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Web Site: http://www.airdorrin.com
Posts by fdorrin:
- Learn how to fly it again – I’m a little rusty after so much down time. Flying sims at FlightSafety does help, as well as my own sim.
- Continue testing the new ADS-B GTX-345 that I have hardly used.
- Test the new KX-155 display. I had my unreliable display replaced with an expensive LED replacement at the Bendix King shop. The radio shop that coordinated the work from Easton Airport was disorganized at best. If I have any lingering issues, I’ll most likely have to be forceful in getting them to make things right.
- Perform extensive leak testing before buttoning up, and then perform a short test flight before repeating the process.
- Test fuel transfer. The nacelle tanks are coming out to accommodate the gear repairs, so test that the system works as it has been – including pump indicator lights.
- Test the autopilot, particularly the pitch trim servo, to see how the system functions. Find a new repair shop to return to 100% if not there already.
- Test Prop Balance on the right side. I just had that prop overhauled again due to play in it, and at the same time removed a cobbed together weight on that spinner. Find dynamic prop balancing if that is required.
- Return to the paint shop to touch up the brand new paint after all this work. The top skins have been removed to allow access to the cracked bulkheads.
- Re-activate my XM-Radio weather subscription as a supplement to ADS-B
- Move into my brand new hangar in June, 2017
- Warm Weather Ops
- Weather Radar
- RVSM Operations
- SIM OPS – SIPO
- Runway Analysis
- MNPS and North Atlantic HLA
- Understanding RNAV (GPS) Localizer (LP) minima
- VNAV procedures using MDA as a DA
- Cold Weather Ops
- Transport Canada Familiarization
- Human Factors / CRM General Concepts
- ePodium Familiarization
- 61.58 Consecutive checks
- ATC Climb Via and Descend Via
- iPad Air Setup (duh!)
- Safety Management System (SMS) in Action
- LiveLearning made easy (duh!)
- TSA Security Awareness training
- FAA Employee Drug and Alcohol Awareness
- Information Security Awareness
- Unlawful Harassment Prevention
- PRM Ops – Parallel Runway
- High Altitude Training
- Trade Compliance for Instructors
I promise – I’ll get back to flying in a blog or two. I trust that progress on N833DF is getting out of the blocks, but have to be focused on getting everything else done for a moment.
Good News: We managed to sell both of our homes in a very short time. Now we have three settlements next month, and are working on arranging a mover.
The beach place is totally packed at this point. We gave away sofas and chairs yesterday, and I’m packing two chairs and a dresser to deliver to one of our kids today. My big ass oak desk that weighs a ton is going to my realtor. One kitchen table; a queen bed, and our golf cart go to one of the kids this morning. The mover will be left with a few tables, chairs, dressers, and boxes.
There will be several chairs, end tables, and miscellany that will stay behind for the new beach owner.
Same thing will be going on at our Smyrna house over the next few weeks. One of the bunk beds is gone already, and the other set goes this week.
I am getting very very excited about the new house, and can’t wait to get in there in a little more than a week.
Part 135 Training: I drove out to Cincinnati, Ohio last week with an instructor from the Challenger program, Dean. Yes – I drove. Someone downstairs thought that was a good idea, and tossed us the keys to the company van.
Dean and I got to know each other on the way out and back, and that certainly made it bearable. Like the other courses and training I’ve taken at FSI, the people I met and trained with were the best part of the course.
The course itself utterly sucked. I’d like to put lipstick on this pig, but it isn’t going to happen. Our primary instructor was listless and mumbled his way through powerpoint presentations. He was ill-prepared and meandered through the material.
What really made it special is when one of their management teams told us that this type of training was much better than the expensive FSI approach, and most pilots will never use what we tell them. Now I’m not necessarily prone to preaching FSI, and I know we are expensive, but I did all I could not to laugh out loud. Sure, Buddy!
So the course was a waste – I could have read this all at home and gotten more out of it. The people I met were awesome though, and that part of the experience reminded me how lucky I am to be here.
I got to know more about the corporate pilot life too.
Moving on: Looks like I have a light schedule of co-pilot duties in the westwind this coming week. The following week, we’ll get the keys to our new home and start setting that up.
I am so excited to be starting this next phase of our lives with my adorable bride. I can’t wait!
After all this is over and my airplane is back online, I’ll start looking for hangar space in Wilmington. My name is on the list for Summit Airport, but they are tearing down hangars and not replacing them. Too bad. That would be convenient.
Comments Off on Jul 23, 2017 – Part 135 and Moving
I am hoping that at some point in the next year – I’ll get to post something about my first flight in a real Westwind or Astra jet. Instructors make solid contacts here, and there are opportunities that could be molded to fit what I’m looking for. Wouldn’t it be great if I could continue instructing, but also do occasional contract flights to keep it all real. It will be exciting to see where I end up in the next two years.
N833DF: I’ve been 9 months without my airplane now. I’ve missed two family trips, and now I’m driving out to Cincinnati on Monday when I could be flying. Matt has been busy with Panchito and his own relocation, but I’m told that my airplane will get some attention next week. I sure hope that is true.
Matt has been working with a vendor who was supposed to have sent the replacement salvage part I need. It hasn’t come in yet, and there has been no follow-up. I reminded Matt once already to get after them – and will do that again Monday. This gear box cracking is about to become an AD, I’d expect.
Oshkosh Preparations: Cleaning Panchito tomorrow: I’m heading down to the beach to help get Panchito – The B25 bomber that I earned an SIC rating in last year – ready for Oshkosh. The owner, Larry Kelly, has been very good to me since I got to know him, and particularly during my airplanes downtime. I’m going to go play in that awful traffic tomorrow to help get the airplane ready.
Had the FlightSafety opportunity not surfaced – there is no telling what my involvement with the Delaware Aviation Museum Foundation might have been. For now though, I’ll remain a good friend of the DAMF and plan to be involved when I can be.
With all that is going on, Oshkosh wouldn’t be a reality for me this year if my airplane was ready just in time. I’m so rusty in the PA30 that I would not fly it out there without several weeks of practice flying. I look forward to returning to a level of currency I can be proud of in that machine. I’ll get there.
My co-workers at FlightSafety also have proud traditions that include attending Oshkosh. They are a great group of guys that, like Larry Kelly, dropped what they were doing to help me get qualified as an instructor there. I’m the new guy, and because of that, would have already backed away from Oshkosh this time. We all can’t go at once.
Next year I’ll have my airplane back, and we’ll have a new WestWind/Astra instructor on board to share the load. Maybe then I’ll get to go again.
Part 135 Training in Cincinnati, Ohio: FlightSafety is a great company to work for, thus far. In some ways, however, they are like Delmarva Power was back in the 1980’s. Lessons need to be learned all over again.
My case in point is that I have been assigned to take a Part 135 INDOC course with two other Challenger instructors. This three day course will be conducted by ExpressJet out in Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s all good, but FSI thinks it would be a good idea for the three of us to drive a company van out and back. That is about 10+ hours of driving each way, with another hour to get me home after that.
Asking instructors to drive for 20 hours in a van to take a 3 Day course strikes me as not the best use of resources. In my opinion, it’s just silly to ask someone to drive to Ohio. Reminds me of a supervisor I had as a new engineer with Delmarva Power. He thought it would be a good idea to save the company money by booking two engineers to a room on a 5 day multi-state trip. He was actually surprised when everybody backed out. There are limits to what your employees will accept, and respect is a part of that equation.
I will go. I promised myself I’d do the full FlightSafety experience for at least two years. I expect to be able to tell you that this little excursion won’t show up in the WIN column at the end of that time. Had my airplane been ready – I could have avoided all this non-sense and even made the experience a positive one.
Oh well – just one more thing in this busy month.
MOVES are progressing: Our new home appraised well, and the inspection repair items are being complied with by the current owner. All paperwork is up to date, so there is only one thing to do yet – a more detailed termite inspection behind some of the insulation. No sign I should be concerned at all, but I want to be careful here to take all of the prudent steps that I can.
My beach house sold immediately, and that process is progressing. The home inspection just completed, and included two significant plumbing issues that I wasn’t aware of. Darn good thing I decided to sell, since either of these plumbing issues could have led to water damage had they been allowed to progress. Close call. Repairs are already complete, and the home appraisal is next.
Assuming the appraisal goes well and this gentlemen get’s his mortgage, I’ll most likely have to move myself out of that house and into the new home. Apparently – there is a very high demand for moving companies right now, and they need to be scheduled further in advance than I am able.
The Smyrna home is showing well, and we expect to get full price for that one too. Once we get the right offer, I’m hoping the resulting settlement date will allow more time to arrange for professional movers.
I’ll be very happy to get this all done and behind me. It is a very stressful time.
Comments Off on Jul 15, 2017 – N833DF, Oshkosh, Part 135, and Moving
Moving 1: I moved into my new hangar over the weekend. It is the nicest one I’ve ever had, and the folks working for Sussex County at the airport deserve Kudos for sure. I’m wondering if the timing might be terrible though. More on that later.
N833DF Lack of Progress: Matt hasn’t made any progress on my airplane at all. I checked it the other day, and the situation continues to be incredibly stressful. Not much I can do about it though. I’ll have to wait until he gets it done. All the parts are in, as far as I can tell.
Thank God for timely distractions. That’s the good news. I have had a tremendous amount of activity to keep me busy this year, and it doesn’t look like things will slow down anytime soon.
Six Months at FSI: I very much enjoy what I’m doing at FSI, and am having a good time. I’ve been doing this kind of instructing on my own whenever I had the chance, using an Elite desktop simulator to teach others, and paying for my own training as I could. Those experiences included King Air C90 and BE200 certifications with two firms, one of which led to some exciting opportunities in a C90. That led to training with Piedmont and US Air down in Charlotte in the Dash-8, and the amazing experiences I’ve already covered with them.
At this point, I’m fully checked out to teach initial and recurrent ground schools with FSI. I am cleared to provide initial simulator instruction without supervision, and will complete the checkout process for recurrent sims this upcoming week. That will be the final step in becoming a fully qualified WestWind instructor, where I’ll be able to continue building experience.
Being qualified in the WestWind means that training in the Astra can begin in mid-July. The Astra is a just a sportier version of the WestWind, as I understand it. Many of the systems will be similar, so I’m thinking the spin-up won’t be as arduous. I do look forward to a continuing education.
Scheduling: Being qualified in two airplanes makes me a more versatile tool for FSI to use. I suspect that will mean that my schedule will get a little worse than it is now.
Scheduling is probably the most challenging part of this job for me. You do get days off, but quite often they come without enough notice to schedule a trip well. Taking on an initial class has meant that I spend six days on ground school (8am to 5pm); one day off; and then six days of simulator training (8am to 1pm). After that run, working 13 days out of 14, I’m feeling pretty tired and generally behind on all of the other things I’d like to be doing.
Believing that my Program Manager has my best interest at heart makes the vagaries of scheduling easier to accept. After all, I promised myself that I’d give this two years and then look back to see if I want to continue. No point in evaluating it now. Besides – Beverly is still very busy and I want to stay busy, so the work is coming at a good time. The extra funds don’t hurt at all.
I have to say that I’m enjoy giving instruction and find it incredibly rewarding. I learn something from each client that passes through, and the interactions with the other instructors builds on my expertise.
Teaching in simulators turns out to be exactly like when Charlie and I put together a King Air course on the Elite sim down in the hangars at Georgetown. We never taught the course to anyone, but trained each other while comparing the behavior of the simulator to Charlie’s knowledge of the actual airplane. I learned from that experience how very valuable simulation was, and how much I enjoyed giving instruction in sound instrument and operating procedures. It’s just plain fun to do.
Now that I have access to a Level C simulator that someone else takes care of, the experience has gotten even better. I’ve had the opportunity to point out and clean up bad habits some pilots had come in with, and to observe and learn from the positive ones they’d learned elsewhere. All very cool stuff to be doing as a retirement career.
As to my instructing skills, I still have an awful lot to learn. Counter to what we’ve been taught, I continue to fall back on a lecture style of teaching by default. I have other idiosyncrasies to improve upon as well, but I am going to give myself time to improve.
Staffing at FSI: I will be the one training new staff that comes in for the WestWind, I suspect. I don’t mind that at all, but I hope the next one hangs in there when he/she sees the schedule. It will be tough in the short term, but ultimately with two of us in there we should have better schedules.
Our last candidate just resigned after only a month. He is a very experienced American Captain, and I was excited to be working with him. Unfortunately, he found the schedules and the demands of instructing to be more than he wanted to endure in retirement, and dropped out. Damn. We move on.
Moving 2: Big changes are in play for Beverly and I in our personal lives. We have decided that the our beach experience has run it’s course, and that it would be a good time to simplify things. To that end, we are downsizing and selling both of our homes to move into a smaller space.
Our beach place went on the market as of last week. Follow the link if you know someone who needs a very well cared for place to play in the summer. Just a few minutes from the Indian River Bay and the Massey’s Resort, and about 20 minutes from Rehoboth.
Our Smyrna home will be listed probably next week. I’m writing this while I take a break from packing up and decluttering our home in Smyrna.
We’ll be moving to a property along the C&D canal in August if all goes well. I’ll leave my airplane down in Georgetown until I find a nice hangar at Wilmington or at least further north. I’m on the short list for Delaware airpark too, so something will work. Still planning my maintenance down there, but this will fall out as it does.
I am grateful that I have all this to keep me occupied while I wait for my airplane to be restored. It sure as heck makes it easier to be distracted.
Fly safely – Frank
Comments Off on Jun 25, 2017 – Change is inevitable
Several of you have noticed that I significantly slowed down my blog writing over the past few months. That certainly is true. I’m just now getting back to putting this post together and anxious to share more of the cool things I’ve been experiencing recently at FlightSafety. I didn’t feel much like sharing any of that until I knew more about the future of my airplane.
I also put the development of my new book on hold. One really needs the correct frame of mind to keep it entertaining and enjoyable, so I decide to wait until things settled down to get back to writing. Since by now I am confident that Matt will keep moving forward and find a way to get the parts he needs to get me airborne again, I’m ready to get back in the game.
Just a bit of review is in order: Back in October, the annual inspection of N833DF began. Matt felt that a number of items on this 50 year old Twin Comanche needed to be addressed. He began by recommending replacement of all fuel and oil lines. I found that the right prop had some play in it, and told him about it. He took that off and we sent it back to the shop that had just overhauled it a year ago. They gave me a break on the charges and sent it back tight and adjusted.
Next, he found a small crack in the skin above the one piece windshield, and removed that to apply a patch that ended up looking very nice. The overhauled pitch trim servo was reinstalled and we found that associated pulleys and cables had been damaged a few years back when the interior was updated and installed. Glue had gotten onto the pitch trim cable pulleys and frozen them in place. The control cables sawed through them, and created the symptoms that led to overhauling the pitch trim servo. The entire interior had to come out for that repair, and the scope of work grew a bit more.
I decided to upgrade the kx-155 radio display that had become unreliable, since it would take 4-8 weeks to complete and I had the time. Might as well complete that work now too.
The really bad news comes along when Matt found small cracks in the rear panel of each main landing gear box. These boxes attach the main gear trunions to the wing, providing a pivot point to stow them in the well. The back wall of each box is where it cracked, and that would have to be addressed. Matt started out not knowing how to really address the issue, so at this point I had no clue where this would lead.
I realized I wouldn’t be flying anytime soon, and that the costs for this expanding effort was going to on the significant side of large. The main landing gear boxes would have been a huge item on their own, but we were adding this onto an already significant list. I was very much depressed about it, and knew that planned trips for the year would be affected. Bummer.
The most difficult part of all of this was not knowing if this could be fixed, nor how to go about getting it done. I was following Matt’s lead, and he is a very busy guy who was just handed an airplane that needed tremendous work. No one to blame – no one to complain about – nothing to do but be patient, write checks against my retirement and my engine fund, and wait.
The Engineering Process Starts: Removing skins and completely disassembling the gear box will be time consuming and expensive. If we can develop a fix that will allow a doubler to be used instead of replacing the part, that would save time and money (and my new paint job).
First we had the cracks examined by X-ray and eddie current inspection. Those tests indicated that the cracks were only on the outside skins, so an engineering approach could be used.
The FAA designates engineers to effect repairs like this, ensuring the continued airworthiness of the GA fleet. These are known as Designated Engineering Representatives or DERs.
Matt works with a DER he trusts (Rocky) on warplanes, and thinks this guy will understand what is needed. Rocky didn’t follow through and ended up costing us about 8 weeks waiting for him. I was very frustrated with the complete lack of progress at this point, and was getting angry. We dropped Rocky at this point.
Considering the hard realities: I began to plan a path forward that may or may not include an airplane in my life. I wasn’t working last October, and truly didn’t want to hammer my retirement resources for the long term.
I’d be moving forward with whatever repairs were required until the airplane was back on it’s feet, in great shape, and airworthy. After that I might just have to take my lumps and sell the airplane while it is in top condition. I’ll get the most for it then, and remove the risk to our resources going forward. Hard to think about it, for sure, but at least something to be considered.
With my time in this amazing machine possibly coming to an end, the amazing journey through the aviation ranks I’ve been enjoying all these years could be wrapping up. the situation was utterly depressing. I realize that I absolutely could not bitch about it. I’ve been flying personally for over 30 years; spent more than a year flying the Dash-8, and have owned two airplanes over the last 20 years. The places I’ve been, people I’ve met, and stories I’ve collected have been worth the investment hands down. Getting depressed about it is selfish, to be sure, but I’ll miss having a nice airplane ready to go very much.
And just as suddenly, it gets easier. I get a phone call while out playing golf that FlightSafety would like me to consider being an instructor with them. Unbelievable! I’m bored with more free time than I’d ever had, and doing this work has been a retirement goal of mine for years.
Not only would I be getting a great opportunity to continue learning in aviation, I would be getting paid for it. The money would come at the perfect time to support the airplanes restoration, and even allow me to reduce the resources we were taking from retirement funds. Furthermore, I’d be doing this because I really wanted to. The timing and synergies of all these events has God’s hands all over it. I do appreciate all of the opportunity and grace that has been afforded to me in my life.
The Engineering Process Continues: Matt knew a second DER working out of Pat’s at KGED.
I made it clear to this gentleman that I wanted to know how long his work would take. He replied that it would only be a matter of weeks to complete, and by then he’d have his work done. Great news! Maybe some progress is in the works.
The plans came in, and Matt responded with his revisions. Then we waited for another month for the final plans. The DER and Matt had been operating on different assumptions, and no further plans would be forthcoming until Matt had begun the work. I called the DER myself to finally understand how this was supposed to work, and got everyone on the same page. Changes would be made as necessary, the plans finalized once the work was done, and we could get started with what we had.
Matt started the work based on the design by pulling up the top skins on the left wing. Right away he found additional cracks that the x-ray and eddie current inspections failed to reveal on the inner bulkhead ply. That meant that the entire bulkhead piece needed to be replaced anyway. As it happened, I would not be able to use the engineering designs that we had waited so many months for. Frustrating.
I would also now have to wait for Matt to have the time, since he suddenly had a ton of work he hadn’t expected on his schedule.
Progress is being made: The work has begun on the left wings gear box, using a new rear bulkhead piece. I tried to buy a new one for the right side, but could only find a used one. That one arrived with a crack in it too, so this might be an AD in the making. We’ll need to find another. Matt is working to rebuild the left side in the mean time.
Restoring Proficiency: When it does come back on line, I’ll have to relearn how to fly it. Here is an initial punch list for me to start working on when we go flying:
Fly Safely – I can’t wait to do that again in my beautiful PA30
Comments Off on Jun 11, 2017 – I’m back with news of the restoration….
The FlightSafety process for getting instructors online in equipment new to them is to train them as a client; have them observe the training of other clients (see the material a second time and watch for instructor technique); practice teach either on your own or with another instructor watching; and finally to conduct your own class with clients while an experienced instructor supervises.
This process of attend, observe, practice, and supervised instruction must be completed for both the longer initial and recurrent course content, and you must be evaluated as proficient in each along the way.
While all this learning and practice is going on, there are additional man-days of mandatory e-learning that you must successfully complete. These courses were all very well done, and the work was far from insignificant.
The Live Learning experiences are web-casts being conducted by a live instructor over the internet. There is usually one instructor and maybe fi e other teammates at FlightSafety facilities across the globe. Teammates is the term we use for employees here at FSI. Got all this?
Here is my list so far:
Professional Instructor Course (March ’17): This class was conducted in Dallas, and I headed down knowing I’d be bored out of my mind for a solid week. As it turned out, I had the chance to work with 10 or so other people that had vastly different experiences than my own (mostly deeper). The course was definitely worth the experience, and I came away better prepared to do this job.
One element of the PIC course is to demonstrate how facilitation and client participation yields better results than direct lecturing techniques. I wholeheartedly agree, but implementing that technique successfully in the field is not natural.
Pre-requisite coursework included Management by Strengths (Similar to Birkman personality studies), and the Principles of Service Excellence course relating to FSI values.
All this learning and preparation consumed the first quarter of 2017 handily.
Ground Instructor certification for both initial and recurrent was achieved earlier this month. Within a week of being signed off, I was schedule to run a recurrent ground school in the WestWind 1124 on my own, which wrapped up this afternoon. It will be interesting to see their comments on the class, as I continue to develop my style.
There was a check-ride type anxiety going into this, and a tendency to over-prepare. Developing summaries I’d never use had been the order of the day leading up to this experience. Program managers are giving me all the time and freedom I need to develop my teaching style, so there really is no pressure at the moment. The goal is to educate, entertain, and maintain an enthusiasm for the mission.
Self-evaluating my initial foray, I’d say that I talk too much and rely on a lecture style of teaching over facilitation. Lecturing is more familiar and allows me to get more detail into a recurrent session, but I know I need to move toward facilitating. I have seen some folks in my utility days who really knew how to do this. Using scenarios and ensuring the clients stay engaged is the way to go.
My next post will address an update on my airplane. Looks like the engineering repairs to the gear boxes is finally getting underway.
Fly safe – and thanks for all the positive feedback I am getting on this blog. It helps make it all worth doing.
Comments Off on April 23, 2017 Ground School Solo
Things are moving along rapidly in my new instructor career. The classroom and simulator training as a client earned me an initial type rating in a jet. Going through the same course as an observer watching a client repeat the experience this week is reinforcing what was recently practiced. The client already has a few jet ratings, and has been flying jets for over 20 years. He is currently flying a G100, and his company recently acquired a WestWind as a backup. Thus his need to earn an additional type rating.
The initial course is going well and I’m not bored with it as an observer. What I’ve already learned about the aircraft is being reinforced, and listening to the vastly experienced instructors and examiners do their thing is building in quite a bit of back-story. I’ve been contributing somewhat to the class and the clients training. I suppose I am violating the role of observer somewhat, but can’t resist inserting my two cents and making sure I understand all this as well as I believe.
JUST FINISHED READING STEPHEN COONTS – CANNIBAL QUEEN. Yes – that’s right. I’ve actually taken the time to read a book for pleasure, and Bev and I have even begun planning two vacations for later this year. Keeping quality of life in our sites while we both get the most out of life.
Cannibal Queen is an excellent book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish I could write as well as Mr. Coonts, but more to the point, I truly wish I could express myself as eloquently as he without offending. The author shared his views and insights on rather heavy topics of the time (circa 1991). Vietnam, politicians and the political scene, economics, and other heady topics were presented so lightly that the reader could let it register or let it ride without affecting the story.
My airplane is still not fixed. The annual details, autopilot, radio, propeller, and myriad other details are all done. What remains is for an engineers sign-off on a gear repair that is eating weeks. Thank God this job came along to help distract me as this work moves slowly along. Frustrating reality of owning a vintage airplane.
Bev and I want to fly to Myrtle Beach and Key West this year, so I’m anxious to get it back. Patience. There is a new hangar under construction that I’ll move it into when all the work is done, so this will all be worth it.
Recurrent Training is up next. Building a professional instructor requires incremental steps. After observing a client go through the initial type rating right after I did it on my own, I will once again go through training as a client. This training will be an opportunity to experience the recurrent training curricula, that rated and typed pilots will experience when they fly with us. That training is naturally shorter than the initial.
The Professional Instructor Course is scheduled for March for me down in Dallas. There I will presumably be reintroduced to the fundamentals of instruction, and taught the best way to take great care of our clients. I’m very much looking to this experience, which will bring me closer to being able to instruct clients.
I’ll need a few pre-requisites before I get there. The Principles of Service Excellence Training (SET), and Management By Strengths (MBS) courses will be completed after recurrent training. I’m not sure of the contents of the former, but know that the later is somewhat like doing a Berkman personality analysis. I do see some value in that process, so that will all be very interesting.
I can’t wait to get flying again….. and keep doing that.
Comments Off on Jan 31, 2017 – The Casual Observer
I like the title, but I admit that it’s overly dramatic. The envelope I’m talking about is my own personal limitations. Trying hard to learn jets and to do this professionally once more, I can only drawing parallels to my previous experience at Piedmont. I am beginning to understand myself more in the process.
I tend to set my personal standards very high. That isn’t unusual for pilots and A-type personalities, but I struggle to find the right expectations for myself when I’m learning a new aircraft. That creates undue stress and lessens the enjoyment I would otherwise feel while going through this amazing experience. Both at Piedmont and now at FlightSafety, I’ve been told to relax and enjoy the experience. I’m only a little better at it now, and still lose sleep approaching a check-ride.
At the start of sims, I had the opportunity to observe an initial check-ride being given to a client. This young man flew the check-ride flawlessly the entire time, from what I could see. Flawlessly. Fast forward a week to my own check-ride, which I did pass, and I felt that I was working a whole lot harder than that young man did. I did get it done, but it will take more experience for me to be as smooth as he.
Simulator Lessons: There were five sim sessions, one per day, and I learned something with each one. Combined, they gave me enough repetition that I could begin to build the skills and muscle memory that I needed. The feedback I got was that I was certainly on target, but needed to relax more and have more fun with it.
Lesson four in the simulator was particularly difficult. Unusual attitudes, V1 cuts, single engine go-arounds, and emergency procedures among other maneuvers. I didn’t fly up to my own standards that day, and the instructor agreed. Dave reassured me that I’d been at this without a break for 11 days, and everyone had fatigue and performance issues by now. He told me to relax and have fun. I was doing just fine.
The final lesson and LOFT went very well and my confidence soared. LOFT is Line Oriented Flight Training, and that means basically flying the airplane from one point to another as you would on the line. I found that entire experience to be great fun – hitting Dulles, LaGuardia, and JFK airports to simulator dropping passengers off on a typical flight. I left that Friday feeling very good about my ability to pass the check-ride the next day.
The Check-ride: The ride went smoothly, for the most part. I did make a few mistakes along the way. Not getting all of the flaps up after a single engine go-around, and then not getting them down on the next approach comes to mind. Later I had several failures to deal with, plus a distraction on a single engine approach. I announced I was descending to an intermediate fix before I should have, and the FO called out that he didn’t advise that. I realized what I’d begun to do, and that saved me from a serious mistake. Keep moving.
At the end of the day, I passed the check-ride.
I do need to improve how I manage the cockpit to ensure I get the most out of my FO, while helping him or her to enjoy the experience as well. In other ways – exerting authority under pressure, without being an asshole, is more difficult than it appears. Extensive single pilot IFR experience has ingrained habits that get in the way of my being a fun captain to fly with. I’m getting better with each opportunity though, and have that as a goal.
The quality of the FlightSafety training is every bit as good as the USAir experience. The really big difference here is that everyone at FlightSafely is biased toward ensuring I’ll meet the standards and be successful, whereas the airline’s sought to minimize training and emphasize evaluation in an impersonal environment. The training at FlightSafety – both classroom (ground) and simulator – was one on one. Personal training with a bias toward success makes this experience an amazing opportunity for me. I’m making the most of it.
Upcoming Features: I have completed high altitude training this past week, as a refresher to the training Mike B and I had done in 2009. This past week was an easy one, and I used the time to build an instructor’s book identifying all of the content I’ll use to teach ground school. My boss tells me I’m working too hard, but I’m really not. I’m enjoying myself and want to make sure I fulfill any expectations, out of respect for the opportunity to do this.
Monday, Jan 23 starts another initial class for me. I’ll observe the class going through the training I just completed, so that I can not only see the material again, but observe how the instructor presents it. That will run through Saturday, and then I’ll have a day off on Sunday.
Monday, Jan 30th will start a week of simulator training that will culminate in a check-ride the following Saturday for the clients. I’m afraid that, once again, I’ll see others flying a check-ride with amazing ease compared to how much work I did. It is possible that I’m a very good pilot simply because I work so hard at it.
Doolittle Connections: Now I have two connections to the Doolittle raiders. Larry Kelley’s owns the B-25 Panchito and established the Delaware Aviation Museum Foundation. Matt Sager also works there and managed to get me a signed copy of Dick Cole’s book. Dick was Doolittle’s copilot, and the first to launch off of the carrier at the start of the raid. I consider that a connection by 1 degree of separation.
I recently met Lloyd Austin, an incredibly experienced octogenarian military aviator working with me at FlightSafety. Austin gave me my check-ride last week, and noticed that I have a B-25 rating. He also has one, and proceeded to tell me that his first CAA issued instrument ticket was signed by Travis Hoover. He would later fly with Travis in the B-25, and Travis would go on to become the co-pilot in the second bomber to be launched off of aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) on the Doolittle raid. That’s 1 degree of separation to the co-pilot’s of the first two bombers launched that morning. I just think that’s pretty cool.
Fly Safe! I am looking forward to flying the simulator again, so that I can really hone my proficiency in this jet.
Comments Off on Jan 14, 2016 – Flying to the Edge of the Envelope
I’ve talked about wanting to work at FlightSafety for a very long time. The idea of spending my days at an airport, or flying someone else’s airplanes into my golden years, has always been appealing to me. Engineering and management challenges were fun, but this is where my heart has led me. I am excited to be starting a new career at this point.
That career was to have begun back in November, but I had to delay my start when my wife ended up in the hospital. My Teammates at FlightSafety made the last minute adjustments for me with no hassles at all. We just moved my start date to Dec 19, 2016. Only after I began this new career, would I understand how impractical it would have been to leave for even a day in the middle of the training to be with my wife. I was glad I was up front with them, and more so that they made it easy for me.
On December 16th, I had an interesting consulting opportunity pop up with my old company and a consulting firm. One more pull back into what had been a very lucrative career for me. This one was related to drone piloting for utility work; building and instructing the new pilots that would operate them in the field. From what I can see at this point, there is a good possibility an interesting niche business might develop for the future. Before I began work at flight safety, I took the tine to pass the required FAA exams, adding a drone pilot certification to my resume. If it happens that I have extra time and do both – I will bring that option along. If not – I’ll let it go.
Monday, December 19th – my very first day of work. During my introductory briefing by the Director of Training, I was told that my pay had gone up by a full 16%. Unbelievable! What a nice way to start my day, and a new career at that! The pilot shortage is clearly hitting everyone, and this raise was across the board for instructors that had been there for a long time. I was lucky enough to hit this at the right time. The new income will certainly make the restoration of my airplane easier to manage.
The week of the 19th had me doing eLearning all week, setting up the corporate iPad they gave me, and working with the FSI IT department to activate my accounts. I received a full box of business cards and several types of name tags from my new friend, Diane, who seems to make everything come together. She has been at FSI for a long time as a key HR person, and I came to understand that Diane is the type that keeps things smooth and moving. She became the smiling and encouraging face that greeted me those first few days, until I learned to find my way around on my own.
Oh – and it is not lost on me that I wear a name tag at work now. Too funny!! I’ve been bashing my friends that wear name tags for years, and this is payback.
Tuesday 12/27/16 was the first day of ground school, coming off of Christmas break. School was scheduled to run four long days through Friday with Len. He is a dedicated instructor with high energy, who would be leaving FSI for a flying job any day now. It is his intention to ensure that I picked up where he left off, and was brought up to speed with the greatest haste.
Len hoped to stay on at FSI as a part time instructor, and many folks do. He hopes his new company will assign him to the Falcon jet, but acknowledges that he might end up in a King Air instead. Len is fastidious, highly energetic, and is spending 10% of our time together grooming me to become an effective instructor at the same time he is teaching me about the jet. The instruction I receive is one-on-one, so my focus remains complete.
I realized then and now how much better this situation is for me here, compared to the US-Air training I’d received. Both are highly effective, but this approach is completely focused on me, and biased toward my personal success. Len’s energy is boundless, and regardless of the length of the day, the quality of his instruction never declined.
The next instructor would be my assistant program manager. Dave takes a different approach by having me draw out the systems we are exploring as he walks me through them. It was a very effective way to teach me the subtleties of the system, and I find it a refreshing change to Len’s approach. Both are necessary to match the pace we need, and together I am getting through with a minimum, of stress. Dave wants to be sure I’m enjoying myself, and that I don’t get overly frustrated with the pace and quantity of information flowing into my cranium. I am hesitant to relax with a check-ride ahead, but can’t help doing that just a little.
I did ask to leave on time that Thursday. My friend was having a 25th anniversary party that Bev and I very much wanted to attend. We had a nice night out, and I found Len in the office the next morning waiting for me. He reviewed where we were, and told me he wanted to knock out the rest of my ground school that day. Off to the races!! I could tell that Len truly wanted me to have as much information as possible, as early as possible.
Sometime during Friday’s marathon session, the program manager stopped in to tell me that I was off the next day (Saturday) for lack of an available instructor. Scott said that when I came back on Tuesday, I’d get my first chance to fly the sim as a right seat pilot for a client. This guy was just doing a warm-up flight, so it would be a good mission to cut my teeth on. I was very excited, even though it would be a 5 am start.
With that knowledge, after a 12 hour ground school day, Len added an introductory simulator flight for me that lasted about an hour. I went home totally exhausted, but feeling like I’d retained most of what I’d learned. This weekend would be for studying for the written as a primary focus; reviewing flashcards for the oral; and performing flows on a poster in preparation for the right seat ride. Things were moving fast.
After some sleep, I reflected on the fact that Len’s day was just as long as mine. His quality of instruction never waned all day, and my ability to absorb all this information seemed to be good. He was doing his job. I did worry about retention and recall as this process continued, but buckled back down and pressed on. I am still amazed that he never showed any signs of slowing down, nor took any shortcuts in his work.
Tuesday, Jan 4th – The sim ride was only slightly intimidating. This particular day was intended to allow the client to warm up for an upcoming check-ride. He already knew what he was doing, and the flight went very smoothly. I didn’t know any of the PIC or SIC flows, nor was I able to find the switches I’d need. It was still good to observe, and I was backed up closely by Dave in the back so that I didn’t look like an idiot. I was excited to be doing this in a jet for the very first time.
Wednesday, Jan 5th was my last day in ground school.
Thursday, Jan 6th was a casual free ride in the simulator to get familiar before the start of Sims. The checkride was already scheduled for the following Saturday, and I had a hard time seeing how the hell are they where going to get me ready. I’d never flown a jet before, and so much of this was new.
Fly safe! I’m so very fortunate to be doing what I am, and to have the tremendous support at home to experiment boldly.
Comments Off on Dec 19, 2016 – Back in Ground School
I’m working hard to get my airplane back on it’s new tires and out flying again. Angel Flight has been calling, and I promised to call them when I’m back. Also received two word of mouth calls to move cancer patients that I’ll do outside of that network – provided I get back online in time.
The later is an 80+ year old that needs to come out of Hilton Head, SC. That flight will be a 7 hour round trip, but the older gentleman will only have to endure half of that to get to his front door. His kids think this will be a better mode of transport than going commercial or driving in his condition.
I know Matt will get through everything, but now I worry that I’ll get my KX-155 radio back from the shop in time. No update on that and it’s been about 3 weeks already.
Time will tell.
Fly safe. Hitting the simulator today to get ready.
Comments Off on Dec 4, 2016 – Pending Volunteer Flights
It will be easier to write about the intense annual I’m in the middle of when it’s all done. For now, I can add some flavor to what we’ve found thus far. Taking apart something so dear to me is a tough thing to endure.
I guess it was a good thing that the skin cracked about the windshield. The headliner had been glued into the frame and would have been tough to remove as a result. The later had to come out to be able to fully access the pitch trim system, so the windshield would have to come out. Matt found a crack emanating from a windshield screw around the windshield, and confirmed my suspicion that the screws had been torqued down too tightly at the last re-install.
Skin Crack #1 – top dead center on the windshield.The airplane is 50 years old this year, and the windshield has been in and out of the airframe probably 5 times since I’ve owned it. Stuff happens. Shortcuts cost time and money – mostly mine.
The picture at left shows Matt holding a doubler that he designed to hide underneath the skin. This means my brand new paint is saved, and the smooth lines of the Comanche will be preserved in the windstream. Other than shiny new non-painted rivets, you won’t even know it’s there. That is craftsmanship.
I should have taken a profile of this doubler as well, since the picture shown makes it look easier to make than it was. The profile shot would have revealed how the effort he had to put into hand-shaping the compound curve required to match the fuselage contour in the affected area. The picture at right is the doubler under the top skin.
The shot below shows the doubler installed with cleco fasteners, with the offending screw hole below it. That is the hole that was leaking after the last windshield reinstallation while flying through moderate rain. The A&P doing that work had siliconed the hole and over-torqued the screw as a solution. This shortcut slowed the leak, but cracked the skin. Water was found behind the windshield after it was removed this last time.
Matt’s repair is now complete and the windshield has been re-installed. The only other complication was the soft aluminum window trim below the windshield. That had suffered some abuse over time, and we tried to find a new one. The cost and condition of replacements were questionable, so Matt had to hand repair and reform the one we had.
Kendall Horst at Lancaster Aero agreed to provide me with touch up paint for the rivets and any new scars, but also suggested I let him do it for me when I was ready. I’ve decided to take his advice, and most likely will fly up in the spring, I’ll have him touch up any rough areas that result from this annual, and return the paint to pristine.
Gas Caps – an easy one. I noticed that my fuel caps were rusting and looking awful. I figured it was poor manufacture or materials on this batch, since I’d not seen this before. It could be due to the airplane being outside at times due to hangar storm damage, but that didn’t sound right. Then it was pointed out to me that paint stripper residue from the repainting process would do that. I ordered new ones and solved that one on my own.
The picture at right shows the bolt you are looking at below. We are working with knowledgeable folks at the International Comanche Society; other knowledgeable resources that know Comanches; and ultimately a designated engineer to design a permanent repair.
I expect this work to be completed in the next few weeks, and I’ll document the repairs.
I’ll be heading back to the hangar on Monday morning, after being holed up at home for two weeks dealing with family medical issues. With everyone back on their feet – it will be good to get going.
Fly Safely – Frank
Comments Off on Nov 5, 2016 – Intensive Annual Continues