Sunday, October 12, 2014

Aviation Equipment Rental

Have you ever wished that you had a video camera to record that special flight? How about a GPS tracker for a little extra piece of mind on that long flight across the rugged mountain pass?

I know that there are a lot of tools and gadgets that I would like to carry on certain flights but I simply cannot justify the initial or recurring costs. We are working on integrating a shopping cart to this blog that will allow you to rent a camera, GPS tracker, or other gizmo for a couple of days or longer if needed.

Below is an example from the shopping cart for a SPOT tracker. All rentals will include the service plan required for that device but not shipping or insurance.

GPS Rentals

Watch Our Video
User Guide for SPOT Messenger Rental
Rent a SPOT 2 GPS Personal Tracker & Locator Beacon
3 Days$??.00
7 Days$??.00
14 Days$??.00
21 Days$??.00
1 Month$??.00

Other items you might be interested in

AAA Energizer Ultimate Lithium Batteries - 3 Pack

InReach SE DeLorme 2-way Satellite Communicator / Rescue Device

Friday, May 23, 2014

Washington Pilots Association Donates $1000 to AOPAs Efforts

The Washington Pilots Association contributed $1,000 to go toward AOPA’s advocacy efforts.

This donation will support AOPA's attempt to influence changes to the current medical certification system. The proposed changes would exempt noncommercial VFR pilots that operate aircraft with six seats or less, weighing less than 6,000 pounds at speeds less than 250 knots, and at an altitude of less than 14,000 feet msl from FAA medical certification.

Why does the Washington Pilots Association (WPA) feel that the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act is important to support? It isn't a secret that General Aviation is shrinking. Some would blame over regulation, the high price of fuel, limited attention spans and a myriad of other things.

Aviation is expensive and that will never change but if we can identify roadblocks to flying and either eliminate them or lessen the impact that they have on the pilot population we just might be able to increase the number of pilots again.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Does Garmin have a PC simulator for my aviation GPS?

The answer is a resounding...... probably. Garmin has been known for their terrific customer support over the years so I would be surprised if they didn't offer some sort of free training right on their web site. Below you will find an extract taken from their web site that shows a list of supported units with links to their training products. This is a little dated but should remain helpful for years to come.

If you don't find what you are looking for, contact me directly as I have a library of material and can offer some hands on training in your airplane if you wish.

Have fun and fly safe!

Does Garmin have a PC simulator for my aviation GPS unit?

Garmin currently has PC simulators for the following aviation units:
  • GNS 400/W
  • GNS 420/W
  • GNS 430/W
  • GNS 500/W
  • GNS 530/W
  • GNS 480
  • GTN 750
  • GTN 725
  • GTN 650
  • GTN 635
  • GTN 625
  • G600 / G500
  • G1000
All simulators, except the G1000 simulators, are available to download free of charge from our website at for the GNS 400/500 series, for the G500/G600, or for the GTN 600/700 series.
The DVD-ROM for the G1000 simulator can be purchased at under PC Trainers on the Accessories tab.

What is Air Traffic Control and What Do They Do For You?

Here is a quick explanation of the various levels of Air Traffic Control (ATC). This video was made by ATC students for a competition. Please excuse any inconsistencies that you might see as they are still students. Well, by now some of them might be out in the real world as this is a couple of years old. Still, it gives you a pretty good feel for the different groupings of Air Traffic Controllers that you would deal with on a typical flight.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Instrument check-ride complete

This has been an interesting journey. While not getting too much in to my flying history, let me say that I have been trying to schedule my instrument check-ride since December 2013. I was cursed with bad weather that lasted until January and delayed the ride to the point of feeling the need for some refresher training.

I was able to get in the air just enough to knock the rust off and gain some more confidence. Did the confidence come from more flight time? Sort of. It was mostly the feeling of accomplishment knowing that even while fighting 30 knot quartering tail winds and bouncing my head off of the roof, I can still fly an ILS to the PTS standards and put it on the airport grounds. That might be a yawner for some but not for this rookie!

On to the check-ride......

I started by planning a flight from KPLU to KTTD and gathering all of the assorted performance related information, looking closely for reasons to be tripped up with non standard procedures of some sort. After cramming to the point of making myself crazy with stress, I showed up on the Tuesday after a week long vacation to Disney World. I was beginning to think that scheduling my ride for after vacation may have been a major mistake. The weather looked good until I arrived at the airport. The forecast was calling for improving conditions that would become flyable right about the time my oral would start. What actually happened was that it waited until an hour after my check-ride was cancelled to clear up in to a very nice evening.

Delayed until the next Tuesday, I studied some more and just tried to relax. My oral took place on Tuesday 18 Mar 2014. This process lasted about 2 - 2.5 hours and really was more of a discussion about flying. Of course there were the obvious questions the required a book answer but most were situation based and phrased as a question about a specific task along our planned route of flight. After answering the first question, your answer would lead in to the next question or probe deeper to see if you really understood the subject or if you were just reciting a memorized response. Not once did I feel like I was being set up or that the examiner was trying to play "stump the chump".

At the conclusion of the oral I was asked if I wanted to fly or not. A quick check of the weather showed that this was not going to be a good day for a flight with your local DPE. I don't remember the conditions exactly but the ceilings were below the personal minimums I had quoted during my oral and the winds were about 15 knots gusting to 28 or something with winds aloft around 30 knots at 3000 feet and nearing 50 at 6000 feet. Not exactly my idea of a great day for an exam. Rescheduled for the 25th of March and the 1st of April just in case.

The night of the 20th I was asked if I wanted to finish the test the next day due to a cancellation. You bet I said yes! After work on the 21st, I raced to the airport in terrible traffic with the stress of a full day of dealing with Soldiers and senior leadership weighing on my mind. I was actually hoping for bad weather but things were looking good. I filed my flight plan (KPLU-COTNY-SCENN-KTIW) and preflighted the plane.

Now for the gory details of the actual flight......

Things were going well except that the winds were picking up and I realized that it was going to get a little bumpy. During the run-up, the plane failed the mag check but I was able to burn it off and it passed on the second try. I received my clearance and started my take off roll. After climbing through 1500 feet I contacted Seattle departure. They responded with a similar tail number from the same school I was flying out of but never acknowledged my call. I was pretty sure that the plane they were asking for an ident had been sitting tied up as I moved out for my run up a few minutes earlier. ATC and I finally got on the same page with the DPE doing nothing more than chuckling a little. I was sure that I was OK but the nerves were starting to get moving. The plane that the controller confused me for was sitting on the ground waiting for a release while the controller thought he was already in the air.

Once we had the case of mistaken identity worked out, I asked to enter a hold at SCENN. This was actually one of the easiest holds I had performed during my training. Normally you arrive with the perfect teardrop entry but this time I was vectored to the west side of the field and entered via a parallel entry and had a pretty stiff wind to deal with. As I approached SCENN, the controller realized that he hadn't given me a proper EFC time. Idiot me decided that I had time to talk to ATC and copy the time on my board just as I reached my point. It actually worked out and  much to my surprise, I was only 5 seconds early after my first circuit. The DPE must have been as pleased as I was because I was told to request the ILS 17 approach. This approach went well and even though I was getting pushed around and bounced a bit. After conducting a low approach and going missed, I was vectored back to the localizer. This is where things started to get fun.

I started getting set up for this non-precision approach when, much to my surprise, I suffered a simulated gyro failure. It isn't like I wasn't expecting it to happen but I also had a controller that was as busy as I was. My last vector was taking me to the localizer at nearly 90 degrees but there was no follow on turn to intercept or further clearance. I asked the controller of he intended to take me across the approach course and received an immediate turn and clearance. My problem was that I was now partial panel and crossing the localizer. Not a big deal really but I did fly some S-turns trying to get back on center line. The controller didn't tell me and I didn't ask to contact tower before the final approach fix either. The tower controlled reminded me that I need to ask if I don't receive a frequency change before the crossing the final approach fix. The stress is starting to increase at this point. I was beginning to wonder if the examiner would approve of the way I was trying to deal with some of the quirky things that were going on. My approach was pretty good and I locked in 20 feet above my minimum descent altitude, started my circle to the west and made a low approach to runway 35.

My final approach was the GPS 35 approach from the initial approach fix (IAF) named FESAS. Other than the winds beating me up a little, this approach was pretty simple. Just remember to conduct a RAIM check, run the before landing checklist, and make the "approach active" call out. This was a touch and go that, even with the gusty crosswind, was one of my better landings. We canceled our IFR flight plan at this point and headed back VFR.

The last task was unusual attitudes. I won't get in to this one because by check-ride time, I'm sure that your instructor has just about made you puke and fear that the wings are about to rip off practicing these.

The DPE finally let me know how I was doing when she said that all I needed to do to pass was to get us home safely.

I am now an instrument rated private pilot.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

News 'Copter crashes in Seattle

I stood beneath this helicopter just a couple of weeks ago watching it takeoff from the Fisher building. I chose to share this page directly from the KOMO News web page in an attempt to recognize today's accident but to look at something other than images of wreckage. I thought the time was better served sharing the thoughts of the people that knew these men. 

News chopper crash victims remembered as professional team

News chopper crash victims remembered as professional team»PLAY VIDEO
Photographer Bill Strothman left, and Gary Pfitzner right, were killed in a helicopter crash in Seattle, Wash. March 18, 2014.

SEATTLE - Former longtime KOMO News photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner were identified Tuesday as the two victims killed in the crash of the station's news helicopter.

They were remembered by co-workers as a professional team who worked under difficult conditions to bring the latest news to residents of the Puget Sound region.

Strothman worked for many years at KOMO News and was well-known to many of the employees, earning 13 Emmy awards during his career.

After retiring from KOMO, he worked as a free-lancer and also as an employee of the helicopter leasing company that operates the KOMO News chopper.

"We all know him as one of the best storytellers to have ever graced the halls of KOMO," said news anchor and reporter Molly Shen. "It felt like a loss for us because he knows his craft so well, and he's such an artist and such a great journalist."

KOMO News anchor Eric Johnson remembered Strothman as someone who liked to talk about his craft, to get into the guts of a story. He said Bill loved the give and take of the photographer-reporter relationship.

"If Bill told you it was good, that it touched a part of him, then you could believe it was good," Johnson said.

Strothman was heavily involved in his church and community.

KOMO News anchor Dan Lewis said, "He really knew how his pictures could tell a million words. He put so much into getting just the right shots, the right video, putting it in the right place in the story. ... He was just a gentleman, a true gentleman."

Strothman's family released a statement and asked for privacy in the immediate aftermath of the accident:

"Our family is grief-stricken and in shock in the wake of the horrible tragedy that claimed the lives of Bill Strothman and Gary Pfitzner this morning. Bill was a great man, a kind soul, a devoted husband, a loving father and brother. He was a friend to everyone who knew him. Bill was a talented photographer who was a beloved part of the KOMO family for more than 30 years," the family wrote.

"We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and condolences from the community. We look forward to honoring his memory by sharing our stories, but for now we ask for and appreciate privacy during this difficult time."

He is survived by his wife Nora, a daughter, and his son Dan Strothman, who also is a KOMO News photojournalist.

The pilot, Gary Pfitzner, was also employed by the helicopter leasing company that operates the news chopper, but was a familiar sight to KOMO News employees.

"He always had a smile on his face," Shen said. "He loved what he did, loved to be able to fly and be up there above the city and see things from a perspective that most of us don't get to see."

Fellow pilots throughout the country said Pfitzner was exceptionally skilled, dedicated to safety, and passionate about his craft. His entire family said they were extremely proud of him.

"To me, he was a very dear brother," said Mark Pfitzner. "And he just always tried to take care of us."

Gary Pfitzner put himself through flight school, and became an instructor pilot.

"He tried to do his best reporting for people, and giving him pictures, and trying to help people that were watching the news every morning," Mark Pfizner said.

And after flying in the morning, Gary Pfizner would go his full time job as a composites expert, building planes for Boeing.

"He was very passionate about it," said colleague Larry Gross.

While the grief is overwhelming, Mark Pfitzner said it is a small consolation to know his brother was able to live his dream of soaring through the sky.

"He really did love to fly, and he did something that, if you're going to go, it's best to do it what you love the most," Mark Pfitzner said.

Gary is survived by his wife and two grown boys.


Watch: Dan and Molly reminisce about Bill and Gary during Tuesday's breaking news coverage:

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is missing

As I'm sure you've heard by now, a Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysian Airlines has disappeared. I am writing this about a week after this plane vanished and am simply amazed at some of the speculation regarding the events leading up to the disappearance of this aircraft. I have read theories about how the plane could have been hijacked and flown to Africa, China, or the Middle East to be used as a weapon at a later date. Others suggest that it was flown so close to a different Boeing 777 that its radar image merged with the other airliner allowing it to remain hidden until it was in an area of limited radar coverage where it was free to move about hidden from prying eyes. The current list of theories is as long as the list of "experts" that have displayed their level of ignorance as much as their expertise.

What do we know?

The only thing that we know for sure is that the airplane and all on board are missing. Aircraft telemetry systems shut down for some unknown reason and the aircraft performed a few maneuvers before vanishing. 

The hijacking theory suggests that the hijackers turned off the transponders on the airplane. This is plausible but would these supposed hijackers have enough knowledge of the systems to disable all of the systems that report automatically? It seems that the only system that can't be disabled from the flight deck is the engine monitoring systems that report to Rolls Royce in England. This makes it possible but, in my opinion, unlikely that the systems were turned off in an attempt to hide the airplane.

What do I think happened?

I am no expert but since everybody else is offering up their opinion, I will too.

I think that two scenarios are possible, an on board fire or a shoot down.

The on board fire is the most likely in my opinion and could have been growing in the avionics bay or in between the hull and interior panels for some time before becoming and issue. In 1998,  Swissair Flight 111 was lost after take off from JFK due to a fire that started in a wiring bundle that powered the in-flight entertainment system. The fire spread with little notice, caused electronics failures, and was discovered too late for the crew to save their aircraft.

Damage to the aircraft's electronics along with a possible hull breech due to the fire could have caused two things to happen that would explain the altered flight path. Let us assume for a second that the pilots were flying along fat, dumb, and happy. Then, equipment starts to fail. The radios and navigation equipment fails, smoke starts to fill the cabin and then a rapid decompression incapacitates the crew and all of the passengers. 

What would happen now?

Without human intervention, the airplane would follow whatever was programmed in to the autopilot. If the autopilot had failed, the plane would be at the mercy of the winds. A plane that is set up to fly straight and level with continue to fly straight and level until it is upset be some force. The stability of modern airplanes will return the plane to straight and level flight eventually but how long that takes depends on many variables. What the plane does while it is returning to its original state depends on how it was upset and how much force was behind that upset. It could easily climb, descend or turn after being bumped by turbulence, being hit by a sudden and strong shift in the winds, etc. Eventually the airplane would run out of fuel and crash. Even without engines, this airplane could have glided hundreds of miles depending on its altitude and possibly crashing in some lonely part of the ocean, African desert or thick jungle forest without anybody noticing. 

This is just my own theory and I will post updates as things develop but I will try to filter fact from fiction as best as I can. One thing is for sure, there are families out there that are missing their loved ones and they would like to have some answers that may never come. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Cessna Twin Icing AD

A new airworthiness directive  issued by the FAA bans most early Cessna twins from flight into known icing regardless of whether or not they are equipped with anti-icing gear.

It would appear that the FAA feels this to be necessary because too many pilots were ignoring a mandatory service bulletin that was issued by Cessna in 1997.

It was discovered that even a little ice on almost 7,000 of the twins could seriously affect the slow-speed handling.

This AD becomes effective April 7, 2014 and required the installation of a placard requiring an extra 15 knots on approach if there is an inadvertent encounter with icing.

This is the current list of the airplanes affected by this AD. (Cessna Twin)

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Aviation geeks tour Boeing factory for 747s, 777s and 787s. -

I had to share this story from CNN. I have included enough to whet the appetite and introduce the tours that Boeing puts on. I strongly suggest that you go for a Boeing tour and read the rest of the article over at CNN.COM

Wow! Making planes in the world's biggest building

By Thom Patterson, CNN
updated 10:04 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
Boeing offers a <a href='' target='_blank'>public tour </a>of its assembly plant in Everett, Washington. It's the largest building in the world by volume, covering <a href='' target='_blank'>98.3 acres. About 110,000 visitors tour the factory every year</a>.Boeing offers a public tour of its assembly plant in Everett, Washington. It's the largest building in the world by volume, covering 98.3 acres. About 110,000 visitors tour the factory every year.
Watching Boeing make giant airliners

  • Boeing allowed aviation fans unique factory access during a February convention
  • "Avgeeks" toured factories for 737, 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliner
  • Growing avgeek community challenges legacy news media
Everett, Washington (CNN) -- Sprawled out before us sits the exterior of the world's biggest building by volume. They make airliners here. Big ones.
"Let's go see some airplanes!" says our Boeing VIP tour guide.
I remind myself: This doesn't happen very often.
Yeah yeah yeah, Boeing offers public tours of this 98.3-acre airliner factory north of Seattle every day. This ain't that. This is special.
As part of a convention of aviation fans called Aviation Geek Fest, we're gaining ultra-exclusive access to the factory FLOOR. The public tour is limited to the balcony. We're about to walk knee-deep where Boeing gives birth to some of the world's biggest and most advanced airliners, including the 747-8 Intercontinental, the 777 Worldliner and the 787 Dreamliner.
Hot damn.
But not so fast -- before we go inside, Boeing has laid down some rules: no photos, no video, for our eyes only.
Here's a painful development: Our smartphones have been confiscated. Gulp. I'm already suffering from phantom phone pangs.

Plane stuck at airport
We enter through a small, inconspicuous door marked S-1. Suddenly, we're surrounded by partly assembled airliners in a room so big it takes on the feeling of an entire world. In some spots, we gaze across an unobstructed view measuring a quarter-mile.
This building is so flippin' big that -- years ago -- it created its own inside weather patterns, including vapor clouds. They eliminated that by installing a special ventilation system. Today's factory forecast: avgeeking, with continued avgeeking and a favorable chance of avgeeking later in the day.
Here are a few cool tidbits........

If you want to read the rest, follow the link below!
Aviation geeks tour Boeing factory for 747s, 777s and 787s. -

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