Category: Entertainment

Finding the Humor in Flying With the Airlines

Flying with the airlines isn’t generally funny business, but that’s not stopping Kulula from trying to put a smile on your face.

Humor isn’t always the first thing you think of when it comes to flying with the airlines, especially if you’re currently studying for your commercial at Upper Limit Aviation. It takes a lot of hard work and focus, but that doesn’t mean that once you do earn that commercial pilot license, you can’t have a little fun. But if you haven’t heard of Kulula Airlines, a regional airline flying in South Africa, then you might not realize that sometimes humor is the perfect traveling companion. Take, for example, the opening to a recent in-flight announcement from of the flight attendants:

You know, Kulula has the best looking cabin crew in South Africa, but due to rostering problems none of them are on board with us.” 1

Or this gem after landing at the airport for the city of Durban:

Ladies and Gentleman, after that smooth landing, welcome to Durban, where the curry is hot. I’m [telling] you, you’ll enjoy it today, but tomorrow you’ll be doing handstands in the shower. If this is not where you want to be then you have some serious issues and I guess we’ll see you sooner than we thought.

Or maybe this zinger upon arrival in Cape Town:

If you need any assistance disembarking, sorry for you, help yourself…only kidding folks, we’ll ask one of the greasy engineers to come and assist you.

Obviously, the crew at Kulula Airlines have a strong sense of humor. Kulula (drawn from the Nguni languages of Zulu and Xhosa with the meaning It’s easy)2 was founded in July of 2001, and in August, they started serving South Africa as the country’s first ‘no-frills’ carrier. They weren’t interested in simply establishing a brand, but rather making it an affordable, complete travel experience. And over the past 16 years, though they have a modest fleet of 10 Boeing 737s (nine 737-800s, and one 737-400) and serve 6 destinations, their culture has attracted the attention of the world.

The world definitely took notice when these awesome pictures of two of their Boeing 737s with appropriately cheeky paint jobs started making the rounds.

Kulula’s humor isn’t limited to just the announcements, though. They also put a strong dose of humor into their advertising, ribbing rival airlines, spoofing pop culture, and crafting clever billboards like this one:

Kulula Airlines billboard

All in all, it sounds like Kulula isn’t just a fun airline to fly, it’s also a fun place to work. Becoming a commercial pilot with ULA will open doors into airlines everywhere, including those at Kulula. Here are some more gems from Kulula flights:

  • On one flight, when passengers were having a hard time choosing seats (there are no assigned seats), a flight attendant announced: “People, people, we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.
  • After landing, one flight attendant quipped “Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.
  • There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.
  • Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.
  • After the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport, a voice came on the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!
  • After a rough landing and flying through thunderstorms in the Karoo (a semi-arid desert region in South Africa), a flight attendant announced: “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as heck everything has shifted.” (ULA trained pilots only have perfect landings, just ask!)
  • Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.
  • In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite.
  • Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines.
  • Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.
  • As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.
  • After a hard landing, a flight attendant came on, saying: “That was quite a bump and I know what y’all are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault, it was the asphalt.
  • After a windy, bumpy ride into Cape Town, including a particularly hard landing, the flight attendant said “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!
  • Another less than perfect landing earned this jab: “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.
  • After another very hard landing, the pilot stood at the door as passengers exited, thanking them for flying the airline and smiling at them, as company policy required. However, he had a hard time looking them in the eye, fearful that after the hard landing, he’d earned a smart comment or two. Finally, everyone but an old lady walking with a cane had exited the plane. She stopped and asked the pilot, “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no Ma’am,” he replied. “What is it?” To which the little old lady said, “Did we land, or were we shot down?
  • Please pay attention to the safety announcement, because you will be writing a test shortly.
  • You could be fined up to R7999 for smoking on the plane, and for these prices, you could be flying SAA.
  • We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of Kulula Airways.

If you’re interested in punching holes in the sky and having this much fun flying commercial, complete your flight training with Upper Limit Aviation. Our commercial pilots are exquisitely trained and ready to fly left-seat for any airline out there.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at 801-596-7722, or click here to start a live chat with us.

References and Sources:

1 – Kulula Humour, South Africa TO, Retrieved 7-12-17

2 – kulula.com, Wikipedia, Retrieved 7-12-17

I Was a New Private Pilot, Flying Small Aircraft In Busy Airspace

The Night I Flew a “Heavy” … Make that a “Cessna Heavy”

Shawn Arena

This article is similar in nature to the previous flight experiences that I have documented for you. As a newly minted private pilot, this experience taught me how to successfully navigate the fast-paced ground and air portions of flying small aircraft into one of the busiest airports in the country, with a little help from my friend/flight instructor/passenger.

My First Night Journey Flying Small Aircraft Into Congested Airspace

It was around 1988-89, and my private pilot certificate was barely bent in my wallet (only 2-3 years old) when I participated in one of the most interesting and challenging flight experiences to date. You might have remembered from another writing that my initial flight experiences were out of a flight school based at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Southern California.

I accepted an offer to participate in flying a Cessna 172 in a flight of three aircraft to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to tour a Lockheed L-1011 aircraft flown by Delta Airlines (the head aircraft mechanic for Delta at the time also flew privately with the flight school). I was to fly the second of three legs on our sojourn from SNA to LAX to ONT and then back to SNA. It was really fascinating to be in the ‘jump seat’ (i.e. backseat pilot-passenger) on that leg from SNA to LAX.

It was a summer night and most pilots will tell you that flying small aircraft at night is one of most serene experiences you can imagine, and between the twinkling lights of the cities below and the multicolored lights at an airport, it is pretty cool and also it is easier to spot other traffic.

It became very ‘real’ upon our approach into LAX. All seemed fine until the tower controller informed the pilot to ‘expedite approach, traffic is a Boeing 727 on 3-mile final.’ To say we landed and taxied off of runway 25L ‘hot’ (i.e. a lot quicker than a usual approach) was an understatement, but to all passengers, things went fine as we rolled to our stop under the left wing of the L-1011 parked at the gate for the night … yeah, you heard that right, under the wing!

Boy, It Is Tough Getting a Word In Around Here

The tour was awesome. For those not familiar with the L-1011, it was Lockheed Aircraft Company’s answer to McDonnell Douglas’s very successful DC-10. The L-1011 was state of the art at the time and one of the second generation commercial aircraft in automation and technology; featuring one of the first automated flight directors, area navigation (RNAV), configuration warning, and auto-land systems … a pretty cool airplane for its time!

OK, it was now my time to fly. Some of you ‘veteran’ pilots may remember that before headsets became the norm, when flying small aircraft, communications with air traffic control was via a handheld microphone attached to a cord right under the instrument panel. So it was with this Cessna 172 as well. I prepared for my standard communication chain with ground control and then tower control, when it became really apparent that this was to be no ‘typical’ departure process. When I would look out the left window and see that the BOTTOM of passing aircraft were HIGHER than the top of my aircraft, I knew it was to be interesting. Talk about living in the land of the giants!

After mentioning to the flight instructor / passenger in the right seat, “Boy, what does one have to do here to get any controller’s attention?” he did something that to me, at the time, was crazy (but it worked). He grabbed the microphone and stated: “Los Angeles Ground, this is Cessna 123 November Papa HEAVY request taxi.” A quick primer to those not familiar with ATC parlance in aircraft classification, the ATC system classifies commercial aircraft as ‘Large’ or ‘Heavy.’ According to FAA’s Air Traffic Control Policy, Order JO 7110.65V, a Large aircraft is determined by maximum certificate takeoff weight (MTOW) of 31,000 pounds but no more than 300,000 pounds. To be considered a Heavy, the MTOW is greater than 300,000 pounds.

After his bold statement, the ground control frequency went dead. The ground controller snapped back: “Last call say again!” to which my ‘passenger’ replied: “You heard me, we want to get out of here!” To say the least, our taxi and subsequent takeoff went off as clockwork. Imagine that!

Why Are You Doing “S” Turns on the Runway?

After our ‘adventures in departure’ from LAX, my flight into ONT was anticlimactic. I was able to identify ONT from about 20 miles out (I mean, it’s almost impossible to NOT notice two 12,000 ft. lit runways). As I lined up with runway 26L, there seemed to be lights EVERYWHERE, as if giving us several lanes to choose from on the runway. As I decelerated, but before we cleared the active, I began some ‘S’ turns to avoid (what I thought) were light posts on the runway. My ‘passenger’ flight instructor shouted out “Why are you doing “S” turns on the runway?” My answer was “I’m trying to avoid those lights sticking up.” to which he replied, “Ah, son, those are flush-mounted runway lights to assist aircraft in landing at night.” In my mind I thought, “they’re assisting me alright, almost to the point of distraction!

Final Thoughts

Many of you by now are chuckling or flat out bursting out in laughter, but to me, this experience of night flying small aircraft into busy airspace was a great learning experience, one that still resonates some 28 years later. In aviation, it’s all about learning. A good pilot is always learning. Safe journeys!

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

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When Did You Know You Wanted To Be a Pilot?

My personal aviation lineage and the first time I knew I wanted to be a pilot trace back to my grandfather.

Shawn Arena

Those of us who have been fortunate to have received the gift of flight or just the enjoyment of aviation can usually trace back to where that flame to be a pilot was first kindled. Perhaps it was a friend who owned an aircraft and gave you your first flight. Or it may have been a family member who long ago instilled that love and passion for airborne experiences. That is how it was born in me – through my maternal grandfather.

The Start of His Influence

My grandfather was born in Rochester, New York in 1907, a mere four years after the Wright Brothers’ flight in 1903. He and my grandmother moved to California by the mid-1950s where they lived the rest of their lives. I was only 8 – 10 years old at the time and remember vividly him taking me to either the local airport to watch planes take off and land or to a hole-in-the-wall photo gallery where he would purchase pictures of anything aviation. Being just a kid at the time, I did not understand the significance of those weekly trips – to me it was just ‘time with grandpa.’ My bedroom would be adorned with pictures of the Spirit of St. Louis, or from early aircraft designed by aviation royalty such as Douglas, Curtiss, Langley or the Wrights.

Aircraft builder posing with a vintage WACO aircraft

My grandfather, circa 1927-28, with a WACO aircraft he’d just helped build.

As years went on and life unfolded before me, I was unknowingly aware that the kindling aviation fire was simmering within. By the time I was a junior in high school, that kindling of a desire to be a pilot had grown to a full-blown blaze (which it remains to this day). I enrolled in the school’s fledgling 2-year old USAF Junior ROTC program, whose curriculum included not only the mandatory Drill and Ceremony protocols but frequent aviation-related field trips. One of those trips was to one of the two local active duty U.S. Air Force Bases in southern California – March AFB (now March ARB), where I stood in awe as the Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-52 Stratofortress fleet based there would lumber down the runway in a very deceiving manner that looked as if it was not moving enough to even take off!

His Physical Decline

By early September 1975, his physical state was in serious decline. After surviving six heart attacks, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body which left him not only unable to speak but only able to walk with the aid of a walker. I had been accepted into the University of Southern California as a biology major and he and my grandmother followed my parents and I as we drove the Los Angeles freeway system to my new life as a college freshman living in the dorms. That was the last time I saw him alive, for two weeks later he passed away- at the young age of 68. Little did I realize at the time, but from that day forward he would become greater than life to me as aviation slowly but surely took a hold of my career.

Carrying On And Working To Be a Pilot

Four the next four and half years, my total focus was concentrating on ‘surviving’ the college experience. By the end of 1979, I had not only changed my major but was able to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology. By November 1980, I was able to land my first ‘real’ job as a Civil Engineering Aide with the County of Orange, CA. This turned out to be my personal gateway that would lead me back to aviation, because the County owned and operated John Wayne / Orange County Airport (SNA), and provided me with an avenue to someday working there. In January 1984 I began flying lessons at SNA. By February 11th of that year, I was ready to solo. I took the time to commemorate the occasion by penning a tribute to my grandfather entitled “You Gave Me My Wings.” I earned my private pilot certificate on April 11, 1984. I was living in a small condominium nearby and took stock that night to offer a toast to grandpa – “We are on our way” I stated to myself that night.

Man posing with an aircraft

My grandfather in the mid-1960s, at a Southern California airport.

On June 17, 1987, I was selected as a Noise Abatement Specialist at John Wayne Airport and performed those duties until May 1994, when I received a promotion as a Noise Officer at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) in Arizona. For the next 27 years, I became an airport administrator at four commercial service airports and airport manager at four general aviation airports (while also teaching aviation education to undergraduate and graduate students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide Campus, where I earned two Masters Degrees). All through those years, however, I did not forget where that passion for flight came from. At every airport, I would make it my duty (of which my superiors were glad to see) to conduct self-inspection tours – not only to satisfy associated FAR Part 139 Certification and Safety requirements – but to spend time with my grandfather as we drove the perimeter road to make sure all was well, and to reflect on him. When I saw a vintage airplane I would stop the vehicle and gaze at it…” Imagine” I would tell myself, grandpa saw or heard about these planes when they were in their prime.

The Tradition Continues

January 22, 2016. My youngest son Andrew graduates Western Maricopa Education Center (WestMec) at Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU) with his Airframe & Powerplant Certificate. Now I know many of you may be thinking “Oh, that’s nice he took his father’s advice and followed in his footsteps.” Well, not exactly. He decided on his own that he was going to ‘give it a try’ because in his mind he was out of options of what he wanted to do in his life…yes, dad was proud of his achievement. He now works at one of the busiest flight schools in the U.S. at the second busiest general aviation airport in the country (and one I used to manage), Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (DVT). Another generation of aviation in the Arena family… one that started long ago and who’s tradition continues. Thanks Grandpa!

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The Most Effective Diet For Pilots

Amber Berlin

Every year at Thanksgiving we gather around the table and consume massive amounts of turkey. Then we spend the afternoon napping on the couch in a turkey coma. We know from experience that turkey is a food that promotes a state of sleepiness, and we also know that you wouldn’t want to eat that same turkey dinner and embark on a flight requiring you to be awake and alert. But why does the turkey dinner cause us to get sleepy? And what other foods can contribute to being too sleepy when you need to fly, or too awake when you need to sleep? In an effort to provide a complete understanding of why these foods work like they do, let’s get started on the main course: an easily digestible neuroscience lesson.

Understanding The Best Diet For Pilots

The body must gain certain nutrients from the diet, and these nutrients keep the body and mind performing at maximum efficiency. There are 9 essential amino acids that we must obtain from our diet in order to stay healthy (Young, 1994). All of the other amino acids required by the body can be produced from these 9 essential amino acids. Any lack of nutrients will have a direct impact on how the body and mind function, creating an environment which is detrimental to its recovery. Of the chemicals consumed by our body in the foods we eat, the following four chemicals play a significant role in achieving a state of sleep or wakefulness:

Tyrosine – a non-essential amino acid produced inside the body from Phenylalanine. Tyrosine contributes to an increased state of alertness and wakefulness in the brain.

Tryptophan – an essential amino acid found in most protein. Tryptophan has the ability to increase brain levels of serotonin, which produces a relaxed, calm state.

Serotonin – Biochemically derived from Tryptophan, Serotonin is primarily found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, platelets, and in the central nervous system (CNS) of humans and animals. It is a well-known contributor to feelings of well-being.

Dopamine – a catecholamine neurotransmitter present in a wide variety of animals…in the brain, this phenethylamine functions as a neurotransmitter, activating the five types of Dopamine receptors—D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5—and their variants. Dopamine has many functions in the brain, including important roles in behavior and cognition, voluntary movement, motivation, punishment and reward, inhibition of prolactin production (involved in lactation and sexual gratification), sleep, mood, attention, working memory, and learning.

Because of the chemical composition of foods and the way the body metabolizes these foods, eating a certain diet can either create a state in the body which promotes wakefulness or sleep. If you have a busy duty day ahead of you, it makes sense to indulge in the foods that support a state of wakefulness. However, if it’s the end of your duty day and you need to relax, it makes sense to consume those foods which promote sleep.

Foods That Increase a State of Wakefulness

High protein/low carbohydrate meals increase Tyrosine in the brain. Foods high in the essential amino acid Phenylalanine include:

  • Soy Foods, Soy-based Protein Powder
  • Parmesan and Swiss Cheese
  • Peanuts, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds
  • Lean Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey
  • Tuna, Lobster, Salmon, Mackerel, Crab, Halibut, Cod
  • White Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas
  • Wild Rice, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Oats, Oat Bran, Wheat Bran
  • Gelatin
  • Milk

Dopamine is also derived from the essential amino acid Phenylalanine and contributes to wakefulness. Dopamine is easily oxidized and foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, may help protect dopamine-using neurons from free radical damage. Sugar, saturated fats, cholesterol, and refined foods contribute to low levels of dopamine.

Foods That Increase a State of Sleepiness

The essential amino acid Tryptophan promotes increased sleepiness and is the building block for Serotonin, which produces a calm, relaxed state. Foods high in Tryptophan include:

  • Turkey, Rabbit, Lean Pork, Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Fish
  • Baked potatoes with their skin
  • Cheddar, Mozzarella, Romano, Cottage Cheese
  • Shrimp, Scallops, Clams
  • Pinto Beans, Kidney Beans, Lentils
  • Milk

Tryptophan intake has been shown to increase blood melatonin levels fourfold (Sinha, 2015). Melatonin production normally occurs in response to the darkness of the evening hours and assist the body to gear down for sleep. Final meals of the day should include protein, carbohydrates, and calcium, which assist in the production of Serotonin.

Wait a minute! If some of these foods are on both lists, then how can I eat to promote wakefulness or sleep? Let’s go back to the Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey contains both Phenylalanine and Tryptophan, which is very good for your body. However, in order for the Tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, it needs carbohydrates. Eating a high protein, low carbohydrate meal provides the essential amino acids your body needs to function and also limits its ability to use those amino acids which promote sleep. The turkey by itself will not make you sleepy, but when you add all the carbohydrates found in the rest of the dinner, the Tryptophan has a ticket into the brain where it can produce what we know as the turkey coma (Richard, Dawes, Mathias, Acheson, Hill-Kapturczak and Dougherty, 2009; Zamosky, 2009). Armed with this information, we can now see a diet for pilots that promotes wakefulness and sleep:

Pre-flight – Breakfast meals should contain proteins and minimal carbohydrates

In-flight – Lunch meals should contain proteins, fruits and vegetables and minimal carbohydrates

Post-flight – Dinner meals should contain proteins, carbohydrates, and calcium

And as always, limit your intake of sugar, saturated fats, cholesterol, and refined foods

As you can see here, your eating habits can either support or undermine your pilot work schedule requirements, making you sleepy or awake at the wrong times. However, when you line up your daily dose of food chemicals to support your duty day, everything works in unison to achieve the ultimate goal of keeping you at peak performance. If the moment requires you to be alert, you can set yourself up for success by minimizing carbohydrate intake. If the stage is set for sleep, you can finally indulge in those carbs and drift off to dreamland. Many times we grab a high-carb snack to keep us going when we should grab some beef jerky instead. Changing these small habits can make a big difference in how you feel as you will no longer be struggling against your body, but working together toward a sustainable and successful aviation career.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

References:

Richard, D. M., Dawes, M. A., Mathias, C. W., Acheson, A. Hill-Kapturczak, N., Dougherty, D. M. (2009). L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research, and Therapeutic Indications. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009; 2: 45–60.

Sinha, A. (2015). Remedies and cures for the common diseases. Page Publishing, Inc.

Young, V. R. (1994). Adult amino acid requirements: the case for a major revision in current recommendations. J. Nutr 124 (8 Suppl): 1517S-1523S.

Zamosky, L. (2009). The truth about tryptophan.

Do Drones Pose a Threat to Pilots and Aircraft?

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

The allowance of widespread drone ownership and operation in the United States through the clearance of approximately 60 organizations by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has raised the level of concern for military, commercial, and private pilots alike. As concerns escalated, there were plans to construct six test ranges for these unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by the summer of 2013, after the FAA established a rule-making process in March for the development of these test sites that were required by the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act.

Manufacturers of these “unmanned aircraft systems” prefer that what is essentially a flying robot is not referred to as a “drone,” since one of the major selling points of a UAS is it does not require a pilot onboard. Therefore, its flying capabilities do not reply upon whether the pilot is fatigued; if the unit is low on fuel; or if the weather is inclement. A UAS will simply sit on the ground until it is instructed to return to home base or to proceed with its mission. In addition, flying a UAS does not command a pilot’s training and salary which are a significant investment, and the cost for maintenance and operation is significantly less. Although UAS manufacturers have suggested that a major consumer for the purchase of these flying robots will be the agricultural industry, a strong interest has also been expressed by architects and real estate professionals. In 2013, the estimated number of unmanned aircraft systems in operation was purported to be in the hundreds, but by 2025, the estimated number of UASs is expected to be in the tens of thousands which suggests that those “friendly skies” may become infinitely more crowded and less friendly.

The utilization of these “birds in the air” by law enforcement and fire departments appear to be a logical progression in the community contributions that the UASs are able to make. However, privacy issues escalate as quickly as the sales figures continue to climb. For example, if an unmanned aircraft system is used to locate a “hot spot” within a fire, and later law enforcement determines that it was intentionally set, what is the precedent for incorporating that UAS’s stored data for the prosecution of that arson case in court? In addition to a lack of regulation addressing privacy issues, the Air Line Pilots Association wants them to remain grounded until policy makers methodically generate rules for maintaining the safety of nearly a quarter million aircraft flying within the United States. The FAA is proposing some type of pilot certification as well as proposing high-tech safety systems that allow UASs to practice collision avoidance. The radio link with the UAS control station must also remain secure from hackers and/or terrorists to avoid having these perpetrators to assume control of a highly versatile and programmable [potential] weapon.

Commercial airliner taking off

Photo by Bill Abbot

In 2015, the FAA released the 195-page document detailing the rules for operating Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and Drones, but the irony of the situation seems to be that the author of this NPRM received a drone for his birthday. In addition, the FAA was releasing in excess of 100 exemptions weekly that addressed the UAS hobby and/or recreational use. However, there is a wide range of individual differences among the owners/operators of these UASs in their willingness to abide by the regulations set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration. Commercial pilots and GA (general aviation) have been quick to recognize the safety threat that the UASs pose as the reports of near misses at less than 500’ continued to mount. Threats such as the possibility of a fully loaded passenger jet on a full power takeoff sucking a UAS into an engine over a densely populated area. There is an even bigger threat to national security when considering the terrorist capabilities of pre-programing multiple UASs and flying them into several national airports simultaneously where there are few or no options for eliminating such a security threat. Boeing has proposed a laser solution for larger military UASs but that is not feasible for urban or rural airport environments, and/or for such a small and [seemingly] invisible target. Another issue is that radar is unable to see a one-pixel echo, and lasers decay ballistically, i.e. dropping toward the ground so that there are likely to be more unintended consequences involving an office building, residential complex, or a commercial aircraft situation behind the intended target.

Many airports have little or no security capability to deal with unmanned aircraft systems, so the best they can hope to accomplish is to clean up the pieces after-the-fact. At the present time, there appears to be an FAA airspace regulatory issue combined with the DHS and FBI which then makes any TSA involvement redundant at best. Pending legislation could require the installation of UAS’s guidance systems that have “geo-fencing” options which would prevent them from entering airspace that surrounds the airports, although it would still allow them to fly everywhere else. However, even “geo-fencing” programming is not foolproof as evidenced by a firmware upgrade that allowed a UAS to launch within a Class B airspace but when airborne, it realized that is was not supposed to be there, stopped the engines, and dropped into [fortunately this time] a non-fatal situation. In a case of rogue unmanned aircraft systems, technology is under development that would assume command and control even a UAS that is flying preprogrammed and autonomously, which would allow law enforcement to disable the aircraft, and then trace it to its origin without crashing it.

The University of California has expanded upon the UAS technology by developing a Teflon “cloaking” material which creates a UAS stealth device which has no electronic or infrared signature thereby allowing it to avoid radar detection. Further reflection upon this capability is likely to raise immediate concerns for the positive and negative impact on commercial aviation, general aviation, and of course, military aviation, which may be mitigated by the implementation of responsible regulations and screening protocols. However, it is wise to remember that not all participants flying unmanned aircraft systems may play by the same rules of engagement, which suggests that increasing and updating the marketing and use controls prior to the purchase of a UAS is certainly more advantageous than dealing with the aftermath when a UAS is flown into the path of a fully loaded commercial aircraft or flown into an equally devastating situation.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Exploring Avgas Alternatives For General Aviation

Amber Berlin

For Part 1 of this discussion, click here.

The health hazards, loss of IQ points, and associated costs of lead (Pb) fuel emissions leaves only one option for the General Aviation (GA) fleet: stop using leaded fuel. In order to accomplish this task, GA has several options to consider, including Avgas alternatives such as renewable biofuel, fleet-wide modification or to continue searching for a “drop-in” replacement that will meet or exceed the current engine specifications. Considering the severe cost of fleet-wide modification, it has become a last-resort option as all other avenues are explored.

Biofuel Avgas Alternatives

Because petroleum is a finite natural resource, a long-term solution is to replace Avgas and other petroleum-based fuel with renewable energy. One type of renewable energy is biomass, which is converted into bio-oil and then biofuel. Biomass has been considered from many different crops and each are classified by generation. First generation biofuel was made from sugarcane, sugar, beet, maize and rapeseed, but the use of these crops proved to be unsustainable because biofuel production drew on resources needed for food, and subsequently raised food prices. Second generation biofuel was made from wood, organic waste and food crop waste, which did not impact food production, but these crops had the limitation of year-round availability and high conversion costs. Third generation biofuel shows promise by using microalgae as biomass, which does not share resources with our food supply and can be produced year-round.

Microalgae produce more oil than oilseed crops and can be processed in various ways to produce several different types of fuel. With thermo-chemical production, microalgae can produce oil and gas, while biochemical production results in ethanol, biodiesel, and biohydrogen (Demirbas, 2010). According to Brennan and Owende (2009) bio-oil is created through the thermo-chemical process of pyrolysis, which supports large-scale production of biofuel and has the potential to eventually replace petroleum. Biomass already supplies approximately 13% of the world primary energy supply, and as production methods become more efficient bioenergy is expected to replace a greater amount of petroleum each year, providing 25-33% of global energy by 2050 (Hossain and Davies, 2013).

According to Demirbas (2010) there is potential for large-scale production of microalgae through the use of raceway ponds and tubular photobioreactors, however, microalgae production has not matched theoretical claims of oil yields. Limitations on the ability to supply nutrients and CO2 may inhibit large-scale production, and may become more restrictive as production capacity nears 10 billion gallons per year (Pate, Klise and Wu, 2011). Improvements are needed in the growing and harvesting of microalgae to reduce costs and enhance the production of algal biomass. With such a large infrastructure and dependence on petroleum, it is unknown if these improvements will allow microalgae production to compete and replace petroleum-based fuel completely.

While bioethanol is not a prime candidate for use in the aviation industry, and biodiesel can be used in limited quantities with kerosene as a fuel extender, the efficiency of hydrogen biofuel is worth a second look. Hydrogen can be produced by algae under specific conditions, such as direct and indirect photolysis, and ATP-driven hydrogen-production (Demirbas, 2010). Liquid hydrogen (LH2) powered aircraft boast a much lower fuel weight, which decreases operating costs and improves efficiency. The trade-off is higher pricing for LH2 and the increased frequency of contrail formation, with these aircraft expected to enter into commercial service around 2040 (Yilmaz, Ilbas, Tastan and Tahran, 2012).

Because of the prohibitive cost of modifying the entire fleet of piston-engine aircraft, the general aviation sector has been searching for a “drop-in” solution. A true “drop-in” solution would allow the aircraft to operate on the avgas alternative without any modifications. To support the reduction in Pb emissions, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has set a goal of 2018 for the procurement of an avgas alternative that is usable in most piston-engine aircraft (FAA, 2013).

Currently, the FAA has entered Phase 2 of the Piston Aviation Fuel Initiative (PAFI), a program designed to evaluate potential avgas alternatives for suitability as a drop-in replacement for 100LL. Phase 1 included assessments in emissions and toxicology, production and distribution, and performance in worst-case conditions. The FAA has selected two fuel prospects, Swift Fuels and Shell, to continue Phase 2 testing at the engine and aircraft level with the purpose of being adopted across as much of the existing fleet as possible. According to the FAA,”…the PAFI process is not intended to be a barrier to entry for proposed fuels but rather is designed to enable the most promising fuels to undergo the necessary independent peer review and data collection necessary to gain broad based industry, regulatory, and consumer acceptance leading to production and sale across the entire aviation marketplace.” (FAA, n.d.).

While the well-known industry giant Shell submitted a promising fuel formulation, Swift Fuels, established in 2005, also advanced with their UL102, an “all-hydrocarbon” unleaded 102 Motor octane aviation gasoline that meets ASTM D7719. With Phase 2 testing of the PAFI set to continue for the next couple of years, GA’s era of leaded fuel is finally coming to an end. The environmentally-friendly, high-performance unleaded avgas alternatives of the future will prove a wise choice for generations to come. Generations who will be, quite literally, smarter than the last.

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References:

Brennan, L. & Owende, P. (2009). Biofuels from microalgae- A review of technologies for production, processing, and extractions of biofuels and co-products. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 14, 557-577.

Demirbas, A. (2010). Use of algae as biofuel sources. Energy Conversion and Management, 51, 2738-2749.

Federal Aviation Administration. (n.d.). White Paper. Piston Aviation Fuel Initiative.

Federal Aviation Administration. (2013). FAA Issues Request for Unleaded Replacements for General Aviation Gasoline (Avgas).

Hossain, A. K. & Davies, P. A. (2013). Pyrolysis liquids and gasses as alternative fuels in internal combustion engines- A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 21, 165-189.

Pate, R., Klise, G., & Wu, B. (2011). Resource demand implications for US algae biofuels production scale-up. Applied Energy, 88, 3377-3388.

Yilmaz, I., Ilbas, M., Tastan, M., Tarhan, C. (2012). Investigation of hydrogen usage in aviation industry. Energy Conversion and Management, 63, 63-69.

Why General Aviation Needs To Stop Using Leaded Avgas

Amber Berlin

The Clean Air Act, last amended in 1990, established a higher standard of environmental responsibility in the United States. In order to meet this standard, several initiatives were undertaken to reduce air emissions deemed harmful to human health. One such initiative was a close examination of the hazards presented by lead (Pb) fuel emissions. Pb fuel emissions are a by-product of the combustion of leaded gasoline in piston-engines, which are released into the air through the exhaust system. When airborne Pb is inhaled, it enters the bloodstream and raises the blood lead level (BLL) in the body. Because blood carries Pb through the entire body, it can result in widespread biological damage to cells and interruption of the cellular processes essential for cell survival.

Pb exposure is particularly dangerous to the brain because Pb has the ability to substitute for calcium ions and pass through the blood-brain-barrier (Sanders, Liu, Buchner & Tchounwou, 2009). Once in the brain, the toxic effects of Pb destroy healthy brain tissue and cause permanent damage in the central nervous system. According to Wu, Edwards, He, Zhen and Kleinman, (2010) substitution of Pb for calcium ions also affects the process of bone formation and remodeling, with Pb deposited in the bones in lieu of calcium and later released from bone tissue to recirculate in the body.

While it is known that large amounts of lead can be toxic, new research has shown that low-level lead exposure will also inhibit the brain’s ability to function. In a study on children, Miranda et al. (2007) show blood lead levels as low as 2 µg/dL (micrograms of lead in 100 ml of blood) have a significant impact on academic performance. This reduction in cognitive ability is identified as by The World Health Organization (2004) as “mild mental retardation resulting from loss of IQ points,” which has many negative effects on individuals and society as a whole (p.1495).

A loss of 2 IQ points has many social implications, such as moving an individual with a 71 IQ to below 70, an area considered mild mental retardation. While a drop in intelligence may affect the individual’s ability to perform academically, it also affects the way he or she is able to respond to the world. Individuals with limited intelligence tend to make less educated decisions than intelligent individuals, which may lead to fewer employment opportunities and various mistakes, even resulting in death. Furthermore, a self-awareness of having a below 70 IQ may create additional social problems because of a lack of confidence or self-esteem.

The monetary impact from a loss of 2 IQ points is substantial, with studies estimating the lifetime loss of income from the loss of IQ points ranges from $8,300 to $50,000/IQ point (Dockens, 2002; Pizzol, Thomsen, Frohn & Andersen, 2010). These losses extend beyond individual income and affect each member of society through our taxpayer dollars. An IQ below 70 qualifies children for special education classes and is also a qualifier for Social Security Disability benefits for intellectual disability (formerly known as mental retardation), which together cost nearly $8 billion a year.

While issues such as intellectual disability are apparent, the amount of toxic dust produced by Pb emissions often goes unnoticed. Pb dust is an invisible danger, settling on the surface of objects, vegetation, and into the top layers of soil. This dust is not easily removed from the environment, and according to Wu et al. (2010) Pb “does not appreciably dissolve, biodegrade, or decay and is not rapidly absorbed by plants” (p.309). The Pb in soil is a continuous hazard to small children because they absorb Pb more easily than adults and are more likely to ingest dirt. According to the World Health Organization (2010), an economic analysis revealed the cost of childhood lead poisoning to be $43 billion annually.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the regulatory body charged with monitoring the national ambient air quality for Pb. After the identification of Pb fuel emissions as a health hazard, the EPA sought to reduce the amount of Pb in gasoline with the Clean Fuel Program in 1973. Highway use of leaded gasoline was finally prohibited in 1995.

In 2008, the EPA issued a final rule, lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) from 1.5 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) to 0.15 µg/m3. The EPA acknowledged the acceptable risk of a loss of 2 IQ points, and used this as the measure to set the NAAQS for Pb (Chari, Burke, White & Fox, 2012). By 2012, the EPA had still not met the new standard and reported approximately 8.1 million people living in counties where Pb exceeds the NAAQS. The EPA also reported General Aviation (GA) is the leading contributor to Pb emissions through fossil fuel combustion in piston-engine aircraft, contributing an estimated 653 tons of airborne Pb annually (EPA, 2010).

Historically, General Aviation and GA aircraft have been exempt from a ban on leaded fuel because of its social and economic contribution. In 2005, General Aviation contributed $150.3 billion and over 1.2 million jobs to the U.S. economy (GAMA, 2006). Of the 3,300 airports open to the public and included in the FAA’s National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS), there are 2,952 landing facilities which depend on general aviation for community services such as aerial fire fighting support, aeromedical flights, agricultural support, aerial surveying, air cargo, disaster relief, remote population/island access, and U.S. Customs and border protection. GA links communities that would otherwise have no air support, providing vital services necessary for successful community development.

In 2010, piston-engine aircraft made up approximately 70% of the GA fleet, flying over 14.7 million hours. The majority of piston-engine aircraft use 100LL (Avgas), which may contain as much as 2.12 grams of Pb based fuel additive tetraethyllead (TEL) per gallon (EPA, 2008). The TEL additive boosts the octane rating and prevents early detonation of the fuel which may cause engine failure, but it is also the ignition of TEL that produces the Pb emission hazard.

While the entire population is affected by airborne Pb emissions, none is more affected than the population near airports. It is airports where Avgas is sold and used, where GA aircraft taxi and depart, and where the majority of Pb emissions are concentrated. A study on the impact of Avgas confirmed those living closest to the airport incur the greatest risks, including an estimated 16 million people living within 1km of an airport using Avgas, and 3 million children attend school within the same area (Miranda, Anthopolos & Hastings, 2011). The EPA also recognized their existing lead monitoring network is not sufficient to determine if all areas meet the new Pb NAAQS of 0.15 µg/m3.

The external costs of Pb emissions have been calculated at 41-83€/kg of emitted Pb (Pizzol et al., 2010), and for piston-engine aircraft, these external costs run approximately $37.5-$75.8 million per year.The health hazards and associated costs of Pb fuel emissions leave only one option for the GA fleet: stop using leaded fuel. In order to accomplish this task, GA has several options to consider, including renewable biofuel, fleet-wide modification, or to continue the search for a “drop-in” replacement that will meet or exceed the current engine specifications. Join us for the upcoming second part of this discussion as we discuss the future of GA fuel, including alternatives, and the FAA’s plan to phase out leaded avgas in Exploring Avgas Alternatives For General Aviation.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

References:

Chari, R., Burke, T. A., White, R. H. & Fox, M. A. (2012). Integrating Susceptibility into Environmental Policy: An Analysis of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Lead. Int J Environ Res Public Health., 9(4), 1077–1096. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9041077

Dockins C. (2002). Valuation of childhood risk reduction: the importance of age, risk preferences and perspective. In: Jenkins R, Owens N, Simon N, Wiggins L, editors. Risk Anal: Int J, 22(2), 335–46.

Environmental Protection Agency. (2008). EPA-420-R-08-020.

Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). Development and Evaluation of an Air Quality Modeling Approach from Piston Engine Aircraft Operating on Leaded Aviation Gasoline. EPA-420-R-10-007. http://www.epa.gov/nonroad/aviation/420r10007.pdf

General Aviation Manufactures Association. (2006). GA Contribution. Retrieved from https://www.gama.aero/files/ga_contribution_to_us_economy_pdf_498cd04885.pdf

Miranda, M. L., Kim, D., Galeano, M. A., Paul, C. J., Hull, A. P. & Morgan, S. P. (2007). The relationship between early childhood blood lead levels and performance on end-of-grade tests. Environ Health Perspect, 115(8), 1242-7.

Miranda, M. L., Anthopolos, R., & Hastings, D. (2011). A Geospatial Analysis of the Effects of Aviation Gasoline on Childhood Blood Lead Levels. Environ Health Perspect, 119(10), 1513–1516. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1003231.

Pizzol, M., Thomsen, M., Frohn, L. M. & Andersen, M. S. (2010). External costs of atmospheric Pb emissions: Valuation of neurotoxic impacts due to inhalation. Environmental Health, 9(9). doi: 10.1186/1476-069x-9-9.

Sanders, T., Liu, Y., Buchner, V., & Tchounwou, P. B. (2009). Neurotoxic Effects and Biomarkers of Lead Exposure: A Review. Review of Environmental Health, 24(1), 15-45.

World Health Organization. (2004). Comparative Quantification of Health Risks. Global and Regional Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risk Factors. Chapter 19, p. 1495. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/publications/cra/chapters/volume2/1495-1542.pdf

World Health Organization. (2010). Childhood Lead Poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/leadguidance.pdf

Wu, J., Edwards, R., He, X. (E.), Zhen, L., & Kleinman, M. (2010). Spatial analysis of bioavailable soil lead concentrations in Los Angeles, California. Environmental Research, 110, 309–317.

Featured Image: Erik Brouwer

Flight To the Past: The George Patton Memorial Museum

Shawn Arena

March 1942. Three months following the Pearl Harbor attack which thrust the United States into World War II, (and one month before the daring Doolittle Raid on Tokyo), the War Department ordered the commander of the Army First Corps General George S. Patton to locate, establish, and command a desert training area to prepare troops for desert warfare. Being a native southern Californian, General Patton did not have to look any further from his home in San Bernardino, CA, when he established the Desert Training Center at Shavers Summit (now known as Chiriaco Summit). It is here that my flight back in time is focused.

Go West Young Man

The lone airstrip (I wouldn’t even call it an airport!) designated as L77 on the far southeastern part of the Los Angeles Sectional Chart, is part of what is now the George Patton Memorial Museum. Our flight took place in the spring of 2003 from my home base airport Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU) in the western Phoenix metropolitan area, with two work colleagues looking for a real life history lesson.

Once departing GEU, you literally fly due west (adjacent and unique to GEU, is Luke AFB the home of the largest F-16 training facilities in the U.S. Air Force) while coordinating with the Luke RAPCON for safe passage and clearance to venture through their airspace. Once clear, however, it was literally IFR (I Follow Roads) flying because your route of flight is parallel to Interstate 10. An hour or so later you are arriving at L77, a one runway airstrip (6/24) and parking in the open ramp area south of the taxiway.

350 Miles Wide and 250 Miles Deep

It is here that our history story begins. The George Patton Memorial Museum is one of the hidden gems of military museums. It literally starts with the airstrip. In March 1942, General Patton and his staff established this southern California airstrip to not only allow air access for supplies and support personnel for his training center, but to also serve as a training platform for the Army Air Corp. (Over the years, such high-ranking Army generals such as Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell flew in for special occasions.) Once inside the museum, there is a scale model diorama of the training center as it was during Patton’s time. To give perspective, the 350 miles wide and 250 miles deep location stretched from Pomona, CA to the east, Phoenix, AZ to the west, Yuma, AZ to the south and Boulder, NV to the north, an immense swath of land. But that was exactly what Patton wanted. Somewhere he could battle train his troops in the most realistic scenario that replicated the North African surroundings where they would soon be facing the German Commander “Desert Fox” General Rommel.

The grounds of the George Patton Memorial Museum

Photo by Flickinpicks

Exhibits throughout the museum are awe-inspiring. While museum staff has updated the motif and displays to highlight Desert Shield and Desert Storm circa 1991, and the most recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars, most of the exhibits pay tribute to General Patton’s history – from the famed pearl-handled revolvers, to his diaries, and the famous prayer he asked the chaplain to write during a cold European winter (as depicted in the 1970 movie Patton, starring Academy Award winning actor George C. Scott). Outside and surrounding the George Patton Memorial Museum grounds are former U.S. Army tanks and armored personnel from Patton’s era to present time.

Appreciation of the Past – Using Aviation As the Vessel

Now I know some of you may be thinking “That’s all well and good for the history buff, but aviation seems to be the backstory not the heart – like with your previous stories!” Ok, I admit it, this is a bit off the typical track you have been used to seeing from my stories, BUT, think about this for a minute: It was because of aviation that General Patton was able to sustain his men with supplies and additional personnel and equipment to create part of our “Greatest Generation” and it was with the ease of aviation that one can utilize in a quick, efficient (more fun) manner to explore little-known treasures such as this. There is a saying in the airport and aviation world that says: “A mile of road will get you one mile, whereas a mile of runway can get you the world!” All because of the wonderful world of aviation. Enjoy!

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Why a Pre-Flight Discussion With Passengers Is Important

Don’t forget to take the Dramamine before you fly… not after.

Shawn Arena

This article highlights the importance of a dialogue with your first time and even seasoned passengers before flying, a sort of pre-flight discussion. You should be prepared to inform them of all aspects of the upcoming flight, and don’t forget to ask them about any concerns or comments they may have prior to the flight as well, if not an unexpected surprise may pop up…as I found out during this experience!

All In the Name of Charity

In April 2000, my wife organized, coordinated, and supervised a charitable silent auction held at our special-needs eldest son Matthew’s school in the northwest Phoenix area. Titled “Miles of Smiles” this event was in its second year after a successful inaugural launch in 1999. Among all the neat and exciting things donated by local Phoenix businesses and sports teams (the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns), my wife had arranged with me to fly one lucky parent and their special needs child to Sedona Airport (SEZ) in northern Arizona for breakfast.

The lucky father Pete and his son Max were the winners for this adventure. After some coordination during the following week, Pete and I decided that May 6th would be the appropriate day. Now I must caution (or more likely advise) anyone who wishes to conduct a charity flight such as this to contact your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) for proper authorization to conduct such flights. After proper coordination with the PRC FSDO, we were good to go. Additionally, when a pilot wishes to venture into the world of special needs individuals, focused attention on the individual (and caregiver) must be heeded because this more than likely will be something so foreign to them, you do not want any unintended consequences to occur that would endanger all occupants in the plane

Well at Least the Flight to Sedona Was Uneventful

Springtime in Arizona is a wonderful time to fly. It is the ‘hot’ time of year and has not yet reached the ‘hotter’ time, and weather conditions are very favorable. However, it must be noted, that it can be warm enough even in the morning hours, to prompt an early departure ahead of the warm-up of the day.

Departure from Glendale Airport (GEU), was uneventful, and our Cessna 172S (N234SP) purred like a kitten as we climbed and comfortably cruised at altitude. SEZ sits on a mountain mesa at 4,817 ft. MSL among one of the most picturesque areas in the world – Red Rock country. Max thoroughly enjoyed the flight, Pete while a bit apprehensive, also seemed to settle in nicely. My youngest son Andrew also came along for the ride. We landed on runway 03, taxied to the transient tiedown area, and were looking forward to a delicious breakfast.

You Should Have Said Something To Me Earlier

After breakfast, it was back into the plane and ‘literally downhill’ back to the Phoenix metro area. Just a few minutes into the flight, I thought I heard a noise from the back seat area and asked Andrew to look back to see what it could be… ”Max’s dad is throwing up Dad” was Andrew’s reply. Uh, oh I thought to myself, we better go to hyper speed to get home ASAP. “It’s OK dad, he’s upchucking in the diaper bag,” Andrew so eloquently informed me.

Now I am about to share something personal, and I don’t introduce myself as this, but I am a sympathetic puker! I thought “Oh, boy Shawn, just focus on listening to ATC and concentrate on flying the plane and getting back to GEU.” I instinctively told Andrew to turn all the air vents on his face and take deep breaths into them, as I did the same. The remaining hour of flight was tolerable, though I was concerned about how much of the backseat I had to clean up when we got home.

We touched down back at GEU and taxied (in my best Southwest Airlines brisk style) as I could and opened the doors and windows to help the air quality. To my amazement, there was not a drop in the back seat, for Pete (smartly) tied up the diaper bag to prevent any ‘air leakage.’

Walking back to the FBO office to turn in the keys I asked Pete if he was OK. Sheepishly and embarrassed, he said yes and then this pearl of wisdom came from his mouth…” I guess I should have taken the Dramamine before we left, instead of after breakfast.”

“What?“ I thought to myself as I figuratively wanted to choke the guy (but held back just in case any ‘residuals’ might come out). So calmly I told him, “Yes you should have AND you should have informed me you needed to take it before we left.”

Another Lesson Learned, This Time About Pre-Flight

So while “Pete’s adventure” was the lowlight of the flight, I too learned a valuable lesson. Remember that important pre-flight discussion I mentioned at the beginning of this article?

As part of my pre-flight routine, I now ask all passengers if they are prone to motion sickness BEFORE we get to the airport, so we can stop for counter-acting medication on the way. When I earned my Private Pilot Certificate, the FAA Examiner flippantly told me…” Now you have your license to learn.” Boy, how true that statement remains. Happy Flying!

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Featured Image: Simon Moores

How My Student Taught Me A Density Altitude Lesson

Shawn Arena

Welcome back! This is another installment of my personal flying experiences that hopefully others can learn from as well. The twist to this true tale, however, originates from a former student of mine who reminded me of the pitfalls and potential dangers of density altitude operations.

The Prelude

September 20, 2000, was a typical end of summer day throughout Arizona. The annual monsoon season was coming to a close, so the temperatures throughout most of the state were starting to ‘dip’ below 110 degrees. On that Wednesday afternoon, I flew three Arizona airport manager colleagues to a quarterly manager’s meeting to Flagstaff (FLG) from my rented aircraft’s home in Glendale, AZ (GEU).

While I was the airport manager at Phoenix-Goodyear Airport (GYR), I also was an adjunct assistant professor at a nearby college flight program. At the time of the flight, I was instructing an undergraduate Airport Management course, and one of my students (Herman) was also a pilot. One day after class, while he and I were chatting about the course, I mentioned to him that I had scheduled an upcoming flight with three other airport managers to Flagstaff (which for me was to be my first flight to FLG). It was then (as I thoroughly understood after the fact), that I was to learn my first lesson in Density Altitude operations.

A Good Lesson Plan

About two weeks prior to that flight, I was checked out in the flight school’s Beechcraft Sierra (Be-24), because I dreamed of (and still do) getting checked out in a Beechcraft Bonanza (what is referred to as the Cadillac of single-engine aircraft) one day. Since the school did not have a Bonanza, I thought the Sierra would be a good stepping stone towards it. This upcoming flight was to be only my third flight in the aircraft. In our impromptu meeting, Herman reminded me several times “don’t top off the fuel tanks at FLG because density altitude may bite you.” For those unfamiliar with density altitude and its dangers, let me conduct a quick Weather Flying tutorial for you.

A Beech Sierra taking off

Photo by: FlugKerl2

Density altitude is pressure altitude corrected for nonstandard temperature. As temperature and altitude increase, the air density decreases. For a pilot that can be a recipe for trouble if he or she is not aware of the conditions. Since the air at higher altitude is less dense, it takes a longer takeoff roll on the runway, and the climb to altitude is slower.

Flagstaff-Pulliam Airport (FLG) sits at the 7,000-foot elevation level in northern Arizona and runway 3-21 is 8,800 feet long. On the day of the flight, the outside temperature was a ‘cooler’ 85 degrees. There you have it: high altitude, high temperature, and lower aircraft performance.

OK Baby, Just Keep on Climbing

The incoming flight was uneventful (oh, I must add, at GEU the departure airport, at 0900 local time it was 95 degrees), so the coolness of FLG would be welcoming. Our departure was at 1:00 PM local time immediately following a delicious catered lunch. Unaware to me until I started my takeoff roll, the entire group of managers watched our departure from the balcony of the airport terminal (oh great, no pressure here Shawn).

I vividly remember lifting off at the 3000-foot remaining point and then it hit me – Herman was right, our aircraft sluggishly lifted off and barely started a climb at the rate of 100 feet/minute. Lesson learned, density altitude is nothing to mess with! Interstate 17 runs adjacent to the airport and heads due south. I made a slight course correction to fly IFR (I Follow Roads) and wanted to stay within landing distant of I-17 ‘just in case.’ Oh, and did I mention the forested areas around the Flagstaff area? So combine poor climb performance, high altitude and high temperatures and trees, you have an almost immediate ‘pucker factor’ of exponential levels. Just climb baby, just keep on climbing I kept telling the airplane!

After about 15-20 minutes we reached our cruising altitude and I uttered a sigh of relief. From that point on the remaining flight back was uneventful- if you consider the temperature rise as we descended into the metropolitan Phoenix area uneventful.

Thank You Herman

A few days after the flight I held my next class meeting and Herman (eager to find out about my excursion), came up to me and asked how things went. Well, I gratefully acknowledged if it weren’t for his advice, it may have turned out different. I couldn’t thank him enough and with that, I knew I had learned a valuable lesson that day. A good pilot should always be very aware of EVERYTHING around him or her and keep in mind all weather conditions that can impact a flight. Too many pilots have learned that lesson the hard way. Herman’s sage advice remains in my brain every time the same scenario occurs. Stay safe out there!

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How My Aviation Knowledge Helped Air Force One

Honor, Duty, Country … and Flying?

Shawn Arena

Hello again! Hopefully, my prior adventures have been interesting and informational for all readers; this one, however, while not describing any daring or skillful airmanship on my part (ok, my opinion), it does provide one of the most unique experiences I have ever been part of … and flying (or rather, my aviation knowledge) came in handy as I helped out Col. Mark Tillman, one of the pilots of Air Force One.

It All Started With a Wildfire

On June 18, 2002, the beginning of one of the worst wildfires in the history of Arizona was started by an arsonist in east-central Arizona. To those who may not be familiar with the geography of Arizona, outside of the larger cities and towns within the state (i.e. Phoenix metropolitan area, Flagstaff, Tucson, and Prescott), many parts of Arizona (believe it or not) are covered by dense, forested areas. East-central Arizona is no different. And as we learned from Science Class 101, once you combine heat, oxygen, and fuel, you have conditions ripe for fire. While wildfires are (unfortunately) common that time of the year, this particular one was very devastating (when it was extinguished on July 7 it had consumed 436,000 acres).

At the time of this event, I was working at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) as the Airside Operations Superintendent. Collectively, all airport operations staff were closely monitoring what was happening in the fire affected areas and were prepared to offer any assistance to not only first responder fire crews providing air support, but any airports in the region. Needless to say, it was a very fluid and unsettling time. To put things in perspective, when an event of that magnitude are headline news on the national scene, you KNOW it is big.

Air Force One Gets Involved and My Aviation Knowledge Comes Into Play

Air Force One official visit photoAs Airside Operations Superintendent, it became very common (and I don’t mean to be flippant, nor arrogant in this statement) to have frequent interactions with Air Force One’s comings and goings within the metropolitan Phoenix area. For the first few times, it is exciting, exhilarating, and hectic. Prior to any presidential visit, the Air Force One Lead team (AF-1) and Secret Service agents, swoop in and (almost) take over the place! These lead visits are typically 1-2 weeks ahead of the event itself, so you have some time to digest what is happening…..(Ah yes, our taxpayer’s money at work!). However after a few times, it becomes almost typical and (depending on your airport) frustrating because they literally can close down your airport for their entire operation.

As I stated, MOST of the time you get a 1-2 week notice. Because of the enormity of the situation and national headlines it created, we were given a 1 DAY notice. The AF-1 Team and Secret Service prepped where everything is to be in place for the next day. As the Lead AF-1 agent was leaving for the day, he asked me if I could promptly show up the next day at 0700.

I arrive for my ‘ShowTime’ at 0700, and while the entire AF-1 Team was buttoning up loose ends (i.e. the B747 would be followed by a Gulfstream to whisk the president to east central Arizona), the Lead agent turned to me with a piece of paper and simply asked: “Can you take care of this for me?” THAT was when my aviation knowledge / flying / skill kicked in (after my initial OMG moment), it was the Flight Plan for Air Force One and he wanted me to file it with the Prescott Flight Service Station!

Air Force One flight planNot having gone through this before, I was curious why the agent calmly waited by my side until I was finished (he knew what was coming). I took out my cell phone and called Prescott FSS and upon initial contact with the Briefer, I stated: “This is PHX Operations and I want to file the Flight Plan for Air Force One.” And then I realized why the agent was nearby, because after the briefer’s (almost comedic answer) “Yeah, right” the agent took the phone and said, ”That is correct sir, listen to the man and let him file the plan.” I dutifully went through the entire filing process with the briefer. When completed, and to my utter astonishment, the agent started walking away and said to me “Oh, just keep the paper, we don’t need it anymore.

Proud to be an American (Aviator)

I held that sheet of paper as if I was handed the original Declaration of Independence. I could not believe it…I immediately thought to myself…”do you realize you have American/presidential/aviation history in your hands, and I bet not too many civilians get this opportunity” I cherished that flight plan not only for the aviation significance BUT for the magnitude of the events themselves.

Fast forward 13 years to July 2015. I finally got up enough courage to personally write a letter to (now) former President George W. Bush at his Library outside of Dallas and explained the situation (not that I’d expect him to remember), and asked if he would kindly sign it for me. As aviators, we are taught to always have a contingency plan, so I made a copy just in case the original never returned. To my excitement it DID return and he DID sign it. I plan to proudly display it along with pictures taken that day and the business card of the Air Force One agent who let me file the plan.

Signed Air Force One photo

In closing, (as I stated in the beginning) this wasn’t an airmanship focused story, but one of national pride tied into the thought…” if I was NOT a pilot and knew what to do with it, it would have been just following orders and I would have ignored the significance.” Take your learning and flight training seriously, because you never know when your aviation knowledge could serve you, and your country.

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Featured Image: US Air Force

Guidelines for Buying an Airplane

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

So what comes first: the pilot’s license or buying an airplane? At first glance, this question seems to elicit a fairly straightforward response that an individual would not be buying an airplane if he or she was not planning on flying it personally. However, business entities, organizations, associations, and even individuals often purchase aircraft with the intent that they will be hiring a corporate pilot to transport them in their own airplane. There is one other category of individuals who makes the decision to purchase an aircraft prior to completing their private pilot’s license, because it provides him or her with the incentive to finish his or her pilot’s training by removing the option of quitting due to the financial investment that is now sitting on the tarmac or in the hanger as a constant reminder of that individual’s commitment.

What to Look For When Buying an Airplane

Whichever option comes first, there are specific guidelines that should be followed to ensure that buying an airplane runs as smoothly as possible. Financing is at the top of the list as many individuals and/or companies do not enjoy the luxury of paying cash for their aircraft. It is often wise to remember that the aircraft purchase is the least expensive part of owning an airplane, due to the costs of items like insurance, periodic inspections, and required maintenance, so investigating the operating costs and loan information then becomes a priority. Another financial consideration is the valuation or online Vref of the aircraft under consideration, which allows the prospective buyer to see if it is reasonably priced. In addition, conducting a pre-purchase inspection helps to eliminate any unanticipated [and typically unhappy] surprises. It is important to verify that parts are still available for the aircraft and that the local mechanics are able to work on it. Taking the airplane for a test flight prior to purchase is the best way to determine if it is a good fit for the skill level of the buyer. A thorough examination of the aircraft logs is a must and non-negotiable. Any evidence of an unusual entry should immediately raise suspicion, such as “replaced sections of fuselage skin,” which could be an indication of a gear-up landing. While still compiling the financial obligations of buying an airplane, it also becomes necessary to research the cost and availability of aircraft insurance.

Probably one of the most common errors in purchasing an aircraft is making an impulsive buying decision without fully considering the effects of that choice, rather than analyzing the requirements realistically and carefully [want versus need scenario]. To avoid purchasing more aircraft than is needed or can be used, it is wise to reflect upon whether all those fancy bells and whistles are really warranted. Renting the type of aircraft of interest is an excellent and less-expensive way of seeing how well it suits the frequency and duration of anticipated flights. Since the amount of the loan, as well as the interest rate, has a substantial impact on the total cost of the purchase, it pays [no pun intended] to invest considerable effort into finding the best source of financing.

A Cessna 182 on the runway

Photo by: Jeremy Zawodny

The major factors that affect the resale value (valuation) of the aircraft are the following:

  • Engine hours where the closer an engine is to its recommended between overhaul (TBO), the less its value but equally important is a record of its consistent use combined with a good maintenance program.
  • Installed equipment which includes avionics, air conditioning, deicing gear, and interior equipment where the avionics constitutes the biggest ticket item increases the value of the aircraft; however, older equipment is typically far more expensive to maintain.
  • Airworthiness Directives or ADs are issued by the FAA for safety reasons, and once issued, the owners of the aircraft are required to comply with the AD within the designated time period. The AD history should be reviewed for the nature of the ADs as well as whether they are recurring or a one-time compliance. The log books should indicate compliance with all applicable ADs which can be found through an online Internet search.
  • Damage history that indicates major repairs can significantly affect the value of an airplane depending upon the type of accident, nature of the damage, and the degree to which major components of the aircraft were involved. Any aircraft indicating a damage history must be closely examined to ensure that it was correctly repaired in accordance with the applicable FAA regulations and recommended practices.
  • Paint/interior is used occasionally to give older aircraft a quick facelift so new or recent paint jobs must be carefully checked for any evidence of corrosion under the surface, and interior items must be checked for a correct fit and condition. If done properly, both items enhance the value of the airplane.
  • Exercise caution when reviewing the terminology used to describe the engine condition. A top overhaul translates into a repair of the engine components outside of the crankcase while a major overhaul involves the complete disassembly, inspection, repair, and reassembly of the engine to its specified limits. If an engine has received a top or a major overhaul, the logbooks must show the total time on the engine if it is known, as well as its prior maintenance history. A “zero-time” engine is one that has been overhauled according to factory new limits by the original manufacturer and is issued a new logbook without the previous operating history which usually has a higher value than the same aircraft with just an overhauled engine.
  • Aircraft records should include the following documents that have been maintained in proper order for examination: airworthiness certificate, engine and airframe logbooks, aircraft equipment list, weight and balance data, placards, and FAA-approved aircraft flight manual or owner’s handbook. Any missing documents, pages or entries from the aircraft logbooks can cause significant issues for the buyer as well as reduce the value of the aircraft. Prior to purchase, hire a trusted mechanic to thoroughly inspect the aircraft, and provide a detailed written report of its condition; the pre-purchase inspection should include at the very least, a differential compression check on each cylinder of the engine and any other inspections that may be necessary to accurately determine the aircraft’s condition. In addition to the mechanical inspection, the aircraft logbooks and all other records should be carefully reviewed for such things as the FAA Form 337 which is a Report of Major Repair or Alteration, AD compliance, the status of service bulletins and letters, and aircraft/component serial numbers. The ideal choice of mechanic to perform the inspection would be experienced and familiar with the issues that may be encountered on that type of aircraft, with the goal of making buying an airplane and ownership of the aircraft under consideration as rewarding as possible.
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