Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Visit To Pensacola Naval Air Museum

If you ever have the chance to visit the upper panhandle of Florida, you owe it to yourself to spend a day to visit the National Naval Air Museum situated in Pensacola Florida.

I have to say this is the most impressive air museum I have ever seen and if you decide to visit, wear some comfy shoes, carry extra memory for the camera, and plan on spending the entire day. And another thing, It's free.

When I said plan on the entire day I mean it. It is massive and there are other displays beyond airplanes. There are also information videos and movies that show airplanes and pilots in action.

Each static display looks like a work of art. You can tell that some very dedicated people spent a lot of time working metal, polishing aluminum, and building the perfection that is on exhibit there.

The photo on the right is of the venerable PBY or known as the Catalina. This Naval patrol airplane spent hundreds of thousands of hours lumbering in the sky and around the clouds searching for enemy vessels from Europe to the Philippines. 

Designed by Isaac Laddon it first flew in March of 1935 and was enlisted in the US Navy, The Royal Air Force, The Royal Canadian Air Force, the Australian Air Force, and the US Army Air Force, A total of about 3300 were built and a handful are still flying today. 

This airplane could only cruise at about 125 mph. but had a range of over 2500 miles depending upon winds and could stay aloft over 20 hours. That is amazing.





Stepping into this museum is stepping back in time. Although the artifacts are old they appear as it they just rolled out of the paint hanger at the manufacturer with the exception of a few dog eared examples such as this P-40 Warhawk. Now that is what I recall it as being, but this airplane flew for a number of different countries and may have had a separate designation, but the shark mouth is distinctive to this airplane alone.









Although I didn't capture them all, in this photo to the right there is an entire formation of A-4 Shyhawks that made up an entire Navy Blue Angles Flight team.

Appearing in a wing tip to wing tip formation it is an impressive sight to see a formation of airplanes suspended in flight.

There are WW1 displays and airplanes of that era. There is a section of small town Main Street USA as it was in the early part of the century with life as it appeared back then. There is a section of an aircraft carrier and trappings of life on board.


I know I have some readers who are across the pond and I wish to extend a favor to you. If you ever make it over here for a vacation or to visit relatives or friends work hard to get to Pensacola and The Nation Naval Air Museum, you will be amazed.

If you are in the Northern part of the USA, check out the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton Ohio. again, this would be an all day affair because there is so much to take in. For Pilots, or aviation lovers Pensacola and Dayton are two destinations one must see at least once and of course, we can't forget the EAA Fly in at Oshkosh Wisconsin each year though this is more of a gathering  of general aviation enthusiasts.

The United States is huge. I have spent many hours in small planes bouncing through the heat thermals in summer and crossing hundreds of miles of snow covered and beautiful landscape in winter and it is easy to understand why aviation is so huge here. We can't hop a train and be in another country in a matter of an hour or two. Aviation was driven by necessity and a free spirit to expand ones imagination into reality.

Pilots are few. In the USA today there are 618,660 total licensed pilots as opposed to 827,000 in 1979 when all the Viet Nam era pilots emerged. 618,660 is but a fraction of the population and is even less in foreign countries where governments and ill advised politicians have made flying an unnecessarily expensive proposition.

But, you can get the ground work done with little expense, a PC, some software, a Joy Stick, and a passion to fly.    

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pilot Shortage Going Into Overdrive



The Wall Street Journal Reported today the extensive Pilot Shortage about to hit the aviation industry. Already, the Pacific Rim and Asia have been training pilots in a furious attempt to keep their Airlines staffed. Most of the training is here in The United States because it is still less expensive to train here than overseas and the real world aviation theater is here too with all kinds of weather and traffic.

Several factors are driving this shortage and here they are. The government in a knee jerk reaction to a plane crash mandated that pilots who fly in the right seat or as co-pilot needs to have 1500 hours which is the required time for an ATP rating.  I have some airline contacts that have said they have many co-pilots with thousands of hours flying 737-767-757-MD88 that have no ATP. Many have not even taken the ATP written! I was amazed by that but there are a lot of pilots that are now looking to get their ATP.

These hours are very expensive and hard to come by when 100LL aircraft fuel is about $6.00 a gallon and a lowly C-172 burns around 10 gallons an hour. A Sirrus and high performance aircraft will burn closer to 14 GPH  and up. Then when you advance into a twin Seneca or Seminole you can almost double those numbers. 

Cost. The expense of getting the flying time and training is horrendous due to the above. I remember feeling exuberant when I was able to buy avgas in Tucumcari and paid $1.33 a gallon in 1992 on a cross country flight. The cost to get an ATP now will take much longer and the ab-intro training will certainly more.

Pay. Pilots starting out in the aviation industry qualify for food stamps, welfare, section 8 subsidized housing and would be better off living at home with mom and dad until they were a couple years into the game or even in the left seat. A majority of these guys and gals have some kind of degree and many select to work in another avocation where they can stay home each night and and can afford to have a place to live and dump the airline life.

It is an odd situation. Many or most commuter airlines are represented by ALPA. These commuter pilots fly more routs, more crumby hours, closer to the ground, in dicey weather and into smaller airports and are paid a fraction of what the major pilots are paid. The commuter pilot is abused and the unions seems fine with that. I am amazed that these pilots flying similar and in many cases better and more complex equipment than legacy airline equipment but are treated like dirt.

I will say that the equipment side is clearly good although most commuter airplanes are ramped up executive jets. 

I feel that there will need to be a compromise somewhere. Boeing had orders for over 900 737-800s and others on the books with no end in sight so flight crews are going to be needed like crazy.

If you have a wish to fly get busy now.          

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Joe Pilot Bomber Jacket!


Bomber Jackets on sale now!

What is a pilot without his A2 Flight Jacket! This leather replica of the renown US Army Air Force is of a smooth leather with cuffed wrist and waist bands. This beautiful Bomber Jacket is emblazoned with an Aviators Wings on the inside patch and the US Flag at your back. The style and wear of these Bomber  Jackets are truly timeless.

  • Men's Air Force A-2 Flight Leather Bomber Jacket
    Price:     $149.99 - $179.99
      
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  • Leather Jackets that were originally issued were of Horse Hide and had a different texture. A bit stiffer, but the idea behind the A2 Leather Bomber jacket was to cut the wind from the open cockpit planes that came into military service in the 1930s. Several different hides were used from Horse, Cow, and Goat Skin. The differences between Horse and Cow hides were few but Goat Skins are a bit more supple.

The original Mil. Spec. The U.S. Army Air Forces listed the A-2 as "Jacket, Flying, Type A-2," with Spec. No. 94-3040. It also describes the jacket materials as, "seal brown horsehide Leather, knitted wristlets and waistband." Sizes were from 32 through 54.  
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Another needed tool in the cockpit to stay organized is the iPad2. Download all your charts and do away with all those bulky charts. You can plan a flight,check the weather, and file your flight plan from this single tool. You just need to load up the proper software.


Garmin, ForeFlight, and WingX are software suppliers offering chart and other services.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pilot Hiring Boom Enabled-Update

It's on.  A USA Today article stated publicly what we in the industry already know. The pilot shortage is beginning to be felt in the industry.

FEDEX is hiring, Alaska, ASA, Eagle, and many others are opening the pipeline. Although the commuters are and have been the stepping stone to the majors, many of these pilots are opting for the Asian Pacific ring to fly. It isn't the skies over the USA but the pay can be very lucrative.



Don't limit your imagination and options. Look at other locals for flying opportunities but you have to start. Do it, do it now. Start learning how to fly. To get your pilots license you still need 40 hours flying time. 20 dual and 20 solo. I did it over 33 years ago and so can you. It took me a couple years but determination drove me through it.

My suggestion is to talk to an airline flight department and find out exactly what they are looking for and set your sights there. You will be much more successful if you have a plan.

6/23/2011 Update;

Boeing stated today that there has been a lot of pilot sniping, where airlines have been recruiting pilots from other airlines. Also, based upon aircraft orders and replacement data, there will be a need for almost 459,000 pilots over the next 30 years. This is due to retirements, regulations, Asian Pacific expansion, and general International growth. That's a lot of pilots needed.   

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Go Corporate, Fly A LearJet

On very dark, early, cold and windswept mornings I was in charge of the launch of about 8 airplanes that launched from the center of Dallas Love field to points as far away as Salt Lake City. The Salt lake crew would fire up one engine to get the airplane warmed up for the flight. I could stand about 40 to 50 feet behind the that engine and remain warm as toast and watch as the other Barons, Bonanzas, and others departed. Even though the temperature was hovering in the teens, that big kerosene heater kept me warm until they throttled up to taxi out.  

It was my job to quickly handle any anomaly that arose so we could meet our delivery deadlines. Sometimes I had to pull a backup airplane out of the hangar, swap planes, reroute, or pull and ship our freight or even call a charter to meet our hectic schedule. There was little room for error. We flew checks. Money. Cash and financial instruments of money in the hundreds of millions of dollars from points across the country.

Our piston airplanes were rolling through C-check inspections about every 90 days. That is 300 hours of flying. In a C-check, the airplane is pulled apart and looks like it will never fly again. But the mechanics replaced cracked cylinders, missing baffling, cleaned spark plugs, and inspected the wing box and other parts for cracks. Timed components like fuel systems, mags, prop governors and propellers were replaced or overhauled and returned to service. You learn a lot about pilots and airplanes in an environment like that.

This industry of flying checks sadly is gone. But it was a perfect environment for smart and enthusiastic pilots to learn the craft and they did. I worked in flight operations and although I am a pilot my flying was relegated to Part 91 ferrying planes in and out for inspections or maintenance because I was not a commercial pilot. So, I handled pilot communications, manifests, scheduling maintenance, and other duties like trying to keep my aviation brothers out of trouble. Sometimes this was hard because there were a few pilots that did not have the work ethic and dedication to the craft of flying. An important part of that craft is paperwork and it didn't take me long to find out who the slackers were simply by reviewing their manifests.

There is a lot to do in aviation. If you want to fly, start now. Obama will be out of office soon and the economy will begin to recover from this malaise. What is recovering right now is Corporate flying. Today I watched as several Corporate Jets departed Addison Airport. One was a LearJet. That reminded me of  the early morning launch of that old Lear-24 and pilots that flew the late night arrival and early morning departure.

Corporate flying has many rewards. Most fly the best and better equipment than airlines. You have no specific schedule and spend downtime at some very cool Fixed Base Operators. I've been to dozens getting fuel, picking up or dropping off someone. It's a completely different environment than slogging in and out of Airline terminals. Often the pay and benefits are better than Regional's certainly and the flying is far less frenetic with fewer cycles of the landing gear.       
     

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

From A Cockpit Mockup


This is the front office of a Boeing 737-300 that was retired from the Southwest Airlines Stable. Southwest Airlines has grown to be one of the most formidable Airlines in the industry, Their plan was simple. Fly short routs to popular places with no frills service and a short turn-around at really cheap prices.

The original rout was from Dallas to Austin to San Antonio to Houston. Any city as long as it was one of these four was only $20 bucks one way. Southwest took off and never looked back. They used the exact same equipment to make training, maintenance, and logistics simple. 10 minute turn arounds were the norm. Things are a little different today since Southwest has acquired two other airlines.

In order to begin a climb to a cockpit similar to this one it all starts with the first flight. Start flying now.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Do You Want To LEarn To Fly?"

It's time to fly! 

It isn't getting any cheaper and all indications are that a pilot shortage looms with  new regulations. 

One way to earn and learn is of course to teach. Learning from an operation like ATP you would likely be a candidate for an instructor position. Getting twin time is essential but just building time is required and PIC or Pilot In Command time is needed too.

PIC time is required because companies want pilot who have time learning and selecting their own decisions. This comes in the form of selecting best routs to avoid weather, carrying the proper weight which may mean leaving someone or something behind or selecting a better time or day to fly. The best outcome of each flight depends upon the decisions the PIC selects. Select the wrong decision and an overweight airplane can quickly become a sad statistic. 

If you have an endearing dream to fly for a living, start now. There are ways to earn and learn. The stepping stones may be expensive but if you look around there are some ways to get into aviation without spending the family fortune. 

During WW2 the German Airforce taught their pilots the basics in gliders. This was because they could haul several airplanes and instructors into the blue in the time it takes to instruct one pilot in a powered airplane. Learning good stick and rudder techniques was essential in airplanes of that day and even now. Gliders are one way of doing that. 


The first thing to do is get a plan together. Getting the written's like the Private Pilot Exam out of the way is necessary to get your Private Pilot License. But, you have to start. So, get going!