The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

New Jersey weather sucks

I passed my solo cross-country check ride on 18 July 1999. In theory, I could have flown my two required solo cross-country flights the next weekend, and finished up the other required flights and my FAA check ride the following two weekends.

I finished the private pilot certificate requirements on 17 October 1999 but I couldn't take my check ride for weeks because of the friggin' weather. (In fact, my first attempt got scrubbed for weather.)

My flight school had certain minimum standards for weather. It required winds less than 22 km/h for solo flights, and in addition, for local solo flights:

  • ceilings must be 3,000 ft (950 m) or higher, and
  • visibility must be 5 mi (8 km) or better.

For cross-country solo flights:

  • ceilings must be 5,000 ft (1500 m) or higher,
  • visibility must be 7 mi (11 km) or better, and
  • the flight must leave the ground by 09:00, even if the weather will obviously improve later.

And for any flight with an instructor:

  • ceilings must be 2,000 ft (650 m) or higher, and
  • visibility must be 3 mi (5 km) or better.

So this shows why I have cancelled so many flights this summer. A  green  box means the weather met the requirement. A  yellow  box means the weather met the requirement for local, but not cross-country, flight. A  red  box means the weather officially sucked.

Mo Tu We Th Fr   Sat Sun
July 1999
19 20 21 22 23   24 25
26 27 28 29 30   31  
August 1999 1
2 3 4 5 6   7 8
9 10 11 12 13   14 15
16 17 18 19 20   21 22
23 24 25 26 27   28 29
30 31 September 1999
  1 2 3   4 5
6 7 8 9 10   11 12
13 14 15 16 17   18 19
20 21 22 23 24   25 26
27 28 29 30  
October 1999 1   2 3
4 5 6 7 8   9 10
11 12 13 14 15   16 17
18 19 20 21 22   23 24
25 26 27 28 29   30 31
November 1999
1 2 3 4 5   6 7
8 9 10 11 12   13 14
15 16 17 18 19   20 21
22 23 24 25 26   27 28
29 30 December 1999
  1 2 3   4 5
6 7 8 9 10   11 12

This table shows exactly how the weather sucked at 09:00—the solo cross-country dispatch time—on the days when I could otherwise have flown since my cross-country check ride. (The weather shown is the weather for Essex County Airport).

Date Ceiling Visibility Winds Did I fly?
Sat. July 24 unlimited 4 mi (haze) 4 kts Cancelled
Sun. July 25 unlimited 6 mi (haze) 4 kts Local solo
Sat. July 31 1500 ft 1.5 mi (mist) calm Cancelled
Sun. Aug. 1 unlimited 6 mi (haze) 3 kts Local solo
Sat. Aug. 7 unlimited 10 mi 7 kts Cross-country solo
Sun. Aug. 8 unlimited 3 mi (haze) 7 kts Cancelled
Sat. Aug. 14 2200 ft 1 mi (rain) calm Cancelled
Sun. Aug. 15 1300 ft 5 mi (mist) 5 kts Local dual
Sat. Aug. 21 1400 ft 3 mi (rain) 5 kts Cancelled
Sun. Aug. 22 2300 ft 10 mi 3 kts Cancelled
Sat. Aug. 28 unlimited 2 mi (haze) 3 kts Cancelled
Sun. Aug. 29 unlimited 3 mi (haze) 5 kts Cancelled
Sat. Sep. 4 unlimited 6 mi (haze) 7 kts Local dual
Sun. Sep. 5 1,800 ft 7 mi 8 kts Cancelled
Sat. Sep. 11 unlimited 10 mi calm Local dual
Sun. Sep. 12 unlimited 20 mi calm Local solo
Sat. Sep. 18 unlimited 10 mi 5 kts Nope; out of town
Sun. Sep. 19 unlimited 10 mi calm Nope; out of town
Sat. Sep. 25 10,000 ft 2 1/2 mi calm Local solo (11 am)
Sun. Sep. 26 unlimited 10 mi 2 kts Nope; out of town
Sat. Oct. 2 unlimited 7 mi 3 kts Nope; see note (*)
Sun. Oct. 3 unlimited 10 mi calm Local solo (3 pm)
Sat. Oct. 9 5000 ft 8 mi 6 kts Nope
Sun. Oct. 10 6500 ft 1/2 mi calm Nope
Sat. Oct. 16 2200 ft 6 mi calm Nope
Sun. Oct. 17 0 (fog) 1/4 mi calm Final phase check (11:00)
Sat. Oct. 23 unlimited 7 mi 5 kts Nope
Sun. Oct. 24 unlimited unlimited 4 kts Local dual
Sat. Oct. 30 400 ft 1 1/2 mi calm Cancelled
Sun. Oct. 31 700 ft 3 mi 4 kts Cancelled
Sat. Nov. 6 unlimited 10 mi 12-17 kts Cancelled (13:00)
Sun. Nov. 7 unlimited 10 mi 13-20 kts Cancelled
Sat. Nov. 13 3600 ft 10 mi 5 kts Local solo
Sun. Nov. 14 700 ft 3 mi calm Nope
Sat. Nov. 20 8000 ft 7 mi calm Local dual **
Sun. Nov. 21 9500 ft 1.75 mi calm Nope
Sat. Nov. 27 unlimited 10 mi 6 kts Examiner on vacation***
Sun. Nov. 28 unlimited 10 mi 4 kts Examiner on vacation
Sat. Dec. 4 unlimited 10 mi 6 kts Examiner on vacation
Sun. Dec. 5 unlimited 2.25 mi calm Cancelled

* An accident at 7:51 local time at the departure end of Rwy 22 forced the airport to close for most of October 2. The NTSB preliminary report strongly suggests pilot error caused the crash which injured five people, three seriously.

** That's the 9 am weather. By 3 pm, the scheduled start of my FAA practical test, the weather sucked. I postponed the flight portion of the practical test, and instead went up with an instructor to practice difficult crosswind landings.

*** Notice, will you, that until the 27th the weather completely sucked. The examiner went on vacation the morning of the 27th, and returned December 7th. Notice the weather in New York while he vacationed in Florida. Figures.

Aviation definitions

Suggest a definition.

These definitions come directly from Federal Aviation Regulations parts 1 and 91, unless noted.

aircraft - large
means aircraft of more than 12,500 pounds maximum certificated takeoff weight.
aircraft - small
means aircraft of 12,500 pounds or less, maximum certificated takeoff weight.
airspeed - calibrated
Indicated airspeed of an aircraft, corrected for position and instrument error. Calibrated airspeed is equal to true airspeed in standard atmosphere at sea level.
airspeed - indicated
means the speed of an aircraft as shown on its pitot static airspeed indicator calibrated to reflect standard atmosphere adiabatic compressible flow at sea level uncorrected for airspeed system errors.
airspeed - true
means the airspeed of an aircraft relative to undisturbed air.
category - aircraft
As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means a grouping of aircraft based upon intended use or operating limitations. Examples include: transport; normal; utility; acrobatic; limited; restricted; and provisional.
category - pilot certification
As used with respect to the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of pilots, means a broad classification of aircraft. Examples include: airplane; rotorcraft; glider; and lighter-than-air.
the height above the earth's surface of the lowest layer of clouds or obscuring phenomena that is reported as "broken," "overcast" or "obscuration" and not classified as "thin" or "partial".
means Certificated Flight Instructor.
class - aircraft
As used with respect to the certification of aircraft, means a broad grouping of aircraft having similar characteristics of propulsion, flight or landing. Examples include: airplane; rotorcraft; glider; balloon; landplane and seaplane.
class - pilot certification
As used with respect to the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, means a classification of aircraft within a category having similar operating characteristics. Examples include: single engine; multiengine; land; water; gyroplane, helicopter; airship; and free balloon.
controlled airspace
means an airspace of defined dimensions within which air traffic control service is provided to IFR flights and to VFR flights in accordance with the airspace classification. Note: Controlled airspace is a generic term that covers Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E airspace.
means a person assigned to perform duty in an aircraft during flight time.
means the period of time between the beginning of morning civil twilight and the end of evening civil twilight. (Implied by FAR 1.)
Federal Aviation Regulations, Title 14 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.
flight level
means a level of constant atmospheric pressure related to a reference datum of 29.92 inches of mercury (1013.25 hPa). Each is stated in three digits that represent hundreds of feet. For example, flight level 250 represents a barometric altimeter indication of 25,000 feet; flight level 255, an indication of 25,500 feet.
flight plan
means specified information, relating to the intended flight of an aircraft, that is filed orally or in writing with air traffic control.
flight time
means pilot time that commences when an aircraft moves under its own power for the purpose of flight and ends when the aircraft comes to rest after landing.
flight time - cross-country
means flight time on any flight in which the point of departure is a straight-line distance of 92 km (50 Nmi) from the point of arrival. FAR 61.1(b)(3)(ii)(B)

The FARs are unclear about whether this means the point of first arrival or all legs of a round-robin flight, but it appears—and we log it so—that after the first 50 Nmi leg, all subsequent legs of the same flight count as cross-country time. We would appreciate your comments on this point.
flight time - dual
means flight time during which a (CFI) is present. A pilot with the proper certificates and ratings for the aircraft flown may still log pilot in command time while flying dual.
flight time - instrument
A person may log instrument time only for that flight time when the person operates the aircraft solely by reference to instruments under actual or simulated instrument flight conditions. FAR 61.51(g)
flight time - pilot in command
A recreational, private, or commercial pilot may log pilot-in-command time only for that flight time during which that person (i) is the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which the pilot is rated; (ii) is the sole occupant of the aircraft; or (iii) except for a recreational pilot, is acting as pilot in command of an aircraft on which more than one pilot is required under the type certification of the aircraft or the regulations under which the flight is conducted.

A student pilot may log pilot-in-command time when the student pilot (i) is the sole occupant of the aircraft... (ii) has a current solo flight endorsement as required under FAR 61.87; and (iii) is undergoing training for a pilot certificate or rating. FAR 61.51(e)
flight time - solo
A pilot may log as solo flight time only that flight time when the pilot is the sole occupant of the aircraft. FAR 61.51(d) A supervised solo is a solo flight in which a CFI observes the student from the ground while the student conducts traffic pattern operations.
Instrument Flight Rules, FAR 91.167 et seq. An IFR flight is a flight for which the pilot files an IFR flight plan and conforms to the appropriate Instrument Flight Rules. It doesn't mean that the pilot can't see the ground, or that the flight even requires instruments. However, any time the pilot does not have a visual reference to the ground, IFR applies. Cf. VFR, MVFR.
IFR conditions
means weather conditions below the minimum for flight under visual flight rules. (Also called "IMC," for "Instrument Meterological Conditions.")
A meteorological aviation report, formatted according to the Federal Meteorological Handbook.
Altitude above mean sea level.
Marginal Visual Flight Rules. When visibility and ceilings are close to, but not below, VFR minimums, pilots can still fly for certain purposes. Usually pilots can only conduct traffic pattern operations under MVFR.
means the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the American Air Almanac, converted to local time.

When referring to logged flight time, night means the time beginning one hour after sunset and ending one hour before sunrise.
means navigation by visual reference to landmarks.
pilot in command
means the person who (1) has final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of the flight; (2) has been designated as pilot in command before or during the flight; and (3) holds the appropriate category, class, and type rating, if appropriate, for the conduct of the flight.
special VFR conditions
(SVFR) mean meteorological conditions that are less than those required for basic VFR flight in controlled airspace and in which some aircraft are permitted flight under visual flight rules.
standard atmosphere
The combination of temperature and pressure used as a universal reference, equal to 1013.25 hPa (29.92 in/Hg) at sea level with a temperature of 15°C (59°F). (dab)
speed - best angle of climb
(noted as VX) means the speed at which the airplane will climb at the steepest angle. (dab)
speed - best rate of climb
(noted as VY) means the speed at which the airplane will climb at fastest rate. (dab)
speed - flap extended
(noted as VFE) means the highest speed permissible with wing flaps in a prescribed extended position. Corresponds to the upper limit of the white arc on an airspeed indicator.
speed - ground
The speed of an aircraft relative to the ground.
speed - landing gear extended
(noted as VLE) means the maximum speed at which an aircraft can be safely flown with the landing gear extended.
speed - landing gear operating
(noted as VLO) means the maximum speed at which the landing gear can be safely extended or retracted.
speed - never exceed
(noted as VNE) means the maximum speed at which an aircraft can be safely operated. Corresponds to the upper limit of the yellow arc, and the red line, on an airspeed indicator. (dab)
speed - normal operating
(noted as VNO) means the maximum structural cruising speed of an aircraft. Corresponds to the upper limit of the green arc on an airspeed indicator. (dab)
speed - stall
(noted as VS0) means the speed at which the airplane stall with flaps down; i.e., the slowest indicated airspeed the airplane can fly and still remain airborne. Corresponds to the lower limit of the white arc on an airspeed indicator. (dab)
speed - stall - clean
(noted as VS1) means the speed at which the airplane stall with flaps (and landing gear) up. (dab)
traffic pattern
means the traffic flow that is prescribed for aircraft landing at, taxiing on, or taking off from, an airport.
twilight - astronomical
means that period of time when the center of the sun's disc is higher than 18° below the horizon. Nautical twilight roughly corresponds to the period beginning 90 minutes before sunrise and ending 90 minutes after sunset. During this period, the atmosphere does not scatter any sunlight, making ground-based visual astronomy possible. (dab)
twilight - civil
means that period of time when the center of the sun's disc is higher than 6° below the horizon. Civil twilight roughly corresponds to the period beginning one half-hour before sunrise and ending one half-hour after sunset. (dab)
twilight - nautical
means that period of time when the center of the sun's disc is higher than 12° below the horizon. Nautical twilight roughly corresponds to one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. (dab)
Visual Flight Rules. In most classes of airspace, VFR operation requires a specific minimum visibility and ceiling, and requires the pilot to maintain specific distances from clouds. Cf. IFR, MVFR.
visibility - flight
means the average forward horizontal distance, from the cockpit of an aircraft in flight, at which prominent unlighted objects may be seen and identified by day and prominent lighted objects may be seen and identified by night.
visibility - ground
means prevailing horizontal visibility near the earth's surface as reported by the United States National Weather Service or an accredited observer.

Submitted by reader D.B.