Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Look How Far We've Come...In 91 Years

by John Patrick Conway, Jr.

It's really funny how, as of late, my internal sense of time seems to nudge me when I'm not paying attention. Last Saturday, May 19th, when I logged onto my computer to check my email, the weather and the news, I also opened YouTube to see what's what. For some strange reason I got the urge to do a search on the instrument panel for the Ryan NYP that Charles Lindbergh flew on his record breaking flight in 1927. For those of you who are unaware, the NYP stood for New York to Paris.

So anyway, why did I do this? Well, somewhere in my subconscious I must have sensed that May 20th was upon me...and you're probably saying to yourself about now: OK. Soooo...? You've got to understand that where most people mark the passage of time throughout the year with anniversaries, birthdays and the like, I've always anchored my position in time with dates of events in history; both personal, and in aviation history in particular. I don't really know why - I just do.

For example - Every year I take a moment and pause so as to reflect upon the significance, as I perceive it, of:

* January 27th - The Apollo 1 fire that took the lives of Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee in 1967

* January 28th - The Space Shuttle Challenger  disaster in 1986

* February 3rd - The day the music died. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (aka, The Big Bopper) are killed in the early morning when their pilot, probably suffering from spatial disorientation, crashes into a farmer's field just north of Clear Lake, Iowa during a snow storm

* March 1st - I solo for the first time and earned my wings in 1987

* April 12th - Yuri's Night. The first human to have orbited the Earth was a Russian Pilot and Cosmonaut named Yuri Gargarin. In the spirit of keeping  with the peaceful exploration of space, people from all over the world celebrate and raise a glass in honor of this brave soul, this on the anniversary of a truly momentous occasion in human history

* April 29th - My college graduation in 1990

* May 20th thru the 21st - Charles "Lucky Lindy" Lindbergh solos non-stop from New York to Paris

* June 4th thru the 6th - The Battle of Midway. One of my fondest memories as a kid was my Dad taking me to see the movie Midway in Sensurround...it was the thing back then. From then on I would always hope to be a Naval Aviator. Even as a kid I was struck by the sacrifices made...on both sides. I remember thinking that all those who perished over those three days probably had someone waiting for them beyond the Pacific's distant horizon, and felt sad they would soon learn their loved ones would never be coming back

*  June 30th - Albert Einstein submits the fourth of his five Anno Mirabilis papers, to the Annalen der Physik outlining his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905

* July 5th - my oldest friends Birthday. Glen and I met in the sand box at P.S. 179's Kindergarten in Fresh Meadows, September 1970. Whenever I think or speak of him, I always remember him as being twice as smart as anyone else I ever knew...and about five times smarter than me

* July 16th -  For four events.

One is that this is the day John F. Kennedy, Jr. was lost at sea along with his wife and sister in law when, flying from Essex County Airport, NJ to Martha's Vineyard, MA he lost control of his aircraft, probably due to spatial disorientation, and crashed into the Atlantic.

The second is that this is the day Robert Oppenheimer's team from Los Alamos, NM first detonated an implosion devise upon Trinity Site

The third is a personal Holiday where I have chosen to celebrate the Slide Rule, and I chose this day because of the fourth...

The fourth is that on this day Neil Armstrong, Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin and Michael Collins are launched atop Apollo 11 for mans' first attempt to land upon the moon in 1969, and four days later...

* July 20th - LEM Eagle successfully sets down upon the Sea of Tranquility

* August 6th - Hiroshima, Japan is consumed by the first use of an atomic weapon

* August 9th - Nagasaki, Japan is, likewise, consumed by the second use of an atomic weapon

* August 24th - I left home for college for the first time in 1986. I was married on this day as well in 1997, but that's not something I celebrate...

* September 2nd - Japan officially surrenders on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945, officially ending WWII

* September 11th - The World Trade Center is destroyed, the Pentagon is attacked and four airliners hijacked by a bunch of fucking cowards too scared to live like real men

* September 27th - Albert Einstein submits the last of his five 1905 Anno Mirabilis papers to the Annalen der Physik detailing his assertion that matter and radiant energy are two manifestations of the same; that they are not absolute of one another and that their constant of proportionality is non other than the propagation rate of light wave form...and it's also the day I was born in 1965

* December 7th - Pearl Harbor is attacked by forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy, precipitating the entrance of the United States into WWII

* December 12th - I earn my first certification as an aviator by attaining my Private Pilots License in 1987

So there you are. But exactly what does this have to do with the title of today's post, you say...? I'm getting there...Jesus, wait a minute. God! You're all worse than some girl friends I've have...

...come on, baby! Yeah, baby! I'm almost there, daddy...uh! Make me feel it! Hey, where you going! I'm not done yet!

Naaaa, I'm just fucking with you ;)

So where was I...? Right, timing. Like I was saying, last Saturday I start to do web searches related to Charles Lindbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis. I wasn't even cognizant of the fact that the very next day would mark the 91st anniversary of his departure from Roosevelt Field. In fact it didn't hit me until the very next day. Most people I speak to today about this just do not get all jazzed up over the fact. Unless you're an old timer who was alive then, or an aviator yourself, and can appreciate the import of such a daring feat, it's hard to appreciate the weight of such an endeavor.

But try and look at it rationally. The man set off without enough proper rest in the fear that his competitors would seize upon clearing weather to beat him across the finish line which held for the winner the Orteig Prize of $25,000.00 and knowing full well that the flight would last, at his initial reckoning, 36 hours. Many had already died in the pursuit of this goal. To the press Lindbergh was, at first, thought to be a fool and that's exactly what they called him: The Flying Fool! But as time drew near they, and others, sensed within him a cool resolve that held his mortality in the balance. It was as if he placed his life upon a shelf not to be touched again by him until he proved himself worthy of it and the future that it promised. The man would make it, or he would die trying.

Some thought the entire affair a stunt, but he was quick to point out that a stunt was characterized by pure luck, and bereft of any element of skill - like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. And while he did acknowledge some existence of chance was involved, the question of having done everything humanly possible left only the most remote of possibilities that could see him fail. In the absence of such unlikely events or circumstances, there was simply no way to come up short.

And so on the miserable and wet morning of May 20, 1927 Charles Lindbergh lifted off at 7:52 AM from Long Island's Roosevelt Field...and then everyone just waited. People would gather around radios and news stands for just a scintilla of how things may be going. He flew along the New England coast, and at Plymouth, MA headed out over open water. Later it was reported that his aircraft was spotted over St. John's, Newfoundland and heading outbound over the North Atlantic. That would be the last sighting for a good while. The Press that had mocked him as the Flying Fool now held him out for all the world to adore as The Lone Eagle.

In the absence of reliable data, rumors and wild speculation would ebb and flow through the hours that followed. It was not until the next day, May 21st, that a sighting initially believed to be another false rumor began to look as though it held a whisper of truth...if you dared! An aircraft fitting the description of Lindbergh's NYP Spirit had been reported over Dingle Bay, Ireland...

After a night of fighting an almost unbelievable urge to sleep, carburetor and airframe icing, instrument meteorological conditions and concerns that he may have balled up on his navigation using only dead reckoning, it appeared that Charles Lindbergh proved himself equal to the challenge that he, and he along, placed upon himself. He proved himself worthy after all...

Later that day he passed over Plymouth, England and navigated the English channel to position himself to make landfall at the mouth of the Seine River which he then used to guide him into Paris. It was dark again by the time he arrived now outside Paris, but the Eiffel Tower standing in the distance left no doubt as to where he was, and where he needed to be - which is to say Le Bourget Field 13 miles to the northeast. 

By the time his wheels kissed mother Earth once again at Le Bourget it was 10:22 PM in Paris, but only 5:22 PM back in New York. During his flight he advanced upon five time zones, averaged 108 miles per hour (thanks in part to the Prevailing Westerlies within the mid-latitudes) and cutting his time enroute to 33 hours, and 30 minutes. Most people couldn't handle an airliner cabin that long to say nothing of a cockpit that you wear as opposed to one you simply fit in. The rest is history...

So think about that! Thirty-three and a half hours. Cooped up in a small cockpit! Just so he could prove to himself and the world that the threshold of commercial aviation was upon us. In just those thirty-three and a half hours in May of 1927 the world got a lot smaller...and it has been getting smaller ever since.

So every year on May 20th and 21st, I hold a somewhat personal vigil. I ask myself things like...OK, right about now where would he be based upon a speed of just about 100 miles an hour, and I'll dig out some aeronautical charts or a Rand McNally and try and fix his position. Yeah, I'm weird like that...or is it cool? I'm going to go with cool...yeah, definitely cool!

Copyright May 22, 2018. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Anticlimax of Paul Ryan's Political Career!

by John Patrick Conway, Jr.

News of 1% Bitch Boy's exit from Congress is welcome...it's just unfortunate that he was able to wreck destruction upon our economy in the form of a ticking time bomb before having done so. The tax giveaways this fucking piece of shit was instrumental in pushing through under the cover of darkness was the last straw for America's financial well-being. Some say he's tired; I say he's leaving Dodge before the full import of his actions come to fruition. No matter; they'd find a way to blame others, anyway. Republicans love to talk about personal responsibility; they just lack the nuts to exercise it.

But not to fret. This is a glorious day to celebrate Ryan's departure! The moment I read that he will not seek re-election brought a scene to mind from a musical version of A Christmas Carrol aptly named Scrooge. I will not sing the whole thing for Pauly-Boy here, but my favorite verse goes like this:

Thank you very much! Thank you very much!
That's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me.
It sounds a bit bizarre, but things the way they are,
I feel as if another life's begun for me.

And if I had a cannon I would fire it - to add a sort of celebration touch.
But since I left me cannon at home, I'll simply have to say:

Thank you very, very, very much!

And since I'm ripping off favorite scenes from movies today, here's one more from Heartbreak Ridge Ala Mario Van Peebles:

Don't go away mad, baby...just go away.

...oh, and yeah! Fuck you very much for your self service...Asshole.

Copyright April 11, 2018. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Typical ERAU Bullshit...

by John Patrick Conway, Jr.

I graduated ERAU in April 1990 with a B.S. in Aeronautical Science, so when I saw this video listed on YouTube I was curious to see how it played. It's interesting to note that not much has changed...with one big exception, that is!

I attended ERAU West in Prescott, AZ . Back then they were flying the Cessna 172-Q saddled with a 180 HP Lycoming O-360. The way I remember it, pattern altitude was 6000 MSL (airport elevation 5042 feet). Before entering on the 45 you were required to be stabilized and trimmed for 90 KIAS, holding altitude with 2300 RPM. Downwind abeam the numbers you pulled carburetor heat, reduced power to 1500 RPM, held the nose to bleed off speed to 80 KIAS, selected 10 degrees flaps and re-trimmed for the 80 knot glide. With the runway threshold 45 degrees behind the wing, we started base. Once established, increased flap deflection to 20 degrees and re-trimmed for a 70 knot glide. Before turning final approach, we visually cleared extended final and, once having convinced ourselves that Tower didn't have someone positioned to ride our ass down to the runway, or worse, started our bank to final. Having rolled out wings level on final approach we selected full flaps and re-trimmed for a 60 knot glide, using power to set rate of decent to match a 3 degree glide slope; the specific amount of power being dictated by the amount of wind currently down the runway (approximately 1700 RPM).

Now, I realize that this video was probably shot in Daytona Beach (ERAU East), so the variations in power settings and airspeeds used is certainly a function of differences in density altitude, as well as being performance specific for this aircraft; I have no idea what model of Cessna 172 this is. But three things do stand out:

First is the obsessive need to state that your heading matches the runway. I get that this is a training environment and all, and it's true that there are those who have inadvertently landed on the wrong runway...and airport, even. But these instances usually occur at night (Harrison Ford, notwithstanding). If ERAU is really that concerned about its students lining up on the wrong runway, then perhaps they should be more selective in who they accept into flight training or, better yet, get out of the flight training business altogether.

Second. Why the 65 KIAS on final approach with full flaps? What are they afraid of? Why not the 60 knots they used to mandate? Is it safety or insurance premiums that are dictating procedures now? The POH for the 172 suggests 60-70 KIAS, flaps up; 55-65 KIAS, flaps down. Carrying that much energy with full flaps seems to be a great way to end up floating down the runway if the student fails to control their speed, and offers more time to start making mistakes in the interim like, oh, I don't know...maybe making contact with the runway nose wheel first...?

Third, and the stupidest thing I've ever seen someone do in a cockpit, is a pilot referring to a check list on final. You've got to be fucking kidding me! Look, everyone knows how much ERAU loves their checklists. So much so that they used to print their own filled with all sorts of crap that, one could argue, began to parody themselves. But if ERAU has gotten to the point of requiring such ill advised and superfluous nonsense such as blind devotion to mindless procedure, then it really is time for some self introspection; either in terms of their mission of flight training or, perhaps, the fools that mandated this folly to begin with.

Don't get me wrong; I always use the manufacturers checklists, but anything in between or after these are what the flow-check is for (fuel, mixture, props, throttle, carb heat, cowls, lights, circuit breakers, master, mags, engine instruments, vacuum). And on final, just keep it simple: GUMPs. Quarter mile final: three green; no red; one in the mirror (the last three things my Piper Seminole instructor wanted to hear). Other than this, it's all glide slope, airspeed/angle of attack, and line up...not focusing attention on a fucking checklist, the last of which should have been completed downwind abeam.

One more thing. What's up with all the call-outs on final...as if there are not enough to deal with already? "Two hundred feet; stabilized; continuing..." Is stating the obvious really necessary for safety? It seems to me the poor student should be allowed to fly the crap'n airplane and keep the attention sapping-verbal regurgitation to a minimum. Besides, a good pilot should be continuously evaluating the state of their approach, and not just at arbitrarily selected moments like, for example, 200 feet AGL. It's the mark of good judgment that dictates recognition of when you've exceeded the point from which an approach can be salvaged, and admitted to by effecting an immediate go-around.

After having watched this video, I lament having gone to ERAU. I actually got my Private Pilots License from a Part 141 Cessna Pilot Center before undergoing Embry-Riddle's program and, back then, most were really good. I should've gotten my degree in Engineering and continued my flight training via the CPC route. It would've been way more cost effective and the flight training just as good, and not so restrictive. It's not that ERAU is a bad school. I loved the courses like Aerodynamics and Gas Turbine Engines, but I had way more fun as a student of a Part 141 CPC.

Oh, well. You live and you learn. Right? Got to go, now.


Tomorrow's another day...

Copyright April 4, 2017. All rights reserved.