Chandelles! And Other Stuff Too..

•November 10, 2010 • 2 Comments

So, it’s been awhile. What have I been up to? Not a lot of flying. But this is going to change very soon! I started working in the office at my flight school, and after a busy two weeks of training (hence the lack of updates), I’ve been reduced to one regular day of scheduled work: Saturdays. Not excited about working that particular day, but in the future I’ll be picking up more days.

So what’s it like working in the office? Not bad, get to talk to pilots all day, paid lunches when I actually get lunch (no lunch breaks on Saturdays), and it isn’t that hard. I make copies, talk on the phone, dispatch airplanes, and take care of the office cat among other duties. 10 hour work days are hard to get used to, however.

Ok, with that out of that way lets talk Chandelles. A Chandelle is a maximum performance 180° climbing turn. It is, in my humble opinion, the second easiest commercial maneuver. The idea is to make a 180° turn while gaining as much altitude as possible.

To perform a Chandelle we enter the maneuver at or below Va, or the maneuvering speed. First, we establish a 30° bank angle then increase power while increasing elevator back pressure to enter a climb. The idea is that in the first 90° of the turn one should maintain the 30° bank while increasing the climb until the airspeed drops just below the stall speed. During the next 90° the bank angle is decreased while the climb pitch is maintained with the airspeed kept just below stalling.

This maneuver is designed, according to my book, to “help you develop good coordination habits and refine the use of aircraft controls at varying airspeeds and flight attitudes.” My instructor put it in layman’s terms: “imagine you are flying in the clouds and suddenly there is a mountain right in front of you, you need to turn and climb as fast as you fucking can.”

I’ve got a picture or two to share. My flight instructor and I agree: it’s maddening that we cannot capture the true beauty we see day in and day out on the camera I’m using. Upgrade? Maybe.

Mt. Diablo and Los Vaqueros Reservoir

The Blogger Himself

Last week we did Eights-on-Pylons, another commercial maneuver. In the future I will be starting to fly 2-3 times a week which should make life very busy coupled with work and studying for the commercial written exam. Busy is always better though, especially when it’s what you love that’s keeping you busy.


TFR: Obama Visits the Bay Area

•October 22, 2010 • 1 Comment

Originally I had plans on making a post about Chandelles.I decided to post about something a little more relevant to today’s flight. Don’t get me wrong, we did Chandelles again, this is just more interesting. The much-anticipated Chandelle post will have to wait, sorry.

A TFR, or Temporary Flight Restriction, is a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen, pilots like acronyms huh?) which is regulatory in nature and restricts certain parts or specifies use of airspace. TFRs are issued for situations like airshows, firefighting, space operations, military operations, or, like today, to “protect the President, Vice President, or other public figures.” Just my luck.

This TFR meant a little more work for a simple training flight. The “inner core” of the TFR, situated around SFO, was restricted to all aircraft. Livermore was in the 30 nm radius outer core, which meant we could fly providing we met certain provisions. I had to file a flight plan to and from Livermore to get us outside the TFR to the central valley and maintain a specific squawk code in our transponder so ATC could easily identify us . We stayed in close contact the entire time with ATC. There is almost never a situation in which I don’t mind seeing fighter jets, EXCEPT when they are interested in me. Goal of the day for us and everyone else in the air: DO NOT BREAK TFR RULES; DO NOT GET INTERCEPTED BY FIGHTER JETS. Don’t believe me? It happened in Seattle not too long ago rocking the greater Seattle area with a sonic boom.

The TFR Map

Once in the the practice area, safely outside the TFR, it was back to business as usual (besides staying in close contact with ATC for precautionary reasons). We did Steep Turns, Spiral-180 descents, Chandelles, various types of landings, and stalls. Fun stuff. I even managed to snap a few pictures of the Steep Turns while the instructor was at the controls.

Getting more comfortable with the maneuvers so next week will be adding more maneuvers to the menu: Lazy-Eights and Eights-on-Pylons.

Cross Country: LVK-RDD

•October 15, 2010 • 3 Comments

Every once and awhile there is a flight that is so amazing and incredibly beautiful that I have trouble coming up with the words to describe it. This flight topped all the others that have left me speechless in the past. Yes, I brought my camera. No, the pictures do not do justice.

First off, what the hell is a “cross country”? In aviation, a cross country flight is one in which a pilot uses navigation to land at an airport at least 50 nautical miles (nm) from the starting airport. For my commercial license I was required to have 2 hours of daytime cross country and 2 hours night cross country time to an airport at least 100 nm away with my flight instructor. We chose to head up to Redding. The goal was to fly two hours there during the day and two hours home at night.

It was a gorgeous autumn day, and a nice high pressure ridge meant it was hot (90 degrees) and clear! We set off from Livermore with our route taking us first to the Sacramento VOR, the Williams VOR, the Chico VOR, and direct to Redding.

For this flight we used an ATC service called “flight following.” When workload permits, ATC will give VFR (visual flight rules) traffic warnings to other traffic in the vicinity. It is a really helpful tool to keep situation awareness about the other aircraft sharing your airspace. Just past the SAC VOR we got an advisory to turn 30 degrees right to avoid a FedEx DC-10. The FedEx heavy got a similar vector to their right. The next picture has a little dot off the wingtip: that’s the FedEx heavy.

As we headed north the sun got lower and lower. To our right was the Sierra Nevada and the associated foothills. The western sides of the hills glowed orange and contrasted starkly with the long shadows off the eastern sides. We came into Redding at sunset. I think the sun actually set while on approach,  but I was busy and had more important things to pay attention to. In the distance the snow capped peak of Mt. Shasta glowed orange.

Our departure took us west instead of south. We had some time to kill so we climbed over the 8,000 foot peaks of the coastal mountain range towards Mendocino. Cruising at 8,500 feet we were treated to a brilliant orange and red glow over the pacific in the distance contrasted by the dark and misty mountain ranges below us.

The Pacific in the distance

Our route programmed in the GPS

Our route then took us south over Santa Rosa into the spectacular sight of the Bay Area at night. The city, and the bridges, and the cars… its indescribable. We took the long way around Mt. Diablo because we needed a little more time to meet the requirements. We landed and called it a night.

Our route (click for large version)

There are no pictures of the night flying because the camera isn’t capable, hopefully someday I’ll have a better one that can help capture to absolute beauty of night flight. My instructor has been around the block, flying with two airlines previously before taking this job. He kept looking out the window and remaking how amazing and beautiful it was, almost mesmerizing. It doesn’t matter if it is your first flight or your 1,000th, it really never gets old.

Until next week…

Commercial License Continued..

•October 7, 2010 • 1 Comment

It has been awhile since I posted. Last week I only ended up flying once. I also keep forgetting to bring the camera OR to take pictures when I do bring it. I took some today, however.

I finished my job plane washing. STILL waiting to see when I will get to work in the office. In the meantime, I’ll be picking up international students flying into SFO. Its a cool gig, .50 cents to the mile and the radio blasting make it fun.

My last flight was full of steep turns, short/soft field landings, and simulated engine failures. Today’s flight was full of steep turns, chandelles (explained in the next Commercial Maneuvers post), and simulated engine failures.

Today was the first frustrating day of my commercial training. It happens to every pilot and during every license, trust me. What causes it? Difficult weather, new airplane, stress or fatigue, being off your game, or a combination of factors. Today was a combination of new airplane and being off my game. I was flying the other Arrow on the flight line and was having all kinds of trouble landing/keeping the thing trimmed. Frustration in the cockpit can quickly build upon itself, causing one mistake to turn into many. On a positive note, I took some artsy black and white photos for your enjoyment.

Climbing out of LVK

Climbing out of Byron to LVK

Next week I need to accomplish a cross-country requirement: 2 hours of daytime flight 100 miles away and 2 hours of nighttime flight 100 miles away. I’ll be heading to Chico or some other place at least 100 miles away to accomplish this. One leg during the evening (day), one leg at night! I’ve missed night flying so much.

Till next week..

Commercial Maneuver: Steep Turns

•September 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Last week was kind of a bust.. 0/2 on the scheduled flights. One due to weather, the other because of a MIA instructor. I was hoping to do some sort of “photo blog,” but that will have to wait until later this week. I am flying twice this week (hopefully), including today, which is forecast to be 107 degrees.. Ouch!

As I progress through my commercial training I want to share, in detail, some of the maneuvers I’ll be doing. Last week we did Steep Turns, one of  my favorite maneuvers. To complete this maneuver successfully one must accomplish these goals:

  1. Establish the maneuvering speed, or Va
  2. Roll into a coordinated 360° steep turn with at least a 50° bank, followed by a 360° turn in the opposite direction
  3. Maintains the entry altitude ± 100 ft, airspeed ± 10 knots, bank ± 5°, and rolls out from the entry heading ± 10°

This maneuver requires  a lot of back pressure to keep the aircraft from losing altitude, using trim helps a ton to keep the nose up. At 60° bank the forces acting upon the aircraft are 2 Gs, so at 50° the forces are slightly less, but it is still quite noticeable.

Why is the maneuver necessary?  It helps the pilot learn how to control the aircraft near its maximum performance limits while successfully dividing attention between outside reference points and the instruments inside the aircraft. If you are having a bit of trouble envisioning what this looks like from the cockpit, here is a video of one done at 60° bank… and yes, it looks way cooler in real life.

Flying the Arrow, Plane Washing, and My Own Box

•September 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

The last week or so had been really slow. Consequently, I was holding off on another blog update until something more interesting happened. As it turns out, many interesting things happened in succession, and I’m only getting around to updating now. There is just so much to say! (Aren’t you excited?)

Event 1: I finally got a call to come into work and fill out the paperwork, go through orientation, and get an overview of the job. I met one of the current dispatchers, really nice guy. We are both in the same boat: college graduates, working dispatch, earning ratings, loving every moment we get to fly. Turns out they want me to wash planes for the next few weeks too until they hire someone on to fill that spot. Whatever, mo’ money for me. I’m still waiting to find out when I start dispatch.

Event 2: I finally started my Commercial rating! One flight in so far, and oh man was it a doozy. I am so mad for forgetting the camera. Why? Because it was my first flight in a Piper Arrow II. This baby is sick, it’s known as a “complex high-performance” aircraft in the aviation world. Complex means the gears retract (!) and high performance means it has at least 200 hp. This baby can fly, cruising at about 160 knots, or 184 mph.

The sound of this thing’s engine tells me it means business. We take off and head towards one of the practice areas (the red circle in the graphic below). The Arrow climbs at a brisk 90 knots and we reach an altitude of 5,500 ft. All the while, I’m cursing myself for forgetting the camera as the over-wing views are amazing. We do some steep turns, which for the commercial rating requires 50 degrees of bank. Next we slowed things down and did “slow flight,” or the minimum speed without stalling. Next, we stalled it, naturally. The airplane handles amazing. Love it. Came back to Livermore and did a touch-and-go. I was a bit nervous how my approach to landing would go being the first time in the airplane. Landing gear down, check for “three greens” to make sure the gear are down and locked, and landed soooo smoothly. This thing is way easier to land than the Cessna. First Commercial flight in the books; took about 4 hours for the adrenaline to wear off. And I’m going to get paid to do this?

Event 3: Today I worked my first day as a plane washer. Job description: Park car at maintenance hangar, pick up employee car, drive to flight line, pick up airplane, taxi airplane to hangar, wash thoroughly (about 2-3 hrs), taxi back to flight line. Today I washed two of the company’s Cessna 152s. Haven’t been in the cockpit of one of those in at least 3 years. Total time: 5 hours. The atmosphere is pretty relaxed, the radio in the hangar plays some good tunes (although, the hangar across the way had better tunes), the mechanics are friendly, and everyone is opening their hangars to show off millions of dollars worth of planes. Below are a few pictures.

Washing one of the Cessna 152s

The MX Hangar

Lots of Money invested in Airplanes

Event 4: This may seem insignificant compared to the other events, but at the end of my workday I got my own “box” in the office where I can store “important” papers. Even has my name on it. Totally official.

Till next week…

Study Break: Explaining the METAR

•September 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Stepping outside today its hard to ignore that fact that fall is right around the corner. Today, it feels like it has already arrived. Feeling burnt out from studying so, I thought I’d share one way us pilots look at the weather. Below is Livermore’s current METAR, a format for reporting weather information, and an explanation of what it means.

KLVK 082053Z 28016G21KT 10SM BKN028 18/09 A2988

KLVK – The reporting station, Livermore Municipal Airport

082053Z – The report was formed on the 8th day of the month, at 2053 Zulu (or Greenwich Mean Time)

28016G21KT – Winds are from a heading of 280 degrees, speed is 16 knots gusting to 21 knots (quite blustery today!)

10SM – Visibility is 10 statute miles

BKN028 – There is a broken cloud layer (broken means clouds cover 5/8 to 7/8 of the sky) at 2,800 feet AGL (Above Ground Level)

18/09 – Temperature is 18 degrees Celsius (64 F) and the dew point is 9 degrees C

A2988 – Atmospheric pressure is 29.88 inches of mercury, this is what we set in the altimeter

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