How was my training?
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and observations from the tubular perch
Chicago Orange Morning
Oct 26, 2006 One cool thing about this job
is climbing through the gloom into some incredible skies. The sun
illuminates clouds on both top and bottom when conditions are right as they
were this morning.
"If you gotta work!"
That flight headed down to Fort Lauderdale, FL where it was, no
surprise, sunny and beautiful with only the usual beach cu's forming. We
took off on runway 9, to the east, and got an eyeful of shoreline. A
couple miles out, the pictured ship was heading off to some distant
port. After turning back towards the west we started punching through
these cumulus in a graphic illustration of why it's a REAL bad idea to
be flying a PPG in the clear canyons between them.
Fortunately, there were no imbedded paramotor pilots and the flight
back up to Chicago's gloom was just the way we like it. Boring. Wet,
too, drizzle and low clouds made it great to leave. St. Louis wasn't
much better, though.
Lo and behold there's a baseball game going on here. Yup, the World
Series, it turns out. I should really follow that stuff a bit closer.
to the Northeast
Sept 30, 2006
The East coast is frequently
shrouded in clouds, especially during summer thunderstorms. But
occasionally even those clouds can splash gorgeous scenes on cockpit
windows. A low sun is indispensable for making the most of light and this
morning was no exception. The lack of light makes sharp images hard to
capture because the shutter stays open forever. Our human eye is indeed a
marvel with its ability to function so well with so little light. One day
camera technology will reach that level but that day remains a dream.
The Heads Up Display's (right middle) coolest feature is that you focus
on the outside and still see the display's clearly. Low light is good for
seeing the symbology although it does work in bright sun, too.
As the sun rose, the colors faded but some still-cool scenes appeared
as we descended towards New York City.
These clouds tend to hit back so we avoid flying through them whenever
possible. Of course we have to listen to our air traffic control friends,
too, since hitting aluminum is also pretty bumpy.
The rest of the legs going into Chicago were more like being the filament
in a frosted white lightbulb. Not much to look at but these treats made up
San Diego, San Francisco and the Fires
Sept 22, 2006
During clear days, leaving
Oakland's runway 29 is an enjoyable departure. We almost always use that
runway which means we launch right at San Francisco. Then they turn us
towards the city then veer us down the coast whenever we're headed south. It
really is a spectacular view that this pictures barely capture.
Fatal Fire From 10,000 Feet
Oct 27, 2006 Today's flights extricated us
from the wet gloom of Saint Louis to the scorched hillsides of Southern
California. The fires actually consume a miniscule percentage of land but
are putting out copious amounts of smoke. Santa Ana winds, where air flows
from the highlands down towards the ocean, make matters worse and we could
smell the results after landing at Orange County airport which is probably
20 miles west of the blazes. This conflagration, reportedly the crime of an
arsonist, has now claimed 4 lives from the firefighter ranks. Sad indeed.
The fire pictures were taken as we overflew Palm Springs, descending
into Orange County.
Next is a banking shot from the prior leg into Phoenix. Warm sunshine
is the rule here and today followed it nicely. This is looking southwest
from a point about 15 miles northeast of the airport. There are Indian
reservations scatter about and they are clearly delineated by the lack
of development. They have to be relishing their open space amidst the
now-surrounding suburban sprawl.
The last shot is during a flight from Orange County up to Oakland, CA.
It is the valley north of Los Angeles where the Paratoys Port Uaneme
(sp?) fly-in was held several years ago. A number of pilots fly this
Google Earth map (click to show full size) shows Oakland airport so you
can see the area.
1. Looking down runway 10. If you're were soaring the "Dumps" on
Thursday, Sept 22 around noon, I flew right over you. Thanks for not
getting up in this airspace. Admittedly that would be tough, altitude
here is about 12,000 feet.
2. Clouds make visible the air's interesting behavior. The wind is
blowing off the water so waves have no obvious source. Could it be like
the bow wave on a boat? The mountains are like the bow and the onrushing
air show's it's action as it approaches.
3. From the air, these raging fires appear as little more than a
smoldering landscape. At night you can see the destruction-causing
flames and imagine the searing ugliness that they portend.
4. Normally we're much lower than this and it's real easy to pick out
world-famous Torrey Pines. But today, we were held up high and it's not
obvious what Golf course this is. At the time I was certain it was
Torrey but, looking at the picture, it's hard to tell.
Leaving San Diego in the morning was anticlimactic. A marine layer
prevented any good pictures (or sightseeing) and, by the time I could
see the ground there was but midwestern flatness. Not that there's
with such flatness, it just doesn't make for interesting high-altitude
2. Waves of white
3. Fires raging. 4. Torrey Pines?
June 23, 2006
Handling weather in a jet is blessedly easy.
Go around it.
The reason why airlines complete such a high percentage of flights is
because they can pretty easily go around any nastiness that can't be
easily topped. Almost any thunderstorm worthy of the name is bigger than
we're willing to go over and these beasts usually travel with their
One day coming out of Tampa, there was quite an array of ugliness
putting the drench on Florida's west coast. Handling it, however was
brainless: point the nose into blue sky, sit back and enjoy the show.
Radar is good, but, as the saying goes "a peek is worth a thousand
sweeps." Sweeps of the radar, that is.
At night, the show is impressive. Big storm lines well up in advance of
a cold front and put out lightning strikes almost continuously. It looks
like a choreographed light show missing its musical score. Radar is
welcome at night since the storms can be wet, tall and ugly before they
Nope, don't wanna go
through any of that!
May 24, 2006
I'm blessed to have the world's best job. Flying airplanes for a living
is still work - about the 4th time to Detroit I'm ready for a break - but
most of the time it's quite enjoyable.
It also provides a great platform to pick out new launch sites and see
an incredible variety of weather. The thundercloud panorama at right was
the scene on a recent flight between Los Angeles and Chicago. We give
these things quite a wide berth, you can imagine why they wouldn't be good
to tackle with a powered paraglider!
The next photo was from a group of clouds that wanted to become a
thunderstorm but didn't.
While looking for powered
paragliding sites, it became clear that these hills would do much better
for sliders than flyers. This ski slope is just west of Denver, CO.
Altitude was 40,000.
June 17, 2006
Southwest Airlines, now celebrating it's 35th
year, was founded on a napkin. Some aspects of its operation cling to the
napkin for various uses including in the cockpit. When flight attendants
count passenger heads, they write the number down on a "revenue
napkin" that details the count, special requests and other
information required by the pilots. It's the "revnap."
Sometimes they get creative but none more than that seen on a recent
flight from Las Vegas to Chicago. Just before pushing back from the gate,
our A (lead) flight attendant dropped off the napkin and my jaw dropped. I couldn't
believe my eyes and I certainly couldn't throw it away!
Susan Larrabee turns out to be quite the talent with a colored pen. While some
find amusement in front of the telly, she finds it at the end of a pen and
we, the pilots, get to marvel at her artistry.
She gave me permission to put some of her creations here. Amazingly,
these are usually used only once. A shame, to be sure, although I'm sure
many pilots keep them as little memoirs of their Southwest experience,
made even more unique by this talented young lady.
A talented Southwest Airlines
shares with her fellow crewmembers.
May 30, 2006
These are as beautiful to look at as they are
ugly to fly through. The good thing about the Boeing is that it's real
easy to give them plentiful berth.
May 29, 2006
Now this is how to do an overnight!
Thanks to the generosity of Dave Cole, I was able to bum a
"ride" in the Palm Beach area and get some PPG flying in. I flew
his I-flyer snap 100 and Fly Products Kompress.
This glorious view was from one of several trips down the beach. Trevor
flew out a tank of fuel and Dad Dave flew tanker to retrieve his powerless
May 13, 2006
What's in a name? I mean really, they must
have been named by the same guy of phonetic alphabet fame who came up
with "romeo" and "juliet."
These are actually some mountains east of Denver that we flew over in
But the mountains are sure beautiful.