Monday, June 29, 2009

Modified straight-in for Runway 19 at El Monte Airport

People always say that El Monte Airport (KEMT) is hard to find from the air. My instructor used to say that the river (concrete) is like an arrow that points right to the runway.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

6794J is For Sale

Ron has decided that it's time to step up and get an airplane that can carry more weight. He has his eyes on a Piper Pathfinder and has put the Piper Cherokee 140/160 up for sale on Trade-A-Plane. We'll see what happens...stay tuned.

$35,000 210hrs SMOH, 210 hrs SPOH

Friday, June 26, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

I lost my dad on January 19th this year, so Father's Day was a bit tough this year. My two daughters and my fiance went with me to my dad's grave site with a picnic lunch and a blanket (her idea, and it turned out to be a good one). I wasn't sure that I could handle hanging around there...I just wanted to pop in and see if the headstone had been placed and if everything was spelled right. But, it turned out to be a good thing to do. Time to grieve, time to talk, time to that order. I couldn't believe how many people were at the Riverside National Cemetery, it was PACKED.

In the "newer" areas there were lots of tears, in the more established areas you could tell that healing had taken place. That gave us hope for the future.

For dinner we recreated one of my kid's favorite old meals...creamed chicken on a puff was awesome. (Oh, and on Saturday we went to a Johnny Cash Festival, that was fun).

I really wanted to take everyone flying on Father's Day but, alas, the airplane I use is awaiting magneto repairs (repairs to be started this a.m.).

All-in-all, it was a good day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rough Running Engine

While on an IFR training flight today (on the 3rd and final leg) we did the usual runup and the left mag was running rough. Assuming it was a fouled spark plug from our 10-minute delay we did the normal "clean up the plugs" drill with a lean mixture. No improvement. Did the lean drill again. No improvement. Did the drill even dice. The left mag was dropping 750 rpm when it was isolated.

So, we went over to Howard Aviation (we were at Bracket airport) and they were nice enough to get right on it for us. The troubleshooter thought he had found the problem with the spark plugs as they were gapped way, way too big and after regapping them the test equipment showed dramatic improvement. But, alas, after re-installation the engine was still not perfect. Much better, mind you, but not perfect. It dropped about 200 rpm.

Has to be a mag or a lead problem, the consensus was, and the mags are covered under warranty since they were brand new rebuilts when the engine was rebuilt about 120 hours ago.

Tomorrow we will continue with our trouble shooting. It was a long enough day today, that's for sure.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The REST of the story...realized Lt. Col Brady Glick wasn't done yet...

9. Admit When You Don’t Know Something
There are so many new systems, weapons, regulation changes, acronyms, tactics, and techniques that it’s becoming increasing hard to stay on top of all the things you need to know to do the job. It’s staggering when you think of all the layers of knowledge you are responsible for in the Air Force. You have know your plane, then the sub-systems of the plane (navigation computer, counter measures systems, displays), the mission planning software, the electronic briefing room, the simulator, and the new scheduling software. Add to that the volumes of regulations, the demands of your non-flying duties, death by PowerPoint, and the bombardment of emails from around the base. It’s amazing to me we can do our jobs at all.

The fact is…there is tons of stuff I don’t know. Even in the flying arena, all I have to do is sit through a briefing by a motivated young weapons officer and I’m lucky if I understand half of the material. It’s no sin to not know something. Ask questions and admit when you are clueless.

The same thing applies in flight. You’ve got lots of resources to draw on when you don’t know something. There are your wingmen, your SOF, ATC, Metro, FSS, and the RCO to name a few. If you don’t know something, there may be somebody else you can talk to that does.

10. Don’t Be to Proud to Change Your Mind
There are things that I knew to be true in the past that I can no longer call true. Your perspective can and probably should change with experience. It’s easy to become myopic and parochial. Every clothing outfit you’ve ever worn and every hair style you’ve ever sported, you must have thought was a good idea at the time. All I have to do is pull out pictures from the 80’s to see that I don’t possess perfect judgment and wisdom at all times. I think the ORM constructs we use now can help to put things in perspective in real time. I’m not as passionate about the need to train at 100’ AGL or knife fight BFM in a flat scissors as I used to be. You need to constantly challenge your beliefs and compare them to current realities.

11. When You Train…Make the Most of It
The government is only going to give you so much JP8 to burn in your career. How well you decide to use it is amazingly within your purview. How you train will largely determine if you are destined to be average or will actually be good. It’s easy to get into the rut of doing the same events or exercises every time you fly. In my community, it’s tempting to “mail it in” when you are going to the same weapons delivery ranges every week. Don’t fall into this trap. Push yourself to be really good in the airplane. Be proficient in all the weapons and deliveries, formations and tactics, and fundamental skills. Challenge yourself with difficult target acquisition, go to different airspace, and get realistic training.

Don’t make your training missions so complex that you never get really good at the core competencies. It’s analogous to practicing for a sport. A football team doesn’t go out and scrimmage every day. Although scrimmaging, a full dressed rehearsal for game day is important, most of the time you need to be doing drills; like blocking, tackling, throwing, and catching. It takes a lot of repetition to be good at something. Practice difficult maneuvers and deliveries over and over until you get them right. You’ll be able to do them better and safer during a complex scenario and be better prepared for game day.

It Can Happen To You
Sounds cheesy I know, but it’s true. This is an unforgiving business. Take an active role in your own safety. Supervision is important, but when you are strapping on that jet, mommy and daddy aren’t going along with you. Look in the mirror and make sure you like what you see. Be proactive in your squadron or wing. Pull a buddy aside and tell them if they are screwing up. Learn from other people’s mistakes, don’t get complacent, and listen to that little voice in your head.

You don’t want to be the guy who could have saved a squadron mate and didn’t…and you certainly don’t want to be an example in squadron safety meetings for the next 20 years.

Lt Col Brady Glick is command pilot and combat veteran with more than 4000 hours in the A-10. He is a graduate of the Air Force Weapons School, Advance Instrument School, and Flight Safety Officer Course.

Things I've Learned, Till Now

1. It’s Usually the Second or Third Bad Decision that Kills You
On flying missions, even when you’ve made a bad decision, there’s usually still a chance to rectify the situation. Sometimes you just make a bad call. Your first bad decision might pertain to weather, fuel, mission complexity, or physiological factors. Don’t keep doing it. Get yourself back on a viable course of action. Flying is constant string of decisions that affect your outcomes. There is a lot of pressure to get the mission done. Sometimes the pressure is real and sometimes it’s perceived. Regardless…it can cloud your judgment.

2. Being a Little Bit Scared is a Good Thing
I don’t care who you are…this job is dangerous. I once saw Chuck Yeager in a television interview. He made a statement that struck me as profound. I can’t remember it exactly, but it went roughly, “Every time I strap on an airplane, I say to myself, be careful Yeager, this sucker could bite you today.” If Chuck Yeager is a little bit scared, it’s probably okay for me to be. Call it what you want, maybe it’s a self preservation instinct, or those little hairs on the back of your neck, but you have to have an internal fear mechanism to make it in the long run.

3. Even within the Rules, There’s Plenty of Rope to Hang Yourself
There’s no other type of flying that comes close to what we do in the military. Think about it. What other company is going to let you take out their planes and dogfight within 500’ of each other, or fly a low level at 300’ AGL, or roll-in and drop a string of bombs with a 60 degree dive angle. You don’t have to break the rules to have fun. When you step out the door, the Air Force gives you about a hundred feet of rope to wrap around your neck if you choose to. There’s a lot of trust inherent in that. I’ve broken rules, but as I’ve gotten older, and hopefully wiser, I’m able to see how stupid and gratuitous that is. It’s an insult to yourself and the Air Force. And…if you end up killing yourself while breaking the rules, they’ll make an example of you in safety meetings for a long time. If that’s not motivation to follow the rules, I don’t what is.

4. There is a Lot You Don’t Know
The problem is…you don’t currently know how much you don’t know. Take this simple test. If you a have several thousand hours, think back to when you had 500. If you have 500 hours, think back to when you were in UPT. At each level, you were probably pretty confident and sure of your knowledge. Guess what folks…it never ends. I like to attend forums where there are aircrews from other communities. For no other reason, I’m reminded of how much is going on in military flying that I don’t know about. It’s humbling. If you fly fighters, talk to an AFSOC helicopter pilot, or a C-17 pilot who’s just back from one of the “Stans,” or even a FAIP who puts his life on the line with some young punk who’s trying to kill him everyday. You’ll find out real quick that nobody has “cornered the market” on risk and danger.

5. It’s Best to Keep Your Plan Simple
Don’t make things harder than they need to be. This business is hard enough without incorporating the “double-rat’s-ass” plan for no reason. In my anecdotal experience, a tactical plan’s chance of success is inversely proportional to its complexity. Concentrate on basics and be really, really good at them. If you are a fighter pilot, those things are probably de-confliction, target acquisition, weapons delivery, and mutual support. Those basics apply to just about every type of tactical mission, whether it’s air-to-air or air-to-mud. Make those the tenets of your objectives for every training or combat flight. If you are good at the basics, you’ll be able to adapt to complex situations.

6. You Need to Visualize Yourself in Emergency Situations
We can all sight examples of pilots who have “screwed up” in emergency situations. It’s easy to point a finger. How does a seasoned veteran forget to jettison his stores after being hit by a missile, or forget to put his speed brakes in with a failed engine and stall the plane, or make a landing 100 knots too fast and go off the end of the runway? Guess what…emergencies are stressful. There’s time dilation and the possibility of having the proverbial “seat cushion” where the sun don’t shine. Go through your boldface frequently. Don’t just say the words; translate the words into the physical actions you’d actually make in the plane. Move your hands to the switches as you say the words. If you reinforce the words with the actions it will help prepare you to act in stressful situations.

7. Good Communication is Imperative
It doesn’t matter whether you are mission briefing, talking to ATC, or calling out a threat reaction…you have to be able to communicate well. You may be the smartest guy in the room, but if nobody else can figure out what the hell you are talking about, you can’t be totally effective in this business. Our job is very technical. It’s important to use the proper terminology and protocol. As an instructor if my wingman has a problem with his HUD, armament control panel, or navigation system, I can’t help him unless he can successfully communicate his problem to me and I can successfully communicate a solution.

Communication not only has to be correct, it has to be timely. CRM is here and it’s important. We need to take care of each other in flight and on the ground. In one of my prior squadrons, an A-10 flight lead flew into the ground while holding at low altitude. He hit the ground at an extremely low angle of impact. He was highly experienced, had flown three different kinds of fighters, and was also a major airline pilot. He essentially mis-prioritized his attention in the cockpit while attack planning and gently descended right into the ground. He had two wingmen with him in tactical formation. Neither one said a word. One of them, a very young pilot, actually admitted to watching lead descend the whole time—all the way to impact. Afterward, he said it looked wrong, but he didn’t say anything, because he figured the guy knew what he was doing. Now he has to live with that.

8. Don’t Get Too Married to Your Plan
Murphy is out there on every mission. If you are like me, it seems like the harder you work on your plan and briefing, the more chance that it will change. Plan properly, but don’t become emotionally invested in your plan. It can lead you to make bad decisions. For a particular mission, you may have created the greatest low altitude attack geometry ever know to man, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you may need to shelve it and go to plan B. It’s tempting to push weather or fuel in order to meet your objectives. One of the things that make our job so gratifying is that you can never totally predict what is going to happen. Flying is more like a chess game than filling out a tax form. Stay flexible, keep thinking, and don’t get too married to your plan.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Turn Coordinator Failed...or did it?

So, while doing partial panel timed turns the other day with my CFII we found that the turn coordinator is way off. 2 minute turns, Started at a heading of 180 and ended 2 minutes later at 270. Did it 3 times. Tried making the turn a bit steeper, not enough to matter.

What now? Can that be "adjusted" or must it be rebuilt? I asked around and posted on my two favorite pilot boards, the Purple Board For Pilots, and the AOPA’s red board. Most people encouraged me to take the turn coordinator in to a shop and have it checked. The main fear was that it was an instrument that was on the verge of failing, and you don’t want that while in the clouds.

Ron, the airplane owner, remembered that the TC had been rebuilt by Skywest Instruments at Cable airport in Upland, California so we took it there to have it looked at.

It was tested on the cool equipment they have there...and it's just about perfect....argh....

Must be pilot error, we surmised...although I found that hard to accept. We reinstalled the TC and I headed back out with Steven the “Double Eye” for some testing in VFR conditions.

We did the 2-minute turns again and managed to get it near perfect by holding the little airplane wings on the bottom of the hash mark...that's within tolerances according to we're going with that...on to the clouds tomorrow....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

FlightPrep ChartCase

My flying buddy Ron bought the FlightPrep ChartCase Electronic Fight Bag with GPS and XM weather to use in his Cherokee 140 but the learning curve proved to be too much.

Ron is used to the Lowrance Airmap 1000 GPS and that’s a pretty simple to use GPS. The Chartcase is PC-based and runs on a tablet computer. After turning it on, you have to start the XM. Then you have to open up the ChartCase software. Then you have to turn on the GPS and make sure the computer is reading it. Then you have to go back to the XM weather and tell it what weather information you want downloaded. Then you can choose a flight path (like El Monte to Fullerton, for example). Then you go into the InFlight mode. Then you choose what charts you want to use (Sectional, Terminal, Low Enroute were what he had paid for and, thus, were available for selection). If you want weather info you click a couple more buttons to check that.

I took the unit with me for 3 days to try and get it all figured out and to be able to make it seem simple for him, but the bottom line is that it’s not simple. I can’t say that it’s extremely complicated, but there’s certainly a lot more to do to get ready than when using the Lowrance.

In the end...Ron’s head was spinning. Too much stuff to do in order to get it ready to go flying. He’s going to return it on Monday.

Might be ordering a 696, but I’ve encouraged him to find someone on the field who has one and see how it works before buying one.

(The photo was taken when I was using the GPS in my car to get used to it.)