CVG Tower/TRACON

When I first started training at my new job, my boss offered if we were interested to set up a tour of the CVG Tower and TRACON. I regret not taking a tour of the NY TRACON or the FRG Tower, I jumped at this chance. A few weeks after I started I said I wanted to take him up on it and he arranged it for this past week when I was working and anyone in the department could go.

I was excited and we walked about the 1/2 mile to the tower from our offices. A great gentleman gave us a tour, his name was Randy. I loved Randy because he’s about 57 years old, but when adjusting the scopes and it did what he wanted he would mutter “sweet!” Which I thought was awesome and hilarious for a guy dressed in business casual.

CVG used to be a very busy airport with Delta and DHL in its heyday around 2005. Now, Delta’s pretty much gone, DHL is scaling back and they went from probably hundreds of flights an hour to about 200 flights a day. It is still Class B airspace, though. So while the tower is huge, and the TRACON has about 25 stations, there isn’t much activity or staffing.

We started the tour in the classroom for radar training. It was neat to see how they look at the aircraft on their scopes and the alerts that can happen. Randy reminded us that “Pushing Tin” isn’t really an accurate depiction of what goes on, it’s a bit more mundane. The classroom was covered with pieces of paper of everything funny said during a training session. It’s nice to see they have a sense of humor!

Next we moved onto the tower simulator. Huge screens and then a mock desk like up in the tower. The instructor they had there showed us what is would look like during the day, raining, night, foggy. We went over a lot of the screens and what they tell the controllers. I guess not too many towers have a simulator, but they said this was good for training abnormal situations and get new controllers used to the airspace being busy.

We went up to the real tower next. What a view! The guys up there were pretty relaxed since maybe two planes took off while we were there, and one landed. The one from Paris that everyone always mentions, but it was a good view to watch it land. I saw the touch screens that help them contact other frequencies really quickly (I wish it was that easy in the plane sometimes!) And them preparing strips and using them for clearances. I wish it was a Sunday when we were there so I could see all the DHL big airplanes I always pass.

Back downstairs to the TRACON. First we stopped in the room with all the servers and things that make it work. Mainly, it was saying how big the computers used to be and even the terminal scopes they use don’t have to be as big as they are but they’re that way so they fit already in the holes in the wall.

The TRACON was dimly lit, Randy stated that it actually doesn’t need to be that way anymore with the new radars, but it’s what everyone is used to so they kept it that way. We went over to the old “monitor” positions they don’t really use anymore. These three scopes were used in the heyday and they had controllers watching the spaces inbetween the parallel runways, if a pilot laterally went wrong and into the buffer zone between the runways, they could jump in and correct it. Normally letting the guy who did it wrong land and making the others who were right go around. Not too fair, but I get it, you don’t want him to screw up again, rather just get him on the ground.

It was a great visit and I learned a lot! I highly suggest if you get the chance go to a large tower and a TRACON, I wish I had done it in New York as well. And you can bet, I’ll probably still apply to open ATC positions until I age out. It’s worth a try at least.

Teaching Dispatchers

Sometimes I am a workaholic. It’s because I enjoy what I do and I also like money to fly. As I’ve said before, I got a part-time instructor position at the school I got my dispatcher license. October was the first class I got to help instruct and I was so excited! It was my first time speaking in front of a class and I was less nervous than I thought I was going to be. The first day I was there, the lead instructor did most of the teaching, but I jumped in on the weight and balance charts section of the flight planning. We had vastly different styles of teaching. I go much quicker, while he tends to go slower and repeat things at least three times. I know I’ll need to work on slowing down, especially the first day because I expected people to ask questions if they don’t understand something, but Jake pointed out, they don’t even know enough probably to form questions.

I was definitely a bit rusty too, but it came back quickly. I had my regular work for 3 day and I went back to instructing the 2 days after that. This time they were nearing the end of their learning process and formulating flight plans on their own. I helped walking around and answering questions. This is where I’m extremely comfortable. When I can sit down with a student and their specific question and help them work through it without outright giving them the answer; but ask the right questions myself to lead them to the answer.

The lead instructor said their flight plans had greatly improved from the day before and they were looking good. The second day, some of them got nervous because this was the final exam to be signed off to take the checkride. We sat down with them individually to explain their mistakes and what they could have done better.

Manually flight planning, there’s so many different ways they can route around the weather. We’re not using preferred routes, or what may be common at airports. They have to pick SIDs/STARs and routes themselves that work with and around the weather. No two flight plans were alike.

In my training, I loved creating these flight plans because it’s a puzzle to me. Grading them is fun as well because it’s a backwards puzzle. I have to see from just their work their logic and how they got the answers they did. I need to be able to go to charts and understand why they used the ISA +10 (International Standard Altitude +10 degrees C) chart instead of the ISA (International Standard Altitude) chart. I avgeeked out pretty much.

I’m happy to say that when they took their checkrides their flight planning was pretty good. They were weaker in other parts, which next class we’re going to fix. I’m already making a guide to help them read charts better, which was the weak point in some of them and Jake gave me a good idea with the FARs as well. I hope in December they do great and I am able to teach again! I’m working more that week so I’ll have to maneuver my time.

Our New Jobs

It’s been awhile since I’ve last written and a lot has gone on so it’ll take a few posts to catch everyone up. Lately, I’ve been worried that I’m not sharing enough of my experiences. It was easy as a private pilot in training because going to a lesson was a big event for me. Now that I’m working in the aviation field, I don’t want to take it for granted and what I used to consider a big event become normal life. Therefore, I have a lot to share!

Jake and I are now co-workers if I hadn’t share that already. He went on his first trip with the company this past week. I’m so glad to see him happy with his job and enjoying flying. Though downside, he likes to send embarrassing emails to the flight control department and my co-workers make fun of me. I enjoyed sending the release to bring him home early due to scheduled maintenance.

Working in the Part 135 world is different for the both of us. I’ve never worked in the airline world and can only go off Jake’s experiences and what I have read and heard about dispatch offices at regional airlines.

Both of us get treated better in this world and respected more as people. He gets crew meals that the company pays close to $100 for two pilots, where airlines won’t pay an extra $8 for two more first class meals for their pilots. I get paid for working holidays, even if I don’t work a holiday, I get a bonus day off. Lastly, I make more money than I would at a regional.

But then more is expected from us. If I was a dispatcher at a regional airline, I would dispatch and follow flights. At my company, we aren’t flight planning (yet!), but releasing flights still, moving the schedule around, calculating duty and rest, booking hotels for the pilots, ordering crew meals, dealing with irregular operations, and a few other things piled on. I can’t wait to begin flight planning and hope some of those duties are taken off of us, since already my day is pretty packed to make sure everything gets accomplished.

From a pilot stand point, he has to take care of the customer more, especially since his aircraft doesn’t have a flight attendant. He makes sure the catering is there, makes sure the lav is serviced, or has to empty it himself sometimes. Make sure the cabin is clean and stocked. These extra things we wouldn’t do at an airline, but we don’t mind them because we are treated like people instead of a number. At airline, the Director of Operations wouldn’t know my name. The chief pilot would only be familiar with him if he caused problems most likely.

I’m loving my new job and so is Jake. I think the majority of people focusing on the airlines as the main way to go in aviation is a mistake and there are many more options for people, and it may end up making you a happier person!

Fun Day Gliding

I’m a strong believe in networking will get you very far in life. And I don’t mean network just to network, but actually form bonds between people with like interests. I’ve gotten to meet and bond with a lot of different people in aviation since I moved. Women in Aviation has really helped me in this. Also, since my dispatch school is here as well, I get to meet people through them as well.

I’ve been interested in gliding lately as my next rating. It’ll help build time for my commercial rating for a LOT less. It’ll also help my stick and rudder skills and become a better pilot. Since we moved, I have doing a lot of research on where to join a gliding club. My WAI chapter put me in touch with another member who is big into gliding. We talked some about gliding and she said she would take me up to see if I liked it.

photo 3-2It was so exciting! I have to admit I was nervous right before the tow plane started pulling us. All those nerves went away once we were started being dragged across the grass. I had the biggest smile on my face, I got to go up in the air again!

We were released at 3,000ft. The difference between being towed and just gliding was immense! It was so quiet and free! When released the tow plane banks to the left and the glider to the right for safety. Banking in a glider requires much more rudder and is steeper than a powered aircraft. Good thing I love steep turns!

After a little I got a chance at the controls. The main differences are more rudder, lots more rudder! And if you’re not in a thermal, your nose won’t be on the horizon, which kind of threw me at first. This flight we couldn’t find many thermals, so it went quickly. I learned more about how the rules of the pattern and how they differ from powered aircraft. Landing felt so different since you don’t have power and also you’re so low to the ground. You’re not breaking once you touch the ground, the grass is doing that for you!

We hooked the glider up to a golf cart and towed it back down the field. I was so happy! Though I was still iffy about joining the club. It’s quite a lot cheaper than powered aircraft, but it’s a club so you do have to invest in the club and buy shares and have an initiation fee. We stood around talking for a bit, and I talked to other club members. Everyone loves it! I also love the rule, no talking about work on the field, just flying! Everyone is such an avgeek and I love it.

photo 4-1Another gentlemen there was nice enough to take me up again once the sun had been out more. He just came over and asked to steal me for a bit. I was so excited to go up in a different glider! This time I sat in back and it was a low wing glider. He was telling me it was much more slippery than the other one. I felt it required a lot more rudder and even cross coordination in turns.

Everyone seemed very concerned I might get air sick going up in gliders. He mentioned when we were turning I shouldn’t look down the wings but at the horizon. I never felt sick, though I did avoid looking at the wings.

This time we got more thermals! We were soaring instead of gliding. It was so fun and he was so skilled at staying in the thermal and spotting thermals by the cloud formation. I was impressed. It didn’t really bother me going round and round in a thermal. He kept checking on me because we were pulling 2Gs. It didn’t really as bad as a steep turn in a powered aircraft. He left me fly the glider more since we were up longer, working on putting in more rudder. Instead of a nice instrument showing if your turn is coordinated, there’s a string taped to the canopy you use. So high tech! I learned how in this glider you put in a bunch of rudder and use the stick but after getting into the bank you have to take the ailerons out and almost turn them the other way to keep from over banking.

photo 2-5Landing was different in a low wing since I could see the air brakes better and it’s more like a nose wheel than a tail wheel plane. Afterwards, I was talking about my fear of landing in a glider since you have to manage your airspeed so much better and I always feel like I put in power in my powered aircraft landings. He told me how using the air brakes plays that part in a glider.

If I wasn’t addicted before, I was addicted after this flight! Plus when you join the club you have to do a crew day once a month and you get $20 off every flight for that month. I hope to join the club and get to fly the tow plane eventually! It’s a kick butt Piper Pawnee. I just need to get my tail wheel, complex, and high performance endorsement! There goes gliding being cheaper than powered aircraft….too bad it’s a one seater! There is another grass field not too far away with a Cub that’s pretty cheap for tail wheel. I know what my “fun” money will be used for in the upcoming months!

Hopefully, I’ll have more good news and flight training to share in the near future!

 

 

Applying Flying to Everyday Life

Jake and I have gone on a few flights together since I got my PPL. He always pushes me to become a better pilot during those flights, even if I’d just prefer to enjoy the flight.

Something that has stuck with me that he’s always telling me when we fly, if you find yourself not doing anything keep asking yourself “what else could I be doing?” In flying, it’s holding altitude, making a radio call, checking your position against a sectional, checking your position against a VOR, checking your instruments, lots to be done all the time!

I’ve started applying this method in my work too since it’s such solid advice. When I’m sitting at my desk doing nothing, I check maintenance times on the fleet, follow up on customs paperwork, check NOTAMs and weather, and may other tasks. It’s also task management, which we learned about in dispatch school. There are a lot of little things that need to get done during the course of the day and phone calls and IROPs (irregular operations) can pop up at any time! It’s important to get these things done when things are slow. It’s the same with flying. Whether you’re siting in a cockpit or at the Operations Control Center, aviation is very similar in all aspects.

This method really helped me out the past Tuesday, which is my Friday at work, and always the busiest day of the week. I started work at 4am and by 6am things were already busy. For the next 10 hours I worked constantly. I didn’t get a chance to take my lunch because if I did I’d fall behind. There were 6 flights on Thursday going internationally that didn’t have paperwork filed yet, lots of flights for the next day, and a lot of flying happening that day. We ended up having a delayed flight that made the pilots unable to fly the next day, reposition legs were moving around, booking cars and hotels for the crews was a lot of work due to the moving around. It was rewarding though to finish the day and have all the customs that I could filed, every notice of arrival taken care of, all hotels and cars booked, authorized all the flights that day, and taken care of everything else that popped up. I know if I had gone the Part 121 route I wouldn’t have to deal with some of those things, but I’ve really been enjoying the 135 world even if I have the extra duties.  Following this method though makes my life easier!

Jake wants me now to apply it to my free time and cleaning the apartment….that’s not going to happen.

Lunken Airport Days

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The amazing B-17

I’ve been slacking lately! I’ve actually been much more into aviation more than I ever was in NYC and am LOVING it! It’s so nice that I can actually do things aviation related because more is going on and it’s also easier to get to with a car.

I attended my first Women in Aviation meeting with my new chapter. They’re great ladies. The president of the chapter and some other ladies work at a competing company in the area, we just have to overlook that. I’m so excited that I can get more involved with the local aviation community!

photo 2-4

I love the T-6

Luckily, there was an opportunity right away. I volunteered to help out at Lunken Airport Days at the WAI booth. I got to see so many cool planes and talk about aviation for a few hours. I was sad more people didn’t come up to the booth, but we obviously didn’t have enough cool free stuff since that’s all anyone cared about there. They told me other events there is more interest. We have some exciting events coming up though. There is the Wings of Women Conference in Dayton, the UPS Plane Pull, and iSpace. So many opportunities now available!

Hopefully, next week I’ll get to go gliding for the first time as well because I was put in touch with another woman in the chapter who flies them in the area. Being brought together by this organization is amazing!

Another great thing is since I work on airport property there are a lot of other companies and departments along the road I drive into work. My boyfriend picked me up from work this past Tuesday and we got to see ARFF practicing putting out an aircraft on fire. I drive past the burnt shell of it every day wondering if I’ll ever get to see it on fire and within the first month I got to see it happen! We pulled over and walked up to the fence to watch them in action! Hundreds of feet away we could feel the heat of the flames it was that huge and hot, nothing I ever want to be that close to! It was surprising how quickly they were able to put the fire out with just water (they were using diesel fuel, not Jet A). We ran into one of the firefighter’s brother and he told us they only do this about once a year and to stop by because they love giving tours. It’s on my list now, I highly suggest seeing if your big airport does these things to watch it since it’s very impressive!

That was on my bucket list of things to do here, I also accomplished driving under the runway when a 747 was taxiing over me. I’m getting spoiled by all these cargo 747s around. I’m currently watching them take off out the office window.

Just a quick update on what was happening, I hope to share more soon and get somewhat back into training. I’ll be writing more learning material soon too since October is fast approaching for my first class. Until next time!

How to Read A METAR

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I’ve found that my page, How to Read a Sectional has been pretty popular. I’m not surprised since it was something I struggled with at points in my training. While, I’m working on one for high altitude charts for instrument (and dispatch) students, I have added a new page.  I’ve now added How to Read a METAR to my pages! My friend, Emily (yay! shout out!), was the one who did suggest it since she isn’t a student pilot but would love know how to read them.

As a student pilot, I knew how to get the information I needed from METAR and TAFs, but there were still things I didn’t understand in them. When I got my dispatch certificate I learned a lot more about these and now I feel much more confident that I’m not skipping over something or don’t understand it in the remarks section. Who really understands SLP? I know I didn’t!

Check out the page and let me know what you think! If you have any suggestions for other pages please comment, I’d love to know what other students struggle with in their training!