This website was about voyages on various boats and then a plane owned by John and Laura Lee Samford of Birmingham, Alabama. The last boat and plane have been sold, so the blog has turned to other travels and comments on life events. It also contains other blather user-generated content. Check out what you like and ignore the rest. Thanks for stopping by.

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Sunday
May172015

Vicenza, Italy

We are staying in a rented apartment in the middle of the ancient town of Vicenza, where we are on something of a pilgrimage for Laura Lee to see the architecture of Andrea Palladio. He designed a vast number of buildings built here in the 16th century. Our view of his work is up close and personal as the view from our window (to the right) is the Basilica Palladiana, designed from 1546 to 1549, his first public commission.

Laura Lee walked to two of his nearby villas yesterday, we drove out to one about 30 miles away this morning, and she visited “Palazzo Chiericati” and a theater, the “Teatro Olimpico”, this afternoon in town. I will refrain from showing my lack of architectural knowledge by further comment, but suffice it to say she is in heaven. Below this entry is the Lovely Laura Lee photographing the ceiling of the villa we visited this morning.

Meanwhile, I am checking out the town, the pasta, the wine, the Gelato, etc., and growing accustomed to the idea of an afternoon siesta, all as part of my recovery from the bicycle trip we completed Thursday afternoon. You can see the entries for each day of biking below, but nothing was written because we had little time, and we were exhausted at the end of each day. Adding up the numbers for five days on a bicycle in Tuscany, here are the statistics: 

Miles — 120.67
Time Riding — 16:12
Average Speed — 7.31 mph
Altitude Climbed — 11,173 feet
Fastest Speed — 32.4 mph
Calories Burned — 8,899
The average uphill climb each day exceeded 2,000 feet and one day was more than 3,000 feet.
We will be in Vicenza until Wednesday and then in Venice for five nights before heading home.
Ciao! And here’s Laura Lee on the floor of the villa.

 

 

Thursday
May142015

Final Day of Biking

Thursday
May142015

Day 4

Wednesday
May132015

Day 3

 

Monday
May112015

Second Day Biking

Sunday
May102015

First Day Biking -- Two Parts

Saturday
May092015

Piggish Americans adjusting to scarce resources

We are in Florence, Italy now, preparing for our bicycle trip through Tuscany which begins tomorrow morning. It has been years since I have been out of the country, except to the Bahamas where I was on my own boat, so I have forgotten how scarce resources are and how shocking it is for spoiled Americans to deal with.

For example, although we are in a very nice Westin Hotel, we couldn’t figure our how to have electricity in the room when we checked in yesterday. Turns out our room key card must be inserted into a slot inside the door to have any power at all in the room. This is not a problem while you are in the room or overnight, but if you have multiple electronic devices to recharge, you can’t leave the room with both keys and continue to charge. And there are other little things like water-saving devices, etc., none of which are bothersome.

But wifi? Somehow it appears to be a very scarce and rationed commodity over here. While we are getting it free in the room as members of some Starwood Hotel club, the normal charge is 15 Euros for each 24 hours. And further, no more than three devices can use it per room, meaning that two phones and two tablets cannot be logged on. This is not a restriction on simultneaous use, but it means once three devices have been looged on at all, there can be no more, even if everything else is disconnected.

We all understand that Americans are arrogant and wasteful, but it is certainly difficult to adjust to scarcity once you have lived otherwise, as we will no-doubt see as our California friends learn to conserve water.

Tuesday
May052015

20th Anniversary

Here it is May, and I have not posted on this blog for quite awhile. I may have had a following here among boaters until I sold the boat, and I may have had a following among pilots but I have now sold the plane. So this blog will deteriorate into “what I did on my vacation”.

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of my wedding to the Lovely Laura Lee, and I am still very much in love. No other woman has put up with me for this length of time, so she deserves an award, and my undying love.

We celebrate tomorrow by departing on a trip to Italy. We spend tomorrow night at the Atlanta airport and depart Thursday afternoon on an overnight flight to Florence. Sunday is the beginning of a Butterfield and Robinson 5-day bicycle trip through Tuscany. I have been biking quite a bit lately, but the hills of Tuscany may be a challenge compared to the flat cycling in the Low Country.

I will keep a log here of the trip. Wish us luck.

Tuesday
Mar032015

Guess I will need to change the Blog name again

I used to call this blog “Ship’s Log” when I had a boat. Then I sold the boat and renamed it Flight Log. Now I have sold the plane and I guess it will just be old man’s log.

Saturday
Dec132014

Back Home, and maybe for sale

I flew up to Charlotte yesterday, met with the shop people about my plane’s annual inspection, and spent some time with the broker there discussing the value of my plane. As for the inspection, the plane is perfect at nearly 1,000 hours. Everything checked out well, and I had the prop overhauled and a few other inspections recommended at this time.

As for the broker, as much as I love flying and love this plane, it might make sense to give it up. I flew it more than 150 hours in 2013 but less than 50 hours this year. Much as I love it, I need to look at the cost/benefit analysis and determine whether I am using it enough to make it worthwhile. We shall see.

Tuesday
Dec022014

Annual Inspection

I had a short flight up to Rock Hill, SC Sunday to Skytech Inc., the Piper Service Center there, for my plane’s annual inspection. I had planned to take it up before Thanksgiving but we had several days of bad rainy weather, so the trip was pushed back to the last day I could legally fly the plane before its annual inspection. The last annual was done in November and so expired on Sunday, November 30.

The trip up was delightful with perfect weather and a strong tailwind that had me clipping along at 155 knots. The trip was only one hour 20 minutes. Rock Hill is just south of Charlotte so I hopped a non-stop flight back to Savannah yesterday.

This will be a fairly major inspection as it is the standard annual plus the plane is just coming up on 1,000 hours of total flight time. There are a number of optional but recommended inspections due now, and several optional items that the previous owners opted not to do along the way. I am getting many of these done except those that I am advised are “ridiculous”. In aviation, the manufacturers must use a CYA mentality of recommending everything, so a considerable degree of investigation is needed to sort the prudent from the stupid inspections. The service center emailed me the following list yesterday from which we are picking and choosing. The number before each item is the number of hours for that project:

2.0 - 400hr Inspect Airborne Pressure Manifold
1.0 - 400hr G243 Battery Cap Check (400hr/1 yr)
8.0 - 400hr Valve/Rocker Inspection
N/C - 500hr Replace Central Instrument Air Filter (500hr/1yr)
3.0 - 500hr Desludge Propeller and Crankshaft
16.0- 1000hr Replace Engine Fluid Hoses (Except for Type D)
4.0 - Propeller Overhaul (2400hr/6 yr)
0.5 - 30day Battery Compartment Inspection
0.5 - 30day Portable Fire Extinguisher Inspection
0.5 - 30day Test ELT
N/C - 90day Check Hydraulic and Brake Fluid
N/C - 90day Clean Fuel Filter
0.5 – 6mos Lube Propeller
2.0 – 12mos  Perform Capacity Test of Standby Attitude Indicator Battery
2.0 - 12mos Inspect 1H5 Manifold Check Valve per Airborne SL 39A (after 5yrs from mfg date)
2.5 - 72mos Replace Aero Accessories Vacuum Pump Shear Coupling
15.0- 7yr Perform Detailed Cabin Inspection
5.0 – 7yr Remove Inboard Metal Fuel Tanks and Inspect for Corrosion per 28-10-00
4.0 – Replace fuel tanks Flexible Hose Interconnect Couplings and Vent Hoses Each 7yrs TIS
The big detailed cabin inspection, replacing all engine hoses, and the valve rocker inspection all add up to 39 hours of pretty high-priced labor and none of these need to be done right now. So I believe I will get a good bit of the work done and have a safe plane with my pocketbook reasonably intact.
I realize I haven’t been posting here, and I’m looking forward to some more flying adventures and more blogging. We are reasonably finished now completing our move to live in Richmond Hill, Georgia, so I should have some more time on my hands for flying.

 

Sunday
Oct192014

Months and Months

I have not been posting here at all. There has not been much to say. I am still flying, back and forth from Richmond Hill, Georgia to Birmingham, Alabama, but it is nothing worth writing home about.

However, today I have something I wish to publish. I have been receiving more and more emails from lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers, and insurance agents with long disclaimers in fine print in a “footer” stating that the information might be confidential, that you shouldn’t have even read it if it wasn’t meant to be sent to you, and other such nonsense. This weekend, I wrote (with some heavy borrowing from other parodies) my own footer which I might start adding to my emails. It reads as follows:

This communication (together with all attachments) was written by a lawyer. Well, not exactly by a currently licensed lawyer, but at least by a person who once was a lawyer. It may contain privileged or confidential information, especially if you or the intended recipient are my lawyer, accountant, spouse, or shrink, and I reserve and assert all rights that may apply to it. If you are not the intended recipient, it probably means that I screwed up the address or you are reading someone else’s email, but you should be able to tell from the context. If you believe that you have received this communication in error, you have most likely already read it before getting to this warning, but printing, copying, retransmitting, disseminating or otherwise using the information represents a digital-age faux pas, especially if I have written something embarrassing. Also, please let me know that you have received this communication in error so that I can try again. I do not represent you as your attorney because I’m no longer licensed and not getting paid, but I am happy to advise you how to live your life. You get what you pay for and no duties are intended or created by this communication. Most legal rights have time limits, and your time is probably up already, but this e-mail does not constitute advice on the application of limitation periods unless otherwise so expressly stated. I cannot accept orders to buy or sell securities for your account by email, or by any other means, nor can I accept changes to your insurance coverage. This email does not purport to make any sense, and certainly not to those with no sense of humor, low self-esteem, or irrational religious beliefs. Please check the time of day this email was sent to divine if it could have been penned under the influence of alcohol or sleeping medications. No animals were harmed in the production of this email, but the Terrier next door is living on borrowed time. IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: I have no idea what a Circular is or what Circular 230 says, but whatever I am required to tell you, consider it disclosed. Good luck to you avoiding penalties imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. AUTOCORRECT DISCLOSURE: In addition to the fact that hackers could have intercepted and changed this electronic transmission, typos are inevitable when I type, and the damned autocorrect function of my phone or computer may have changed this message, creating unintended and sometimes hilarious constipation. Just enjoy the results at my expense if they are funny. If anything in this email offends you or causes a negative rectum, some of the words may have been changed, and I expressly disclaim any responsibility for writing any or all such material. I suggest you take it up with Microsoft or Apple. FORGOTTEN ATTACHMENT DISCLOSURE: These days, I often refer to attachments in my emails and forget to attach them or even to create them. Please be kind in your reminders and I will try again if the attachment exists and was not included, if you really are the intended recipient. DISCLAIMER DISCLOSURE: Someone wrote this disclaimer, and if it contains anything that is false, misleading, offensive, illegal, or incorrect, I assume no responsibility and disclaim any such parts of the disclaimer.

Friday
Feb142014

Rhett Butler is Coming Home to His Beloved Scarlett O'Hara in Georgia

I am at the Green River Lodge in Morgantown, Kentucky, the only motel within 60 miles of my destination tomorrow, Draco Kennels in Hardinsburg, Kentucky. Morgantown claims to be the catfish capital of the world, and maybe it is, but I’m not sure catfish is on the menu at McDonalds or Sonic which are the only places I have seen to eat nearby.

We had scheduled a flight here in my plane last Sunday, but bad weather interfered, and other circumstances conspired so that I had to drive roughly 10 hours from Savannah today to pick up Rhett Butler tomorrow. The lovely Laura Lee is in New York, and I had nothing better to do than drive off into the winter today to bring Rhett home. Rhett is a 9-week-old Gordon Setter who is joining our household.

Scarlett O’Hara, the Irish Setter at right, arrived in our home some eight years ago when we already had two Labs, Moose and Indica. Moose tolerated Scarlett immediately and allowed her to crawl all over him and abuse him greatly. Indica, our female, was far more removed, and only barely tolerated the wild young puppy in the house. But while Indica was the queen, Scarlett was clearly a princess in waiting to one day be in control. She has been an only child at our house for some time now, and we are a little anxious about how she will take to Rhett. But then Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind had somewhat ambivalent feelings about Rhett Butler, so we should expect fireworks. Scarlett is boarding for a couple of nights and has no idea her life is about to be upended, while Rhett of course will be leaving home for the first time, and he will be upended as well I am sure.

The trip here today was uneventful, but nevertheless an adventure as I have not driven for 10 hours in years. It was all Interstate highways until the last leg, I-16 to Macon, I-75 through Atlanta to Chatanooga, I-24 to Nashville, and I-65 to just south of Bowling Green where I turned north and went into the middle of nowhere. I don’t normally use the tracking device in the car, but I turned it on today to record the trip.

The motel is adequate, and warm with the loud through-wall heater set to high. I’ve got the TV on to watch the Olympics, hoping that skating will be minimal and downhill skiing prominent, and I’m waiting to see if I win the Powerball Lottery tonight. I bought a ticket because the jackpot is up to $330 million ($189 million cash). Somebody has to win, and it might as well be me. If I win, I think I should build a nice hotel and restaurant here in Morgantown.

The only remarkable thing about the Green River Lodge is that there is only one door and one fixed-glass window in my room, but there is a prominent “EXIT” sign over the only door, and a sign taped to the door which reads “IN CASE OF A FIRE OR AN EMERGENCY EXIT THROUGH THIS DOOR”. Makes me wonder, since it is the only way out of the room. Perhaps this is a requirement of the Fire Marshall here in the “Catfish Capital of the World”.

The adventure will continue when I pick up Rhett Butler in the morning, and I will post pictures of him on the trip home when I get back to Georgia tomorrow night.

 

Tuesday
Nov122013

More DeLorme Tracking

Tuesday
Oct292013

DeLorme inReach

I have a new gadget I have been learning to use when I fly. It is called a DeLorme inReach Satellite Communicator. It does all kinds of cool things. First, it is a GPS that figures out your location and transmits it to a site that displays it on a map on the internet. Second, you can send and receive texts using the Iridium satellite network. And third, it has an SOS button that will transmit your need for help to rescue authorities while also giving them your location.

Today I flew from Hinesville, Georgia up to Rock Hill, SC, just south of Charlotte, to leave my plane to get its annual inspection. I texted the Lovely Laura Lee and a couple of other people when I took off, giving them a link to follow me on the DeLorme map. The trip was uneventful, and I’m spending the night here near Charlotte, where I fly out tomorrow on an airline while my plane remains here to get its inspection. 

Here is the map of my trip today, and a zoomed in look at my location when I landed. I had the gadget set to transmit my location every 10 minutes. Very cool.

Sunday
Sep222013

Still Flying

So here’s a shout out to my friend David Ovson who claims to be a reader and follower of the plane. I ran into David the other day and he questioned why FlightAware had me flying to Auburn last weekend without showing a return trip. No, I’m not still in Auburn. We flew down to the game VFR with flight following and got put into the system. On the trip home, Air Traffic Control was too busy to enter us fully into the system so FlightAware had no idea we departed. Atlanta Center did give us radar following until we were close enough to call Birmingham Approach to watch us home. While I usually file IFR flight plans to get radar traffic advisories on entire trips, that was not the best idea flying into a game at Auburn as they were all too busy to be much help, and the weather was great.

Tomorrow morning I will fly back to Savannah (to the airport at Wright Field in Hinesville where I keep the plane). I have already filed an IFR flight Plan for traffic advisories, and to keep David happy as he follows me along. I’ll try to do a better job of updating the blog. Let’s have lunch when I’m back in Birmingham David.

Saturday
Aug172013

Weather

Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of rain? This has been a terrible summer to try to fly anywhere in the Southeast. In the mornings, we have low foggy ceilings. As they begin to burn off near noon, the afternoon thunderstorms begin to build. It’s hard to catch the right moment to launch. And Thursday, it was complicated by a front that had passed through Birmingham and became stationary between Birmingham and Savannah. Having passed on flying because of weather Wednesday, I was trying really hard to get back to Savannah Thursday, and somehow I timed it just right. I left Birmingham around 11:00 am CDT and arrived at my destination at around 2:15 pm EDT. The flight track above shows the weather at some point during my trip but there were actually more openings to fly through than appear here.

It was not an easy flight. I was in IFR conditions most of the day, had to fly south to Eufala before heading east, and then had to dodge thunderstorms and shoot a full GPS approach almost to minimums to get into Wright Field in Hinesville, GA. But it was a confidence builder. At one point, the gaps between storms I had been aiming for began to close up, and I thought about landing somewhere near Macon. But with the help of onboard weather and helpful controllers, I was able to shoot the narrow gaps and dodge the storms.

Then I had to worry about getting into Wright Field. The minimums on a GPS approach to Runway 6L are close to 600 feet above the ground, and the ceiling was at 400 feet most of the day. The last hour of my trip the celiling had risen to 700 feet and just before my arrival were reported at 900 feet, so the approach was a piece of cake, and I made it back safe and sound. Had I left Birmingham any earlier, I couldn’t have gotten into Wright Field and would have had to divert elsewhere. Had I left any later, the stoms would have forced me to land somewhere near Eufala.

Just to complicate things, I got a screen alert during the trip that the engine sensors were not reporting in to the glass cockpit and all engine readouts went away. This presented a few new problems because I no longer had fuel guages, manifold pressure, RPM’s, fuel flow, engine temperatures or oil pressure. I let the air traffic controller know of the problem but I quickly figured out that there was no sense in stopping, as a landing at my destination wasn’t far and would be no more difficult than a landing along the way. Without fuel guages, I stayed on the fuel tank I was using longer than usual so that I coud be sure of having plenty of fuel for the landing in the other tank. I left the RPM where it had been set at 2400 RPM until going to full RPM just before landing. I also left the mixture where it had been set for leaning at 9,000 feet until moving it to full rich for landing. The throttles I simply adjusted for proper airspeed and descent rate throughout the approach. Everything worked out just fine, and I landed without any problems. Since this wasn’t a real emergency, I didn’t want to reset any circuit braekers in the air for fear of screwing up something else. But after landing a resetting of the Data Aquisition Unit (DAU) breaker solved the problem. If it happens again, the DAU may need to be replaced (under warranty).

So here I am back at Ford, until my next attempt to find good weather. 

 

Sunday
Jul282013

Flight 214, revisited

Here is the best analysis I have seen yet of this crash, explaining that it is hard to believe that three pilots in the cockpit would not notice the fatal loss of airspeed, and noting how the autothrottle settings may have contributed. From http://leadership.ng/news/260713/b777-accident-automation-paralysis:

 

B777 Accident: Automation Paralysis?

Airspeed eroded despite six eyes on the Asiana 777 flight deck.

Complications and distractions aside, over-reliance on automation systems appears to have trumped basic flying skills and crew resource management in the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.

Adding to the confusion are multiple modes for autothrottle systems that link to complex auto-flight and autopilot systems. Autothrottles provide automatic speed or vertical speed control, including stall prevention in some modes, allowing pilots to focus on the other tasks. According to Boeing documentation, the 777’s autopilot has five operating modes.

Mode confusion could have played a role in the Asiana crash -the pilot-in-command of the highly automated 777-200ER expected that the Boeing’s autothrottle system would hold the aircraft’s approach speed to a pre-set value of 137kt. as the aircraft, high on the initial approach, descended to capture a visual or electronic glideslope.

The system did not maintain the speed, leaving the engines at flight idle through the final portions of the approach and placing the aircraft very near an aerodynamic stall less than 200ft. above San Francisco Bay in a high-drag state with landing gear and flaps deployed to 30 degrees before pilots detected the error.

The crew attempted a full-thrust go around, but the call came too late, as the twinjet’s main landing gear and tail clipped a seawall ahead of Runaway 28L 1.5 seconds later. The impact removed the landing gear and the empennage, leaving everything forward of the aft pressure bulkhead to skid and spin uncontrolled on its belly down the runaway. Despite the violent conclusion, the airframe and cabin largely held together, allowing 123 of the 307 passengers and crew on board to walk away unassisted.

While the NTSB’s final analysis will likely take a year or more to complete, preliminary information from the cockpit voice and flight data recorders and pilot interviews indicate that distractions and automation surprises appeared to cause the pilots to lose altitude and airspeed awareness.

“I don’t know how the whole crew could take their eyes off the speed,” a 777 fleet captain for a major carrier tells Aviation Week. “One of the basic tenets of a stabilized approach is speed.”

Internationally accepted guidelines call for air speed and thrust to be stable and the aircraft on the proper glide path by 1000ft. above ground level for an instrument approach and 500ft. for a visual approach. The 777 captain’s airline recommends that pilots have the landing gear down by 2000 ft. altitude and final flaps no lower than 1500 ft.  If the approach becomes unstable at any time below the entry altitude, pilots are advised to perform a go-around.

Complicating the arrival for the Asiana crew was an air traffic control request to maintain 180kt. until 5nm from the airport during the final leg of the visual approach, requiring pilots to bleed off 20kt. airspeed before lowering the flaps to 30 degrees. The tower later cleared Flight 214 to land when it was 1.5nm from the runaway. Some carriers allow for pilots to land with 25 degrees flaps, which can be deployed at 185kt. or below.

The left-seat pilot, the “pilot-flying,” was not officially the pilot-in-command as he was roughly midway through the airline’s initial operating experience phase for 777 checkouts. The instructor pilot in the right seat was pilot-in-command, on his first flight as an instructor pilot. He had never flown a 777 into San Francisco. At press time, it was not clear what roles the two front-seat pilots and a relief first officer in the jump seat had set in terms of crew resource management.

Though GPS-based vertical guidance was likely available to replace Runaway 28L’s inoperative instrument landing system glideslope, the Asiana crew may have elected to fly a visual approach using the four-light precision approach path indicator (PAPI) located near the touchdown point on the runway. When centered in the PAPI’s 2.85-deg. glideslope, pilots will see two white and two red lights. All red indicates a position significantly below the glideslope, while all white lights indicates one well above the references glideslope.

The instructor pilot told investigators that at 500 ft. altitude, he realized the aircraft was below the PAPI’s visual glideslope and told the left seat pilot to “pull back” on the control yoke. “He had set the speed at 137kt. and assumed the autothrottles were maintaining the speed,” the NTSB says. Depending on the auto-flight mode selected, autothrottles, if armed and turned on, should automatically control engine thrust to maintain a pre-set speed in  this case 137kt., the reference landing speed for the 777-200ER that day. 

There are caveats, however. In the takeoff/go-around flight-level change (FLCH) auto-flight modes, the autothrottle will not automatically activate to maintain the selected speed. FLCH is pitch mode used to climb or descend at a constant airspeed using the elevator for pitch control. There are also “mode surprises,” certain conditions in which modes will transition without the pilot’s knowledge, potentially putting the automation into a mode like FLCH without the pilot’s knowledge.

By late week, The NTSB had not said whether the pilots had purposefully or mistakenly entered a mode that inhibited the autothrottles, or if the autothrottle system failed. During interviews, the instructor pilot told officials the aircraft was “slightly high” when it descended through 4000ft on the approach and he set the auto-flight system’s vertical speed mode for a 1,500ft./min descent rate. NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said July 10 that during the final 2.5 min. of flight, the flight data recorder shows transition to “multiple autopilot modes and multiple autothrottle modes.” “We need to understand what those modes were, if they were commanded by pilots, commanded inadvertently, and if the pilots understood what the mode was doing,” he says.

Source: AW & ST July 15, 2013


Sunday
Jul072013

Flight 214

I have a number of people asking me as a pilot what could possibly have gone wrong to cause the crash in San Francisco yesterday. Well, it could have been any number of things. But it is possible to look at what actually happened and speculate on a few things that could cause it.

I have gone back and looked at the track of the flight on a site called FlightRadar24. What set up the problem, if the data is correct, was that the plane was doing a very fast descent to the final approach course and for some reason failed to slow the descent and get into a stabilized approach at the appropriate time. It was descending at 1,536 feet per minute when it was only 1,000 feet above the water which would mean that it was only 40 seconds away from hitting the water. Somewhere during that last minute, the pilot pulled the nose up sharply to stop the descent and try to make it to the runway. However, the sharp pullup without any additional power slowed the plane down to 85 knots while it was still falling at 768 feet per minute 75 feet above the water, and a stall warning went off only four seconds before the tail hit the breakwater. Normal final approach speed should have been around 135 knots with a roughly 600 feet per minute descent.

So what could have caused the rapid descent to go on too long? Any number of things. The altimeter could have malfunctioned or been set incorrectly so that the crew, over water, thought their altitude was higher than it was. The crew could have thought the autopilot was set to level them off at a higher altitude and not paid attention as they descended too low. Alternatively, they could have thought the autopilot would automatically join the ILS glide slope to level their altitude, when the glide slope was not functioning for that runway yesterday.

Any of these situations could have been caused by an equipment malfunction, but that is hard to explain with the redundancy built into these planes, and with at least two and possibly four pilots in the cockpit. What is worse, if the problem was noticed 20 or 30 seconds before impact, there should have been time to apply power, pull the nose up, get the gear up, and go around. However, at seven seconds before impact when someone called for a speed increase or at four seconds when the stall warning went off, there was no time left.

It has been pointed out that it is sometimes difficult to have good depth perception or judge altitude on a visual approach over water. But this plane was on short final, and every pilot knows what the runway should look like in that configuration. I have no idea what happened on the flight, but it is very difficult for me to understand why the problem was not noticed earlier.

Monday
Jun242013

Operation Munchkin

Yesterday the lovely Laura Lee and I had the privilege of carrying out what we called Operation Munchkin, to get two cute grandchildren from Birmingham over to The Ford Plantation in Georgia. We have a family reunion coming up this weekend so we wanted the two oldest munchkins, Stella and Pierce, here early to spend a little time with “Pops” and “WuWu” without their parents in the way. As I’ve always said, children and grandparents get along so well because they have a common enemy.

We took off from the airport in Hinesville at around 10 am Eastern time and arrived Birmingham just after 11 am Central. The skies were fairly clear early in the morning, but typical summer clouds and showers were already starting to build on the trip west. I knew it was likely to be a bumpy ride back with the girls, but the real storms were scattered out enough to dodge everything serious.

Stella will be five years old in August and Pierce will be four in November. Stella has only flown once in her life on an airline when she was an infant (although the claims to remember it). Pierce has never flown before. So we wanted the experience to be fun, and it was. You can see from the giggling in the picture above that they seemed to enjoy themselves. Laura Lee sat with them in the back and they all giggled whenever we hit bumpy air. They are convinced that the clouds had the hiccups, and said their favorite part of the flight was the bumps. There were buildups on the return trip, but we dodged the worst of it and laughed our way through the clouds.

I’m convinced that people’s attitudes about flying can be formed early by conveying confidence and humor to them. If children spend time with adults who are afraid of flying, they will end up afraid of flying. If they grow up giggling at every bump in the clouds, you might spot them giggling on a business trip 30 years from now.

Pilots often claim that flying is safer than driving even though this has largely been disproved by statistics. However, what is true for a pilot is that safety is much more in your own hands flying than it is driving. There is no question that most flying accidents begin with pilot error or pilot misjudgement. If there is an accident, it is much more likely to be your own fault flying, as opposed to being blindsided by a drunk driver. So for me, I feel much safer flying than I do driving, and I’m happy to play a part in conveying my confidence to a new generation of passengers. 

Operation Munchkin was a great success, and we’re having fun with Stella and Pierce visiting us.