Archive for April, 2008

Getting there

25 April 2008 at 2:28 am
by Berck

Well, the sim session tonight (Lesson 6) was far from perfect, but I think I’m getting there. The instructor said he didn’t see anything that would likely result in a checkride failure, but we didn’t do stalls today, which are still the thing I suck most at.

The sim malfunctioned and kept kicking off the autopilot at the end of my session, so I had to fly the VOR/DME to 22L without an autopilot. What’s funny is I’ve said to several people that this was the thing I really, really, didn’t ever want to have to do, and fortunately it’s not something I have to do on the checkride at all. It wasn’t as bad as I figured, if anything, it was probably more busy for Rob than me, as he had a lot to do. I left some of the step down fixes just a smidge late. I was pretty late getting the landing gear down and flaps out all the way (I damn near forgot to do it all together, that would have been embarrassing, though the gear horn would have sounded), but I did get it before 1,000 AGL. I’m starting to get the idea of how to lead the turn to final at 160 knots, and it seems like I can manage the non-precision approaches as long as I just dump the nose as soon as I’m somewhere near the VDP. It’s pretty hard to wind up high, and it’s a lot easier to recover from being a little low than a little high in a jet, as long as you’ve got the engines spooled up.

Our instructor said he was really happy with us today. Two sessions left and then the checkride, though it remains to be seen just when the checkride will be since we didn’t fly yesterday. Possibly on our originally scheduled off day, which is Sunday. I think I’ll be ready.

Listen to the Heartland

24 April 2008 at 5:38 am
by Berck

[Reposted from an email, in case it seems out of place.]

As I walk around this my corner of St. Louis, I hear Eddie From Ohio’s, “Adios, Lorena” in my head and I think, “This, this is America.” Out here in the Midwest, the only pedestrians are the lower class and the rare traveler like me who isn’t going to rent a car. Sidewalks are few and far between, the are are no crosswalks and certainly no walk signals. The lights aren’t even timed such that you can cross them as it seems like there’s always turning traffic in the way. This is America.

My dining choices within walking distance are the Steak and Shake, Waffle House, Denny’s, Arby’s, Rally’s Burger, Jack in the Box and Church’s chicken. My best option so far has been a local Pizza place that delivers to the hotel: Imo’s. They sell “St. Louis style pizza,” which, despite my being something of a pizza aficionado, is not a style I know. The pizza is surprisingly good, and actually somewhat unique. It’s actually somewhat Italian in its construction–a thin crust cooked quickly with somewhat sparse toppings. Despite being round, it’s cut into small three-bite squares. Somewhat salty, but high-quality ingredients and overall good flavor. It’s the sort of local color a traveler hopes to find.

Since the simulator was malfunctioning this evening, my partner and I walked down to the only bar in walking distance. We’ve been in there three times now, and are apparently regulars since we’re on a first name basis with the bartender. The beer choices are abysmal: Budweiser or Bud Light on tap along with paltry collection of domestic water flavors, plus Corona. I opt for a Corona while my partner picks one of the domestic flavors. The bar is full of cigarette smoke (and I wonder how many states still allow smoking in bars) and, even worse, it’s karaoke night. A large, bearded fat man bellows an off key and barely recognizable version of “Walking in Memphis,” and I try unsuccessfully to imagine him 10 feet off of Beale. After 10 minutes, I manage to adjust to the smoke content of the atmosphere and survey the dozen folks inside. I’m not sure why they seem to be having such a good time, but I suppose there’s something to be said for beer and company. After all, why am I here? My partner and I don’t have much in common. He’s quite a bit older than me, retired from the Army, Special Forces. We talk about airplanes and when we get bored of that, something inane. I’d picked a few political arguments with him earlier, but I wasn’t in the mood tonight. “This is America, right here, this bar,” I tell him. He pretends to understand and agrees. I wonder if he does. I wonder if he knows how much I hate this bar.

I think about the owner of the bar, and wonder if he likes the place. As I walk down the street later (I like how walking makes me notice, think), I contemplate each business. Each fast food joint, convenience store, car wash, car rental, payday loan establishment. I survey the sexy mannequins in the window of the kinky lingerie store. Since when are there sexy mannequins? This, this is America. This is my America. I’m glad it’s here; I’m even maybe a little proud of it, but I don’t think I like it.

I think a bit about self-important businessmen, who seemingly have no other objective in life but to make money. I think about the fact that I’m going to be transporting them from one self-important meeting to another, and that this, too, is America.

I think about the young black waitress we talked to at the Waffle House the other night. She has several kids at home. She takes care of them during the day and works at night. She asks what we do, and then tells us about the one time she she took an airplane flight, and how she didn’t like it because it hurt her ears. I wonder if she’s happy, but I don’t want to ask. I hope she’s happy; I want her to be happy. She cleans some dishes, and I study the employment application by the cash register. There’s a page with a “pre-employment test” on it. It requires a little basic addition. Then it has a 6% tax table, and asks you to figure out the total tax on several bills. Finally, there’s a few questions that ask how much change you should give a customer in a transaction–and I realize that a lot of it is simply trying to determine if the applicant can read and understand English. I wonder how long I could work at the Waffle House. The employment contract at the back explains how all employees are at-will employees and may be fired at any time. It also explains that employees may eat up to 2 meals a day at the Waffle House at a discounted rate. The meal credits will be deducted from their paychecks whether or not they actually eat the meals. I’m somehow astounded by this proposition: “If you work here, you will pay to eat here, whether or not you actually do.” This is America.

Another delay

24 April 2008 at 2:28 am
by Berck

So, Rob’s been struggling with rudder control on the runway. This is a strange thing to have trouble with, given that he can fly fine otherwise, our instructor thinks the problem is likely the simulator. I don’t think that staying on centerline is at all easy, but I’m able to do it. The sim instructor flew the sim a bit today, and has declared that it’s “not right,” so we didn’t fly, in hopes that the loss of income will convince FlightSafety to fix it. I’m less bothered by the rudder control, and a lot more bothered by loose pitch control, which our instructor also says isn’t right. When our sim instructor asked us finally what we thought about the whole thing, my answer was, “I want to learn to fly the airplane, not the simulator.” If the simulator isn’t faithfully simulating, then we need to get it fixed. Since I’ve never flown the airplane, I have no idea how good or bad the fidelity is.

That said, I’m annoyed. I really want to get done with this check ride and go home. I’m tired of this lame ass hotel with it’s worthless internet, 95º F hallways and lobby, fast food and absurd schedule.

Since there was no flying, but Rob and I are on a weird schedule, we walked down to the only bar in the vicinity, drank until last call, then got dinner (breakfast? lunch? 3amsies?) at Denny’s.

I want to be done with this and go home.

Day Off

21 April 2008 at 4:42 pm
by Berck

I’ve got today off.

I woke up this “morning” at about noon when housekeeping tried to get in my room. Seems I forgot the Do Not Disturb sign last night. They quickly gave up and I went back to sleep until about 3pm. I’ve been having really weird dreams, I’m not sure if it’s a result of the sleep schedule or the mind blender that is the simulator, or some combination of both.

It seems there was another earthquake last night at about 12:40am, but I’m sure I would have just attributed it to turbulence in the simulator if I felt it.

So far I’ve now done a total of 4 official sim lessons, plus we got a couple of extra hours as a result of the sim being free yesterday afternoon after a couple of captain upgrades didn’t need their entire 4 hour block.

We used the extra time to go through some demonstration maneuvers that we had to accomplish, but weren’t really graded on. Things like a Dutch rolls with and without a yaw damper, double engine failure, wind shear escape maneuvers… It was a fun and more relaxing lesson, especially since it was lucky extra time. At the end of it, our instructor hopped in the captain’s seat and we buzzed around New York, skimming central park at a few hundred feet, buzzing the statue of liberty, down the Hudson, up the east river. The visuals aren’t perfect, but are still pretty cool. They only 3-d modeled some of the big buildings, so it doesn’t look quite right. They did a decent job on the statue of liberty. Manhattan has about two dozen 3d buildings, the rest are flat and are just overhead views. The instructor was like, “The Met’s not there!” I found it and pointed at it, “There it is, it’s just flat.” “Man, it looks like someone squished it.”

Last night’s lesson we spent a fair amount of time with single engine emergency procedures. Rob had a pretty hard time with V1 engine failures. The engine quits while you’re still on the ground, which produces a yaw in one direction or another. You have to hold rudder to counteract, and take off. If you do it right, the amount of rudder you’re holding on the ground is about what you need on takeoff, then you can reduce it as the aircraft accelerates. If you screw it up and start over correcting like Rob was, then you get some really nasty oscillations because it’s a fast swept-wing aircraft. These skills are very different from the multi-engine procedures we’re used to in light twins.

I didn’t have trouble with the V1 cuts. My best 20 minutes in the sim was an engine flameout with core lock at V1. I got the plane going straight down the runway, rotated well before V2 and managed to stay more or less coordinated. I got the autopilot on (you still have to hold rudder, because it’s only a 2-axis autopilot), ran through the emergency procedures, and got us set up for the ILS back in. My autopilot failed as I intercepted the localizer, and so I had to fly the whole thing back in by hand. It was my best approach and landing yet. It’s really pretty easy as long as you follow the flight director and make small corrections. I managed to make a very smooth, though somewhat long, touchdown, and got the airplane slowed down. Rob didn’t make the 80 or 60 knot calls which are my cues to stow the thrust reverser(s) and give the controls back. I glanced down and we were below 40 knots. “You’ve got the flight controls,” I told him. “Oh, sorry, I was just amazed at how beautiful that landing was, I wasn’t paying attention.”

On the other hand, I still suck at the stall series. I just can’t manage to get the airplane to do what I want it to do. There are huge pitch changes in response to thrust changes, and swept wing t-tail jets with engines on the tail just aren’t happy about stalls. Rob is very good at the stalls, but hasn’t gotten single-engine stuff down yet.

We’ve still got 4 sim sessions before the check ride, so I think we should actually be able to do it by then. I hope. I’m also still a bit worried about the non-precision approaches and landings–there’s so much to do as the flying pilot, and it happens so quickly.

After I’d stopped us on the runway after my last landing, the instructor pointed out some traffic about 20 feet over the runway, flying toward us. It was a great surrealist moment as we realized it was a fire truck. Flying over the runway. “Did you say you needed fire trucks for the engine flameout?” he asked. I was laughing too hard to answer. It seems that the sim has several vehicle models programmed in for traffic, but doesn’t distinguish between which traffic can fly and which traffic can’t.

I’m finishing up some laundry, and Rob and I are going to take a bus down to an Indian place by the airport, which I hope will be yummy…

Another Earthquake.

18 April 2008 at 10:42 am
by Berck

Another one woke me up this morning. I wasn’t as scared, once I finally figured out what it was, just really annoyed because I wasn’t able to fall back asleep.

So apparently the one last night was pretty significant, folks felt it as far away as Ontario.