I dare you to ask a crew member. Everyone of them will have an answer and their answers will be scattered all over the country. Ask them this, "Where is your favorite breakfast burrito?" Its true, every crew member has one, if they say they don't they are lying to you. If you were to ask me, I would look you square in the eye and say with out hesitation "Mesa Verde, upper level in Terminal One at Denver International Airport, get the chorizzo burrito with a side of the cilantro sour cream. It'll make your day." I don't know what it is, but every single crew member craves these breakfast burritos while on the road. Its bizarre and pretty outrageously delicious.
Looking at this phenomenon I can see three different factors why Crewmembers are addicted to these pre-made tin foil wrapped, and mostly soggy burritos.
1) Power Packed Punch - Crew members are under constant pressure. At sacrifice under this pressure is getting a well balanced meal and a scheduled break. I mean, what is OSHA for? This pressure that is aggravated by hunger. What a great combination to be cranky, blow emergency slides, and kick you off a plane for playing words with friends. So in order to tame that pressure, why not have a breakfast burrito full of carbs and protein? Its very necessary. Its kinda eating for survival. I know you have seen those survival shows on the Discovery Channel. You need to eat high calorie meals because you never know when you may eat next. Thats exactly what crew members are doing, eating for survival. Not in the wild, but in the air conditioning, just like Mother Nature intended. You never know when you will eat next.
2) Everything Else Sucks - Are you really going to go to Panda Express in LaGuardia for Pancakes and Eggs at 6:30 am for breakfast? Exactly.
3) It's Cheap - Crew members are cheap. We are cheap not because we want to but because we have to. The economics of the breakfast burrito just make sense. If you don't believe us, just ask our wallets or look up per diem rates under our union contracts.
That is all.
Where is your favorite breakfast burrito?
The Chicago Executive Airport is probably the hardest airport to find day or night. It shouldn't be that hard, but its ridiculous. I don't think I need bifocals just yet, but by golly. There are so many things you can look for like big buildings, office complexes, roads, dark spots and even O'Hare. The thing the airport is really missing is a yellow marker with a bouncing arrow over it like a directional marker in a video game. Hot pink would be okay too, but there is already a hot pink line on your GPS. Its kinda messed up, its not a small airport either, it has a big beacon, prominent control tower, and lots of lights. If you have to circle to runway 34 forget about it. Literally you can be on the downwind and loose sight of the airport. Politely we ask for the controllers to turn on the flashing lights on at the ends of the runway. When we see those, we kinda feel like the airport is saying "Okay jackass, I'm right here and now you are having me wake up the neighborhood, great thanks."
I would hate to play hide and go seek with this airport. It would win against me every single time by the slaughter rule. Its a real shame because my car is parked here! What airport is the hardest for you to find day or night? -AL
It dawned on me one evening. I remember it exactly, we were approaching Denver, the sun was pretty much set and the sky was turning beautiful colors for the second half of our flight from LAX to MKE. I had just used the lav for a potty break since there was no way my bladder could hold it for a 3.5 hour flight with "unlimited soda and water" to the crew. The flight attendants gave me a tray of warm chocolate cookies and milk to take into the cockpit for the captain and me to enjoy for the remainder of the flight. I sat back down in my chair and began to enjoy the warm cookies, cold milk not to mention the view.
It was really the cookie and pretty awesome ground speed in the high 500's knots that threw me over the edge. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that the airplane delivering this experience was a machine. It was one of the first few times that I thought of the airplane as a machine. Its kinda strange to think about it this way. You may have your own airplane, or fly a fleet of airplanes but you get to know which is your favorite and least favorite. Each airplane even though the same model all fly incredibly different from the next. Its hard not to start thinking each airplane as its own person and having its own personality. Heck, in the EMB -170 a warning message that read " APM FAIL" - Corrective Action: "DO NOT TAKEOFF." I looked up what the "APM" was and by golly, it was called the airplane personality module. The airplane had a mother board in it giving it a personality! Holy smokes! Anyway, when push comes to shove, the airplane is a machine. It can take you across the country, keep you alive, allow you to use the washroom in it, keep a beverage hot or cold for you, bake a hot cookie, connect you to wifi, xm radio, or TV, cool you down or warm you up, all while keeping you on life support in the inhabitable conditions of lack of oxygen, extreme negative temperatures 6 miles above the earth all while hurling you along at 500-600 mph. If you think about it that way its pretty nuts. The airplane is a machine, but I'd like to think otherwise - Have you ever thought of your airplane as just a machine? - AL
Finally, the longer days and warmer weather of spring are slowly approaching. The winter weather for most of the US was at historic highs, and you won’t hear this Midwesterner complain about that. I have heard many say it is all the hot air coming out of Washington. Although true, we will leave that discussion to another blogger.
For me and many others this time of the year brings back that spark to find something new, definitely challenging and as a pilot what great things we can discover. Many great aviation festivities spring to life with the coming of the “warm months”. For example, the Oshkosh fly in will kickoff this summer, July 23rd-29th. Too many Oshkosh is the granddaddy of all fly ins and will play host to more things than you can shake a stick at. Aviation vendors, speakers, music concerts, aircraft manufacturers, food (very important to pilots), and a daily airshow are just small sample of the entire show. I hope to make this year my first of many at the Airventure sensation. For those flying in for the event do not forget the NOTAM that explains important arrival and departure information. For more info and schedule of events at Airventure take a look at http://www.airventure.org/
If the craziness of Oshkosh is too much for you to handle consider a smaller local fly in. Many airports host much smaller events that local pilots attend for the pancakes, aircraft viewing, or the tall tales of pilot conversation. Some states also hold an annual state fly in where state representatives may stop by or even the local FSDO to show their support. These fly ins allow general aviation supporter’s young and old a place to gather and share experiences and updates on general aviation current events. For more ideas on fly in adventures in your area check out http://www.flyins.com/index.po
A fly in adventure is only one example. There are many ways to challenge ourselves as pilots this spring and summer. Just to give you some ideas:
Tail wheel Training
Class B Airspace
During this period of ever changing weather don’t forget your trusty CFI!!! If you find yourself a little rusty and that long cross country flight needed to arrive at your destination makes you a little nervous, give him or her a shout. Your experienced CFI will have no problem getting you back up to speed and confident to make the trek. Also, remember that a new destination requires thorough preflight planning. Check weather, aircraft performance, airport information and all other essential info to make your go no-go decision. Finally, by doing something different you are challenging yourself and keeping your piloting skills sharp.
For those pilots interested in a multiple aircraft flying adventure check back on simpleflight.net soon.
Enjoy your adventure and fly safe.
So I got ramp checked the other day. In typical pilot exaggeration "Oh yeah...it was no big deal." Seriously it wasn't. In fact it was my very first ramp check in the G.A. world. It was at 5:45 am on a Thursday morning of all times. I turned my back from the plane for about 45 seconds to close the hanger door, still feeling impatient for the XL coffee to kick in. Once the door was closed I walked out the man door and BAM!!! There she was, with a smile and ID badge to prove it. Talk about seeing the ghost of bloody Mary. The last thing I had ever expected was to be ramp checked by the Federal Government before the sun was up. The good news is, after she introduced herself, she said "I don't want to hold you up." That was incredibly comforting actually. I invited her into the warm hanger where she could write my information down and quickly get this over with. No more than one minute in the hangar, she bid her farewell and wished me for a safe flight. Its pretty interesting going through it. Quite frankly, it has confirmed everything I have experienced about FAA inspectors. Ted the Fed isn't as bad as you think they are. They are cool, have great stories, and in a way are here to help. My experiences with the FAA thankfully have been very few and far between, but at the end of the day its weird, I wished I had more.
Another nerdy moment shines in me with trying to find the perfect flying sound track. There are so many different moods you can be while flying. Flying situations have their own moods too. Things can be relaxing, beautiful, stressful, scary, happy, sad, intense and everything in between. When I am flying, I think of what I am doing as a movie. Movies have sound tracks in them. The sound track is just as important to the movie as what you are seeing visually. There is a constant exciting struggle for me finding the perfect song to match my flying mood. When they are meshed together, no doubt, you'll get goosebumps! It's so awesome. One of my favorite memories flying was flying from New England to the Mid Atlantic. The person I was flying with and I had been working on hitting our take off roll exactly to a moment in a song so that the engines were producing max power just as the song started to explode. The result was unbelievable. Getting jammed back into your seat by powerful engines, an awesome song really kicking it and taking off on our last leg of our trip was something else. Climbing out over New England as the sun was setting, doing a merry go round climb over some of the busiest airspace in the world and adding the fact Christmas was 2 days away was the perfect collaboration of how we felt about flying at that very moment. After the song was over, I looked over at my partner and said "Wow, that gave me goose bumps!!" I am doing a very horrible job using my words to explain this. There were so many things going in those few minutes that were absolutely perfect. It could take a life time to write about every little detail. All I am going to continue to say is that this will always be a forefront memory in my flying career. Think about your favorite songs right now and match them with some of your favorite flying memories. You'll find that there is something comforting about it. You're love of flying will increase dramatically and your desire for more will be off the charts. Below is the song that I had matched up with my flying counterpart that day. We nailed the timing with having the engines push us back into our seats for take-off just as the song goes to "JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE!!" around 30-32 seconds into the song. The song is called "Just Live Your Life" By TI. What songs do you think are awesome for flying? If you can't think of any, you are lying. See this other video below too. I feel that the music in this familar tune, grabbed the exact mood of the flight that was being flown in the movie. Let me know what your favorite songs are and I'll try and incorporate them into a flying video for you. Please comment below! Enjoy! Al
Do you know a pilot that likes to brag about how quick their aviation medical takes? If you don't you can use me as an example. The quick pee in a cup, memorized visual tests, the red line always goes through note number 4....and then you're good til your next medical. In a way, pilot medicals are awesome that way. 5 minutes and a $100 later we are done. I thought this was the way to go until I recently heard a concerned aviation medical doctor give a very informative what you should know speech.
After hearing this speech it made me realize that most pilots are one sided with two documents that are so essential to our passion. Our pilot certificate and our medical. They work hand in hand, you can't use one for the other and with out them together your wings are clipped. Think about that, how much time do you spend maintaining your pilot certificate? Now, think about how much time you spend maintaining your medical, which ever class it may be. I'd put money down that you spend 15 minutes a year on your medical and the rest on your pilot certificate. I was this way.
What if something happens to your health beyond your control? Who will you be able to call? Do you know what to do with your medical? Do you know how to get it reinstated? I don't. After hearing this AME speak, I realized my priorities are out of whack, way out of whack. I am young, and invincible, until I noticed a grey hair and my receding hairline. Growing old is a must, and with that come hurdles that may abruptly stop your living or passion in aviation. It is incredibly worth while to find an AME that is 100% willing to answer your phone calls, know how to navigate the airman medical qualification division of the FAA. This is so important especially if you make your living in aviation like me. The FAA is becoming more medically conservative than ever, pretty much any condition, prescription drug or blip on your medical record is a disqualification. Sooner or later we will hit a hurdle and we will need help with this. Ask yourself is your current AME the person who will give 110% to help get your medical back if you loose it? You better believe it will be your priority one if this happens. It should be your AME's priority too, he'll have more pull in helping you than you will. With out his signature and sign off, your goose is cooked.
We all are curious what it really looks like out of the front of the airplane. Be it a 747 or Cessna, the curiosity really strikes almost anybody and everybody. Lately I have been very interested in making videos of flying. I don't know what my facisination about it is but its fun, and I love sharing them. If you really look at it, being a professional pilot or even a recreational one at the very least, is pretty secluded. What I mean by that, is your family, friends, or significant others can't really come and visit you at the office while you are at work. The only information that they can get is from your stories of what things are like. Believe it or not, this breaks my heart. Being so passionate and so loving towards aviation, I would love to show my parents, sister, and friends what I do for a living. Unfortunately they are the ones that get the brunt of my quick departure and vanishing act for a few days. Upon arrival back from my duties, they get to experience a cranky and tired Al. Even though I am gone doing my work, having an aviation career really boils down to always trying to be somewhere where you are not. I love it though, and why not share my experiences with the people who helped me get where I am today?
It has gotten easier than ever to share your experiences on the road. Its fun doing so, because its so easy. The single item that I believe has made it easier than ever is the cell phone. Now, I am an iPhone user. I love the camera on it, the quality is really up there. If you take a picture, the pictures are almost 2-3 MB. That's huge for a phone that came out in 2010 (iPhone 4). A lot of this can be done on the ipad but, the size makes it a little more difficult to get the shots you want and the camera isn't as good as the phone. Never the less, there are some great apps for the phone to enhance, take, edit and publish any pictures or video clips you may have taken. My favorite for videos is iMovie. Its just a few bucks in the app store. It allows you to combine and edit any video clips you may want to add. One of my favorite things about this is it allows you to add songs that are on your phone/ipod right to the movie. Two clicks and you have a professional looking video. The tricky part is the editing, a typical approach landing or takeoff can take 10 minutes. Non aviation people will get bored. You can edit all of your footage down, but try to keep video clips to 10 seconds or less. This will keep the video interesting for the viewer and they'll think its a lot cooler. Let's face it, 5 minutes of flying in the clouds with the camera just capturing a white mass and having Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody playing is boring. I'd rather be at the Queen concert than watch the video. If you have a Droid phone, the video quality is great but I am not sure on if there are any apps you can use to edit your videos or enhance your pictures. Finally the best feature about the cell phone is that you can publish your material to email, text message, facebook, or youtube right from your phone! No more transferring to your computer. Write a whimsical note, hit send, put it in your pocket and wait to get replies. Its great!
One last thing. You can see a definite difference between my video on the right and this other video on the left. My goal is to be able to do something like the one on the left. I found that a big part of that is having some kind of tripod or stabilizer to mount your camera in the cockpit. I was easily able to go onto ebay and find a suction cup tripod and iphone adapter for the tripod. Total I spent about $50 on the two pieces. Right now, I am playing with them to see how it improves the video quality. Check out both of these videos, the best part is picking out the sound track. My King Air video is still in progress. I need more footage but its half way done. Cheers! Al
Why do we fly? Do we like the reduced travel time? Is it the excitement? Or could it be the challenge? My reason to fly may be much different than someone departing the very same airport. Some aviators choose to use their unique experience to visit family and friends, while others may plan a trip to do nothing but get away from family and friends. Just kidding. However winning a grand prize that includes a $ in front of it certainly can be a reason for any of us to fly.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association or AOPA has just recentlly introduced the Keep 'em flying challenge. This is an initiative to energize general aviation pilots all over the United States to get out there and fly. With spring and warmer weather right around the corner, the goal of the AOPA is to generate more flights and to track the progress. The rules for the challenge are simple and the pilot must prove the cross countries actually happened through logbook entries. The use of social media is highly recommended throughout the challenge to post pictures and updates during the completion of the challenge.
This is a great reason to get out this summer and log some flight time. For those pilots who fly regularly keep track of your flights and submit your information to AOPA for a chance at the grand prize. Also, a great idea for those of us who have been cooped up all winter watching flying movies. If you cannot come up with any other reason to fly check out this contest and explore somewhere new. I do not think any pilot would mind having some extra $ in our pockets because we got out and enjoyed our passion.
The keep 'em flying challenge is sponsored by the Aircraft Owners & Pilot Association and the full contest details and article by Thomas Haines can be found at:http://www.aopa.org/sunnfun/2012/120330aopa-kicks-off-national-keep-em-flying-challenge.html?cmp=SNF:12home
Hell yeah I'd buy an airplane! Are you kidding me!? There is with a single doubt that I would. Call me a dork, nerd, or having too much time on my hands but I even have it categorized out which airplane I'd buy with different levels of jackpots. Let's get right into it shall we? First off, I would not buy an airplane if I had won less than $5,000,000. Don't want to blow it all away and not have any security. My level one airplane would be a Cirrus SR22 or Bonanza A36. I'd be used of course. Level two airplane would be a Piper Meridian. I don't know what it is about it, but I love the looks about it. I am a big fan of turbine engines. The reliability, capability, and coolness of them. Finally my level three aircraft would be a Beechcraft King Air 200GT. I wouldn't get a jet. I'd buy the King Air new with all the bells and whistles. Talk about an airplane with a lot of utility, its awesome. I would rather add 30 minutes to my trip and be able to get into smaller airports that I'd want to go into than be limited in a jet. Well, I preach this now that I wouldn't get a jet, but my ADD or the size of the jackpot could easily persuade me. What would you get? AL