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Sunday, April 10, 2016


Ek = ½ mv2

Much of flying is about that formula.  You don't have to sit there and do the math, as much as you have to feel it.  What it is saying is that Kinetic Energy equals one half the product of Mass, times the Velocity (speed) squared, of a moving object .  For example, if the speed is 5 miles per hour, the mass would be multiplied by 25, then divided by 2 to equal the kinetic energy.  If the speed was 10 mph, the speed multiplier would be 100.  Small increase in speed, big increase in kinetic energy.  

If that is making your head hurt, let it suffice to say that the force at which you run into something is reduced considerably with each small reduction of speed.  If you are going to hit something, reduce your speed as much as possible.

Good pilots know this kind of stuff instinctively and they know it better, because they just feel it.  They don't have to crunch the numbers.  They fly the plane.

A plane that is sitting on the ramp, has no kinetic energy.  Once it starts moving, the kinetic energy starts increasing at one half mass times speed squared.  When it takes off and climbs, it is building more energy.  When you reach 30,000 feet, at 500 miles per hour, you have stored lots of energy in your plane.  You have about a 100 mile radius to glide your plane back to the ground.  If all of your engines flamed out, you still have lots of options for a landing spot.  You just have to get it right the first time.  You can't go around.

Talk to a fighter pilot enough and you will eventually hear the word energy.  They feel it in the seat of the pants.  They see it in the airspeed indicator and the angle of attack indicator.  They know instinctively when they have an energy advantage and when the enemy has one.  To them, it can be a matter of life and death.

With all that introduction, let me tell you about all the trouble I had with my early experience flying jet airplanes.

By the time I got to Pacific Express, I had not been flying regularly for 4 years, just a little time in the simulators and flying some friends' small planes.  Lots of rust.  Combining this with the transition from small, piston engine, propeller driven planes to jets and I was behind the curve for a while.

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. Mark Twain
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mark_twain.html

I had to learn some new stuff.  In a plane with propellers, the props act like a brake, when you reduce power.  They are like a big disc.  Jets are much cleaner, aerodynamically.  They don't slow down very well.  When you are trying to descend and slow at the same time, you have a problem.

For normal planning purposes, we would use a 3 to 1 ratio - 3 miles per 1,000 feet of descent.  It takes about 1 mile to reduce speed 10 knots.  The plane must be slowed to an indicated speed of 250 knots below 10,000 ft., because that is where the smaller, slower airplanes tend to congregate.  For example, if you were landing at an airport at sea level and descending from 30,000 ft. at 300 knots indicated, you would start descending 100 miles from the airport and throw in 5 miles for slowing at 10,000 ft., then a few miles to slow down to the maximum speed for extending your flaps and landing gear.  A mile for each 10 knots that speed is below 250.  Piece o' cake.  Second grade math, eh?

If you start down too late, you have to do things like use the speed brakes or make a bunch of inefficient turns or a combination.  You are thereby admitting that you screwed up.  If you start down too early, you have to add power during the descent.  Yep, you screwed up and everyone knows it.  

Then, when you are going to the bigger airports, you have crossing restrictions at certain altitudes and speeds.  If you mess that up, you get in trouble with the FAA.  After you have done this for a while, it is second nature.  For a new guy, who is rusty, it is a headache.

Those are just some examples of the issues I was dealing with.  Then there is the human element.  Chico was a small base, only 4 crews.  We bid for our schedules, based on seniority.  I was the junior first officer.  Of the 4 captains, one was an asshole.  Guess who got to fly with him all the time.  So, while I'm struggling with getting myself up to speed, I'm flying with a guy who has less than zero interest in being helpful.  He believed it was not his job to teach some newbie.  

When I left Butler, my flying confidence was as high as it could be without getting myself in trouble.  Now, it was as low as it had been since I started flying.  I was beginning to wonder if I had made a wise career choice and I mean the decision to be an airline pilot.  

Then, Captain Ahole starts asking me if I still thought I had made the right move coming to work for Pacific Express, because things were not going well.  The company wasn't turning a profit.

The way I heard it, they had come into the Los Angeles Basin/San Francisco Bay market (The second biggest airline market in the world.  The biggest is the East Coast Shuttle.)  with a big splash.  Good looking flight attendants with short skirts, with slits up the side, free booze and fares lower than anyone could make money with.  Then they tried to bring the fares up to where they could make money with their lower cost structure, but the competition could not.  The competition kept the fares down where PacEx had started them.  They could subsidize them with other routes in their system.  That is the classic way legacy airlines battled cheap fare, new entry airlines. 

I had lots of things on my mind.  That is about the time Doreen told me she was pregnant.  We had lots of fun experiences in Chico because of the expected arrival of our first child.  

Some of my favorite actually happened when I was on a trip.  Remember that we were boarding horses for a couple owners.  We had 6 horses at the peak.  Our landlords fences were not the best and sometimes the horses got out.  The neighbor would call and say the horses were in their field, eating grass.  I have this image of Doreen walking down the road in her pregnant lady dress, carrying a bucket of oats, as the 6 horses followed her back to the ranchero.

Another one is when the wife of one of my fellow Chico first officers found out Doreen was having a baby and did not know anyone out there.  She is Linda and was married to my pal, John Patrick (JP).  He had met her in Pittsburgh, when he was attending the USAir BAC 1-11 school there.  Linda put together a baby shower with the wives of several of the wives of other pilots.  All women who Doreen did not know and never saw again.  Burgh Girls stick together.

I was there for the third event.  We took a couple of the horses for a ride one day and were riding around a fence on a slope when the horse Doreen was riding started bucking for some reason known only to the horse.  She was far more experienced at riding than I and managed to hold on some how.  I didn't even see it, because I was riding in front of her.  When she told me about it, I said that would be the end of the horse riding until the baby was born.

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