Foot Launch Glider

If I lived in a part of the country that had mountains close by, or even some big hills, I would think about getting one of these foot launched gliders or maybe a hang glider.  A few guys at my local airport bought a used glider last year and started a club that I was tempted to join so my kids and I could get our glider license’s.  I came close to putting my money down but help off when the club decided to go with a cable launch system instead of using a tow plane.  Just going up to one thousand feet and flying around the airport didn’t interest me so I saved my money.  It turns out I made the right move because they crashed it on the third flight, minor damage, then found out this year that it has a twenty five year maximum life span and it was , you guessed it, twenty five years old.  The glider’s junk and I still have my money, that almost never happens.


Driven to Fly


Ok, this is kind of cool.  I mean who wouldn’t want a flying car?  The only problem is the price tag.  For what they’re asking, over $350,000 I think, you could buy a real airplane and have limo pick you up at any airport you want.  Still it’s a real freaking flying car!


Oldies But Goodies

Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers (and who says that aviation mechanics do not have a sense of humour!):

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Probably because auto-land is not installed on this aircraft.
P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode has a 200 ft. per min. descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.
P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF IS inoperative in OFF mode.
P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.
PS: Aircraft acting funny
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
And the best one for last
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget


So there we were, seven skydivers hanging around behind the counter at Skydive Twin Cities , which my office manager hates BTW, watching Flightaware track the Twin Otter that was flying up from Texas.  Everyone was excited because the Twin Otter is the best aircraft in the world to jump out of and our toy for the summer was almost here.  As we watched the aircraft symbol on the screen approach Red Wing Airport in Minnesota, the closest “real” airport to ours,  we could see it swing west then back east and start to descend indicating that the pilot was shooting an instrument approach.  This made perfect sense as the cloud base in the area at the time was seventeen hundred feet AGL and our private airport with it’s grass runway didn’t have an instrument approach.  I expected the pilot to fly the approach until he got under the clouds then cancel his instrument flight plan and continue north under the clouds to our drop zone which was only ten minutes away.  Imagine our surprise when we saw the plane turn away from Red Wing and head west.

  “What the hell? Where’s he going?”  we all shouted at the computer screen. “We’re over here!”

I grabbed the radio and tried to call the pilot but got no response.  In frustration we even tried to text him but had no luck, the little aircraft symbol continued to head west away from us toward Minneapolis.  A few minutes of frustration later the plane made a turn to the south and began to wander.  There was no question now the pilot was lost.  How could he be lost? Did nobody tell him how to find our airport?  He’d managed to fly all the way from Texas to within twenty miles of his destination and I knew for a fact the plane was equipped with a GPS.  I was really starting to get worried about the fuel situation in the Otter.  He’d been in the air for over three hours and all his flying around at low altitude really burns up the jet A.  Suddenly the aircraft stopped moving.  Did he find an airport to land at or was the Otter a crumpled mess in some farmers field?   The phone rang a few minutes later to answer our question.  It was the pilot of the Otter and he was at a small airport south of St. Paul and was ok.  Apparently he hadn’t really been on the approach into Red Wing when he had some sort of problem with the aircraft’s instruments and being unfamiliar with the area and not knowing if there were any mountains around he broke off the approach at two thousand feet and yelled for help.  That was Minneapolis Center started giving him the  vectors that finally got him on the ground.  When I asked him why he didn’t just look at his map which would have told him that Wisconsin is practically mountain free I informed me that he didn’t have a map!  I couldn’t believe it, he flew all the way from Texas without bringing a map along.  Well long story short we finally got the Otter to our drop zone, along with it’s case of Shiner Bock beer one of our skydiving buddies put in for us, and the pilot is on the way back home for a Texas size ass chewing.

JetBlue Pilot Has Apparent Breakdown

Apparently the Captain of a JetBlue flight had some sort of a breakdown inflight today.  He was running up and down the aisle yelling something about a bomb before being restrained by passengers.  Another airline pilot happened to be a passenger on that flight and was brought up to the flight deck to help land the plane.  This touches on something I’ve always wondered about.  If both pilots were incapacitated could I land the plane?  It has been done before, By Kurt Russell in the movie “Executive Decision.”  Although he did a crappy job.  I’m pretty sure I could land a large jet, they’re mandatory after all, landings that is.  If I can find the throttles, flaps and landing gear I can fly a reasonable approach in any aircraft.  The problem might be in selecting reverse thrust If I’m going too fast for the breaks or if I had to shoot an approach in bad weather, then all bets are off.  I shudder to think what might happen if one pilot has a breakdown and kills or incapacitates the other pilot.  If there doesn’t happen to be a spare in the back things could get ugly.

The Deadwood Gang

My weekend out with the boys started with a nerve wracking night IFR flight through low clouds, ice, hail and the occasional dragon thrown in to make things interesting.  At least that’s what the professional weather guessers at Lockheed Martin told me to expect on our first leg from Minneapolis to Watertown South Dakota.  What we got was one of the nicest nights for flying I’ve had in a long time with nary a cloud in the sky, I wish I could that wrong and still keep my job.  Our two passengers were suitably impressed when we turned the runway lights by remote control but slightly less impressed by my co-pilot’s Sea World landing.  You know, he touched down nose wheel first causing a series of bounces down the runway called porpoising…….like dolphins……..And Sea World has a dolphin show……………it sounded better in my head.

Made it to the Black hills airport the next morning, myself fifty five dollars richer from a rare winning session of blackjack and all of us a little less fresh from the effort.  The Black Hills airport had a pilots lounge that was exactly like you’d expect to find out west.  Elk heads, a bear skin rug and black and white pictures of the old days adorned the walls while and instructor poured over maps with his student.  It was just the kind airport I’d love to hang out in.









I won’t bore you with the details of our day and evening in Deadwood.  Suffice i to say that money was gambled, steaks eaten and brain cells lost, not that we had any to spare.  On the way home we took a spin around Mt. Rushmore and flew over the Badlands National Park.









The new Garmin 796 I used on the trip was defiantly impressive.  The touch screen made scrolling through maps fast and easy and I really like the smaller size and weight.  The improved screen was supposed to be one of the big improvements but I could hardly tell the difference between the 696 and the 796.  The 796 is a great GPS and if I didn’t already have a 696 I would buy one in a heartbeat but I don’t think it’s worth the $700 bucks I’d have to shell out to make the switch.

It was a great weekend out with the guys and being able to fly really made it an adventure for my two non-pilot friends but I’m sure one of them was wishing we’d taken the Queen Air with it’s relief tube as he was filling the juice bottle on the way home.


Weekend Flight To Deadwood

Heading west tonight with three old high school friends to the fabled city of Deadwood South Dakota for classic male bonding, you know drinking and cards.  We are taking a Cessna 182 instead of my Queen Air Black Betty because the annual isn’t quite finished.  The difference in flight time is almost an hour, bad enough, but the 182 will require a fuel stop as well.  These inconveniences alone would be bad enough but loosing the all important relief tube, no that’s not an intercom, will seriously effect on the beer consumption going on in the back seats, at least I hope so.   The 182 isn’t a bad aircraft, I’ve owned two of them and have about a million hours flying skydivers in them.   It can haul a reasonable load, necessary for this trip, and it’s fast enough, I guess.

  On this trip I’ve got the opportunity to compare my three year old Garmin 696 to the new 796.  The 796 has a few new bells and whistles like a touch screen and some sort of synthetic vision on it.  I’ve been extremely happy with my 696 having flown around the world with it and will have to be really blown away to spend the money and make the change.  I’ll let you all know my impressions when I get back.


                     Garmin 696                   Garmin 796