Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Who needs a change in latitude?

There's a reason the number one guy on the MD-88 in New York bids West Palm Beach, Florida layovers in February.  He's sick and tired of all the snow!

I was in Miami for 46 minutes last week---a painfully short period of time.  After deicing for twenty-five minutes at LaGuardia, and then bucking one hundred knot headwinds for three and a half hours there was absolutely zero chance I was letting the first officer do the walk around---even if it was only 65 degrees outside.  (A cold front had just pushed through.)  I would have preferred eighty degrees, but at this point in the season, I'll take what I can get, which, by the way, was sixty degrees warmer than it was in New York.  "Junior; I'll get the walk around, you program the FMS."

During the walk around a couple of things caught my eye.   First; the folks on the ramp were all bundled up.  Heavy winter jackets seem out of place in Miami.  Second; and not nearly as funny, the #4 main landing gear tire looked low.  I stared at both; pondering our fate.  What if there are no MD-90 tires in south Florida. . .  And we get to stay here in Miami. . .  And all the layover hotels are full. . .  And they send us out to that cool old hotel on the beach. . .  The bubble burst when the mechanic said:  "Just a loose valve stem, Captain.  We'll have it pumped back up in no time."

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Spirit of St. Louis

Back in December 2011 I was in Washington, DC on the 108th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  To honor the occasion I decided to visit the National Air and Space Museum, and spend a little quality time with the 1903 Flyer.  I have probably visited the museum fifteen times over the years, and have never been disappointed.  Within it's walls are the artifacts of adventures that fueled my dreams when I was young.  On a more practical note, my good friend John Mullis says he likes the museum because it has airplanes and instruments that he can understand and recognize!  The museum layout has changed over the years, as has some of the content, but the major players have always been there---the 1903 Flyer, the Bell X-1, and my favorite, the Spirit of St. Louis.

I was there to see the Wright Flyer, but (as is usually the case) most of my time was spent with the Spirit of St. Louis.  The best vantage point for viewing the Ryan NYP is from the second floor balcony, in the southwest corner of the Milestones of Flight gallery.  It is as close as one can get.  For me it is hallowed ground. . .  What must it have been like; to sit in that wicker chair for thirty-three and a half hours?  Would I have had the skill and the stamina? At this point in the game, four hours is about as long as I can withstand---and I have a comfortable chair.  And an autopilot!  You can read about Lindbergh's flight from New York to Paris all you want (the best account is his Pulitzer prize-winning The Spirit of St. Louis, published in 1953) and you can view all the movies, but the magnitude of his accomplishment doesn't hit home---not until you stand next to the airplane.  Every pilot should make the pilgrimage.

Speaking of pilgrimages. . .

The EG, and his son, Michael, were in Washington, DC just last week---representing Petaluma (California) Boy Scout Troop 9, at a FEMA ceremony (at the White House) honoring Troop 9's participation in the National Strategy supporting Youth Preparedness in America.  After the ceremony they had an opportunity to visit the National Air and Space Museum.  On Thursday I received the following message:

"Here's something you don't see every day."

Photo by Duncan Flett

Timing is everything!  The Milestones of Flight gallery is undergoing restoration.  Recently, the Spirit was lowered for inspection.  Michael and Duncan were on hand to watch as technicians removed the cowlings.  Duncan is right; you don't see that every day. . .
Fun Facts:

The Spirit of St. Louis has a fuel capacity of 425 US gallons.  The oil tank holds 25 gallons.  The Wright J-5C Whirlwind engine is rated at 220 hp.  The official flight time from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, to Le Bourget Aerodrome, Paris, France, was 33 hours, 30 minutes, 29.8 seconds.  Total flying time when the Spirit of St. Louis was retired to the Smithsonian Institution:  489 hours, 28 minutes.

The Barograph from the Spirit of St. Louis on display at the NASM.

That other airplane. . .

The 1903 Flyer, December 17, 2011.

A little something from my box of treasures. . .

Landfall, Dingle Bay, Valentia Island, May 21, 1927, by artist John T. McCoy.