Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentines Day

 The stores are filled with candy and stuffed animals for Valentines Day. The expectations set by society cause a lot of pain.
I am no expert but love is a verb. People speak of "falling in love" like it is a hole in the ground, maybe "stepping in love" describes what they are doing. One of the stupid quotes from the divorce courts is "I am not in love any more" like it is a pond, a forest or a neighborhood. There are different types or levels of love. I love my freinds and my country in a much different way than I love my wife.
Unconditional love is a great concept and is easier to apply to your kids. Realationships between lovers are WAY more complicated. Infidelity, physical and psychological abuse are examples of behavior that would warrent terminating the relationship.
Love is a verb; actions, thoughts and words. Feelings follow actions. This is where the "unconditional love" concept and real life clash. If your lover does not recipricate, that is a problem. That does not mean that an instant tit for tat response is required or even desired. "Keeping a list" is a concept that can destroy relationships. If the list is a fairness scale then any imbalance causes problems. An alternate list is how/why I love you, or what I like about you and that can strengthen the bonds. Doing stuff for your partner without expecting anything in return is love.

One of the misconceptions of a successful marriage is that it is a 50/50 relationship. Both partners need to be in 100%. Trying to make sure you get your fair share and keeping score ends in resentment. Trying to give your best and rooting for your partner is a road to fullfilment.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Learn about the weather

Here is a good site to learn about the weather.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Student pilot solo

The day your student flies solo is one of the most satisfying days for a flight instructor.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gusty Winds

Gusty Winds
   Today we canceled flight operations because of the winds. Crosswinds and gusty conditions contributed to one third of the reported landing accidents in the 2010 Nall report. The good news is that most of these accidents were not fatal. Every year the Nall report reveals trends in General Aviation and gives pilots a chance to focus our attention on common errors. Unfortunately, most of these errors remain consistent year after year. As a flight instructor we try to teach pilots to avoid becoming a statistic. Don't run out of gas, don't stall/spin, don't fly into a thunderstorm, don't exceed the capabilities of the aircraft or, more importantly your competency.
  The nature of the soup in which we fly is fluid, fluid dynamics. The airplane flies in the relative wind. The relative wind is the direction of movement of the atmosphere relative to the airfoil. Aerodynamics is a complex subject and I do not claim to be an expert. I have a working knowledge and this is greatly simplified, so take this with a grain of salt.
  When the wind is calm our relative wind is controlled by the movement of the airplane. When the aircraft is flying in calm air at 90 knots it will travel across the ground at 90 knots. If the aircraft is flying directly into a 20 knot headwind at 90 knots it will travel across the ground at 70 knots. If the aircraft is flying with a direct 20 knot tailwind at 90 knots it will travel across the ground at 110 knots. This is easy to understand. This makes sense. When we start to explore the effects of winds at other angles the explanation becomes more complex.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words here is a few thousand.

FAA Pilots handbook of aeronautical knowledge.

If we fly east and the atmosphere is moving south we will end up south of where we pointed the aircraft.

FAA Pilots handbook of aeronautical knowledge

  We can use math to figure out how far north (left) we need to point the aircraft to track the direction we want to go. The heading (where the aircraft is pointed) and the track (the path along the ground) are different, and we can use math to determine the exact wind correction angle to fly. We would be in coordinated flight, wings level, ball centered nose pointed one way and ground track in a crab. Landing in a crab would cause problems since the landing gear would be pointed in a different direction than the runway.
  Engineers have developed solutions for this problem. The B-52 could pivot the landing gear. I do not fly B-52s. There are techniques to insure the longitudinal axis of the aircraft is aligned with the runway at touchdown.
  The “crab and kick” and the “wing low” are the two methods to deal with crosswind approachs and landings. The crab and kick method involves flying the final approach segment in a crab and right before touchdown aligning the aircraft with the runway. This method requires very accurate timing.

FAA airplane flying handbook

FAA airplane flying handbook

  The wing low method or slip uses ailerons to control lateral drift and rudder to align the longitudinal axis. This is uncoordinated flight and increases the sink rate. The slip would not be appropriate for aircraft with long wingspans since the wingtips could contact the ground before the landing gear contacted the runway. This is one of the reasons airliners do not slip to land. One of the reasons general aviation aircraft favor this type method is to maintain directional control after landing. They say “fly the airplane all the way through the landing.” Properly executed the upwind wheel will touchdown, then sometime later the downwind wheel, then finally the nosewheel (or tailwheel).  A sudden gust of wind may cause the aircraft to lift off again and directional control is essential. Once we have landed we want to keep the aircraft on the ground and in control. Large aircraft are less susceptible to being blown around and often have spoilers that spoil the lift and make the wings stop flying.
  The airplanes have limits on the amount of crosswind they can safely handle. Many airplanes have a published “maximum demonstrated crosswind component” others have a “maximum crosswind limit.” The first is not considered limiting but is the maximum that was demonstrated in testing. The second is the manufacturer stating “that would be really stupid.” Both allow the manufacturer to avoid liability if you have problems. The airplane is limited by rudder authority, wingtips dragging in the dirt, landing gear collapse and other realities we can not change. Understanding these limits is vital so that a pilot can make an informed risk management decision.
  As a flight instructor I help pilots understand these limits. Their ability to safely land in a crosswind is more often restricted by their technique rather than the aircraft. Consistent practice in challenging conditions will help expand personal capabilities. Confidence should be tied to competence. It is an interesting risk management decision for an instructor. Is it a conducive learning environment? The aircraft, the environment, the client and my interaction with each factor into the decision.
  Today was interesting. I was scheduled to fly with a low time student and two rated pilots. The winds were strong. The crosswind component was within my personal limits and at a level that I would feel comfortable letting the client explore. However the forecast called for stronger winds and a shift in direction that took the crosswind component outside my personal limits. It was not supposed to get that bad until much later. However the observed conditions were already higher than predicted, so much so that the forecasters amended their predictions. The difference between peaks and lulls was the deciding factor. If we are on final approach and the relative wind drops fifteen knots my reactions must be nearly instant and flawless. Being out of airspeed, altitude and ideas all at the same time is not a conducive learning environment. So we canceled. 
  Have fun, be safe.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Overheard in the pattern

Overheard in the pattern.
"Nice downwind landing."
"That was not a compliment."

"For each 2 knots tailwind increase landing distances by 10%."  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What are they thinking?

As a pilot we are concerned with the effects of weather.  The forecasts are occasionally accurate.  They can tell us if we need an umbrella but the height of the clouds at exactly 10 o'clock is much more difficult to predict accurately.  There are many sources for weather information but I tend to use national weather service products to build my situational picture and use flight service as a sanity check.  
  When we call flight service and request a weather briefing there are three flavors: standard, abbreviated or outlook.  The standard briefing gives us the whole nine yards.  The abbreviated briefing is used when we only want certain types of information.  An example of this would be when the winds are a concern and that is all I really care about.  Generally we have already gotten a standard briefing earlier and just need an update.  The outlook briefing is for periods six hours or more in the future.  
  The forecasters are in a room with no windows, tossing chicken bones and rolling dice.  Not really but the farther into the future they predict the less accurate the forecast.  The cynic in me says "Beyond six hours they are just guessing."  It is a SWAG, not a WAG.  A Wild Ass Guess vs a Scientific Wild Ass Guess.  Many times we wonder aloud "What were they thinking?"  
  The area forecast discussion is, indeed, what they are thinking.  It has several sections: synopsis, near term, short term, long term and aviation.  I focus on the synopsis and the aviation portions.  This product, as its name implies, is the forecasters discussing the weather and the reasoning behind their forecast.  A better understanding of the soup in which I fly may allow me to live longer and happier.  Sometimes the forecaster will say "this is a difficult system to predict, this is what I think will happen but confidence is not high."   The hyperlinks located throughout the product elaborate on technical terms and abbreviations.  Sometimes the term makes sense to me and other times it merely points out another area of ignorance.  
  I understand that very intelligent people are throwing the best technology at a very complex problem.  I also understand that the cold front did not read the forecast and the weatherman is not in a tiny aluminum tube.  When the forecast does not match reality I like to say "What he meant to say was..."  I also tend to give a PIREP, which is another subject.  
Have fun, be safe.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Good Days

  One of the phrases cancer survivors use is that "I have good days and better days."   On good days I wake up.  The ups and downs of survival keep me honest.  I would like to imagine that I can work as hard as I did prior to cancer.  The reality is that I am older and my body has been through some trauma.
  It is important for us to recognize limitations.  That is not to say don't try to exceed those limits, but to be realistic about your expectations.  I tend to push very hard and then pay the price of more pain and fatigue.  I am not an old man, but I am not a spring chicken.  Before cancer I would wake up early,  work hard most of the day and then play hard until late at night.  I have come to recognize that taking time to rest is essential.  Duh.
  I feel angry at myself when I sleep late.  I am learning to let that go and recognize that my body and mind need rest.  I want to teach motorcycle safety again but I do not think I will provide excellent instruction if I am tired, grumpy and in pain.  It sucks to realize my limitations but working until ten o'clock on Friday and getting up at five thirty in the morning on Saturday is not the path for optimal performance.  One of the keys to being a good instructor is patience.  I am not very patient when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
  I can give myself a better day by scheduling more objectively.  I guess the lesson for survivors is to realize your limits and set yourself up for sucess.  If I wake up, walk, study, stretch and exercise I function well.  This requires time and adequate rest.  The term adequate changes depending on how hard you work the day prior, stress, temperature and other factors.

One of the ways to make sure you have better days is to count your blessings.

I woke up.

I woke up under a roof.

I woke up under a roof that is not on fire.

I woke up under a roof that is not on fire with people I love.

Once I start the process I realize how cool it is to be alive.  Today is a better day.