Name: Frank


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Posts by fdorrin:

    Aug 3, 2018 – Recurrent Astra

    August 4th, 2018

    I am 60 years old now, and have accepted that I’ll never be as good a pilot or instructor as I’d like to be. I will, however, be comfortable being as good as I can be, and will strive to continuously improve. With my head on straight – I’ll continue.

    Ground school for recurrent Astra training was completed yesterday morning, and then followed by sim sessions one and two in the afternoon. All this was to prepare me for an internal part 135 check-ride scheduled for Sunday Afternoon. The Westwind TCE check-ride with the FAA I spoke of earlier has been rescheduled for their benefit to the end of the month. I’m certainly glad these rides weren’t stacked on one another.

    The instructor for todays festivities is Mike – an Army Cobra guy and King Air instructor who is spinning up on jets now. The co-pilot, Chris, is a 300 hour second in command specialist working at FSI that is actually quite good. Sitting in the back is our most senior and respected instructor, Lloyd, who is signing Mike off to instruct on his own. I’d like to fly well enough today to impress every one of them, so I put allot of pressure on myself to fly well. Don’t say or do anything stupid, Frank.

    The simulator is full today, and all eyes are on me. As teammates, we could certainly make recurrent training a predictable and relatively easy event as we each take our turn in the hot seat. These are professionals, and not one of us is inclined to do that. Instead, we will challenge each other to the extent of our abilities to ensure we are ready to fly like the clients we serve. This session will be a workout.

    Teaching is not the same as having your hands on the controls. I did make some mistakes as I was warming up. I sometimes get defensive when suggestions come in from either Chris or Mike, particularly those that point out mistakes, oversights, or missteps I have made. Taking a posture like that doesn’t bode well for CRM, so I work to squelch these reactions.

    Reacting to criticism defensively is a defense mechanism and a negative trait of mine that surfaces occasionally when I’m under pressure. It developed during the brutal experience that was high school. It won’t ever go away, but a coping mechanism I use is to talk about it in the brief and debrief to ensure the crew continues to communicate effectively under pressure. Mistakes will be made and the standard is not perfection, no matter how much I want to achieve that.

    Mike ran two excellent sessions for me yesterday. His suggestions were timely and delivered in a non-critical and constructive manner. Chris was an excellent crew member, and made timely suggestions that were helpful. During one single engine approach briefing I gave him, he saw that I misinterpreted a way point and we discussed it. I didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me, but it turned out he was right. The result was improved safety and a professionally flown single engine approach and landing. 

    There are people I enjoy flying with that ‘get me’. What I mean by that is that they understand my strengths and weaknesses, and have been interested enough in me to compensate and make me better. Everyone around today fell into that category, and I’m glad to have their support. 

    I’m really blessed with this life I’m living.  Fly Safe!


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    Jul 17, 2018 – Finding that Perfect Balance

    August 2nd, 2018

    Our home life is amazing – we love our house and our neighbors. The relationship I have with my wife, Beverly, only ever gets better. Our deck construction project is almost complete, and the parents living with us are returning to self-sufficiency. The only issue is how busy Beverly is with the parents she loves and cares for.

    Bev’s day is almost entirely consumed keeping her parents moving. I help where I can, but she is consistently carrying the heavy load. We have the means to travel and play, but not the availability and time where both of us can break away spontaneously. While vacations and the occasional date night happen with planning and family support, there are times when I could be challenging myself more.

    Perfect Balance: I am currently filling my ‘extra time’ with exercise and delivering flight instruction at FSI. Preparing for the return of my airplane, I’ve been receiving flight instruction in a PA30 like my own. When N833DF comes north later this month, I’ll begin flying to rebuild my instrument proficiency. I hope to be flying several times a week.

    I’d like to add to this activity by building jet time doing contract flying in Astra and Westwind, and I’m getting serious about making that happen. When I’m able to do all of these things without negatively affected any other, including my wife, I will have achieved a more perfect balance. The balance of our retired home life, healthy living, challenging activities, and play time.

    N833DF: I am working on wresting my airplane out of Matt’s hands this month, and expecting him to get the work done soon to allow that to happen. Later this month my airplane will be flight tested and brought north to New Castle County airport (KILG), close to where I now live.

    In the mean time, I’ve been working with Phill-Air to get ready by renting a PA30 Twin Comanche they have on the line at their home base, Delaware Airpark (33N). The airplane appears to be very well maintained, and is incredibly stable in flight. I’ve been flying it recently to ensure my procedures are practiced, and in anticipation of needing to prove that I’ve done emergency procedures recently.

    Speaking of that – the airplane flew very well with the left engine shut down, but I was challenged in getting it restarted. In fact, by the third attempt, I became careless and had pulled the prop control back into the feather position somehow. It would never start in that configuration – and that was my fault.

    I’m thinking I moved the prop control back when I intended to bring back the mixture on that engine.  The instructor I had with me pointed it out, and the engine restarted on the next go.  I’m a dumbass, and will slow down and do it correctly next week. Dumb!!

    The only good thing I did was go out an get an instructor to keep an eye on me while I spin back up. I haven’t flown a light twin in two years. It is an easy airplane to fly – but you need to practice your process and follow the checklists and flows naturally. At any rate, my landings are going very well.

    Jet Flying: This is a very NEW and EXCITING development.  Possibly.

    I was speaking with one of my clients, Ken, who was in for recurrent Astra training. I wanted to know more about how to break into contract flying, while continuing to work as an FSI instructor. Ken gave me some precise information and even reached out to his contacts to help me out. Over and above being helpful, and I appreciate that.

    One of his contacts sent him a message (he shared with me) that they were definitely interested. Right after that, they sent me a message that they’d put my information in the file and let me know.  Can you hear the shredder grinding as well as I can from here?

    The second one told me that they approved my application as soon as I submitted it, and then put me through a somewhat automated vetting process. I was getting optimistic (and still am) at this point. My information is currently in their inner-office review process. They tell me via automated email that I’ll hear something very soon. We’ll see. I’ll let you know if that is true.

    It would be nice to teach my clients from a position of experience – even if that experience is far less than their own. It doesn’t hurt any that I want to fly it’s fun!, and now the pay is pretty damn good too.

    Fly safe!


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    Jul 12, 2018 – Flying the Toga!!

    July 22nd, 2018

    My buddy Jeff came into town the other day, and we took the opportunity to go fly together in his Saratoga. This day was all about having some fun while we expand our personal flying envelop in a nicely equipped airplane. Might as well accomplish his flight review while we’re at it.

    Jeff is from central Michigan, and we had flown together while he was training for his instrument rating. That was in his Archer some years back, while we were both based at 33N – Delaware Airpark. Jeff and I have also flown in trail going into Oshkosh on another excellent adventure.

    This time Jeff flew had flown his family into KLNS-Lancaster to visit his family. He had reached out ahead to schedule a flight review, and I had prepared myself for that task.  I asked him to fly down to Wilmington and meet me there for the review. I had been tempted to ride the Harley up to Lancaster, but with the parental care we’ve been doing here at home, I never quite know what my morning is going to be like ahead of time.

    Actual Engine Out: Jeff and I have a number of mutual friends. One of them, Gary, recently upgraded his airplane to a Debonair from a Musketeer. That is a big change, but Gary must have done it the right way – since he was prepared when he needed to be.

    On his very first cross country outing with his wife in the new airplane, Gary and Mary watched the prop spool down due to a catastrophic engine failure. Climbing through 700′, his engine packed it in and left him with little time and fewer options. What followed was a hard landing on a golf course, and two injured friends of ours. Mary was helped out of the airplane by witnesses and is at home recovering. Gary wasn’t as fortunate, and will take more time and surgeries to get back on his feet. The new shoulder harnesses hadn’t been installed yet, and probably would have prevented his facial injuries at least. The airplane is a total loss.

    So that was on our minds today; training for that same scenario in a heavy single engine airplane.  Jeff is a safe and proficient pilot who uses his airplane to travel with his family. He is current in everything but night landings, so the flight review can be done in one session. We’ll focus on getting a feel for the flight characteristics in a variety of configurations, and working on the type of landings and takeoffs that he doesn’t normally do.

    The Saratoga, N111RW, is a heavier single engine piper that burns about 20gph and flies about 160 kts. The fuselage is longer than an archer and can carry a bunch more weight, but the landings and handling is similar when power is available. Take away that power and it has the glide slope of a piano.

    Jeff and I practiced several engine outs in a variety of configurations, fine tuning the procedures to observe sink rates and timing for getting the gear and flaps out in the pattern and on approach. Landings with zero and partial flaps were also conducted, to ensure he was comfortable in all configurations.

    Stalls and steep turns were also on the agenda, and I made sure to have Jeff manage the engine as he saw fit. The flight review was satisfactorily completed, and now Jeff has some things he can work on when he gets home.

    Always good to catch up with friends, and Jeff is looking good and enjoying life.

    Fly safe.


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    Jul 14, 2018 – Very Exciting Day!!

    July 17th, 2018

    N833DF Coming Along: Just a few days ago, I rode the Harley down to check on my airplane. The ride down was brilliant – cool air and great power cruising familiar back roads to the beach. Life is good and I’m very much looking forward to the future.

    Leading up to this visit, I was dreading showing up to see the right wing was just like it was the last time I was there. That would simply have been demoralizing, and driven my blood pressure up another notch.  BP has been a concern recently, and I might have to do something about it.

    I ended up very pleased with what I witnessed and heard from Matt today. I saw that progress was indeed evident, and progress is a very good thing. The left wing is awaiting another skilled set of hands to finish the rivets, and the right wing is coming apart for the gear box repair.

    The troubles with N833DF has admittedly left a sour taste in my mouth. It’s all good if we get across the finish line though.

    I believe that Matt is really working to get me done, and August now appears realistic. Given that – I am motivated to get myself Sierra Hotel again on this airplane that I love so much. It has been a pain in the ass these last two years, but I’m thinking about long trips and Oshkosh 2019 now. Really getting into it and feeling the love.

    Looking back I avoided thinking at all about general aviation while the airplane was down and out. Stacks of aviation magazines built up unread until the subscriptions finally lapsed. I can’t quite toss them, so I see stacks of them around the new house. I avoided my own blog and stopped writing my book to avoid reminding myself of my languishing airplane. The home simulator has remained in boxes since the move. It was all very depressing.

    In retrospect, life is good no matter how hard I try to screw it up. The very month my airplane became unavailable, FlightSafety calls to interview me as a jet instructor. The timing is amazing, and I’m hired in November, 2016. Earning my first jet type rating while learning to be an FSI instructor takes most of my time. I dive into a new chapter of aviation and begin teaching initial and recurrent clients. I push thoughts of N833DF to the back of my mind.

    Adding an Astra type rating, I now teach classroom and simulator in both aircraft. Another FAA check-ride will come Aug 2nd, when I get to demonstrate that I’m proficient enough to provide progressive check-rides for recurrent clients in the Westwind on my own. Right now I instruct, but a more experience guy does the line check. I presume I’ll continue on this path, and be issuing full type checks in the next few years. As of this moment, I am planning to stay at FlightSafety (FSI) for awhile longer.

    This work came along at the PERFECT time in my life.  FSI is keeping me busy and helping me to offset all of the maintenance and hangar bills required to get N833DF back on it’s tires. Once that happens, I’ll use what I earn there to support my flying activities without draining my retirement. Once I’m sure that everything works on the airplane, I’ll most likely start adding more stuff to it.

    Adding some jet flying this year would help me get toward what I think of as my perfect balance. Look for that in a subsequent post. It looks like there is a strong possibility I can make that happen.

    Bev and Frank’s excellent adventure continues according to plan. We’ve always planned to be where we are now in every respect. The next step in our long term vision has been to sell both of our homes and buy one home someplace nice, where we could live for the rest of our lives. Last summer Bev thought it might be time to take that step.

    Over the past several years, Beverly has been keeping a very close eye on her parents. Those guys are awesome and have been living independently in their Wilmington home; well into their 80’s. Bev has been driving from Smyrna to their home and back to clean several times a week. Those trips were to manage medications and doctor visits for both of them, manage their checkbooks, and even hair cuts and hair dresser appointments since neither of them drive. Weekends at the beach became problematic with those commitments, but that was just one reason for feeling the need for change.

    Bev started the ball rolling by mentioning that she’d had enough of the beach life, and wanted to know what I thought. Traffic was increasing in both locations, we were missing fun times with friends up north, and had commitments that meant the beach just added stress and workload. Taking the boat out wasn’t giving Beverly the pleasure it once did, with most of the little kids being grown now. The entire experience became more work that fun. Let’s do this.

    The decision to execute being made, we listed both properties and began a search for our forever home. The new place would have either waterfront access, or a nice view, or some other amazing feature. I had always thought of moving south to warmer weather, but we just gravitated to a decision to stay local and even move further north where all of our friends and family lived.

    The big move happens in the fall of 2017. Our homes were priced accurately. We found a home in Chesapeake City and purchased it. At about the same time, both homes sold. The beach house in 3 days and Smyrna in 25 days. Everyone wanted a quick settlement, including me, so all three settlements ended up in the same month! Holy overkill batman – I have to arrange movers and get packing too! I wasn’t finding it a problem to remain distracted, and ended up not following up on my airplane. I quietly hoped I’d get a phone call that it was ready, and that would be it. N833DF went further back in my mind.

    It was time to let the brand new hangar go now. It was clear that I needed to release my Georgetown hangar as the 2 hour commute doesn’t make any sense. I started poking around for one up north, and my network of friends came to the rescue. The new hangar for N833DF is twice as expensive as either one I’ve previously leased, but it is only 5 minutes from where I work and 20 minutes from the new house.  This contributes handsomely to my Perfect Balance. Thanks to my good friends for finding it for me.

    Fly Safe!

    More fun to come as I’m flying again and getting ready to document the flight testing of N833DF’s return.







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    Jul 12, 2018 – How NOT to Attract Clients

    July 12th, 2018

    N833DF: I went down to see Matt and my airplane, and can see that he is making progress and the work is moving along. August looks REALISTIC now. I am very very excited.

    It is now time to get ready for the test flying by getting some air time.

    Re-Training: So I have not been flying my airplane for two years and set out to arrange flight training in a PA30 to correct that. One friend found me a resource in New Jersey that used the same twin I own in training. It was only 3 hours away, and I could go up the night before and do the training the next day. So I called the guy.

    The gentleman who would be training me is a long time airline Captain who started this business and wants to do it right. Thats cool – I appreciate the dedication and how hard it is be successful running a flight school.

    His opening monologue, and that is what is was because he wasn’t listening to me at all, started in a very loud voice. “You will need to spend the first half day in my half million dollar simulator before we can fly, and it will take two days of training at a minimum. All of the training you’ve received in this airplane so far is wrong and just bullshit”. I don’t think he used the ‘bullshit’ word, but it amounted to the same thing.

    Really?!   This airplane is 50 years old and you are the first guy to figure out how to train anyone properly to fly it. Thank God you came along.  I hope there is time for me to find all of those pilots I trained and send them up there. I think he truly believes the muck he is shoveling, so I had to bring him up short on that one. I suggested that maybe all his bluster was pure non-sense, and that I’d both received and given the very highest quality instruction in this airplane.

    The training I refer to was provided by individuals and the CPPP group associated with the International Comanche Society. The later is in the process of imploding, but that is besides the point.

    Taking my comments in stride, he told me that he’d be mailing me his information (paper mail – not email). He could probably fit me in next month. Wow!  Thanks man.

    I cordially hung up and stewed a bit. I’ll be doing something else most assuredly, as I don’t have enough patience for this individual.

    Wow!  Too bad too – It would have been nice to fly the airplane.

    Fly Safe!


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    Jun 21, 2018 – N833DF Update

    June 24th, 2018

    Make the run to Georgetown enjoyable. Visiting my airplane has been a high stress event for me. Stopping in to see no progress repeatedly can be disheartening. I might as well make it as much fun as I can, so I shrugged off the light rain and overcast skies to ride the new Harley on down. It made for one of the best rides I’ve had yet.

    Smooth power throughout, great exhaust sound, minimal vibration with this new engine design, and even great traction on wet roadway. This new machine is smooth, and I’m loving it.

    I spent some time the night before loading music onto a thumb drive. I’ve been having mixed success with the Harley Music System, and am still figuring out the options for this machine. Sometimes it stops responding at all, and other times it works but won’t respond to next track commands from the hand controls. I left my phone running on Pandora so that I could link to that as an alternative in case the USB option stopped functioning. I’d be sure to have music for the entire ride, no matter what. As it was – the thumb drive option broke down half way through the trip. More on the end result at the end of this post.

    I’m behind: I know I owe you several posts covering March, April, and May. I guess I’m still holding writing off until I can jump up and down and report very positive news on N833DF. Getting my airplane in it’s hangar within 20 minutes of home at on the airport where I work would put the finishing touches on this new home of ours. The final piece of the puzzle.

    Those additional posts, including more details about the really cool jet flying I was able to do with my friend Eric, will have to wait a few more weeks. Bev and I are focusing our time on getting her parents healthy, and are dedicated to that role for now.

    Meanwhile, I’m studying to become an examiner in the WestWind, and am working to improve my everyday product delivery in both the Westwind and the Astra. I set high standards for myself and don’t always achieve them. I find this job easy to do, but sometimes frustratingly difficult to do with finesse.

    From a health point of view – Bev and I have begun exercising everyday and practicing a low carb diet. It is working and we are doing well with it. It would be awesome to drop 30 lbs, and I plan to have a least gone half way to that by September.

    Progress on N833DF remains disappointing: As I’ve said before, what should have taken two months has now taken more than 18 months. I’ve paid a steep price for the direction I’ve chosen here, but I’m expecting that pain is nearing an end. Matt is a talent, but an easily distracted one.

    Offending part lower left of picture

    What has changed as of this visit is that he is actually working on my airplane. Rivets went into the left wing today that will complete the installation of new parts in the gear box assembly. That was the last of those parts I was able to get from Piper, so we’ll search one more time for another on on the right, and then built that one. The right wing should get started shortly, and I’ll report on that in these weekly updates.

    That is all of the bad news at the moment. N833DF will miss most of this summer and the maintenance decisions I made continue to have a significant impact on Bev and I.

    There is some good news though. Historically, the problem with choosing Matt was has been of personal and professional demands placed on him from all directions. His decisions on how to prioritize those demands have historically not been in my favor. With a growing family, his own business interests, and his relationship with the B-25 Panchito, there has simply been too many distractions for him to keep his promises.

    Matt’s talents with airplanes are noteworthy, and that has been enough to encourage me to stay with him. At this point, I am well beyond the point of no return in the project, so I’m committed not to change until the work is completed. I have learned allot in the process, but the price has been steep for sure.

    There is continued risk in that not all of his distractions are gone: In his new work hangar, Matt is surrounded by an exciting array of airplanes including King Airs, T-6s,  and even a P-51. He is both maintaining and learning to fly these aircraft – a very exciting prospect. It seems as if he really wants to finish me up, if for no other reason than to get get me out of his way. I’m good with that, and hope that sentiment continues.

    Stablemate to my airplane. Good Company!

    I’ll stay involved each week to monitor progress and report with pictures throughout the home stretch. One day I might show up and even have my expectations actually exceeded. Wouldn’t that be amazing.

    Next Steps to prepare: When the end gets a little closer, I’ll review the logs and start re-activating my radios and services like XM Weather.

    Then I’ll write a series of test flight profiles to ensure all the systems that were overhauled and modified are properly tested. Engines, propellers, autopilot, radios, landing gear, and fuel system maintenance has all been addressed. I can’t wait to dig in and do these flights in an orderly and safe fashion.

    Once the bugs are worked out on those initial flights, Matt and I agreed he’ll do the next annual after we are flying again. After that I’ll transition up north to a different shop, closer to my new base. I’m actually re-thinking that and will instead just work out the kinks with him and do the next annual elsewhere.

    I’d like to start doing Angel Flights again, and travel with the wife.

    Upcoming posts:  Very soon now, I’ll start working on an informative post covering the jet flight with Eric I talked about. Lot’s of pictures to share of the westwind I was able to fly, including valuable maintenance and pre-flight information.

    I have my own distractions, including an upcoming ride with the FAA. I’ll be taking a check-ride of sorts –  evaluating me as I give one to a client. That will make me a TCE (Training Center Evaluator) who gives progressive check-rides to clients. The process is new to me, but is really not much different than what you do as an instructor delivering an IPC. I’ll write about that experience when it gets here.

    Fixing the music: I thought about what might be happening to my music system all the way home – in the background music of my mind anyway. Pulling into the garage I had a few new ideas to try.

    It could be that the SIZE of the thumb drive was over-whelming the bike’s audio system. That would be disappointing, but it could be the cause. I’m thinking the software could be choking when it tries to build an index of almost 3000 songs. Maybe that is also why the next track / previous track controls don’t work – the Harley system could be slow and limited. It could even be the reason why the system locks up and stops responding after an hour of play as well. Simply too much data.

    To test that theory – I removed half of the 16 gig drive data, and then halved it again. It had no effect, and I poured another cup of coffee.

    Next I decided to look for corrupt files and did a small test. Bingo! Turns out that many of the files were from original CDs that I’d owned and converted on a windows box. The windows media format (WMV or WMA) would not play on this system, and was the reason for the lock-ups. I found an app I’d already bought some time ago, and used that to develop MP3 file copies of all of those. Now I have a thumb drive with ONLY MP3 files on the drive.

    The music no longer locks up and the shuffle now works, but for some reason I still could not use next and previous track functions. During testing I happened upon an album selection feature and decided to clean up my files further. I used an app to consolidate the music into consistent albums (1960’s, 1970’s, etc.) that would make it easier to select a smaller grouping of music. If I can’t get next track to work, at least now I can pick a group that works for the moment.

    Not wanting to give up, I went through all the features of the Harley infotainment system for ways to compensate for the loss of the next track feature. That was when I found that I’d inadvertently turned off a seek function on the bike, and turning that back on made all the features and functions come back alive. I have no idea what this feature is really intended to control, but it was the cause of the next/previous track function not working. Now I have most of my music and comedy files loaded on the drive; all categorized by years and/or genre; and all of the music features work.  Loving it. I may even buy a 64 gig drive and put ALL of my music on it. That’s a project for another day though.

    Fly safe….    It’s gonna be a good year.


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    Mar 23, 2018 Heading to San Antonio

    May 16th, 2018

    I’m still catching up on posts, and publishing this one a month or so late. Life is good and it’s distractions are many.

    Winter of ’17/’18 has been brutal in terms of getting out, exercising, and staying in some kind of shape other than round! The continuous wet and cold weather well into spring made it easier to grab a beer, read a book, or study airplanes instead of getting moving.

    The FlightSafety career has been going well. I’m learning more, and though I’ve never actually flown either the WestWind or the Astra, I am able to add value to the most experienced pilot in either airplane.  Clients do ask if I am looking to fly, and I’m not shy telling them that I most definitely am interested. It will happen one day, I am certain.

    That one day is here! One of my more experienced clients, Eric, has a Westwind and several other airplanes down in San Antonio, Texas. Eric invited me to join him in Texas to experience flying the Westwind first hand. I smiled at him and thought of this as a very nice gesture that wouldn’t really happen – he just was being very nice to me. I never considered the possibility that someone would let me fly their jet on an unplanned trip that was to be solely for my benefit. I thought the opportunity would come when someone desperately needed an SIC, and there I was.

    Eric repeated the offer before he left, so I realized that he might be serious. I am a bit of an introvert in most every social situation. If I allowed that trait to dominate in aviation or business, I’d never have accomplished anything. I let him know that I’d be in touch in a few weeks, and if he still thought he wanted to do it, I’d definitely make it happen for my part. This was just too freakin’ awesome an opportunity to pass up.

    Some 2 or 3 weeks later we began to talk about dates that would work for both of us. He told me he wanted to check on the airplane first by taking it on a trip with his family, and that certainly sounded reasonable. If I heard from him after that trip, we’d continue talking about when to do this. If not – I vowed not to pester him and just let it ride.

    Eric called me as he said he would, and I suggested March 23rd to 26th. I suggested I’d fly down on the 23rd and would have both the 24th and 25th to get a flight in. This would allow something for changes in his personal schedule, a minor issue with the airplane, or unacceptable weather. If we couldn’t get the flight in either day, I’d just do some sight seeing and relax before returning home. Zero Pressure.

    Before I went we addressed the issue of my personal liability. I submitted all of my flight experience, and his insurance company added me to his policy. That was enough for me on this venture, and I appreciated his willingness to do that.

    On Friday, March 23rd, I didn’t want to miss my flight and ended up arriving at airport parking around 2pm.  My flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 6pm, but I figured I could read the AFM or a novel while I waited. I was excited and couldn’t just sit at home and risk heavy Friday traffic delays.

    I am usually TSA pre-checked, but that didn’t come through this time. The line was long for checking bags, so I figured I’d take my bag through security and let them check it for free at the gate. I knew it would fit in the overhead, but I couldn’t be bothered worrying if there’d be room or not. I headed down to the security with my bags and got in line.

    Now as I’m shuffling along at the rear of a long line, I’m watching people take their shoes off  for TSA in the distance. It dawns on me then that I hadn’t packed for this contingency. The TSA folks would take my large can of shaving cream, nail clippers, family sized tooth paste, and yet another small Leatherman knife if I proceeded through security with this bag. I had plenty of time, so I stepped out of line and headed back downstairs to figure out the automatic bag checking procedure.

    About 15 minutes later and $25 lighter, I had my bag checked and out of my hands while I headed for the security lines a second time. I carried a light flight bag with my Telex and LightSpeed ANR headsets, and threw my watch, wallet, and money clip into the bag to make all this as painless as possible.

    Getting closer I could see a 30 something woman isolated from the crowd for further inspection. While two TSA folks stood by, another male began a very personal exam on this young lady. Right in front of all these people, the TSA rep was moving his gloved had right up each inseam of the woman’s thighs, along the underside of her bra  and everywhere else generally reserved for close friends. She took it all very well, but I’m not at all sure that I would have. It was unnecessarily thorough, in my opinion.

    Breaking away from staring at this process wasn’t easy, until I realized that the line had stopped moving and everyone was watching. TSA seemed to notice that too, so I was one of 10 people they opened the gates for and allowed through without scanning or futher inspection. I picked up my bag on the other side, walking away as the woman being probed took one for the team.

    It was all just very odd. The thought of navigating commercial travel just to fly a jet for fun is taking the wax off of the apple a bit. How much of a pain that is will be a factor in developing my options for next year. I am beginning to do career planning for 2019 as my initial obligation to FlightSafety comes to a close in December. More on that later.

    Catching up on aviation magazines and killing time: Since my airplane became unavailable over a year ago, I lost interest in reading the many aviation magazines I had been subscribing to. It was too depressing thinking about my broken airplane, and the decision making process that led me down what appears to be the wrong path.

    AOPA, EAA, Aviation Consumer, Aviation Safety, and several other magazines have all been piling up. Now that I was being given the chance to fly this weekend, and am seeing my prospects improve for continuing to do so, I thought I’d allow myself to grab a few of those off of the pile for this trip. I also brought along a custom motorcycle magazine that I was receiving on behalf of the previous homeowner, as well as a novel about an American Sniper in Viet Nam.

    I enjoyed reading the aviation mags, but only read a few columns in each one all the way through. The motorcycle magazine included topless models, so I had to be discrete perusing that in an airport lobby. I’m not into custom motorcycles, but the pictures of the bikes were easy to look at and plentiful. I left it under the airport chair for some 13 year old boy to discover and spirit away. That may be a criminal offense in today’s world, but I’m willing to risk it. I think boys are still boys – at least for now.

    With my light reading done, I still had an hour or so before boarding. I thought I’d pick up a sandwich at Subway to eat on the way down, which turned out to be an excellent idea. It saved me from eating nasty airline food, and also from having to stop somewhere before finding my hotel.

    Time passed quickly. I found myself in my seat and reading the safety placard to find my way out if I had to. That done, I pulled out my sniper novel and got into it. Walking along the trails of Viet Nam, it wasn’t long before I realized I’d been there before – at least through a novel. Turns out I’d purchased the same novel many years ago, but it was a good one based on real experiences. I’d have no problem staying immersed in it for the ride south.

    I ate my subway and read my book for the first 90 minutes of the flight. My wife and I hadn’t slept more than a few hours at a time over the past few weeks. Her mom and dad are with us now, and mom is in a phase where she wakes up and needs help every two hours. I never am able to sleep while traveling, but decided to rest my eyes for a few minutes before getting back to my book. Waking up more than an hour later, I was elated to discover that I’d fallen asleep for that long. I wonder if I was a snoring pain in someone’s ass………

    I asked for a cup of coffee and went back to my novel with refreshed eyes. The book was about halfway finished by the time we landed. I managed to find both my luggage and my rental car at a relaxed pace. San Antonio airport is not terribly busy at 10pm, or at least wasn’t on this Friday night. So far, this trip was a relaxing get-away. As I write this post, I am reminded that I’ve had this trip, 9 days in France, and a 4 day motorcycle excursion already in 2018, so working for FlightSafety isn’t really crimping my style at all. 

    So here I am in my hotel room. Eric knows I’m coming down, but we hadn’t developed a plan beyond that. My approach is to limit my communications with him so as not to crowd him. Quite frankly, I’m not sure exactly how to approach this and just call it a night. I figured we’d touch base tomorrow and remind myself that zero pressure is the phrase of the day. If it works – great. If not – I’ll go see the Alamo again and spend an evening reading and eating at a nearby bar.

    This is an amazing opportunity, but I have to control my expectations. I slept hard that night.

    I’m heading down to Rommel Harley Davidson in Smyrna, DE now to have my new Harley get it’s 1000 mile maintenance. This is in anticipation of an exciting four day ride with my wife and another couple June 1. I’ll spend the 3 or 4 hour wait catching up on two or three posts I’d like to do. The first one to include pictures and details of my Westwind flying with Eric. 

    I’ll be adding posts about N833DF coming back in July, and the next steps in my FlightSafety Career very soon. Each of these events represent significant developments in my aviation career, and a potential change in direction.


    Fly safe!  Frank

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    Mar 22, 2018 N833DF Progress?

    April 30th, 2018

    I had gotten busy since the end of March, and never published this post. After review, I’ll put this one out there.  Several more posts will be coming to announce the come back date for my airplane – very exciting!! – as well as to document the Westwind Jet Flying I was privileged to do.

    Last months delayed post…..

    Lots of flying updates going on. I’ll update you on my airplane, where I am with FlightSafety and jets, and a little bit on life’s other activities that will explain why the updates are less frequent than they have been.

    N833DF GETS MOVED! It looks like progress, though I’ve been hopeful before when it hasn’t panned out. If I could just get my airplane back, my options would open up like the rising sun. Lots to do when you have a fast airplane and a few days available.

    This picture came from Matt as I was down in Texas getting ready to launch in a jet for the first time. More on that in the next post. You can see N833DF on it’s feet and out of Larry’s B-25 hangar. It is being moved down to a hangar Matt uses, where hopefully uninterrupted time can be invested in it’s return to me. I really want my airplane back, and this is a positive sign that it will happen.

    Family Commitments: Winter 2017/2018 hasn’t been fun for Beverly and I. We have been blessed with good health, but her parents have seriously been struggling since just before Christmas. Two hospitalizations and countless doctor interventions have them living with us in our new home now. We feel blessed to be in a position to do this, and it is giving us some insights into the priorities we need to apply to what is left of our our individual lives.

    On the practical side, we are quite literally up every 1-2 hours all night – every night. This has been going on for weeks now, and has only abated here over the last few nights. Thank God we are in good enough shape to be able to deal with this. Paying back to the folks that helped us get where we are is what we need to do. Hoping that spring will bring a more normal schedule and enhanced mobility to everyone, so we can enjoy the sun!

    Winter blues: I don’t enjoy many cold winter activities myself, so I pretty much try to keep busy with hobbies or other distractions indoors until February is behind me. February, with it’s short days and bitter cold weather, seems to have historically been my least favorite time of the year. I typically hold my breath, read a few books, go to work, and keep my airplane and motorcycle tucked away until it’s over.

    This year the winter seems to have begun early and stayed late, so I’ve been definitely feeling trapped inside with the winter blues. I should have joined a gym, but found a dozen excuses not to. Since my airplane is still out of service and I can’t fly to someplace warm, working on the new house and instructing at FlightSafety became the focus. We are almost there.

    Loving the new place: As I write this, a large car carrier is cruising the canal and heading east from Baltimore toward Philly. Quietly slipping by my living room window as the sun comes up. I completed the installation of security cameras around the property, which was a fun project with practical uses.

    Deck Project is moving forward! Surprise!! I heard from the town, and they have only reasonable requests to insert in regards to adding decks to the rear of my home. I really expected months of delays and the need to hire an attorney, but instead have gotten only positive feedback and specific attention. What a wonderful surprise.

    We’ll be installing one ‘upstairs’ for her parents, allowing them to walk out of the back door and not have any steps to deal with during their day. Her dad can carve his ducks out there and watch the boats go by, and Mom can join him when it gets hot enough to make her feel warm. I can envision us eating dinner out there all summer.

    The other deck will be on the ‘downstairs’ segment of the house, coming off of our patio door in the living room. We’ll have a nice large deck that will accommodate a good number of folks on two levels for social events, allowing a nice outside view of the canal traffic and the exercise path. I can’t wait to have my coffee out there this summer.  Later this week I’ll get the town’s paperwork and run over to the county to start that process. Very good news for all of us!

    FlightSafety Career Progress (Astra Qualifications): So this winter I jumped into getting my qualifications completed to teach in the Astra, as I’ve been doing in the Westwind since last June. The experienced instructors that have been there need a break, and this is a normal progression path forward anyway. I meet all of obligations and began taking the supervised instruction last steps for the final sign-off.

    Progress has been going well, but I did have a client setback recently. One client who was here for his SIC (second in command training) and heard from me that I was relatively new to the Astra. He demanded a more experienced instructor, and I suddenly had the entire week off. No one likes to fail, and couldn’t avoid taking this personally. I’ll be more careful in my discussions with new clients.

    At the same time, I researched and built my own version of a TCE (Training Center Evaluator) Manual that I’d use to evaluate clients. Becoming a TCE comes with a raise, and is like a light version of DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner). Very light version, I’m guessing, since most of the DPEs have significantly more experience and depth than I do.

    Coming up!  Flying the Westwind and  N833DF has a return date!

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    March 23, 2018 – Jets Updated

    March 23rd, 2018

    I’m heading out this weekend to fly the Westwind and Lear 31A, presumably. I’ve been invited to do this by an owner operator, and am very grateful for the opportunity, for sure.

    I am very much looking forward to that new airplane experience. Like soloing for the first time; initial aerobatic training; flying behind two engines; seaplanes; gliders; and warbirds; the jet experience will be every bit as unique.

    I’ll be turning 60 in little more than a week, and have begun building options that will shape what the next 10 years will look like for me. Full of opportunity.

    ……I’ll update this post with my experiences next week.

    Fly safe!


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    Feb 21, 2018 – Jets!!

    February 21st, 2018

    I’m so excited!!

    I rode my new Harley to work for the first time today. I’ve ridden Harleys on test and show rides for years, and this machine is surpassing all of my expectations. I can’t believe how nice it was today, and how I was able to get a ride in like this in February!

    This week I am going through recurrent WestWind training as part of my job at FlightSafety. I have been paired with two of our most senior experienced instructors in the SIMs, and they are training the hell out of me. I tell them my weak points and the gloves come off!

    Ground school is being handled by my counterpart, Mike, who has significant and valuable experience in the Army, converting helicopter guys to King Air pilots. He is a bundle of energy and I learn something new from him every time we are together. These sessions could be dry when you have one every six months, but not the way he approaches it.

    This particular recurrent is particularly meaningful to me, because I’m leaving to go fly the actual airplane for the first time later in March. I’ll be in Texas with a friend who has a WestWind, and also has access to a Lear 31A! I’m going to get to fly both of them while I’m down there, so I couldn’t be more excited.

    This is a wonderful opportunity to practice what I teach and I really cannot wait to go down there and do it. I’m so excited.

    WestWind (1124A) versus Astra: Today’s sim session began in the WestWind to meet my recurrent obligations. For my part, I wanted to work on engine failures after V1; fuel imbalance transfers; and particularly on the use of the autopilot throughout the single engine approach. I have been routinely hand flying whenever I’m flying single engine, and needed to refine my use of the autopilot under those conditions.

    With the WestWind work complete, these two experienced aviators took me over to the Astra so that I could practice the use of the UNS FMS like the WestWind I’ll be flying has. We ended up flying the Astra over the very same approaches we had just done in the WestWind.

    This opportunity to directly compare the two machines was telling. Single engine work in the Astra is a no-brainer, while the WestWind requires constant attention; delicate fuel transfers; and large leg muscles for rudder. The advanced avionics in the Astra also make it a relative sportscar versus a pickup truck.

    I ended the day riding my amazing new motorcycle home and then washing the leftover rain water I picked up on the ride. All the windows are open for a little while, but I know winter will be coming back for a few more weeks.

    The days in my life have all been really special lately. Still – there are days that are really better than others, and this one is one of them.

    Fly safe – God knows I appreciate all the people in my life that help me do what I get to do.

    Amazing.   Frank

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