August 18, 2016

2016 Chicago Air & Water Show Media Day Experience

aerostars.jpgThe 2016 Chicago Air & Water Show festivities kicked off today with the arrival of the civilian and military acts which roared into town just after Noon today. Many of the military teams including the U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet Demo Team and the U.S. Air Force F-35s performed spot checks of the Chicago Air & Water Show airspace and thrilled fans at the Chicago Cubs game with several flyovers.

The aircraft then made their way to the Gary International Airport for the Air & Water Show Media Day. Three civilian acts were busy much of the day taking members of the media up for flights, including Team Aeroshell in their T-6 Texans, Sean Tucker flying people in an Extra 300 and Team Aerostars in their Yak-52s.

I had the honor of flying with Team Aerostars this afternoon. Their team consists of three pilots and their aircraft. Our flight of three departed the Gary International Aiport in formation and made our way out over the lake where we split up so the pilots could demonstrate loops, barrel rolls and a half cuban. I never tire of doing aerobatics.

Shortly after returning from my flight experience the F-18 Demo Team arrived. The lead plane was flown by Lieutenant John "Toby" Keith, a family friend. I enjoyed watching his arrival. Later in the afternoon I was able to join him, his family and members of Troop 13 Boy Scouts (we both were members of that troop) planeside. He was kind enough to give me a walkaround tour of the airplane, explaining its many features. Be sure to check him out this weekend as I am sure he will put on a great show.

f-35.jpgOne of the highlights of the afternoon was the arrival of two U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning Stealth Fighters. This is their first appearance at the Chicago Air & Water Show. The aircraft showcases the latest and greatest fighter technology. The helmet worn by the pilot was specifically designed for the pilots to give the best situational awareness to the pilot. The helmet accepts input from six cameras outside the jet, providing a 360-degree view of the environment around the plane. So when Major Will Andreotta, one of the pilots, looks down from his cockpit he can see the ground via the image inputs provided by the onboard cameras and computers.

Last to arrive this afternoon were the Headline act, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are making their first appearance in Chicago since 2011. Expect them fly around 2:30 or 3pm each day of the show.

The weather forecast is looking sketchy for Saturday. My recommendation is to get out on Friday if you can, when there are fewer crowds, otherwise plan for Sunday. Check out my viewing guide for tips on where to watch the Air & Water Show from.

August 17, 2016

Chicago Air and Water Show Viewing Guide

Each year about this time I start to receive many requests from friends and family and through for tips on where to watch the Chicago Air & Water Show. I thought I would share some of my suggestions for the best places to watch the Chicago Air & Water Show. I have my thoughts on many of the popular viewing spots on the map to the right.

Each year airshow fans migrate to the lakeshore to see a variety of civilian and military acts the headline act of the 2016 Chicago Air & Water Show will be the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

We always suggest if you are looking for a way to take in the show without being shoulder to shoulder with a million fellow Chicagoans, then check out the practice day on Friday. The teams will perform their entire show during their Friday dry run.

Here are our suggestions for the best ways to take in the Chicago Air & Water Show:

Unobstructed Views
The best way to view the show is from a place where you will have an unobstructed view of the entire show. The only real way to do that is from a boat on Lake Michigan. If you are one of the lucky few that own a boat or know a friend that does that is surely one of the best ways to get a clear view of the action. If you don't own and can't mooch a ride you can always pay to take a cruise. Check out this comparison of Chicago Air & Water Show cruises.

Airshow Center
The Airshow center is North Avenue Beach. This is where the Harrier usually shows off the V/STOL maneuvers. Additionally, the flight teams will use this as the center point of their show. If they have a loop or a crossing pattern this is where it will take place. As a result, this is a very popular place to watch the show so expect there to be large crowds and you will need to arrive early to get a spot on the beach. If you want to enjoy the excitement of viewing the show from show center but want to ensure you have a place to sit check out the special offers from Castaways.

Altitude, Altitude, Altitude
We are talking about an airshow (well, also a water show but who are we fooling?) so altitude makes a difference. A rooftop deck or balcony located near the center of the show action and above neighboring buildings provides a great way to watch the show. The challenge here is that typically you need to share that space with a lot of other interested parties.

Although I have never tried it, I have heard some suggest visiting the John Hancock Chicago's Observatory. I can imagine those spots will be crowded too but must provide an interesting view of the show. I highly recommend the Hancock over the Willis tower this year with the exclusion of many of the jet teams which needed more airspace to maneuver and often circled past the Willis tower.

A Blanket On the Lakefront
Most people view the show from a blanket on a beach or a spot along the lakefront. I used to suggest heading north to Diversey or Montrose Harbor where you could have had a great view while also avoiding much of the crowd. This year I recommend getting as close to show center as possible.

What are the boundaries of the airshow? That is tough to say as many of the planes fly up from Gary International Airport so you will spot planes well south of the Show. My personal recommendation is to find a spot to watch the show that is no further south than Northerly Island and no further north than Montrose Harbor (displayed in the map to the right). I would try to be as far east as you can get (those in boats will win in this category) with the westernmost point being Halsted. You can, of course, see and enjoy the action from outside this area but you will be seeing the fringe portion of the show and not taking in its full excitement.

Gary International Airport
Most of theperformance teams are based out of Gary International Airport for the Chicago Air & Water Show. For those in Indiana and well south of the city this has become a popular place to see the planes. Although you won't see a true airshow performance you will see the planes leaving and arriving, and flying in formation.

Listening to the Air & Water Show
Chicago's WBBM 780 has live coverage of the Air & Water Show. If you are not a die-hard aviation enthusiast or have a certified plane spotter with you I always suggest bringing along a radio so you can hear from the broadcast team what it is you are looking at flying by. If you are at show center there are speakers from which you can listen to Airshow MC Herb Hunter but that can often be a challenge over the roar of the planes so a personal radio is highly recommended.

Practice Day
The flight teams have their media day on Thursday and a few may come as far North as Chicago briefly. However on Friday there is nearly a full practice show. Most of the teams will run through their full performance and only a few single plane acts are missing on Friday. The practice usually runs between 10am and 3pm and is a great way to see the show without the crowds.

If you have a favorite place to view the Air & Water Show and are not afraid to share it and I will add the best suggestions to the guide. For more information check out our Chicago Air & Water Show Ultimate Guide.

Posted at Aug 17, 6:24 AM | Post Category: Chicago Air and Water Show | Comments (27) | Save & Share This Story

August 4, 2015

Breitling Jet Team to Make Their Chicago Air & Water Show Debut

breitling_jet_team_chicago_air_water_show.jpgThe Breitling Jet Team has performed for awestruck audiences across the globe for over a decade. Breitling Jet Team they will be performing for the first time in the skies over North America in 2015 including their first performance in the Chicago Air & Water Show.

The seven man team is recognized as the largest civilian jet aerobatic team in the world. Flying Czech-built L-39C Albatros military aircraft trainers capable of speeds of over 450 MPH, the pilots will thrill the crowd with precision aerobatics. The pilots can experience up to 8Gs during their performance that they call a seamless coordinated ballet showcasing the same synchronicity found in their aviation timepieces. Their goal is to promote the wonder of flight to the public.

The L-39 Albatros holds a special place in my heart. Several years back I had the opportunity to pilot the L-39 and perform a variety of aerobatic maneuvers (View my L-39 Flight Experience). This two seat aircraft is an excellent blend of performance, aesthetics and reliability. I have always felt the L-39 was a slick looking aircraft on the ground and in the air. Breitling Jet Team has taken the look to a new level with a beautiful livery that is meant to make the aircraft enjoyable to view during their performance.

airshow_ad.jpgI would expect this team's performance to be one of the crowd favorites that will easily rival any other civilian performance ever seen at the Chicago Air and Water Show.

Please be sure to check out all of our 2015 Chicago Air and Water Show coverage. We have updated our Ultimate Guide to the Chicago Air & Water Show and have also updated our Chicago Air & Water Show Viewing Guide. Please follow us on twitter at @MyFlightBlog for updates from media day and throughout the show.

Posted at Aug 04, 9:38 PM | Post Category: Chicago Air and Water Show, L-39 Albatros | Comments (21) | Save & Share This Story

August 14, 2014

Dreams Take Flight at Chicago Air and Water Show

airshow_ad.jpgThe Chicago Air & Water Show is back for another year and better than before. In 2013 the annual airshow, the largest free airshow in the country, was missing the fire power of the military acts as a result of sequestration. The return of military acts seems to have sparked greater interest in this year's show. Today at the media day for the event there was nearly double the media participation from 2013 and more than I have seen in the eight years I have covered the show.

Sean D. Tucker, a 20 year veteran of the show, said that this year he has seen bigger crowds at many of the shows he has performed at. Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder. Anyone that works or lives in the Chicagoland area no doubt learned today that the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are back, and I am sure they will help draw record crowds. They made several appearances over the city today as they made their spot checks in advance of Friday's practice performance and the two weekend demonstrations.

New to the Chicago Air & Water Show
Team AeroDynamix are making their first Chicago Air & Water Show appearance this weekend. The team which has been flying together for over ten years is currently the largest aerobatic team in the world with 12 aircraft. They fly a variety of models of RV Kitplanes including Rv-4, RV-7, RV-8 and RV-8A variations. Most of the pilots built the planes they will be performing in. You might mistakenly think that as home-built aircraft they would not be very sophisticated, but that seemed far from the truth.

I had the opportunity to fly with them today and the RV-4 I flew in was equipped with a Glass Cockpit and Synthetic Vision. A few minutes in this sporty little airplane and I realized why you see so many each year at AirVenture. It is an airplane that seems very fun. The team treated us to a sampling of their tight formation flying over the backdrop of the Chicago Skyline. I look forward to seeing their 15 minute demonstration this weekend.

Rosie the Riveter and the Blue Angels
blue_angles_rosie.jpgThere were a few neat stories behind the scenes at the media day event. One of which was 96-year-old Isabelle Settle, who played a Rosie the Riveter role, during World War II. As a 4'10" woman she was assigned the role of riveting wings and other tight spaces of C-54 Skymaster's at the Douglas Aircraft Company in Chicago. She has had a lifelong interest in aviation and airplanes.

Today she and her 78-year-old sister Ida were the guests of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Several of the pilots including Commander Thomas Frosch spent time with Isabelle talking about her role in WWII and genuinely thanking her for her service and presented her with framed poster signed by the entire team. After meeting with the pilots members of the Blue Angels maintenance team then brought her out to the aircraft and talked about the work they do to maintain the fleet of F/A-18's flown by the team. Isabelle loved the opportunity to share a few of her stories with the team.

Young Eagle Over Chicago
SeanTucker_Young_eagles.jpgWhile the Blue Angels were celebrating 96-year-old Isabelle, 17-year-old Malik Baker was running across the Gary Jet Center tarmac trying to secure a signature that would let him complete a dream experience of his own. Baker, a rising Junior in the JROTC program at Chicago Military Academy one an essay contest to receive a Young Eagles flight experience of a lifetime. A few minutes after I spotted him running off in search of his mother he returned with the necessary Young Eagles paperwork.

The Young Eagles, founded by the Experimental Aircraft Association, is designed to give children between the ages of 8 to 17 an opportunity to experience flight in a general aviation airplane while educating children about aviation. In 2013 Stunt Pilot Sean D. Tucker was selected as the Chairman of the organization that has flown more than 44,000 Young Eagle flights since 1992. In that rich history, never has a Young Eagles flight been accompanied by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Sean Tucker had arranged to fly Malik Baker along the Chicago Lakefront with a Blue Angels escort. After which Sean took Baker out to a practice area where he let him fly the plane and walked him through a variety of aerobatic maneuvers. Malik commented about his experience "I love it, I will never forget this day."

The Young Eagles offer flight experiences throughout the country, you can learn more on the EAA Website.

Living the Dream
Living_the_dream.jpgIt was another great Chicago Air & Water Show media day for me as well. I enjoyed flying the Archer III from Chicago Executive along the lakefront early this morning to participate in the event. Shortly after I arrived at Gary International the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) was put in place along the lakefront to clear the airspace for the airshow performers. So after the show with the TFR still in place I needed to fly West of Gary and go north along the west side of O'hare. I of course did not perform any aerobatics flying back in the Archer, but I spent some time thinking about how blessed I am to be a pilot and have the opportunity to enjoy aviation.

Just over 10 years ago I decided to make my dream of flying a reality and earned my pilots license. Along they way I have enjoyed some amazing aviation adventures. All of which I never would have experienced if I had not been so moved by aviation at a young age that forged that dream in me. I hope if you are in the Chicago area you will come out to the Chicago Air & Water Show this weekend, bring your kids, neighbors or friends. You never know it just might inspire the next pilot!

Posted at Aug 14, 10:23 PM | Post Category: Chicago Air and Water Show | Comments (29) | Save & Share This Story

August 12, 2014

Blue Angels Headline 2014 Chicago Air and Water Show

2014_chicago_air_water_show.jpgThe 2014 Chicago Air & Water Show roars back to life this week. The 56th Chicago Air & Water Show will feature the return of military acts that missed last year's show due to sequestration. Crowd favorites the U.S. Navy Blue Angels will be the headline act, supported by the U.S. Army Golden Knights, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and MV-22 Osprey. Although the military performances get much of the attention, the Chicago Air & Water Show has another stellar line-up of civilian performers and teams including Sean D. Tucker, Team Aeroshell, Chuck Aaron and the Red Bull Helicopter, Team Aerostars and the Warbird Heritage Museum foundation A-4 Skyhawk.

New to the Chicago Air & Water Show in 2014 is Team AeroDynamix, the largest aerobatic team in the world flying 12 RV-8, RV-7, and RV-8a kitplanes. We are scheduled to fly with them on Thursday and will share some photos and videos later in the week.

We have prepared our 2014 Chicago Air & Water Show guide which includes information on the performers and tips on the best places to watch the Chicago Air & Water Show. The city is expecting approximately two million people to come out this year, but if you are not a fan of big crowds we recommend checking out the Friday practice show. Teams will run their full performances in preparation for the weekend show. The practice show and the weekend shows will begin around 10am and run through 3pm with the finale being the performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

chicagoairwatershowguideCTA.jpgWhenever large crowds congregate it typically means you can expect slower than usual data connections for your smartphones. This year AT&T is planning to make sure the tweets, instagrams and Facebook posts of the millions enjoying the show can be shared with millions more. AT&T is testing a temporary antenna to boost signal in the area so your messages don't time out. Paul Biasco of DNAInfo reports that AT&T installed an 18-beam Luneburg Lens Antenna last week in preparation for the Chicago Air & Water Show. "It's the first time they have deployed the device anywhere in the country to combat what they call the 'look at me' or 'look where I am' effects."

Though, if you really want to capture the sights at the Chicago Air & Water Show we recommend this airshow photography guide to help you make the most of your photos from the event.

Check throughout the week for updates or follow us on Twitter for updates during the week!

Posted at Aug 12, 7:03 AM | Post Category: Chicago Air and Water Show | Comments (13) | Save & Share This Story

July 25, 2014

Pilotage in a Digital Age

pilotage-scavenger-hunt.jpgWhen was the last time you were lost in a General Aviation aircraft? The thought of it is quite frightening. However, not too long ago it was not that uncommon to be "lost" or as I would prefer to say temporarily in an unidentified location. When I started flight training for my Private Pilot Certificate in 2004 I spent many flights trying to navigate from point A to point B with little else than a beat-up sectional. Often, I would be overly confident that I was right on target only to realize checkpoints were no longer matching up. I would then need to start to analyze my surroundings and try and reconfirm my location so I could adapt my route and get back on course. It was almost always fun.

With the advancement in technology it is harder and harder to get lost in a GA Aircraft. Many airplanes have the benefit of some advance moving map not to mention that many pilots are carrying an additional moving map on their iPad both of which can pinpoint your location to within a few feet.

It has probably been four or five years since I have flown a flight using Pilotage, the last reference to me flying by way of pilotage on this blog was back in 2006! Effectively, Pilotage is the use of fixed visual reference on the ground by means of sight to guide oneself to a destination. I was due up for a biennial flight review and my CFI, Al Waterloo, suggested we spend the first half of the flight on a pilotage scavenger hunt. Using Foreflight he selected a few random points on a sectional for me to fly to. The first was to find my way to a set of towers in Southern Wisconsin, then change course and find a small private grass strip airport after which we would continue on with the BFR flight. I have not owned a sectional in many years, kind of a sorry statement, so I had him send me the coordinates of the two locations which I loaded into my iPad before turning it to airplane mode.

sunset-on-the-wing.jpgIn the Archer we agreed we would keep Multifunction Flight Display (MFD) on the engine page so as not to have the benefit of the moving map. After take-off, I leveled off at 1,500 and I put the airplane on course to the first checkpoint along our route. The first checkpoint was easy to find but it arrived off the side of our airplane indicating that the wind was stronger than I had anticipated and I need to course correct to keep on track. As we moved north from Chicago towards the Wisconsin border I lost the benefit of the detailed Terminal Area Chart and there were fewer and fewer obvious landmarks. It was fun once again spending time looking out the window looking for things that might be depicted on the chart then trying to orient myself. You forget how roads, lakes and towns can look so similar. Sure enough though about 25 minutes later and countless power lines, train tracks, towns and airports used as references we flew right over the first landmark the stacks near Sullivan, WI. There was a gorgeous sunset taking place outside as we departed the first checkpoint.

From there I turned us south and followed a road, then train tracks and finally power lines which led me to the general area of the next spot on the scavenger hunt, Hacklander (PVT) just west of Janesville, that like the first landmark was identified without any challenges. As we were approaching Hacklander we started to take on some rain and see some disconcerting changes in colors in the clouds so we decided to sneak a peek at the MFD to check on the weather, but then again turned it back to the engine page so I could navigate to Kenosha International Airport via pilotage. Enroute to Kenosha we enjoyed watching a distant thunderstorm light up the early evening sky.

Growing up I always loved looking at maps and that has not changed. During my training I loved the night before a cross-country sitting at a table with sectionals spread-out and drawing my routes and noting landmarks for checkpoints. I realized on this flight how in this digital age we lose out on honing that skill and the fun that comes with it.

I encourage you to create your own pilotage scavenger hunts and test your pilotage skills. I am sure you will enjoy it, I know I did.

Posted at Jul 25, 7:30 AM | Post Category: Biennial Flight Review | Comments (382) | Save & Share This Story

July 19, 2014

Disney Planes: Fire and Rescue Review

disney_planes_fire_and_rescue.jpgAs a pilot and father to twin four year old's the opening weekend of Planes: Fire & Rescue, the second movie in the Planes Trilogy, was a day we have been looking forward to for some time to come. A year ago my family and my kids fell in love with Dusty, a loveable crop duster modeled after an AT-301 Air tractor. The first film, released in 2013, followed his journey of qualifying and then competing in the Wings Around the World Rally. After our first viewing, die-cast airplanes started to multiply in our household faster than a emergence of baby bunnies, I even bought a few for the kids.

At first I wondered if maybe my enthusiasm for airplanes was driving most the excitement but I soon learned the kids genuinely enjoyed the movie and its interesting cast of characters. The original film did well, grossing nearly $220 million in revenue, a drop in a bucket of what Frozen generated ($1.2 billion), but not bad for a film that was originally planned for direct to DVD.

Secretly, I was hoping the second film in the franchise might offer a brief respite from Frozen which seems to be on a continuous loop in our household. Much like the first film Planes: Fire and Rescue has received less than stellar reviews from movie critics. Though, I think critics often just get frustrated when they need to review animated films. However, I very much enjoyed this movie and the continuation of the Planes franchise, though I admit to being a certified aviation geek and may be a bit biased. Dusty makes his third career change having gone from crop duster to international racing sensation to learning the ropes of being an aerial fire fighter. This film benefited from a stronger cast, musical score and improved animation over the first film.

Dusty, voiced by Dane Cook, of course returns as do a few of the characters from the first film. Much of this film focuses on Dusty's new friends, an elite team of fire fighting aircraft. Dane Cook is joined by a strong cast including Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, and Hal Holbrook. After hearing Frozen's "Let it Go" nearly nonstop in our household over the past six months seeing my kids dancing in their chairs to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" was well worth the price of admission. I should note that although nearly the full version of Thunderstruck is played in the film, it does not appear on the Planes: Fire & Rescue soundtrack for the film. However, songs by Brad Paisley and Spencer Lee are. The animation seemed more advanced especially some beautifully powerful forest fire scenes. Pilots will like the accuracy of most of the aerial communications. Quite often aviation films are awful at their accurate portrayal of aviation. Iron Eagle IV being one of the worst offenders when they used an F-16 for Aerial shots and then an F-5 for the shots on the ground. So I was happily impressed that the Disney team continued to work with aviation consultants to give as accurate a portrayal of the flying as they could.

This movie is sure to entertain most kids and any parent that has a passion for aviation. I am hopeful these films might inspire some kids to fall in love with aviation as well. I was of course pleased when we returned home from the theater and I heard the kids running around the house with their Dusty's in hand as they doused imaginary flames with their newly learned aerial firefighting skills. To all the pilots out there, go support this film and bring your kids, nieces and nephews along too!

Posted at Jul 19, 9:46 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (68) | Save & Share This Story

July 2, 2014

Flight Training At Its Best: Al Waterloo

flight_training_at_its_best_al_waterloo.jpgIt seems every aviation site and magazine continues to discuss how Flight Training is broken. Travis Ammon of Simple Flight wrote an interesting post, "Lets Quit the Blame Game" earlier this year about how the industry needs to stop focusing on the blame for flight training woes and instead find solutions. I tend to be a glass half full kind of guy and could not agree more with Ammon. Instead of looking at what is wrong, let's look for what is right in aviation and use that to improve training and services within private aviation. Sure you can find sub-par flight training out there, in fact it may be the norm. But, there is also great training available for pilots of all levels in various forms: Instructors, peer training and online training. It is with that idea that I plan to publish a series of posts showcasing flight training at its best.

Pilots and students need to take responsibility for seeking out the type of training that will work best for them and walking away from inferior training options. I don't think enough students think about the option of firing a flight instructor or flight school if they are not receiving training that fits their needs.

I recently published an AOPA Pilot bio on Al Waterloo, a CFI who is doing it right and exemplifies flight training at its best. Waterloo adapts his training to each student based on their interests and needs. Before sharing the cockpit with a student he asks a simple question "What do you want to get out of aviation?" He uses the conversation that is sparked from that conversation to tailor his training. In the article I referenced a student of his, Jim Stone, who had yet to solo after 48 hours of instruction from various instructors. Prior to Waterloo's first lesson with Stone he asked his trademark question and used that learning to help devise a training curriculum that would help the student get over the current speed bump in his training. See the excerpt below from the May 2014 AOPA Pilot:

Turns out Stone did not have aviation career aspirations, but instead had visions of taking scenic flights along the Chicago lakefront with his wife. Waterloo suggested that Stone bring his wife on their next lesson, an evening flight in early July.

Waterloo timed it so the lesson ended with them coasting along the Lake Michigan shoreline as a flurry of fireworks erupted, giving Stone and his wife a new perspective on the Fourth of July--one reserved for aviators. While Stone and his wife enjoyed the show, Waterloo tuned the radio to O'Hare Approach and told his student that before capping off an already special flight, they were going to make a stop at O'Hare--giving Stone his first Class B airspace experience.

After that flight, Stone's interest in flying was re-energized and he could better envision the dream he was trying to realize. Just eight days later, Stone soloed and a few months later fulfilled his goal of more than 60 years to become a certificated pilot.

Al focused on what the student was trying to get out of aviation and used that to engage and inspire the student and built a fire in him to achieve this goal he had been pursuing for so long. Aviation needs more instructors with this kind of focus on helping students achieve their personal aviation goals.

Over the course of the next few months I plan to write a series of posts sharing examples of flight training at its best. Stay Tuned!

Posted at Jul 02, 7:52 AM | Post Category: Flight Training At Its Best | Comments (5) | Save & Share This Story

April 13, 2014

Making the Best of a Marginal VFR Day

It had been a while since I had flown, so to get current, I booked some time with Simple Flight CFI Extraordinaire Al Waterloo. Our goal was to go out and do a biennial flight review flight (BFR). However, when the Saturday arrived the weather was not cooperating and the ceilings would not allow for us to perform some of the maneuvers planned for the BFR. I was tempted to scrub the flight, but we decided to meet at the airport to see if we could find a way to salvage the day.

Al suggested we walk through the PAVE & TEAM Checklists, two checklists I had heard of but never used, so Al walked me through them.

P = Pilot: I am familiar with the I'm Safe checklist and that can be applied here. Basically P is used to determine if I, the pilot, am in the right shape to fly. It is also the time to look beyond health but assess my pilot capabilities against the aircraft I plan to fly, the weather conditions we are expecting, etc.

A = Aircraft: Basically assessing whether this aircraft is the right aircraft for the mission. Is it airworthy, fueld properly, etc.

V = EnVironment: What is the weather forecast for my airport, my destination an enroute. In addition to weather it includes evaluating terrain, TFRs or NOTAMs that could cause concern.

E = External Pressures: Are there external pressures that may effect ability to make sound judgements. Is Get-there-itis a concern? Am I worried about letting a passenger down if we don't fly. Basically evaluating any external pressures.

In order to best evaluate the four characteristics above Al suggested we use PAVE in combination with TEAM checklist as a risk management tool. For each of the above characteristics we decided how to handle any risk associated to it as follows:

T = Transfer: Should the risk decision be transferred to someone else?

E = Eliminate: Is there a way to eliminate the hazard?

A = Accept: Are the risks posed acceptable?

M = Mitigate: What can you do to mitigate the risk?

That morning the entire Midwest was under a low cloud ceiling which was broken at around 1,600 feet and all local airports were reporting Marginal VFR (MVFR). We decided our goal would be to fly to Milwaukee from Chicago Executive for lunch and back. So we did a thorough weather brief in ForeFlight then made a go/no-go decision utilizing PAVE in conjunction with TEAM.

Pilot: I had not flown in a few months, we decided that if it were just me that day I would likely have eliminated the risk by scrubbing the flight, but on this morning I would transfer some of that risk to Al my CFI and Instrument rated pilot who could file an instrument flight plan if conditions deteriorated.

Airplane: We determined the aircraft was absolutely up to the task and was not effected by the weather. So there was little risk, so we accepted the situation.

Environment: We determined although we had low ceilings there was no issue with terrain. We also had a several airports we could divert to if weather conditions deteriorated. So we accepted some risk.

External Pressures: We determined there was no need to complete this flight and we had no external pressures that would negatively impact our judgement. So we again accepted this.

After a thorough review we determined we could salvage this Marginal VFR day and go flying. Turned out to be a great day of flying and camaraderie. Al and I had a smooth, low flight with fine visibility up to Milwaukee. My first visit to Milwaukee was a nice one, the controllers were friendly and traffic was minimal. We grabbed the crew car and enjoyed a great lunch at Cafe Centraal.

We had hoped maybe the weather would improve and give us higher ceilings to perform some stalls, emergency procedures, and other maneuvers. Unfortunately, they did not, but the return flight was also smooth an uneventful.

In the end we used the PAVE and TEAM checklists to allow us to squeeze a great day of flying out of a Marginal VFR day!

Posted at Apr 13, 3:27 PM | Post Category: Flight Experiences | Comments (9) | Save & Share This Story

March 13, 2014

Missed by History: Jerrie Mock The First Woman to Fly Around the World

jerriemock_250px.jpgQuick, name the most famous female aviator of all time? Of course your answer was Amelia Earhart, a revolutionary figure in aviation with a tragic story to boot. However, I contend that Jerrie Mock should have been in your decision set. Wait ... Jerrie Who?

In 1962 Mock, an airport manager in Columbus, OH, and a 500-hour private pilot, was looking for a challenge. Her husband suggested, "Why don't you fly around the world?" and her dream was born. Two years, 250 hours in the logbook, and an instrument rating and Jerrie Mock was ready to make history. She was not alone, however as she was racing against time and competitor Joan Merrian Smith to become the first woman to successfully fly solo around the world.

During her 22,860-mile journey Mock battled fatigue, equipment problems including radio malfunctions, rough engines, and electrical fires. The weather was another complication with legs flown through icing conditions, sandstorms, thunderstorms, and excessive heat all adding to her challenges. There were also moments of pilot error; on March 31, 1964 while enroute from Algeria to Cairo she misidentified an airport, accidentally landing at a secret military airport resulting in hours of interrogation before she could continue her journey.

March 19, 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the start of her historic flight. Over the next 29 1/2 days, she logged 158 hours in her 1953 Cessna 180 Skywagon nicknamed "The Spirit of Columbus" enroute to the record books. Upon returning to Columbus on April 17 she had set two official records according to the International Air Sports Federation (FAI): Female record and speed around the world.

Unofficially she set five additional records:

  • First woman to fly solo entirely around the world

  • First woman to fly from the US to Africa via the North Atlantic

  • First woman to fly across the Pacific in a single engine aircraft

  • First woman to fly the Pacific from west to east

  • First woman to fly both the Atlantic and the Pacific

routemap_jm.jpgAdditionally, President L.B. Johnson awarded her the Gold Medal of the FAA, and the FAI presented her with the prestigious Louis Blériot Silver Medal.

The story of Jerrie Mock, Three Eight Charlie, was originally published in 1970 but had since gone out of print and was very difficult to find. As part of the 50th celebration of this flight, Phoenix Graphix Publishing Services has released a new, colorful edition of Three Eight Charlie and it can be purchased on their website. I originally read her book in 2006 and look forward to re-reading her historic tale. I highly recommend her story, not only a tale of an amazing aviation accomplishment but balanced with interesting stores of her time on the ground at each checkpoint.

Asked now about her accomplishment Mock humbly commented, "I was just having fun, it was no big deal." Shortly after completing her flight she had stated, "I hope...that somewhere here and there my just doing something that hadn't been done will encourage someone else who wants to do something very much and hadn't quite had the heart to try it." I sure hope revisiting this accomplishment will help inspire a whole new generation!

Amelia Rose Earhart (no relation to the famous Amelia Mary Earhart who disappeared July 2, 1937) is part of this new generation of inspired aviators. She will be attempting a flight around the world in a Pilatus PC-12NG later this year. I asked her about her inspirations and she commented, "Jerrie was clearly ahead of her time when it came to her adventurous spirit and passion for flight, and she serves as the perfect example for young women looking forward to a future in aviation. Unfortunately, we are still right around 6% when it comes to the amount of pilots that are women, but I am confident that we can increase those numbers over time. Jerrie led by example, not only telling others to go out and seek their strongest passions, rather she lead by showing us what a life filled with flight can lend toward adventure. Jerry is a true pioneer and it is an honor to have her as a role model."

I am hopeful the 50th anniversary of Mock's flight and Earhart's 2014 adventure will inspire more aviation adventurers and increase interest in aviation for girls around the world.

Be sure to check out this Jerrie Mock photo gallery from the Columbus Dispatch and the official Three Eight Charlie website. Also follow Amelia Rose Earhart's around-the-world flight at

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Posted at Mar 13, 10:32 PM | Post Category: Jerrie Mock | Comments (16) | Save & Share This Story
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