Work, Fly, Win!

Life has been quite a whirlwind lately. I’ve been working a lot both at my corporate job and also teaching dispatch. I wish I could have taught more this time around, but I tried out my PowerPoint on flight planning and I think it went over pretty well. I’ve made a few adjustments to it and next time should be even smoother.

Got to go up in the Cub again and work on crosswind landings this time. It’s amazing how much left aileron was in, maybe I just felt it more using a stick instead of a yoke. I’m getting the hang of the 3 point landings, hoping to work on some wheel landings soon. Next lesson, we’re going to pavement! Who knew that would excite me? I’m still loving being on a grass field though. Make me feel kind of like a bush pilot. I had to cancel my lesson last week due to the cold, and it’s looking that might happen again on Friday. The Cub doesn’t have great heat (it turns cold air into cool air) and even the last time I was pretty cold, I’m sure I’d end up a popsicle by the end of the lesson.

Other exciting news, I received a Women in Aviation scholarship! I’m very honored and excited to have won it! It ended up being more than expected and it’ll definitely help working my way towards my commercial rating! What I love most about winning a scholarship is connecting with other winners and creating a bond that each person helps the other achieve their goals and pushes them to be better. I found that through my last scholarship with Girls with Wings and can’t wait to meet more Women in Aviation scholarship winners, we had two others in my chapter this year. I hope to bring you news from the WAI conference in Dallas next week!

Piper Cub

After my aerobatics lesson, my CFI and I decided first to focus on my tailwheel endorsement and put a pin in aerobatics for a few lessons. Originally, my lesson was scheduled for Wednesday. Due to slowly deflating tire and slow mechanics, I had to cancel. I rescheduled for Friday and the weather stuck it out for me!

1903985_2815936194975_7528552977165577240_nI’m getting my tailwheel endorsement in the Piper Cub. It’s such a fun plane! Tailwheel, no flaps, very basic.  Unlike the Citabria, the PIC sits in the back. It’s due to when you fly solo it’s the only way to make the CG correct. When there’s another person in there with you, especially with a thick winter coat, it’s very difficult to see the instruments.

This was my first experience hand propping a plane! It was not as difficult as I thought. I was at the controls, which freaked me out just a bit since all the FAA literature really focuses on having a skilled pilot behind the controls. I didn’t kill my instructor, so that’s a good start!

He did the first take off, and we went out a bit to do some stalls. The Cub stalls similar to the 152. It’s hard to stall. The Cub’s elevator pressure gets really heavy before the stall as a way to prevent stalls. When I was learning in the 152 it took some time to stall it. It’d be close to the stall and I’d start to lose coordination. I would know it, and it was probably part of the reason I was so scared of spins because the wing would drop. The Cub is similar and we purposely dropped a wing on the last stall. It was a bit more harsh than the 152, but no big deal.

We headed back to the field to do landings. Since it’s a grass field, we had to land, taxi back, and take off. Of course, my first few landings were quite bad and bouncy. I was too fast (no flaps), rusty from not working on my landings for 7 months, and it’s a frozen grass field. Mainly, I was too fast though.

I got pretty good at soft field take offs. There’s no option for anything else. What’s nice is that the Cub really just wants to do that it seems. After you push the stick forward to build speed right above the ground, it almost seemed to want to just release some pressure and start climbing.

Back to the fact I couldn’t really see the instruments, it made me really focus on my visual flying and the sounds of the aircraft. The climb out was based on how it looked and sounded, I would check my airspeed every so often when I could crane my head around. I did have to look at the altimeter to make sure I stopped at pattern altitude. The last time I really looked at the instruments is pulling the power back to 14000rpm and then it was all sight and sound.

Another thing during my primary training I wasn’t completely comfortable with was slips into landing. In a 152, you have flaps. You don’t have that choice in the Cub, so you pretty much have to slip if you want to land. Slips are now no big deal!

The other important thing, since it was so cold out, you have to watch your throttle after landing. There were a few times that we landed and the Cub almost stopped on the runway since it was on idle for too long and was cold. So now I’m in the habit of landing, slowing down and pushing some throttle back in to save the engine from quitting.

We were doing 3 point landings for the lesson. I flared in the landing versus trying to keep the tailwheel up. They were getting better by the end, but still a bit to go before I’m comfortable in a tailwheel. Can’t wait for next week! I hope it’s warmer though because by the end I was pretty frozen.

Aerobatics!

This past Sunday was my birthday. It was exciting Jake was home, but I had to work an 11 hour shift. So the celebration had to wait. Jake was planning a surprise for me and kept me guessing until I was finally off from work on Wednesday. I still had no idea until we were on our way. He had me grab the GPS out of the glove compartment and in there was a book Basic Aerobatics. We were on our way to my first aerobatics lesson!

We spent the entire car ride going over different maneuvers and how to do them so I would be prepared. By the time we arrived, I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. I’ve always been afraid of spins, which sometimes made me nervous about stalls. For a long time now, I wanted to work on them so I would be less afraid. My other nervousness was about getting sick. I’ve never experienced air sickness, but this very well could have been the time I would.

photo-10It was the perfect day for a lesson! Blue skies and light winds. The airfield is a grass strip, it was still covered in some snow, but the runway was pretty clear. We went into the office and I filled out some paperwork since I plan on flying there more often now. It was around 1:30pm and my lesson was at 2pm so we went exploring the field. Two Piper Cubs were working on their landings, the planes outside of hangars were frosted over, and we found a pretty sweet Beech 12.

When 2pm finally hit, I met my instructor who was quite awesome. Jake approved of him and I approved of him, which sometimes is rare since he always wants me to be pushed more and I like a more relaxed instructor.

I got all buckled into my parachute and two seat belts. It felt like I had 6 inches of belts on top of me. I taxied to the runway, much more difficult on a grass field covered in snow! He took off since we were focusing more on aerobatics not tailwheel endorsement. I was so happy to back in the air! A bit out of practice though.

I was grateful we just did some turns to start out to get me used to the aircraft. They steadily got steeper and steeper and before I knew it we were way more than 60 degrees of bank (no attitude indicator to tell though) it looks and felt close to 90 degrees though.

Next was going into slow flight and stalling the aircraft. It was easy to stall and I wasn’t nervous about it at all. After I stalled it a few times, then it was stall it and keep it stalled. Whaaat? That was a new experience. The airplane became very “mushy” but I could somewhat control it. It took a lot more back pressure to keep it stalled than I would’ve thought.

1529831_603296432903_6276256081273659841_oSpins were up next. My instructor demonstrated them first. I survived! Looking straight at the ground is an odd experience but that was about it. I did it a few times and it was no big deal! One time I let the airplane fall out of the spin before it completed one turn, the next time I kept it in the spin for more than one turn. The airplane gains airspeed pretty quickly in a spin. Who knew that spinning the airplane was fun? All my nervousness was gone about spins.

After I was comfortable doing spins to the left and right, we moved onto loops. First, the nose had to point down to gain a speed of 130kts, then straight up! You quickly see only blue and have to look outside to the left to just your position based off the wing. Once over the top of the loop, you still have to pull back. Not until you’re level again you push the stick forward. The weirdest thing about a loop is the delayed reaction you feel. You don’t feel the Gs go up until after you think you will and the engine doesn’t give the extra power until you’re done with the maneuver. I think mine were more of an elliptical shape than a loop.

Hammerheads were next. They were a lot of fun! Again build up speed, go vertical, but this time you have to stay vertical and the plane wants to flip back over on itself so it requires forward pressure on the stick. Right as the airspeed runs out you do full left rudder and right aileron. It won’t spin actually, but just rotate around the cockpit and go into a dive. The hardest part of this maneuver is keeping the plane vertical while it runs out of airspeed.

10847221_603296457853_4607600356469526583_oLastly, we covered Immelman’s which is really just half a loop and half a slow roll together. This was the only maneuver which I was pull out of my seat when upside down. It made adding in the rudder difficult since I was falling out of my seat and couldn’t reach the rudder to do full deflection. I’ll have to buckle myself in tighter next time. This was the most difficult maneuver we did, it was also at the end so I was getting a bit burnt out.

We came back to the airfield, I did most of the landing but he helped. I came in a bit too fast and floated a lot. Definitely forgot how to land without flaps!

I scheduled another lesson, but just to work towards my tailwheel endorsement in a Piper Cub next week! I cannot wait! I have to work on reading Stick and Rudder. Once I get that then I’ll continue to work on my aerobatics! Video of the lesson to come shortly!

A Year in Review

2014 was a life changing year for me. I began the year working in theater and major sporting events in New York City and ended it working for a private jet company in Ohio. I didn’t fly as much as I would have liked, and some goals weren’t achieved, but I successfully made it through a huge career change, got healthier and lost 22lbs (which is quite amazing for someone who has zero willpower concerning chocolate).

I started out the year working for NHL Stadium Series, which has to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I loved it and was asked to do the Winter Classic this year and sad I couldn’t accept. I really do love working on major events, but knew I couldn’t make it my lifestyle since it involves working for weeks long hours without a day off and that’s not what I wanted. I need a job where I can have a life outside of it as well.

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After that I transitioned into full gear study mode for my dispatch course, while slowing down my work but still a lot. I was helping out with 3 Broadway show openings and then took up a show as well. Luckily, the subway ride gave me time to study, something I miss now having to drive everywhere! It was great to finally get to work Broadway stuff, kind of a career dream come true (almost). But don’t think I wasn’t excited to hit the books and learn all about turbine systems on my down time.

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I set off in June to my 6-day residency in Ohio. Finally, putting all my studying to work. Jake was a great influence on me and told me I needed to show up to the class all ready to pass. It was just a review. Having that in mind, it made the class less stressful for me and I passed and got my FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate!

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Two weeks later, I was hired by a Part 135 company and had to move away from NYC and start in just 2 weeks. I have to say those were the most stressful weeks of my life! Note to self: I’ll never say I can do that in 2 weeks again.

I adapted pretty well to all the changes and enjoyed my training and getting to see Kentucky and Ohio. I was ready for a break from NYC for awhile at least. Jake even got hired by the same company and now we’re co-workers. It can be a bit weird at times, especially since the pilots don’t really like my department and everyone in the OCC seems to hate pilots at times. But I enjoy getting to be around the pretty awesome Citation Excel when I drop him off at work!

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Outside of that job, I started to take up gliding and earn my glider add-on. The weather wasn’t very cooperative so far this winter, so hoping that quickly changes in the next few months. I also got hired to also instruct at the school where I got my dispatch license. I love teaching! I wish I could do it more!

The holidays are considered the busy season. Unlike an airline, when people want to go, we fit them into the schedule so we had TONS of trips and had to make them work. It’s coming to a close now (just have to make it through this weekend!) and I can’t wait for that! We did have time to go to the Christmas party where Santa arrived in a Citation Excel!

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2015 is already shaping up to be a great year! I’ll post my Goals for 2015 (maybe I’ll make them more achievable this year!) shortly. And I PROMISE to write more with updates and more aviation articles! Happy New Year!

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!