The biggest issue with this would be if there were no profits.  I feel like the only way this would work is having an A&P as part of your team and rewarding them with a bigger percentage of the sale for their work, and even that may not be feasible.  I realize there are other problems with this idea that I am sure I am missing, but there has to be something we can do to get more of these planes flying again.  Allowing them to rot away into nothingness is not only sad, it can’t be helping the costs of the industry as a whole.

I’m curious to hear what others’ thoughts may be of this situation.  What can we do to get more of these planes back in the air?

Thanks for reading.

November 24, 2020 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.

Musings After Completing Air Force Pilot Training

Do you ever feel like months or years at a time go by and you know that a lot of things have happened, but when you stop and think about it, or sit down to write about some of the cool things you have done, you really just don’t know what to say?  That’s kind of where I am at right now.

As you are likely aware, I attended Air Force Pilot Training over the last year or so, which I completed back in September, earning my wings, and furthering my lifelong dream of being a pilot.  I still count finishing my private certificate back in 2008 as when I became a pilot, but this was a big deal and an even bigger step on my career path, wherever that may lead.

There is no reason to give a play by play of everything that happened at pilot training, especially since I am sure someone else already has, and they probably did it better, but I figured I would put some of my own thoughts and experiences down for my own benefit, and maybe it will help someone else in the at the same time.

One of the things a lot of people ask is how they can best prepare for pilot training.  The reality is that every single person is different and would benefit from different preparation.  The one thing that I feel is universal is getting as much aviation experience as you possibly can.  Ideally that means spending as much time in any flying aircraft you possibly can.  There is simply no substitute for time in the seat and in the air hearing and seeing and smelling and feeling all of those different inputs.  That may not be feasible in many cases, but beg, borrow, or steal your way onto any flight in a cockpit you can get.  It doesn’t have to be formal training.  It could be bumming a ride for a $100 hamburger, or just beating up the pattern, but any time you can get in the air will help you.

All of my experience in the Air Force flying was a definite advantage in many aspects of the training.  If nothing else I was familiar with many of the terms and expressions that made me feel more comfortable in the environment as a whole.  I am not saying you should spend 8 years as a Navigator before going to pilot training, though honestly it is not a bad way to go, but

Right before I took the T-6 solo in formation. What a ride!

I am saying that every little bit of comfort you can gain from experience is worth it to help you get through what will inevitably be an uncomfortable year.

In the theme of the Thanksgiving season, I am incredibly grateful for the chance I had to fly such a dynamic plane as the T-6.  I realize what a special opportunity it was to fly an fully aerobatic, complex, turbine, bad-A airplane.  I even got to fly it by myself, which is even more cool when I look back on it.  The one part I was really not looking forward to was the formation phase because frankly it is uncomfortable being that close to another plane doing the maneuvers we do.  By the time we finished the phase and I had the opportunity to solo in formation I had a little idea what I was doing and I actually really enjoyed it.  It was a huge confidence builder for me, and just a great time in the air.

All of that being said, I am perfectly content never flying the T-6 again.  That probably sounds a little contradictory, but it is just not my type of flying.  Sure it would be fun to go out with a buddy and range around for an hour in the mountains with such a high performance aircraft, but having to fly with an instructor with syllabus items to accomplish would not be as fun.  I’m also old and grumpy and having to wear all of that extra gear is not my style anymore.

View from the backseat of the T-1 enjoying my time with a crew.

Moving onto the T-1 after the T-6 brought me back to my type of flying.

I LOVE flying with a crew.

I love being able to interact with other crewmembers.  I love that we are there to back each other up and keep each other safe.  I love the more laid back environment where we get the mission done, but we can also have a good time doing it.

The T-1 is a massive pig compared to the T-6, but it was still a lot of fun to fly.  I had to keep reminding the people in my class how lucky we all were to get this training.  Not many people in this world get the opportunity to fly a business jet with less than 100 hours of experience, but that’s what we were doing.  It is not the flashiest plane, and like I said, it flies like a pig, but it was still a great time learning a more complex aircraft and adding to my skillset.

It is worth mentioning the importance of the people you go to pilot training with.  I had the unfortunate experience of being at pilot training not only during Covid, but during massive class shifts at UPT.  Shortly after starting pilot training my class was split up into multiple classes with me personally rolling back three classes.  Over the next year or many of those people changed classes again both backward and forward.  As it turned out I ended up graduating with only 2 of the 22 people that I originally started with.  No one graduates with the exact class they started with for any number of reasons, but it was a real bummer having the whole thing blown up like that.

One of my last flights at pilot training. Enjoyed getting back into the low-level environment.

At the same time, all of the people I had the chance to interact with were exceptional people.  We had great laughs, and worked hard, and got through to the end together.  It was truly a pleasure to work with such exceptional people, and I look forward to following them all through the rest of their careers.

UPT was also a unique experience for me because of my own personal circumstances.  I have mentioned it previously, but being 38 when most of your classmates are in the early 20s made for a slightly different dynamic.  I also was married with three kids, one of whom is almost a teenager, added to the dynamic.  I am also a winged navigator with a fair amount of experience.  Not to mention that I am also a Major which meant I outranked almost all of my IPs.

Some of these things people said were a disadvantage, and others an advantage, and they are probably right.  There is no such thing as a normal UPT experience, and everybody has their weaknesses and areas that require special effort.  At the end of the day, getting through UPT is all about your attitude and your effort.  Anybody can be taught to fly, and anybody can be taught to fly the Air Force way, if they are willing to put in the time and the effort.  It was amazing to watch the effort that some of my classmates put in to become pilots.  Like anything in life it was easier for some people than for others, but at the end of the day we all walked away with our wings, and we all get to have one of the coolest jobs in the world: pilot.

Hello again beautiful!

This last week I got to start my C-130 specific training back in Little Rock.  It felt a lot like coming home since I was stationed here about five years ago.  We still have some friends that never left, and others that we got to know during our time in Japan that have since moved here.  It is so awesome going somewhere that you already have friends.  On the first day of class we went out to walk around the plane, and it was a beautiful reunion to be back with my beloved C-130.

I will spare you the love story which you can read about in previous articles I have written (here, here, and here), but suffice it to say I am thrilled to be back here on the plane I love.  There is still a lot of work to be done to learn a new job on the same plane, but I already feel so at home in so many ways.  I think it is one way of knowing you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, when it feels like coming home after far too long apart.

Hopefully, I can do a better job putting my thoughts down because I know it is good for me, and I hope that others can benefit from it too.  I have said it before and I will say it every time I write.  If there is ever any question I can answer, or anything I can do to help you in your aviation journey please don’t hesitate to ask.  We are all a part of the best community in the world, and it is the people that make it that way.

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving, and get the chance to get out and fly as much as possible.

November 22, 2020 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.

Why the C-130 is Better than the P-3

A C-130 preparing to do what it does best, mountain flying.

After a lovely discussion a few days ago with some new friends from Australia I figured it was worth some time to definitively list some of the reasons why the C-130 is better than the P-3.  I say some of the reasons because I simply don’t have time to list them all, nor is it necessary.  The comparison is worthwhile as the aircraft share some similarities, which we will discuss later.

The first reason is that it is simply better alphabetically.  C comes well before P because it is for better planes.  On a similar note C also comes before F, but that is a different discussion.  On top of the alphabetical argument, it is also better numerically since 130 is clearly bigger, and therefore better, than 3.

An air-to-air left side view of an Australian P-3C Orion aircraft flying over Thailand.
By Camera Operator: Butterworth – US Defense Visual Information Center

Continuing with the theme of numbers, there have been more than 2500 C-130’s built while there were only 757 (tell me this was not an accident) P-3’s built.  Obviously if you build more of something it must be better.

The C-130 has been built in 40 different variants because it is just that versatile.  The P-3…only 5.  So by an order of magnitude of 8, the C-130 is better.  (not to mention that 130 is 43.3 times bigger than 3)  There is also not much cooler than the flying tank that is the AC-130.  It’s like something you would build in a video game or discuss while you are drunk with friends.  Let’s take a Howitzer and stick it out the side of a plane.  And, just to be safe let’s also put a 40mm cannon and a gatling gun on there too.  At least the P-3 has an antenna sticking out the back.

The C-130 has been around longer.  While both aircraft are in the prestigious 50 years of continuous flying club, the C-130 was first flown five whole years before the P-3.  As I am demonstrating to the guys in my UPT class, when it comes to flying, older is better.

The P-3 needs more than 4,000 feet for its takeoff run.  I have seen a C-130 take off in around 1500 feet. Better.

The service ceiling of the P-3 is 28,300 feet, but I have personally been over 30,000 feet in a C-130.  Better.

When Batman needed to extract a bad guy out of Hong Kong, what plane did he use?  A C-130.

When Paul Walker and Vin Diesel needed to airdrop cars to stop bad guys, did they use a P-3?  Nope, they used a C-130.

One is named after the son of a god, the other after a guy who is a constellation that people can only ever find the belt of.

Shoot, despite being a maritime platform, a P-3 has never landed on an aircraft carrier…but a C-130 has.

Next let’s talk about looks.  Despite some fat shaming that may have taken place in this discussion with my misguided Aussie friends (the C-130 has a max takeoff weight 20,000 lbs higher than the P-3, again bigger is better), the C-130 is simply the sexier plane.  If it wasn’t, would the Blue Angels, who are the face of the Navy, have picked it to be part of their demo team?  Just saying.

The 1891 patent from Seth Wheeler shows that the toilet paper should go up and over. Google Patent Database

I will end with the point that started our discussion on Twitter, which really just tops the cake.  The C-130 and the P-3 share the same engines, which is a fun similarity.  The difference is that one of the planes has them on right side up (C-130), and the other has them on upside down (P-3).  This is evidenced again by which one was built first as to which way is correct.  Much the way that the patent for toilet paper shows the correct way for a roll to be inserted is with paper to roll over the top, the C-130 shows the proper way to hang T-56 engines.

Come to think of it though, they are from down under, so maybe they are just looking at it upside down?

In all seriousness, they are both excellent planes that have served many countries well for many years.  So well in fact, that only one of them is being replaced by what is essentially a 737.

By Camera Operator: Butterworth – US Defense Visual Information Center

 

July 21, 2020 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 SpaceX Launch Was Pretty Awesome

I am not a super big space geek, but I can appreciate great moments when I see them, and the SpaceX launch yesterday was just one of those moments.  I was disappointed on Wednesday when they cancelled the launch, but totally understand the safety reasons.  Yesterday I was busy doing some work outside when I happened to look at my phone about five minutes before the launch and was reminded about it.

I decided that would be a good time for a break and propped my phone up on the bookshelf outside to watch it.  It was really interesting to hear them talk about the last few steps they were taking before the launch.  Admittedly, I found myself worried that something would happen to prevent the launch such a weather or a mechanical issue.

Then in the last minute or so I was afraid there would be something catastrophic and Bob and Doug would lose their lives.  A risk that I know they were aware of, and that even Elon Musk addressed with their kids before the launch.  It is easy to forget the dangers of some of the things we do when they become a little more common.

I loved hearing the radio communications as they ran through their checklists in such a calm and professional manner, while there had to be a tremendous amount of concern with so many people watching.

Then when they hit zero on the countdown you could hear the excitement in her voice, and it seemed so personal and real as she wished them luck on their journey.  The whole thing may have been scripted, but it sounded like a very real response to the excitement of the moment.

As I watched the rocket shoot into the sky, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional.  I wasn’t crying like a baby, but I did get some tears in my eyes as I watched such a great accomplishment.  There is just something inspiring about watching people chase their dreams an accomplish great things.

I really hope that they continue down the designated path of getting back to the moon and on to Mars.  Not because I have any understanding of what each of those missions will entail, or because I understand the benefits it could have, but because it is an opportunity for us to pursue great things and set lofty goals.  It has always been what made America great, and is something we need in our lives again.

As I was watching the playback with my kids last night my 7 year old daughter said, “I wish I could work at NASA.”  I don’t think her uncertainty was because of the challenge of getting there, but more because she doesn’t yet realize that she can do anything she wants if she is willing to put in the work and effort to get there.

I am glad I was there to tell her that she can totally go work at NASA if she wants.  I don’t know if she will actually want to go that route, but I am grateful for Bob and Doug, NASA, and SpaceX for reminding us all that great things can be accomplished when we work together towards big dreams.

May 31, 2020 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.

We Lost a Great Friend Yesterday

Flying is an inherently dangerous business.

I have often heard, and experienced, that the longer you are in this business the more likely you will lose a friend.  For what was unfortunately not the first time, I lost a friend in an airplane accident yesterday.

Ian McBeth was one of the pilots on the Coulson Aviation plane that crashed while fighting fires in Australia.  Ian was a consummate professional, and one of the best pilots I ever had the opportunity to fly with.  He was an expert in his craft and one of the most respected pilots in the firefighting community.

On top of working for Coulson, Ian was also a member of the Montana National Guard and before that the Wyoming National Guard, also flying the C-130 as an expert on the MAFFS mission.

I got to know him because over the last year or so he regularly flew with us in Reno as we continue to get spun up as the newest of the MAFFS units.  He was an exceptional instructor in what is arguably the most dangerous mission the C-130 executes.  He was always calm and collected as our pilots learned this dynamic and essential mission.

I will always remember his cool demeanor, and his ability to mould our pilots into even better pilots.  Ian was always a pleasure to be around and he will be truly missed.

This whole thing frankly sucks, and is a good reminder to all of us aviators that what we do is dangerous and unforgiving.  We will all learn from this tragedy and improve the safety of this mission in any way we can.

As I talked with my fellow classmates here at UPT Icame to realize one of the amazing characteristics of pilots, and more specifically Air Force pilots.  We have an incredible amount of resiliency.  We have terrible tragedies like this, we take the time to mourn our friends, and we will certainly never forget them, but then we get back to work and take care of business.

That is what our friends would want.

Ian was doing what he loved, and that is a great example for all of us to commit ourselves to something as important as fighting fires, and more importantly to commit fully to whatever it is we do.

To all of our friends that have gone before…a toast.

You will be missed Ian.

January 25, 2020 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.

Overcoming the Mental Side of Flying

It has been an interesting week of flying here in beautiful Del Rio, TX.  The weather was forecast to be pretty crappy, and the forecast proved to be quite accurate.

That really sucks when it comes to pilot training, because a lot of the things we do require VFR conditions.  Outside of the training arena, the weather would not have been that big of a deal, but for all of us newbies it was less than ideal.  It was also a great learning experience for me of just how important it is to keep your mind ready when it comes to flying.

Early this week I was scheduled for a simulator session in the morning, and a flight in the afternoon that was not looking real promising when the day started due to crappy weather.  As the day went on I started to check out on flying because most of the flights had cancelled for weather.  I got my paperwork ready to fly, but I was really just going through the motions and wasn’t putting in the effort that I should have.

We got to brief time and I sat down with my IP already convinced we were going to cancel, but even then I knew better.  I personally said we should probably still brief because you never know what will happen with the weather.  We went through the brief, and as we did we heard updates that the weather was improving and it looked like we would be able to fly.  I now found myself in a bad spot because I had already started to checkout, and now needed to go fly.

I won’t go into all of the details of the flight, but suffice it to say it was not a very good flight.  I missed a handful of small things that were not terribly critical, but were things I should not have missed.  I got behind the plane, and while I eventually caught up, I wasted training time because my mind was not in it.  I also got spatial disorientation, which did nothing to help the situation.

By the time we landed I was pretty down on myself, with only myself to blame.

Fast forward two days and I was in almost an identical situation.  I had a simulator session in the morning, followed by a flight in the afternoon.  Pretty much everyone had cancelled their flights due to weather, and right up until the brief I thought we would cancel too.  The difference yesterday was that I forced myself to stay in the game mentally.

As I prepared my paperwork the weather actually kept getting worse but I just kept telling myself that I was not going to let the same thing happen again. We were still going to fly and I was going to be ready.  With the weather as crappy as it was I was honestly at a loss of what I was going to do even if we did take off.  It had been cloudy for days and the people who had flown did not bring back great reports that would allow for the aerobatic training that I really needed.

But I just kept running through ideas in my head.  I could just go and do some instrument approaches, but then the nearby airports were also below minimums.  I could also go up into the MOA and practice some of the instrument maneuvers in actual IMC.  That would be better than nothing, but I really needed pattern work, and that just wasn’t going to happen.  I also didn’t want to get stuck in the air and have to divert to San Antonio for the long weekend, but that was just my mind trying to find reasons not to fly.

It came time to brief and my IP wasn’t even in the room so I was further convinced we would not fly, but I just kept telling myself we were going flying.  Even after we sat down to brief another student walked in and my IP told him he would likely have to weather cancel, so I was sure I wasn’t going flying.  But we kept briefing.

Halfway through our brief an announcement came out that the T-38s would not be flying as long as expected so there was a larger time slot for us.  What happens here when the weather is marginal is a status referred to as alternating instruments.  Essentially, when the weather is bad we set specific times for the T-6s and T-38s to recover.  Because we fly at such different airspeeds this is simply a safer situation when the weather doesn’t allow for a VFR pattern.  The fuel capacity of the T-38 also makes this a smarter solution.

It wasn’t until that announcement was made that my mind finally started to convince the rest of me that I was actually going flying.

We finished our brief and got suited up before going to the step desk.  That is the last stop before we fly and the last chance for someone to stop us.  Because of the weather, we were the only ones up there waiting to fly.  Even the other flights that had been scheduled from my class had cancelled for weather.

While we waited to get approval to go my IP made the comment that, “When I’m the only one stepping to fly it makes me question my decision of whether I should go or not.”  This is a very true statement, and is something every pilot should remember, but ultimately proved to be not true on this day.

After some reassurance for the weather shop, the Operations Supervisor cleared us to go and fly.  We got out to the plane not in a rush as the weather was only supposed to improve at this point.  We taxied out to the center runway, which is not what we normally use, but had much less water and was thus safer.  We ran our pre-flight checks, and took off, going into the clouds within the first few hundred feet.

We ended up climbing to near the top of the MOA in the hopes the sun had burned off some of the clouds because they were not super dense, but as we got to 21,000 feet we were still in IMC.  Instrument maneuvers it would be apparently, and that is just what we did for the first fifteen minutes or so.  We had noticed some VFR layers on our climb up and decided to drop down and see if we couldn’t find a gap.

A brief aside on the super fun capabilities of the T-6.  Needing to descend about 10,000 feet my IP suggested I try an idle/speed brake descent just to see how fast this plane can drop when you need it to.  It sounded like fun to me, and I pulled to the PCL to idle, extended the speed brake and pitched the nose down.  I can’t tell you what our actual descent rate was because our VSI pegs out at 6,000 ft/min.  Let’s just say about a minute and a half later we were at 10,000 feet and that was with pulling in the speed brake a few thousand feet early because we broke out of the clouds and seeing the ground rushing towards me that fast was intense.

As luck would have it, there was actually a pretty substantial area of VFR conditions, and we were able to get a bunch of good training in.  I did my first split-S and aileron roll.  I also made great progress in some of my other VFR maneuvers.  I was shocked at how much we got done on a day when I didn’t think we would even take off.

To cap off the flight I also got to hold because there was so much traffic coming back in at the same time, and then flew an ILS (poorly), back home to a pretty nice landing if I do say so myself.

All in all it was a much better flight than earlier in the week because I forced myself to stay in the game.  Even as I looked for safety concerns and reasons why we wouldn’t be able to fly, I just kept telling myself we were going to fly, and it paid off for me in the end.  I got fantastic training, and continued to move towards the ultimate goal of getting my wings.

I expected the physical action of flying to be my biggest challenge at UPT because I already have a lot of experience in the air, but this was a great reminder of just how important the mental aspect of flying is.  I didn’t do much that I hadn’t already seen, but I did it so much better because I was mentally ready for it instead of quitting like I did earlier in the week.

Flying is challenging under the best conditions, but it is even more important to be completely on your game when the conditions are not ideal.  There is a time and a place to call it and not fly when the conditions are bad, but I am grateful I listened to my IP and pushed through (the second time this has happened with the same IP) because I would have missed some good fun, and some valuable training.  There is just so much to learn in this industry and I am grateful for all of the lessons I continue to learn every day.

January 18, 2020 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.

How Can We Increase Funding in Aviation Training?

So many of us want to grow the aviation industry.  Check that, so many of us want to get more people excited about flying.  I want people to get out and experience how much fun it is to be at the controls of an airplane.  To feel what it is like to lift off into the air when you are the one taking the plane there.  To be cruising along at 10,000 feet by yourself, land at a few different airports, and realize that you too are a pilot.

I see so many people talking about this all of the time, but we see very little change in the numbers out there.  The number of pilots has gone down by roughly 25% over the last 40 years, and the number of female pilots has remained stagnant during that time at somewhere around 5-7%.  AOPA put together an interesting “State of General Aviation” report that gives a lot of numbers that show the decline of interest in aviation, which just makes me sad.

With so many of us talking about it, and wanting it to happen, why aren’t we seeing more change?

I don’t know.

But I do have a few thoughts that have been running through my head.

It seems like most of the stuff I see written about is how to make flight training less expensive which is definitely one side of the coin.  Unfortunately, I don’t see the cost of training going down anytime soon.  The cost of gas isn’t going to plummet all of a sudden.  As there are fewer serviceable planes, the cost to rent them will continue to go up.  And, as the supply of instructors remains low, they will continue to demand relatively high fees.

The problem with most of those things is that it would take action by the FAA to change them, and they have not shown much interest in making changes in that direction, so we probably shouldn’t count on that.

So if we can’t find ways to significantly lower the cost, then the other option is to find more sources of funding to get people flying.  There will always be those who want it so bad that they will find a way, and we need to find more ways to support them.  There are a handful of scholarships out there to help people with training, and while they are super helpful to the few that get them, they are not going to make a massive dent in the shortage that already exists.

The problem I see is how do we attract more people who may be more on the fence about becoming a pilot.  They think it would be interesting or fun, but they either have never looked into it because they assume it is so expensive, or they have looked into it and they don’t know how they would ever have enough money to follow that path.

It is interesting to me how many people are willing to take on massive costs to become doctors and lawyers and such, but there are seemingly fewer people willing to do the same to become pilots.  This makes no sense to me, though I am obviously biased, as flying has an incredibly fun dynamic to it that I just don’t see in legal or medical concerns.

It seems like there has actually been a perception change of what it even is to be a pilot.  Has flying become such a normal part of life that pilots are simply seen as airborne bus drivers?  Yeah you can make a good living, and go cool places, but is commercial flying really that exciting?

To be fair, flying for an airline or other business aviation company is not as exciting as flying in the Red Bull Air Races.  With increasing automation and regulation it does feel like it has lost some of its sex appeal.  I am in no way trying to diminish the value of what pilots do, or their vital role in keeping air travel safe, but even as a die-hard avgeek I can see why other career paths would be more appealing.  Especially ones that don’t require so much initial investment, with relatively limited funding options.

There must be a way to offer more reasonable funding options to get more of those fence sitters to give it a legitimate try which will lead them to realize how awesome it can be.  There do seem to be more and more airline cadet programs popping up around the world where the airline pays for your training, and then you work for them for a certain number of years.  That is a great idea, but it is apparent that airlines are not actively pursuing this route, at least not at scale.

In a similar vein to something Dan Pimentel wrote about a few years back, I would love to see the Elon Musk and Richard Branson’s of the world throw their weight behind some aggressive changes in the general aviation world to help get more people excited about it.  I realize though, that their aspirations are a little more focused on the end product at the moment, and not so much the grass-roots part of the industry.

I can’t help but wonder if there is a more grass-roots movement that could be effective.

In the last few months I have watched Savannah Raskey, aka @thesavytraveler on Instagram, as she asked people to donate to a Be Kind aviation scholarship.  I recall the number starting pretty low, around $1,000, but the number quickly reached $6,000 thanks to donations big and small from other individuals.

That is one person, who admittedly has a rather large following, who simply asked people to apply for a scholarship, and other people decided to donate to make that scholarship bigger.  I realize $6,000 isn’t going to get someone all the way to an airline, but it is one heck of a start to get someone excited about flying so they find a way to get the rest of the way, or even just become a lifelong private pilot who goes out chasing $100 hamburgers a few times a year.  Either way it is a win because we need both types of pilots to keep aviation strong.

So if one person can do that much with one ask, how much more could be done if the same method was carried out at scale?

It may do even better if it was a pay it forward type of model.  You get training paid for, and then when you reach your goals you return the favor to the next person.  I know there have been models like this in other industries with varying success, but I see aviation as being a little different since there is so much more of a community of people who actually care about the other people, and not just about making money off of it.

Now, getting a major seed fund from an Elon Musk or Richard Branson would be a huge boost to an effort like this, but I think it is possible even with the efforts of the every day pilots out there.  It would naturally start small, but I feel like it could be a snowball that could just continue to grow over time as the benefits of the individual turn into the benefits of the industry and more people get behind it.

Maybe this whole idea is a little out there, but maybe we need to start going a little “out there” if we are ever going to make a change in the right direction.

January 5, 2020 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.

What a Year 2019 Was

I know it is completely cliche to write a post about the last year on New Year’s Day, but I am nothing if not socially trendy.  So here we go.

As I look back on the year, my first thought is simply that I don’t know where the year has gone.  I started the year deployed to Kuwait where I was able to fly to Iraq, Iran, Oman, Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Qatar.  As much as being away from family while you are deployed sucks, being able to just fly and not worry about all of the other stuff at work is awesome.

On the way home from the deployment we got to spend some time in Greece, Northern Ireland, The Azores, Canada, and Minnesota before making it back to Reno.  It was so fun to decompress on the way home and make some good memories.  I also had one of the scarier events in my career when one of the panes of our windshield shattered halfway across the Atlantic.  In hindsight it was not as big of a deal as it seemed at the time, but it was still not very comfortable.

A few days after getting home I was lucky enough to go with my family to Hawaii for the first time.  It was nice to just relax on an airliner for a change after the deployment.  It was also some much needed family time after four months away.

A few days after that trip I was back on a plane heading East to Ohio for my flight physical as I continued the process to go to Air Force Pilot Training.  Even though I am pretty healthy it was quite the nerve wracking trip as a bunch of doctors and nurses would determine my Air Force future.  Fortunately, everything went off without a hitch and my package was submitted a few weeks later.

Before I knew it, I was back to work and trying to get caught up after five months or so away from the office.  It didn’t take long for me to miss the flying from the deployment, but it was still good to be home and settled again.

Spring training for the MAFFS season ended up being a weather mess in Colorado Springs with some unseasonably late snow that delayed a lot of the training.  We ended up getting almost all of it done, but as luck would have it, we didn’t get called out at all this year to fight fires.  As much as we love doing our jobs, it was a needed break for everyone after the crazy fires we had last year.  Here’s hoping our Aussie brothers and sisters get some relief from their fires soon.

I had a fun little trip with a great group of guys down to Mississippi to drop off a plane for some upgrades.  There was nothing special about the trip, but sometimes it is fun to just have a simple trip with great people that equals a great time.  It would also prove to be my last trip before leaving Reno.

In late July I gave a checkride, not realizing that it would be my last flight on the C-130 as a navigator, and possibly my last flight ever on a C-130H.  Just a week or two later I got word that I had gotten a fallout slot at UPT and within a week was headed to Del Rio, Texas, and Laughlin AFB.  It was a whirlwind of events that included packing everything we owned, and driving halfway across the country.

It bears mentioning at this point how lucky I am to have the family I do.  My wife has come with me all over the world pursuing my dreams.  She has done it all with minimal complaint and always with the utmost support.  My kids are also amazing troopers as they have had to change schools, make new friends, find new dance studios, and they have done it all with a deep love for me that I can never fully repay.

Pilot training started off as rapidly as advertised, but due to some unique circumstances I ended up with almost three weeks off about a month in.  Things started to pick back up through my simulator checkride before I once again had a long break in training.  During that time my class and I have stayed busy studying and practicing in the simulators, but all of us are anxious to get out and actually fly the T-6.

Barring any crazy unforeseen circumstances, which can happen when it comes to flying, we should all be flying next week, and may be wishing for a little more of a break.  I am super excited to get up in the air again, and continue on this long journey of becoming a better aviator.

It has been more than six months since I was last able to fly, and it pains me a little every time I think about that.  I often think about what my passions are, and what the most important things in life are to me, which is pretty much standard for everyone at this time of the year.

I count myself incredibly blessed that I actually get to do what I love most for a living.  I get to spend my time in the air doing something that is completely unnatural for a human being to do.  I can’t think of anything more liberating and calming than flying is for me.  It is where I feel most at home, and it is where I feel most like myself, whatever that may be.

As I look forward into the new year many of my ambitions will be dictated by the Air Force and the rigorous training schedule of UPT, assuming there are no more delays.  Sometimes I get disappointed when I think about that because I would love to go to Airventure, or the Reno Air Races, or any number of other awesome aviation events around the country, but they will all have to wait for future years.

So now I am trying to focus on the other awesome things that I will get to do.  I get to spend the next three months or so flying the T-6 Texan II.  I don’t particularly enjoy pulling G’s, but it will still be so much fun spending pretty much every day at the controls of an extremely powerful and nimble aircraft.  It is an opportunity that not everyone gets to have, and I count myself blessed that I get to experience it.

Then I will move onto the T-1 for about 5-6 months after that.  While it may not seem exciting to spend so much time learning to fly what is really just a business jet, it is more time I get to spend in the air, honing my craft and learning the skills I need to safely operate in the air for years to come.  It is also a good reminder to me of all the different skills that there are to learn in aviation.  You should never pass up an opportunity to broaden your skill set because you never know when those skills may come in handy.

A year from now I should be back in Little Rock, Arkansas for my C-130 specific training.  I can’t wait to get back to my beloved Herk, but it remains to be seen which version of the old girl I will be training on.

The National Guard is set to announce this month which two units will be converting from the C-130H to the C-130J.  That conversion will then take place over the next few years.  It is hard to tell what will happen when it comes to the politics of such a decision.  There are about 10 different units that could make the change, and Reno is one that makes a lot of sense from a practical perspective.

Ultimately, I have no say in the decision and will simply play the hand I am dealt.  If I did have a say, I would hope we stay with the H.  Having flown on both, I really enjoy the crew dynamic of the H better.  With all of the new modifications they are making to our old planes, they get much closer to the performance of the J, and once they do all of the avionics upgrades, they will be closer in that arena as well.  At the end of the day it is probably mostly a nostalgia thing for me.  It is the plane I grew up on, and I hold on to tradition as long as I possibly can.  They are both incredibly capable planes and I will be happy to fly either one.

It’s funny as I think about my love for the Herk now compared to how I felt when I first joined the Air Force.  I really thought I wanted to be on the F-15E and go fast and pull G’s, but a bomber would be an adequate place to land if I couldn’t get on a fighter.  I clearly remember thinking that as long as I didn’t end up on the C-130 I would be happy with whatever I got.

Now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

It has been a fun year of flying, and even fun with some of the time I haven’t been flying, but this year will be even more fun as I finally fulfill my dream of becoming an Air Force pilot.  I am having to delay some of the other things I would like to pursue in aviation, but that is part of the deal.  You can’t do everything in aviation all of the time, because it just isn’t possible.  You have to enjoy where you are at right now, and then keep working to experience as many of those other things as possible.

So wherever you are in your life as an aviator, because it is a life and not just a job or a hobby, keep enjoying the moments you have, and always look for new ways to spread that joy.  It is a great aviation family we are all a part of, and I look forward to getting to know more of you, and enjoy watching your adventures in the coming year.

January 1, 2020 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.

Staying Motivated in Aviation

My apologies in advance if this post ends up being hard to follow, I am mostly shooting from the hip and letting my thoughts flow where they may.

Yesterday I was feeling a little down on myself and posted a tweet/Instagram post about what was on my mind:

In a prime example of what I love about the aviation community, I got three rather prompt responses from people that were exactly what I needed to hear, including one saying I should write a blog post about it, so here we are.

My first thought is that we all need to be more willing to put how we are actually feeling out there.  It is okay if you are not 100% pumped about every aspect of aviation every day.  It’s okay to be frustrated with where you are at, or the lack of progress you are making, and to share that with others.  I think it makes us all a little more human and can help others who may also be struggling to realize that it’s okay.

As I experienced yesterday, there are a lot of people out there that want to support and encourage you, me included, but it is hard to help someone when you don’t know what they need, or that they are even having a hard time.  I find my greatest joys in helping other people, and in talking through decisions that people are making.  There is just something about the act of being involved in someone else’s life, even in some small way, that speaks to the deepest parts of who I am.  I think that is why I have always loved instructing so much.

Admittedly, a lot of my frustration comes from when I look at other people on social media and see all of the fun things that they are doing, and then I get jealous and want to go and do the same things.  I have gotten to do some pretty awesome stuff, but I am always jealous of the people doing other awesome stuff that I want to do too.

I have mentioned before how much I want to get into backcountry flying when I get back to Reno, and I am not doing a good job being patient for that to happen.  I have to remind myself that it will happen someday but that it will take time.  I am in the middle of a year of pilot training, followed by 6 months of C-130 specific training, and that was all part of the plan.  Then when I get back and get settled in then I will be able to start to pursue other avenues that this year and a half of training are opening up.

But I don’t want to wait. (insert pouting child face here)

That can be one of the greatest challenges when we pursue lofty, yet attainable, dreams.  Many of them take a lot of time and effort to actually achieve.  Some people are able to get there faster based on their circumstances, and good for them, but we can’t spend our whole lives comparing ourselves to others.  One of the amazing things about aviation is that there is no one route to get to all of the amazing places it can take you.

My wife was writing a paper for school today about how we need to cultivate our talents and try to figure out what makes us special.  She warned about the dangers of spending too much time comparing ourselves to others, and how that can suck the joy right out of life.  This was not news to me, but there was an interesting article she referenced which suggested that under the right circumstances comparing ourselves to others can actually be a good thing.

If you look at the things you are jealous of, or that you wish you had in your life, you can get a better understanding of the things that matter to you, and potentially where you should set your goals.  This is a dangerous line to walk if you are constantly jealous of “stuff”, but I think it could be a powerful tool if you look at experiences, knowledge, friendships, service, or other virtuous things that you may be jealous of.  In that case you can gain a better understanding of what you value most, and in turn how you might need to change your life to achieve those things.

There is nothing wrong with reaching out to the people you are jealous of and asking how they got there.  In fact, that is exactly what you should do.  Social media allows so much more mentorship than ever existed before, and you are wasting amazing opportunities if you don’t ask.  If you go looking for a quick fix you may find yourself disappointed, but if you are willing to put in the same effort and work that they did, there is nothing stopping you from achieving the same things, and becoming your own version of that person.

I think I will close with the comment from Instagram that inspired this post.

Sarina is an amazing writer, and a fabulous person to follow if you aren’t already, and there is a ton of value in what she said.  It can be hard to find the will to do even the things we love sometimes.  Between work, family, school, and life we don’t always have a ton of time for what we love, and sometimes we just want to rest.  That’s okay.  Just keep loving the things you love, and when you get the motivation, then do it.

I have wanted to be a pilot since I was a little kid, but it took me until I was 36 to get there.  I guess I just needed to wait long enough to have the motivation to do it.  It wasn’t easy, but it has been totally worth it, and it has opened doors that I had thought were closed.  By the time I am done with all of my training I will be 39 and just starting to learn how to do my job.  That thought is both amazing and terrifying to me.

So if you are having a hard time reaching your goals, reach out, ask for help.  Maybe someone can say just the right thing to get you going.  Or maybe you just need to vent a little to someone.  Either way I am happy to listen and to help in any way that I can.

Thanks for taking the time to read my sometimes random thoughts and let me know how I can help you!

December 2, 2019 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.

What I Learned in Pilot Training: Crew Resource Management

Crew Resource Management (CRM) may be one of the most important, but least talked about topics in aviation.  This is not to say that it is not talked about at all, but that I think many people underestimate the value it provides to every single person that is flying in the world.

To their credit, I am pretty sure every airline out there now talks about CRM as part of their initial and recurrent training.  There are more than enough accident investigation reports out there that could have been completely avoided, or made much less worse if CRM principles had been embraced.  So this principle has been widely adopted, though possibly under a different name.

Amongst the many examples out there, the worst would have to be the Tenerife tragedy.  If you are not familiar with it, and work in aviation, I would strongly recommend doing some research into it, because there are a lot of great lessons to be learned.  Unfortunately, more people died in this accident than in any other accident in history, and it was 100% avoidable.

Just to give the condensed version, two 747s collided when one tried to take off before the other had vacated the runway during reduced visibility conditions.  The first officer of the plane that was trying to take off tried to stop the captain from doing so more than once, but the captain ignored him and tried to take off anyway.  This is obviously a massive shortening and simplification of a complex situation, but will do for our purposes today.  The point is that hundreds of people would not have died if the captain had listened to the other pilot.

So what is CRM?

The best way to describe CRM is utilizing all of the members of your crew to safely and efficiently operate your aircraft.  This reinforces the idea that every crew member is vital to the safe operation of an aircraft, and that only when we work as a team can we operate at our best.  While there are plenty of accident investigation reports that could have been prevented with better CRM, there are countless reports that were never written because the crew properly utilized CRM.

When we get into an unexpected situation, which in most cases means an emergency, it is essential that the crew work together to get the plane safely back on the ground.  This could be asking other crew members what they are experiencing, or seeing around the plane, or even on the instruments, that both pilots can generally see.  On the C-130H, it is often the flight engineer who is first to notice issues with the engines, that is because they have the best seat in the house for such a diagnosis.

A pilot who ignores the input of their crewmembers has no business being in the air at all.  There is no room in the air for ego and arrogance.

To their credit I have had great experience with pilot’s and their willingness to listen to their crew.  That does not mean that the aircraft commander or captain or pilot in command is giving up their responsibility or authority, because that is equally important.  After listening to the feedback from the crew, it is essential that the pilot in command take decisive action.  This may mean that someone isn’t happy with the decision that is made, but that is the responsibility that you accepted when you took command of that plane.

But, what about single pilot flights?

I don’t have any official data, but I would be willing to bet the number of flights with only one pilot exceeds the number of flights with more than one, or a crew of some sort.  In those cases, the acronym CRM still applies, but instead the C changes to “Cockpit” Resource Management.  Even as a single pilot you have tools at your disposal to get back on the ground safely.

This starts with understanding what you have in your cockpit.  This varies if you are flying a single seat F-16 versus a 172 by yourself, but the principle is the same.  Know what equipment you have and know how it works.  This could be GPS, radios, or even ForeFlight on your iPad.  For that matter, it could be a cell phone that will work if you are low enough.  When an emergency hits, the priority is getting back on the ground safely, and you want to use all of your resources to make that happen.

Even when people fly by themselves, they are rarely alone.  Radios provide an opportunity to seek help outside of your airplane.  This could be ATC, or it could be another pilot flying in the area that can help you get back on the ground.

Here at UPT, we have had a couple of classes about emergency procedures and they regularly refer back to contacting people on the ground  to help you get back safely.  To be clear, the priority is always aviate, navigate, communicate, but once you get the situation under control, and you are headed in the right direction, you should reach out for help from outside sources.  These people then become a part of your crew.

They can read checklists, or make sure you have considered all of your options to make the right decision.  They may even just be able to calm you down and provide some reassurance that you are doing fine.  In many cases, people do a pretty dang good job handling bad situations, because we learn how to handle our planes, and all we may need is some reassurance that it will be okay.

CRM will not prevent every emergency from happening.  There are so many factors involved in flying that inevitably the unexpected will occur.  But, when it does happen, the most valuable resources you have are the people in the plane with you, and in the aviation community, that all want the same thing as you, and that is to get back on the ground safely.

October 27, 2019 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.