Pitiful

August 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Congress went home after spending a few weeks fighting with each other about the debt ceiling and then doing what we all knew they would do in the first place. What they did not do was their job.

They haven’t funded the FAA for months and months and left town without funding them at least until September when they return from vacation. This means that somewhere around 4,000 FAA safety inspectors and workers are without pay. Not without a job – oh no – The congress still expects them to do their job and has told the public that the inspectors would go right on inspecting and safety would not be compromised.

They expect the FAA inspectors to work for free and pay their own expenses. Let me say that again because the idiocy of that statement may not have sunk in: They expect the 4,000 highly trained federal air safety workers to continue to work without a paycheck and to put all their travel, motel and food expenses on their personal credit cards.

If it wasn’t so infuriating it would be funny. Congress, who would not consider working for a nanosecond without full pay, benefits (including free health care) and month long vacations expects middle class dedicated federal workers to just work for nothing.

Meanwhile, they have done nothing to fix the controller shortage or the fact that controllers are literally falling asleep at their positions from overwork.

Most members of congress spend a lot of their time doing two things. First, they ride on donated business jets from place to place. Second, they spend hours talking about fat cat rich companies and how terrible it is that they have business jets. All that congress can be counted on not to do is their jobs.

Fly a Seaplane — Right Now!

July 29, 2011 § 5 Comments

I have wanted to add a “Single Engine, Sea” to my license ever since I was a teenager and I am not a teenager anymore. The sad thing about the length of time I waited to get my sea plane training was that it was so close to me when I was a line boy that I could have ridden my bicycle there. Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven Florida http://brownsseaplane.com/ was less than twelve miles from the home I grew up in.

Age 56 came around and I finally did what I wanted to do and got my sea plane rating.

About Damn Time!

You should get your seaplane training and rating too. I recommend Browns, but go where you want. The training is extremely fun, will certainly make you a much better pilot and if I haven’t mentioned this before, it is FUN.

I’ll write much more about this later. For example, did you know that a cub with floats is an official Light Sport Airplane requiring no medical certificate of any kind to fly?

Remember to keep your rudders up for landing and I’ll see you at the lake soon.

Fly Them or Display Them?

July 5, 2011 § 3 Comments

Fly Them or Display Them?

A World War II era B-17 named “Liberty Belle” recently
crashed in a field in the Midwest as it was preparing to be shown at a flying
event in Indiana. Seven people were aboard and all escaped without injury just
prior to the aircraft being consumed in a post-crash fire.

It was totally destroyed. Since nobody produces new Boeing
B-17s and since there is a finite amount of them left in the world – and even a
smaller number of them actually flying – it was a huge loss for the aviation
world.

I grew up worshiping war birds like the B-17 and was able to
work on them, hang out around them and even occasionally fly in them. Today I
still get to fly a Stearman and have bought a ticket every year when the EAA’s B-17
when it comes through town giving rides.

The experience of actually flying in a B-17 is something that
cannot be duplicated in a book, television show or movie. In flight, the B-17
is noisy, crowded, bumpy, and even a little smelly. It is a humbling experience
to ride in it, or any other kind of war bird, and marvel at what an impressive
thing it was in its day.

The experience makes you think about the people who operated
these airplanes in combat. The rides that flight crews took in the bombers and
other combat aircraft of World War II weren’t joy rides. They were horror
shows.  Boys and young men flew these
thinly skinned heavily armed aircraft over land and oceans populated with
people brandishing very large guns who wanted to kill them.

The air was too thin to breathe. It was too cold in the
unheated cabins to survive for long if exposed and highly skilled fighter
pilots were shooting thousands of bullets at them that were the size of D-cell
flashlights.

The odds of getting home unscathed after twenty-five missions
were almost too small to consider. The chances of an entire crew surviving a
combat tour unhurt were nil. More than fifty thousand young men were killed in
this environment.

Teenagers who the year before were concerned with prom dates
and football games were now destroying cities and facing razor-sharp flack
daily. Many watched their best friends bleed to death on the four hour ride
back to England from the target.

To honor and remember these young people of almost a century
ago we should keep as many war birds flying as long as we can and not sequester
them all to climate controlled rooms in museums.

We have to face the fact though that the day will arrive
when the aircraft left over from the World War II era will not be available to
fly and the precious few museum pieces we have left will have to be protected
like the priceless art.

General Aviation News columnist and contributor Jamie
Beckett spent over a year working on the restoration of the ill-fated “Liberty
Belle” and says that even though the time he spent working on the aircraft was
a “great and rare experience with happy memories” he also recognized that
“every flight in a rare restored war bird is a potential disaster.”

It is obvious that no one is suggesting that rules be
implemented that restrict the rights of vintage and historical aircraft owners
to fly their aircraft. The choice is clearly theirs and it will be based on
economics, emotion, and simple mathematics.

When is a piece of machinery too valuable, too historical or
just too damn irreplaceable to be used?

If you have a vintage war bird or any other historical
high-value aircraft, please think carefully about where and when you choose to
fly it. Yes, it is your property, but it also belongs to history. Recklessly
destroying it during a fly-in or an attempt to prove your manhood after you go
bald is no reason to kill an invaluable artifact.

At a certain point when the inventory of available aircraft
of a certain type is limited to a precious few, there will be no other choice
than to ground the remaining aircraft to preserve their physical presence for
future generations.

Their remaining fly-bys at events should not be the occasion
for yahooing and slapping our thighs while we glory in the days when the
greatest generation whupped-up on our enemies. We should not make their
appearance an opportunity to set off explosions, play loud Toby Keith music
about 911, or pretend the Japanese are bombing us.

The young frightened and incredibly brave people who flew
these aircraft against all odds during a time in our history when our national
survival was at stake deserve more than a trumped-up feel-good carnival show.

They went through Hell in those aircraft and more than fifty
thousand of their buddies never made it home. We need to preserve their memory
along with the memory of their fantastic aircraft as long as we can and do it
in a responsible manner.

************

Kevin Garrison is an aviation author, historian and
professional pilot. His latest book, The
CEO of the Cockpit
is available as an eBook or at Barnes and Noble.

Check Your Heaty-Cooly-Unit!

February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

           A computer named Watson won at Jeopardy a few weeks ago against two pretty smart humans. My car talks to me in a very loud voice every so often without being asked to and my television thinks it is smarter than me – and it is most likely right.

          The obvious fact that we don’t run things anymore is more and more evident. We probably haven’t run our own affairs for some time now and are just realizing it. Think back – when was the last time you understood how things worked? It has been some time for me since I understood anything.

          Home heating and air conditioning units are a good example. Older home heating units involved putting something flammable into a furnace and burning it. The hot air from the fire would waft into your house and it would be heated. When I was a small boy, we still heated our home with coal and later in my childhood we burned oil. Air conditioning during my early childhood involved opening the windows when it got hot.

          Our heating and air conditioning unit for our house is worked on by a person who has the acronym HVAC written on his truck. I have no idea what HVAC means but that doesn’t matter because I misunderstand the meaning of so many things. Our HVAC unit (which is the real name of it I guess) heats by smushing air and recirculating it while bombarding the smushed air with radioactive black matter particles, dog hair and that weird smell from outside.

          In the winter, this process results in slightly hotter air and a four hundred bazillion dollar electric bill. In the summer, it puts out slightly cooler air for about the same money. My HVAC guy tells me that it is the same process for both hot and cold air – except backwards.

          You might think that this completely describes the complexity of our “heaty-cooly thing” but you would be ridiculously in error. I can almost hear the HVAC guy quietly laughing a knowing laugh in the background as he figures up my bill.

          Your heaty-cooly-unit (the HCU) has to ask the electric company if it is okay to run. Many houses now are hooked up to the electric company’s “we’ll give you electricity when it damn well suits us” program. This is supposed to save you at least one bazillion dollars a month in sparky-juice. At least that is what the old geezers in the TV commercials tell us.

          Basically, it works like this: It is very hot outside so your heaty-cooly-unit decides to turn itself on and chill your house. It sends a signal to the electric company who returns with a message saying: “are you out of your electronic mind? It is hot and a lot of people want electricity – therefore, you can’t have any… we’ll give you some electricity later when it is cooler and you don’t really need it.”

          It makes perfect sense to my HVAC guy who must get a kick-back from the electric company for selling those little control boxes.

          You and I may think our HCU is the most complex technology in our house but we are so much in error it is laughable. The most complex and evil computer in our home is the one that runs our refrigerator’s ice machine. It waits until things are very quiet and you are walking by completely relaxed.

          Then it drops a load of ice and scares the crap out of you.

Laying Over

January 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

A layover in Bangor Maine in the wintertime will dry you out faster than a fifty mile hike in the Sahara. Holiday Inn with six TV channels and a lobby bar that would make a committed alcoholic quit drinking because it depressed him too much to go inside. A wintertime boredom deal with dry skin, a bleeding nose and seven more hours before pick-up.

So, it was on to the coffee shop for this aging, and now desiccated captain. Pot of coffee in one of those golden plastic pitchers, two over easy and bacon with white toast and a quart of ketchup. This is the razor’s-edge life of a jet pilot.

The free USA Today I got off of the front desk before I turned the corner into coffee hell wasn’t worth what I paid for it; Two stories about the latest teenage singer/drug-snurfer, one story about why our country sucks and a big fat pie chart about who still likes fried food. Even given the obvious fact that there were no facts in this rag, it still gave me cover. No need to talk too much with the waitress or make light banter with other people going through their own coffee hell when I had this here piece of American journalism to stare at.

My layover clothing set me apart as a non-local here in Bangor. I was wearing a red sweatshirt, some jeans and tennis shoes. The locals there had their snow boots, plaid shirts and hats with earflaps. My thinning and graying hair stood straight up due to the extremely dry air and the fact that I had generated about six megawatts of power as I shuffled across the carpet past the junior college dropout who was running the front desk.

Coffee was poured and it looked like weak tea. Eggs arrived and after a quick glance I ordered tobasco sauce to make the eggs palatable.

GAMA and other Alphabet Groups Are Not the Answer…

January 3, 2011 § 6 Comments

I had a short email exchange with a big wig at one of the alphabet aviation groups the other day. This particular group has been holding meetings and doing studies for some time on how to “save general aviaton.” Their slant has been to make aviaton more palatable for the high income spender. In other words, they should buy airplanes instead of boats and vacation homes.  I was pretty pumped up after soloing a teenage student of mine through the Kentucky Institute of Aerospace Education. It is described below. Go to http://www.kiae.org to get more info. Here is my rant to the guy from the alphabet group:

There are hundreds and maybe thousands of young people hungry to fly that are willing to work hard for it. I think this is the answer, but I don’t think GAMA or AOPA would go in for this sort of thing. All instruction is donated and all our aircraft are built by the kids. No sales for GAMA or even membership dues for AOPA or EAA — yet…

The kids in our program also work with NASA and various universities. Our program is the only one extant in the country. We are state-wide and currently have twelve high schools on board with many already building their own aircraft. By next fall, we will have twenty four schools in Kentucky in our fold.

 These kids are the answer to GAMA’s AOPA’s and EAA’s question — not selling 400k airplanes to old lawyers. Here is my post on face book:

 Congratulations to my student Jacob on his first solo today! He is the first out of our high school program to solo as well. Check out KIAE.org. (kentucky institute of aerospace education) I donate my time there to teach these great kids. All kids who do the work all four years graduate with enough training to possibly qualify them for an A&P license and a Private Pilot Certificate.

You Cessna and Cirrus and Pipers and GAMAs… want to promote aviation? Want it to have a future? This is how you do it.

*****************

Yeah, I know the industry and GAMA and the rest would not be interested in this. With an average of twenty students per school and twenty four schools we will have a minimum of 480 students in Kentucky next year alone so I’m not sure we are operating in a microcosm. We are just using a different model. The pro-bono work I’ve done with these students has given me referrals for enough full-price paying students to create more than enough revenue for me to live on if I wanted to.

We don’t exactly give away our instruction either. These kids work four full years in the hangar, building aircraft, learning welding, engine overhaul, etc and take a heavy classroom load before they are allowed to fly airplanes they themselves built “for free”. This is by no means a charity. Also, we are tied-in with various universities who are eager to get our students — and their tuition money — into their programs.

We have just looked at it backwards from you and GAMA. We see students as students — not profit centers. Once they become pilots at age 17 or 18 they will become customers for you guys for life. Also, as they get older, we hope they donate large sums of tax-deductible money to our organization to help out the next crop of students. Our model keeps us well-funded and growing while commercial flight schools chase the remaining fifty year old plus CPAs and people who are bored with golf.

 CFIs at commercial schools don’t get treated as serfs because nobody respects them; they get paid so little because they work in a flawed system. My kids work for every hour they fly and I fly for free because I am paying back gentlemen who helped me almost four decades ago and made my airline career possible. Next year, with the funding in the pipeline, we plan to hire a director of flight ops (maybe me, but probably not) and hire instructors. By next year, we will have the money to pay our operations guy and pay our CFIs well above what the “industry” boys are paying. Our instructors (in all honesty, we will begin with one) will draw a salary, so their pay isn’t dependent on how many hours they can milk out of a student.

Think of it — our system could possibly be graduating over 2,000 brand-new licensed private pilot / A&P mechanics nation-wide a year. They will graduate with full academic credentials to attend any kind of college they want – not just aviation schools. All the KIAE work is extra and isn’t on the high school class list. Imagine all the lawyers, doctors, CPAs and the like who will first think of themselves as pilots because of their high school experience.

 The student who soloed today is a great example. He just got his Eagle Scout last summer, will finish up his A&P by May, his Private Pilot rating by June and will attend North Dakota on a full ride next fall. He intends to be a Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot.

My student’s dad wants to and can afford to buy an airplane if he catches the flying bug. His son will no doubt own quite a few aircraft during his career — there is your payoff for GAMA and the boys. Everybody has been talking about the problem, (and talking and talking) but I personally think we are finally doing something about it by getting kids back across that locked airport fence and onto the ramp where they belong.

OK, We Are Back on the Air!

December 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Readers,

Sorry I was gone for so long. I am back now and hope you’ll check here from time to time to see what is going on. For now, please enjoy some of my previous posts and look forward to the new (and much better) stuff that is coming very soon.

thanks, kg