New York City

If you fly you will eventually, and probably repeatedly, fly to New York. Some pilots love it, some hate it. It can be challenging because NYC is a hugely, excuse me YUGELY,  busy place with lots of traffic. Plus lots of airports in a small area. JFK,LGA,TEB,HPN,MMU and EWR are all within  a few miles of each other.

This is some compact airspace filled with helicopters, private general aviation planes, business jets, airlines, and military aircraft. It most nearly resembles a large bottle of flies. Maybe lightning bugs in a jar with the blinking position lights.  NYC controllers are some fast talking folks who manage to keep it all together… or apart actually. If you happen to be from a certain slow talking region of the country you better get with the program. There isn’t a lot of time for jawing on the radio and asking them to repeat the instructions. When the weather is down, the challenges increase. Pilots have to know their stuff if they are going to have a good trip into and out of this crowded place. But it is a credit to the system we have in this country. It may be a little rundown in places but as the saying goes, they push a lot of tin through the skies.

The most popular airport for private aircraft seeking to get to the city is KTEB, Teterboro, NJ. From there it’s a 30 minute limo or cab ride into the city. Or you can spend the big bucks and have a chopper pick you up. And then, the town is yours! Over the years I have seen some interesting and fun stuff, eaten at some good restaurants and generally had a good time.

Here’s some random shots from around town. 

Lady Liberty, the Rockefeller Center, and the Freedom Tower.

Also the new PATH station at the World Trade Center and a lamp in Central Park.

Maybe I will post some more at another time. But I hope you enjoyed!

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Mustang Alley

Of all the iconic aircraft in the world, the P51 Mustang is probably the top of the heap. Isolationist America had almost no military to speak of when World War II began. We had less than 180,000 soldiers in the US Army! Suddenly there was a need for massive production of war materiel. America did amazing things. Ford stopped making cars and produced bombers. Unemployment disappeared as jobs were plentiful.  What is amazing is that the P51 went from prototype to first aircraft off the line in a mere 102 days! This aircraft far exceeded the performance of any other propeller driven fighter and bridged the performance gap between prop driven fighters and the jet age. It was a technological marvel and a great example of America Can Do.

A large air grabbing prop and the powerful 12 cylinder Merlin engine, combined with a low drag fuselage made this the dominant fighter in any dogfight. Part of the Allied success over Germany was the simple fact that now we had a fighter that could fly the distance and provide escort for the bombers targeting Germany. B17 crews loved their “little friends” who helped keep them safe from the German fighters.

 

This P51D hangs in the lobby of Base Ops FBO at the Page Field airport in Sarasota, Florida. It really helps you understand the powerful propeller that slung this plane around the skies. The P51 was not as manuevarable as the Spitfire but it had tons of power and most importantly range. It had a redline speed of 505 mph and could easily do 400 mph. Six .50 caliber Browning machine guns provided the punch that made the airplane so deadly.

 

Crazy Horse is still flying in Kissimmee Florida and for the right amount of “hay” you can feed this horse and take a ride. Be prepared to “pony up” though because these birds aren’t cheap. But talk about a thrill! I have not had the opportunity to fly in this plane but it is on my bucket list. If you have never been to an airshow where WWII era planes have been featured you owe it to yourself to go. The sound and the sight of such iconic aircraft is unique and unforgettable.

The most famous P51 pilots were Chuck Yeager and Bob Hoover. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Hoover at an aviation convention. Both of them had exciting lives and their biographies are great reading.

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Let me fly with my boots on!

I needed a good pair of cool weather boots and so naturally went to the internet to shop. Came across the Boot Campaign at http://shop.bootcampaign.org/

Every pair of boots purchased helps to support military families. I like the fact that their financial information is publicly displayed, and that they have a great selection. And as you can see, I like my boots!

AirStat as a company wants to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU! to all military personnel, past and current, for your sacrifices made on behalf of this nation. Thanks for the the job you do, for enduring the separation from your families, for protecting all of us here at home, and for your great examples of courage, sacrifice, and can do spirit. We salute you!

Now go get your boots!

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Harrier Jump Jet

The Harrier is one mean machine. British made and very unique for its ability to do vertical takeoffs and landings via the use of directionally variable nozzles. It is quite a sight to see one takeoff from a standstill and then accelerate to 500 knots. Very radical to have a fighter jet that doesn’t need a runway.

A massive air intake with a large turbofan engine pushes a lot of air through the four rotating nozzles located on the side of the plane which allows it to take off vertically or to do a more efficient rolling jump into the air. Of course it can take off like a normal jet as well.

Also unusual for a fighter is the large center main gear with the little outrigger gear on the wings. When you don’t slam the aircraft onto a ship you don’t need super sturdy landing gear which saves considerable weight. The United States Marines found it a useful jet although it is being phased out of active military service these days.

Harriers saw a lot of action during the Falklands War and were launched off ships much smaller than a United States aircraft carrier using a ramp reminiscent of a ski jump. I am not sure what the net is for unless it’s to catch parts that might fall off during launch. You can clearly see the forward nozzle deflected at an angle.

Picture uploaded from www.defenseindustrydaily.com

The fighter industry is changing a great deal. All my favorite fighters like the F14, F15, and F16 are becoming more obsolete and the future is with all the stealthy F22 types. They just don’t look as sleek to me, but one cannot argue with their capability. Having been to a few airshows and seen the demonstrations of all these aircraft, it is quite eye opening to see what an F22 can do just aerodynamically. It turns on a dime without imposing the heavy g-loads that previous aircraft require. And why? Because the f22 uses vectored thrust just like the aging Harrier, which just goes to prove there isn’t anything new under the sun, there’s just modifications.

Here is a shot from Sun ‘n Fun in Florida of an F22 Turnin’ and Burnin’ with afterburners lit.

F22 Raptor

The aircraft is so different from past fighters because of the stealth technology. It’s growing on me though, simply because it is one serious machine. I am pretty sure the folks that loved the P51 hated to see it replaced by the modern jet fighters; that is, until they strapped one on, then it was all over. Here is a nice generational shot featuring the F22 with a pair of WWII fighters, the P51 and the twin engine P38.

What remains to be seen is what will happen to fighter pilots in the future. Will they be flying jets or sitting in trailers “flying” drones launched on the other side of the world? Since there doesn’t seem to be an imminent threat of peace breaking out worldwide we can assume there will always be a need for fighter pilots and incredible machines for them to fly.

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Sitting Down on the Job

Just happened to see this guy working on the powerlines recently.

He was sitting down on the job. Kind of hard to tell from this angle I guess, so here’s another shot.

I guess I would be sitting down on this job too! I might actually lie down on the job if I had a big head chopper spinning over my desk!

There is a lot of concentrating going on here. First, hovering isn’t the easiest part of flying a helicopter, so the pilot is pretty busy. And trying to work while your “office” keeps moving has to be interesting to say the least. It looks like it might be very much like working in space as an astronaut.

Another point is that there are a lot of interesting jobs in aviation other than just airlines. There’s charter of course! And then there is firefighting, police work, power and gas line patrolling, newsgathering, and much more. It’s a great career choice. Of course, there are airline and commuter jobs, corporate positions, and the military too.

I guess cool comes in a lot of different flavors!

 

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Air Pockets

We have all had this happen to us. In casual conversation, the subject of flying comes up and someone will invariably begin to relay the story of the one time they took an airline flight and as they were cruising happily along, with their half can of soda and six peanuts, they suddenly hit an air pocket. The plane fell maybe six thousand feet and just slammed them into their seats.

I have some bad news. There is no such thing as an Air Pocket. There are pants pockets and Hot Pockets, but no air pockets. As if one could be flying along and then run into an area with no air! Space might be a huge air pocket because it has no air; but there are no vacuums of air in earth’s atmosphere. Nature abhors a vacuum as they say. And I abhor them too. I can’t stand how the cords are never long enough to reach the furthest part of the room. Plus they are noisy and there are never any replacement bags where I can find them. But, I digress.

Picture, if you will, a river. The water flows and eddies and never stops moving. But there are never any “water pockets”. Same with the atmosphere. It is a literal river of air. So, the phenomenon called air pocket is merely a change in the current’s speed or direction, but definitely not a vacuum.

So why does the river of air get so bumpy at times? Heat. As the earth heats and cools at different rates, air expands and contracts. Combine that with the rotational forces of the earth, surface drag (trees, mountains, etc), and the net exhalation of hot air emanating from the bloviating barnacles on the ship of civilization in Congress, and areas of low pressure get created and every air molecule of air rushes to fill the void. Hence, turbulence. Which is just invisible waves of air identical to the waves in the river. Except, you don’t see them and they don’t splash all over you.

Here is a lovely diagram displaying the affects that different surfaces have on the movement of air. Different areas disturb the air based on how well they absorb or retain heat. And also how many obstructions the moving river of air must negotiate. Flying through these different bits of air is like kayaking down a river. Sometimes it’s smooth and sometimes it’s rough.

All this to say that just because there are no pockets of air, doesn’t mean that turbulence is no big deal. Most of the time the air is pretty smooth, but one never knows when some very uncomfortable turbulence may be encountered. It can occur in perfectly clear air, which is why we want you to be in a seat and buckled up at all times, unless you need to move about the cabin. Why do you think the crew never unbuckles? Because we are afraid of CATs! Not the furry kind. The kind known as Clear Air Turbulence. I have flown right into a CAT on a couple occasions completely without warning and it is very upsetting. Not mentally, but physically. It can toss you around like a pea in a can. So buckle up and stay that way for your own safety.

It’s pretty simple to do, but if you need help we will be glad to give you instructions.

 

 

 

Now sometimes seatbelts are too short. They get short due to age and lack of exercise. We have seatbelt extenders for such situations. Ask for one.

If however, you are this guy, there isn’t much that can be done.

So,  there is no need to fear turbulence or the mythical pockets of air, but there is a very important need to be prepared by buckling up.

*BING* Please fasten your seatbelts!

 

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Staniel Cay Landing

I wrote about Staniel Cay earlier in my blog. It’s a wonderful place to visit. Its short runway doesn’t allow the big jets to land so its light jets, turboprops, and pistons. They have daily flights operating with I guess the world’s only outdoor passenger boarding area, which is a wooden platform. I don’t miss the absence of security. Everything is close by and there are some wonderful houses being built, especially on the ridge just east of the runway.

This video is about two minutes long and with the GoPro HD2 mounted on the glareshield it gives a great pilot’s perspective of the approach and landing.

We flew by the airport to have a visual check of the condition since it is a short runway and our first time there. The pattern we use in visual conditions is rectangular. So after flying by, we did a downwind leg, a base leg, and then the final approach. The video is shortened for interest’s sake. Also I found some nice dramatic music to go with it. Almost expected to see a pirate ship appear in the harbor with the effect the music creates! I should pipe this stuff into the airplane when we fly. Very relaxing.

On final you can see three little islands on the right side. This is where the Thunderball Grotto mentioned in the earlier post is located.  Enjoy!

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View from the Front Office

You just can’t beat the view out the front window. Without a doubt it is one of the major reasons we fly-the view. I have always enjoyed flying and also photography and that’s one of the reasons for doing a blog. Recently I bought a couple of small video cameras so I could add some motion. The intention is to help you, my three loyal readers!!, to see some of what I see.

Dropping down through an undercast is one of the most enjoyable experiences. Even better is being right on top in a jet. The sense of speed is fantastic. Well, here is my first entry in the video editing world showing a descent at sunset through a cloud layer.

Hope you enjoy it!

 

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National Air & Space Museum

The only good thing I can think of about paying taxes are the free museums in Washington, D.C.  My favorite is the National Air & Space Museum. Surprise, surprise. Having read about famous airplanes my whole life, it is very enjoyable getting to see them. Here’s a sampling.

Wright Flyer

The fabric is new but it’s the original Flyer. I commented on the Wright’s accomplishments in an earlier post. One of the fascinating things about aviation is the speed at which things developed. For instance, Gen Jimmy Doolittle, famed WWII pilot, had his pilot’s license signed by Wilbur Wright. Within 66 years of the December 17, 1903 first flight of the Flyer we sent a man to the moon. So, take that, rapidly paced computer industry!

Spirit of St Louis

Without a doubt, Charles Lindbergh’s solo crossing of the Atlantic for the first time, was the most stupendously received accomplishment of any kind. An incredible amount of adulation bordering on hero worship was bestowed on him. From reading his biography, it makes any of our modern day fascination with public figures pale in comparison. It simply was amazing to people that it could be done. Getting to the moon was a vast enterprise utilizing modern technology and human resources that was mathematically possible if everything went right. Packing a sandwich in an overloaded airborne crate and somehow finding France with a magnetic compass was a mind blowing thing! Of course, fame comes with a price.

There is more to see in DC than just airplanes. There is the World’s Most Beautiful Money Pit, where none but the finest people we can find, go to shovel our money down a hole as fast as they can get it from us.  Not to be negative or anything.

The Money Pit, Washington, District of Corruption

When I was a kid in the 70s our family toured DC. I recall going to the National Archives to see the founding documents. We walked in the front door, stood in line, and viewed the documents. Just to show how things have changed, and not for the better, today, the impressive front door is locked. You stand outside and go in through a little side door so you can be processed through the security screeners and then walk upstairs. I find this annoying first of all because what is it precisely that we are being screened for? With all the protection the documents have what are they afraid we are going to do? Pry them open with a screwdriver? If someone wants to destroy them they aren’t going to need to sneak inside with a bomb, they could just do a Timothy McVeigh and park a carload of fertilizer out front.

It is just striking how less free the “land of the free” is these days. Do we really have to be security screened everywhere? They do it at the Statue of Liberty too. I had to ditch a pocketknife, for crying out loud, to go see the statue. What are they afraid I would carve my initials in it? I liked it a lot better before the Security Goons took over the “home of the brave.”

Washington Monument

No longer can the public go up the Washington Monument either with security or without. Since the earthquake caused some cracks it has been closed down. Superglue that thing and let us back in! Curiously enough, while I am horrible at remembering names, I can remember numbers. From that 1970s tour I took where we went to the top, I remember being told that the monument was 555 feet 5 and 5/8ths inches tall. Officially, it is now listed at 555′ 5 1/8ths, so either I was a little off, or it sunk 4/8ths of an inch. Considering DC was built on a festering swamp, I think this is likely. Most of the disgusting swamp creatures were removed and housed in a museum with a large rotunda, and can still be viewed today when Congress is in session. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!

To get the best view of Washington, you must visit Robert E. Lee’s home in Arlington.

DC from the Lee mansion

Here, the monuments and the Capitol, as well as Arlington National  Cemetary in the foreground are clearly visible. Also visible is a jet flying the Potomac River Visual approach which used to be fun to do back before the Security Goons closed DCA to non airline planes. It’s open now to general aviation if you want to go through the painful process to be accepted. We just go to Reagan and avoid the whole thing.

Anyway, the Custis and Lee family had a beautiful and large plantation, which they lost during the War Between the States. And how did they lose it? Because Congress made it law that property taxes had to be paid in person, and since there was a war, Mrs. Lee was not able to cross enemy lines to pay the taxes. So it was confiscated for failure to pay and turned into a national cemetary, not that government would ever be vindictive or anything. The power to tax is without doubt the mightiest weapon any government has ever wielded.

 

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Goose, Duck Duck!

Got a chance to hunt around Charlotte, North Carolina with a pilot buddy. Since he is involved with the Aviation Museum we got to poke around the refurbish area where stuff gets delivered and then restored to museum condition. Lots of aviation stuff in there. Much of which would look good in my front yard if I only couldchong qi gong men.

The Airbus from the  “Miracle on the Hudson”  ditching is on display. Pretty cool getting to see it. It is impressive how much the aircraft stayed together after the ditching. I think if the nervous fliers out there really understood the built in levels of safety that result from aircraft design and pilot training they would not be so afraid to fly. Dealing with the TSA is a whole ‘nuther matter though. Those people are seriously messed up.

Airbus 320

Here is a shot of the nose where the impact from the Canadian Geese can be clearly seen. After exhausting everything they could think of, the crew finally ran out of options and just had to deadstick it into the river. At one point during the taped conversation from the cockpit voice recorder, Cpt Sully asks FO Jeffrey Skiles if he had any ideas. He responded “actually no.” Even in crowded urban environments there is usually someplace a pilot can put a plane down, even a large airliner. What do you think the chances are that an airliner loses both engines and the Captain who has to ditch it happens to be a glider pilot? Actually, probably fairly good considering that most pilots have flown anything they can get their hands on as they progressed through the ranks. Still, there has to be some interesting odds that it would happen to a pilot who is a glider enthusiast. Maybe that’s just the “miracle” part of the whole deal.

While at the museum we had the great fortune to meet retired Lt Col Ralph Easterling, USAF.

LtCol Easterling

His flying story is fascinating. Living in Hendersonville, NC at age 15, he took his first flight in a Ford Trimotor. At 18, he enlisted in the Air Force and next thing you know he is in combat after getting about 275 hours of flight time! That stuff just doesn’t happen anymore. To be honest, there probably won’t even be any fighter pilots in the not too distant future since they will all be flying drones from a trailer in Las Vegas. Anyway, LtCol Easterling flew the P39 Lightning, P40 Tigershark, and P51 Mustang. He flew 120 missions if I recall correctly. Nice guy and some great stories!

So, if you have time in Charlotte drop by the museum and take a tour. It’s always interesting to look at airplanes. Next stop, the National Air & Space Museum!

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