Saturday, January 11, 2014

IMC Club - KLBE Latrobe, PA



Previously, I have written my blogs in a whimsical sort of way. In a different light, I would like take a moment to post about the IMC Club. Haven't heard of it? Allow me to briefly explain. It is a concept that is starting to grow around the world. Though, it really isn't a new idea. Hangar flying has been going on since Orville and Wilbur took to the skies. Whenever I meet a pilot, I will ask if they have heard about the IMC Club. The response is usually "no, what is that about?". With our busy work and/or school schedules, sometimes we just don't have time to read our many emails or can't take time to peruse the many aviation publications available in this digital age. It's understandable that a lot of pilots have missed the articles.

For those who are instrument rated, along with pilots who are working to get their instrument rating and for those who plan to get an instrument rating, this is a great venue to enjoy the camraderie of fellow pilots, meet new pilots and encourage expansion of flying knowledge and judgment by sharing experiences in the real flying world.

IMC Club is the brain child of Radek Wyrzykowski; a Master Certified Flight Instructor Instrument and Multi-Engine Instructor. As a flight instructor in Norwood, Mass., Radek developed a volunteer mentor program to help instrument pilots improve their proficiency. Local chapters are formed by a CFII. Chapters are being formed in the United States and throughout the world. If you go to this link, there is an explanation of the concept. About IMC Clubs. There is an Avweb interview with Radek linked there, as well.

Here at Latrobe, a chapter was formed by Frank Beresnyak, President of the Pittsburgh Flying Club. The inaugural meeting was held in November. There was quite a turnout. We even had two pilots who flew in from the other side of Pennsylvania just to participate. As we pilots know, "any excuse to fly". Why not? Keeping up your flying skills and staying up to date with changes in the system are pretty important. Each month, the chapter meets, introduces an actual flight scenario and encourages a discussion of "how would you handle this particular situation"? or "what would YOU do"? The next meeting is this month, January 22, 2014 at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. Please come join us.

I have also attended a couple IMC meetings at the Butler County Airport/K W Scholter Field, Butler, Pennsylvania headed up by Mike Neuman. There are a diversity of thoughts and decision-making ideas presented in these meetings. You don't have to be limited to a particular chapter.

For those pilots out there yearning for a "hangar hangout" fix, this is a great place to be. You can locate a chapter close to you through the IMC Clubs' website IMC Clubs and AOPA.org .






Friday, May 10, 2013

Colorado Airports



While in Colorado, we had a little time from our intended trip duties to visit the Denver area. I weasled my brother into taking us to a couple of the small airports located in the area. We headed to the northwest corner of Denver to visit the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Jefferson County between Dever and Boulder. It was formerly known as Jeffco Airport; the name was changed in 2006.
It's a pretty cool airport to visit. Actually, I had been there previously (another weasel trip with my brother). As we drove into the entrance, we headed to the general parking. Straight ahead, the apron and runways and to our left a building that housed the local FBO, Denver Air Center. Located on the upper level is the Runway Grill. It's a great place to eat and it has a deck overlooking he apron and runways. You can sit, enjoy a meal and watch the activities on the airport.
I was struck by the amount of activity. We enjoyed watching airplanes taking off, taxiing, landing and performing touch and goes. A Robinson R-44 helicopter was performing maneuvers on the far runway.

Below, in the parking lot, I noticed a big black SUV and driver, dressed in suit pants and white shirt with a neatly groomed ponytail. He was wiping it with a cloth ever so carefully. I thought it rather odd until a jet landed and proceeded to taxi to the apron to park. The driver hustled to get his suit jacket on and ready to drive to the airplane to greet the passengers. The flight had originated from Santa Monica.


Often the non-flying public has a hard time recognizing the airport as a vital and valuable asset. Some neighborhoods fight to close an airport; some fight to keep them open because they see the economic benefits of having a genera aviation airport.
















By comparison to airports back in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Rocky Mountain was bustling with activity. My observation: the bleak economy hasn’t affected this area based on the numerous airplanes coming and going during our hour visit.

During the hub bub of activity, I noticed a DC-3 parked on the north ramp. We headed over to check it out.



 
This airport is very visitor friendly. Parents bring their children to airports to get them interested in aviation. It’s a fascinating hobby and many pilots have gone on to a career in aviation because of their exposure to flight. I applaude small airports for their accessability for both adults and children.

We left the airport, satisfied from the aviation interaction - eye candy to a pilot. :)


 

 

 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

America by land



John and I headed out on a journey across the country, by car, to Colorado in August. Why didn't we fly? You know the old pilot saying, "if you have to positively be there by a certain date, drive".  Hence, we decided to four wheel it. We planned on invading my brother and family in a Denver suburb.
I'm a curious sort. Even though we didn't fly, I still find it fun to pick out what airports we're going to pass by along our route. As we drove through Kansas, I noted a small airport close to Route 70 on my GPS close to Topeka. I said "there's an airport just over there" (pointing to my right). We should just stop and check it out. Surprisingly, John steered the car off the exit ramp and we were headed to explore places unknown.
As we inched our way into the parking lot, the relatively new terminal building beckoned. I couldn't wait to get inside to investigate. As we entered, we noticed a woman accompanied two young boys. They were checking out things in the lounge area. I struck up a conversation with Grandma.  She said the boys were up visiting and were headed back home in Texas. It turns out Grampa was out on the ramp preflighting the plane . As he entered the building he announced "is everyone ready for the flight"? The boys, eager to fly, ran to the door. They kissed Grandma goodbye and headed to the plane. I watched as the grandfather carefully seated the boys into the plane.
We waited to see the plane start up and take off. That accomplished, we headed to the car and continued on our way west.    

The entrance to the Terminal building at KLWC
      



Aviation-themed bench



Sectional wall






Preflight performed and ready for launch

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Anatomy of an accident (Part II) - repost from June2010



Okay, as you see, we were able to walk away without a scratch. The "dawg" is fine too. I don't know if she'd been having nightmares since the accident; or maybe she's just an utter wacko. But she thinks she's much wiser having gone through the near-death experience.


Through the process of analyzing the accident, as we tried to determine what happened, we learned a few things that I believe would be helpful to others who may experience a similar situation.

A lot happened within minutes after the accident. I have to say that the fire department was extremely quick to respond. I think we were out on the wing when we heard the sirens. As rapidly as they arrived, they applied foam in order to prevent a fire from erupting. Oh, and of course, the "news" helicopter was very prompt. We were surprised how quickly it appeared overhead.



We knew that there would be investigators from the FAA and the local Police interviewing each of us. Not the dog, though. She was busy running around the brush checking for birds. She wouldn't have been able to tell the police anything; she can't talk, nor can she fly.

The Penn Township Police officers were very nice and took information and a brief account of the accident. They gave us a business card and said "if you need anything, let us know". The next "interrogator" was from the FSDO. Actually, it wasn't a bad experience at all. The people from the FAA know "things happen"; they just want to find out how it happened so they can try to prevent future accidents. Fortunately, John and I are involved with the Wings Program and we keep current. Flying makes pilots proficient. What makes us somewhat unique is we want to know why things happen so that we can make sure we don't duplicate the act.

We also knew we would be contacted by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) within days after the accident, to get our accounting of the accident.

The same day following the accident, John and I started to reconstruct the sequence of events. The facts were: the winds were coming from the west. The layout of the runway and airport would be conducive to the possibility of winds coming from all directions. As best we could conclude, either runway would work.

After all the excitement had subsided, John and I walked the runway to find clues, such as brake marks. As we traversed the path of the airplane we noticed nothing unusual. The plane simply went down the runway, across the grass and over the hill. No skid marks which would indicate there were no brakes. We knew that because we couldn't get any kind of braking action toward the end.


We talked and we tried to remember everything. Should we have gone around? Well, that was the first question out of those who witnessed and watched as we disappeared over the edge. Why didn't you go around? Interestingly enough, those who would ask that question wouldn't even think of doing touch and goes at this airport and most instructors in the area will not teach touch and goes at this airport.

During the sequence of events, John thought of a lot of possibilities. Do a go around? During the roll out, John thought "if I try to take off, there isn't enough runway to be successful". "What if I try to ground loop it? No, we had a lot of fuel and what if we ended up rolling upside down and got trapped?" Ride it out? A lot was going through his mind in a very short amount of time. Thankfully, he made the right choice given the circumstance.

I can name a few accidents where pilots chose to go around, even though they were on the ground, and ended up with disastrous results. Once home, John started researching articles and found pretty interesting information. The consensus from experts is that, if you are on the ground, stay there and ride it out. An accident is much more survivable when you do that. The alternatives we all read about.

Day two brought a new day of questions; and more research. The burning question still lingered - "what happened; what could we have done differently?" We headed out to the airport, once again, to look over the scene seeking answers. We got word that someone from the FAA had looked at the plane and declared that we had brakes. Now that was very perplexing news to us because we were in the plane we know we "didn't have brakes." John called the repair station that was going to fix the plane. After explaining what happened and the conflicting causes, John asked that the brakes be torn apart. We wanted to see them and try to figure out, if we had brakes, what caused them not to work. They were going to take the plane from the scene within the next few days and transport it to Allegheny County Airport (KAGC). The more we ran through the sequence of events; we were convinced we didn't have brakes.

John agonized about whether he did the right thing. Most logically-minded pilots we talked to said that we probably did the right thing; the damage was very minimal and we walked away from the crash unscathed. It doesn't help for others to judge or second-guess this kind of decision. In a lot of accidents, some things are blatantly obvious that the pilot made poor decisions and should have done something different to get a better outcome. But we are more cognizant that accidents are where you can learn things and it's better to leave the judging to the contest judges.




Once the plane was transported to KAGC and the mechanics started to look around, we insisted that they take a look at the brakes. We wanted to know. Once they tore apart the brakes, it was quite obvious what happened. During the weeks before the accident, the Club members were required to be checked out in it by the end of the month. Having a number of members flying the plane in a short amount of time, add to it 1/2 mile taxi one way to the active runway where the plane is based, the brakes will experience wear. People don't realize it but they can tend to ride the pedals when they taxi a plane. The mechanic found that the brake pads and rotors were worn beyond minimum limitations. Pictures were taken and sent to the NTSB investigator. After discussions with the mechanic and looking over the pictures,


he came to the conclusion that we "didn't have brakes." The Probable Cause on the NTSB website was listed as "Excessively worn brake pads and rotors which resulted in runway overrun."

What has been reinforced to me from this experience is when we fly, we need to always have our "MacGyver" file with us - that little box of knowledge in your brain that we may need to retrieve at any given situation. The way to build that file and be able to access it quickly is to be proficient. Read, talk, share and verify with other pilots and gain from their experiences; attend safety seminars when you can. In no time, your file box will grow and may just be there when you need it to save your ASSets.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Anatomy of an accident (Part I) (Repost from May2010)



I thought I'd write about an accident back in April 2006 at Greensburg-Jeannette Regional Airport 15 miles northwest of Latrobe. Even though it happened 4 years ago, I wanted to write about the event and the thought processes that one goes through post-accident.

Six months prior to this accident, I hit an 11-point buck upon landing at Rostraver airport. And no, I didn't hit it mid air. I can't tell you the number of times I got that question.

I digress. Since my airplane was down for repairs and major overhaul (here's a tip: if you're going to hit a deer, do it right before TBO), I was the passenger with John, my significant other. We were taking the Pittsburgh Flying Club Archer over to Greensburg-Jeannette Regional for an open house. There was a pretty hefty crosswind from the west

so either runway would have worked. There was a Cheetah taking off to the north (Runway 2 to those who like to visualize runway orientations).  John chose to use runway 2.  We came downwind, proceeded to the base then on to final. The swirling winds jostled the plane around; nothing unmanageable though.  As we approached the runway, the downdrafts pushed the plane toward the ground. John pulled the plane up in time to come over the numbers.

The winds got less squirrely just as we got over the numbers and we were able to touch down within the first 200 feet of the runway. Since the runway is 2,605 ft. that should be plenty of time to stop the plane; or so we thought. With the winds and a 2% downhill grade, it was going to get interesting.

As we rolled out, the plane started to decelerate, and as we approached the turn-off I noticed John gingerly applying brakes. As we passed the turn off, he was more frantic in his braking and announced "we have no brakes". "What do you mean we have no brakes?" "We have no brakes. Try your side." By this time, we're approaching the end of the runway. I stomped on the brakes on my side and got nothing. No little jerky braking action.... nothing. Nada; zip; zilch. By this time, there was not much to do but hang on and wait for the inevitable.
                                                                   

For those who are not aware of Greensburg-Jeannette Regional, it's basically on top of a hill with drop offs at both ends. I'd liken it to an aircraft carrier, only without water surrounding it. The drop off to the north is a little more steep with a heck of a lot of bumps, bushes and a bank of young trees at the bottom right before you end up in a barn. 

The airplane went off the end, initially wanting to become airborne, and then proceeded down the hill. I must say, it was a pretty rough trip. Since we were on the ground, we must have hit every rock and ditch located on that hillside. Toward the bottom, it was clear that we were going to hit into the bank of trees. There's not a whole lot you can do; you just have to ride it out and hope for the best.

And keep in mind, this all happened in front of about 15 pilots standing on the tarmac awaiting our arrival.
Now you can pretty much read into the scenario; there were going to be a lot of landing critiques.

The airplane finally ended up in the trees; an 8" trunk of a tree caught the wing root and abruptly stopped the momentum. The plane half spun around and came to rest slightly downhill. The items in the back seat, including a small dog that came along for the thrills, slid forward and landed on top of me. While we were assessing things, John yelled "get out, there's fuel coming in!" It turns out when the tree hit the wing root it breached the fuel tank.


I opened up the door and climbed out onto the wing; John gathered up the dog, brought her out onto the wing and tossed her to the ground. She looked back at him as if to say "hey, couldn't you, at least, give me a parachute?" John, then, helped me down off the wing. The plane wound up at the top of a three-foot bank so being on top of the wing, we were much higher off the ground.
 


Part II to follow..................

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Short Encounter (A repost from 2010)



A long time ago, a very good friend of mine suggested that I write a book someday. She was always amused at the short stories of my flying experiences. Perhaps that's why I started this blog. Maybe it was because my email list to relay upcoming events was slowly becoming shorter due to people changing their email addresses. Short explanation, the mailer demons were getting more frequent and driving me crazy.

So while I'm finishing the "Part II" of my accident story, (yes, I'm still working on it) I thought I'd talk about a flight to Clarksburg, WV a while back. A friend of mine, Chuck, asked if I'd be able to take him to Clarksburg for a meeting since his airplane was going through its annual inspection. I jumped at the chance because pilots are a crazy lot - they'd fly anywhere if given a chance. It's a good experience and adds another notch to the logbook entries.

I carefully planned out the flight and remembered to bring reading materials to give me something to do while I waited. I'd been to Clarksburg before so I'm not totally flying blind. I also know that it could be a quiet day with nothing to amuse me. I remember when I lived in Miami for a year back in the 70's, I was fascinated with aviation. The Boeing 747s had recently been designed and there were a few flights coming into Miami International. I used to drive down to the airport and sit in my car watching airplanes land and take off. I especially enjoyed watching the 747's come in. It was awesome.

Our family used to have a cottage along the Juniata River between Everett and Breezewood, PA. We would pack up the car and headed out for our weekend journey to the cottage. To my three siblings and I, we may as well have lived across the country. Children have no concept of time and travel. A couple miles seemed like an eternity to traverse. The cool thing about the trip for me was passing the Latrobe airport. I always crossed my fingers and hoped the timing would work out that when we got to that point, a small plane would fly over us. I thought that was a neat experience.

Okay, now that I've gone back in the time machine, I'll get back to my story. We landed in Clarksburg and I parked the plane in a space near the FBO. Chuck had prearranged to get picked up by the people he was meeting. As I watched them drive away, I grabbed an aviation magazine and plopped down on the bench alongside the FBO building facing the runway. It was a beautiful, summer morning and very quiet. I read an article and got up to stretch my legs.  A few doors down a hangar door was open and I noticed a mechanic there. It was a big corporate hangar and he was doing paperwork at a counter. I struck up a conversation with him. He asked where I was from. "Latrobe airport, I replied." I proceeded to tell him my purpose for being there. We chatted for a little bit and I headed back to the bench. Activity on the airport was now picking up. A few airplanes landed and taxied to their respective hangars. A couple airplanes had taken off to destinations unknown to me.

I read another article in the magazine I had, then walked over to my airplane to get a pice of gum. While I was standing there, I noticed a couple State Police officers emerge from the FBO and walk out on the ramp looking around. They disappeared back in through the door. Hmmm. They must have been looking for someone who hadn't arrived yet. I started to walk back to my "bench" and one of the officers came back out. He approached me and asked if I was with the Governor's detail. I replied that I was not. Convinced I was not a threat nor a secret governor envoy, he went back into the FBO office. As I was meandering the ramp, I detected what I thought was a band tuning up. ""Am I hearing things?" "What's going on?" Next thing I know, someone opened the door to the FBO and low and behold, the little band was inside. All of a sudden, activity picked up drastically. The band came out onto the ramp; a TV camera and news reporter came out. The news reporter grabbed my hand and said "Come on with us and meet the Governor." I told her "but I'm not from West Virginia." She said "That's okay." At that point in time, I noticed a King Air had landed and was taxiing to the ramp. The band began to play. The airplane shut down, the door was opened and out came the Governor, Gaston Caperton. He and his entourage passed by and into the FBO. The reporter and camera man headed to the grassy area outside the FBO and I followed. There were more people waiting in that area. The camera was rolling and the Governor emerged from the FBO. He began shaking hands of the group of people having little conversations with them. He came to me and asked my name and shook my hand. After a small speech, he got in the waiting limousine and drove off. I had a grin on my face because of the little charade that just occurred, but it was pretty cool. I wondered if anyone I knew from that area would be watching the news that evening only to see my mug talking to the Gov.

I returned to my bench and just sat and enjoyed the airport activity. An Army helicopter landed and got fuel; a few other airplanes landed; a jet arrived and dropped off their passengers and left. While I was reading a book I had taken with me, I noticed a yellow bi-plane had landed and taxied to the ramp and shut down. I noticed the gentleman hop out and the fuel truck pulled up to refuel him. He was holding an oil can when I walked over and sheepishly looked into the cockpit of the plane. It was a beautiful plane. I asked him if it would be okay to look into the cockpit. He said "sure!" As he was checking his oil, he asked where I was from. "Latrobe" I replied. "Ahhhh. I've been to Latrobe quite a few times" he told me. I complimented him on how beautiful his plane is and he thanked me. I walked around and was quite impressed with how well he had taken care of his plane. I noticed a picture on the side of the plane but I didn't pay too much attention to it. I asked him if he was based at Clarksburg. "No, I actually keep the plane in Summersville." I told him I had heard of Summersville but had never been there. The lineman showed up with the fuel bill and I told the gentlemen to have a nice flight. He replied "have a safe trip back to Latrobe; and tell Arnie I said "hi."
As I walked away, the mechanic I had befriended earlier in the day waved to me to come over. As I walked into the hangar he asked me if I knew who I was talking to. I said I didn't know his name but I was admiring his plane. The mechanic said "That's Stephen Coonts!
I said "who's that?".
He said "you don't know who Stephen Coonts is?"
I said "not really".
"He's a famous author. He wrote the Flight of the Intruder. And that's the Cannibal Queen!"



"Ahhhh. I guess I didn't really know but that's pretty cool." Hmm, just call me a goober for not knowing. I appreciate people who have notoriety but I don't slobber all over them. I do know some famous people but I respect their privacy. And so it goes. Mr. Coonts, wherever you are, it was a treasure to talk to you, albeit a short encounter.
My bench awaited me and I guess Chuck should be arriving any time now. I headed over to the plane and started my preflight. A half hour later, Chuck showed up. He apologized for being a little late and hoped that I wasn't too bored. I gave him an half grin. We got in the plane and taxied out. During our cruise back to Latrobe I recounted my "adventures" at the airport.

......one of the reasons why I love to fly.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Reason We Fly (Repost from 2010)



A few weeks ago, we headed to Waynesburg Airport (KWAY) to watch John's son participate in a Cyclocross race conveniently located alongside the approach end of Runway 27.

The weather was perfect for the flight and produced ideal conditions for a Cyclocross race. Though, I have to qualify this because the racers, as in the past, have expected rainy weather. After all, one of the bicycle race circuits this time of year is called "Month of Mud".

We embarked on the 20-minute flight from Latrobe. The visibility was a million miles, accompanied by smooth morning air; one couldn't ask for better flight conditions. We landed, parked on the tarmac and walked to the biking venue. During the race, a number of airplanes landed. I heard a comment from a couple of cyclists who thought it was pretty cool to attend a bike race and be able to watch airplanes taking off and landing. Yes, I agree.

Between races, we sauntered over to the restaurant located on the field. John ordered a homemade burger that was nearly impossible to finish due to its size. Almost as entertaining was the group of pilots and friends, at a table near us, discussing flying and politics. Who needs Fox News when we have these guys?

After the race, we headed to the plane, did a preflight, and took off. As we climbed out we wagged the wings to say "nice racing guys and ladies".


A week later, I had to deliver some paperwork to a friend out in Harrisburg. Instead of putting the papers in the mail, we decided it would be a great little adventure to fly instead. The weather gods were with us, once again, and we launched from KLBE and proceeded to the "far east". We had a nice tail wind which turned the normally 55-minute trip into a 36-minute jaunt. (I know we're going to pay on the return trip).
 
It was pretty cool flying a wide left downwind to left base over the river, passing Three-Mile Island to our right and watching a small gaggle of geese pass below us. They were probably practicing for their journey south; presumably on a different frequency than we were. The air was smooth and the landing was equally grand.

Our friend and wife picked us up at Harrisburg International and took us to Hummelstown for a great lunch. We visited a while and then headed back to the airport. During the visit, I had checked the weather earlier on my Blackberry. There was a small rain cell hovering over Altoona. The weather briefing from Flight Service gave us a promising VFR trip. The cell had disappeared. We climbed into the plane, taxied out to Runway 31 and were cleared for takeoff. Climbing out, we were told to contact Departure. We climbed to 6,500. As we approached the mountains, we noticed some cloud activity ahead of us due to a stationary front in that area. Apparently, Departure thought we wanted to stay on flight following so they had us contact New York center as we proceeded west. The flight was uneventful except for the headwinds that slowed us to a healthy 81-knot ground speed. It took us 1.7 hours for the return trip but the flight was awesome.

As we passed over the terrain, we noted that the spectacular leaf colors would soon give way to snow. This is why we fly; to experience the wonders of nature and the camaraderie of great friends, from a different perspective.


We hear a lot about the negative aspects of flying every time a plane crashes in the nation; it makes the news. Hopefully, this will provide a positive side of aviation.