Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mottled yellow is the new black

Most of my scabs have stopped oozing. The bruises continue to change color nicely. I can do my magneto check during the start-up phase without gritting my teeth. I still wake up if I roll over in my sleep because the cracked rib is nowhere near happy. I've been asked what happened to the driver. He was cited with a DWA (driving while Asian) and had to buy a moped, some gauze, and a tube of triple antibiotic ointment.

Two days ago we were flying in what they call the south practice area and I was orbiting, checking out a place to land, when I spotted traffic. After a closer look, it was apparent that not only was the Huey coming straight at us but that he had a long-line dangling below. Rather than find out what happens when one of those gets caught in your rotor, we entered an auto to quickly lose altitude.

I put some long ago gained knowledge to work the other day. I decided that the mice needed to move out of the dungeon or perish. I put some peanut butter on a cup that I threaded onto a bucket handle and filled the bucket with water. If the mice were talented enough to jump to the cup and get some peanut butter without making the cup spin so they lost their balance and fell into the water, they could have all the spreadable goodness they wanted. Two splashes so far but there are still mouse droppings so the trap remains set.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strip malls and test pilots

I flew to PDX last week. It was a roundabout journey to Torrance, CA to participate in the Pilot Safety Course at the Robinson Helicopter Company. My friend Jeff met me at the airport. His wife was supposed to join him but since they left Alaska to be closer to family, they are now subjected to a pop-in visits from Sharon's parents. I was sad to miss Sharon but it was great to catch up with Jeff. He took me to a coffee shop with a perfect blend of hipster and gangster. It was attached to a garage that could fix your car but looked more like it specialized in grinding VIN's off those hard to reach places.

Jeff dropped me off in time to get the rental car squared away and greet my parents curbside. After hugs we headed to Tillamook. We skipped the cheese factory (still the most popular tourist destination in the state) and headed straight to see friends. Mom and Dad wanted to see them at least once more. Depressing isn't it? Planning the last time you can see someone?

We drove the Wilamette Valley south and had lunch on the Rogue River. Before, sorry, just got a glimpse of my toothbrush and about fifty tiny ants exploring the forest of bristles. Don't let anyone kid you, paradise is full of creepy-crawlers. Anyway we slept in Crescent City and drifted off to waves crashing from a serious storm.

I'd seen the Redwoods prior and was excited to share them with my parents. It's rare for the child to watch eyes of the elders light up with discovery. I've been told that's the best thing about parenting, watching everything become brand new through your children's eyes. Anyway, the trees didn't disappoint. I hope I never meet the person that doesn't speak of those towering giants with reverence.

We continued down the coast to San Francisco via the Sonoma Valley. Soon enough we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. The painting crew was right about in the middle. I remember as a child reading that by the time they get to the other side, it's time to start over again. Job security.

I'd never been to SF. It exceeded my expectations, Italian dinner in North beach, SFMOMA, Giants/Pirates ending with a bases loaded walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth, and getting lost on the way to the airport. Mom brought her GPS but I told her to leave it packed, we'd use my smartphone. I gave her the rundown on the map app but she couldn't seem to keep the blue dot on the blue line. No worries, I'd built some wrong turns into our departure time.

So off to Torrance and the main purpose of the trip. I figured I'd be super-bored but I learned a fair bit and met some interesting folks. Tops of that list was the guy from Veracruz, Mexico that used to fly on a tuna boat. The helis go out and spot the dolphins that are hunting the tuna. In the beginning, one could herd the dolphins just by buzzing them with the heli. Soon enough the dolphins got used to the noise so the pilots had to start throwing flares out the door. Nowadays, they light and toss seal bombs to scare the dolphins and in turn, the tuna, into the nets. Sushi, anyone?

So now I'm in Honolulu, holed up in room under the school. I want to get some Bravo airtime under my belt and into my logbook. At my disposal I have a dorm fridge and a microwave. The bathroom is down the hall which is why I can see my toothbrush while I type. So far Honolulu has been quite a kick. I rented a moped and cruised Waikiki. Then I got smashed by an SUV. My right side is one oozing scab and I'm pretty sure I cracked a rib. The moped was totaled cuz it got pulled under the Lexus while I found a nice soft piece of concrete to land on.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

TLA's and then some

When I worked for the USFS, my favorite day in the field camps was AFF or acronym-free Friday. The gubment has a ridiculous amount of acronyms and they just get to be too much. "For today's TSS(tailgate safety session) we're gonna discuss ST+F's (slips trips and falls.)

Acronyms are a language all their own. They save time when a group of like-educated folks talk about things and want to save time or make the new guy feel like he don't know shit. Stand in one of those circles and you'll quickly get a list of stuff you need to learn after the meeting cuz the last question you asked got a serious eye roll. "BVI is British Virgin Islands, geez." People end up using acronyms so much that they forget what they abbreviate.

So the FAA is no different. There are many pages of acronyms listed in the back of the FAR/AIM. You need to know how AGL differs from MSL and TA. Well, look at the map. See that spot? It's 5003' MSL but only 748' AGL. So if you hit a MSL, AGL is how far you'll fall.

On a typical flight, I check the CHT, VSI, and ASI(airspeed indicator, now that doesn't tell me whether it's TAS or CAS) on a regular basis. I went for a flight last night and as I got close to MUE, I keyed my mike seven times to turn on the VASI so I could see the runway.

Acronyms also come in handy as study aids. I memorized the taxiway layout at KOA by making up my own FLA, DKCL (Dad killed Chicken Little). Silly yes, effective, yes.

Spinning circles over landing areas, I ask myself how I WOTFEEL. If I use my compass to get from here to there I recheck math ANDS play UNOS. If I fly too high, I run the risk of oxygen deprivation or HASH. How do I know if I have it? FISHRIB obviously.

The FATFOID is, I don't have to report that to the NTSB. As long as I don't have LOSA (lack of situational awareness) none of those will occur.

Soon I'll be a commercial pilot and certain privileges come with that, namely FBCAPTPIWEP. But the real goal while I earn hours working on the commercial license is to become a CFI (certified flight instructor). And we all know a great CFI has ASSPADS.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Commercial vs. Private

First of all, an update: I had a hankering for a burger and some onion rings so I headed back to the made in-house, lightly breaded, delights at Splasher's. Guess who sat down next to me. The kid that got hit by the car on the night of the brew fest. Hard to say if the accident had any affect on his mental status cuz he was drunk again. He has a bunch of broken blood vessels in his left eye just like my friend Andy got in college from vomiting too hard. The kid has blond hair except for a new patch that's coming in dark grey. That's what he slid on during his trip across the asphalt.

Now that I have a PPL, my course of study has changed. There aren't any ground school requirements for commercial training so the school has students work on their Certified Flight Instructor training in ground school while improving their flying skills in pursuit of a Commercial License. Back to ground in a minute.

I have a different instructor. I picked the helicopter up, backed out of the parking spot, stopped, made a pedal turn, and taxied out for take-off. Once I was cleared by tower, I did all my pre-take-off checks and slowly pushed forward. As we climbed out Chase said, "OK, That was a great taxi and take-off for a private. That won't fly in the commercial world." No more taxiing at walking speed, no more stopping to do pedal turns, and pre-take-off checks happen on the go.

We headed north so Chase could evaluate my off-airport skills. The FAA's definition of an airport includes, "an area of land or water that is used or intended to be used..." Think field, gravel bar, or that little spot in the middle of all those trees. Chase directed me to a ridge line with a microwave tower on the end of it.

What you do is orbit the spot a couple of times figuring out the wind, obstacles, etc. and decide how you're gonna get in there. (The acronym is WOTFEEL, someday I'm gonna write a post all in acronyms but today ain't the day.) So I'm circling, looking at trees, power lines, and goats while we gain and lose elevation due to turbulence coming up the ridge. And I don't like it. I said so, assuming that Chase was testing my decision making skills. He tells me that we can safely get in there and I need to figure it out.

I did and then he says, "OK, let's dive off the ridge." What about low g, mast bumping and all that other bad shit? "You know how to safely fly, now we're gonna show you where the limits are." So I'm thinking about something Hunter S. Thompson said about not knowing where the edge is until you jump off it as we dive over the ridge. Total roller coaster stomach hitting your Adam's apple sensation. I think this stage of training might be pretty fun.

Back to ground school. I have to teach the whole Private syllabus while my instructor pretends to be a student. Most people struggle with the teaching aspect. I have a little experience teaching skiing to kids that are only in lessons cuz their parents want to be on the upper mountain, showing Richie-riches from Manhattan that have never been barefoot on grass how to camp, and fat white guys how to not get eaten by bears, so I'm comfortable with that role. Plus one of the degrees I never used was pretty heavy on speech courses. One prof made you start over any time you used the word, "like" and another refused to let us use notes.

The teaching is all about employing the FOI's (fundamentals of instruction, man that acronym post is gonna be a gas). Some of the FOI's are good, most are common sense and some are just plain silly. The instructors are big on using different colored markers while writing on the white board. That's all well and good, but come the fuck on, we put people on the moon using chalk of only one color.