CAP Glider Ops – A New O-Ride Pilot Debuts

Tupper Feltun Full

Yesterday, I debuted as a cadet orientation pilot for CAP. Yeah, I’ve been a CFI and a rated CAP instructor pilot since last June, but I had only recently gotten around to getting qualified as a cadet orientation pilot.

I’m comfortable in the ASK 21, but less so in the SGS 2-32. Thus, I started out the day with three flights with Maj Chris Felton in the 2-32.  I flew in the back and had the controls for the first two, then we switched and Chris took the controls in the back for the third flight. (It’s a sign that you’re taking operations seriously when you go fly with a friend and the PIC wants the back seat. The front is too easy. There are instruments up there and it’s too easy to see the tow plane.)  I managed to bring the 2-32 to a stop in reusable condition twice, and then rode along on the third one mostly to get the sight pictures while an acknowledged master of the 2-32 flew the ship.

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After a break, I hopped in and flew three cadets. (Studiously avoiding telling the first one that she was my first until after we landed.)

The Schweizer SGS 2-32 is a 1960s-era two-place glider built like a Buick with a large main wheel in the middle, a tiny tailwheel in the back, and a skid under the nose. Although it’s most fun to fly from and to the grass, CAP frequently flies it from and to paved runways. No worries. You just have to replace the metal on the skid more often. (And, if you’re as good as CAP expects you to be as a pilot, the airport has to re-paint the centerline stripes a little more often.)

MIWIG glider operations for cadet O-rides are usually split evenly between the more modern glass ASK 21 (equipped with all wheels and no skid) and the SGS 2-32, so it’s not uncommon for a cadet to show up for a 2-32 ride after having flown in nothing but the ASK 21 for up to four flights.

On my second O-ride, I had a pretty good landing, which usually consists of initial contact by the main wheel, followed by braking and the skid making contact with the runway and the noise attendant thereto for 50-100 feet until the aircraft comes to a halt.

The cadet, who was on Flight 3 after two flights in the ASK 21, was clearly concerned. He turned around and said, “Was that supposed to happen?” We explained that the skid makes that noise and that I had not snapped off a nosewheel on the landing. I’m not sure that we was convinced. We’ll see if he shows up for Flight 4.

The thing about which I’m most pleased is the progression that I’ve managed to get. I acknowledge that I’m a baby CFI. 100 aerotows total with 55.3 hours of dual given (including the TG-7A self-launch time, which is the majority of that dual). I hit the CAP glider ops weekend right after getting my CFI and got a Form 5 as a CAP instructor pilot. But then Capt Mark Grant helped me to use a very gradual slope to increase my role.

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I started out by flying with rated pilots in the front seat. Pilots with airplane ratings but little or no glider time. Later, beginning this season, I flew in the back seat with my son, C/MSgt Nicholas “FOD” Tupper in the front as a student. A few weeks ago, I did a new Form 5 with Mark to add on the orientation pilot endorsement, as well as refreshing my pilot and instructor endorsements.

This progression allowed me to gently add responsibility and workload.  Airplane pilots flail around the sky and don’t know how to use their feet in a glider, but the IP’s role is pretty much to explain this while observing. Yes, you have to take off, fly (and/or save the front-seater’s bacon) on tow, and land the ship.  With FOD, I was a little more involved on tow and following the controls on landing.

On a cadet O-flight, it’s all about you as the orientation pilot.  You’re not going to get any help from the front seat. In fact, the front seat occupant is usually additional work and requires additional skill and bandwidth. You have to lean to one side or the other to see the instruments and/or the tow plane, explain things to the cadet, and be ready for things like the cadet hurling, getting in the way of the controls, or otherwise making your job harder.  In fact, cadets have an uncanny ability to hold their smart phones so that they perfectly block your view of the tow plane. And you’re supposed to do all of this in a way that leaves the cadet excited and looking forward to the next O-ride, as well as going on to the academy and becoming the fighter pilot that saves the free world, Mazer Rackham -style.

It’s a pretty heavy responsibility and I take it seriously.  The good news is that I flew three cadets yesterday and I felt well prepared. I think that each of them will be back for rides 2, 3, and 4 respectively. And that’s what this flying is all about.

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Thanks for Chris Felton for the picture that leads this post.

 

A SpaceX Rocket is Going to Land at Detroit’s River Days Airshow

April 01 Lead The Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum and SpaceX dropped a bombshell this morning at press conference on the Detroit waterfront. This year’s Tuskegee Airmen Detroit River Days Airshow will feature the recovery of the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on SpaceX’s drone ship on the Detroit River in front of an audience that could reach more than a million spectators.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said, “There would be no SpaceX if it weren’t for the dreams that power the company and its missions. For many people, that dream starts at an airshow. What better time and place let people have a close look at what those dreams can bring?”  Musk flew to Detroit for the announcement after yesterday’s press events in Hawthorne, California surrounding the beginning of production of Tesla Motors’ Model 3.

Steve Tupper, who is in charge of the airshow, for the museum said, “I don’t think I have to tell you how excited we are about this addition to the show. Over the last four years, we’ve been bringing the show along. In 2014, we had a 500-foot waiver. Last year, we took the waiver all the way down to the surface and added aerobatic performances. We had no idea that 2016 would see a spectacle that has never occurred at any airshow before now.” April 01 Drone Ship SpaceX made headlines in December of 2015 by successfully bringing the booster stage of a Falcon 9 first stage to a soft landing at Kennedy Space Center’s Landing Zone 1. For the airshow event, SpaceX will land another Falcon 9 first stage, this time on SpaceX’s Autonomous Support Drone Ship. Musk says that the drone ship will begin its trek to Detroit in early June.  The ship is expected to arrive the week before the airshow and moor at Port Detroit. April 01 Box Map For the landing, the drone ship will take up a position in front of the River Days festival grounds near the Renaissance Center and near the middle of the Detroit River on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Canadian border. “We’ve had our issues in the past with getting the Falcon 9 first stage to land on the boat, but we think that we have things ironed out and this will be a great opportunity to demonstrate our improved capabilities,” said Musk. April 01 Falcon 9 The landing is expected to take place at 1:05 Detroit time on Friday, June 24 to kick off this year’s installment of the show. To make its date with the Detroit riverfront, the Falcon 9 rocket (called the “full thrust” version) will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida about 12 minutes before the scheduled landing. After thrusting for nearly four minutes, the main engines will shut down. Seconds later, the first stage will separate and the second stage will fire, propelling a new Civil Air Patrol search-and-rescue satellite into a polar orbit.

The first stage will then orient itself and begin its controlled descent to the waiting drone ship on the river. “It wasn’t easy to make this happen,” says Tupper. “FAA regulations require that we keep performers at least 500 feet away from the crowd, and that includes rockets.” Although it will require additional propellant for both the rocket’s main engine and its directional thrusters, the rocket is expected to approach the drone ship from the southwest and track along the Detroit River over the Ambassador Bridge before touching down on the drone ship.

Federal Aviation Administration Aviation Safety Inspector Art Bangle described the complexities. “The museum has asked the FAA to authorize an operation involving a tube full of highly volatile fluids and gasses very close to maybe a million people in two countries and right in the middle of a navigable waterway.  Ordinarily we would ignore such a request as we would an April Fool’s Day joke. But Steve and the airshow staff are steely-eyed operators who have planned for every contingency. The FAA wouldn’t authorize them to give it a try if the FAA didn’t have full faith in that team.”

Team Tuskegee, the museum’s airshow formation team, is practicing a maneuver in which its four TG-7A motorgliders will circle the rocket stage as it descends below about 1,000 feet above the water and follow it all the way to touchdown.TG-7A over Lake with Harte Tupper says that he is excited this spectacle will have a distinctly Detroit flavor. “There are two major airshows – Thunder over Michigan and the Selfridge ANGB show – that are so close to the team’s home airport here in Detroit that we have to be careful not to bust their airspace when we go places. Despite that, they never include us in their shows. Come to think of it, they hardly ever have anybody from Michigan in their shows. So maybe, until they get their own circle-the-rocket opening, we can be as cool as they are.”

Other performers are expected to include displays of aerobatic, formation, and other flying by pilots and aircraft from southeast Michigan and Windsor, Ontario.  More than 75% of the airshow performers are from the area. Asked about the best opportunities for viewing the event, Tupper said, “Every place along the rail on either side of the river will be the best seat in the house.  Just get there early and be patient as you depart.”

The fireworks displays during the Windsor–Detroit International Freedom Festival draw about a million spectators to the riverfront every year, often causing legendary traffic snarls. Airshow organizers believe that attendance for the SpaceX landing might double that number.

SpaceX images used under Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike.

Well Played, Mr. Scalzi

Scalzi Lock In

 

Spoiler Alert: This post discusses a few of the elements of John Scalzi’s novel, Lock In.  Nothing plot-related.

As we go through Black History Month, I’ve put up a couple of posts on Facebook and otherwise about the Tuskegee Airmen and the museum’s programs. But Black History Month can’t help but make us think about diversity in an even broader way.

I’m re-listening to John Scalzi’s 2014 novel, Lock In. It’s a sci fi story set in a near future in which a flu-like epidemic has swept the world, killing many and causing others to suffer a condition called “lock in,” a state in which they are trapped inside their bodies, unable to move or communicate. In Scalzi’s story, after heoric efforts and trillions of dollars, the world figures out a way to implant neural networks in those afflicted with lock-in and enable them to participate in society by controlling humanoid robots: “Personal transports” or, colloquially, “Threeps” (in a nod to C3PO from Star Wars).

Audible made two different audiobooks, one narrated by Wil Wheaton and the other by Amber Benson. That’s a rare thing for any story, and especially one that’s told in the first person. And it works because the story is equally compelling without regard for whether the protagonist is male or female. And, further, you don’t discover that the protagonist is African American until more than halfway through the story.

Pretty cool. Especially when these facts of gender or race end up being purely ancillary to what is a nicely-paced and interesting story. Having it not matter whether the protagonist is male or female, and having the protagonist’s race be purely secondary or tertiary subtly convey that you can identify with a first-person protagonist no matter who you are. Or who he or she is.

And, after all, isn’t diversity simply about identifying with people and walking in their shoes without regard for gender, race, or other things that don’t matter so much?

Thank you, Mr. Scalzi. Well played.

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If you’re not already an Audible subscriber, you can get your very own copy of either version of Lock In by clicking here: http://audibletrial.com/AIRSPEED.  You get a free audiobook with your free trial and Audible pays me $15 for reeling you in. I’ll spend the money on gas flying Tuskegee kids around, you get a great audiobook, and everybody’s happy.  Even if you don’t go through the link, read or listen to Lock In. It’s a very good story and Scalzi is exactly the kind of guy you want writing the next generation of speculative fiction.

 

CFI Episode Progress and a Return to the Scene of Some of the Crimes

WION Production Studio

I’m here at WION Radio in Ionia for a couple of days while FOD is going through encampment staff selection in Grand Rapids.  I’m taking some of the time to write and edit for Acro Camp and Airspeed.  Being that I’m here at the radio station, I thought I’ve give you a taste of the CFI episode, large parts of which happened here in Ionia.

The episode itself is currently about 12,000 words and growing.  It’ll probably be a two-parter just to make it manageable.  For now, here’s a look at the place and the characters that surrounded the experience.

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Long-time listeners to Airspeed will know that my friend Jim Angus runs WION radio in Ionia. He’s taken the station from a closed-down operation that was close to losing its license (what radio guys call a “stick”) and, over the last 10 years, turned it into that rarest of things: A full-service local AM radio station. During that time, I’ve been the lawyer that has helped the company through several acquisitions so that it now includes five signals broadcasting from two different cities. I get called the general counsel and I suppose it’s as appropriate a title as any.

I’ve recorded several Airspeed episodes in the production studio there and I even did a turn as Scrooge in the Ionia community’s rendition of the 1939 CBS Campbell Playhouse script of A Christmas Carol. Each actor records his or her lines along in the studio with Jim engineering and an editor puts it all together.  I highly recommend the gag reel from those sessions. Yelling “Cratchit!” too often. And I noticed that you can add a “so to speak” after about half of Tiny Tim’s lines to reasonably good effect.  I’ve ruined Dickens for you now, haven’t I?

The station is a few miles north of Ionia on Haynor road and about 15 minute from the airport. It’s a really eclectic little radio station. Not quite KBHR, the radio station from CBS’s Northern Exposure in the early 1990s, but close. It is its own little Lake Wobegon in the cornfields.

A constant stream of local personalities makes its way into and out of the building during the broadcast day. Most gather around the microphones at the circular table in the studio. Phil Cloud, Left-Lane Layne, Popeye John, and others who are as colorful and different as you think they might be.

Strange things happen at WION. Like solving the need to light the towers by taking the lights off of them. You have to light a radio tower if it’s 200 or more feet tall. The towers were 202 feet tall, but the top three feet of each tower was the lighting device and each of them was three feet tall. After the lights on two of the three towers burned out and needed replacing, it only cost a little more to have the contractor go pull down the light fixtures from all three towers, taking them all down to 199 feet and removing the need to light them. I’m not kidding.

Jim lived in an Airstream trailer in the parking lot for the first eight or nine years he operated the place. Probably not entirely cricket under the local zoning laws, but he was right there if there was a storm front and, even when every farmhouse for miles went dark during thunderstorm season, Jim was right there with the generator operating and giving up-to-the minute information to all who tuned in. As long as Jim was willing to brave the constant danger of carbon monoxide poisoning from the trailer’s ancient heater and give the farmers their updates on squall lines and ice storms and school closings, the township figured that it was a fair trade and it left him alone.

He’s since made himself an apartment in the station’s building.  For that matter, he pulled the cubicles out of the front office and put couches, a TV, and a fake fireplace in there so it can serve as a home for wayward lawyers and pilots.

Thus I called him up and told him that the station’s general counsel would be in residence for a couple of days each week until I finished my training and the checkride.  One of the benefits of hanging out with a guy who can keep a radio station on the air with nothing more than clarinet reeds and Scotch tape is that he can figure out how to get a freakishly fat Internet pipe out there in the middle of nowhere. I rarely see any of my clients face-to-face anyway so, whenever I wasn’t flying, I could sit in the main room at a desk and, for all practical purposes, be in the office.

The routine was this.  I’d drive over on a Monday night with my flight bag, Magic Box, a sleeping bag, a pillow, and a shaving kit.  Oh, and a towel.  It’s vital to always know where your towel is.

I’d crash until 0700L, by which time Jim had been on the air for an hour.  I’d do a time-to-make-the-donuts walk to the shower with my hair sticking out on all directions, often shuffling right by the studio door.  To their credit, none of the denizens of WION thought this the least bit weird.  Even when I could hear Jim behind me saying, “That’s the general counsel.”

Have you ever been half asleep standing in the shower with the radio on in the bathroom and had the strange sensation that the radio was talking to you? You very specifically? I have had that sensation. It is particularly disturbing when the radio is actually talking to you. It’s something in between having Jack Hodgson in your car talking to you and forgetting that he’s actually there and not on an episode of UCAP – and having Jack Hodgson in your shower.  I confess that I know nothing of the latter. And I am aware, now more than ever, of the important of not mixing up “former” and “latter.”

I digress.

After showering, I’d dress in my glider gear of cargo shorts, a golf shirt, cushy socks, and cross-trainers.  Then I’d go to the studio and sit in on the mic for a half hour or so. Usually bantering with the locals and particularly with the guy who runs the new drive-in theater.  I also plugged Benz Aviation and the glider program I the hopes that the station might be able to leverage my blathering into an ad campaign.

By 0930L, I’d head to the airport, fly from 1000L to noon or so, then head back to the studio and work until dinner.  Then off to the Lamplight Grill for dinner with Jim and more of the locals before crashing on the couch again.  The next morning, I’d lather, rinse, and repeat before heading back to the airport for another couple of hours of training, then leave for home.

 

Guanine: The Threat Coninutes

RTS Guanine 02

The first couple of installments of the #ReduceTheStupid campaign seem to have been well accepted and widely shared.  So I couldn’t help spending a little time on an icy winter day dropping another one into the series.