KSFO and GDPs

I learned to fly out of Republic Airport (KFRG) on Long Island. It’s a pretty busy general aviation airport with a control tower. Since getting into dispatch, I’m learning a lot more about major airports and how they function. Recently, our class got to visit the SFO tower and get to understand the traffic flow.

When I was learning to fly, I noticed we took off runway 1 a lot, but it wasn’t rare to takeoff from 19 or even 32 (14 was rare though). Major airports love to keep the same pattern for their runway usage.

KSFO has 4 runways, 2 sets of parallel runways.  The way SFO works is that airplanes land on the 28s and takeoff on the 1s, unless it’s a 747 or A380 then they’ll take off the 28s. Aircraft can request to takeoff the 28s if it helps better with their route, but it’s not always accepted.

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Here are the problems with SFO that normally ends the airport in GDPs (Ground Delay Programs

  1. The airport is just too small!

They try to land as simultaneously as possible on the 28s to have the most traffic volume. When it’s a clear day, it’s possible. Aircraft have to see one another for the approach since the runways are so close together. 750 feet to be exact between centerlines.

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750ft pose a problem during IMC though. That takes away landing simultaneous, and cuts down the volume the airport can take in half. A minimum of 1000ft is needed for them to land together in IMC. Technology isn’t there yet otherwise.

2. Winds can be an issue

They will take off the 1s as long as possible. Once the crosswind component exceeds 25kts, they switch to the 28s for take offs and landings. Then the volume of traffic that can land goes down and holding and GDPs happens.

3. Noise abatement

Landing on the 1s is near impossible due to noise batement in surrounding cities of the airport. If you don’t like the sound of an airport, don’t live near an airport. I personally enjoy the fact a shadow of an A380 can cross my living room!

4. You’re gonna have a bad time…

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If they’re landing the 19s, you’re gonna have a bad time in the dispatch office. With Oakland and San Jose also using the Bay Area airspace, it becomes crowded very quickly! Almost as bad as when JFK is in ILS 13 configuration for New York airspace.

 

Full Motion Simulator

Thanks to my wonderful instructor at work, we got a chance to fly an Airbus 320 simulator. The airline’s training is reduced at the end of July so they could fit us in for 2 hours!

IMG_9473   I’m in training with two other dispatchers, so the four of us (including our instructor) piled into the sim with a simulator instructor. I’ve heard Jake talk about flying these types of sims, but it was fun to finally fly one myself!

Being the most current pilot in the group, I was volunteered to go first. When taking off on the Airbus, instead of bringing it smoothly to full power for take off, first it’s brought to half power. This is in case one of the engines fails, so the aircraft doesn’t spin around! Full power and I dance on the rudders to keep on the center line. I’d probably say it’s more of a Waltz unlike the Foxtrot when flying the Cub on a grass strip.

IMG_9521V1 and rotate! So fun to hear those words and get to respond. Soon I set the throttle to the climb setting and just climbed. I wasn’t quite listening to the Flight Director – maybe because I’ve only flown with one once before so forgot about it! Since this wasn’t an actual lesson, but just a fun experience. I decided to buzz the Golden Gate Bridge.

Soon the sim was screaming at me “Pull up! Terrain! Terrain! Pull up!” I probably could have gone lower, but it was still fun. I’ve heard Flight Simulator X doing the warnings when Jake flies, but hearing it fill a cockpit was a bit different.

Next up, stalling the aircraft. Or well, trying to stall it. Airbus doesn’t let pilot’s stall the aircraft. I have to say originally, I wasn’t such a fan of Airbus and fly-by-wire technology, but it was pretty cool to see it stop the stall. We went into a discussion about Normal Law, Alternate Law, and Direct Law on the Airbus.

IMG_9479I was set up for landing. First autopilot was on and it was doing just fine, but the sim instructor took it off and it was all me. I have to say I didn’t look at the instruments, I went with what I know. Visual approach. He said I was doing great, so I kept my focus. I landed where I wanted to, but my flare wasn’t so great. The instructor said it wouldn’t be a big flare but I made it too shallow and bounced it. Glad I’ve never actually experienced that in a real Airbus because it wasn’t fun.

Everyone else got their turn and it was fun to watch and experience. I told the sim instructor to do a V1 cut (engine after reaching a speed when you’re committed to taking off) on our instructor. He didn’t tell him it was going to happen, but instead said there was going to be a crosswind. He did great and got us off the ground without crashing, but immediately after asked “how strong was that crosswind?!” He wasn’t so happy that I suggested we do that to him. I just told him he should thank me for making him look so awesome for pulling it off without knowing!

IMG_9485We had some extra time so we had the sim do a CAT III auotland down to 300 RVR, which was cool to watch and probably terrifying in real life since you CANNOT see much at 300 RVR.  It was difficult to taxi with that little visibility.

I wanted to do an emergency descent to see how that felt. The descent didn’t feel like too much, but the sim doing cabin depressurization was pretty intense the noise and shaking!

Lastly, I volunteered to do a go around. Set up on final again and I knew it was coming. I got down to 50 feet and the sim instructor called for a go around. I knew it was coming, but I found it a bit difficult to push the throttles up so close to landing. In normal takeoff circumstances, the engines need to spool up for a few seconds. But when it’s in landing configuration and in idle, the computers adjust it so the engines spool up quicker in case of a go around. It was a lot more work than a 152 go around!

It was so fun and a wonderful opportunity. I brought my log book and had the instructor log it! I know, I’m such a dork, but I have no shame. Now I have a bigger aircraft in my logbook than Jake!

Simulator Time: 1.5 hours

Exciting News!

Where have I been? Being very busy! I’ve been bad. I’ve started at least three posts, but never got around to finishing and posting them. Don’t worry, the ones I feel are important I will be posting! (What? Isn’t every one important!?)

Bigger news though. While my flying has definitely taken a backseat the past month or so, my aviation career is booming! I can’t wait to share more about it with you all! I’m excited to say I’m finally working at a Part 121 airline as a dispatcher!

I received the offer days before it was my one year anniversary of my “checkride” for my dispatcher certificate. When I got my certificate I made a list of airlines I’d love to work for based on company and where their headquarters is located. It came down to a list of four and this airline is one of them! I’m unbelievably excited and up for the new challenge.

They only gave me two weeks to move so it’s been a whirlwind. Jake and I hopped in our two-seat Miata with our cat, Propeller and drove for 4 days. How we all survived? I have no idea.

I’ve already been in class for 3 weeks now and experienced amazing adventures already! I’ll be sharing some of them soon, but for now I have to get back to studying! But here’s a preview of what is to come: flying a full motion simulator, riding in the cockpit of an Airbus during a flight, and going to the tower and out on the ramp.

Glider Crew Day

I’ve been flying a lot more recently, but have been terrible writing about it. Sorry my blog readers! I’ll try to remedy that!

Yesterday, I went out to the glider club to fulfill my crew duty day for the month. Being a club member, you’re required to do one day a month of working crew. Either it’s ground crew, tow pilot, instructor, or crew chief. I want to eventually be a tow pilot, but I believe I need more tailwheel time as well as a glider pilot with the club.

photo-15I showed up late, since I worked until 4am there was no way I’d be able to be at the gliderport (an hour drive away) at 10am. The club knows and understands this. I jumped into launching gliders and retrieving them. Since this is the learning crew for newer members, we also get flights in and I got two in yesterday!

First flight was with an instructor I hadn’t seen before. A girl around my age, which is awesome since I’ve only seen old men. We got along great and I was hoping to fly with her again but got paired with our DPE the second flight. With her, we worked on minimum airspeed maneuvers and a couple of stalls.

Stalling a glider isn’t like a powered aircraft. It’s much less dramatic. We were doing gentle stalls so you could hardly feel the break in the stall and the glider just wants to recover so quickly. I’m used to the 152 and Cub stalling where they love to drop a wing. I enjoy this much more.

Another great thing about gliders, is you can also hear the wind much better and it helps judge airspeed. I don’t have to constantly look at my airspeed but can use my ears and stay looking outside.

This flight because of where we were over the field we did an unusual pattern. The approach was a bit all over the place and there was a gusty crosswind. We were pretty high and got knocked pretty hard by a gust right as we were crossing the threshold so the instructor took over and landed.

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Piper Pawnee, our tow plane

I went back to ground crew duties and then got back up and I did most of the tow. Towing is the hardest part for me. It requires so much concentration to follow the tow plane. And you’re not even really in complete control. If the tow plane is going too fast you have to deal with it since this glider doesn’t have a radio to tell him to slow down. I had a lesson a month ago where the tow pilot was going 80mph when he’s supposed to go 60mph. We had to break off early since the glider was almost uncontrollable.

This time he was a bit fast which requires a lot more forward pressure, and I did develop a death grip on the stick and kept trying to fix. I didn’t create any slack line, which I have done in the past. It was gusting still and by the end of the tow I was pretty exhausted, but felt good I finally did majority of a tow.

More minimum airspeed maneuvers and did a steep turn. The approach and landing was much more normal, we did hit the one bump on the field and went back into the air, but not a terrible landing.

We started to put the planes away and pack up after my lesson. It was a long day for me but fun for the most part.

Lessons time: 0.8

Flight Count: 5

Total Glider Time: 2.7 hours

Aerobatics Take Two

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This is from my first lesson, but the smile has stayed the same!

Since I finally finished with my tailwheel endorsement and solo meant I could move back to aerobatics. I was beyond excited. I was watching the weather closely even the day before, but you know how accurate the forecasts are (it’s always different). Rain threatened the area since Saturday, but Monday rolled around and no rain. It was slightly windy, but at the time of the lesson it didn’t look terrible so I went without calling.

As I pulled up I saw my CFI walking away towards the hangars. I checked in with the office and went to hunt him down. Luckily, I remember where the Citabria is kept so it wasn’t too hard. His son was out helping and promised him he would get to taxi in the airplane. He’s so adorable that I didn’t mind the extra walking!

We filled her up with a little gas, since too much would put us overweight for aerobatics, and headed out. He did the take off since it had been awhile since I was in the Citabria and it handles quite differently than the Cub.

We hardly eased into aerobatics unlike last time when turns gradually steepening, stalls and spin. We did about two turns and then straight into loops! This lessons he started to critique my execution of the moves rather than just me getting the simple idea of them. Loops, I wasn’t pulling back hard enough in the entry. I kept also wanting to let the stick go neutral at the top of the loop, but he said to keep it held back all the way through the top. The wind was also picking up slightly so making sure the entry was nice and straight because more of a chore.

Next up, hammerheads. I really enjoy this maneuver. I feel on this one I need to anticipate a bit better. I wanted to push the stick forward later than he was telling me, but if I followed that instinct I’m sure I wouldn’t be vertical but beginning a loop.

I learned a move we didn’t do last night, the Half Cuban and Cuban Eight. Half Cuban is a lot like an Immelmann and I had to ask the difference when he first explained it to me (I didn’t study before the lesson!) An Immelmann you roll at 1/2 way through the loop, while Half Cuban you’re not rolling until 5/8 of the way though the loop. The reason for this is the angle you’re headed when you roll out of the inversion will help you build speed when you’re doing a Cuban Eight to do the maneuver again.

I enjoy these types of moves because you’re upside down just long enough to start falling out of your seat. Though I made sure I buckled up tight this time so I could continue to reach the rudder pedals. After a few Half Cubans, he suggested I do a Cuban Eight, which is just two Half Cubans in a row and it looks like a figure eight.

There have been times in both lessons where I just can’t control myself and I let out a “whoo!” during the Cuban Eight that happened, it was just too fun! I have to admit, this move made me feel dizzy afterwards and my CFI called the lesson (he didn’t ask if I felt okay, it was getting to be close to an hour anyway).

As always, I can’t stop smiling after one of these lessons and can not wait for the next one! This was one of the best decisions in my flight training and will make me a more capable and confident pilot.

Has there been any of your training that has brought around confidence in your flying?

Now, only to get the money to buy a Pitts and compete in aerobatics…

Cub Flying

Even though my CFI awarded me a tailwheel endorsement the other day, due to the winds, I didn’t solo the Cub. I set up one more lesson to get checked out in the Cub so I could rent it. I was so happy when the day turned out to have clear skies and calm winds, exactly what I needed!

I made my way out to the airport, excited and nervous about flying solo. I realized I haven’t flown solo since before I got my PPL. Only once afterwards had I been the only pilot in the aircraft. I knew though that my CFI wouldn’t get out unless he felt I was okay to go.

We did a few landings. I wasn’t quite pulling back hard enough on the stick on the roll out. We worked on correcting that before I soloed. After I did one more landing, my CFI asked if I was okay if he got out. I said “okay!” and I dropped him off before heading off to solo. He said have fun and just put it back in the hangar once I was done.

11210504_2900964240623_3065518569892987443_nI have a confession. Every time I’ve soloed up until now, it’s to fit a requirement. I did my solo practice time, I did my solo cross countries, and that was it. I didn’t enjoy soloing. Yes, I enjoyed knowing I can do it all by myself, but I didn’t want to seek out opportunities to fly solo.

This was different. I didn’t want to stop soloing! My first three landings were pretty good. It felt great to have my instructor out of the plane so it could climb faster and I didn’t have to go larger patterns to get to pattern altitude. I was feel great and having so much fun. I knew I had to stop soon since I worked later that night. One more landing I told myself!

There was someone else in the pattern on downwind it looked like. This Cub doesn’t have any electrical system, so no way of talking to them. I rushed a decided to take off before them. Don’t rush in an airplane! I knew that before, and this just reinforced the lesson. I taxied out onto the runway and pushed the throttle forward before I was lined up straight. I got control of the aircraft shortly before coming to the edge of the runway. Whew, okay, I’ll never do that again.

11205972_2900964360626_262457733383713593_nOf course, that threw me off, and my landing was the worst out of all four. It was more of a wheels landing with a bounce than a nice three point landing. Well, that’s what I get for pushing it!

I know I’ll go and solo the Cub again for fun since I truly enjoyed soloing for the first time. Now back to the Citabria for aerobatics lessons! I couldn’t be more excited!

 

Delta OCC

11012034_2878854127884_6836495009007445925_nWhen I attended the Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas, I got the chance to speak with the hiring manager at Delta for dispatchers. The opportunity to speak with him was amazing within itself since I had written off Delta of not being interested in a Part 135 dispatcher with less than a year of experience. Don’t always listen to the Internet! It was chance that I ended up at their booth and talked to him, but he encouraged me to come down to Atlanta and watch their dispatchers at work.

After a few weeks and some email communication, we got it all sorted out and I headed down to Atlanta to go to the Delta Headquarters. It was bright and early for me since I’m currently working nights. I’m learning to function on a lot less sleep now.

The Delta compound is amazingly HUGE! I couldn’t see the extent of it, but it seemed at least 6 buildings in my vision when I entered the main gate.  He met me at the gate and I got all signed in and off we went to the Operations Control Center (or I think it’s Operations Client Center now?). I met another gentleman before my tour who was extremely nice and welcome, which seemed to be everyone there.

I was given a tour of the massive OCC where meteorology was located – they are one of the last airlines with their own meteorologists. All the supervisors, maintenance control, Delta Radio, IT, and the dozens and dozens of dispatchers.

I sat with a domestic dispatcher for about an hour or so. I loved talking to her and hearing her background with Delta (she was hired internally) and her experience dispatching for them. She was working flights out of ATL most going to the DTW area. There was some weather in the ATL area so I watched her decision making with alternates. While it’s much more repetitive than my current job, I can’t wait to do it!

Next, I was brought over to the international dispatchers and sat with their supervisor. He wasn’t actively dispatching flights, but we got to talk a lot more about international dispatching and their requirements. There was also a diversion when I was there, which was exciting, but everyone was so calm about it!

After about 4 hours I finally left. I felt terrible for my friend waiting for me, but it was such a great experience! If you ever get a chance to see any OCC, but especially the Delta one, do it! It’s very impressive. Now just to keep up the networking and hopefully I get to work there someday!