Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Christmas Gift For My Crew

I just received this Christmas card from Gary Orlando, probably the most informed F-27 and FH-227 collector in the country. To visit Gary's site and learn more about these airplanes click on WHISTLE PIG to enjoy his collection. Gary and I have been contacted by a film production company in Dallas, Texas to participate in a new documentary film concerning the 1972 Fairchild crash in the Andes. Much has been written about this accident, including a movie titled ALIVE. More about this later.


The first flight of a B-787 occurred on 15 December 2009 and you can watch it via a Boeing Webcast right here. Click here to visit this site and witness this highly anticipated event.

For another perspective concerning this historic flight, click on Fox News.

Ship 5813, a B-757-300 at the gate in HNL
Next stop LA

Just a few days ago, Greg (another New Hampshireman) and I flew flight 2622 from HNL to LAX with an LAX based flight attendant crew. We'd enjoyed our typical morning and afternoon on the beach, visiting the Waikiki Apple store, followed by watching the Patriots loose to New Orleans in the dome. Now at 7 and 4, our season isn't shaping up too well, but things would look up by the time we arrived at the gate. The agents handed me our paperwork and as I turned to leave told me that Josh and Ari were already on board. Hmmm... "who are Josh and Ari" I wondered? I'm due for a line check, must be a couple of check pilots, maybe the FAA, or simply a couple of jumpseaters trying to get home.

Ari and Josh in the command seats of a Boeing 757-300
(Apparently this isn't a line check!)

After loading the computers, pre-flighting the flight deck and exterior (it takes a little longer now as we've adopted Delta procedures and the copilot does just about everything as I offer moral support) our lead flight attendant brought Josh and Ari forward. I enjoy having kids come in to explore the cockpit and ask questions. Most are very shy and need to be coaxed, but not Josh, as he confidently walked in, introduced himself and his brother and asked pertinent questions. When I put them in our seats for this picture, the typical big brother directed his younger sibling... "don't touch anything." Most adults don't think to mention this!

After arriving in LAX and the passengers had departed, I corralled Josh, Ari and their mother Dana for a shot with most of our crew. Josh is holding drawings of aircraft that he'd seen at gates during his travels and Ari has my Twix bar. Now you know they had to be good kids to get me to part with a Twix.

Above and below are examples of Josh's art work, now safely stored with my very extensive airline collection.

Flight 2622 covered 2,276 nautical miles across the Pacific tonight, burned 44,200 pounds of Jet-A, arrived 10 minutes early at LAX and experienced this beautiful sunrise. Rather looks like something out of "2001 Space Odyssey" don't you think?

But the best part of this trip was that we'd had a hand in uniting a family during the holiday season. Josh, Ari and Dana weren't just on holiday visiting Hawaii, they were there to unite with the boys Dad and Dana's husband, Neil. Neil serves in the U.S. Army, was on R&R from Iraq and has since returned to theater. He, like thousands of others who have answered the call of our Armed Forces, have made this flight and all of my flights for that matter possible. Thanks to all of you and especially to Neil, who entrusted us with the safe transport of his family across the Pacific tonight. And like Josh, we're all proud of his Dad.


I was completely unaware that someone had taped my solo flight in 1971. Thought you might enjoy it! Actually it's just a different take on the old flying farmer routine

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas

Blair, Samantha and Ian
Rand & Linda
Sam's engagement party last Spring

It's cooling down here in New Hampshire, the leaves have fallen, the migratory fowl that populate our marsh have mostly flown south and the aroma of wood smoke and snow fill the air. Another year has passed and I have much to be grateful for. They include our new home, our many family members and good friends whose company we enjoy. Thanks to all of you who follow my airline adventures and take a moment to comment. I wish the best for all of us and hope that you enjoy this holiday season.



The cockpit is comfortably warm, the coffee is good and only the sound of air past our windscreen at 500 knots, lets us know that we're in motion high above the worlds largest, deepest ocean. This is a moment to savor before returning to VHF radio communications, descent and approach procedures and the reality of an LAX arrival. Tranquility will soon be replaced by work; but work that is enjoyable as more than two-hundred trusting souls snooze in deep sleep behind us.

My friend Bill from Texas, a former Braniff pilot and NWA retiree via Republic Airlines, just sent me this link. For those of us who enjoy history and Charles Lindbergh it's wonderful. Thanks Bill.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My thoughts....

Thoughts are like bellybuttons... everyone has one.

I can't tell you how many emails and comments I've received concerning NWA 188, the now infamous Airbus flight that overflew MSP by more than 100 miles. I'm reluctant to comment because I have few facts and am not privy to investigative information. Their certainly seems to be no shortage of speculation though. I just returned home from flying a four day trip and as you can imagine endured many thoughtless, unsubstantiated remarks by passengers. I knew that I'd experience this and contemplated my response even before backing out of my driveway.

Someone willing to make callous comments, or seeing the event as comedic, or as an opportunity to take a shot at our profession doesn't warrant an answer. I handled them simply by looking at them, maintaining my silence and turning and walking away. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. I mean really, does anyone think that it's intelligent or humorous to walk past the cockpit while boarding and yell up, "hey... you guys had enough rest?" and then kill themselves laughing. I also try never to speak when angered, as those comments usually return to haunt me.

On the other hand, several passengers approached and simply asked "what went wrong?" or "how could this have happened?" Their approach was different. It was sincere, neither sarcastic nor a shot at our profession, but an expression of genuine bewilderment. In my mind they were making a strong statement. "We trust you guys every time we climb into one of these things, can that be restored?" Now this was a thoughtful approach and warranted discussion, to which I offered a few thoughts.

So, here are those thoughts.

I'm bewildered too. Assuming that the pilots had pulled out their laptops as offered, I can't understand being so absorbed that neither looked at their displays to determine their position for 90 minutes. If they failed to monitor time and position, when did they last check their fuel state? I can't comprehend why not communicating with a center controller for 90 minutes didn't trigger a reality check. I've switched off my ATC receiver many times when the lead flight attendant has called to conduct business and then failed to turn it back on. I'm confident that I'm not the only one who has done this, but after a few minutes of flying in silence, you suddenly realize that it's just too quiet. A quick investigation reveals that the number one comm is off. Whoops! And when selected on, the busy, noisy world of a commercial jet cockpit is restored.

An A-320 approaching DTW

One erroneous tidbit that I'm reading in the news these days is "how these airplanes practically fly themselves." This is a popular distortion of the truth perpetuated by ignorance. Ask someone who makes this remark, "how do they do that? The reply usually sounds something like this. "I don't know but I've heard that." Or, "my uncle's, first cousin's Dentist who lives in Dubuque and flies a Cessna says..." Believe me, if they did, Northwest Airlines would have furloughed all of us if they could have gotten away with it. I'm referring of course to the "old" Northwest that existed during the contentious Douglas Steenland era. So far under Richard Anderson, I'm optimistic with what I'm seeing at the "new" Delta. Please, let me digress for just a second. On 29 October we celebrated the first year anniversary of this union and it's going well; much has been accomplished in a rather amiable atmosphere with a single operating certificate on track by December. To learn exactly what has been achieved, read this article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, forwarded by my good friend Captain Ron Turner. (USAir ret.)

OK, back to business. The autopilots (we have three in a 757 and two in a 320 if my memory is correct) do a fantastic job, but they don't "think." If they flew themselves and pilots were an after thought, flight 188 would have descended on the Minneapolis arrival profile, slowed, configured, extended the gear and landed on 30L. Autopilots/computers can't do that, they're "directed" to do this. I often joke with passengers who state that we're just "button pushers" and that they could probably get this airplane down if need be. I ask, "Yes, perhaps, but do you know which buttons to push, when to push them and in what sequence? Which button or buttons would you push or pull for an engine failure, fuel imbalance, hydraulic or electrical failure, to intercept an ILS or initiate a go around?" This is important stuff that you'd need to know to successfully fly one these babies! I've mentioned this a time or two before, but this also explains why I deplore the name "airbus." I lends to the image that we're "bus drivers." It denigrates the responsibility and the decision making which really, the job is all about.

A 757 at the gate in MSP

Take a look at this video concerning an A-320 and autopilots, then come back and continue reading. See you shortly.... This video graphically demonstrates why pilots are there. The autopilot doesn't care if it flies the airplane into the ground, but certainly the pilots will recognize that somethings amiss. Well, maybe not these two, but they were test pilots at an airshow. And the remark about "the first fully automated airplane..." There's no such thing, not yet anyway and if this is what "fully automated" or "designing the pilot out of the cockpit" gets, I want nothing to do with it. Would you? How does that old joke about new, automated, pilotless aircraft go? "Ladies and gentleman we've reached 37,000 feet, so sit back and relax, nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong... I have a cartoon somewhere in my collection that shows two empty pilot seats in a commercial jet cockpit at altitude. Behind the seats, attached to the rear bulkhead, is a little glass enclosure that looks like the type that would house a fire extinguisher, with a pilot sitting inside. The sign beneath it says. "Break glass in case of an emergency."

Another popular thought concerns tedium at altitude. This is true. The push back, taxi out, takeoff and climb profile are busy. Out of places like LAX, SFO, LGA, AMS, NRT and ORD, SID's (Standard Instrument Departures) are very busy. The same is true concerning STAR's. (Standard Terminal Arrival Routes) The descent on an arrival procedure, receiving radar vectors, configuring the airplane, intercepting and flying an approach in or near adverse weather, landing and planning a missed approach are complex. The 225 people sitting behind me into LAX tonight have no comprehension of this, any more than I do of their business that they spent years preparing themselves for. But they don't need to, they're paying me for that, just as I engage their services when needed. The free market, it's a wonderful thing. But en route flying, sitting at 37,000 feet for five, six, seven or eight hours is taxing. Complacency raises its ugly head particularly at three or four o'clock in the morning on a red eye over the North Atlantic or vast Pacific. Discipline, staying engaged while "monitoring" the jet can be difficult. Most of us fly these flights with the dome lights on, flooding the cockpit with light, staving off the urge to close your eyes... even for a few seconds.

A North Atlantic planning chart

Contrary to several popular studies, the FAA insists that "pilot napping" is less than productive, thus illegal. I strongly disagree and support the European standard of controlled napping. Think about it. I'm sure you've been in your office at 3:30 in the afternoon, experiencing a boring day while rain streams down your window. That is if you're not in a cubicle and are lucky enough to have a window. Your head is bobbing and eyes heavy as your brain fogs over and yearns for a 10 minute nap. If you don't think that this occurs to a surgeon during surgery, to an attorney arguing a case or in a commercial jet cockpit, then you're naive. You though can close your door, push back and close your eyes for five, 10 or 15 minutes to revitalize your energy and tackle the rest of your day. It's amazing what a 15 minute nap can do! Logically, I think we should be able to do the same in the cruise phase, notifying the other pilot of your intentions and to insure that I'm awake in 15 minutes. Crossing six or seven time zones during a four or five day trip, sleeping in different hotels and eating on the run is fatiguing. A clear, rested brain performs much better on the Modesto3, Sadde6, Janesville5 or Milton3 arrival procedures, transitioning to an ILS to minimums with heavy rain or snow streaming back over the windscreen. That's the easy part... then you have to taxi to the gate! Take a look at this article published way back in 1992.

The descent procedure into Osaka

But getting back to flight 188. In the final analysis, until an investigation is complete, I have no idea what went wrong and refuse to jump to a conclusion and get a rope. Neither do (holier than thou) David Letterman nor Jay Leno, but that doesn't stop an nonobjective mind from using it for personal gain. Nor has it stopped the FAA from yanking licences before an investigation has concluded. This is a knee jerk, "ready, fire, aim" reaction directed at placating the public. The airline has grounded them and if found negligent, they'll likely be terminated. As in any incident/accident, I want to know what happened... I mean really happened so that I can add that information to my knowledge base, learn from others and avoid pitfalls in the future. But please, let's have the hearing first. I do know however, that irreparable damage has been done to our profession and how we are viewed. Is it any wonder?

Be assured though that the overwhelming majority of us, those of us proud to call ourselves professional airline pilots, are vigilant, on the job and take our responsibilities seriously. I'm proud of what I do and my fellow aviators who do it every day, day in and day out, throughout the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of conditions and circumstances. In 2008, considering only scheduled, U.S. based air carriers, we flew more than 741 million passengers throughout the world. That's more than twice the entire U.S. population. What does this tell us about our system, pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, dispatchers, meteorologists, sales reps, FAA controllers and everyone else who has contributed to getting me airborne tonight?

Thanks for flying with us, contributing to these numbers and utilizing the worlds safest mode of transportation.


Before I leave I wanted to pass along information that has just come my way, it concerns a group called the "Pease Greeters." They're an organization that gets together to meet returning veterans as they arrive at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH. They gather to welcome our servicemen and women home and let them know how much we value their service to America. Today is Veterans Day, click on their site... maybe you'd like to participate if you live in New Hampshire, Massachusetts or Maine near the coast.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Northeast Airlines Reunion

Thanks to AIRWAY's editor John Wegg for the photo above. Note Mackey, on the side of the car door and a fire extinguisher in position for radial engine starts. Mackey, formed in 1946 merged with Eastern Airlines in 1967 and flew primarily from Florida to the Bahama's and the Turk's & Caicos Islands. Their fleet included DC-3's, DC-6's and Convairs.

January 1980. Dad's retirement flight in a 727 as we were inbound to BOS for his last landing on runway 27. I rode in the jumpseat. This 727 was the first "stretched," or 200 series three-holer delivered to the airlines and NEA in particular in 1967.

As many of you know, my Dad flew for BOS based Northeast Airlines from 1946 through 1980, during the "golden age" of American Air Transport. I can practically recite the 1957 seniority list with names that included; Anderson, Bean, Mudge, Lord and Chaves. I wanted desperately to fill a slot on the NEA seniority list, but was too young when they merged with Delta in 1972. I interviewed with Delta in 1978 while flying with BOS based Air New England, but when they discovered that I was "Red's boy," I was done. DAL employed a nepotism policy in those days.

My father flew what may have been Northeast Airlines last flight. He departed BOS in a Northeast DC-9 on September 30 and and landed in Miami just after midnight on October 1, 1972 in a Delta DC-9. September 30 was the last day of operation for 39 year-old NEA as it officially merged into DAL the next day. NEA was the launch customer for the stretched or -200 series 727, in fact DAL had no 727's in its inventory at the time of the merger.

Three NEA DC-3's on the ramp in Montpelier, VT (MPV)

Montipelier, 160 miles north of BOS just south of the Green Mountain Range, was an outlying station and it was abnormal to have three 3's here at one time. This picture was given to me by retired NEA/DAL captain Dick Barnes, who holds the distinction of flying Northeast Airlines last DC-3 flight. Dick Greene was his copilot and Helen Chase was the stewardess on this historic flight from Nantucket (ACK) to LaGuardia in December 1966. There are no longer any NEA pilots flying with DAL.

Kent Greenough and Randy Luce manned this station for NEA then and later ran it for Air New England. I was fortunate to have known them and acquired much of my NEA memorabilia from them. I lived in Stowe, VT and commuted to BOS from here as well as flying Twin Otter flights in/out. Every time I came home from a trip, another piece of NEA history would be sitting inside my trusty Land Cruiser awaiting my arrival. It was like Christmas in July sponsored by these two generous fellows.

A Northeast DC-3 on the ramp in Lewiston, Maine (LEW)
Constructed in 1942 for the US Army Air Force.

You may have read my story in AIRWAYS concerning Lufthansa and their restoring a Lockheed Constellation in Maine. If you did, the hangar that we enjoyed their festivities in, is located directly in front of the nose of this DC-3... only 50 years later!

This picture was on display in the LEW passenger waiting area for many years, when our ANE station manager Suzy ???? acquired it for me in 1975. Just to clarify, I made a copy of it and returned it later!

An Air New England DC-3 overhead Nantucket. (ACK)

I never flew for NEA, but was lucky enough to be hired at HYA based, later BOS based Air New England in 1974. This was a company promo picture of one of our six DC-3's over Nantucket in either 1973 or '74. Our demise followed in October 1981 and employment later at Orion and Republic Airlines was attained through ANE friends already there. Ward Dunning secured me a sideways (727 FE) seat at Orion and Wes Lundquist, Bob Finnigan, Owen Hickey, Dan Hallinan and others somehow convinced Karen Dompier to hire me at Republic a year later. Republic merged with Northwest Airlines in 1986 and Northwest with Delta Airlines only recently. It's funny how life unfolds isn't it?

My father, sometime in the mid 1950's, dual qualified as a DC-3 and Convair 240 captain and on his retirement flight in 1980.

Aging Eagles

Not only do I love seeing my Dad's contemporaries at Captain Bill Grady's NEA reunions in June and October in Plymouth, NH, but more and more Air New England pilots are showing up too. From left to right: Wes, hired with me at ANE in 1974 and instrumental in getting me hired at Republic in 1985. Today he's an A-330 captain at Delta. Alec recently retired from USAirways and has just written a book. Rand. Christine was an FH-227 Stew who married Hook, one of ANE's most beloved pilots who went on to fly at Continental. Sadly he died of cancer a couple of years ago. Gary went to People Express and retired a few years ago as a 767 captain at Continental. Jack, who also went to Republic, retired a few years ago off the 747-400 at Northwest. Howard was a training captain and Chief Pilot at ANE. Tom, like Wes, migrated to North Central just before ANE went under and is a 757 captain at Delta today. Tom's wife Sidney (not pictured) another ANE alumnus is a DAL A-330 captain today. Eddie, another 1974 ANE classmate, went to Allegheny Airlines in 1978 and is the VP of Flight Operations at USAirways today. This picture represents just a small sampling of the 175 ANE pilots whose friendship I still enjoy today.

I made this short video from clips taken at the October NEA reunion to show some of the eclectic airplanes that these folks arrive in. There are many others, including Bob Trinque's restored Beech-18 and a plethora of little tail draggers.

My Dad and me at his home in Amherst, NH on the morning of his last flight.

I rode jumpseat during this flight. At the time, Delta had a no jumpseat policy; it took him months to achieve approval for this. Jim Baker was the BOS Chief Pilot then, had flown as a DC-6B Flight Engineer for my Dad years earlier and helped expedite this request. My mother and sister were in first class as we all enjoyed the trip up the east coast from sunny Tampa to an inclement Boston.

The sun had set on a cold, dark January evening as he flew radar vectors over the old Boston Light established in 1716 and the historic Outer Harbor. General Washington assumed command of the Continental Army here in 1775 during the "Siege of Boston" and ran the British out with Colonel Knox's captured cannon just off our left on Dorchester Heights. USS Constitution, America's oldest commissioned warship, better known as Old Ironsides, as well as the Old North Church, Bunker Hill and Fort Independence are there too; reminding us of a time before jet air travel.

Out of 12,000 feet and slowing to 250 knots, he disconnected the autopilot to enjoy the feel of Jack Steiner's fabulous design one last time. With inboard and outboard ailerons, assisted by flight spoilers and a rudder load limiter, this is an amazingly responsive jet. He called for "engine anti-ice, flaps 2, then 5 and finally flaps 15" as we slowed and maneuvered for a left base to runway 27 at the old East Boston Airfield. Buffeted by a moderate wind from the east and shrouded in snow squalls, made visible by our landing lights, the gear came down and the flaps reached 30 degrees as we passed 1,500 feet inbound from the outer marker.

Dimly visible now through dark and snow, moisture streaming back over our heated windscreen, we sighted the runway end identifier lights. The end to his accident free, 25,000 hour, 34 year career was in sight, but I couldn't help but wonder how many times he'd enjoyed this scene since his first experience here in 1946 aboard a DC-3. Go ahead, ask any professional pilot which phase of flight he or she enjoys most. Without hesitating, they'll confirm that breaking out at minimums in a hand flown ILS approach is just plain fun! The lower and windier the better. With a little crosswind control tonight, Dad will roll on the upwind mains, bleed speed and fly the downwind mains and the nosewheel to the runway, extend the spoilers and gently pull his "dependable" JT-8's into reverse and lightly apply the brakes.

At the gate in BOS after his last flight with Captain Stafford Short. In the center is retired Captain Ron Pach who was the Flight Engineer on this flight and the FO was retired Captain Bob Hobbs.

The satisfaction of delivering 150 fellow humans home in adverse conditions, professionally, safely and smoothly, is immensely gratifying. But it doesn't end there. When I see a young mother struggling in the jetway with a stroller I think of my niece, or an older couple overwhelmed by it all my parents come to mind. It takes but a moment of my time to choose to help out and offer a hand. What would my father have done? What would he have expected from me? I really don't need to ask myself these questions... I know! Most aviators love this craft. Many pilots don't however and it surfaces in their skills and attitudes toward other crew members and passengers.

Just in case you may have been wondering, these two photos (above/below) will give you a feel of what its like to fly a visual approach to runway 27 at BOS. The shot above, much as it might have appeared in 1946 was taken from within Air New England DC-3, "Triple Six" in 1975. The shot below was taken on final to the same runway from a B-757. As usual, thanks very much for following along, I hope that you've enjoyed flying on my Dad's last flight and meeting some of my ANE pals.


Right on the VASI

Sunday, October 4, 2009

HNL to LAX and my first visit to the Delta gates

On the ramp in Honolulu at gate 11, preparing to leave for LAX. Something new tonight though. When we arrive tomorrow morning at 0630, we'll taxi over to the south complex and park at the Delta gates. This scene occurred about a month ago, as the march towards consolidation continues. With nearly half our airplanes repainted, NWA is fading into history. In today's Minneapolis Business Journal (10/07/09) there's an article concerning the sale of NWA's World Headquarters in Eagan, MN. To employees it was known as "Building A," among other names that you might imagine.

We departed off runway 8R, flew the MKK4 departure, climbed past 10,000 foot Haleakala on Maui hidden in darkness and fog, entered the Pacific track system at CLUTS and settled in for a five hour, 22 minute, 2,200 nautical mile flight to North America. I've mentioned this several times in the past, but the Hawaiian islands are the worlds most remote archipelago in the world largest ocean. Finding this little needle in a haystack today is easy with Flight Management Computers, but navigating here from the mainland in the late 1930's and '40's in flying boats required a herculean effort and nerves of steel. What we'll fly in four and a half hours tonight, took as many as 18 hours in a state of the art, lumbering, Boeing 314. Nearly 70 years later, we're still spanning this ocean in yet another (not quite so lumbering) Boeing.

We've exited our track just west of Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands, as we observe this mornings sun rise over the San Gabriel mountains east of Los Angeles. Beautiful isn't it?

Our original flight plan included the VTU6 (Ventura6) Arrival, but we're leading the Pacific inbounds and have been cleared directly to EXERT, "keep your speed up" for an ILS to runway 6R. If I were in my Cub (which is no longer mine by the way) I'd look at that sucker hole just ahead as my portal to Nirvana... or at least to LA! The San Gabriel's, just ahead, loom larger now, as does my bed at the Wilshire Grand Hotel downtown. Which reminds me... I'd like to thank the management of the Wilshire Grand. They offer us 50% off in all of their restaurants and free Internet! I've enjoyed wonderful meals at Cardini Ristorante and City Grill at more than reasonable prices. Thanks!

View from our cockpit towards the LAX tower and Encounter Restaurant as our ground crew prepares to tow us into the gate.

We'd landed on 6R, turned off and taxied west on Echo, south on Sierra and east on Bravo towards C8, in search of gate 54A. This is all new territory for us as we contacted the Delta Ramp tower. "Cleared into the alley and look for your tow in crew" we heard as we saw a tug and several men approach our airplane.

Tow in gate! What's this all about? Just kidding... I'd read the bulletin and was prepared for the event. The alleyways in this complex are considerably more narrow than I'm accustomed to and to prevent damage and injury to equipment and personnel with jet blast, Delta will tow us into the gate. I've experienced this several times now, they're always in position waiting for us and there is no delay.

A closer inspection of Encounter reveals that it is still under going renovation, but is open to the public. A couple of years ago I wandered into the restaurant before heading to the hotel one evening to explore this highly unusual building. While taking a few low light interior pictures, I met the Chef, introduced myself and explained that I planned to write a story for Airways Magazine. He personally guided me through his restaurant suggesting angles for pictures and asking patrons to remain still while I shot. "Ladies and gentlemen, the captain needs to take a few pictures... let's help him out," he announced. And they did. That was easy!

In fact, here's the chef and one of the interior shots that I took that night. I wrote that story and it appeared in the August 2006 issue of Airways Magazine. Thanks very much to the folks at Encounter and at Airways for publishing it.

Very Jetsonesque, it's well worth your time to visit Encounters if you're transitioning through LAX.

A view of a Frontier Airbus as we continue towards the gate. Frontier has just emerged from bankruptcy and has been purchased by Republic Airways. You may remember the bidding war that raged between Southwest and Republic for control of this Denver based airline. Republic is a holding company that owns several smaller airlines, such as Chautauqua and Shuttle America.

In a related story, management at Milwaukee based Midwest Airlines announced recently, that it plans to return its fleet of B-717's and outsource all of its flying to Republic Airways. Actually, as of July 31, Midwest is a wholly owned subsidiary of Republic. The result of this decision? All of Midwest's flight crews, pilots and flight attendants, who contributed to the success of this small airline will be laid off and Republic will fly these routes with 76 passenger Embraer 170's. I wonder if they'll spare the chocolate chip cookies from the unemployment line? Midway has laid off some 1,800 employees this year. I understand economics, but its a sad state of affairs when those who built the airline are jettisoned, while an outsourced group takes over. I find it very difficult to believe that the high level of quality that Midwest once achieved will now prevail. The Frontier pilots are between a rock and a hard place. The seniority deal offered by Southwest was poor, but how will life aloft unfold with Republic Airways?

When will we as a pilot group learn to avoid eating our young? I may be wrong, but my understanding is that Southwest planned to simply staple the Frontier pilots to the bottom of their list. If I'm incorrect about this I apologize, but this is what I've learned from some involved in these negotiations. If this was a tactic to avoid a merger I get it. But if not, I don't. I've managed to survive two mergers; one very ugly and the other, at least to this point, very amiable. I prefer the second scenario! In both cases my airline was acquired, not because I'm such a nice guy, but because the Board of Directors at the surviving carrier thought it made good business sense. Or because they thought they would personally benefit. None the less, the employee groups are simply pawns, maneuvering for position in the grand scheme of things.

Well, we're almost to the gate and we'll head downtown to the Grand Wilshire where I can finally turn in and get some sleep. But after a few hours I'll get up, turn on my computer and start writing. Why? Because I enjoy it, but also because I'm trying to earn independence from my airline, have a back up plan to which I can fall back should I become outsourced. If you've read my Ask the Captain column on my website, you know that I'm a strong believer in "the backup plan."

Airline flying is a wonderful job, it's worked out well for me. But it's at the whim of the deal makers in the smoke filled back rooms and when it goes away, I don't want to be caught flatfooted. According to 121 FAR's we can't take off without a backup plan, ie. an alternate, either an arrival or departure alternate based on present or forecasted weather. Perhaps we should guide our lives by this tenet too, the forecast is ominous.

Here's a funny parody with regard to outsourcing and crew scheduling that I hope you enjoy. Unfortunately it's taking on an all to realistic look though.

NWA's rapidly diminishing fleet of reliable Douglas DC-9's

But before you leave, hold on for just a minute. I want to tell you about a DC-9 that I once flew. N962N, a DC-9-31, built originally for North Central Airlines in 1969. Oh my gosh, that was forty years ago! For greater, more interesting details click here to learn what Perry Van Veen can tell you about this marvelous airplane.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Cub is For Sale... Well, actually it's SOLD!

Click on my website to see Nilo Grisendi's winning shot for September.


If you're arriving at this blog via my old blog, RAND'S AVIATION PHOTOS, I'll be eliminating that site altogether on Sunday Sept 6. Unfortunately, the HTML became so "jumbled," for a lack of a better term, that I was unable to square it away. So please bookmark this site, or my website for easy access. Thanks...

But now on to more pressing matters.

I'm selling my Cub! What's that you say? Yes... I'm selling my Cub. I hate to do it, but I'm just not using her as much as I used to and we all know what happens to an unexercised engine. Yes, corrosion insidiously finds its way in, infects cylinder walls, possibly even the crank and it's the beginning of the end. There's a school of thought concerning antiques. You never really own them, you're just taking care of it during your stewardship before passing it along to a new care taker. I've taken good care of NC98342, have improved her considerably with timely upgrades but now think it's time to share her with another enthusiast who appreciates her beautiful lines, timeless look and quiet little engine.

Just this past winter I pulled her cockpit instruments... all four of them and sent them to Keystone Instruments in Locke Haven, PA (where she was built in 1946) to be overhauled and refaced with cream colored faces and original Cub logos. It's the little things that make a classic a classic and this detail has greatly enhanced the look of her cockpit. You may notice the cylinders in this photo too. I replaced all four cylinders a few years ago with new Superior Millenniums. While I was under the hood I replaced both magnetos, the wiring harness and added an electric oil heater for winter operations. There's nothing worse than starting a cold engine on a cold day with cold oil.

In fact here she is the day after I purchased her from the museum. We removed and replaced all four cylinders, both magnetos, the wiring harness and added the oil heater. Is that engine/firewall clean or what. I removed the wheel pants but still have them along with the mounting hardware. Even though they're not original, they look perfect and I've been offered vast amounts of money to sell them. While in for maintenance, we changed the shock cords too. What's a shock cord? They're the bungees, hidden inside the black vinyl covers between the landing gear. Often overlooked... but very important. This may be superfluous for most readers, but here's a very interesting article concerning Cub Shock Cords.

She's a 1946 J3 Cub with a 65 hp Continental engine. Meticulously restored in 1985 by Steve Miller in Marlboro, Mass, when owned by a retired Northeast Airlines/Delta Airlines captain, I had to go back 12 years to find 100 hours on her engine. That's why I replaced the cylinders. During this time she spent five years in a museum. So as you can see, she's had very little exposure to the sun. Though not good for the engine, it was great for the fabric, which is still in excellent condition.

While she was in getting new cylinders and Bendix dual impulse magnetos, I replaced the lift struts with newer, heavier Univair struts to avoid the annual AD inspection required on the original versions. I love classic designs and as you can see in this photo have kept the original wheels, tires and brakes. As much as I might like a new set of Cleveland Brakes, this conversion requires the use of 600 x 6 tires, thus loosing the little round Cub tires and hub cap. Sorry, just couldn't do it! I've also kept the small, hard rubber tailwheel. I considered an 8" pneumatic tailwheel assembly, but it just didn't look right.

With an NC registration in all the right places, what aircraft looks more at home on a grass strip than a Piper J3 Cub? Forget moving maps and glass displays, there's nothing better than flying on a summer morning, low and slow in a Cub, with a sectional chart spread across your lap and the aroma of freshly mowed hay from below. Well, maybe an autumn afternoon watching the leaves of New England turn brilliant orange, red or yellow. OK, well maybe flying over a new snowfall, through a cobalt blue sky while approaching Mt. Washington. If you're looking for an airplane that turns heads, attracts attention, is a piece of Americana and will hold your interest in flying, then look for a Cub. It doesn't have to be this one, anyone will do.

Now for a few particulars. Built in 1946 with aluminum spars, she has 3,500 hours total time, 719 SMOH and runs and flys beautifully. She was completely re-rigged in 2005. Her last annual was in June 2009 where all cylinders checked in at mid 70's compression. She had a minor fuel leak that was corrected by swapping out the fuel valve and we removed the muffler for welding.

OK, what does she come with? Although I'm not a fan of GPS's with little tailwheel airplanes, you can have this Lowrance Airmap 500. I've never used it in this Cub, however admit to using it when I flew another Cub from Texas to New Hampshire a few years ago. I only used it a little though! In the photos I'm sure you've noticed the external antenna mounted overhead. It connects to this JRC, 720 channel handheld COM with a B&C connector. It works great. I also have two Dave Clark headsets. Additional items include the wheelpants, an insulated engine cover and a tailwheel dolly. You can see the dolly in the video.

And for a limited time only, I'll throw in a FLYING WITH RAND T-Shirt and cap. You can see them on my website. Imagine, all this history for a mere $39,500. What a bargain! Yes, the price is somewhat negotiable, but please, no tire-kickers.

Want to see her in action? Then click on the video above and watch what a classic little Cub does best... FLY! I made this video before I overhauled her instrument panel. Want more information? Then click on my Picasa gallery to see more detailed photography and the paperwork from my first annual inspection.

Thanks very much for looking, I'm on my way out the door to fly the Cub.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Out of LA

We arrived from HNL yesterday, now follow along as we push back from gate 54B at LAX, wrap up a four day trip and return to DTW.

Now that we've moved over to the Delta gates on the south side of LAX, (which offers better culinary choices... BUT NO STARBUCKS) I have a new perspective of this historic old airfield. However, each time I've pushed back and taxied out, I've been sent over to the north complex to depart off 24L. We're on Bravo taxiway, headed west to the crossover taxiways when we site BA 747, One World.

Now on taxiway Quebec, we pass this A-380 on our way to taxiway Echo in the north complex. Present, but not visible in this shot, was another QANTAS A-380 to the left. Do you know what QANTAS means? Leave a comment.

In fact, here it is. Although I recognize it as an engineering marvel, aesthetically I don't find this airplane pleasing. Would you like a tour of this aircraft? Click here. Or, visit Chris Sloan's AIRCHIVE.COM site and go to his Inaugural A-380 commercial flight tour. Be prepared to spend time here though... but don't forget to come back!

Here's an interesting view of a United Triple 7 shortly after takeoff, in fact the gear doors are just opening to allow the mains to be safely stowed away. There's a lot of "sequencing" going on here, initiated simply by moving the gear handle into the "up" position. What I mean by that, is the gear can't begin its upward motion (or downward travel) until the gear doors are open and the path is clear. This process is accomplished with "hydraulic sequencing valves" that create an order of events. When the gear handle is moved, hydraulic pressure is applied, gear doors open, the gear over center locks break, the gear moves back and inward, locks into position and then the gear doors close. I'm unfamiliar with a B-777, but on the 757 now, we'd move the gear handle to neutral, relieving hydraulic pressure allowing the gear to suspend from the up locks. You can imagine can't you, what that gear assembly and six trucks must weigh.

Nice touch on this American 757 with the LAX control tower in the background.

Just off runway 24L we're flying the LOOP FOUR departure, an LNAV/VNAV, or in Airbus parlance, a managed departure. After reaching 5,000 feet, departure control gives us a left turn (180 degrees) direct to the LAX VOR to cross it at or above 10,000 feet and resume the SID. LAX ATC does a great job moving a lot of traffic as we approach the field climbing eastbound towards the San Gabriel Mountains, Death Valley and Las Vegas.

Overhead LAX, you have a clear view of downtown Los Angeles over the nose. Do you see the plume of smoke just ahead? Just east of the city at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, this massive fire erupted yesterday as we circled to land on 25L. Eighteen hours later it's still raging out of control.

This area is the Angeles National Forrest, where more than 1200 firefighters and numerous air tankers and helicopters are doing battle. While waiting at our downtown hotel this morning for our limo to the airport, the acrid, pungent odor of smoke lay heavy over the city.

Our last look at the Angeles National Forrest fire as we climb above it, pass over Death Valley and turn directly to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Overhead LAS headed towards Bryce Canyon, looking from my copilots side window, we easily view Lake Mead and a small portion of the Hoover Dam. I visited the Dam about a year ago on a LAS layover and enjoyed the experience, even though I dislike Las Vegas. I've been told that Delta has greatly improved our accommodations here, which may change my viewpoint, but when we stayed at Circus Circus with NWA, it was depressing.

Just 30 miles south of Las Vegas, Lake Mead is the nations largest reservoir, created by the Hoover Dam. The white band that you see, also referred to as the "bathtub ring," indicates just how low the reservoir is.

Flying over the very northern section of the Grand Canyon by Lake Powell, the nations second largest reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam, we'll soon enter mountainous territory as the Rocky Mountains lie just ahead.

I have a few days off now and plan to get out and enjoy the Cub before flying an Amsterdam trip next week. As usual, thanks for following along.