The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Quick sightseeing flight

When the temperature falls below -5°C, practicing landings increases the risk of frosted spark plugs and other cold-weather engine failures. So why not go sightseeing instead? Especially late afternoon in the dense, calm winter air? I mean, it's not like there's a baseball game:

Having the President out of town does make it easier to fly in the area, however. With him in town we have to stay about 3 km off the lake shore near Hyde Park, making it very tricky to thread the airspace restrictions to get up the west side of the Loop:

Good flight. Can't wait to fly again—when it's warmer.

Also: here's the KML.

Oh sad day

Via The Atlantic's James Fallows, a report that Microsoft's latest round of layoffs means the end of Flight Simulator:

[A]s of yesterday, it's the end of development for the venerable FS franchise (and probably the associated Microsoft ESP, the new commercial simulation platform based on FS), one of the longest-running titles in the history of the PC.

Sigh.

Potpourri

In no particular order:

  • Three cheers for the US Airways crew who executed a good landing[1] in the Hudson River this afternoon. I'm not joking: it's hard enough to glide any airplane after a total power loss, something else entirely to land on water without flipping the plane or sinking immediately. That all 155 passengers got out means Capt. C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger and his first officer deserve medals. Let's remember that one kilometer in either direction would have led to a horrible outcome. This wasn't a 20-mile glide from 30,000 feet over flat farmland; this was a crippling bird strike[2] at 3,000 feet over Manhattan.

  • My cousin and I got our Cubs home-game tickets today, all 13 games worth. Woo hoo! First game: Friday April 17th against the Cardinals. But before that, as part of my continuation of the 30-Park Geas[3] I'm considering going to Houston to see the Cubs on April 7th.

  • I had a third point, but at my age I feel lucky to remember the first two.

[1] After a good landing all the passengers get out safely. After an excellent landing you can use the plane again.
[2] Yet another reason to declare open season on Canada geese. Disgusting birds.
[3] Speaking of geese...

More fun with the TSA

Via Bruce Schneier, a woman brought clearly-labeled gunpowder through a TSA checkpoint, in the regulation size baggies:

Mind you, I had packed the stuff safely. It was in three separate jars: one of charcoal, one of sulphur, and one of saltpetre (potassium nitrate). Each jar was labeled: Charcoal, Sulphur, Saltpetre. I had also thoroughly wet down each powder with tap water. No ignition was possible. As a good citizen, I had packed the resulting pastes into a quart-sized "3-1-1" plastic bag, along with my shampoo and hand cream. This bag I took out of my messenger bag and put on top of my bin of belongings, turned so that the labels were easy for the TSA inspector to read.

I expect she'll get noticed the next time she flies...

More on presidential security vs. Chicago aviation

I mentioned earlier that having a President living in Chicago will change a few things. I'm hoping that the doomsday scenario outlined by local reporter (and private pilot) Phil Rogers doesn't come to pass:

The Secret Service declined to say how they would handle aviation security in the Chicago area, Rogers reported, but there is a model, which is how security is handled currently at the presidential retreat in Crawford, Texas.

Using that model, that would mean a three-mile no-fly zone around the Obama's home in Hyde Park, whether or not the president was there, and that would expand to a 10-mile no-fly zone when he is home. In a 30-mile ring, specific flight plans would be required, which are currently not required. That would severely restrict operations at a multitude of area airports.

"To make this 10 miles no-fly, and then 30 miles with all kinds of restrictions? It's just too much," said Phil Boyer of the Maryland-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations.

Especially worrisome is flight instruction, as it would be severely curtailed, Rogers reported. Flight instructors only get paid when they fly.

A 10-mile no-fly would include the Loop, most of the South Side, plus Midway and Gary-Chicago airports. That won't happen. My guess, they'll keep the 2-mile no-fly over his house and require discrete transponder codes within 10 miles.

By the way, the "no-fly" around his house right now isn't prohibited airspace. In theory, you can fly right over the building with ATC approval.

Unintended consequences of quiet airplanes

Pilots for Emirates Airlines have complained that the new Airbus A380 is too quiet:

"We're getting a lot of complaints. It's not something we expected," Emirates spokesman Ed Davidson told Flight International. "On our other aircraft, the engines drown out the cabin noise. [On the A380] the pilots sleep with earplugs but the cabin noise goes straight through them." The problem is most noticeable on the Emirates A380s because they chose to put the crew-rest area at the back of the main cabin, while Singapore Airlines and Qantas have placed it right behind the cockpit. Extra insulation is not a solution because it would add extra weight, Davidson said. The airline may experiment with lightweight noise generators that would create ambient sound to mask the cabin noise, according to Flight International.

For passengers, the quiet can also be disconcerting, as they can overhear conversations of others seated nearby. But at least in first class, the Emirates passengers have plenty of distractions -- hot showers, a well-stocked bar, fully reclining sleeper seats, and personal 17-inch video screens with over 1,200 entertainment channels to choose from.

In unrelated news, ThinkGeek is now offering the Annoy-a-tron 2.0 for the holidays.

Night flight last Sunday

I had to scrutinize my logbook to figure out when I last flew at night: 26 April 2006, in Nashua, N.H. So I took a flight instructor with me this past Sunday to get "recurrent." (Regulations require that pilots make three full-stop landings at night—further defined as 1 hour after sunset until 1 hour before sunrise—within 90 days in order to carry passengers at night.)

I had a good flight, they can use the airplane again, the instructor enjoyed flying with someone who knew how to fly (as opposed to a pre-solo student), and Chicago Center almost flew a jet up my butt. You can see the last bit in the KML, where I do two 360° turns, one of them at a mile-and-a-half short final. The jet got within 4 nautical miles of me before calling Chicago Executive Tower, which isn't illegal, but did make me a bit uncomfortable watching the TCAS. (Yes, the flight school now has a training plane with a TCAS. They are that cool.)

Flying dogs

My sister got her pilot certificate just to get me to shut up about jumping out of planes ("why jump from a perfectly-landable airplane?"). And if you think I love my dog, well, she outdoes me there, too. The combination means she has two dogs who each have their own airplane ear protectors. I can't imagine Parker in a Cessna, but I think he'd be at least as cute as this:

By the way, she named her dog Codey, after the final approach fix on the runway 15 IFR GPS approach at Lincoln, Calif. Seriously.

Two stunners from the Economist

First, if you know anything about Chicago, you'll understand why I nearly passed out to see this week's Economist in my mailbox this week. Since I moved into this neighborhood I think I've gotten it once on Saturday, and the rest of the time on Monday or Tuesday. So, wow.

Second, even more stunning if you know anything about the the Economist: they've endorsed Obama for President:

The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence. But we acknowledge it is a gamble. Given Mr Obama’s inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead.

Third, not a stunner at all, I had a good flight this morning, from which I'll post a Google Earth track tomorrow morning.

Finally, friend-of-a-friend Jerry Fields has a new website as "a truth oasis in these truth-thirsty political times."

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