The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Finally flying again

After six cancellations due to weather, I finally got up in an airplane today. I flew 1.9 hours of just maneuvers and landing practice with an instructor. I'm a little rusty, but they can use the plane again, so that's all right.

Long-time readers know that I have a GPS-enabled bike speedometer. Today, I brought the little bugger along in the airplane, so you can see where I flew. (Google Earth 4.x required to view the file.)

Flying in winter, Chicago style

"I'd rather be down here wishing I were up there, than the opposite." So goes the aviation axiom. But this morning, with its 3 km visibilities and 30 m—yes, thirty meters—ceiling, I have postponed a checkout flight for the third time in a row.

Here's how weather can be really frustrating. I kept track of my flights (or lack thereof) during the summer of 1999 when I was trying to get my certificate, and put together a Web page to chronicle the frustration.

Two notes about the page: first, I haven't maintained the page since 9 December 1999, so all the links to the actual flights are dead (I used to have an online log book, and I will again someday...); and second, information about anything in 2008 may not be current, like the flight school's rules.

Because little planes are SCARY

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reports that an enormous block of airspace around Washington is off-limits to general aviation tonight because of the State of the Union Address:

During the president's speech to Congress and the nation, no flights are allowed to or from any of the 21 airports within the Washington, D.C., ADIZ, including pattern work. The special ingress/egress procedures for the "DC-3" airports inside the Flight Restricted Zone are also suspended. Only IFR flights to and from Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) airports will be allowed.

This is what security expert Bruce Schneier calls "security theater."

Unusual aircraft maintenance rituals

Via AVWeb: An aviation mechanic crew chief at Istanbul's airport got fired for allowing a ritual camel sacrifice on the tarmac:

A crew of mechanics at Istanbul's airport were so glad to be rid of some trouble-prone British-made airplanes that they sacrificed a camel on the tarmac in celebration—prompting the firing [December 13] of their supervisor.
Turks traditionally sacrifice animals as an offering to God for when their wishes come true.

So...does this mean God did not accept the sacrifice?

Security Theater

The New York Times (reg.req.) has finally picked up a year-old article by security expert Bruce Schneier, taking the TSA to task for concentrating more on theater than actual security:

FOR theater on a grand scale, you can’t do better than the audience-participation dramas performed at airports, under the direction of the Transportation Security Administration.
As passengers, we tender our boarding passes and IDs when asked. We stand in lines. We empty pockets. We take off shoes. We do whatever is asked of us in these mass rites of purification. We play our assigned parts, comforted in the belief that only those whose motives are good and true will be permitted to pass through.
Of course, we never see the actual heart of the security system: the government’s computerized no-fly list, to which our names are compared when we check in for departure. The T.S.A. is much more talented, however, in the theater arts than in the design of secure systems. This becomes all too clear when we see that the agency’s security procedures are unable to withstand the playful testing of a bored computer-science student.

Four billion dollars to airport security that doesn't work. Could we expect anything more from this Administration (762 days, 2 hours left)?

Toy? Or training aid?

Here's a great idea (via AVweb): using Microsoft® Flight Simulator as a training aid:

Here's how Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid helps aviators get the most out of every hour in the air or the virtual skies:
  • Student Pilots can use the information in this book to enhance book-learning, review specific concepts and skills, and in preparing for formal flight instruction.
  • Certificated Pilots can complement real-world flying with additional hours in the virtual skies, upgrading flying skills and learning about advanced aircraft and procedures.
  • Flight Instructors will discover new ways to use Flight Simulator as a teaching tool in ground school classes and pre- and post-flight briefings.
  • Virtual Aviators (Flight Simulator hobbyists) will learn more about real-world flying and enhance their enjoyment of virtual flying.

My dad got a copy of the latest Flight Simulator version for his birthday, and even on his old clunker of a computer it looks incredible. On his computer it's a little jumpy as the display sometimes lags behind the simulation, but if you're training to do holding patterns or instrument approaches, the realistic ground display isn't helpful anyway.

Someday, when I have oodles of time, I may pick up a copy for myself.

"Kip Hawley is an Idiot"

A passenger at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee got detained by the TSA last week because he insulted the TSA's director:

A Wisconsin man who wrote "Kip Hawley is an Idiot" on a plastic bag containing toiletries said he was detained at an airport security checkpoint for about 25 minutes before authorities concluded the statement was not a threat.
Ryan Bird, 31, said he wrote the comment about Hawley—head of the Transportation Security Administration—as a political statement. He said he feels the TSA is imposing unreasonable rules on passengers while ignoring bigger threats.
A TSA spokeswoman acknowledged a man was stopped, but likened the incident to cases in which people inappropriately joke about bombs. She said the man was "a little combative" and that he was detained only a few minutes.

I recommend everyone write "Kip Hawley is an Idiot" on their toiletries bags. Sadly, though, the TSA will still spend billions protecting us from shaving cream without actually making flying safer.

(Thanks to Anne for the article.)

F-14 retires

The F-14 Tomcat has officially retired:

The F-14, a big fighter with variable sweep wings, was deployed in 1972 to defend aircraft carrier groups against Russian bombers carrying cruise missiles. When that threat collapsed, it was converted to a ground support aircraft covering troops in Bosnia and Kosovo in the late 1990s and, as late as last year, in Iraq. It's been replaced by the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The F-14 was featured prominently in the 1986 movie Top Gun.