Archive for September, 2005

Ahh, rain…

28 September 2005 at 8:35 am
by Berck

There’s nothing like some crappy weather and a salaried flying job to make your day.

I was about to walk out of the house when my cell phone rang. It was one of the guys in white flight letting me know that the first go was canceled and not go into work. There’s a list of phone numbers activated by the flight commander. He calls the first guy, who calls the next guy, and so on. I’ve managed to lose my list already, but I was pretty sure I was on the bottom of it. I asked the guy who called me, and he said that I was, in fact, on the bottom, but that there was a part time guy below me, and I wasn’t sure if he needed to be called or not. I also asked if they were going to call us to tell us to go back to work or what and he didn’t know. If he wasn’t planning on working anyway, I’m sure he’d love to get called at 5:40am. So I called my flight commander. Only I got the number wrong, which I’m sure made someone really happy. When I actually got in touch with him, he said that he’d already called the part time guy, so I was fine. I asked him how we knew when to go back to work. “Nine o’clock! Whoever called you didn’t tell you?” “No?” He sighed, “I guess we need to practice this.” I figure when that when you play telephone, expect a garbled message at the end…

So I got undressed and went back to bed. Even after having gone to bed at 7:30 the night before, I was still tired. Now I’ve had to get out of bed and get dressed twice. But this time it’s light out. Or, well, grey out. It’s still not flyable weather. I wonder if they’ll call us and tell us to stay away, or make us go in anyway.

Unfortunately, considering that flights were canceled Monday morning due to low clouds and yesterday due to high winds, it’s pretty much a certainty that we’ll be working on Saturday…

A little too much excitment in the morning

26 September 2005 at 11:11 am
by Jonah

I awoke this morning to the doorbell. Then some knocking. I wasn’t dressed, so I didn’t answer, but then the phone rang. It was our landlord informing me that our downstairs neighbor was complaining about our water heater leaking. He was out of town, so I had to wait around for the plumber to call.

Indeed, the water heater was running (it’s a very loud monster), which it doesn’t do unless someone’s just taken a shower, and Berck had been gone for hours. I figured out how to turn the water to it off, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn the gas off, so it just kept heating what water was left in there, putting it under greater pressure and causing it to leak some more. I put a bunch of bowls underneath to try to catch the drips. Then every so often I opened the release valve at the bottom of the tank and emptied some of the contents into a pitcher. For a 40 gallon tank, I wasn’t about to make 40 trips to the toilet, but I kept it from leaking more until the plumber came.

The plumber turned off the gas, so the thing finally stopped leaking. But he had to go buy a hose to empty the old water heater and get a new one to replace it. He’s back now installing the new one.

In the meantime, I’ve been applying for some jobs. I’ll go to work as soon as the plumber is gone. He’s currently soldering some copper pipe with a blowtorch.

They haven’t killed me yet.

24 September 2005 at 7:13 pm
by Berck

But not for lack of trying.

Mostly I’ve been given the easiest students so far, but they’re getting progressively harder. I think I’m going to wind up with full-blown new cadets next week.

I’ve already screwed up. I got completely confused in the traffic pattern by the tower, and ended up turning about 1,000 feet in front of a plane I didn’t see and then thought was going somewhere else, but which my student had told the tower he had in sight, even though he was looking at someone else entirely. My flight commander was in a plane just behind us and saw the whole thing, and we talked about it. He didn’t seem too upset, and helped me understand where I went wrong.

It’s a strange profession. As I strap the airplane to my back (with the canopy open, it feels more like wearing a bulky suit than sitting inside an airplane), I tend to think about the possible outcomes. A smoking hole in the ground. Violating an Air Force regulation, or worse, an FAA regulation and having my privileges suspended and/or revoked. Bending a nose gear, scraping a wing tip or blowing a tire on a landing where I should have taken the controls sooner. Flying unwittingly into a dry microburst on 200ft final that my student can’t react quickly enough to and freezes on the controls, not letting me react. Flying into another Academy aircraft because neither of us noticed our students had varied just slightly from the altitudes and ground tracks we were supposed to be flying.

I think about it all while my student closes the canopy and starts the engine, running through his checklist. I watch to make sure he doesn’t break anything, to make sure he does everything with precision. As he pulls out from the parking space and fights the castering nose wheel by abusing the differential brake I wonder if I can possibly explain a better taxi technique. But all I really manage at first is, “Taxi on the yellow line!” as he seems content to be two feet to the right of it. “Over here you’re likely to strike a wingtip on the nose of another plane, and I’ll have to explain why,” I tell him. “That seems like a crazy job, being responsible for anything I might do wrong,” he says. “You have no idea,” I respond.

Later, when he drifts off taxiway centerline again I tell him, “Do you want to be an Air Force pilot? Air Force pilots taxi on the centerline.” “Yes sir!” he responds.

Later, as we do stalls, I put my feet on the rudder pedals. As the left wing drops, my student feeds in more and more right stick. Eventually he’s holding full right stick and the left wing continues to drop. I figure we’re about 3 seconds away from an incipient spin. I don’t know what these planes are like in a spin, but I hear that they wrap up quickly and take awhile to recover. Today is not a day to find out first hand. Fortunately, the student recovers in time as I start issuing instructions. Trying to sound calm and collected.

“You did something very, very wrong in that stall. Do you have any idea what?” I ask him.

“No,” he says. And that’s good. Because I can tell him what he did wrong, and maybe he won’t do it next time.

I was originally going to have to work today, but our Moron in Chief decided to watch the hurricane from NORAD so it would look like he cared. (?!?) Since he’s afraid of damn near everything, no one can fly in Colorado Springs while he’s here. Which, today, is fine by me. I’m glad to have the day off.

Jonah and I went driving today. We drove up to one of the north areas and I discovered that the astonishing array of satellite dishes that form the north border of one of our practice areas is the Direct TV headquarters. Drove many of the dirt roads that border the area. I like getting a perspective of things from the ground. I drove down North Gate road and found point FOX, then headed south and drove by TANK (a large, brown tank). I have a hard time finding it from the air, and I wondered how hard it would be to climb on top and spray paint it yellow or something.

All in a day’s work

23 September 2005 at 10:23 pm
by Jonah

Today I

* Fixed Michele’s laptop wireless connection so it would talk to her desktop
* Sent a change of address message to all of the people who e-mailed Duncan to his old e-mail address since August 1 to use his new e-mail address
* Searched through Michele’s cumulative notes for specific contacts in Colorado
* Converted scanned documents through OCR into word processing documents and combined them into single documents
* Picked a bunch of rosehips

The last task was by far the most fun (and was, of course, on my own time). Michele has been using a bunch of the rosehips she picks to make rosehip mead. Doesn’t that just sound wonderful?

I don’t think there’s any better way to wind down from the day than by going and picking fruit.

Unless you’re a migrant worker, obviously.

Berck came out for supper, and we had burgers and corn on the cob straight from the garden and two bottles of Duncan’s homemade wine.

PowerPoint, Apples, and Wireless Networks

23 September 2005 at 9:29 am
by Jonah

I had a busy day yesterday.

My interview at CBA seemed to go really well. They actually went ahead with the second phase of the interview process, which involved some testing, both a SAT-like written test and a computer aptitude test. For the computer test, I had to answer five questions by finding the answers in the CBA website (most of them I already knew the answers to because I know CBA). The second part of the test was fiddling with an Excel spreadsheet and then extrapolating the data into a PowerPoint slide presentation with graphs and such. Fortunately, I had given myself a crash course in Excel the day before, because I’ve never really used the program before (at least as it is intended). But I REALLY haven’t used PowerPoint before. So I spent most of the 45 allotted minutes figuring out how to make slides and import my shiny pretty Excel graphs. I managed to finish the assigned task in time, but the result wasn’t very glamorous. I felt extremely proud of myself for making two programs I have no experience with do what I wanted. But my slide show wasn’t at all creative, and the position is for the Communications and Marketing Department. I thought about telling the HR people about my triumph over ignorance, but since I’m supposed to have Microsoft Office down pat for the position, I decided against it.

From there I went to Monument’, where Michele and Duncan hired me to do busy work for them so they can focus on actually making money. “What is the going wage for this kind of work?” Michele asked.

“For new-hire administrative stuff, 8 to 9 dollars an hour.”

“Let’s make it 10.”

Duncan said, “That’s a steal!”

I solved several problems for Michele in the first hour or so, and then went about gleaning certain contact information from the notes she had taken and saved each day. I’ll probably continue that today… after I figure out how to make the laptop talk to the desktop through the wireless network.

Berck came over after he finished working, and he and Michele and I loaded up a wagon with buckets and raided the apple tree on Brown’s Place. I climbed the tree and shook branches, while the apples fell on Berck and Michele as they picked them up.

But now I must go back to work.

Work! I have some work!