Curmudgeon Central

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Location: Grand Junction, Colorado, United States

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lessons Pay Off

Not long ago I read with some dismay about a beautifully restored C-45 that had crashed in eastern Colorado.
The C-45 Expiditer is the military version of the good old Beech 18. I love the Beech 18. It ranks right up there with the DC-3 as some of my fondest hands on memories. I only have 1.5 hours in the right seat of the DC-3, but it was an experience I will never forget.
Anyway, I digress.

The Accident investigator found two pools of oil on the ramp where the old Expiditer had sat. They also found that the right engine oil drain was open and the left was partially open. Cause of the crash was listed as catastrophic failure of one or both engines. Oops.

Rule #2, Regulations for Operation of Aircraft (1920): Never leave the ground with the motor leaking.

There are times When engine failure is totally unexpected, but a simple walk around should have seen an oil pool. Engines fail. That's a fact. That's why from day one in pilot training, emergency landings are practiced. Airline pilots with thousands of hours regularly climb into a simulator and practice emergency procedures over and over and over until they become second nature. Because you never know.
I got a call one morning from my Chief Pilot/Flight Instructor asking if I wanted to go with him to take N87Q to Oklahoma City for it's annual. I had a fews days off so naturally I jumped at the chance. It would be some good multi-engine dual.
Pre-flight was normal. Oil was up (and no leaks). We even double checked to make sure nothing was loose in the cabin. Engine run-up went without a hitch.
wind was calm and it was a perfect day to fly. Take-off was as good as I could make it and climbe out began as routinely as one could expect. I was feeling good.
BAM...the left engine sucked a valve and decided not to work anymore. My heart jumped right into my throat. My brain shut down. My body just instinctively started working on it's own. Hands grabbed controls pulled props back on left engine, fuel shut-off, hard right rudder. "get it under control!!'
After a few seconds my brain kicked back in and I emediatly violated Rule #8 "in case the engine fails on takeoff, land straight ahead regardless of obstacles.
Had I landed straight ahead I would have been in downtown Wichita Falls. I started a right turn back to the airfield and was reaching for the mike to declare an emergency when the Instructor said "we are going to the maintenance facility anyway, let's just keep going". So, being totally convinced that he knew everything about flying, I got to fly to Oklahoma City on one engine thereby violating Rule #25: If an emergency occurs while flying, land as soon as possible."
My flight instructor made the landing at OKC without a problem and without telling the tower about our condition.
Now, flying cross country on one engine is not something I recomend as a daily routine but it proved to me that all of the emergency simulations I had done in the past WAS important and that it really did become almost automatic. I am also firmly convinced that next to raising 2 girls, this incident was dirctly resposible for the begining of the end of my full head of hair.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

You have got to be kidding!

Those of you who know me know that I prefer the older, more comfortable things in life. That is not to say that I am against everything new. I like computers OK. They have made every facet of life a lot easier. I mean, trying to figure out income tax percentages with a #2 pencil and a Big Chief tablet is not the easiest thing I have ever done. Starbucks now has a drive thru service. Nice! I even have a cell phone, However I still don't like to see people drive while chatting. But I saw something advertised on TV today that was just too much. Way over the top.

OREO PIZZA!! Give me a break!

I accept Pizza with cheese in the crust. I don't like it but I accept it as a pizza.
Pizza cut into "dipping strips" OK, I can see that. But Oreo pizza? I'm sorry but Oreo's belong in milk or crushed up in ice cream. NOT ON PIZZA CRUST!!

Pizza Hut, What are you thinking???

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Watch out...Have fun

When you are driving down the highway, you always stay on the right side of the road. When you are at Wal-Mart you instinctively walk on the right side of the isle. In Sailing, the Starboard (right) tack has the right of way over a vessel on a port (left) tack. In Aviation, the government has written volumes on who should give way to who, under which circumstances, day or night, and on and on and on. Every Department of the government has a room full of lawyers who do nothing all day but sit around and write rules and regulations. One half of the room will write down a simple rule. The other half will say..."yes, but what if...." (for Mandy it's "YABUT") Then the first half will add another paragraph. Then the other side of the room will say...."OK. But what if..."and on and on it goes. After this process continues for a pre determined amount of time, they weigh the paper work they created. If it is of the right weight they will forward it to a "SELECT COMMITTEE" for further review. If and when the committee comes to an agreement the publish a small 50 or 60 page section to an already full blown regulation that defines the right of way rules.
This process is a far cry from what the Civil Aeronautics Board used back in 1920.
Let's drift back to those thrilling days of yesteryear and imagine Clyde walking down a hallway one afternoon. He is running late. He has a tee time and 3 junior G men waiting for him. He sticks his head into Farley's door and says "Farley, write me a regulation about right of way rules for Aviators."
"OK Boss" replies Farley. (the lowest man on the totem pole in the 5 man bureaucracy)
Old Farley whips 2 sheets of crisp white paper and a thin piece of carbon paper into his trusty American Standard type writer and rule number 12 was born.

Rule 12 in the Regulations for Operation of Aircraft:

"If you see another machine near you, get out of the way."

This rule seemed to work pretty well for a time. But alas, the government started hiring more and more lawyers, the smile bureaucracies grew by the rule of 10, the CAA morphed into the FAA. It must have been the best of times back then when all you had to do was fly. Get the wind in your face and fly. Kick the tires, light the fire and fly. (don't forget your hankie)

Rule 6 in the Regulations for Operation of Aircraft

"Pilots should carry hankies in a handy position to wipe off goggles."

Monday, September 03, 2007

When I grew up

Some of the things I wanted to put in my posts included flying stories, weird facts, conspiracy theories and just plain wander about in my memories. Stupid politicians may or may not show up but there are so many....enough.

I can't remember when I started wanting to be an Air Traffic Controller. My father went to work for the CAA right after WWII. He was in flight service. They called it "Radio" back then. When we lived in Wendover Utah I would ride my bike out to the old air base where dad worked and I would take him his lunch. It was so cool. All those teletype machines and radio's talking a mile a minute. Maybe that's when it started. I would stare in amazement while dad would transmit weather reports via Morse code. So cool.

When we later moved back home to Bryce Canyon, the radio station was much newer and had more sophisticated equipment. Aviation was growing up. Dad didn't use Morse code anymore. He sent all of his weather observations via the teletype and radio. He taught me how to take the temperature, dew point, wind direction, cloud cover, etc. I would then type very carefully all of the information onto a tiny strip of paper, making a bunch of holes. He showed me how to load the teletype tape into the "sender" and wait until it was time to transmit BYC. I would push the send button and watch as the teletype hammered out what I had typed.
By then, I was hooked.

Then in 1956 a TWA constellation collided with an United DC-7 over the Grand Canyon. President Eisenhour Spent Billions to upgrade the air traffic control system. He established the FAA. (Federal Aviation Administration). Dad was promoted, moved to Phoenix and was given the title of Air Traffic Controller. During summer vacations he would take me to work with him. Just by watching and asking a lot of questions I soon learned enough about non radar enroute air traffic control to KNOW what I wanted to do with my life.
I buckled down in high school. Started getting good grades so that I could join the Air Force and become an Air Traffic Controller. I became a control tower operator. Later I would learn the ins and outs of Radar. Precision approaches. What a rush. Bad weather, sitting in a cramped orange and white checkerboarded trailer bringing USAF fighters down through the clouds and right down the centerline to a safe landing. Every single controller I know has a huge ego. The ones with precision approach experience have the biggest. Our egos grew in direct proportion to the amount of adrenaline we generated during a shift. We had some pretty weird ways of bleeding off the adrenaline. (but thats another story).
Well, that is about it for this trip down the lane. Probably no one cares, but I like putting it down.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Weight & Balance

There was an old saying I saw once hanging on a bulletin board in a base ops once. It said "when the weight of the paper work equals the takeoff weight of your aircraft you are ready to go"
In 2007, it doesn't seem to me like there is that much more paperwork than when I was flying regularly. Maybe less, what with hand held computers, hand held GPS, on line flight planning and blueberry's or blackberries to help with the trip. This might be a good thing. Less really is more. Especially when it comes to regulations and rules.
If all the rules and regulations concerning airplanes, pilots, controllers and airports were loaded aboard a 747 cargo it would not get off the ground.
When Uncle Sam decided to regulate aviation back in 1920 a set of regulations was published and distributed to all the pilots in the country. It was 1 page. Type written (on both sides of course) and it listed all of the regulations the intrepid pilots were to abide by. There were 25 of them. They were thumb tacked on bulletin boards and put under glass on some back office desk.
Then, like now, the regulations didn't seem like they were written by fliers, or anybody connected to aviation. For example:

Rule #21. Pilots will not wear spurs while flying.

Pilots back in the 20's did wear riding boots, riding pants, leather jackets and silk scarfs. But honest...they took their spurs off before getting into their ship. Some bureaucrat probably saw one pilot before he took off his spurs and decided to make it a rule. I am sure that one of these days a bureaucrat will spot a young pilot getting into his Cessna with his ball cap on backwards and he will come up with a rule by which all pilots must wear their ball caps with the visor forward. Of course it will become rule #FAR 91.500025.667 paragraph 821 and will add 4 pages to the existing manual.
Well...I have vented enough for one evening. To anybody reading this post who loves flying and being around airplanes, remember Rule #1, (January 1920)

"Don't take the machine into the air unless you are satisfied it will fly" Duh.

p.s. Stay tuned while I examine all 25 of "Regulations for operation of aircraft" first published in January 1920.