Father’s Day and DC-3 Writing

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Hanging out on the patio writing the DC-3 summary episode. Really want to get this right, but it’s taking a long time. About four hours of cockpit audio, some of which I’m hearing for the first time because I had the recorder plugged into where I would otherwise have been plugged in with a headset while I was running around in the back of the aircraft shooting pictures and making myself motion sick.

Got the audio montage from the restaurant done. James did a heck of a job on the impromptu DC-3 Blues. “Got that gear coming down . . . .” Yeah, James. I feel you, brother.

Cole’s last day of school was Friday. He’s a first-grader-elect now. And really excited about OSH. Ella gets increasingly self-sufficient every day.

Went to Soundscape Studios yesterday to check it out as a venue for recording vocals for the album project. Really nice little studio with good rates. Tim seems like a good guy. We’ll probably use the live room with baffles around us for some separation and deadening. Would do it at home, but I dare not let anyone see the basement and I don’t have the 30 hours it’d take to clean it to the point where I’d let another human see it down there.

Back to the writing. Thanks for your patience! The full DC-3 summary episode will be out soon. Hope to finish the writing today and record the commentary this week.

DC-3 Type Rating – The Whole Thing

This is an aggregated post with links to all of the show episodes that deal with the DC-3 type rating course that I attended 22-25 May 2008 with Dan Gryder in Griffin, Georgia in the Herpa DC-3.

I’ve put all of the material here so that I can offer a single URL from which you can jump to any of the various episodes. If you wish to provide this information to anyone who might me interested in the story, his or her own type rating, or any other purpose, simply invite them to visit this page’s URL:


Note that all of the links are to blog posts. Several posts are labeled as audio episodes, which means that there’s a link to the audio of the podcast episode just below the first picture in the post. Click on the link or launch the automatic player in order to hear the audio.

You can also subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or any other podcatcher and listen at your leisure. It’s all free!

Here are the episodes and posts . . .

Initial Interview with Dan (Audio Episode) – An interview with Dan for the show from January, before I had decided to take the type rating course. And, for that matter, before I had even decided to go for the multi-engine rating.

DC-3 Type Rating – Arrival (Audio Episode) – Self-explanatory.

DC-3 Type Rating – Day 1 (Audio Episode) – Self-explanatory.

DC-3 Type Rating – Day 2 (Blog Post)

DC-3 Type Rating Complete (Blog Post) – An announcement in blog form to let those who were following along know that I got ‘er done.

DC-3 Type Rating Complete (Audio Episode) – An audio episode that updates podcast listeners and tells them that I completed the rating. I quit posting audio episodes after the first two days because it was causing me to miss too much sleep and the primary point, after all, was to competently fly the airplane. Discretion is the better part of valor, after all.

Summary Episode – The whole enchilada, including original music.

DC-3 Type Rating – Type Rating Complete!

This is a regular blog post. For audio and show notes, please check out the other entries.

Sorry to leave you hanging on the podcast feed. For reasons explained below, I was just too tired to do a competent post and I needed to get some rest in order to complete the training on Sunday.

In any case, I finished the training and I’m type-rated (second in command) in the Douglas DC-3. Roland and Gerrit also completed their ratings and Tom was on track for his recurrent checkride for Tuesday.

And James got a low pass and a landing in the aircraft, so I’m sure that he’s going to have great material for his story.

(Pictured above: Dan, me, Tom, Gerrit, Ronald, and James.)

I’ll try to put out another episode covering the third day of training here soon and then another, more complete episode covering all of the training from beginning to end.


DC-3 Type Rating – Day 2

This is a regular blog post. Please check out the other posts for show notes or links to audio.

Still in Griffin training on the Herpa DC-3. I initially set out to post a new episode daily, but discretion is the better part of valor in this case.

We closed the restaurant around midnight after having a few steaks and taking over the side room, where Dan, Julie Boatman Filucci, and James Wyndbrandt played guitar and banjo for the assembled group. I sat in on mandolin on a few tunes and took over on guitar for a few tunes. And sang. (Hope they let me back in the airplane!)

I don’t think I have it in my to go another day at full throttle for training if I don’t hit the sack now, so I’m just going to do a blog post and call it a night.

I was first in the left seat this morning. Got a normal touch and go, two high-speed passes, and two V1 cuts. Completely blew the V1 cuts and need to go over those tomorrow morning in order to improve. I think I’m in for one more stint at the controls, so I need to make it good.

Roland followed me in the left seat and I ran around the back of the aircraft shooting pictures and enjoying myself. There are only three headset jacks in back and they were all taken, so I just decided to have some fun before rotating back into the queue.

A few landings later, Tom (standing in the back of the aisle) got my attention and said that we had some hydraulic issues and that we were returning to Griffin. We had gone over the hydraulic systems in depth in the morning in ground training, so I wasn’t at all worried. The gear was down and our only worry was apparently brakes. But we belted in anyway for the landing.

Dan pumped up the system on final and we landed her at Griffin to check out the hydraulics. That took a couple of hours and a visit from the A&P, but we got the aircraft squared aware by dusk and Roland and Dan took her up to test fly it.

Dan had said that Plane and Pilot was going to be covering the training, but it turns out that the person doing the story is none other than James Wynbrant, a sometime denizen of the Uncontrolled Airspace podcast. Just after we shut down the aircraft and set about working on the hydraulics, I got James to head up to the cockpit for a picture of him in the left seat.

Here’s a shot of Roland in the right seat taxiing in after the test flight.

More in a couple of days, folks!


DC-3 Type Rating – Day 1

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First day of training today. Started out at 8:30 when everyone arrived. We headed out to the aircraft and split into two teams of two. Two did the interior preflight and two did the exterior preflight and then the teams switched.

Took a reasonably long time, but there’s a lot of stuff in a DC-3 that’s not in or on a C-172.

Dan walked us through both the interior and exterior inspections. Here are a few audio outtakes from each of those inspections.

[Audio 1]

We got up sometime around 11:30. We took off from Griffin and headed over to Thomaston-Upson County Airport (KOPN) for pattern work. Gerrit took the first tour in the left seat and did a really good job flying the aircraft. Had most of his callouts memorized and in sequence, but goofed a few. We all did. As much studying as we did before this course, you really have to just get in the airplane and fly it before the memorized events take on substance and start to have practical meaning.

I was second up. Okay. I get to fly the beastie! The ‘three basically flies like a big Apache. The only real difference in the feel is the greater mass and the fact that you turn using a lot more rudder than aileron. In fact, you start the turn with the rudder and follow with as much aileron as is helpful. And you need to figure out by feel how much that is. And it’s nowhere near as much as you might think it would be.

I started out by doing a few turns and by climbing and descending a little. Three or four trips around the pattern on the first flight. It’s actually weird how similar the airspeeds are to a C-172 or other lighter aircraft. You rotate at V2, which is 84 KIAS and make your way to a climb speed of 120 KIAS. But, buy the time you get downwind midfield, you’re basically doing 90 KIAS and then you come over the fence at a little over 75 KIAS.

Touchdown is pretty basic. You retard the throttles as you come over the fence and target maybe 80 KIAS and hold her off a little. The only weird thing is that you can’t descend all the way to a familiar landing sight picture because, at about 10 feet above where you think you should be touching down in a C-172, there’s an obstruction. It’s the main gear of the DC-3 squeaking down. So far, almost every landing has been a surprise that way.

But it’s amazingly well-behaved. I don’t think I’ve ever landed any airplane for the first time as well as I’ve landed the ‘three. Dan is following on the controls a lot and I can’t yet judge how much. But I’ll take some credit for the landings.

Here’s audio from one of my first landings. My callouts are really ragged here, but Dan rolls with it.

[Audio 2]

Roland was next. I think his second landing was one of the best of the day. After that, we taxied to the ramp and went for some lunch. After lunch, it was preflight inside and out again, then up.

Tom, the ATP, took the first turn at the controls. He’s really smooth and it’s clear that he’s flown for the airlines. He has as much of an issue internalizing the litany of the pattern as anyone else (and that gives me a little reason for relief), but his underlying technique is very smooth and Dan’s instructional comments to Tom are a lot more direct and assume Tom’s greater familiarity with Cockpit Resource Management (or CRM). It’s clear that there are two airline guys in the front at this point and it’s cool to hear.

Of the four of us, Tom is the only one who has a checkride coming up. The second-in-command course that Roland, Gerrit, and I are taking is a straight-up train-to-standards program with no checkride necessary. Tom, on the other hand, is prepping for a checkride on Tuesday. Dan gets Tom up front in the foremost jumpseat as often as possible and snatches moments when he can to point out things as one of the other guys flies.

I was third to fly on the afternoon flight and got another three landings, one of which was a circle-to-land. The first time around, I ran to the back to start the recorder before taking the left seat and, by the time I got situated, we were a little off-kilter in terms of the pattern. By the time I had her turned around onto something approaching final, we were pretty high and, although we could have gotten her down, Dan decided to have a little fun. We did a high-speed pass.

Yeah, a DC-3 at 160 KIAS barreling down the runway 50 feet off the deck and then a big pull and turn that ends beautifully on downwind for the next trip around.

Here’s audio from one of the trips around the pattern in the afternoon. Note that my callouts are a lot crisper and that I’m getting more of them. Plus, Dan’s holding me to a tougher standard, which is good and what I expect.

This is also going to be my circle-to-land approach.

[Audio 3]

Three last observations before I hit the sack.

First, I’m a fan of describing yourself at an uncontrolled airport by your appearance unless there’s another similar-appearing aircraft in the pattern, in which case you revert to your tail number. I flew with a guy recently who objected pretty strenuously to my doing that on the theory that another similar aircraft could appear in the pattern at any time. I’m not busting his chops here, but I think that, unless you’re at Oshkosh in July, the chances are pretty thin that another DC-3 will be sharing the pattern with you. I delighted in making the calls that “The DC-3 is turning left base.”

Second, this is a great way to train. When you’re not flying, you’re able to watch the other guy flying. You do the callouts in your head and learn from the other guy’s miscues – or get driven to perfect your own callouts when the other guy nails his. I noted in a couple of cases that we were taking cues from each other, integrating stuff that wasn’t expressly on the syllabus into our own routines because they made sense and enhanced the experience. That’s true teamwork.

Lastly, one could fly the ‘three solo, but it’s truly a two-person job. To learn to fly the ‘three is to learn to actively fly with someone else as a synchronized team. You’ll hear the callouts and the responses in the audio here and they’re all pretty necessary in order to safely and efficiently operate the aircraft. This is my first real experience with CRM and with operating the aircraft in the way an airline pilot would expect to. In some respects, the CRM is even tougher to get right than flying an airliner. But I like it a lot.