CAPFLIGHT 2028 – The Big Currency Circle

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Got up for 2.9 hours of flying with Capt Norm Malek, the operations officer of the Oakland Composite Squadron of the US Civil Air Patrol (GLR-MI-238 – my home squadron). Norm got his instrument rating a little more than six months ago and had fallen out of currency. So he needed six approaches, interception and tracking, and a hold. And a safety pilot in the right seat.

Hey! I know a good safety pilot! And he’s got a new zoom bag that he needs to break in!

So Norm and I saddled up on Friday to go build some cross-country time. I handled the right-seat duties and Norm shot the approaches. Turned out that I was reasonably useful. I like to print off the approach plates from the FAA’s website and staple them together by airport, then by runway, then by precision. It makes for a clean cockpit.

And I’m pretty good about setting up efficient sequences of approaches. Like shooting the ILS 27 at KFNT and following it with the VOR 18 at KFNT. You don’t have to fly all the way back outbound to get to the start of the approach and it gets you a different approach to a different runway while shooting you out to the south to set you up for a right turn to KLAN.

We did KYIP KFNT KLAN KJXN KYIP with two approaches at each of the first two (including the published miss and hold for the VOR 24 at KLAN) and one each at the other airports. We stopped at Jackson to refuel and to both give to, and receive from, the local water table.

I really enjoyed this flight. First, Norm’s a good friend and it was great to get some time aloft with him. Second, I’ve never been safety pilot for anyone and it was cool to have the experience of just looking around and scanning for traffic without having to think a lot about navigation and other stuff.

Third, and most surprising, it was really cool to watch six instrument approaches on a VFR day. I don’t think I shot any approaches without the hood during my instrument training, which turned out to be a lot like doing one’s rating in Plato’s cave. You rely on the shadows of the gauges for directional information and get to look up briefly at the end, but that’s about it. You really need to shoot a couple of approaches early in your instrument training where you can see what it looks like out the window. How can one really expect to have any situational awareness if one has never actually seen what the approach looks like out the window?

I’m looking forward to getting out and getting a few approaches in before the snow falls. I’m current as of September 10, so I have plenty of time, but it’d be cool to get out and just go shoot a few for the heck of it. And to do so in a cherry, well-maintained CAP C-172R.

Also, I broke in the new zoom bag! I just became flight-qualified for CAP by taking the Form 5 ride in August. And, thereby, received the privilege of wearing the flight suit. Is it wrong for a male human to love a garment this much? It fits nicely. It’s sage green. It has a leather name patch with wings on it. Nice shiny captain’s bars on the shoulders. Command patch, wing patch, and US flag patch. And a morale patch. I think I’ll cut off the pocket flap now, being that I’ve worn it aloft.

Got to love the Civil Air Patrol! Flight suits, wonderful aircraft, and solid colleagues. If you’re not in CAP, you’re missing out!

Capt Force Passes CAP Form 5 Ride and Thunderbird Groove Takes Shape!

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I took and passed the checkride to fly Civil Air Patrol aircraft yesterday. 1.4 hours in a C-172P with Michigan Wing check pilot Tim Kramer.

There’s a lot of prep that goes into this ride. It requires familiarity with CAPR 60-1, which is the CAP bible of flight operations. You have to take and pass an online exam on 60-1 and also prepare an aircraft questionnaire for the aircraft to be flown, in addition to all of the usual stuff that you might expect to have to pass for an FAA checkride. Here’s my flight bag on the way to Willow Run Airport (KYIP). Stuffed to overflowing with the paperwork, a POH for the aircraft, a FAR/AIM, my kneeboard, my headset, and, of course, the MP# recorder. I captured audio of the whole thing for use on a future episode.

I really enjoyed heading back to Willow Run. I trained a lot there, including launching my first solo from Runway 5L. It’s nice to be familiar with a place when you’re flying to standards and don’t otherwise know what to expect.

We launched northbound to stay away from the TFR for the University of Michigan game. Once at 5,5000 and in cruise configuration, Tim had me lower the hood and fly attitude at 55 KIAS while maintaining altitude and making turns to headings. A little difficulty with altitude and airspeed coordination, but I had never flown that aircraft before and I’m not sure that I’ve ever flown a 172P before (most of my 172 time is in 172Rs).

The unusual attitudes. Nailed the nose-high. Not so much the nose-low. I have a bad habit of looking at the attitude indicator instead of the airspeed indicator first. When I looked up the second time, the attitude indicator was covered and the airspeed indicator was well into the yellow. I made the mistake of pulling first instead of immediately reducing power. Teachable moment.

Some more maneuvering and then Tim failed my engine. I ran the memory items and started heading for a field. I had discussed my unfamiliarity with the Apollo GX55 GPS (I’m most familiar with the Bendix/King KLN94 and learning the Garmin 430) in the aircraft and had decided to fly the procedures as though I had no GPS. Tim gave me a quick lesson on how to work the NRST function and we glided over to Oakland Southwest (New Hudson) (Y47). Still plenty of altitude and I picked up a pretty worthwhile technique from Tim on setting up for a deadstick landing. Tim likes to fly a figure eight perpendicular to the runway with the center of the figure-eight just short of the numbers. That way, you’re never that far from the runway itself and you simply make the decision about whether to land as you come around each time. Some hard slipping, and we put her down on Runway 25.

A short field takeoff from New Hudson and then the usual battery of landings back at Willow Run. 1.4 hours and four takeoffs and landings.

The logbook page continues to grow. I’m happy about this entry because it gets a C-172 on the page (without which the page wouldn’t have any element of what I usually fly) and because it’s another demonstration of competence, particularly competence as measured by the standards of CAP, for which I have great respect. I get a certain respect at squadron meetings for being the asst. wing legal officer and for having flown the DC-3 and gotten the Thunderbirds ride, but it was very nice to have this opportunity to demonstrate that I’m more than just a stuffed shirt and can fly to standards.

At least the VFR standards. It was enough to fly an unfamiliar airplane for the first time and enough to fly a C-172 for the first time since February (not counting the time in the 172RG at Flight 101), so I’m only checked out for VFR. But that qualifies me to fly mission transport, so I’m actually somewhat useful. And I can go get Norm or someone else who’s also Form 5 current and go shoot approaches or fly cross-country for currency in CAP aircraft.

Next up will likely be the mighty G1000 C-182, which I’ll probably do both VFR and IFR. Ultimately, I’d like to be qualified VFR and IFR in both the 172 and 182 as the medium-term goal. Then maybe train for mission pilot.

In other news, I got an e-mail from ace New York City sound guy Scott Cannizzaro with a link to the initial mix of the Thunderbird Groove (the music bed for the Thunderbirds ride summary episode). I seem to remember in the liner notes to John Mayer’s Continuum album that John thanked an engineer, saying something to the effect of “and thanks to Bob, who knows how we really sound.” Scott is very much that guy for me. From a rather skinny basic collection of tracks, he has augmented them beautifully with keyboards, lead guitar, and other very cool stuff. He’s not done yet, but what I’m hearing so far is really great. I’m going to have to work really hard on the script for the episode if it’s going to be worthy of the music.

Working title for the episode: Sometimes Alternates Fly. It’s still gestating, but parts will probably become fixed in a tangible medium before the holiday weekend is out. Really excited about how it’s coming together.

Oakland County International Airport (KPTK) Open House – Part 2

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I was on duty all day with the Civil Air Patrol, mostly handing kids into and out of the CAP Cessna 182. It’s a new (303 hours) CAP aircraft with the G1000. I went to the ground school in January for the G1000, but haven’t flown the platform yet. Don’t know when I’m going to get some time to do it, but it would be really cool to fly a little more glass.

CAP members with at least a private certificate can train in this aircraft for $41/hour dry. That’s really outstanding, considering that you’d probably pay well in excess of $180/hour wet for something like this on the line at an FBO.

C/MSgt Penix manning the line. He was one of about 15 cadets that showed up at 10:00 on Saturday, trained all day, camped on the airport grounds Saturday night, and then worked the show all day on Sunday. The cadets are members of my squadron, the Oakland Composite Squadron (GLR-MI-238) ( I’m really proud of the job they did.

Note that C/MSgt Penix has taken off his cover. We wore covers most of the day on the ramp, but took ‘em off whenever we were marshalling aircraft. You don’t want to be the cadet whose name is written in the cover that they pull put of the F-16’s engine.

The Michigan ANG out of Selfridge ANGB sent Maj Matt Hopkins and his F-16 to the open house. Here, some kids get up close and personal with the fighter jet.

Maj Hopkins rotating for takeoff. Check out the exhaust stream behind the jet! The open house is a good opportunity to get really close to the aircraft, especially when they’re moving. The ropes are maybe 50 feet away from the edge of the taxiway and Runway 27L/9R is just a little past that. So you’re maybe 200 feet away from an F-16 on full afterburner.

Maj Hopkins did a couple of passes (one gear-down and one high-speed with a vertical pull) on departure. I got audio of that. We also had a fly-over by a pair of F-16s and an F-15 in trail and all three aircraft did a few low passes.

I hope the publicity for this is a lot better next year. I also hope that they pick some weekend other than the Woodward Dream Cruise weekend. It’s be nice to have more people out on the ramp coming to meet general aviation. I think that the airport community, and particularly the Civil Air Patrol, gave good account of itself and I hope we get bigger crowds next year.

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

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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.

Airspeed – Civil Air Patrol with Midway Six

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It’s time once again to talk about the Civil Air Patrol, the auxiliary of the United States Air Force and one of the best volunteer opportunities in the country. As many of you know, I’m a CAP captain and the legal officer of the Oakland Composite Squadron (GLR-MI-238) and I also handle recruiting and public affairs duties.
For this episode, we invited Midway Six, a Civil Air Patrol Captain and publisher of CAPblog, to join us to talk Civil air Patrol for part of a pleasant spring evening.
E-mail us at or leave voicemail at 206-339-8697 any time – day or night. You can also contact me directly at 248-470-7944.

CAP Contacts
Telephone: 800-FLY-2338


Oakland Composite Squadron (GLR-MI-238) (My squadron!)