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Web Site: http://www.airdorrin.com
Posts by fdorrin:
- More than likely – not many people will read it when it’s done. That’s ok though – I enjoy reading it and a few folks might get something out of it.
- The shelf life of a best seller is not all that long at all – even when incredibly successful. Anything I do will be incredibly short-lived in comparison, so it is important to keep things in perspective.
- I learned to put a camera down and participate instead of record. It is better to live life than to capture images – unless you enjoy the picture taking part of it.
- I’ll enjoy the process more when I can write about getting N833DF airborne again.
- 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
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.
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP.
Fly safe! Frank
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!
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.
Comments Off on March 23, 2018 – Jets Updated
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.
Comments Off on Feb 21, 2018 – Jets!!
I replaced my 2001 Honda Goldwing with a brand new 2018 Harley Ultra Limited. This is my first Harley and I surprised myself deciding to buy it. It was time to update my ride and I was drawn to the V-Twin experience. It has built in heated seats; modern electronics; and a modern engine. Can’t wait to get Beverly out on it!
Aviation: I haven’t flown an actual airplane since October, 2016, and N833DF is still out of service. It is my responsibility to get this project over with, so I’ll work with Matt this year to make that happen. If he can’t get it done, I will be forced to work with him to pull other resources in, or pack it up and move it somehow.
N833DF Update: Matt is supposed to be making the parts we need to replace the cracked members in the landing gear box, and putting the left wing back together first. Most of the other items found during the annual have already been addressed – but it’s been a year since they were completed and nothing has been tested. The overhauled KX-155, for example, has never been turned on and is now out of warranty.
For now – he has made a new commitment to work on it three days a week until it is completed. I really hope that happens, and I can get it flying and up in a new hangar at KILG where I work. Holy S@#! would that be just the absolute best.
2017 in Review For my part, there has been allot to keep me busy since my airplane became unavailable. I didn’t push very hard, and even put a positive spin on the the event. If it was going to happen – then NOW was the best time for all this drama to surface.
In November of 2016, I was scheduled to begin a new career with FlightSafety as an Instructor. Bev suddenly needed unplanned surgery over the coming weeks, and life had suddenly gotten busy as the Thanksgiving holiday neared. The word turmoil could have been used to describe the level of activity, but the negative connotation doesn’t really fit the situation. We were addressing these unplanned opportunities as they came, and I worked with FlightSafety to defer my start date until some of it settled down. My priorities were clear.
I used the additional time to enjoy the same stomach bug everyone was passing around at the time for a week or two, and finally recovered in time to spend Thanksgiving in the hospital with Bev. Leigh-Ann and Scot brought in all the fixin’s for Thanksgiving and we gathered together right there in the Hospital that day. (Writing these blogs is a good way to remember how fortunate I am.)
January through June was spent learning all the background knowledge you need to be able to fly and instruct in corporate jet aircraft. I went through initial and recurrent training as a client; flew the simulator; and then proceeded through various practice sessions until I was cleared to instruct in the Westwind classroom and simulator.
June, July, and August: Selling and buying homes consumed a major chunk of our summer. Sometime prior to that, Bev and I floated the idea of selling both of our homes and finding someplace along the water – somewhere. Much of my free time this summer went into preparing both homes to be put on the market, and spending time looking for a new place to live.
When we found our new home in Chesapeake City, MD, we decided to make an offer before listing either of the other homes. It was risky, but this house was right along the canal and we didn’t want to lose it. Our offer was accepted, so we listed both of our existing homes. Within 25 days we had both of them sold, and closed all the settlements in August.
The point is – my mind was kept off of the fact that my airplane sat languishing in a hangar in Georgetown.
New guys come and go: Our first FlightSafety new guy after me came to the Westwind during the summer months. He had airline experience that I certainly respected, and I was ready to see him spin up fast in our program. It wasn’t to be, as it turned out. Until you get comfortable, the Westwind might best be hand flown during single engine approach and go-around scenarios. Expecting the automation to get you through is not a sound approach. As it was, a roll-over due to fuel imbalance closed the deal for this guy. He walked away on his own. I was disappointed.
The next guy in line I’ve already spoken about. Mike J is a high energy experienced King Air Instructor, and I’m going to learn allot from him. He is professional and easy-going. Mike should be cleared to instruct Westwind this spring, and Astra after that. I am looking forward to working with him to improve the instructional material for both programs, which will make it easier for those that follow.
Hangars: Cruel irony. Sometime in the first half of the year – the new hangars were completed in Georgetown, and I got a beautiful one. I kept it until August, when I realized that my airplane wasn’t coming back anytime soon. Letting that beautiful hangar go was a very difficult decision to make. I like Georgetown and the people there, and really wanted my airplane in a pristine hangar. Now I don’t live there any longer.
It pays to have friends and contacts though. I have a hangar waiting for me at KILG when my airplane gets done. It is more expensive, but will be worth it. I can’t wait to leave work on a spring afternoon, and drive around the other side of the airport to pull my airplane out and go flying. The hangar there is in great shape, and positioned nicely on the airport. I just have to get my airplane there.
August Astra Training: Training for the second jet type rating also began in August, 2017. The Astra is very similar to the Westwind jet, so it isn’t difficult to fly the thing. I ham-fisted my steep turns the first few times, but Lloyd leaned forward and told me to slow down my roll in. That seemed to do the trick and I have that rating now.
In September, I began building SIC time in the Astra while continuing to instruct in the Westwind. The schedules weren’t too bad and I was enjoying the work.
I missed N833DF, and bugged Matt now and again. Lots of promises and false starts kept it frustrating. I remained hopeful.
August / September New House Preparations: I was running several projects at our new house in the midst of all this, including one failed one for a new driveway. The town got involved and stalled our contractor when he missed a key permit. I spent considerable time dealing with politicians and watching a contractor attempt half-assed solutions to try keeping the simple project afloat. I fired him after several weeks, and had to deal with allot of non-sense for awhile.
My kids save my ass though, when Scot activated DDR construction. I had a new driveway two days later. With that finally complete, I brought in a landscaper to repair all the damage from the first contractor, and we are all good now.
October Key West Vacation We had planned to meet Ted & Linda and Scot & Anita down in Key West for vacation in October. Scot & Anita couldn’t make it due to family commitments. They have older parents, like Bev & I do, and were unable to join us. Ted & Linda kept us moving the entire week, and Bev & I very much enjoyed the break in our action.
November/December were largely Westwind instruction and some in-house training. Mid-December saw the focus shift to Astra again, in preparation for my becoming an active instructor in that airplane.
Merry Christmas came along with both of my inlaws in the hospital with pneumonia and related illnesses. Beverly is an Angel, and I’m getting into Heaven on buddy points – I know that. We brought her parents home with us to our new house, which is uniquely suited to care for them. I hope they stay with us long term now, but we’ll have to see how it goes when they are both feeling better and home from the hospital.
January 2018: Schedules absolutely suck this month. Mine does, anyway. I have a bit of an attitude.
I just completed my first supervised ground instruction for the Astra, and most absolutely wasn’t ready. Everyone tells me I am doing great, and have plenty of knowledge. Non-sense. There should be more time for me to read, practice, and prepare. I must be able to add enough depth to all of the subjects that are specific to Astra, before I stand in front of a client. Oh well – the guys in my class were recurrent experts, and some of the best pilots I’ve seen yet.
I’m teaching a Westwind Recurrent later this week, and then it’s on to my first Astra Initial Sim instruction next week. I’m admittedly hacked off with the sudden urgency to get me up and running on the Astra, while simultaneously training me to instruct 135 Charter pilots and become a center evaluator. Doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of long term planning going on, as I see it.
2018: I filed FSI paperwork to be cleared to fly these jets as a contract pilot while continuing to work for FSI. In order to keep this interesting for me and to seriously boost my motivation, I want to get some time in them. I don’t want a real job, mind you, but I do want to get a few trips in either the Westwind or an Astra jet. I haven’t heard back from FSI yet – but won’t let this go. Opportunities are out there.
My FSI contract obligation is to pay back the first type rating if I leave within 2 years. That is up in December, 2018. By then I’ll have two type ratings and will be in a position to be flying contract every now and again. I could also work part-time at FSI and take a part time flying job. Who knows what is next?
Westwind/Astra will be getting a new program manager and assistant program manager this year. The changing schedules and personalities might make all the decisions for me.
Once my airplane gets back I’ll have a major project going for me. Getting re-familiarized with it and retrained in flying it professionally will be a major focus. That might be enough to keep me motivated in and of itself.
I’m excited to see what is next for all of us in 2018.
Fly safe and be well…..
Comments Off on Jan 9, 2018 – 2017 Year in Review
The stress of the big move is over, and all of my check-rides for the year are behind me as well. The Astra type rating in the bag, and I’m working on identifying and filling in the remaining boxes so that I can expand my instructor qualifications to include the Astra.
Thus far, the demands of being a FlightSafety Instructor do not approach any that I’ve experienced before in terms of complexity and time away from home. The schedule remains the obvious hurdle, if this is to become a long term avocation for me.
FlightSafety: I’m enjoying the work, but many are telling me I will be bored very soon and will decide to move on. I don’t see that coming at the moment, but I am starting to believe that there may be something to that if instructing is all I have going. One thing that will help keep me challenged is getting my airplane back. Re-training and traveling will help keep me busy. Angel Flights and taking Beverly on three and four day trips will add additional spice, and the combination might just be enough.
I committed to two years. Financially, that means I’d have to write a check of less than $20k to leave now. Personally – I have no intention of leaving until I get much better at this than I am now, and that will take at least another year.
I’ve been influenced by clients and colleagues to plan now for what is next, and pursue my desire to fly jets as well as teach. I’ll address that in the next blog, using the writing itself as a means of thinking it through. The path forward will include FlightSafety, and might possibly blends in a few other opportunities that have arisen. I’m excited to be thinking about it.
N833DF: My airplane is still not flying, and that is an obvious source of frustration. There was at least good news on that front this week, however, when a picture showing that riveting has begun on the left wing came in. We are putting something back together for a change. I refuse to not be optimistic about that.
One thing that helps with this is to remember that the timing of this major down-time for my airplane is actually fortuitous. Freakin’ amazing, actually. At the very moment I find out that my hobby will be taken away from me for some time, I get a phone call that hands me a tremendous opportunity to get two jet type ratings in a year. Starting full time work as a FlightSafety instructor requires focus, and that took my mind off of my airplane for a time. So many things happened this year to keep me occupied, that I can at least be grateful for the timing.
Now it is time to focus on moving it forward though, so I am putting an increasing amount of pressure on myself to get it done. While Matt is an amazing talent, he is constantly pulled in different directions. I want him involved in the repairs from start to finish, but may have to work with him to find a better solution. That decision will be made in December, based on where we stand.
In case you are wondering. I have absolutely no regrets buying either one of my airplanes. They have challenged me; opened up an amazing array of new opportunities; and have given me the chance to work alongside an amazing array of people in the past few years. Thank God I have a wife who understands and supports this obsession. It isn’t cheap, but it has been worth it.
Home front: my wife is amazing and we are coming up on our 20 year anniversary this November 9th. Major projects on the outside of the house have been recently completed. The new propane tank was installed in a more reasonable location. It has been moved away from the driveway where someone visiting was bound to park upon it. Owning the new tank gives us access to competitive propane gas pricing, and has broken a lock that Shagrin Gas had on the previous owners. For example, I filled the new tank with 1000 gallons at $1.30 versus refilling from Shagrin at about $2.60. That equates to about a 3 year pay-off on the project.
The concrete driveway has also been completed, allowing a landscaper well known to us to come in and repair the considerable damage done to the yard by all this work. The results of those efforts are impressive, and we have been watching new grass grow and begin to stabilize the wet ground this past week. It appears that the two major rain storms that came through after the work was done caused only light damage and erosion. Progress.
We have been socializing and exercising more, and I just sent our our bikes to get new saddles and tune-ups. We’ve been out playing more in the last month or so than in all of last year, it seems. Good times. Many of our friends are closer to the new place, and our family has easier access to drive-by visits now that we are 45 minutes further north.
Our commute improved as well, shaving about an hour of driving a day for each of us. Bev’s round trip to her parents, and mine to the airport are significantly more convenient. Additionally, the new hangar in Wilmington is 5 minutes from work and only 25 minutes from home. It’s all coming together.
Staying in touch with old neighbors, and building relationships with new ones is also keeping us moving. Wine and cheese at 5pm on someone’s deck is not uncommon, and a recent vacation to Key West continued the tone for us this fall.
Chesapeake City is a quaint little town we are getting to know. We love our house and are working to learn how to fit in with the ebb and flow of the town. Interactions with the town planning committee and the town manager have led to positive outcomes, but I admit to going in prepared to do battle. I need to relax, but hold them accountable while protecting my interests. They are working with me.
I’ll be pursuing a variance with the town and wet lands commission (whatever that is called) next year for an additional driveway lane. I’ll also be building two decks and removing a fence. That means I’ll have both the county and the town in my business, and I’ll be walking around in my Centurion outfit. I’m sure it will all work out fine, but I’m not always the best guy to deal with bureaucratic non-sense (see – there I go again).
Blog Writing: I had significantly curtailed my writing about aviation as a result of my airplane’s woes. I just found it too distracting and didn’t want to be reminded of it. The joy I’ve gotten out of learning to fly the WestWind and Astra Jets burned through some of that melancholy, but the temporary loss of my airplane continues to slow my writing.
I think that may change though. Renewed confidence that either Matt or another resource will return my airplane to flight, and a the decision to being career planning I alluded to earlier will renew my energy on the matter.
‘Finding your own way’ is the title of a book I’ve been working on. The book gets a lower priority when it comes to experiencing life, for a number of reasons:
N833DF Progress: I reached out to my A&P, Matt, this week. I suggested that the lack of progress to date might make it unlikely that I’d be flying by the end of the year. He’d made the promise before to have the plane reassembled by year end, and I think it is a reasonable goal for both of us. If we don’t make it, I’m hoping to work together to get someone else involved to help. Matt would stay involved, but the work would get done.
Matt sent a picture of the left wing soon the latest text exchange. I could see clecos bringing the skins together on the left wing, and was absolutely elated.
Thrilled to see some form of progress here for a change, Matt tried to temper my enthusiasm, saying we had a long way to go. It is hard not to get excited, so I am.
I did remind him to follow up on his contact regarding the building of my right wing gear support piece. There are no new ones available, and all the salvaged ones we found are all cracked. Not following up has led to delays this past year.
Traveling in N833DF is a definitely part of the 2018 plan for Beverly and I, and I intend to make that happen.
WestWind / Astra instruction: I’ve been teaching in the WestWind for both initial and recurrent pilots. I am rated in the Astra and have completed all or most of the instructor qualifications that will enable me to instruct. Just a few more steps to go before I can contribute in that program.
I have also taken a 135 check-ride in the Astra, and suffered through a 135 indoc course out in Ohio. Terribly boring event, the later. I still don’t get asked to do 135 evals, so there must be additional requirements yet to meet. I believe I’m on course to be a TCE (training center evaluator?) this year, which would enable me to perform continuous checks on recurrent clients and basically be more useful.
I’ll let my program manager drive that process, however, and will enjoy a better schedule until we get there. Never volunteer, but show up early when called upon.
Our new guy is Mike J. He is eager and energetic, and makes me feel just a little guilty about dialing back when I do. I have been avoiding solving various organizational issues like getting hardware and IT support teams to follow through on things. I have been working around problems and compensating when it is clear those folks have other priorities. Mike J doesn’t take NO for an answer, and that is refreshing.
Brain Food: My mother in-law has observed that I have an insatiable need to be reading, studying, or learning something. I’ve always recognized that I get bored easily, and keep looking for the next project to jump into. Keeping my mind busy on something seems to be a requirement for me.
One of my colleagues recently made the innocent comment that he thought I’d continually need to find ‘Brain Food’ to be able to stay interested in this work. New equipment, procedures, or challenges would be required if I was going to stay. I like the term for describing how I function, and it is consistent with what my mother inlaw observed. I like that description, and it works.
In the next blog, I’m going to talk about what my next steps might be with FlightSafety to keep me engaged. Given that a recent announcement informed me that the WestWind/Astra Program will be getting a new Manager, it will be good to do some planning. One weak leader with no vision could quickly make this job intolerable.
Thanks for reading all this. Fly safe!
Comments Off on Oct 16, 2017 – Moving on; N833DF Update; and Brain Food
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….