Category Archives: Flying

LOOK!!

Tonight on Twitter, someone wrote:

…which prompted a response from someone I follow…

…to which I said…

But seriously, folks! Why does everyone on the plane shut the window shade throughout the whole flight these days??!!

Being at 5,000, or 25,000, or 45,000 feet gives us a viewpoint on the world that was flat out impossible only 100 years ago, and was still highly unusual to the average person 60 or 70 years ago. Even today, despite how commonplace air travel has begun, for 90%+ of us it’s something we might see once or twice a year. For probably half of the US population or more it’s something they experience only every few years.

The world is a different place seen from above. The clouds come in myriad shapes and forms, flowing over vast distances, breaking up into puffy cotton balls, building into monstrous thunderheads. Sunrise from high altitude is the closest most of us will come to seeing an orbital sunrise, while sunset lingers and elongates time as the sky darkens and the stars come out.

You’ll always know where I’m sitting on the plane if I get a window seat. It doesn’t matter if it’s night – there might be aurora or stars. It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy – I love looking at the clouds. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ten-hour flight over open water – I’ll watch for ships or islands or whales or mermaids.

I’ve seen full double rainbows while dodging thunderstorms on final into DFW. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon as a gash in the earth, while the Rockies covered with snow even in April and May look like the Earth’s ragged teeth. Rivers meandering, from the Mississippi to the Rio Grande and Potomac, tributaries branching off like poster children for fractal math.

Whole cities can be laid out before you. The Las Vegas Strip at night with enough neon to scare away the stars themselves. Washington DC laid out like a model, monuments and tourist sites elbow to elbow. New York City with Central Park beckoning and a lady standing in her harbor, Seattle with Mt. Rainier on guard, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to its neighbors, Chicago and Lake Michigan spreading out like the spokes of a wheel. And for me, the American City of Lights, Los Angeles, lit up like a jewel for 100 miles in every direction, freeways like ribbons of light, the Hollywood sign off to the north, and the fireworks from Disneyland in Anaheim to the south.

Yet on almost flight I’ve taken in the past couple of years, by the time we’ve taxied out and are taking off, 90% of the shades are down. People have logged onto the plane’s wifi and they’re doing the exact same damn things they were doing on the ground. They’re answering boring emails, watching idiot videos, or playing mindless games. While outside, just a few inches away, are wonders and fantastic sights.

We’re jaded. We’ve lost our sense of wonder.

We’ve lost our minds.

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Filed under Flying, Travel

Sky Crane

While the fires near us (never got closer than about 10-12 miles, but had over 100,000 people evacuated and major freeways closed for days, several dozen homes destroyed and damaged) are not out, the winds have died down, the onshore flow has resumed and raised the humidity back out of single digits, and the fires are contained enough so that the evacuations orders have been lifted and the freeways re-opened.

That having been said, the fires are still a long way from out. With the calmer winds and better humidity, the fire fighters are hitting the fires hard, particularly with “aerial assets,” that is, planes and helicopters.

One of the big helicopters (I think it’s an Erickson Sky Crane, but not 100% positive) was being based out of Camarillo (CMA) right near our hangars. It was fun to watch it come and go.

Warning – I would recommend against starting this video with the sound too loud or while wearing headphones! This sucker is really, REALLY loud.

The strobing effect of the video capture mechanism in the iPhone is also interesting – that tail rotor looks like it’s barely moving, but in fact it was going at hundreds if not thousands of RPM!

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Filed under CAF, Disasters, Flying, Photography, Video

Weight & Balance

Weight and balance are important things for all of us to keep an eye on in the universal, all-encompassing, meaning of life sort of philosophical zeitgeist sort of thing.

In a more direct, calculated, numerical viewpoint, they’re also pretty critical when flying an aircraft. Too heavy, the wings can snap off. If the center of gravity is too far forward, the plane will never climb and will nose over and dive into the ground. Too far back, and the nose will go high until you stall, at which point you can have a similarly “bad day.’

Removing a very large, heavy item from the front of an aircraft (i.e., the engine off of a Spitfire fighter) will seriously screw with your weight and balance. Good thing that no one’s flying the plane without an engine, huh?

It ’tis a thing of beauty and it will pull that high-performance fighter through the air like a bat out of hell.ย  2,000+ horsepower on a V-12 engine will do that.

Oh, by the way, last night I mistakenly referred to this as a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. It’s not. (But the one in the P-51 is…) While obviously a Rolls-Royce, this is a Griffon 65 engine. (Good thing no one actually reads anything that I write, eh?)

At the moment however, this one needs to be sent off for a complete tear-down and possible repairs. That will set us back well into five figures (please, let it not be six!) but we’re all about safety.

Now I’ll see if I’ve got enough balance to take my overweight butt into bed! Monday awaits

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Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography

Hellcat In The Sun

An F-6 Hellcat.

Getting all cleaned up for next weekend, the Wings Over Camarillo airshow.

If you’re in the LA/SoCal area, maybe come and see us. I’ll probably be running around somewhere in the CAF SoCal hangars, down at the west end of the ramp. Stop by and say hello.

This plane, along with our F8 Bearcat, PBJ, P-51, Spitfire, Zero, PT-19s and SNJs and F-24 will all be flying, along with dozens if not hundreds of other aircraft.

On Saturday, the Camarillo animal shelter (on the airport, just down the block from our hangars) will also be holding a “Clear the Shelter” event.

For more information, see wingsovercamarillo.com.

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Filed under Airshows, CAF, Flying, Photography

P-51 Innards

Part of our D-Day 75th anniversary memorial at the CAF SoCal hangar was a presentation today on the P-51 fighter. You might remember that last Monday we had KTLA doing segments from their morning news show from the ramp at our facility. They mentioned today’s presentation and it also got some local press in Ventura County. Between the two we ended up with a much, MUCH bigger crowd than we’ve ever seen before at one of our talks. It was wonderful!

In order to show and not just tell, our mechanics took the cowl panels off the P-51 so that everyone could get a good view of the Rolls Royce engine inside. Later it was parked outside while I was stretching my legs, so I figured I could share the view with everyone else.

Of course, the best view is from inside that bubble canopy with all of those cowl panels in place and that prop doing several thousand RPM to propel you through the sky at about 450 knots. Inverted is optional.

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Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography

Under The Extended Centerline For KBUR Runway 08

It’s over —-> way about twenty miles or so.

We really don’t get a lot of jet noise since they’re still up about 4,000′ above us. Since I’m fond of aircraft to begin with, I consider it more of a benefit than a problem.

(Image from FlightAware)

I can just sit out there and watch them come in like beads on a chain at times.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Flying, Photography

A Bittersweet Anniversary

Have you ever had a feeling, a tickling at the base of your brain, a twinge in the gut that means that there’s something that you’re supposed to realize, to remember, to be aware of, but for the life of you it’s just slipping away in the fog of confusion and stress? The knowledge that you’re sure there’s something that you should be having an “A-HA!” moment about, but instead your brain is just spinning like a kitten chasing its tail?

What am I forgetting? A birthday? A meeting? Some sort of deadline?

Not necessarily a “sense of impending doom,” but rather a void, a memory that got forgotten before it could be remembered?

Something about the date. April 4th. Oh-four, oh-four.

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky…

No, that’s not it, but we’re on the right track. I know that’s today, but this is more personal.

Finally…

On my desk I have a digital picture frame that scrolls through a couple thousand favorite pictures every day. I miss about 90% of them because I’m busy, but it’s okay because they’ll roll back around in a few hours. But I happened to look up at this one.

Ah. Yes. Four-four.

But that didn’t seem to be all of it. So I looked up the file.

April 4th. 2009. Ten years ago today.

I had been out on the tarmac alone, tying down the aircraft and finishing up the routines following the flight. But I wanted to just be doing a happy dance and had no one to share it with. Some poor stranger wandered by and I grabbed him and asked if he could take the picture for me. He was gracious enough to accommodate me.

That paper? That the FAA certificate that says that I had passed my check ride. I was now officially a pilot.

That was one of the best days of my life, a memory that no one will ever take from me. Not on a par with the birth of my kids or my wedding day, but as far as personal accomplishments go, it’s up there with graduation days, finishing marathons, arriving in Europe or Asia for the first time…

Why is it bittersweet? Because things changed, and no matter how much I want to be in the left seat “up there going somewhere,” the fact is that I was only an active pilot for a little over thirty months after this picture was taken. It’s been over 7 1/2 years since I’ve flown, and barring another drastic change for the better, it’s unlikely to happen again soon. Despite the fact that I spend an inordinate amount of time hanging around planes on the weekends with my CAF gig.

So, thanks, subconscious! There’s no doubt that’s an important one and I guess I’m glad that it didn’t go by unnoticed and unheralded – but maybe I could have passed on this one.

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Filed under Flying, Paul, Photography