121.5 MHz Satellite Monitoring Phase-Out with CAP Lt Col John Desmarais

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. Or listen online right here by clicking: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/Airspeed1215.mp3. It’s all free!

If you land an aircraft unexpectedly or otherwise whack it with enough force, there’s a device in your aircraft that will automatically start yelling for help so that the US Civil Air Patrol and others cam come find you.

It’s called an Emergency locator Transmitter or “ELT.” There are two kinds of ELTs out there. They’re referred to by the frequencies upon which they call for help. The first is the older-style ELT that operated on 121.5 and 243 MHz. They’re called “121.5” ELTs and they transmit a signal that sounds like this.


The other kind is the 406 MHz ELT. The two do roughly the same thing but do it in different ways. To make a long story short, the 406 MHz ELT is better in most ways. And there will be an additional way beginning on February 1, 2009. On that date, the COSPAS/SARSAT satellite system will cease listening for 121.5 ELTs.

This doesn’t mean that the 121.5 ELTs will be useless. And, as far as I know, the US FAA has not required that owners switch to 406 MHz ELTs. And anyone monitoring 121.5 will still be able to hear 121.5 ELTs and search and rescue teams will still be able to do direction finding with 121.5 equipment. But 121.5 MHz ELTs will be a lot tougher to find.

To find out what that really means, we went to a guy who’s probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the country about search and rescue. He’s Lt Col John Desmarais, the Deputy Director of Operations of the US Civil Air Patrol. We caught up with him at his office at CAP headquarters at Maxwell AFB in Alabama.

[Interview Audio]

Contact information for Lt Col Desmarais and the US Civil Air Patrol:

Lt Col John W. Desmarais Jr.
Deputy Director of Operations
US Civil Air Patrol
CAP National Headquarters
105 South Hansell St.
Bldg. 714
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6332
(888) 211-1812 ext 303

ELT photo above by H. Dean Chamberlain. Originally appeared in the FAA Aviation News.

Four Popular Aviation Podcasts to Launch first "Formation Flight" to Cover Aircraft Purchase and Ownership

Four of the Internet’s most popular aviation podcasts will conduct an online “formation flight” during the week of February 3, 2008. That week, each of the shows will cover a different aspect of purchasing, selling, and owning general aviation aircraft.

This is the first time that the leading general aviation podcasts have coordinated episodes in this way.

“Each of our podcasts covers different parts of general aviation in different ways,” said Jack Hodgson of Uncontrolled Airspace. “Ever since we were all on a panel together, at the AirVenture Oshkosh air show last summer, we’ve stayed in touch and have been talking about ways to leverage each of our strengths.”

“There’s a lot of expertise among the producers and hosts,” said Will Hawkins of the Pilot’s Flight PodLog, “and we’ll be able to provide listeners a solid set of viewpoints about most of the major issues surrounding aircraft transactions and ownership.”

“We’re all fans of each other’s shows and it’s a great way to carry on the dialogue about this thing that we all love,” said Jason Miller of The Finer Points. “From flight training to legal aspects to how to successfully share an aircraft with others – we’re really going to be able to cover the flight line for the listeners.”

“With four shows participating, we create synergies for the aviation audience that we all hope will call attention to the lineup of media available to pilots, owners, and aviation enthusiasts,” said Steve Tupper of Airspeed. “It’s really quite amazing the amount of high-quality programming available for free over the Internet and we all want to expand the coverage of this medium to reach as many aviators as we can.”

A “podcast” can be thought of as an Internet radio or TV show. Producers post sound and/or video files on the Internet. They can then be downloaded using a common web browser or a program with special podcast capabilities such as Apple’s iTunes. An iPod is not needed to enjoy podcasts. They can downloaded to a portable audio/video device (such as iPods and other MP3 players) or watched on a regular desktop or laptop computer.

“General aviation” is private and commercial aviation other than scheduled airline flights and military operations. It runs the gamut from corporate jets to single-seat ultralight aircraft and everything in between.

Information about the respective podcasts follows in alphabetical order by show title.

Airspeed will cover the legal aspects of purchases, sales, leases, and fractional interests, as well as the tax aspects of owning all or a part of an aircraft. Airspeed is an aviation and aerospace features show hosted by Michigan-based pilot and technology and aviation lawyer Steve Tupper (known to many by his radio alter ego of “Stephen Force”). steve@airspeedonline.com; http://www.airspeedonline.com/; 248-470-7944.

The Finer Points will cover the flight training necessary and helpful to become familiar with a new aircraft. This is especially important in that many pilots who purchase (or buy into) different aircraft are moving up to new levels of complexity and performance and safety, efficiency (and insurance!) all depend upon adequate training. The Finer Points features California-based flight instructor and new media producer Jason Miller. Jason@ontheflightline.com; http://www.thefinerpoints.net/.

The Pilot’s Flight PodLog will cover the host’s recent experiences in buying into an airplane and his co-owner will join in the discussion. The Pilot’s Flight PodLog is a “hangar-flying” show that features one-on-one conversations with host and west-coast pilot Will Hawkins. pilotwill@sbcglobal.net; http://web.mac.com/pilotwill/Site/Home.html.

Uncontrolled Airspace’s panelists have a wide variety of ownership experiences among them and the panelists and a guest will cover both personal experiences and lessons learned from the experiences of others. Uncontrolled Airspace has a “hangar-flying” format and is hosted by pilot, freelance writer, and new media producer Jack Hodgson, aviation photographer, senior editor of Kit Planes magazine and US editor of London’s World Aircraft Sales magazine Dave Higdon, and editor-in-chief of Aviation Safety magazine and contributing editor of AvWeb Biz Jeb Burnside. podcast@uncontrolledairspace.com; http://www.uncontrolledairspace.com/.

Links to this press release in various forms appear below. Please feel free to pass along far and wide.
The picture above is (c) 2007 by Steve Tupper. Please feel free to use it in connection with this press release.

Flying Skydivers in the DHC-6-200 Twin Otter

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorits other podcatcher. Or listen online right here by clicking: http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedOtter1.mp3. It’s all free!

Thanks, everyone, for bearing with me through the end of the year! It should come as a surprise to no one who’s been with Airspeed through the last couple of years that November and December is usually awful for me because, as a technology and aviation lawyer, I have lots of clients who want to get deals done before year end. And that translates to some really busy days in the closing months of the year.

I should also say that it’s partly on me because I did a lot of training between July and October. Between July 14 and October 23, I did seven training flights for 12.8 hours and 21 instrument approaches, plus about 12 hours of simulator time with 60+ approaches, all in preparation for the instrument checkride. I know that it doesn’t sound like a lot, but, with everything that goes into getting to the airport, preflight, postflight, briefings, and getting my head back to my desk, that translates to about a week off work by the time you count the three rescheduled times for the checkride, the paperwork, and lots of other stuff.

By the time you’re out of the office that much, you need to make up some of that time later in the year. And that’s what I’ve been doing since October.

Thanks for the wonderful response to Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined! Thanks for all the great e-mails and blog comments and an especially big thank-you to all of you who have bought the book. I should mention that, shortly after the last episode, I posted a version of Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined that has only the music and the reading of the piece. I know that there was a lot of commentary surrounding the pierce in the episode itself and figured that some might want just the piece. Check out the website at www.airspeedonline.com and look for the blog entry right after Fingers episode. There’s a link to that special MP3 file there.

Anyway, I’ve been telling you that I have good stuff in the can and it’s going to be coming out of the can and into your ears starting now.

I first became acquainted with Dave Schwartz in 2006 after he wrote in to comment on my ride with the US Army Golden Knights. Dave is a talented pilot and skydiver and is one of the co-founders and hosts of Skydive Radio, the first all-skydiving podcast. Incidentally, Skydive Radio just hit its 100th episode. I invited Dave onto the show and he was a great guest – Helping us to understand skydiving as a sport and giving general aviation pilots some pointers about, among other things, how best to share airspace with skydiving operations. (Listen at http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedSkydive.mp3.)

Dave has since been a great resource and he even helped with some of the background research on the Twin Otter that came in very handy for the episode on icing with the NASA Glenn team. (Listen at http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedIcingGlenn1.mp3.)

Not long ago, Dave invited me out to Skydive Chicago to sit right seat for a few jump runs in the Twin Otter. I have a few clients in the Chicago area and I need to go visit them every once in awhile, so I planned a trip in late September that included a first stop at Skydive Chicago, a little more than an hour west of Chicago proper in Ottawa, Illinois.

I arrived a little after 8:00 a.m. and met Dave. We loaded up into an all-terrain vehicle and toured the grounds. The place is pretty cool. For one thing, it’s designed from the ground up to efficiently function as a skydiving training and recreation center.

It’s a 230-acre complex. The hangar that provides 15,000 square feet of shade and shelter adjoining 22,500 square feet of classrooms, common areas with satellite feed, recreation centers with pool tables and video games, a pro shop, a video department, and deli that serves food and beverages of both the soft and adult varieties. At night, you can enjoy movies or a club-type party in a two-level auditorium theatre, featuring a 30,000-watt sound and projection system.

Just to the East is a full hook-up campground that has a large pond that¹s surrounded by sprawling decks and highlighted by an island. On the north shore is a white sand beach that adjoins a large pavilion with showers, laundry facilities, and volleyball court. The entire complex is surrounded by acres of pastures near the banks of the Fox River. You can canoe, hike, bike, and ride horses on the property.

It has its own runway, arranged 3/21, and it’s paved, 4,522 feet long and 50 feet wide. There’s automated weather 16 nm west and 16 nm east and six navaids within 40 miles, of which the Ottawa NDB is the closest at 3.5 miles.

It’s a Monday and they’re running a special for first-time tandem jumps. As Dave and I ride around taking in the sights, the new skydiving students are in the building receiving the training that will allow them to make their first tandem skydives safely.

Then Dave and I go to preflight the aircraft. Skydive Chicago has two DeHavilland DCH-6 Otters and one Cessna 182. The aircraft we’re flying today is a DHC-6-200, serial no. 199 certificated in 1997. It’s powered by two Pratt & Whitney PT6A SER engines, which produce 750 horsepower each. It’s 51’9” long, has a wingspan of 65 feet, stands 19’6” at the tail, weighs 8,000 to 9,000 pounds empty, and has a max gross takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds. These birds will accommodate 23 people at a time. We’re going to be flying five on the first load.

Just before we go preflight, Dave gets the winds aloft. We need to be able to fly a course that will allow us to drop skydivers at an altitude and place over the Earth such that they can make it back to the drop zone, considering the prevailing wind.

It’s not like a skydiver can’t find somewhere safe to land other than the smooth area provided near the runway, but there are the small matters of trees, power lines, getting a ride back to the drop zone . . . you get the picture. Plus, if I’m off my course a little in a C-172, I just correct by the time I get to the field or to the initial approach fix. Dave, on the other hand, has to get the jump run right or he’ll be scattering actual people all over hither and yon. People who, at the very least, will not be buying him any beverages.

We complete a very comprehensive preflight inspection and then Dave gets in the tug and pulls the plane around to the loading area. I’m flying right seat today and I plug the MP3 recorder into the headset jack with a Y-adapter.

The first run lasts about 18 minutes. And that includes the 24-hour check that you’re going to hear. It seems longer. But the Otter climbs beautifully and Dave is an expert at getting the aircraft back on the ground quickly and efficiently to pick up the next load.

Dave is a regular John King. He’s constantly talking, describing what he’s doing and why. For that reason, among others, I’m pretty much running the audio for this load exactly as it was recorded. You can hear the engines and some of the voices in the back before Dave adjusts the squelch. It’s reasonably short and, although there are some slow spots, it’s worth listening in realtime.

We’re going to start the cockpit audio about a minute after engine start, once the avionics come up. Then you’ll hear the 24-hour check. It’s essentially the runup that you do for the first flight of the day.

Then there’s takeoff and climb. Dave gives me the controls for most of the climb and I fly an indicated airspeed and heading. I let it drift a little, as you’ll hear, but by and large picked up the instrumentation and flight characteristics of the airplane pretty quickly.

Make no mistake. Dave is right there at the controls the entire time and is very vigilant. He follows me on the controls for the jump run and has the controls himself for the initial part of the descent and for the landing. Yeah, I get to fly the Otter, but Dave is right there the whole time. That made it a very comfortable introduction for me.

I thought about trying some shooter pilot comments to impress upon the folks in back my Chuck-Yeagerness and hardass competence in the right seat, but it’s pretty clear that the vets trust Dave and that the first-time tandem students are a little tense and wouldn’t care if Karl Pilkington was in the right seat. So I keep my mouth shut and concentrate on assisting Dave in any way I can – scanning for traffic and being as gracious a guest as I can.

As we climb, Dave points out the approaches for Midway and O’Hare and explains the fairly narrow piece of airspace into which we have to confine our operations. I’m not sure of this, but it appears that Dave has two PTT switches on the yoke. I’m pretty sure that he has the CTAF of 122.725 on one channel and Chicago Approach on 119.0 on the other. We call up Chicago shortly after takeoff and let them know that we’re around.

We’ve set up the GPS to give us a 230 course line. We’ll fly a downwind and then come back upwind on that line with the idea being to give the jumpers the green light a little upwind of the drop zone. I’m pretty much flying a pitch attitude and vectors called out by Dave.

Yeah, that’s the view out the front window right after the jumpers exit.

Once the jumpers exit, we chop the power, bank 60 degrees left and go 30 degrees nose-down to get the aircraft down as quickly as possible and while burning as little fuel and brake pads as possible. If you get the feeling that it’s all about safety and efficiency at Skydive Chicago, you’re right on. But that doesn’t mean that the picture out the window right after the jumpers exit isn’t very different from what you see during cruise. Lots of green in the windshield. But a lot of fun, too!

Flying right seat actually comes more easily than I’m expecting it to. The only truly dumbass thing I do is look at Dave’s instruments across the cockpit even though I have a full set of instruments right in front of me. I’m just too used to flying C-172s.

Anyway, let’s go to the ramp at Skydive Chicago. Five people in the back, Dave in the left seat, me in the right seat, just after bringing up the avionics.

[Flight audio.]

Next time on Airspeed, we’ll have the second jump run of the day with Dave Schwartz at Skydive Chicago with a bit more otter flying, including single-engine flight and stall characteristics.

You can find out more information about Skydive Chicago at www.skydivechicago.com or by calling them at 800 SKY-DIVE in the Chicago area and 815-433-0000 from everywhere else.

I had a chance to watch a lot of the training that went into the first tandem jump program that was going on while I was there and, while I’m not a skydiver, I was pretty impressed by the attention that I saw the instructors paying to students both on the ground and in the aircraft. It looked very standardized and professional. If I didn’t have a shoulder that likes to dislocate when you put it in to the required position for belly-flying, I might well have been in the back of the aircraft for the third load!

You can get your first tandem for about $200 and there are programs and pricing for every level of jumper. I believe that they start up operations for the season in late March or early April.

For what it’s worth, one guy on the first load went right back up on the second load. I saw him pull out of the parking lot with a smile so big that he had to put the convertible top down so he could fit his head in the car.

Tune in next time for the second jump run with more Dave, more Otter, and more cowbell. Actually, no cowbell at all, but definitely more Dave and more Otter!

Piles of Snow and a Chance to Reflect

10″ or so of snow last night as Chez Airspeed (better known to some as Wilshire House). Mary and I escaped to the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham last night and I’m not embarrassed to say that we were asleep at 10:00 p.m. And didn’t get up until 9:00 this morning. CDR Force headed out to Cosi and Starbucks for CMP Force’s breakfast and then we ventured out just as the maid was about to throw us out of the hotel.

Arrived home to lots of snow and immediately set to blowing out the driveway. We had to give mom a ride home because she’s the third worse driver on earth (second only to the captain of the Exxon Valdez and holding out the possibility that there might be one other person).

Here’s CMP Force burning a little 93 Octane with 40:1 two-cycle. Decidedly not 100LL.

In any case, it’s a chance to hide out in the basement and do some planning for 2008. I think I have some pretty ambitious stuff here. All subject to change, of course, but this year could yield (1) high-performance, (2) complex, (3) multi-engine land, (4) single-engine sea, (5) taildragger, and (6) SIC type certificate in the DC-3. All before Oshkosh if I can make it work. And possibly (7) advanced ground instructor and (8) instrument ground instructor.

On top of that, I have to get my BFR done early this year, stay IFR current, and renew my medical. (Anybody for massive time on the Nordic Track skier and a lot of time hauling the kids around the neighborhood in the wagon?) I’m 206 lbs dripping wet. Short legs and long torso, so I get really shortchanged by the charts that docs use (I get charged for torso cross-section while everybody else gets charged for ankle.) Should be okay as long as I can find an AME who actually analyzes the situation and doesn’t just sit there with the 1950s tables and does the equivalent of fill out a Dungeons & Dragons character sheets.

Lots of reading. Will likely go to the office and print out the DC-3 manuals sometime in the next few days. Will likely even get them bound. How better to make the whole thing look really good at Starbucks? (Yeah, I was serious about that in the last post.)

Also need to figure out how to get the manuals for the Aztec and the Piper PA-12 on floats so that I can use this snowy season to best advantage.

2008 should be really great! Now to get to producing a new episode of Airspeed. The voice is back (mostly) and I’m ready to get going!