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Taking Wins No Matter Where They Come From

You may wonder why I gave this post the title I did since it doesn’t seem very aviation related, so I will tell you. That thought was what got me to stop reading tonight and write the long post before this one, that I am sure multiple people stopped reading after they saw it wasn’t just about airplanes, and that’s okay, cause I wanted to share, as well as the post you are reading now.

In the book Crushing It! that I mentioned in my other post, there is a story of a T-shirt business that thought they had missed a golden opportunity to grow their brand because their logo had been on the back of the shirts when a bunch of people wore them on a show sponsored by Oprah on her network. Turns out it actually proved to be a huge win as they were able to tell their customers they “had their backs” and it was one of their biggest surges as a company.

This got me thinking about my flight that I had today (sweet video from that hopefully coming next week), as well as the same experience I have had on countless other flights over the years. Sometimes you don’t do everything right, and you still get a positive result and success. I have previously written about airdrops and how they work, to include my constant desire to learn from each flight and figure out why I got the result I did. Reading tonight made me realize how often I have screwed up in some, or many, ways and still had a successful drop.

It has been easy for me to beat myself up and see my mistakes and just chalk my success up to luck, but sometimes we need to just take the win wherever it came from. By no means am I saying that we as aviators shouldn’t analyze our performance and look for ways to do better, but I am saying we should enjoy the successes we have, even, and maybe especially, if we didn’t necessarily deserve it.

I have heard that luck is simply where preparation meets opportunity, and maybe that is true to some extent. We train and study and analyze so that we get thrown a proverbial bone on occasion. We have a great landing on a rough weather day where we struggle to keep the plane stable, or we encounter unexpected favorable winds that allow us to make up for a delay, or we simply have a day where despite Murphy’s best efforts, everything just seems to work out in the end.

I wonder how often we throw away a win, or miss an opportunity to enjoy success because we feel like there were too many mistakes getting there. To quote the Beatles (I think), “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So why not enjoy the positive results that life gives us, no matter how hard it was to get there.

February 2, 2018 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.

Flying in the Reno Area is AMAZING!

As luck would have it, my first trip from my new home took me back to where my C-130 life all started, Little Rock. The fog was pretty brutal that morning, but fortunately it burned off.

I must once again apologize for my absence in recent months.  To be honest, I just didn’t feel like I had much to say, and I hate reading posts that just drone on about nothing so I chose not to write.  Fortunately, I now feel like I have a lot more to write about, and more importantly, have more pictures and videos to share, so hopefully I will have the time to actually share them with you.

I flew this plane back when I was in Little Rock, along with a couple of the other tails Reno now has. It is fun being reunited with an old flame.

As you may remember from my last post a few months ago, I am now living in Reno, NV and am flying as a member of the Nevada Air National Guard.  It really sucked at first because I wasn’t able to fly for about a month while they took care of administrative crap, but since that got taken care of, I have been flying a whole lot, and it has been wonderful.

I did get the chance to take part in the AMATS course here in order to become an instructor for it.  I actually flew the course about three years ago, and it was some of the best flying I have ever gotten to do.  I wrote about it back then so feel free to take a look back at that post. 

Cloud surfing is always one of my favorite parts of flying. It was a little unnerving this time since this was on descent and we weren’t too far from the ground.

The terrain in this part of the world is simply incredible.  It is a challenging environment to fly in, and it is certainly taking some learning to really enjoy it, but it has been so much fun.  I don’t necessarily have a lot to say specifically right now, but I did want to show a couple of pictures and videos.  I promise they will be better in the future when I remember to take my GoPro with me.  In the meantime, please enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions or requests.  I look forward to sharing more of this amazing journey with you.

January 13, 2018 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.

Moving on in My Love Affair with the C-130H

Me preparing to drop supplies as part of Operation Christmas Drop.

Today is a very bittersweet day for me. After 7 years in the active duty Air Force, today is my last day on active duty.

It has been an incredible ride of ups and downs all over the world.  I have met many of the greatest people I have ever known in this time.  I have been mentored and taught by great minds who had so much to share and were willing to take me under their wing to help me become a better officer, aviator, and man.

I have witnessed the selfless sacrifices of countless other military members, and often the more difficult sacrifices of those we leave behind who keep life going while we go to serve others.  It is an awe-inspiring site to take part in actions that serve thousands of people all over the world who are in dire need of help.

The C-130 is a military plane, but the greatest work that it takes part in is the humanitarian missions it performs.  There is no other plane that can get into the places we can and provide the services we do.  It is a strange feeling to watch natural disasters play out in anticipation of the opportunity to go and help those people.

While it breaks my heart to see the last C-130Hs leave active duty this week, I am equally rejuvenated by the fact that I am starting the next chapter of my career as a member of the 192nd Airlift Squadron in the Nevada Air National Guard.  I do find it quite poetic that on the same day that the last C-130H will leave active duty I will also separate from active duty and move to the National Guard.

Swearing in as a member of the Nevada Air National Guard.

As I drove onto the base for the first time today it was a little surreal to me to think that I will stay here in Reno for the remainder of my career.  No matter how weird it may have felt, when I looked out on the ramp and saw their beautiful C-130Hs I felt right at home.

The awesome thing about the two planes I could see from the parking lot is that they are the MAFFS (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System) birds that are utilized for fighting forest fires all over the country.  This struck me even more with the fires that ripped through California this past week, not too far from where we live.  They are easy to distinguish if you ever see these planes because of the huge orange numbers on the sides of them.

I am incredibly excited to take part in this new mission set to help fight fires, and hopefully prevent as much damage as possible.  I hate to sound like a broken record, but there is something special about being a part of missions that help people in trouble.

Preparing to fly in the Advanced Mountain Airlift Tactics School.

This is not my first time flying in the Reno area as I took part in the Advanced Mountain Airlift Tactics School shortly before I went to Japan.  I actually wrote about it back then if you would like to learn more.  Suffice it to say that it was the most useful flying course I have been through in the C-130 and provided tremendous insights into the intricacies of mountain flying.  Becoming an instructor for that course is just one more thing that I am looking forward to in my new adventure.

One reason I haven’t written much on here for the last year is because I just wasn’t flying much, and the flying we were doing was not really exciting.  While not every flight is meant to be fun and exciting, I am so looking forward to getting back to the flying that made me love the C-130.  Flying in the amazing Sierra Nevadas in some legit mountains is going to provide some great pictures and videos that I look forward to sharing with you in the coming months and years.

Thank you for the support over the years, and please come back to see more about my exciting new adventures.

October 15, 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.

Flying Somewhere New Can Reinvigorate You

The mountains of Japan are simply stunning.

It is hard to admit that sometimes I get a little bored flying, but I do.  For the first few years I was on the C-130, most of my flying was at about 300 feet above the ground out in the open terrain of Arkansas.  While the skyline was not particularly magnificent, and the terrain was not exactly rugged, it is an incredible rush to move that fast, that low, in a plane that big.

Coming to Japan has been an incredible experience with all of the places I have gotten to visit and the incredible people who I have gotten to meet from so many different countries.  With that being said, the flying in the local area can often be a little less than spectacular.

As you may know, Tokyo is the most densely populated city in the world so it can be challenging to find a piece of land that isn’t covered with people.  For that reason we are forced to fly more than three times higher than I was accustomed to before coming here.

You have to get a good steep bank angle in to really have fun, and fly safe, in the mountains.

However, the reason that Tokyo, and most of Japan for that matter, is so densely populated is because about 73% of the country is mountainous and uninhabitable.  What that means for flying, is that there is some incredible terrain out there to be explored.  The obvious question then is why don’t we spend all of our time flying in those areas?  The short answer is weather.  Wind, turbulence, and cloud cover all keep us out of those areas a lot of the time.  (To read more about the challenges and dangers of mountain flying check out my post on the Advanced Mountain Airlift Tactics School.)

As luck would have it last week, I was scheduled to fly on a pilot’s last flight here in Japan and he wanted to go and rage through the mountains one last time.  It even looked like the weather was going to cooperate for us. I had never been to this area before, but in his 6+ years here our pilot had flown it numerous times.  It is worth mentioning that if you are not familiar with mountain flying you should really take a course or at least go with someone who is before attempting it.

The aforementioned weather that cut into the route but still didn’t stop us from some amazing fun.

My biggest regret was that I didn’t bring my GoPro because the scenery was simply stunning.  The weather did force us to skip a big chunk of the route, but overall it was just a wonderful experience.  As you can see from the few pictures I took, the mountains were the most beautiful shade of green and it was just all around beautiful.

While I could go on and on about how stunning it was, and how much fun it always is to rage through the mountains, that is not what I would like to focus on today.

It is not uncommon when you fly for a living to get into a rhythm and fly the same stuff over and over.  That may be flying the same routes repeatedly as an airline pilot, or flying the same maneuvers as a flight instructor, but it is easy to get into a rut.  As easy as it is to get into that rut I would submit that it is just as easy to get back out of it, assuming you want to.

The ground breaking solution to getting out of this rut is to do something different.  Maybe that is getting back into a small general aviation plane and go and get a $100 hamburger for the first time in decades.  Maybe you could go and get your float plane rating (I have often heard this referred to as the most fun rating a pilot can get).  Or maybe you could take an aerobatics course and pull some G’s and improve your understanding of how an aircraft handles in all different attitudes.

Full yoke deflection means you are about to feel the pull through a turn.

It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it breaks up the monotony for you.  For me it was getting into a new area of Japan that I had never seen before.  We raged through some amazing scenery and just had an amazing time.  By the end of the flight, which I am a little ashamed to admit was only about three hours, I was pretty exhausted because I hadn’t flown like that in a long time and it takes it out of you physically.  In my defense I do stand the whole time, but it was an incredible feeling to be so tired after a flight again.

Flying is the most fun thing you can do in this world in my opinion.  It is one of the few ways we can overcome the laws of physics and put ourselves somewhere that the human body cannot go on its own; flying through the air.  If you have gotten bored with it, or thing it is just not fun anymore than you need to change it up and get out and do something new.  Life’s too short to not enjoy something so incredibly fun.

June 18, 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.

Cope North 2016 Video

Once again I realize I am behind the power curve on this one since the 2017 version of Cope North was over a few months ago as well, but I had too much great footage to just let this one go.  Hopefully I can get some more videos done faster so that won’t be so dated.

The 2016 edition of Cope North was the largest version of the exercise to date with participants from no less than 9 different countries.  The exercise involves dozens of fighters from numerous countries, and multiple branches.  There are also AWACS, Tankers, and of course the best type of aircraft, C-130s.

We were joined in our airlift efforts by the South Korean Air Force as well as the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, who we work with on a regular basis.  As a group we executed numerous air drops, and a massive amount of airlift in a humanitarian aid simulation.  It is always a pleasure working with our international partners learning from each other and having a few laughs.

One of the most fun things we get to do at this exercise, other than flying around all of these gorgeous islands with incredibly blue water, is execute unimproved surface landings on the island of Tinian at the old North Field.  If that name sounds vaguely familiar that is because some pretty important history took place there.

North Field was the departure field for a couple of B-29s that you may have heard of, The Enola Gay and Bockscar.  I have mentioned before how much I love walking where history has happened, and in this case I actually got to fly there.  To utilize such a historic runway leaves me just a little bit speechless.  It is a lot of work for our crews to clear back the jungle each year so that we can utilize the runway for this exercise, but it is invaluable for all of the crews.

I will spare you any more of the details since it happened so long ago, and just leave you with the awesome footage I was able to gather below.  If you want to learn more about the exercise a simple Google search will take you to official Air Force articles.

I hope you enjoy and I would love to get your feedback.

June 13, 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.

Year In Review: Operation Christmas Drop 2015

Yeah, I know it has been more than a year since I promised this video, but here it is finally.  While I am by no means a professional video maker, there is some pretty awesome footage in there.

Operation Christmas Drop 2015 was the 64th annual edition of this humanitarian operation, making it the longest running humanitarian aid mission in DOD history.  Over a seven-day period we dropped to 56 islands covering more than 2 million square miles of mostly water.  To give you some perspective, that is an area larger than the continental United States.

This was the first year that the US Air Force was joined by the Royal Australian Air Force and Japanese Air Self Defense Force, and it was a tremendous success.  All three nations gained valuable knowledge and experience from this amazing operation.

I have done some amazing things over the past year, but I honestly don’t know that I could ever have more fun flying than I did for this week.  Cruising out at altitude for hours and then descending into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and picking out an island that is less than a square mile in area is incredibly fulfilling.

As you level off over the islands you see the bluest blue waters surrounding stunningly green palm trees with small groups of people waving and excited to see you.  It is hard to imagine a more remote location and that makes the airdrops that much more challenging.

Normally we airdrop on surveyed drop zones with ground controllers that increase our situational awareness by giving us winds and ensuring the drop zone is secure.  In this case we have to estimate the winds ourselves, and make multiple passes to ensure that we drop in a safe location free of people and structures.

While this can be extremely challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding to see all of the countless hours of training we do pay off as we deliver Christmas to people who wouldn’t receive it in any other way.

It is a little weird to celebrate Christmas in the toasty region of Guam and the South Pacific, but I also can’t think of a much more rewarding and fulfilling way to enjoy the season.

While I am no professional video maker, I hope you enjoy the footage, and I would love to hear any comments you may have to share.


January 18, 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.

2016+ Year in Review

I know it is cliche, but I really can’t believe another year has gone by.  Even more unbelievable to me is how much I have actually done this year, and some of the incredible experiences that I have had.

With all of the time I have spent all over the Pacific I have neglected this writing, which I am just now realizing was a sort of therapy that I have also been missing out on.  Such is life though and all I can do is work at getting back into it.

So rather than try to cram everything into one post, I am going to work on getting out one a week or so which will hopefully give me some time to really internalize everything I have learned this year, while at the same time not overwhelming myself and then just giving up.

So here is a quick overview of some of the things I will be writing about over the next few months:

Operation Christmas Drop 2015–  I have mentioned this before, and a year later I am going to actually get to it.  I was on a crew for this operation which was an amazing opportunity to fly all over the islands of the Pacific bringing Christmas joy to people who live about as remotely as you possibly can in this world.

Cope North 2016-  This is a massive exercise that takes place in Guam every year involving 8-9 different countries in this instance.  Once again I was on a flying crew, which was one of the best crews I have ever flown with.  This was the first time I had ever trained with fighter aircraft which was a whole lot of fun.  As well as visiting some pretty historic sites.

Balikatan 2016-  Another large-scale exercise but in the Philippines.  For this exercise I went as a mission planning cell chief working at a location we had never fully manned before.  While I didn’t get to do any real exciting flying, it did really open my eyes to the time and effort that is required to pull off these vitally important exercises.

Red Flag Alaska 2016-  Surprise, surprise, another exercise, though most people who have interest in military aviation have likely heard of it, or at least the Nellis AFB version.  While I was back to flying for this exercise, it is structured differently than the other exercises so I also did a massive amount of mission planning.  It was some of the most incredible flying I have ever done, with a fun crew, and some amazing off duty time in the awe-inspiring Alaskan mountains.

Becoming an evaluator  Not exactly an exciting flying adventure, but something that has shaped the way I view being a flyer.  I have written numerous times about how much I love instructing, and evaluating has only deepened my love of instruction, but on a much deeper level.

Operation Christmas Drop 2016-  This year I went as the mission planning cell chief and there are few times I have worked so many hours and felt so completely fulfilled by what I have done.  To be very clear, there are a lot of people who did a lot of work to make this operation happen, and it was an honor to be a part of it.  It will be hard to beat the value of this experience in my life.

So there it is.  I am sure I forgot events that I will write about as well.  It seems so short listing them all like this, but I am excited to go back and relive all of these experiences again.  I know it will put a lot of smiles on my face, and I hope that you will find some enjoyment from reading about it.  Thank you for all of your support in the past, and I look forward to your comments in the future.

January 6, 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.

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.

“A date which will live in infamy.”

These words evoke an incredible range of emotions for millions of people every year around this time.  Even for those of us who were not yet living, or even our parents for that matter, they strike an instant chord to something deep inside us.

When FDR said those words 75 years ago I seriously wonder if he would believe what I did today would have ever been possible.

I am currently in Guam participating in Operation Christmas Drop as the Mission Planning Chief for the exercise.  If you don’t know what this is look it up on YouTube because there are some amazing videos.  

In short, it is an operation to deliver supplies and Christmas presents to the people of Micronesia and the Marianas islands utilizing C-130s to airdrop these much needed supplies.  This is the 65th installment of the operation and it gets more awesome every year.

What made today special for me was the magnitude of what I was able to witness.  You see, 75 years after that infamous day, I was part of an operation where American and Japanese military members flew on each other’s aircraft to deliver goodwill and happiness to people across the islands of the Pacific.  

Two nations that fought bitterly so many years ago teamed up, along with our Australian brothers and sisters, to drop not bombs but food, gifts, and other vital supplies to people they will never meet in person.  In one day they delivered nearly 10,000 pounds of cargo in a joint operation that demonstrates the amazing relationship we have developed.

As I lay here about to go to sleep almost 75 years to the hour that Pearl Harbor was attacked, I almost cannot fathom the magnitude of what took place today, yesterday, and will again tomorrow.

In a world that can so often be viciously divided it was awe inspiring to see how much good former enemies can do when we unite together for the greater good.  May we all take a minute today to remember those that were lost, but also take a minute to find our own battles that we can bring to a peaceful resolution.

If the flag of the rising sun and the stars and stripes can literally fly together after all they endured three quarters of a century ago, then any quarrel can be settled and instead good deeds can be done.

December 7, 2016 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.

A Few Shots of Everyone’s Favorite C-130: Fat Albert

The Blue Angels are the highlight of pretty much every airshow they fly at.  They put on an exhilarating show that is almost impossible not to enjoy.

The part of the show that many people unfortunately overlook is one of my favorite parts.  Fat Albert is the workhorse of the show as the transport for the maintainers, as well as the only propeller driven aircraft in the show.  I had the opportunity to see Fat Albert back when they still utilized JATO bottles for some incredible takeoffs, and I have been hooked ever since.  In case you are wondering what a JATO takeoff is, check this out:

While living in Pensacola, FL, the home of the Blue Angels, I got to see Fat Albert quite often, but there is just something special about seeing him on the road.  I had that opportunity again last August while in Seattle during the SeaFair Air Show.

While most of the action took place out over the water, I actually think Fat Albert’s part of the show is better at the airport itself.  In this case that would be King County International Airport, better know as Boeing Field.  The outdoor static displays of the Museum of Flight is a unique and wonderful place to watch an airshow.  Though you will notice a few of those planes peeking into some of my pictures.

Every show starts with a takeoff.

Every show starts with a takeoff.

A zoom climb takeoff like this is incredibly uncomfortable since you are flying at maybe 10-20 feet with the gear up as fast as you can.  Keep in mind, that this is not a little Cessna 172, but a 100,000+ pound cargo plane.  That makes for an incredibly exhilarating experience, and some pretty insane takeoff angles for such a large, propeller-driven plane.

While it can sustain this angle forever, it does get you away from the ground, fast.

While it can’t sustain this angle forever, it does get you away from the ground, fast.

If you have ever watched a “normal” C-130 takeoff, it is not very exciting, and it takes a long time to get up and away.  While this is nothing compared to the old JATO takeoffs, it is fun to take off at this steep of an angle.

C-130s don't necessarily translate to air show excitement.

C-130s don’t necessarily translate to air show excitement.

In terms of the air show itself, this picture really sums up most of what a C-130 can do in an air show.  It can be fun to see some big banking 60 degree turns and high-speed passes, but the real power and utility of the C-130 can’t really be shown at an airshow, with the exception of the takeoff we already talked about, and maybe even more nerve-wracking, intense landings.

The C-130 was designed to go into austere locations and provide support to forces that otherwise would not receive it.  I often explain to friends that all we need is an area free of trees and other tall objects and we could get in there.  While that may not be 100% accurate, it really isn’t too far off.

When all you see out the window is ground, it can be quite unnerving.

When all you see out the window is ground, it can be quite unnerving.

One important aspect of this unique ability is approaching airfields at an incredibly steep angle.  We often refer to it as riding the elevator because you watch the altitude just spin off the altimeter.  I read an article from a reporter who got to take a ride on Fat Albert and she said that the most scary part was this steep descent into the runway.

You would never know that this plane just descended about 1000 feet in about 20 seconds.

You would never know that this plane just descended about 1000 feet in about 20 seconds.

While it may make the untrained civilian uncomfortable, it is things like this that get all of us Herc crew members excited about what we do.  It feels amazing when the pilot rounds it out and you touch softly down after screaming towards good old terra firma.

What a beautiful sight.

What a beautiful sight.

Everyone is attracted to the fast and agile planes at an airshow, and for good reason, because they are exciting.  However, the older I get the more I appreciate the wonder of some of these unsung heroes at airshows.  There may be no greater unsung hero than Fat Albert, but I may be a little biased.

May 14, 2016 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.