Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Friday, November 9, 2007
Our national holiday gets the bird from AVWeb's CEO of the Cockpit, Kevin Garrison. Read it and weep (with laughter) at: http://kevincreates.com/blog.html
Once you're digested this turkey, if you'd like to invite Kevin Garrison to your Thanksgiving festival contact TSA, Transportation Speakers' Association (TM) at: http://www.ailerona.com/
His after dinner speaking routine is priceless (although it comes at a price) and he can be enticed to stick around afterwards to drink your best brandy and watch you do the dishes.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Not if I can help it, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) seems to warn in a statement: “The past administration at the FAA failed the American traveler at every turn..." Schumer seemed to imply (or HFT seems to infer) that the FAA's long tradition of non-aviation types at the helm should continue. "After all," a former FAA employee speaking from a cab stand at NY's LaGuardia Airport, where all flights had been cancelled due to poor weather in Billings, Montana, "the last FAA Administrator (Marion C. Blakey) wasn't a pilot, and before her, Jane F. Garvey certainly didn't know a prop from a tail cone, so why should the Federal Aviation Administration flip-flop at this vital juncture and pick some know-it-all flyboy type to run the world's biggest aviation system?" He then cut short the interview to take a fare into Manhattan.
The rumored candidate for the top FAA post is Robert A. Sturgell, currently the acting administrator and formerly second in command (SIC) under the recently-departed (administratively speaking) Blakey. Sturgell, a former airline and US Navy pilot, faces a tough, as they say in Washington media circles, uphill battle for confirmation. Up that Hill, Senator Schumer has built a political career on the FAA's incompetence, so any chance that a knowledgeable administrator (read: a pilot) might undue the FAA's history of, as Schumer says, "...(failing) the American traveler at every turn," would seem to remove the hot air from the Schumer's balloon.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The Martin 404 wasn’t an easy airplane to fly. I won’t go in to the many reasons for that fact here, but suffice it to say that it was demanding. Northwest pilots refused to fly the Martin, and one Southern Airways pilot landed one so hard at Atlanta that he left both engines on the runway separated from the rest of the airplane. It also seemed like the biggest airplane I could imagine when I first began flying it. As a young co-pilot, the biggest thing I had flown previously was a Cessna 170 and a Piper Tripacer. We flew the Martin up and down the Ohio valley in all kinds of weather before radar was in common use, and before the advent of direct communications with Air Traffic Control Centers. I think that I learned more about flying in my first year in the Martin than any year before or since. Perhaps all of this lends to the aura of excitement and adventure that my early time with the airline now seems in retrospect.
At the time I was hired at TWA, a copilot check-out consisted of a ground school, a quick few landings, a couple of ACM trips to see how it was done, and then one simply put on his new uniform and launched as a qualified copilot. I had studied my manuals carefully before my first trip and was determined to do an exemplary job. I took care of the pressurization, the carburetor heat and propeller controls, and moved the landing gear and flap levers on command. Somewhere along the way on the second or third day, we had taxied out for takeoff when the Captain said, “Would you like to fly a leg?” I had been working at perfecting the performance of my co-pilot duties and it had not occurred to me that I might actually get to fly the airplane this first time out. I said, “Oh, yes sir! Thank you!” I began running the takeoff profile through my head, and everything went well until I had the flaps up and climb power set when it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know where we were going. Oh, I knew the name of the destination city but had no idea in which direction it might be. We had climbed into the clouds and I began trying to get a peek at my chart that was on top of my navigation kit to my right. The Captain said, “Could you use a little help?” I admitted that I could use all of the help I could get. I felt incompetent, and was sure that when the Captain made his report when we got home, I would probably be fired. Surely TWA wanted people who could do better than what I had just demonstrated.
The next leg, the Captain had made the takeoff and I was beginning to unwind from the excitement of the leg I had just flown. We were climbing through thirteen or fourteen thousand feet when I suddenly remembered that I had not pressurized the airplane. I said, “I forgot,” and reached to the panel on my right and flipped the switch that I had forgotten earlier as the Captain simultaneously yelled, “NO!” Too late. The airplane pressurized, pumping the cabin down to field elevation in about three seconds flat. We often flew with the cockpit door open in those days, and I turned around to see the passengers with surprised or distressed expressions, pulling on their ears, blowing their noses and banging the sides of their heads with the palm of a hand. Now my being fired was close to inevitable. At the end of the flight, the Captain said, “Every trip is a learning experience. You didn’t do too badly, and your next flight will be better.”
The Martin carried a crew of three: Two pilots and one cabin attendant. We called the cabin attendants “hostesses” then. Those young ladies were all in their early twenties and could serve breakfast to forty-four passengers between Kansas City and Topeka.
Due to the lack of airborne or ground-based radar we would occasionally blunder into a thunderstorm. When this happened we would get kicked around mercilessly while trying to keep the airplane right side up and wondering if the airplane structure could withstand the punishment this one more time.
One day, after going through a line and getting thoroughly beaten up we emerged on the other side into the clear. Our hostess came up front all red-faced with the following story: Once able to get up from her seat she began trying to restore order to the cabin, picking up pillows and passenger service items that had been thrown around. One person had been sick and had filled a barf bag. The hostess took the bag back to the lavatory and put it next to the sink to temporarily get it out of the way. When a man left his seat to go back to the john, she remembered the barf bag. She caught the door just as he was about to close it and said, “Just a moment, let me take that out for you.” The man smiled and said, “Now that is what I call real service!” The Captain had to insist that she go back and face her customers.
On another trip, our airplane wouldn’t pressurize after take-off. As co-pilot, I had the pressurization controls, and I reported to the Captain that I simply couldn’t get the thing to pressurize by any means. A moment later the airplane pressurized and the problem seemingly went away. Then our cabin gal rushed up front and told us that a fat lady was on the john and couldn’t get up. The outflow valves were in the tail of the 404, just aft of the lavatory. Any smell from the commode would theoretically be wafted overboard through the outflow valves. Maintenance personnel at the last station had removed part of the toilet and its holding tank, leaving an open hole in the tail of the airplane. The outflow valves were closed, but the pressurizing air rushed out through the john and overboard. When the fat lady sat, she plugged the leak and was pasted firmly to the seat. We depressurized and the unhappy woman was finally able to be pulled from the seat.
I was sitting in the crew lounge at St. Louis in February of 1958. I am sure of that date because I was on my last flight before being furloughed that year. St. Louis had been battered by a winter storm the night before, first with freezing rain and then nearly two feet of snow. The main runway, 12 – 30 (now 12R – 30L), had been plowed its full length leaving huge piles of snow along the sides. One taxiway from the west end to the ramp had also been cleared. All of this was complicated by a slick layer of ice still on the cleared surfaces.
The tower monitor receiver in the lounge alerted us to the fact that one of our Martins was inbound with an engine shut down. Considering the slick surface and the snow barriers, the Captain of the Martin had called the cabin attendant forward and asked her to point out the emergency exits and review emergency evacuation procedures with the passengers “just in case.” The hydraulically actuated aft air-stair door was the primary exit route in case of an emergency situation in which the airplane was standing normally on its gear.
We all watched the landing through the series of large windows that overlooked the airport. The Martin made a normal landing and then continued taxiing down the runway toward its only exit. We saw the aft air-stair door come open and the passengers exit and step off onto the runway. Each passenger fell as he stepped off of the stair and then slid along the runway like a shuffleboard puck as the airplane maintained its slow taxi. The tower operator said, “TWA you’d better stop. You’re loosing your passengers.” The airplane stopped, and the people picked themselves up, shuffled back to the stairway and climbed back up onto the airplane.
I saw the Captain in the ramp office a short time later. Apparently this had been the flight attendant’s second or third flight, and after a discussion of a possible evacuation she had become spring loaded to get them out. I overheard the Captain say that he was not looking forward to writing the required letters to the company and the FAA, and that he wasn’t sure what the outcome would be other than, “There are sure as hell going to be some law-suits.” What else is new?
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Grab a chair, open a beer and someone get the lights...hey, no shadow puppets, Sparky, this is serious stuff...okay, who threw that?
That's it, Brent, I've lost control. Just run the slides...
Huh? What, they're married now?
Enjoy the show: http://aaa-apm.org/images/BTBPhotoStory.wmv
There will be a quiz afterwards.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
THAT PUP WAS MY COPILOT!
On most airline jet aircraft, the forward cargo compartment is heated. That, therefore, is where we can carry live animals. If the heater fails, the Minimum Equipment List stipulates that no live animals may be loaded.
We were the last flight that night from St. Louis to Houston. I’d noted that we have no forward cargo bin heater and the rules precluded carrying live animals that night in that compartment.
The ramp agent arrived in the cockpit to tell me about a dog in a kennel. “Well, I’m sorry”, I commented, “but, as you know, we can’t load him.” The baggage handler felt compassion for the pup, and asked if I’d come down and look at the kennel and situation.
On that dark ramp, I was seeing about one-third of that kennel. It looked small to me. I said: “Oh, heck. Bring it up to the boarding door and let’s see what we can negotiate with the flight attendants.”
It contained a full-grown Spaniel, about 65 pounds. The flight attendants immediately stated: “No way! You can’t put him in the galley. We have no room anywhere for that kennel. No way!” I asked the agent to see if the kennel would even fit in the cockpit, on the floor, behind the pilots. It wouldn’t even fit through the door.
While we examined the possibilities, a bespeckled, gentle looking man, with evident sadness in his eyes came up front and asked: “Am I going to have to stay in St. Louis? That’s my dog.”
I said: “Well, I hope not. We’re trying to figure something out.”
He added: “We were booked on Northwest and they cancelled the flight. They rebooked us on TWA. I’m just coming from my father’s funeral. That was his dog. I’m trying to take Babe home to Texas.”
I asked: “How old is that dog?”
“About nine years old.”
“Is he gentle?”
“Very. The sweetest pup on the planet.”
“OK. I want all of you flight attendants to form a wall so the passengers don’t observe this. Take him out of the kennel, put him in the cockpit and latch him to that cargo strap. No one is to come up here or open that door en route. I want every passenger off the airplane before I bring Babe out of here.”
Ol’ Babe lay down and slept the whole way. Occasionally I reached back to scratch his ears and he licked my hand. He was truly “the sweetest pup on the planet.”
In Houston, I took off my belt, looped it around Babe’s collar and led him up the jetway. The Station Manager was astounded: “You can’t do that! That is illegal?”
“What’s illegal?” I asked.
“Carrying a dog in the cockpit!”
“No, now wait a minute”, I replied. “I looked in the Flight Operations Policy manual and it says you cannot, under any circumstances, carry a dog in the cabin in other than a kennel. It says nothing about the cockpit. Besides, that dog was twice as smart as my copilot and I needed his help.”
Babe’s new Pappy was delighted. I was too. It’s nice to be nice to nice people.
In the crew van, the copilot said: “That was really nice of you. You better hope he doesn’t write a letter of commendation.”
Oh-ma’Gawd! I never thought of that. And he did write one.
I was informed of his letter by an inter-company complimentary letter from the Chief Pilot. The owner’s letter appeared in the Reservation Agent’s monthly publication: “Capt Gwinn gave my dog genuine first class service. We are forever
grateful.” It was reprinted twice elsewhere.
I had a Junior Captain certificate made up for Babe and also sent a set of the plastic Captain’s wings.
One day I asked the Chief Pilot if he wanted to hear ‘the whole story’ on the transportation of the dog. “I’m sure I don’t want to know,” he replied.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Aviation is an endeavor unlike many others. There is still some adventure left in the old gal and sometimes our adventurer's and heroes get lost in the most unlikely circumstances.You almost never hear about world records being set in Podiatry or Accounting, but in Aviation there are still people who will hang it out, ride a rocket, or hang beneath a balloon just to set a record or have an adventure. Steve is one of those people. I am not. I have been content to fly my various heavy turbo-jets around the United States and occasionally Europe during the past thirty years. It has never occurred to me to ride a balloon around the world, fly a rocket, or aviate non-stop and un-refueled around the globe. A nice, three-hour, smooth flight followed by a happy hour in SFO and a nice bed with a late wake-up call was all I asked out of aviation.
Thank goodness there are people like Fossett to keep us couch-potato pilots at least mentally on our toes. I hope they find Steve alive and I hope he has yet another great adventure to tell us about. Personally, I'm hoping that he just had to make an off airport landing because of an oil leak and he has been so busy building a little "Swiss Family Robinson" camp that he hasn't had the time or the desire to send out an ELT signal. The truth though may be of a grimmer nature. He may be dead. Most pilots will agree with me that dying a hero in a crash in the high desert and mountains is a far better way to go than waiting around another few years waiting to see what part of you fails next and what kind of cancer will finally claim you.
If Steve Fossett died, he died with his flying boots on.
-- Kevin Garrison
Kevin Garrison is a retired airline captain who writes for several magazines. He can be reached at: http://www.kevincreates.comhttp://www.kevincreates.com/blog.html
Kevin is a member of the Transportation Speakers Association (TSA). To have Kevin Garrison speak at your next event call: 515-961-0654
I remember at my airline they weren't allowed to give us multiple abnormals (now called "non-normals" by the geniuses at Boeing). It's too bad, because when I worked at the steep-turn academy I cooked up this really cool two-engine-out scenario for the 727. Okay, I'll tell you about it. I did it in the sim to some students and they just loved it...
You dispatch the 727 with the number three generator inop. Perfectly legal. Then anywhere in the flight -- I usually did it during an instrument missed approach -- I'd fail the number one engine by making it explode
Boom! Blades from the number one engine take out and kill the number two engine. Both are not turning at all -- no residual rpms for my guys. Number one A system hydraulic pump is attached to engine #1. Number two is attached to engine #2. B system hydraulics are totally AC electrical. There is now now AC available on the airplane with number one and two engine dead and number three on MCO. Standby hydraulics? gotta have DC power for that, but not a single one of the TRs are working except essential DC but it isn't connected to anything that will help. There is a way funky technique to fire up the APU, which is never used in flight on the 727 and won't start in the air (it's in the wheel well area -- you tend to get a fire in there if it is running with the wheel well doors shut) but none of my students knew it (you pull the ground shift CB) and there was not enough ticks available on the clock anyway -- time to die!
Anyhoo... The students have no choice and no options. They need the power from number three to keep from hitting the mountains (I didn't mention that I always ran this problem in Reno) and they have no way to control the yaw because both the upper and lower rudder are totally hydraulic and manual reversion on the ailerons wasn't enough because you couldn't get any flight spoilers. I would watch the fun and listen to the curses as our world slowly tumbled and we crashed. I heard later that eventually nobody on the 727 fleet at my airline would accept an aircraft with the number three generator inop. My one achievement in 27 years of airline flying.
In the real world I never had a single abnormal. There was always some other stuff going one. My in-flight fires always happened in bad weather (I only had three) and, of course, when you got smoke, you got passengers bitching about being sick, etc and the company and the flight attendants bugging you on the intercom and radios.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Cessna Lite Nears Tunnel's End
Let's agree on one thing: The FAA screwed up capping the Light Sport Airplane (LSA) Maximum TakeOff Weight (MTOW) at 1320 pounds. Where'd that arbitrary number come from? Committee, no doubt. That 1320 kept the venerable Cessna 150 (C150) off the list, leaving first-time fliers to scrounge for low-tech (although highly desirable) antiques such as the Luscombes, Aeronca Champs and Taylorcrafts. All are worthy sport machines, but the C150 would've been a logical candidate for inclusion. Who ever said the FAA was smart?
That's today's Quiz Question. You have 10 minutes to explain in 100 words or less: Who ever said the FAA was smart?
While you're thinking, consider the new Cessna LSA entrant, the Cessna SkySnatch (TM) 162: Price-- $109,500 (about the price of five good, used C150s with no more than 10,000 hours on the airframes). This aluminum LSA (file photo of something else, upper right**) will have the same size Continental O-200 engine as the older C150s (yes, Cessna plans an O-200D ? So what? Same thing only lite (TM) ).
In keeping with making LSAs Gameboy (TM) -friendly, the C162 will sport a Garmin G300 avionics package with high-speed Internet and latte dispenser.*
Instead of an aluminum prop, the Cessna 162 will have a two-blade composite prop. All fine. Now, here's where we really disagree with Cessna: The C162 will have a castering nose wheel, adjustable rudder pedals, painted interior plus gull-wing doors. More on those in a moment. Cessna says this $109k+ LSA will cruise up to 118 knots and have a maximum (outta gas) range of 470 NM. Useful load is currently 490-pound with a 24-gallon useful fuel load...
Since when is 24-gallons useful? Or how can 490 pounds be a useful load in today's obese population? I guess you leave those 24 "useful" gallons behind. Or hire a starving CFI; lots of those around.
Overall, the C162 Lite sounds like a C150 with fancy avionics (what was wrong with old ARC radios? Students still need to practice unexpected NORDO; ARC always provided valuable lessons in silence.)
Gull-wing doors sound pretty, but will the CFI get to slam them shut before flight? The old C150 doors were a great stress reliever: "Just follow the pre-takeoff checklist, Mrs. Azzetti (Slam!) It's the faded plastic thing under the seat (Wham!). We've covered this before." (Blam! Door finally latches, checklist complete).
Painted interior? Where's the creaking Royalite (TM)? Can't be a true Cessna without cracked plastic....
I'll bet Cessna won't even include a dash-mounted rear-view mirror that always points at the floorboards.
Is there a cigarette lighter? Or is this Cessna Lite too PC to allow CFIs to smoke unfiltered Luckys while the student struggles beneath a hood made from an old Clorox bottle?
Can you even buy unfiltered Luckys anymore?
Does this mean no ashtrays, either? Where, then, does the pilot stuff pencils and gum wrappers?
What about ventilation? The gull-wing doors may look cool, but will they seal out the sky, starving the crew for oxygen? Will the windows open so students can barf? Will there be Cessna-style wingroot vents to duct-tape shut in winter and provide a nesting place for hornets in summer?
Will the C162 stall horn still sound like an indecisive fart passing through an oboe?
Will the doors pop open in flight? Probably not, thus depriving students of that valuable "Just fly the airplane" experience after one explodes on takeoff.
Castering nosewheel? Please. Shopping carts have castering nosewheels. I want something that shimmies on landing to remind the student to hold the nose off.
And I want real Cessna 150 flaps (40 degrees) that can hang a student pilot on final to a 12,000-foot runway for 20 minutes while airliners wait. I want flaps that prevent any chance of a go-around.
Well, what can you expect for $109,000 (subject to change) plus tax? And a 2009 delivery date, maybe.
Shame they didn't make it a T-tail...
Still, I'll bet Martha King (TM) will adore the new C162. So, I'm sold.
I need a smoke....
Dateline Oshkosh: Paul Berge, cranky-editor-on-the-lam, Hangar Flying Theater ©, all rights reserved, but feel free to pass this around. Just don't tell the FAA.
**Photo of Larkin Skylark at Watsonville, Ca., 1976 © Paul Berge, Ahquabi House Publishing, LLC, all rights reserved.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
She slipped the web harness over her shoulders, while I cautiously told her how to attach them to the lap belt. The trick, of course, was to convey the instructions without sounding like an instructor dad who still viewed his teenage daughter as a toddler in dress-up princess clothes--which, of course, being a dad, I do.
This was Emily’s first ride in an open-cockpit biplane. Shortly after her birth I’d taken her flying in our Cherokee; strapped in a baby bucket we’d climb and swoop, and she’d gurgle and burp. By the time she was three, she flew our Aeronca from the front seat, although, mostly that consisted of yanking the joystick back and forth while squealing: “Eeee-yaaah…” By age nine, she no longer believed in princesses, and airplanes were something that Dad kept at the “boring” airport where old guys retold the same dull stories inside smelly hangars.
Then, on an unusually warm afternoon when the countryside had changed to gold beneath a sky so blue as to make a Crayola engineer squint, I was headed to the airport and asked—as I always do: “Emily, wanna fly the biplane?” With my hand on the door I expected her usual: “Ah, no thanks…” But, instead, she replied, “Sure.”
One syllable broke through that long pause over the past half-decade. “Sure,” and she grinned slightly, because teenagers aren’t supposed to show excessive emotion to parents. She pulled a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug sweatshirt over her head and said, “Let’s go.” I would’ve taken her hand—the one belonging to the three-year-old who used to fly with me—but I knew better.
Despite the time gap, she hadn’t forgotten how to behave at the airfield. She stayed clear of propellers and helped remove the cockpit canopies and mousetraps from beneath the seats. Luckily, the trap lines were empty, the mice having learned it was safer to nest in the neighbor’s Cessna 172 than inside the biplane.
“Pull on the strut,” I said, and then tugging on the opposite wing, we rolled the Marquart Charger from its hangar. Sunlight—the unreal kind in late afternoon across dormant farmland—lit her face as no canned makeup ever could. “Now, hold your side while we swing the tail,” and she understood how to turn the biplane until it pointed toward the grass runway.
It was a short but glorious flight across the few years that had separated us from her childhood to now, and as we landed—bounced—landed again, and taxied to the hangar, I anxiously awaited her approval as she would’ve awaited mine long ago.
She undid the harness, slipped the leather helmet from her head so the pony tail swung out, and then with a smile I’d waited to see for so long, she turned and replied to my, “So?” with, “I liked it…” And she pulled herself up by the top wing and just had to add: “Not much of a landing, though.”
And that’s my Emily, flying again at fourteen.
© 2005, Paul Berge; all rights reserved; first appeared in the Pacific Flyer, Wayman Dunlap, publisher
Monday, July 9, 2007
EAA member #198, Edwin E. “Ed” Marquart (right; photo by Andy Anderson), died on July 4 of natural causes. He was 85. Until recently, Ed could be found at Riverside, California's Flabob Airport. According to the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association): "Nearly 500 plan sets of his most popular design, the MA-5 Charger biplane were sold."
It's unknown how many Chargers are flying.
Serial #120 (below at the right), parked on the Benson AZ ramp, was built in 1981 by Roy C. Wicker of Quitman, GA.
For more on Ed Marquart visit the EAA Chapter #1 website at:
For more on the Marquart Charger, see:
Sunday, July 1, 2007
As reported last week (http://bergeflyingtheater.blogspot.com/2007/06/administration-attacks-ga-again.html) and as gleaned from the June 16, 2007 NY Times ©, Michael Chertoff-- who's rumored to become the new host of the Fox-TV hit series, America's Greatest Fears ©--has expressed his desire to "get a little tougher" on General Aviation by further restricting what he casually referred to as "small planes." Ignore for a moment the fact that so-called "small planes" pose no threat to anyone, and any self-respecting (oxymoron, I know), fanatical, god-abusing terrorist wouldn't be seen seeking martyrdom in something that would bounce off most structures (think: the Cirrus that hit the apartment building along the East River or the B-25 bomber that hit the Empire State Building in 1945--tragic lose of life to crew but minimal damage to the structures).
Non-elected tough-guy, Chertoff, not only wants to needlessly restrict "small planes" but crack down on "small boats" so they can't, it's supposed, ram aircraft carriers, floating casinos or the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps, Chertoff in his zeal to keep all Americans indoors and safe from ourselves, has overlooked the threat of the hundreds of millions of wheeled vehicles on the road--each packed with dozens of gallons of explosive gasoline. These devices--as used in Oklahoma City 1995, every day in Baghdad and this week in Scotland--can be driven by anyone into anything and exploded. Solution: Get those SUVs safely locked away from their owners.
Once four-wheeled vehicles, "small planes" and bass boats are restricted by Chairman Chertoff, of the People's Committee On Homeland Insecurity, I highly encourage his excellency to cast a glance at the growing threat from gangs of middle-aged accountants, dentists and orthopedists freely buying and operating small, two-wheeled weapons delivery devices (TWWDD) along all American highways. Yes, I'm referring to the Harley Threat. We've all seen 'em; some of us ride 'em, but Chairman Chertoff must know what lethal potential a pack of 20, even, 30 Harley softails poses to his nation...er, our nation. So, Chertoff must Ban the Harleys! And don't think you Vespa riders are off the hook. Chertoff, undoubtedly, knows what terror lurks in your 60-miles-per-gallon souls. Ban the Vespas!
Ban the Hybrids!
Ban bicycles, skateboards, wheelchairs, walkers and inline blades!
Or: Ban Chertoff!
Remember: "First, the TSA came for the airline pilots, I ignored it, because it didn't affect me, a small-airplane owner. When they came for the corporate, charter and turbine pilots, I, again, ignored them, because it didn't affect me. Then--they came for me, and there was no one left to help." *
* With compliments to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
Editorial by Hangar Flying Theater's host, Paul Berge, himself a "small plane" owner, flight instructor and voter.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
To the flying friends of Ray Hill:
Some of you are aware that Ray has been fighting cancer for some time. His fight is nearly over. Becky and I visited him tonight, and he is in extreme pain and very weak. Hospice has been helping him now for a little over a week. Both he and Dorothy are at Park Center in Newton, Iowa.
One must be very close and quiet to hear Ray speak. But, tonight I showed him pictures of the Smiling Thru hangar restoration, and he seemed to perk up a little. He was wearing a T-shirt from the fly-in in Brodhead, Wisconsin. His flying friends mean a lot to him.
As many of you know, Ray was one of the first Marines to hit the beach in five major campaigns in the Pacific during WWII. He survived some of the worst battles in Marine history--without a scratch. But he is losing this battle. Please pray that his family will be comforted. Pray, too, for Ray.
Update 7/1/07: Ray passed away on June 30, 2007.
I have been asked by the family to organize a fly-over of the grave side services. If you would be willing to participate please call me (641.792.9764) or e-mail me asap. Any and all airplanes, owned, rented or borrowed, would be welcome. The more the better. It will be our tribute to a man that helped so many of us in so many ways. He is a great American and a great friend.
Please pass this information on to others.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
NY Times ©: "WASHINGTON, June 15 — Acknowledging that the nation remains too vulnerable to terrorist attack by small planes and recreational boats, the Department of Homeland Security is considering new requirements to allow authorities to identify operators and passengers in millions of these vehicles as they ply the coasts and skies..."
If you, pilot and airplane owner, were unaware of this looming threat from J-3 Cubs terrorizing tall buildings--the tops of which are beyond my Aeronca Champ's service ceiling--read on: "...The threat posed by small planes and boats has been well documented." (Really? Where? and by Whom?) "While the United States is spending billions of dollars to screen cargo containers carried by ships, as well as passengers and baggage on commercial planes, a small private jet could be used to fly a weapon, or a team of terrorists, into the country.
The first set of new rules, to be announced by the end of this summer, will most likely be for small planes...."
Not just small jets, which as we all know are owned and operated by terrorists, but all "small planes."
Afraid yet? This Administration is built on fear of the unreal, so read on until you, the pilot, are very, very afraid: "...Under another proposal, general aviation airports, which range from a grass runway in the middle of a field to sprawling complexes with air traffic rivaling that at some major city airports, would have to conduct security assessments, identifying vulnerabilities. In addition, planes parked at those airports might be required to have ignition or propeller locks.
Kip Hawley, assistant secretary of the Transportation Security Administration, said two goals of the new initiative could provoke at least some protests (Ya think? ed. note): ensuring that unauthorized pilots cannot gain access to small planes and that officials have a way of knowing who is at the controls of a plane in flight."
Let's pause the tape right there. This Administration can't control the airplanes that are filed IFR with any efficiency, so how do these political (non-pilot) wizards plan to control all air traffic? Oh, yeah, by locking the propellers. Okay, that's clear. Please, read on:
"...A variety of options are under consideration to meet these goals, including requiring that small planes eventually have equipment that would allow the authorities to know automatically the plane’s owner and the pilot’s identity."
Don't we already have a system that does that? N-numbers, pilot certificates, registration...
But, wait, there's more: "(Bush appointee), Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security, said his department would not be shy about making new demands.
“If we just need to be a little tougher,” Mr. Chertoff said, “we’re going to be a little tougher.”
Certainly happy to hear that an unelected official is not shy about locking up my 1946 Aeronca Champ on its grass runway in Iowa to aid in the chase for Osama bin Laden...by the way, how's that security operation going? Any sign of the Saudi billionaire terrorist yet? I'll check inside my hangar....
"First, the TSA came for the airline pilots, I ignored it, because it didn't affect me, a small-airplane owner. When they came for the corporate, charter and turbine pilots, I, again, ignored them, because it didn't affect me. Then--they came for me, and there was no one left to help." *
Call to Action: Forget fear! Contact your elected reps. They may be useless political hacks, but they're your hacks, you pay 'em, and they do bow to political pressure. Here's a link: www.Senate.com
And contact AOPA and the Antique Airplane Association, because they don't cave to anyone.
--Paul Berge, AOPA member since 1977, Antique Airplane Association Lifetime member, former FAA employee, pilot, voter.
* With compliments to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
by Dick Summer
I call her Miss T…and she was hit by an SUV last night…and she’s badly hurt. Miss T.’s full name is painted on her tail…N2203T. Miss T. is my little airplane. I was tucking her back into her bed the other night, when the SUV came roaring around the corner of the hangar and ploughed into her.
It happened fast…like bad stuff usually does... (For the full story Go to: http://dicksummer.net/dsblog/ )
Thursday, June 7, 2007
By Kevin Garrison
Palm fronds are waving in the light warm breeze as we sat around the bar table and began our layover happy hour. Today’s destination happens to be the Hooters ® in Fort Lauderdale and the layover is one of the nice ones – got in at noon and we don’t have to saddle up until 10am tomorrow.
Another special treat is ours to enjoy. Three of our flight attendants-- all females to boot--have joined Fred and me even though we had picked what might have been a dicey selection of a place to eat. Either they were bored, or… No, they must have been bored. There is no other plausible explanation.
Er… so? See any good movies lately?
So, there we are, sitting. Our third or fourth pitcher of beer is traveling through various nephrons in our kidneys and will soon arrive in a flood at our respective bladders. The hot wings hadn’t arrived yet and the usual sexual double entendre’ guy talk that Fred and I would normally engage in at a place like Hooters ® was off the list of things to talk about because of the presence of the aforementioned flight attendants. What to talk about using our newfound alcoholic buzz?
Tracy, the blond soccer mom/flight attendant on my left broke the ice and brought up a great subject for mixed but jovial company: Summer Movies.
She had spent two or so hours of that very afternoon watching the new Shrek movie. About two minutes were spent updating us on what that particular ogre was up to and then the conversation lagged. It wasn’t because there weren’t a lot of summer movies to talk about. We just hadn’t seen them yet.
It was Fred who thought up a subject to discuss in between slurps of beer, smacking our lips at hot sauce laced chicken wings, and dabs of paper towels on burning lips. “What kind of movies,” asked Fred, “would they all be if they were airline or flying related?” I know that isn’t exactly discussing the nature of the universe, or bitching about how poorly our airlines continue to do financially, but like I said, we were at Happy Hour, not the United Nations Starbucks.
Muggles and magic make movie money
Sally, the single brunette on my right, came up with the first summer movie title. “I’d like to see Harry Potter and the Flight to Phoenix,” she said. It could all start with Harry at the airport in Newark. He could have all his crap on this wheeled suitcase carrier and the movie could open with him running his cart full force into a concrete pillar in the terminal expecting to go through a magic door to a train station. He runs right into the pillar and gets a concussion and a badly broken nose.
Once Harry figures that he has to get to his boarding school like thousand of other kids, he boards a beat-up MD-88 for his flight to Phoenix. All sorts of almost magical stuff happens to him. There are gross frogs, bugs, disheveled passengers, ghosts, weird smells and greenish gasses coming out of the airplane’s lavs.
The pilots are odd looking and do strange things in the cabin only to disappear behind a “forbidden cockpit door”. The movie ends when Harry finally gets to Phoenix only to be picked up as a security threat by the TSA because his owl looks Middle Eastern. They send him on another plane, which will lead to the next sequel: Harry Potter and the Flight to Gitmo.
Kevin hopes Captain Jack has a Maybelline® endorsement
There was a short, appreciative silence interrupted only with beer slurps until Fred spoke up with his movie idea: Air Pirates of the Caribbean.
This movie would open with 767 Captain Jack Aero in a Holiday Inn Express ® bathroom during a layover putting on his eye makeup before he dons his uniform to begin his flying day. Fred could see a replay of that great scene from the first movie when Jack Sparrow rode his ship up to the dock as it was sinking and stepped off right as the last part dropped beneath the surface. In our movie, Aero would step off of a 767 seconds before billowing smoke comes out of the forward entry door.
The plot of Air Pirates would revolve around dead airlines that keep showing up at various ramps. You know, TWA DC-9s, Braniff 727s and the occasional People Express 737 would all limp to landings while covered in cobwebs and deregulation dreams. The bad guy in this story would be an eye-patched Frank Lorenzo look alike called “Davie Jones Ichann.” Fred and the rest of the table had no idea how this ends much like the producers of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
You can’t go wrong with penguins ®
Kerry, the third girl who I haven’t mentioned yet brought up a movie concept none of us had thought of yet. “We have to get penguins in there somewhere,” she said. “Flying penguins would be okay, but it has been overdone. I think maybe we should have penguin mechanics or maybe penguin flight attendants.”
I had to jump in here because I had a real vision of the movie. If we pitched this to Hollywood we could all retire on our back-end money. What we need are penguin mechanics running a maintenance base in the Antarctic. They spend their off time dancing, surfing, singing Elvis tunes and other cute penguin stuff. The pilots would, of course, be seals, the flight attendants would be played by cute sea lions and the senior momma on every flight would be a sea cow (I got a frown from Kerry on that comment). Airline management would be played by scheming humans with harpoons and bad intent. The plot would be Islands in the Sun combined with Alien blended in with Walking Tall.
I was pretty excited while I was pitching my movie idea and hadn’t even gotten to the surfing penguins armed with Uzis scene when Sally quietly moved my beer mug out of my reach.
Another tray of wings along with yet another pitcher showed up and after only a short while, Fred and I were able to avert our gaze from our server’s uniform top (remember, eye contact!) and were able to focus on Tracy’s idea.
She was thinking along the lines of a film noir--a black and white, sepia, artsy-fartsy film. “When you think about it,” she said, “every summer movie season requires a classic horror film. You know, a real heart-thumper that leads to all sorts of huggy-bear activity, resulting in a baby boom come the following February.”
Fred said, “You act like you speak from experience.” Tracy only nodded and jumped right back in with her movie title.
“The title of the film,” she said, “will be, I Know Where You Ate Last Layover.” The whole thing takes place in a grimy Pancake Hut on the outskirts of the layover hotel in Buffalo, New York. It is the only eating place open, it is very late at night and it’s Christmas, making it the only place for our young frightened flight attendants to eat. Creepy stuff happens. Strange noises come out of the kitchen. Just what was in that sausage that came with the waffles?
One by one, the flight attendants disappear under very scary circumstances. The bad guy is a short order cook who used to have a nice job working with an airline caterer before all the cutbacks. He blames flight attendants for his ill fortune and will appear in all the future sequels.
By now we were too far into the game of pitching bad summer movie ideas to bring it to a halt. We were surrounded with the bare bones remains of hundreds of chickens. Millions of hops had given their grain based lives to kill our brain cells. Even the novelty of trying to read and correct the spelling of the server’s tattoos was getting old.
Because of this weariness, I have no idea who came up with the Transformers ® movie slant for aviation, but I do remember that it was about an Airbus that could transform into a battling robot who defended our planet from some Japanese looking robot that could transform into a Mitsubishi Kate bomber. It was clearly getting to be time to head back to the motel for a few hours of pointless television watching and an early bedtime.
Kevin leaves the bar with a sour taste
I had almost made a clean getaway when Fred remembered that I hadn’t contributed a movie title or story concept yet. Everybody demanded that I come up with something before we all left and if their bladders were in the same shape mine was after all that beer, I knew I didn’t have much time.
“Come on,” they all said. “You have to come up with a really great title, or we won’t let you leave.”
I’ve had a lot of ideas but can only remember a few and they are pretty obscure. We could re-write the comedy Knocked Up to describe the airline industry by replacing only one word.
Or we could we could rename the upcoming Fantastic Four Silver Surfer movie and use it to describe a three-hour sit-around in a hub airport terminal. We could call it: Fantastic Bore Slouching Sleeper. Using the title Delta Farce would be too easy and we wouldn’t need to change it. The only problem and unrealistic thing about that title is that it might make money.
Captain Kevin Garrison ® (ret) can be found on AVWeb as the "CEO of the Cockpit" as well as on the TSA (Transportation Speakers' Association®--See link at left) speaker circuit, updating Jepp® binders for beer.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Personal Memories of Lockheed's Four-engine Bizjet
In the late 1960s and early 70s Continental Telephone had a sizable aviation department with many turbine-powered aircraft. The flagship was a Lockheed dash 8 "Jetstar" four-engined jet (four JT-12s), based at Meadows Field, Bakersfield, California . It often flew between its headquarters there and Watsonville Municipal Airport (WVI).
It was quite a sight--and, I must add, sound--to watch that turbojet-powered Jetstar land and takeoff on Watsonville’s 4,500-foot runway. Often its veteran pilot would deploy the thrust reversers just before touchdown.
I recall one cold and overcast morning when the Jetstar roared through Chittenten Pass between Hollister and Watsonville, ducking beneath the scud at, I'd estimate, 300 feet AGL. I personally witnessed this.
The Jetstar’s ADF was, I suspect, homed in on the KOMY unpublished radio fix to runway 19. That was our unofficial instrument approach at Watsonville way back then.
Later, the pilot told me that the Jetstar had once been on a trip to Europe from the East Coast when they ran into unexpected headwinds on the flight over the pond and fuel became a problem. The long-range jet had become a shorter-range jet and near the coast one of the four engines flamed out. On final approach another engine quit and on rollout the other two died. Whewww.........talk about pucker factor. Needless to say, the airplane was towed to the corporate ramp and I am sure the crew seats needed cleaning.
That’s how I remember it.
Bio: Gary V. Plomp is an aviation artist and historian living in the Bay Area.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Yes, the Antique Airplane Association's own Brent Taylor (seen at right in Air Force One) has announced his candidacy for President of the United States.
Yeah, who hasn't these days? His complete announcement, including campaign promises and denials, can he accessed at:
For those of you unfamiliar with Iowa politics, it works like this: First, you find a large hog, get a tube of lipstick...no, wait that's how we pick winners at the State Fair. Picking a president, though, ain't far off.
Politically speaking, Iowa is the king maker (note we haven't said queen maker yet as some candidate think she's too good to campaign here--no names mentioned). Iowa chooses who gets to run. The rest of the nation shuffles through the process of voting for whomever we select in caucus, and since no one really knows what a caucus is, we pick some winners, don't we? (That's a quiz question. You have 30 minutes to write a reply and post in the Comments section, where you can also declare your candidacy, challenging Taylor's front-runner status).
Meanwhile, for extra credit go to the nomination link:
There, you'll meet the newest Blog Party candidate for President of these here, and those there, United States of America (except New Jersey. We couldn't afford to buy those votes, but we do have a lease with option should Brent's campaign take off.)
Now, I can hear the skeptics asking, "Isn't it kinda late to be starting a presidential run, what with only 17 months left to election day?
To which the Blog Party says, "Late? Hell, in 17 months we'll have spent all the campaign money and impeached the rascal!"
So, feel the pain and do the right thing...no, delay that--do what's good for the party (which will be held in the Pilot's Pub on 9/29/07). Go to: http://bergeflyingtheater.blogspot.com/2007/05/who-wants-to-ride-air-force-one.html
to support Brent Taylor's bid to become the next.....blah, blah, blah.... (applause, applause, release the balloons and pumpkins).
Vote early, vote Blog.
Bail bonds available.
Thank you. Bar's open!
--Paul Berge, Blog Party Host
"Party Like It's 2008 and with the Blog Party in the White House, the hangover will be worth it..."
Monday, May 21, 2007
In a little less than a year and a half, we will have a new president leading our country. It's hoped, we'll get all the nonsense of general aviation user fees straightened out way before the next administration takes office. I have been trying to think of a dumber issue that should never have come into being, but I'm having a hard time.
With each new presidential administration comes a new executive team. This sometimes includes a change in who is the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. When and if this power change happens, I think I should be considered, nominated and confirmed as the new Sheriff in town.
I have absolutely nothing against the current Administrator, no matter who he or she is. I also don't care if a Republican or Democrat or Independent becomes the next president. I want the job of running the FAA anyway.
I think when you have a look at my new policies and have a chance to think them over that you'll probably start a letter writing campaign to whisk me into office. Heck, we may not even want to wait for the election – let's get me in there today!
Government officials who appear in flight suits tend to look lame. Just ask Dubya Bush about his flight suited appearance on that aircraft carrier a number of years ago. It is sort of like when Calvin Coolidge when he allowed himself to be photographed wearing an Indian Chief's Headdress. Harry Truman refused to be photographed in a hat and later presidents had mixed feelings on the subject. (Ed: Remember Dukakis in a tank commander's helmet? Remember Dukakis? Point taken.)
Personally, I think for the FAA Administrator, a dark blue flight suit is totally appropriate and in order. Fitting my status as a sworn government official, I would, of course, be carrying side arms. I plan on going to whatever military museum holds them and reclaim General Patton's pearl handled revolvers for this purpose. I've already discussed how dangerous a hat is to a politician so I would limit that part of my FAA uniform to a simple cap with fake seagull poop on the brim that had the letters "Ooops!" prominently on the front.
My flight suit could contain pen and pencil pockets just in case I found a pilot I wanted to issue a violation to and would have a side pocket with a Velcro ® closure on the side to hold my government issued credit cards.
Pimp the Administrator's Ride
I would need these government credit cards because I plan to fly around a lot and survey the aviation system I now run. I would fly around mostly in my modified F-18 or my executive branch pimped out Boeing 777. I would use the F-18 for those "hurry up" trips to places where I wouldn't need much luggage, and would save the 777 for fact finding trips to Monaco and, of course, my monitoring of our environment.
The F-18 would be painted a blue and white scheme to match my flight suit would have no "N" number. I'm the administrator – I don't need no stinking "N" number…
Another great feature of the F-18 would be the paint ball Gatling gun pods on the wings, which along with the big paint ball Hellfire Missiles would make a very big impression on FAR violators.
Let's say I'm cruising along at flight level 490 at mach 1.5 or so. Suddenly, my ATC violation alarm goes off. This alarm is a special pulsating red phone in my cockpit that tells me when an FAR violator is within range of my jet. Maybe it is some guy flying his banged-up spam can around without the proper BFR endorsement in his pilot logbook. Maybe it is an airliner like a Boeing 767 flying along illegally without a charged battery in their number three lav smoke alarm.
Either way, there is a violation of the FARs going on, and it is my duty to enforce the living heck out of them.
Instant justice; Getting a vector from my ATC guys until I get a visual on the target, I arm my Gatling gun. I come in high and in trail of the target, hopefully with the Sun at my six and spray the offender with about 2000 rounds of paint-ball ammo. It doesn't kill anybody, but when they land at the nearest suitable airport my FAR enforcement people won't have any trouble recognizing which aircraft to inspect.
I don't just plan on enforcing the FARs in the air. Let's say that people are illegally lining up their cars at a major airport like LAX. They have been told and told to keep moving but they insist on double and triple parking – jamming up my airport's peaceful flow of traffic.
There is a war going on – If your FAA Administrator is in the area he can roll-in and unleash a couple of those paint-filled Hellfire missiles on the traffic jam. You can bet the next time a police officer tells them to move along, they'll scoot.
In my new role as FAA Administrator, I'll be able to cut costs drastically. My personal staff will consist only of my F-18 crew chief, my ordnance loader and manager, my masseuse, a press secretary and my personal assistant, a very nice female Navy pilot (who will wear a light blue flight suit).
The biggest cost I'll be able to immediately cut will be the expense of too many air traffic controllers. This is nothing against the controllers. They're hard working professionals who will be vectoring me toward worthy targets. I just won't hire that many more controllers as the older ones retire.
How will I do that? After all, the airlines are already screaming about an upcoming controller shortage. Easy – I just make most of the airspace above our country uncontrolled. Less controlled airspace, fewer controllers.
Except for high-density areas and above flight level 180, all airspace in the United States will be uncontrolled. All closed local control towers will be made into eclectic restaurants featuring either a European cuisine or some sort of fried Catfish.
These rule changes mean you should be careful out there and consider taking the family to dinner.
There are Some Restrictions….
I will begin a National Parks of the Air system. Certain areas will be set aside for one particular type of flying. You know – special airspace areas designated only for World War One fighters, another set aside for airplanes without starters, and another reserved only for biplanes. Certain days will also be set aside as National Flying Holidays. Jimmy Doolittle's birthday, Battle of Britain Day and in the summer we can celebrate Wind Sand & Stars day.
The restricted airspace around the president and Congress will have to remain in effect. With so much hot air rising from DCA, it is more of a safety thing to keep you out of turbulence than a security precaution. Your plan to circle the White House while towing a banner stating your political position will have to wait for more peaceful times. Of course, as Administrator, I'll be able to buzz the White House at will.
It is Time…
Don't you think it's time to have an FAA Administrator who has a little flash and élan? Aren't you tired of the same old wrinkled suited mugwumps who make boring speech after boring speech? Aren't you ready for a by-gawd Administrator who enjoys administrating? Aren't you also ready for a little respect around this country of ours?
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being put down by the government and the public who thinks general aviation is nothing but yahoos crashing into mobile homes. Let's add a little edge and zip to the job of FAA Administrator.
I can see it now. At this year's Oshkosh, people are hanging around the ramp, expectantly waiting for the arrival of their new FAA Administrator. Before they even see me they hear and feel the sonic boom of my F-18. I do a Mach-one flyby, spraying the entire show line with thousands of paint ball rounds. Then I unleash a barrage of paint ball missiles on the ultralight area (damn Hippies!).
After I land, you can see Commander Bambi finishing up the post flight chores in the back seat of the F-18 as I taxi to the line and wave to the crowd.
I exit and am greeted by a smarmy representative of some low-down television cable news network who wants to ask me, the Administrator, about general aviation user fees. I calmly face my interrogator, draw my pearl handled revolvers and empty both weapons into his chest, firing all my paint ball rounds on target.
Then I break out the government credit cards and we all go out for dinner.
How could I not be the best FAA Administrator ever?
(That's the Blogteaser Quiz Question. You have 20 minutes to write your reply and post it in the Comments section below.)
Remember, Vote Blog Party and "Party like it's 2008!"
Sunday, May 20, 2007
"No delay, immediate right turn to three six zero degrees!"
When you’re flying a small plane, and Air Traffic Control says words like "no delay," and "immediate"...that gets your attention. So I flicked the autopilot off... and that control wheel went over hard... and I watched the compass spin up till we were at about 345 degrees...then I eased her the rest of the way till it said 360...just like the man said.
A moment later a big jet flashed by pretty close to where I would have been if the controller hadn’t called the turn. I flicked the mike and said "thanks." And believe me, I meant it. Pilots around here call that a "Linda Rondstadt" because Linda had a big hit called "Blue Bayou"...as in "that jet just blew by you."
I flicked the auto pilot back on to catch my breath for a moment, and I realized... I was looking at an "N Word." There’s no 360 degrees on an airplane compass. Just the letter N. It means North...
(Click Dick Summer's link at left for the rest of his Summer Flight or go to: http://dicksummer.net/dsblog/)
...Maybe there are some lessons here. So... what have we learned ? I’d say it’s time to get real. Say what you mean. Get a grip. Laugh a little. Say "thanks" when it’s due. Take at least one flight in a small plane on a lovely day.
Enjoy living a little before you die.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Forget Iowa and New Hampshire. Why should they choose who’s going be the next presidential candidates? Forget about Super-Duper Tuesday, Mad Monday or bunching all the primary dates into one votefest in early February to mollify whiny Californians. Instead, the next President of the United States, hereafter referred to as POTUS--the one who gets to decide where and when Air Force One flies, the Commander Guy surrounded by a 30-mile aegis of protected airspace--will be selected by (hold onto your campaign hats) popular vote.
Radical, perhaps, but if you’re willing to become a contestant on Who Wants To Ride Air Force One? ©, you may be our candidate to compete against Mitt, Hillary, Rudy, or whatever prepackaged candidate with a TeleTubby name survives the traditional route to the 2008 election. We’re looking for the ultimate democratic (small d) non-partisan, Blog Party Presidential Candidate to be chosen by our viewing audience through a grueling--and often humiliating--TV-like, gladiatorial process not unlike the real thing put on by the Democrats and Republicans. That winner will then be registered as a real candidate on the November 2008 ballot (if we can afford the fee).
Here’s how it works:
Think Reality TV (Yeah, that's an oxymoron, but hang in there). Anyone with half-a-brain, which is considerably more than the usual candidates bring to the contest, can participate.
Step 1: Declare your candidacy here in the Comments link. It costs nothing. Keep it clean, brief and no sniping at the other candidates, unless they deserve it. Instantly, you'll become the front runner, if only for a microsecond in cyberspace. Take advantage of that moment in the spotlight to solicit massive campaign contributions from K Street lobbyists. Turn nothing down. You can always apologize later. Your moment in the lead will be fleeting so be ready for...
Step 2: Issue a Policy Statement that no one understands but includes references to Abortion (without taking a stance), Drugs (without admitting use in college or offending drug firms), Family (be for this, especially if your backer is named Corleone), Gay Marriage (see Abortion), Guns (quick, hit the NRA link to become a retroactive lifetime member), Education (see Family), the Military (espouse strong support here; go really over the top if you’ve never actually served yourself), the Environment (you’re generally for the environment but don’t quote Al Gore) and, finally, Campaign Finance Reform (support any reform measure because it’s like saying you support Mothers Day).
Step 3: Deny. Even though the pack will be crowded at this stage, the long knives will be out, and your past becomes fair game. So, deny everything. Better yet, blame society or cigarette advertising. Cry if you do that. Have your wife/husband at your side. A kid in an iron lung would be good, too.
Step 4: Threaten a Foreign Country. Your choice here. No, everyone can't take France. This begins the stage where candidates show their weltpolitik mettle by rattling sabers and such. You’ll be asked to invade a sovereign nation and explain your choice. Again, pick any little niggling principality that’s been irking you since college when you got caught trying to buy hash there. Now, let loose a barrage. Just be ready to defend your actions or, better yet, blame the press.
Step 5: Cover Up a Lie. Contestants will be given a lie. Each contestant will then be placed under glaring lights in front of cameras and a microphone and asked to deny the obvious. Candidates will be judged on originality, ability to keep a straight face (avoid smirking) and obfuscation. Show undying support for a loyal supporter you're about to dispatch.
Step 6: Speech Skills. Candidates will be asked to prepare and deliver a policy speech (topics to be assigned later). Candidates who mispronounce “obfuscation” probably won’t make it into the final round. Mispronouncing “nuclear”, however, seems to be fine. In fact, may help.
Step 7: Fancy Dress Ball. Each candidate will be asked to plan and prepare for a state dinner. Candidates will be judged on use of silverware, napkins and small talk with visiting dignitaries who smell like mothballs and are about as interesting to talk to as the Jell-O centerpiece.
Step 8: Sudden Death Round. A major world figure dies (Pope, King, your VP, televangelist) and each candidate, without preparation, will have sixty seconds to say something non-offensive about the suddenly departed. Candidates will be judged on stammering, lip licking, pronunciation of the deceased person’s name and ability to end the statement with “our thoughts and prayers go out to his/her family.”
Step 9: Bathing Suit Contest. Eighty percent of your score can be earned--or lost--here. This is where Reality Voting © beats the Hillary/Rudy campaigns every time. So, tone up those abs, wax the naughty bits and ask your advisers what “banana hammock” means before some reporter sticks a microphone in your face demanding that you explain your banana-hammock policy.
Step 10: Stand-Up and Sing. As the name implies, the finalist candidates will be asked to perform in public at The Blog Party Dean Martin-Meets-The-Press gala. You and your fellow Blog Party candidates will make absolute fools of yourselves through song, dance and Garrison Keillor skits as though willing to do anything to become the next POTUS. Saxophone solos optional.
Step 11: Call To Action. Vote early, vote often. Get online and vote for your favorite Who Wants To Ride Air Force One? © candidate. Add your name, the name of a loved or despised one in the Comments link below.
Step 12: To Be Announced (TBA) as candidates stumble. It's a yellow-dog-eat-yellow-dog world as candidates leave bloody political trails in the yellow snow of presidential politicking.
That’s the rough outline for Who Wants To Ride Air Force One? ©. It’s open to any native-born American (if your umbilical cord made it across the border, you’re in), age 35 and willing to live inside a fishbowl for the rest of his-slant-her life. Every waking moment of that life will dissected by blog-fogged pundits who can't get real jobs and secretly wish that they were the Blog Party’s first POTUS.
The best news--anyone can vote. And just like in Bergen County, New Jersey, the more you vote the better you feel.
Mark Your Far Side© Calender: The Blog Party National Convention will be held in the Pilot's Pub at Antique Airfield (IA27), date, time and beer prices to be announced. FAA not allowed unless accompanied by a real pilot.
The Reward: Power. Once in The White House, anytime you want to burn a few thousand gallons of Jet A in your own Boeing 747, simply pick up the hot line to Andrews AFB (don’t confuse it with the hot line to some nuke silo in North Dakota) and say, “POTUS here, I feel like flying to…oh, Des Moines!” You won’t even need to call a cab, because, like Enterprise, they’ll pick you up.
Blog Party Host
"Party like it's 2008..."
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Rhett © By
My copilot, Jerry, breezed into the cockpit at push back time plus five and threw down his flight bag. “Sorry I’m so late -- I somehow screwed up my schedule and didn’t even know I was supposed to fly today.”
That sort of thing happens from time to time and there isn’t much you can do about it. Even with the most expensive and complicated calendar systems, reminder notes, PDA’s, computer schedules and whatnot, if you put your schedule in wrong you are going to mess up no matter what system you use.
That is the nature of a screw-up. You can’t predict them because, after all, they are a screw-up, which by definition means they can happen anytime.
Anyway, I’ve done the walk around, made all the “noises” (GPWS, etc) programmed everything signed the logbook and made the coffee. Besides, it looks like we’re going to have a gate hold for New York again today, so relax. Just plug in, sit back and chill, my man… it’s all taken care of.
“You’ve been around for years and years and years,” Jerry said. “I’m sure you’ve had your share of no-shows and late sign-ins.”
I’ve had a few. The worst one was also the only unexcused one that got me a letter in my personnel file. It involved my dog, Rhett.
“You no showed because of a dog?"
It appears from looking at the latest ACARS message about the gate hold that we have an hour to kill so I guess I’ll tell you about it.
Rhett was a Border Collie that we adopted as a six-week-old abandoned puppy back in Tallahassee during the latter days of my FSU experience.
He was a sick dog at the time – eaten up with fleas, worms, all sorts of skin diseases and malnutrition. He was the perfect dog for a newly married couple just starting out. I found him wandering around by himself in a park. I bundled him up in towel and loaded him into my 1968 Rambler American for the ride to our apartment.
As he grew into a less flea-bitten and larger version of himself, he developed into quite a friend and business partner. While other college dogs would sit outside of the classroom building waiting for their owners to come out, Rhett would go in with me and sleep beneath my feet during classes where I wished I could sleep. You have to remember that these were the wild and wooly seventies. Hair was long, kids could smoke in class, and your dog was welcome if he or she didn’t poop or make a fuss.
You may be wondering what my dog Rhett has to do with an aviation story and more importantly, an airline no-show. I’m getting to that, but first, you have to know what kind of dog Rhett was.
He was the kind of dog that would eat the carpet of your apartment, claw up your “Wings Over America” album (which, in retrospect, was a blessing) and get the whole place rife with fleas and ticks. He was also the kind of dog that could catch a Frisbee, outrun the other apartment complex dogs, swim like an otter, hump like a whale, and dig like a homesick mole.
He was the kind of dog that looked out for his homies.
One night, a burglar tried to come through our front door uninvited very late at night. Rhett attacked and bit the crap out of him. He was very protective of my wife and I was never under any allusion as to which one of us he would pick to protect in a firefight. If it came to that, I knew I was on my own, but I was cool with that.
Rhett was never the kind of dog to get Timmy out of any kind of well, but knowing he was around and looking out for us was always a comfort. Besides, I’m sure he would have regarded Lassie as a pussy and an incredible brown-noser.
Because of his tendency to destroy our one bedroom apartment, I started taking him to work at the flight school. He started his aviation career as a tied-up cur outside the office, but later was invited inside to sit by the fan and stay cool.
Once, on a whim, I stuck him in the back seat of a 172 I was taking out with an instrument student. It turned out that he was born to fly. From then on, whenever I could wheedle him into whatever airplane I was flying, he came along.
These flights included the all-nighter canceled check flights I sometimes took after a full day of instructing. He kept me awake and was good company. Sitting curled up on the right hand seat of whatever Aztec or Navajo or Baron I was using, he gave me somebody besides myself to talk to. Also, during the three hour nap I got in the airplane in Atlanta was more restful for me knowing I had my protector right beside me.
Rhett enjoyed the status of being “first dog.” By that, I mean that we had him at a time of our young lives when we really had time for a dog. Where ever we went he went. You occasionally still see younger people with their first dog. The animal usually has a big grin in its face and some sort of bandanna around its neck.
Time passed, airlines beckoned and kids arrived. Rhett saw us through it all. The one bedroom new-hire apartment, the cheap rental house in the big city and the three or four moves that junior airline pilots are wont to take.
He never got to fly with me again after the airline hired me. For some reason that I still don’t understand to this day, the airlines don’t let pilots take their dogs with them. That was okay with him because he was very busy raising our two kids and keeping the Chicago neighborhood we lived in under control.
We didn’t notice at first, but he was getting a little slower and a little grayer around the muzzle. Sometimes he didn’t jump up and run to the door when we came home and there were times when he just didn’t want to chase the Frisbee or kill the squirrel that was running across our subdivision sized yard.
After you have a few dogs in your life and you have some experience with them you realize that they have a shorter life span than you do and that they won’t last forever. This isn’t true with your first dog. They are supposed to last forever.
It was an early Sunday morning. The wife and kids were off to church and I was almost ready to load myself into the car for the ride to O’Hare and yet another trip as a 727 engineer.
I had my black polyester pants on as well as my white pilot shirt with the wings that had no star, because I was only the second officer. My bags were packed, my coffee was in my “White Hen refillable insulated travel mug” and I was ready to head out the door.
Rhett wasn’t in his usual spot by the exit where he usually literally got his “licks in” as I left. Where was he?
A search of the house for him came up empty until I went into my baby daughter’s room and found him curled up under the crib. He was panting. Not healthy dog pants, but sick little shallow desperate gasps. He looked up at me and for the first time in his life he looked scared.
I scooped him out from there and it didn’t take long to see that he needed to go to the Vet, right friggin now. Even though I was upset, I did have the presence of mind to call crew scheduling and tell them I might be a little late for sign in.
“You’re going to be late because of what?” an incredulous scheduler asked.
“My dog. He’s sick and I’m taking him to the vet.”
In the wide expanse of good excuses to be late for a trip, I knew for a fact that having a sick dog wasn’t one of them. Tough titty. I wasn’t going to leave Rhett when he was like this. And we were operating in a pre-cell phone world so I couldn’t page the wife at church.
We made to the vet but it didn’t make any difference. Rhett died on the cold metal vet table, wrapped in my embrace and looking up at me with now calmer, accepting eyes. He was twelve and had a good run as a dog. I was proud to be his owner; glad I was with him at his end and would have missed a dozen trips in order to be by his side at that moment.
I’m not that dedicated now and I’m a lot more cynical about my job, but back then I knew I had to go to work. I left a message about Rhett with the next-door neighbor so they could tell my wife what happened.
Damn me. I should have gone home and told her myself. In order for one hundred and forty Florida tourists to make it to Tampa a half an hour earlier I let my young wife go home to an empty house and a dead dog. The tourists could have waited. Maggie loved that dog more than I did and when she left for church he was alive and happy. Coming home, he was dead and gone.
I finally got to O’Hare and we pushed back about forty-five minutes late for our Tampa flight. I was covered in dog hair, spit and blood and I had been crying. It was one of the hardest days of my flying career. They give you a week off if you lose a human family member. When you lose a dog family member and show up late for sign in they give you a letter in your file and a stern talking to about crap like values, reliability and duty to the flying public.
I sat though the obligatory chief pilot lecture the next week but you know what? Screw the flying public and screw reliability. If I had to do it all over again I would have done it exactly the same way.
Later that year, when flying with another captain, I mentioned this episode and said something like: “well, at least Rhett is in dog heaven now, chasing rabbits and having sex with sultry Irish Setters.”
With the perfect certainty that comes from being a jerk he said: “There is no dog heaven. Dogs don’t have souls -- when they’re dead they are simply dead.”
He then went into an hour long Jesus talk that I mostly ignored because I refuse to believe in any kind of god that would allow a wastoid doofus like this guy go to an eternal reward while my dog -- a being with more soul in his left floppy ear than this guy could ever have would have no big grassy field with great smells to run around in until I could join him.
That is why I never discuss religion in the cockpit. Nothing good can come of it.
For many of my most harrowing flights when I was in my twenties, God wasn’t my copilot, Rhett was. Now you are, Jerry, and it is time to call for pushback.
Jerry picked up the mike and made the call with a look on his face that spoke volumes. Maybe he had a dog that he had lost. More likely he was telling himself to never, ever, ask me to tell a story again during our four-day trip.
All rights reserved. To have Kevin Garrison speak at your next event, contact Ahquabi House Publishing at 515-961-0654
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Thanks, Barney ©
By Kevin Garrison
(originally published in the February 2007 issues of Cessna Flyer and Piper Flyer. Used with permission of the author)
More than seventeen thousand pounds of dead, liquid dinosaurs would be burned into carbon dioxide and water in a long cold line through the skies between Boston and Cincinnati this morning.
Their many million year journey from egg to life to death to slime to petrochemicals to energy and finally to contrail all came to this. They propelled one hundred and sixty odd people home from war, to business meetings, vacations, weddings, divorces, funerals, cruises, colleges, and reunions.
My Jurassic homeboys may have damaged the earth’s environment a little bit as they passed through the hot sections of my engines and broke down into their chemical parts.
In their final roar before they left the scene, my dinosaur benefactors have provided me with a job and a life. Their final conversion from carbon-based life form to vapor in the sky was not an empty sacrifice. These ancient reptiles, while not being very tasty even on their best day, have given me the means to feed the family of an ape descendant named Kevin.
My old ratty captain’s hat is off to every single one of the big green fellas.
Layover mornings all start out like today. My wristwatch went off twenty minutes too late, buzzing me awake and sending me running for a quick shower in a cheap plastic motel tub with a sliver of soap that wouldn’t be enough to lather up an average Plesiosaur. My working day starts off with the melodic sounds of the latest in 5am CNN updates – it seems, according to CNN that another celebrity is on drugs.
Lobby coffee was waiting like a street drug pusher when I came downstairs for pick-up with my crew. “Come on baby, you know you need me,” the pot crooned to me.
Both the pot and I knew that I am a caffeine addict and it slyly poured me a Styrofoam cup load of chemical normalcy. If the government ever mandates that they test for caffeine in our random drug tests, many careers will be over.
The most dangerous part of our day was about to begin. The van ride to the airport can be more hazardous than a magnesium landing gear wheel fire or a flight attendant with your home phone number.
I’ve never been the kind of person to worry too much about flying, but there have been some van rides that have made my breath come out in little short gasps and caused my eyes to roll around in fear like a doomed dinosaur stuck in a tar pit.
A few years ago during a van ride from Manhattan to La Guardia, our combat ready driver jumped out of the vehicle at a blocked intersection and beat the living hell out of another guy’s car with a baseball bat that our driver kept handy under his front seat. My crew and I missed the rest of their little “business meeting” because we were too busy fighting each other for available floor space so we could avoid the bullets we were sure were about to fly.
We luck out today with a normal ride to the airport. It isn’t particularly frightening or even that interesting, but it does have the great feature of hitting every pothole between downtown Boston and the Logan entry ramp.
Early morning at an airport is a scratchy eyed, dark and sobering time. Nothing is open – it is too early even for the Starbucks ® to be plying its wares. If you are hungry for breakfast, let’s hope you like whatever snacks you can find on the airplane.
The passengers all wander around the terminal like wheel weary gerbils, muttering things into cell phones like: “We’re here at the airport” and “I’m not off the ground yet.”
Plus, there is no coffee made in any of the galleys on our 757. Looks like I’ll have to brew it myself. I’ll put two packs of coffee into the brewer instead of one. That ought to wake my crew the hell up. Even the most ambitious and energetic dinosaur wouldn’t be up and about this early.
Once the APU is fired up and the lights are all turned on (and the coffee is brewed) the people shuffle to their assigned seats on our Atari Ferrari, unaware of the fact that a small reptile from the dawn of earth’s history just gave up its essence to heat them up a cup of de-caf.
After they find their seats and we get done telling them all of the ways we can arrest them for doing various things and after we finish telling them what to do if things go wrong and our dead dinosaurs turn on us by burning our wreckage instead of propelling us to the stratosphere we button-up, push-back, and book.
Firing up a 757 is like bringing a metal dinosaur to life. It starts out cold and dark, sitting on a dark ramp. We make it a living, breathing thing after punching a few buttons.
Re-born every flying morning, the 757 lumbers out to the runway like a reluctant and brooding brontosaurus, heading out to munch some half-rotted jungle vegetation before the sun rises.
As we taxi out and fall in line with the rest of the herd our aircraft prepares itself for flight through subtle changes. Leading edge devices quietly slide out on wing. Trailing edge flaps rumble down to fifteen degrees and a whirring motor sets the stabilizer trim. The engines on our dino have to warm up a little, but with this line of lumbering giants awaiting their turn to fly, time should not be a problem.
When it is finally our time to leave the surface of the planet, the seven-five wheels itself smoothly onto the runway and commits a flagrant act of aviation.
When you fly airplanes for a living, taking off is like punching in for the day. Other work, like updating your Jepps, putting new batteries in your two company required flashlights, checking the weather and entering the route into the airplane’s FMS doesn’t count because you don’t actually get paid until the door is shut, the beacon is on and the engines are lit.
We are still drowsy from our previous night’s lobster dinner at Legal Seafood as we climb out of a solid overcast into the feeble early light of a new day. The 757 is a cold blooded creature like the animals that make up its fuel. It takes a while in our climb-out for the heat to finally reach the cockpit as we claw our way up into a chilly, pink-gray sky.
Below us in what other ape descendants on this planet call the “real world,” so-called “normal” people are going to work. They get to see their families every single day and always know for sure that they’ll be home for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and school plays.
To them, weekends are always time off and they are so firmly in the groove of going to work Monday through Friday that they can do it without even thinking. Their jobs and lives are predictable, comfortable and to most of them, dead dinosaurs are something to show your kid in a museum. They never are overly excited or scared.
God, I really pity those people.
My dead dinosaurs aren’t in a museum. They are currently pushing the speed of my 757 up to eighty two percent the speed of sound. Airline pilots work holidays and weekends and more often than not, start their days in the pre-dawn darkness and end their work shift in the murk of unknown motels, thousand of miles from their families.
We wouldn’t be “normal” people if you held a gun to our heads.
We are breaking free of the clouds now, passing twenty thousand feet. The rising sun paints the sky a bright pink. It is a little bumpy now, but my coffee only sloshes a little in the cup. Smarter pilots than this one would have a lid firmly secured to their coffee to prevent spillage. I don’t – I like living on the edge.
Nobody in the back is complaining about the bumps. Most of them are probably asleep and if I turn on the seat belt sign we’ll have to make a PA, which will wake most of them up to tell them what they already know. I leave the seatbelt switch alone.
Our awake passengers that we are carrying above the earth through the largess of rotten reptiles are peering at magazines, fondling cell phones and wondering about such things as their connection in Cincinnati and whether or not this collection of metal parts and ancient dinosaur byproducts will arrive on time.
Ground bound ape descendants don’t get to play tag with pink clouds and get paid for it. They don’t have the nervous acid-stomach feeling of shooting a tight approach during a snowstorm. They don’t deal with thirteen-hour duty days made longer by long lines of fire-breathing thunderstorms. They don’t have to face the blame of the entire country if they screw up on the job, nor do they die a searing death if things go wrong at the office.
Of course, they don’t get to interact with the magic of the clouds or have a close personal relationship with dinosaurs or wear these cool hats like we do.
© Kevin Garrison
About Kevin Garrison:
Captain Kevin Garrison is a storyteller who weaves his unique views on life, politics, and aviation into a presentation that’s sure to amuse, inspire, and possibly even inform.
Kevin’s monthly column on AvWeb.com, The CEO of the Cockpit, reaches hundreds of thousands of readers, and he’s been a longtime contributing editor at IFR magazine. He’s also contributed to: Air & Space Smithsonian, Plane & Pilot, Upside, Salon.com, Flyer Newspapers, Creativity, Writer’s Digest, Biztraveler, Mercator’s World, AOPA pilot, Airline Pilot, US Aviator, Private Pilot, Ace Magazine, Southern Aviator, Equus, Horseplay, The Lexington Herald Leader and a few others.
When it comes to flying he’s done just about everything from banner towing to hauling candidates for Governor and a few dead bodies. He’s flown forest fire missions, carried sky-divers, surveyed turtles, flown air show routines, and has flight engineered, co-piloted and captained transport jets for over fifteen thousand flight hours, most recently as captain on a Boeing 767.
His books, Mad At America --What You Can Do About It? and, Clear Left, I'll Have the Chicken--are available for through his website (see Link). He lives on a small horse farm in Lexington Kentucky (actually, the farm is rather large, but the horses are really, really tiny), thinks that humans are the otters of the universe, and is pretty sure that professional wrestling is real but the rest of the world is bogus.