I woke up yesterday and immediately realized the thing that I forgot to do the day before! It wasn't feeding the cat, taking out the trash or doing the dishes. It was checking in for my Southwest Airlines flight. Without a guaranteed seat assignment it is important to do it ASAP so you can get the best seat available. For me that would be a window seat in row 3-6 in front of the engine. Why is this so important to me? Duhhhh! You can hear the engine spool up and spool down and the fan blades slapping the air at high power settings. It sounds beefy, and quite frankly its really awesome, best seat in the house hands down. That goes for any airplane with wing mounted engines. Try it, you'll like it :)
I digress. I quickly checked in for my flight and I got a the the dreaded C 05 boarding pass slot. I didn't care if I got a C in school, but I am extremely disappointed in myself when I got a C on my boarding pass. A "C" on your boarding pass guaranteed you a middle seat on Southwest. As I boarded the plane I was accepted my fate and was about to meet my maker. Lots and lots of middle seats to choose from :)
You try to make eye contact with everybody, but no body wants to make eye contact with you. Why? Because they hate you until you pass them down the aisle, because you can potentially take their personal space between them and the person in the window seat. I am a big boned guy that really has never missed a meal, so I can imagine people are freaked out when they see me and confirm that the seat next to them is open. Finally I give in and pick my seat. I narrow in and tell the person its their lucky day that they get to sit next to me. I quickly make myself at home in my seat and I discovered something.
ITS NOT THAT BAD!! YOUR LIFE IS NOT RUINED WITH A MIDDLE SEAT!! IT WAS ACTUALLY...........COMFORTABLE!! That should sound like an oxymoron but its reality. I am the epitome of somebody that would be uncomfortable in a middle seat, but it was great. A few episodes of 30 Rock and some peanuts and it was all over!
Maybe C's still do get degree's!
Driving down the Vegas Strip, you pass one of the coolest places on earth. Its not a pry mid with a giant beam coming out of it, the Eiffel Tower or the place where Pawn Stars is. Its Signature Aviation. Its where all the Private Jets are parked. Right there front and center. The funny thing is, just a hand full of those equals the cost of a casino! Its pretty amazing when you put things relative like that.
This is one instance where I'd probably take a casino over a jet :) Moving on....
When I see a ramp full of jets, all shapes, sizes and colors, I wonder who they belong to!? Where did these people come from and what are they doing?
It might not be that they are gambling, they could be here for a funeral, or to visit their grand children. Maybe they are partying their brains out. There is a high probability that they belong to some celebrities or a prince or princess. Who knows? I just really like driving by and dreaming.
This doesn't exist anymore. We need more people like Tex Johnson selling airplanes! Now we have high definition tents at Oshkosh passing out free pens. While I appreciate the pen, its life expectancy in my possession is incredibly short. Its lost by me with raging ADD. The Russians seem to get this concept down with demonstration flights, but they always seem to end tragically in fatal crashes. I don't know what it is, but they always crash :(
Is Tex Johnson still alive? If he is, we need him out there selling airplanes!!
Remember those days of family road trips and you were stuck in the back seat with your sibling? Those Clark W. Grizzwald moments in the family Truckster are pretty priceless. They probably sounded like this. "QUIT TOUCHING ME!" "MOM!! AL IS PULLING MY HAIR OUT!" "THIS IS MY SIDE AND THAT IS YOUR SIDE!" "SSSSSSSTTTTTTTTOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPP IIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTT!!!"
Its no different in the airplane, even on a solo flight. I can gaurentee that your airplane feels like the bullied sibiling. It will probably be saying things like "QUIT TOUCHING ME!" "MOM!! AL IS PULLING MY HAIR OUT!" "THIS IS MY SIDE AND THAT IS YOUR SIDE!" "SSSSSSSTTTTTTTTOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPP IIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTT!!!" Sound familar?
The reality is you need to keep your hands off your airplane. I am not saying you should just let go an Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel" will start playing. I am saying, fly the airplane but quit touching the controls. Airplanes are manhandled more often than not. Who are they man handled by? The pilot flying the plane (Excluding "Otto the Pilot or George").
Flying the airplane doesn't take much, it actually takes less than your car. To fly your airplane better, try guiding it though the air with two finger tips. When the airplane needs to be corrected, try tapping the yoke. Don't grab it and have your veins pop like your about to have blood drawn. The airplane will talk to you and tell you what it wants just through your two finger tips. All you have to do is give the airplane what it wants. You'll probably enjoy it. The airplane will seem in much more control and you'll be less stressed out and fatigued from flying. No matter if you fly a Piper Cub or a 747, this technique will work in every single airplane you fly.
So to just solidify my case as being an overweight, nerd with too much time on my hands I thought I'd interject this: YouTube clips of old airline commercials. There are two types of commercials in my opinion.
1) The old clips. These clips instill a tremendous feeling of nostalgia. Enough where you want to eat a quart of Ben and Jerry's and cry your eyes out. Who am I kidding, we are pilots, we don't cry unless its the movie 16R....Shut up. Moving on, it does instill a huge sense of nostalgia. These are the Pan - Am glory days of de-regulation, nasty pilot strikes and suit spewing out of the old DC-9's filmed in the commercials. They are really special, it makes me want to fly all the airplanes in those commercials simply because I will never be able to fly them :( It is also funny to see all the retro color schemes in the cabins of the airplanes. They look like bowling shoes. You'll get to hear airlines brag about the newest member of the Jet Aged fleet and they'll explain to you their engines are the quitest around. Let me tell you, they are lying to you. The engines are louder than hell and sound like the end of the world. One of my favorite commercials is a United one when they first got DC-10's. They are giving a cabin tour of it and explaining how you can sit in the "Friendship Lounge" and enjoy Cocktails on your flight from Dulles to San Fransisco. I'll take a Tom Collins please.
2) The new clips. Inevitably you run into the modern day clips of airline commercials. I love it! I have to hand it to the airline with the animals on their tails with thinking outside of the box and personifying vertical stabilizers. Great work! On the otherhand Most of them make you want to just be a single jet setter all over the globe. How fun! They do a great job of making you want to "wrack" up miles after miles to join the highest elite tier loyalty program the airline has to offer. I would be crossing the pond every day if I could get tucked in by a Bond Girl flight attendant after clearing my martini from my first class seat. On the contrary, it makes me want to fly for their damn airline. Ahh if that was only the case, I'll take a Tom Collins please.
Do you have a favorite airline commercial?
A normal routine for a pilot from the first pre-flight walk around to shutdown has us reaching for the checklist. A very important step we all must take and pushed by many flight instructors during all operations. If you read any aviation periodical, flying book, or simply hangar talk we here many times never memorize a checklist. Along with many I agree that memorization of checklists is not good practice. Eventually a step is going to be missed, maybe a minor issue the first time but it could be that important gear handle the next time. Hey it happens more than we think!
With that being said I am a strong believer in memorization of the in-flight engine failure checklist. Very important for a twin engine aircraft that has a few different procedures involved, but for those of us who fly single engine, that is our only source of power. Every aircraft manufacturer, cfi, and pilot will have different procedures for an engine out failure. My personal procedure that I have forced into my students head and we have heard thousands of times before is FLY THE AIRPLANE FIRST. The first 4 to 5 seconds after the event will be the oh s*** stage, and during this stage not alot will get done. After reality sets in start this flow.
The first two items are the most critical. First Glide, let your aircraft slow to the manufacturers reccommended best glide speed without losing to much altitude. This will insure the aircraft can reach out as far as it can during this situation. Second Grass, start looking for a field, road, airport anywhere that looks to be a suitable site. Sometimes this can be very difficult depending on what part of the country you are flying in. During all operations maintain your situational awareness. Also when considering where to land keep banks to a minimum if you need the distance, banking the aircraft causes a loss of lift. Remember FLY THE AIRPLANE FIRST!
The next two steps in our memorized engine out checklist is spark and gas. After we have positive control and have a plan on where we are going to put the aircraft come back into the airplane and finish the checklist. Complete the remaining checklist items, restart, fuel tank switch, aux fuel pump, mixture control, crack door, etc ( not necessarily in this order). This is where I recommend you check the aircraft POH to find the proper protocol. Also, remember to squawk your emergency transponder code 7700 and contact ATC on guard 121.5 to give your location. If the aircraft will not re-start we already have a plan in place. Speed is good and we have our spot picked out.
Knock the dust off that POH in the backseat from time to time and re-read the emergency section to keep the info fresh in your mind. Pilots can never predict an engine failure but we can be prepared and remain in control if one were to occur. Memorize that engine out checklist and practice it in your sleep. If you have not heard it before now remember fly the airplane first.
"Dude, can you clean up my box?" Ummmm...okay. Its actually a big problem. Don't worry, its an industry buzz phrase. Its not referring to the Casa Nova Captain the morning after either. Its about always keeping the pink line in front of you. Why? Because you'll be a wondering amibia otherwise.
GPS/FMS units are only helpful for situational awareness if you keep the pink line in front of you. As soon as it is behind you, the GPS is helping you set up perfectly for messing up. What I am referring to is making sure that the Active Leg on your GPS/FMS unit is actually the leg you are on. This will involve some monitoring on your behalf. For example if you load an approach into your GPS and include all of the fixes along the approach your in great shape. That is until ATC gives you a short approach and vectors you in tight just a mile or two outside the Final Approach Fix or Point. You have to be sure to always clean up your box and activate the leg you are on. It especially on an approach to have your active leg behind you. In the case of a missed approach you will get confused and end up having to do a bunch more steps in your GPS system to figure it out.
Just remember, always keep the pink line in front of you!
I have a corporate aircraft theory, "The more they eat the less they fly." They are so unbelievably easy to spot. If we were hunting, we would be black water snipers out for a recreational hunt and they would be a wounded animal. That's a little darker than what I was really trying to convey but the people who I am talking about are passengers riding on the corporate aircraft for the first time. There are a couple of tell tail signs that they are newbies.
1) They eat the living day lights out of the snacks that are onboard the airplane. We litterally start a timer when we think there is a first time rider onboard. We press start after we fire up the engines. We hit stop as soon as we catch them going through the drawers on the plane and help themselves to whatever we have on board. The quickest time we have had was 3 minutes, before we even took off. The regular passengers we have on board hardly eat anything. No matter who is onboard, we always treat them the same in terms of snacks. When you board, you'll find a bottle of water and a little something to munch on.
2) They eat the living day lights out of the snacks at the FBO. If you want load up on complimentry iced tea and Otis Spunkmier cookies, smart man. I'll probably be right behind you in line.
3) They don't read the newspapers that we always have onboard. Why? Because they are too busy hunting and gathering onboard snacks. I wish it kind of was like hunting in the game The Oregon Trail. You can hunt as much food as you can possibly stand or have bullets for but can only bring back 200 pounds back to the wagon.
I can't believe I just wrote about snacks.
Regardless, its a lot of fun flying every person around. Everybody is very appreciative and its in our best interest to make sure their travels with us are just a little bit better than what they were expecting. We want them to come back, and its really the small stuff that we feel puts our professionalism over the top. Its almost like we do it second nature now. We genuinely enjoy doing what we do even if its cleaning up all the snack wrappers.