Sunday, August 19, 2012


My friend Nick loves gadgets, and flying with him is like a trip through Den Den City.  We had two tablets going, one running SkyCharts, the other running ForeFlight, plus a fistful of smart phones and two different handheld GPSs.  For a twenty minute flight.  Oh, I had a current sectional chart available, too.

We went to our local EAA chapter meeting and headed home.  Given the smoke pervading the Western US the visibility was a little low, but still good VFR.  I had planned to do a practice ILS on the way home, but I have plenty of recent approaches, so skipped it.

Nick asked me about uPad and the trick I wrote about in the last post, so I turned my tablet toward him and showed him how it worked.

That meant that nobody was flying the airplane.


When I looked up, we had gone through the extended centerline to runway 21, although we were more than 10 miles from the airport.


The wind was 070 at about 8, an acceptable tailwind component. so the tower offered runway 21.  Great.  But my focus on the tablet had put me behind and we were high and fast.  I reduced the manifold pressure as much as I dared, but we were still above Vfe and still high.


The American 757 going into Cali, Colombia.  The Gulfstream going into Houston.  The Lear headed into Carlsbad, CA.  I did not want to join that list, but being hot and high with a tailwind certainly increased my chances.


"Tower, 60N, change of plans, we'd like to enter left downwind for runway 3."

Admit your mistakes, and fix them before things get out of hand.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Airborne Protocol

Now it's happened.

Like me, you've completely converted to electronic charts on some tablet device the mention of whose name would trigger a massive influx of spam.  I try to keep a WAC chart handy but you know how that goes.

But now you've had a navigation failure of some kind, and it's time to keep a dead-reckoning log.

If you're like me, you've been keeing some kind of navigation log all along, especially for a longer flight.  I wrote a while ago about one airline's practice, and that's not the only carrier whose captains write out nav logs.  I emulate it.

My protocol seems complex but with a little practice it's quite easy.

  1. Go to your favorite flight planner.  Plan. Make a screen capture of the nav log (on my tablet, that involves pressing POWER and HOME simultaneously;
  2. Open a productivity app like uPad and import the screen capture;
  3. Use uPad (or whatever) to annotate the nav log.
In the end, it looks something like the actual example below.

But what about the dead reckoning chart?  I've developed a similar protocol.

  1. Use your favorite tablet nav program and enter your flight plan;
  2. Take a screen capture;
  3. Open the screen capture in uPad (or whatever) and keep track of where you are.
A made-up example appears below. I've noted the time that each landmark was passed, and from this I can get groundspeed, correct my wind correction, note the weather, and the like.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rope Break

One of the standard maneuvers for new glider pilots is the Premature Termination To Tow (as the bureaucrats have it), more commonly known as the rope break.  (I wrote a little about what a rush it is here.)

But when I'm not chasing towplanes, I chase metaphors, and I've been chasing nothing but metaphors for more than a year.  The usual reasons can start the line-up over here on the left: increasing work responsibilities (with less reward, of course), family responsibilities (including helping with my father's care on the other side the country), money, other flying, and, most important, that lovely little witch-with-a-capital-B called rheumatoid arthritis. Everywhere that I have went, R.A. was sure to go.

So I decided to "cut the rope" and sell my share of the glider.  The plan is to put the money aside and look for a suitable light sport airplane.  When the time comes.

Not to get out of soaring, mind you, but the Jantar wasn't fitting my current predicament well.  Soaring represents a tiny fraction of my flight time, maybe 2%, but a disproportionately large fraction of flight knowledge, psychology, and understanding.  It's a good ride; I'll keep taking it.