Podcast Supplemental

FullSizeRender (47)I’m not typically a big fan of Mondays. Sure I love my job and where I work but like any other Monday-through-Friday employee, I often find Mondays pretty tough to take. However, this past Monday two really awesome things happened, both of them involving podcasts.

The first thing had to do with the incredibly cheerful and totally fun Plane Talking UK Podcast. Carlos and Matt cover the week’s news in aviation (both civil and military) plus they usually have a guest (or two). They also read emails and play audio feedback submitted by their listeners. I was listening to Episode 115 on my way to work but thank goodness I had parked before the feedback section came on because the first piece of feedback really blew me away.

IMG_3211It was from Jennifer Parkinson, also known as “Jenny in Rome.” She had sent in audio feedback about how her husband had suggested an aerial tour of Rome for her birthday. She went on to say that she had recently read a blog post about a discovery flight and it inspired her to get flying lessons instead. Imagine my shock when she stated that the blog post was mine! (Mooney Over My House) When I first started this blog I didn’t know if anyone would even read it, let alone that it might inspire someone to give flying a try. I am truly humbled and oh so very pleased! I wish Jenny all the best and look forward to hearing all about her lessons!

AirplaneGeeks-banner-960x125The next awesome thing happened Monday night when I was invited to be a guest on the Airplane Geeks Podcast. In the pantheon of aviation podcasts, this one is right up at the top. I can’t tell you what a tremendous honor (and, quite frankly, surprise) it was to be asked. My first thought was, do these guys have any idea what they’re getting themselves into? My second thought was, boy I hope I can form a coherent sentence! And my third thought was, I have GOT to find a way to bring stairs trucks into the conversation.

Well I don’t know if I managed to speak very coherently, but I did manage to discuss stairs trucks. And we talked quite a bit about airports and what goes on behind the scenes. However, there was one question that I was unable to answer regarding where the airport gets its statistics on passenger travel. Well that just won’t do! So I did some asking around and here’s what I found out:

IMG_3203The information comes from the Department of Transportation. They take a sampling of passenger tickets (around 10%) and publish the data quarterly. The airport uses a software program which analyzes the information and makes it easier to dig in to. The data is apparently quite detailed and includes not only the point of departure and destination but connections, ticket prices, the airlines and even historical trends. Because the information is several months old by the time it is published, the airport will also look at trends in the community (what businesses are adding jobs or have moved into the area, etc.) to get an idea of whether demand for certain routes is growing.

FullSizeRender (46)Oh and in case you are wondering, yes my dad really did throw away the TV when I was in 6th grade and we didn’t have another in the house for 11 years.  Well, except for a tiny little TV that one of my brother’s friends gave him.  We hid it in his toy box and would get it out on Thursday nights when my parents worked late. The reception was terrible and we only got one channel but watching Magnum PI was a tradition with us until the little TV died.  Shhhh – don’t tell my parents!

(Pssst – the podcasts mentioned in this post are just two of several really awesome podcasts that I enjoy. Stay tuned – in the next post I’m going to cover a few others that you don’t want to miss!)

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Mooney Over My House

Did you hear about the state-wide TFR that was issued last Saturday? Did you hear they brought in the National Guard and evacuated the streets? Did you hear they put a special NTSB go-team on stand-by? OK, so none of that really happened. But it should have. Because THIS happened:

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Yes, you are seeing that correctly. Someone was crazy enough to let me take the controls of an airplane while it was in the air. How on earth did this happen?

Let me start with a confession. Until this past weekend, I had never been up in a small plane before. Heck, I haven’t even flown commercially in ages. And to be honest, I’ve never had any desire to be a pilot. Yet somehow I found myself pulling up at a small municipal airport on a gorgeous sunny day looking for a CFI named Greg who clearly didn’t know what he was getting himself into.

Then again, maybe he did. He was smart enough to be based at an airport with no stairs trucks, plows or broom trucks to distract me. But what it did have was a nice 5,000 ft runway and lots of very cool airplanes sitting around. Among them, his Mooney:

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I complimented Greg on his lovely airplane and told him how much I appreciated his willingness to take me up in it, however I felt he should know that that there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to fly it. He just laughed and asked if I knew anything about the physics of flight. He then proceeded to talk about the wings and lift and other related topics, at which point I knowingly nodded my head and said, “Ah yes, Delta P.”

IMG_2330Apparently he doesn’t listen to the Airline Pilot Guy podcast because he made no comment. Instead he ignored my fit of giggles and handed me a checklist. He pointed to the walk-around items and told me to read them out loud. So I read the checklist and we walked around the airplane, examining each thing on the list.

After that it was time to climb in and get ready to go. He helped me with the door and my headset and went over a few safety procedures. He also pointed out the attitude, altitude and speed indicators, along with a few other items on the instrument panel.

IMG_2296 At this point I piped up, “Before I drove here this morning I reviewed the airport map, the sectional chart and checked the weather. Winds are out of the south at 4 knots. I presume we’ll be using runway 28 today. Can you tell me how the Class C airspace around the pax airport will affect our flight?” I think he might have been just a little relieved to discover that although I’m rather silly, I’m actually not completely clueless. He confirmed that we would, in fact, be using 28 and that we would stay in the proper altitudes to work around the Class C airspace.

I think everything got real for me when he fired up the prop, we listened to ATIS and taxied out to the runway. There was another plane on approach but it was several miles out. Greg announced our intentions to back-taxi to the end of the runway, turn around and take off. As we pulled onto the runway I confirmed that we were, in fact, on 28. I also looked to make sure the runway was clear of traffic.

IMG_2303It was at this point Greg said, “OK, we’re ready for take off.  Are you ready to fly the plane?” Um… what? Wait – remember that whole “I’m not flying this plane” thing? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding! I was just about to remind him of this but the next thing I knew we were accelerating down the runway and then we lifted up and I saw the ground gracefully fall away beneath us and at that point I pretty much forgot everything else. Oh. My. God. We’re FLYING!!!

It’s really difficult to find the right words to describe flying in a small plane for the first time. It was incredibly amazing, incredibly awe-inspiring, incredibly beautiful. And, to be honest, just the teensiest bit nerve-wracking – at least at first. It was not an especially windy day, but there was a little turbulence as we flew out over the nearby reservoirs. Greg explained the flow of air around the surface of the earth, how it rises and falls around the terrain, like water in a stream. He then climbed the plane to 4,000 feet and I immediately noticed how much calmer it was.

IMG_2337If my instructor had any flaws it would have to be that he was really good at ignoring my protests. No matter how many times I told him I was NOT going to fly his plane, he somehow got me to make some gentle turns as well as climb and descend. We flew east and then turned south to fly over my neighborhood. I was surprised to find it didn’t take too long for me to recognize where we were. We circled around and I was clearly able to see my house, my yard, the neighbors’ houses… Hey! I didn’t realize those guys had such a big swimming pool!

IMG_2394Visibility was amazing. I looked out and could see not only the pax airport, where I spend so much of my time, but also the cargo airport and the GA airport – and at least one other airport as well. The sight of all those airports was actually rather comforting. It was nice to know there were so many places to land if we needed them.

After checking out my house we turned north and west, heading back to the airport. Greg briefly discussed the airport traffic pattern, but he knew that I already understood how it worked so he turned his attention to completing the pre-landing check list. It was at this point that he asked if I was ready to do the landing. This was the first thing that flashed through my mind:

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Um… he’s kidding, right? Just to be safe, I put my foot down (not literally since both feet were resting lightly on the rudder pedals) and said “I am absolutely NOT landing this plane!!!!” It was pretty clear that Greg was just having a little fun with me because this time he accepted my protests and handled the landing – which was, of course, very nicely executed.

IMG_2392We taxied to the ramp, parked the plane and we both climbed out. My first thought upon putting my feet on the ground was… wait a minute… did I just fly an airplane??? Oh holy cow I DID!!!! I just flew a freaking airplane!!!! I looked around thinking for sure the FAA or the NTSB would he there to haul me away, but nope.

For those of you wondering about motion sickness (which was my biggest concern going into all this), I felt fine while we were flying. After we landed, however, some queasiness set in. Fortunately it passed after ten or fifteen minutes.

IMG_2399Still trying to wrap my mind around everything that happened, I gave Greg a very sincere thank you. Not only was he good teacher with the patience of a saint, but he managed to get me to fly his plane despite my adamant assertions that it wasn’t going to happen.

His last act was to hand me a log book which he had filled out detailing my very first lesson. He reminded me to take the log book with me any time I fly with an instructor so I can keep track of the hours. I laughed because of course I have no intention of becoming a pilot.

But then again…

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