Friday, November 21, 2014

When you really need to know about the weather, it's best to go Deep.

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

There is no end to the number of WX apps available today for smartphones, and they all do many things. But I'm a big fan of any WX app that does one thing, and does it very well, without all the nonsense that must be tolerated when developers try to pack too many features into their products.

As a WX geek, I have always used the National Weather Service's Area Forecast Discussions, which is a product that presents the detailed opinions of NOAA's weather forecasters on what they think the current, short- and long-term WX will do. These have always been my "secret weapon" that allows me to sound like a WX expert at any party, because I always seem to have the inside line on the real story of what is going to happen outside the windows. Click here to see the area forecast discussion from KPDX for my home region.

I have recently discovered a sweet little app called Deep Weather that aggregates these discussions and reformats them into a clean app that makes them super easy to read. If you have an interest in apps, in the WX, or in discovering how some developers just want to create something that solves a problem, read on...

This is what the NOAA people have to say:
"Everyday, forecasters at NOAA's National Weather Service 122 weather forecast offices across the nation write local weather discussions," said Maureen O'Leary, a Public Affairs Specialist at the NOAA Communications and External Affairs office. "Forecasters write discussions for the public, our core partners including broadcast meteorologist, emergency managers, and the weather enterprise. These discussions support the aviation and marine transportation industries.”
Kristian Ljungkvist, the developer of Deep Weather, is a private pilot based in Ashland, Oregon who flies a 1959 Cessna 180B Skywagon to take his family to backcountry airstrips in Idaho, Montana and other places to camp and hike. Most notable in his logbook is a three-and-a-half week flight up to Alaska this past summer to explore the state's many airstrips.
"For almost as long as I've been flying," Ljungkvist said, "I've relied on the National Weather Service Forecast Discussions to really get a feeling for the weather forecast. They give you the background behind the forecast and help you understand the forecaster's thinking. I was looking for a convenient way to get this information, and also felt that this awesome content could be a little easier to read. The original text is pretty much just a chunk of text with delimiters between the sections. Being a software developer, I decided to write an iPhone app and have it automatically retrieve the latest and closest Forecast Discussion. I also added some parsing and formatting of the text to make it a little easier to read. The response to Deep Weather has been great! It's pretty gratifying to see something that you made for yourself be used by so many others."
While deciphering the WX reports can be a complicated thing, the developer says there is no better way to translate this information than the forecast discussions:
"Each National Weather Service forecast office publishes Area Forecast Discussions alongside the Zone Area Forecast to document the meteorological thinking that went into the forecast," explains Ljungkvist. "Weather is the very definition of a dynamic system and contains so many variables that the best you can do is come up with some sort of probability for what the weather will do. Most published forecasts kind of gloss over this part and instead give you the best guess without any qualifiers. By reading the forecast discussion, you get some insight into what the competing models are predicting and the thinking behind why one was chosen over another. The discussions specifically focus on challenges in the forecast, which give you a better feeling for how the forecast might change, should one of the underlying variables change. I also think the forecast discussions are a great learning tool. I've learned so much over the years by reading the forecast discussion and then looking up terms or concepts I didn't understand."
And as anyone who uses the forecast discussions can tell you, they are much, much more accurate that the news emanating from your TV set. "As most weather-minded folks know," said Ljungkvist, "the weather forecast you see on the news, or on a TAF is based on observations and computational weather models. But multiple models are run in parallel, and the forecasters use their expertise to figure out which model has the highest likelihood of being correct."

As to the work that went into this brilliant app, Ljungkvist says he focused primarily on a clean interface that was easy to use.
"I'm a one-man software development shop, so a fair amount of time went into developing Deep Weather. It's been through quite a few revisions. The current version on the app store is version 2.04 and I'm working on an update for iOS8. A lot of the work that went into Deep Weather was geared toward making it as easy as possible to use. In general that's my philosophy with all the software I make. Just launch it and it will find your location, figure out the nearest forecast office, download the latest forecast discussion, split it up into sections and format it nicely for you."
If you have any interest in weather - and especially if you are a pilot - this is $1.99 well spent. Yes, the app is technically free, with a "Pro" version that removes ads, but spring for the two bucks and help this developer get something for his time and trouble. Frankly, I am finding myself going to it several times a day, and it is worth more than this. So if you want to support aviators who build apps that will help you fly safer, go here and buy the app right now.

http://www.rateofclimb.com/deep_weather.html

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Strong Women of Aviation: Meet the Force Behind the 'Turbo the Flying Dog" Children's Book Series

Victoria Zajko and Turbo
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I am not wired like some men in that I really think we should live in a genderless world where women earn exactly the same pay as men, and where any female should have the same chance at climbing to the very top of the corporate ladder as their male colleagues.
  
And as an aviator, the fact that just over six percent of the pilot community is female is appalling when they make up fifty percent of the general population. I've called this missing 44 percent aviation's "secret weapon for growth" and it should be every pilot's responsibility to break that glass ceiling for good.
 
There are all sorts of women, just like there are various kinds of men. But the term "strong woman" describes one of my favorite types of females, because they seem to be very good at self-motivation and driving themselves to achieve anything they choose. "Strong" does not mean forceful, or pushy, or overtly aggressive. It means they just charge ahead with the same verve as some men. The Neanderthals of the 1950s who had an ugly "B" word for these women thankfully have mostly gone west, and the smart women who "lean in" today seem to be just that much closer to grabbing the brass rings they seek.   
  
In my last post on young, brilliant rocket scientist Stephanie Evans, I started an ongoing series looking at strong women in aviation. These females are leaders in our aviation family, and one of the most motivated of this group is Victoria Zajko. She is @Toriafly on Twitter and is about to publish the first in what I hope is a long series of aviation-themed children's books based on her shelter dog, Turbo.

While Turbo will fly in anything, apparently he
has a preference for open-cockpit biplanes.
Good Doggie.
And since we all want to publish a book, I thought "The Pixie Pilot" as she is called would make the perfect subject of another interview in this series. So sit back and enjoy the tale of how a book for the littles goes from idea to your eyes.

Airplanista: Let's get to know you.

Victoria Zajko: My name is Victoria Zajko (formerly Neuville) and I work in customer service and sales at Aviation Insurance Resources. I kind of fell into this position when I moved to Frederick, MD and now am happy to turn it into a career. Insurance is not that boring when you get to work with and talk to pilots every day! I am a commercial pilot with an instrument rating and fly a Cessna 172 (through work) and Glasair IRG (my husband's) regularly. My dream airplane would be a Waco, although I have never stepped foot in one! I completed all of my flight training in Michigan where I grew up. I went through ground school and my first discovery flight when I was 16 thanks to many years of encouragement from my father. It wasn't until I was at a crossroads in college rethinking my future when it dawned on me that I kept putting my goal of becoming a pilot in a file in my brain called "someday."

Airplanista: Walk us through the very inception of the book idea...how it moved from concept to a living project.

VZ: My coauthor Kelly Kennedy and I have always wanted to write children's books. I recall babysitting when I was in middle school and high school and I would create short stories complete with artwork for the kids. Shortly after my husband, Bob, and I adopted our dog Turbo, many friends were encouraging us to make him a Facebook page chronicling his adventures. One night, while spending time with Kelly (most likely a happy hour lol!) we thought, here's our chance. Turbo has to have a book about him. From there our ideas spread like wildfire and we plan to publish at least 4 books in the Turbo series. Kelly had assisted me before as part of a marketing team for aviation events I held at Frederick Airport and I knew we would make the perfect team. We plan for a successful series that will take lots of work, but we always ensure that we enjoy the process.

Airplanista: Once it was decided that you wanted to produce a children's book with an aviation theme, what were the major roadblocks that had to be cleared in order for the project to begin positive forward progress?

VZ: Roadblocks, hurdles, whatever you may call them, I'm used to them! I think it keeps life interesting and you have to expect them along the way for any project. Surprisingly, we did not encounter many (yet...knock on wood). Probably the biggest hurdle we faced was financing. We did not have the funds to properly produce and advertise our product, so we started a Kickstarter campaign. We were 50% funded within the first day, were a Kickstarter staff pick, and even made it to number 2 in the top children's books Kickstarter campaigns. In the end, we went 16% over our minimum goal when the campaign ended. I believe that the Kickstarter success proves what a powerful story Turbo the Flying Dog will be, and that the many nights staying away brainstorming his marketing campaign have paid off.

Airplanista: How much work was put into developing the story of Turbo the Flying Dog? Do you or your publishing partner have previous writing or publishing experience?

VZ: You would think that a couple of sentences per page would not be that difficult, but it was and it was a lengthy process. We had to insure the flow of the book targeted a certain age group and that we were getting the story across and having readers fall in love with the Turbo character in a mere 32 pages. It went through several revisions, paying attention to each and every detail, until we knew it was ready. My coauthor publishes the Country Register for Tennessee and Kentucky and has a background in creative writing. Her knowledge has been irreplaceable. We each have different areas of expertise and creative ideas that we bring to the table.

The cover art for book one in the series
Airplanista: Explain how much work went into the art for the book. How was it developed...was it a tough process or one that was rewarding?

VZ: Kelly and I had this vision for the look of the book, but putting that look into words was very difficult. A good working relationship with whoever became our illustrator was also key and we wanted a true fan of Turbo to be our illustrator. So, we put a call out on social media for artists to send in a sample drawing of Turbo and a bid on the book project. We didn't expect much and were surprised at how quickly and how much talent came in! By pure coincidence, the person who provided the "right" look was my husband's cousin, Michelle Zajko. It was very rewarding that we could make this a friends and family affair and that I could get to know my new family a bit better through such a creative process. Michelle has been great. She does not take advantage of the fact that we are family and treats the Turbo series as seriously as we do. She also has such an amazing vision, we rarely have to go back and ask her to change something in the book. She brings the cartoon Turbo to life in a way we had only imagined.

Airplanista: Lets talk business. It seems that everyone wants to publish a book at some point, but you are actually doing it. How did you create the business model for this book project? Did a publishing house pick it up, do you have sponsors, or is it being self-published?

VZ: Self-publishing companies make it so easy for anyone to be an author these days. This is a route we had initially avoided due to the thought that self-published books would be overlooked because they were in fact that...self-published. But there are some items that take a lot of time (and money) to get picked up by a publishing house. First, to get to the big leagues you have to go through an agent, and those agents have fees and may or may not want to represent you. We both really believed in our story, however, so this did not deter us. In the end, we chose the self-publishing route for one reason: control. We wanted to keep the integrity of the series intact and didn't want the Turbo brand to change while under the control of a publishing house. We had a specific plan in mind that we did not want compromised by putting the control in someone else's hands.

Airplanista: What other writers and publishers did you speak with about their book projects before starting yours?

VZ: When we were in the beginning stages, I quickly consulted Karlene Petitt of Flight to Success for insight due to her author and pilot background. She's always been a big supporter of an endeavor I've been a part of and she did not disappoint me here either. When the book was written, we sent it to a good friend and author of the soon to be released book, Hausa Blues, Shelah Maul. Shelah is a Speech Pathologist and helped us determine the proper age range for the book and point out areas that needed a second look. Finally, once we decided self-publishing was the way to go, I got connected with Jeff Kennon who self-published his book, The Day I Learned to Fly. He was always willing to answer any questions I had about his experience. These mentors prove that it's not just about the author(s) that go into a book, there is a whole backbone of support that brings a story to press.

Airplanista: What are your short- and long-term goals for the book projects? How many units would you like to sell, and how far would you like to take this "Turbo the Flying Dog" brand?

VZ: We are dreaming big! We had named Turbo prior to the Disney movie about a snail called Turbo came out. So since they beat us to the big screen, we would love to have Turbo's big screen debut be with DreamWorks. They produce my favorite movie How to Train your Dragon anyway :) We are realistic, though, despite our lofty goals. We are not in it to make money, just to inspire children with Turbo's tale. I'd love to see the first four books go to print and see where it takes us from there. 

Airplanista: Now that the book is coming out, what are your plans to get people to buy them?

VZ: This is probably the hardest part of self-publishing, but luckily Turbo (the real one) already has quite a following on social media. Plus, the pilot community has been amazing in spreading the word. Besides the usual books signings at book stores, we hope to go to dog friendly places as well as airports to promote the book. I hope to put together a few small airport events together at the beginning of the New Year. It will be a perfect opportunity to meet Turbo and to get children excited about the aviation environment. We have already been in touch with a few aviation shops and FBOs to sell the book and will be submitting our product to larger retailers like Sporty's for review. The book will also be available for purchase on the Turbo the Flying Dog website and on Amazon.com.

Airplanista: What do you want to accomplish with this book series in terms of motivating children to learn more about flying?

VZ: Turbo is a just a mutt who spent the beginning of his life at a shelter. If he can learn to fly a plane, any kid can, too! The Turbo series is a glimpse into the aviation world, I hope that through Turbo, children will want to learn more about aviation. In book one, kids will learn that aviation can be fun and that it's not that scary. Through books 2 through 4 children will be invited to learn a little bit more about airplanes, aviation history and weather. The pilot population is dwindling and it's up to us present pilots to encourage others (young and old) that they can achieve their dream of flight. My hope is that through the Turbo books, children know that they can reach for the sky despite the odds that may be against them. Turbo is in a cage in the beginning of Turbo the Flying Dog but by the end, he's flying towards a brand new life!

VZ: Turbo the Flying Dog is expected to release on December 8th, 2014. It will be available on Amazon.com and over at our website: www.turbotheflyingdog.com. We'd love to hear what you think and feel free to share photos of your kids (or yourself!) enjoying Turbo's story. We'd also like to give a shout-out to Dustin's Angels. They are a rescue group out of West Virginia and the group we got Turbo from. My husband and I actually picked real life Turbo up by plane the day we adopted him! Without their dedication to giving animals a second chance, I wouldn't have such an awesome four-legged co-pilot. Many thanks also to all of our Kickstarter backers and those that have retweeted, shared, and what-not our project along the way. The last thank you goes to our husbands, Bob (mine!) and Chris (Kelly's) because they've put up with our crazy ideas, countless of dinners chatting about the series and have never once doubted our project.
  
Finally, I'm an open book, feel free to contact me or Turbo anytime with your questions or anything you would like to share.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A young, brilliant Rocket Scientist tells us why she thinks STEM Education is so important

Stephanie Evans
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

People who read this blog long enough know I am a big proponent of getting more females into flying. But that advocacy also includes getting more women into the aerospace industry, and that begins with STEM education.

If that acronym is foreign to you, STEM stands for "science, technology, engineering and math." That is the core curriculum if you want to end up as a "Certified Rocket Scientist" like Stephanie Evans (@StephEvz43).

I recently "met" Stephanie through Twitter, and she was cordial enough to take time off of building something for someone (sorry, it is classified and I do not know myself) to answer some interview questions. I wanted to find out what path she took to get out of the pink aisle and into a seriously cool job in the aerospace industry. Her answers are presented below verbatim:

AIRPLANISTA: Your Twitter profile says you are a "Certified Rocket Scientist"...what exactly is that, and how do you get certified?

STEPHANIE EVANS (SE): My "certification" is more based around my degree, which is in aerospace engineering. I like to joke that I paid a lot of money and didn't sleep for four years so that I could say "it's not rocket science" ironically. My focus in college was on microsatellite design and development. I went to school at Missouri S&T and participated on the Satellite Design Team (M-SAT) and also did research for the Missouri Space Grant Consortium. Those experiences are what I count towards my "certification."

AIRPLANISTA: Walk my readers through your childhood and 'tween years and describe the path you took to end up with a BS in Aerospace Engineering. Was there any one event that sent you on this trajectory, or any one person who mentored you?
 
SE: I grew up in a small town in the middle of a corn field in southern Illinois, so there wasn't a lot of scientific clubs or organizations to get involved with up until I was in high school. In fact, it wasn't until I was a sophomore in high school that our science club was organized. I was very lucky to have two science teachers that really nurtured my love for science and set me on the path I'm on today.

While the town is set in pretty old-fashioned ways, my parents both did a wonderful job encouraging me to find an interest. My father has always loved aircraft. He's always wanted to get his pilot's license. Growing up next to an Air Force Base also helped. I think the defining moment for me was when I was pretty young, around 7 or 8. I was playing in the backyard and looked up and saw what looked like a flying saucer to me; a very thin wing shape flying completely level with only the cockpit sticking up. As I watched, the aircraft banked out, and I was looking at a B-2 gracefully banking out over the cornfields. It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen, and I knew I wanted to somehow be involved with stuff like that. As I got older, that passion branched out to spacecraft. I would stay up late for night launches and read about anything I could get my hands on about space exploration and the history of NASA. I was definitely a geek, but all the experiences I had during that time were incredibly influential in setting me on my career path.

AIRPLANISTA: I have heard that "engineering" is primarily made up of male students. Is that true, and did being female in that world have an positive or negative effects on your education and career advancement?
 
SE: It is absolutely true. Missouri S&T is primarily an engineering college, and its student population dynamic is very reflective of how the actual engineering industry is. When I enrolled at the college, I believe that the ratio was roughly nine boys for every one girl. However, the university has really made strides to encourage female interest. There are many outreach programs that target young women, and by the time I'd graduated, the female population had increased to nearly 25%, the highest it had ever been. It is still very much a boy's club though; out of 50 aerospace students in my graduating class, I was one of two women.

Having such a low female percentage definitely has effects, both positive and negative. Many employers are eager to diversify, so being female can help when looking for work (although it never felt like it when I was looking for work). There are even scholarships that specifically target female engineering students and organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers.

However, there are downfalls to it as well. As a female, I constantly feel that I need to prove myself. Sexism is still a thing, and it's pretty hard to prove in the workplace when you may be the only female report. Many women don't come forward due to fear of retribution or being branded a "FemiNazi". In my college years, I regularly heard jokes about women getting back to the kitchen, and they were just jokes, but after hearing them all of your life, they can be exhausting. I'm not saying that it's like this everywhere. In the two years I've been in industry, I've reported to outstanding people, but I've also had my uphill battles with male individuals. I don't condone it at all, but it is something young women need to be prepared to deal with, because it doesn't always go away.

My approach has always been simple: Work as hard as you can, outwork everyone around you, and if that perception still exists, then it's their problem, not yours.

AIRPLANISTA: I recently bought my granddaughter a GoldieBlox kit because their website says, "In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math, girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8. Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they've been considered boys' toys. GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. We aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers." So, what do you think "disrupt the pink aisle" means?
 
SE: Ah, the wonderful pink aisle. Growing up, I have so many memories of walking through toy stores and seeing the "pink aisle" where the toys for girls resided. Hot pink Barbie boxes and doll boxes stretched out for what seemed like miles. While I did own Barbies (Princess Jasmine had color changing hair and jewelry. How awesome was that?), there were times that I'd skip the pink aisle and head for the Legos in the "boys section". Toys like this really give me hope for the next generation because the break the mold for what is expected of young girls. At the end of the day, I don't think there should be toys for girls and toys for boys, just toys that foster whatever interest each child has. I just wish stuff like this had been around when I was growing up so that I wouldn't have to blow breakers in the house (lesson: never touch white and green wires together in the light socket box) just to satisfy my constant curiosity. I think my parents would also have been appreciative.

AIRPLANISTA: What can the average general aviation pilot do to help encourage girls and women to think about STEM studies?
 
SE: I would say a large part of this is Outreach activities. Giving talks, holding seminars, or just taking your daughter up in your aircraft are great ways to foster interests. These kinds of things weren't available to me when I was growing up and frankly, the fact that I ended up in the field I did surprises me some days. Pure tenacity and curiosity got me to where I am, but not all girls are lucky enough to have parents that have time to take you to the airshow or do science experiments with you. I had two teachers for parents that constantly encouraged me to pursue any interest I had. Making these kinds of things available to young women is a huge step in the right direction, and it's also so good for the industry.

In college, part of our M-SAT program was to do Outreach with the local communities. I know for a fact that walking the kids through our observatory on campus or teaching them about basic rocket design changed some of their lives. At the end of the day, just allow young women to explore any and all interests they have, and if it just wasn't their cup of tea, then that's absolutely fine. The opportunity to explore the different opportunities in the STEM fields just needs to be more available.

AIRPLANISTA: Now that you are in a critical engineering position with a major company, do you see any significant differences between the male and female engineers?
 
SE: Overall, I'm very fortunate to work with a group of engineers that are incredibly dedicated to designing and developing the best products and projects that we can in a timely fashion. However, there are a few differences. I think the most notable difference is the personality types. Many of the men that I work with are laid back and go about their jobs quietly. I work closely with another female engineer, and she is an incredibly strong woman that doesn't take anything lying down. She is incredibly meticulous in ensuring that she understands everything going on in her projects and that everything is being designed and tested to the quality that she expects. The attention to detail that she regularly displays is something to aspire to. We work as Systems Engineers, so we are responsible for requirement development and tracking, and projects are built on these requirements, so her tenacity serves her well. One of the biggest things she's taught me in the two years I've worked with her is to not accept anything less than exactly what you want and don't take crap from anyone. It may not always make friends, but it gets the job done, and I think that kind of personality is definitely beneficial for young women in fields dominated by men. In my limited experience, it would seem that women like this are usually the success stories. 

AIRPLANISTA: Do you think females would become more interested in STEM education and a career in aerospace industry by joining EAA and learning about building experimental aircraft?
 
SE: Absolutely. I can tell you that, as a child, if this kind of opportunity had been available to me, I would have jumped all over it. As I said earlier, Outreach like this is key in fostering a love for STEM in not only young women, but the general public. I didn't even hear the words "aerospace engineering" until my freshman year in high school, and I know that there are many young women just like me. An EAA membership would go a long way in education and encouragement for the aerospace industry.

AIRPLANISTA: What are some of the main reasons that girls and women do not actively pursue STEM education and careers in the aerospace industry in numbers equal to males?
 
SE: In my opinion, it's a lack of encouragement from society and a lack of available activities. In general, I would say things are improving. There are so many activities that I hear about nowadays that make me go "Dang, I wish they had that when I was a kid!" For example, Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri has the Columbia Aeronautics and Space Association or CASA, a curriculum that focuses on aerospace technology and the curriculum applications. The coolest part of this program is the week-long International Space Station simulation, complete with mission control, "ninjas" to cause problems for the astronauts to deal with, and a replica of the station that the students work in. Hands down, one of the coolest things I've ever seen, and an incredibly significant outreach project due to the interest it generates not only with the students, but with the community. Projects like these are the necessary steps forward in increasing these numbers, but finding them is a rare. I acknowledge that this is a large-scale example, but there are multitudes of activities that educators and parents can do with young people to spark an interest in STEM education. The first steps just need to be taken.

AIRPLANISTA: Your specialty is satellites. We currently have a fantastic GPS system that allows my phone to find a Starbucks in the next block, and track my movements in real-time. But this planet lacks any sort of worldwide Internet connectivity, and many places still suffer with slow dial-up speeds. What are the technical reasons that we cannot someday see a satellite-based Internet connectivity system with the coverage of the GPS system, delivering fast Internet speeds anywhere a device can send signals to and receive signals from satellites?
 
SE: Believe it or not, a project like this is already in the works! Google's Project Loon is working to spread Internet connectivity to rural or remote areas using high-altitude balloons (not quite satellites, but on the edge of space). The reasoning behind using the weather balloons is likely the fact that it's a cheaper solution (launching a bunch of satellites into space is incredibly expensive).

AIRPLANISTA: Describe what a girl age 10-13 should be doing right now to set out on an education path that includes STEM studies in order to end up in a position such as yours.
 
SE: Working hard in school and reading everything they can get their hands on about their interests. Don't be easily discouraged if this is something that they are truly passionate about, because passionate people are the ones that need to be working in these fields. Those are the people that are going to drive the major successes and discoveries of the future.

AIRPLANISTA: How important is it that we send humans to Mars? Is that in our future, and if yes, do you see that potentially as part of the commercial space travel industry someday?
 
SE: I think sending humans to Mars will be the first baby steps required for the human race to branch out to other planets. It will be our first real test-run for long term missions and independent survival. Going to Mars will play a significant step in the advance of human space exploration. In regards to the commercial industry, I believe that if we can successfully set up a colony on Mars, that yes, commercial space flight to Mars would be the next logical step, although I don't believe it will be in my lifetime.

AIRPLANISTA: Add anything here that you think my general aviation readers need to see to help them understand about girls, women and STEM education.
 
SE: Just in general, the world is becoming a more encouraging place for young women everywhere to take up a career in STEM, but there is still much room for improvement. The most difficult part about pursuing a career in STEM is the fact that everything is changing so quickly: new scientific discoveries every day, new technology rolling off the line before anyone can get used to the previous model. It's a world constantly in flux, but to me, that is what makes it so exciting. There are many careers where you may do the same thing every day for 50 years, but STEM fields are constantly changing and growing.In my mind, that is what makes it such a wonderful thing to be a part of, and I can't wait to see how the STEM world will change throughout my career, both in terms of the exciting research that will be generated and the people that will be doing it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Airplane Ownership: Know When to Buy, Know When to Sell

Yes, I have the wheel pants, I just prefer to fly
Katy with them off for a number of reasons.
See full photo gallery here.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

It is one of those unwritten rules in the aviation world that from your very first flight lesson, we aviators strive to purchase and fly an airplane we can call our own. As flight students, we've all had that vision...sliding open the hangar door on a crisp autumn morning so you can pull "your" bird out into the sunlight to go poke holes in the crystal clear sky.
    
Wanting that airplane and buying it are far different stories.
 
When the time comes and you are in a financial position to shop for airplanes, you spend hours determining what is your mission profile. Do you need a small, fun tailwheel ship to chase hamburgers, or a larger IFR airplane that can carry four adults and all their stuff hundreds of miles in comfort? Maybe you live in lake country and want something on floats. Or, you have the bank for a sleek, composite dream machine. What comes first on your priority list, speed, payload or operational economics?
When all of this pondering concludes, you zero in on the right make/model for your needs, and start shopping. It is an arduous process, lots of time on websites...and when you find a plane that fits your mission profile exactly, you begin the "CSI" phase of inspecting logbooks, online due diligence, and good old fashioned sniffin' around. Soon, you find "the one" and write a check before flying home to stash your new baby in your fresh and clean hangar.
That was me in 2007 when I bought N8527W, also known as Katy. My 1964 Piper Cherokee 235 fit my profile perfectly...four adults and their stuff, predictable and stable IFR platform, and known Cherokee reliability. I knew going in that Katy was not a rocket ship, but the cruising speed of about 121 KTAS was sufficient to get us all from A to B.
 
I have flown Katy now for seven years, and she has served us well as a great airplane for business and pleasure flying. But now my mission profile has changed, and she is a bit more airplane than I need. Which is why she is for sale now, a decision that was tough to make but will be the right one long term. Here us why:
When we bought Katy, we had a number of advertising clients in the Fresno, CA area, and flying the 235 down to Central California from my home in Southwestern Oregon was a nice four-hour nonstop. We went down there two or three times per year, with stops along the way to call on prospects. Katy was the perfect plane, but today, those clients no longer need face-to-face service, so we no longer need to fly long distances for business.
While Katy's panel might be technically "non-standard"
it has a nice clean look due to the aluminum panels.

See full photo gallery here.
Selling Katy makes good sense now, as my personal flying is changing as well. While instrument-rated, I see weather patterns in the Pacific Northwest changing every winter, becoming more dramatic, with lower freezing levels, more powerful storms and stronger winds. And living in the Willamette Valley means needing around 10,000 msl to fly east or south to clear the Cascades or Siskiyou ranges. I can easily fly west, but after 20 minutes in the air, all that is left is 2,500NM of ocean before I find Hawaii.

I believe that to satisfy my need to fly and also match financial considerations with a more accurate mission profile, I need to sell the 235 and buy something smaller, most likely a VFR-only LSA, or membership in a flying club. I love the economics of the Light Sport class, because 4 gph allows me to chase $100 hamburgers that truly only cost $100. I like the experimental class even better, but as someone who cannot change oil without losing a screw, stripping threads or whacking a knuckle, I have no business building airplanes.
 
When you do find that $100 hamburger, you can eat it
off of Katy's Lycoming 0-540, it is that clean.

See full photo gallery here.
Katy will be a great airplane for her next owner. She has been very well maintained, and had a long list of new parts, including fresh 500 hour mags. All of her ADs were complied with at last annual, and her Lycoming 0-540 purrs. The engine is extra clean, and has great compressions at about 380 hours SMOH. The panel is all-steam, with some King radios and digital fuel flow and tach. I have discounted her asking price $4,000 off the AOPA vRef calculated price to try and get the phone to ring.
 
If you or anyone you know wants a nice clean airplane that can haul more useful load than its empty weight, go here and look at my Trade-a-plane ad. You can also see a full photo gallery here.

If you are interested in talking about a deal, email Dan Pimentel here.
 
And did I mention that the $55,000 is an asking price? Make me an offer I can't refuse and Katy can be in your hangar soon. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

If you want to follow the coolest #Avgeeks, you've got to be on the Twitter

#Avgeek Mike Miley rocked #OSH14 this past summer
with this incredible non-Photoshopped image.
Courtesy Mike Miley
This is part one of a two part series

by Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Those who know me and follow my writing on here or in any of the five magazines I regularly write for know I spend lots of time on Twitter where "my people" can be found. I call the #avgeeks are the kind of aviators I love to know...genuine people with a deep-down love of aviation that is 24/7.

This dedication to aviation - eating, sleeping, thinking about flying and airplanes all day every day...and dreaming about them at night - it's what makes an #Avgeek into an Airplanista. It's hard not to be one without being the other. Yes, you can be crazy about this aviation family and be an Airplanista while barely knowing how to email someone...but that is a rare exception.

Generally, people who fly airplanes - because of the multiple systems one must monitor to fly safely, plus the pre-flight gizmos we use to determine route and weather - are more technologically savvy than Average Joe or Jane on the street. That is the basis of an Airplanista being an #Avgeek...a love for technology as well as a love of flying.

What follows is not a popularity contest, or any sort of "Who's Who" of the #Avgeek community on Twitter. I could fill 1,000 pages with listings like this because this group is growing daily. I have just perused a list I have as my main feed called "MyFaves" and these people percolated to the top because they tweet often and their content is of the highest quality.

If you didn't make it into this post, it's not because I don't love ya', it's because in the rush to produce this article, I didn't have time to sift through the 400 or so Tweeps on my favorites list. This is down and dirty blogging...pounding it out as fast as my fingers can move. So I KNOW there will be a few VIP #avgeeks that I completely missed...I apologize in advance...so please, no flaming effigies on my front lawn.

This is part one...in no particular order. Watch this blog in the coming days for the conclusion to this article.

Larry Overstreet - @larryoverstreet   
TWITTER PROFILE: Building a Sonex experimental aircraft. 90% airplane tweets, 10% business intelligence. Microsoft SQL, QlikView, and Birst. Sussex, Wisconsin
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Larry is probably one of the most dedicated #Avgeeks you will find on Twitter. He exemplifies what it means to be an aviator, and is seriously the nicest dude you will meet at the airport. Is one of the two founders of Camp Bacon, the epicenter of the #Avgeek universe during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Runs a big tech company, has lots of grown kids, all as nice as he is.
Karlene Petitt - @KarlenePetitt   
TWITTER PROFILE: International Airline Pilot. Supporting careers, dreams and aviation safety. Typed: B747, 744, 757/767, 737, 727, A330. Author. Speaker. Motivator. Artist. Seattle Washington karlenepetitt.blogspot.com
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Easily the busiest woman in aviation. She raised a big family while building a career as an international airline pilot, and gets college degrees in her spare time, when not writing successful novels or updating her always interesting blog. Had a day off once, and put a putting green in her backyard. She makes over-achievers look like slackers, and Oh yeah, she's taller than you.
Brad Koehn - @bradkoehn       
TWITTER PROFILE: Spelled just like it sounds. Learning Addict, Dad, Software Architect, Pilot, Maker. As a rule, I don't follow companies or their shills. Sorry. #notreally Middle of nowhere, Minnesota.  diaspora.koehn.com/u/bkoehn
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Super nice guy, and like many #avgeeks, has a job in software development creating applications built on platforms and back-ends we mere mortals could never understand. Can usually be found at Oshkosh, somewhere in the vicinity of Camp Bacon.
Tracey Patterson Marks - @iopflygirl   
TWITTER PROFILE: Instrument Rated Private Pilot working towards Commercial rating, wife of @benmarks, proud CofC mom, runner, health nut, Parrothead. Isle of Palms, SC
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: While I do not know all that much about her personally - except that she is really conversational and friendly, lives near the beach and treats her dog to frequent runs next to the surf - Tracey is a true blue #avgeek that will overcome just about any obstacle to make even one overnight stop at Camp Bacon.
John L Conway IV - @PilotConway   
TWITTER PROFILE: Software Developer, Private Pilot, Co-Host/Producer of InThePatternPodcast.com, Editor for flyopa.com Baltimore, MD. riledup.co
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Part of the Other People's Airplanes crew, John is another highly social #avgeek that can usually be found editing video somewhere. Knows keystrokes to operate his keystrokes. If you need a boom mic, John can fabricate one from a Campbell's soup can, a ball of string, a random bag of old Radio Shack parts, a broomstick and a Swiffer. Yeah, he can do that.
Eric Auxier - @capnaux   
TWITTER PROFILE: capnaux.com #Airline Captain by day-writer by night-kid by choice. Novelist (goo.gl/yVHJV), & writer 4 @AirwaysMagazine @NYCAviation KPHX  capnaux.com
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Airline pilot by day, author by night, "Cap'n Aux" likes to keep his writing light, fun and with a large dose of "been there, done that, got the shirt." Known to blog in formation, and has a GF that can probably bench press more than you while probably looking much better than you.
Jolie Lucas - @Mooney4me   
TWITTER PROFILE: The Mooney Ambassadors are a service group formed with a three part mission: Support Mooney; Promote GA, and Inspire the love of flight. All over the US and Canada  MooneyAmbassadors.com
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Could be the nicest woman in the sky, flies Mooneys and will stop what she's doing to tell you why. Will jump in feet first to help another #Avgeek, and is a crazed, fanatical Oregon Ducks football fan. Loves her Flying Eyes Sunglasses, and has been known to follow the coast home to Oceano, CA.
Sam Wiltzius - @wiredforflight   
TWITTER PROFILE: IT guy who is an aviation nut. OS X to flying, love it all. linkedin.com/in/wiltzius/  KMSN  wiredforflight.com
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Easily the most straight up awesome dude you will meet at Oshkosh. Will bend over backwards to help another pilot, and knows more tricks about IT than a magician. Always has access to a golf cart at AirVenture, and is the "go-to" guy for all things video when you need to strap 101 GoPros to a helicopter to film a dude wearing a jet-powered wing falling from the landing skid.
Josh Martin - @JoshDMartin   
TWITTER PROFILE: TBM 850 corporate pilot. Family man. Proprietor of @BuffettWorld and @ChesneyWorld. #STLcards and #MSUbears fan. Jester of Tortuga Springfield, MO  buffettworld.com
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Never met him, but I know from many DMs that we are on the same page regarding just about everything. Knows more about Jimmy Buffett than Buffett himself. Has not stopped smiling since his boss - the guy he flies for - sold the Saratoga and upgraded to the current TBM 850. Likes to Instagram pics of his kids, but that's OK 'cause the kiddos are pretty cute.
Jennifer - @Jen_Niffer   
TWITTER PROFILE: Old enough to know better, young enough to still do it anyway. Aviation enthusiast. Lover of all things chocolate. Motorsports fan. I'd rather be by the ocean. Planet Earth
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Never can remember if she is Thelma or Louise on her road trips to Oshkosh, but has been known to get 25 hours of excitement out of each 24 hour day she spends at AirVenture. Her friends and family are not quite sure about this #avgeek thang, but that's OK, she's just going to keep on admiring every airplane she meets.
Thomson Meeks - @THM_18   
TWITTER PROFILE: Student Pilot • SoMe guy @ Laminar Research • CrossFitter • X-Planer • Dog Person • Lover of Coffee • Tweets & Views Mine Alone. Asheville, NC  meeksfamily.com
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: I've watched this young overachieving #avgeek grow up before my eyes, and the sight is great. From a smallish, rather shy kid who liked airplanes, this future CEO of an aviation company has been cross-training hard, and is now a maturing rock of a human. He still can out-geek almost anyone, and 50 years from now, he will sell his Gulfstream and get an hybrid electric/solar LSA made by Tesla Aviation that will keep him flying into retirement.
OpenAirplane - @OpenAirplane   
TWITTER PROFILE: We make renting a plane as easy as renting a car. 69 cities across the US  OpenAirplane.com
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: OpenAirplane is one of the most innovative initiatives in all of aviation, because it solves the problem of having to pay for an insurance check ride each time you rent an airplane. Even if you've flown 100 different 172s, without OpenAirplane, you still have to prove to a CFI that you can fly the 172 you are trying to rent. That has always been hogwash. Thank you Team Rakic for putting this together and growing it nationally.
Neil Reagan - @Ntr_09   
TWITTER PROFILE: Private Pilot, #Avgeek, Gearhead, Southerner, Objectivist/Libertarian. RTs not endorsements nor necessarily my words/thoughts. Please visit my about.me Tennessee, USA  about.me/neilreagan
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Neil is...like @THM_18, a young #avgeek to watch. He will be flying for years, and always earns the respect of the aviators around him by being a decent young man on the way up. He's outspoken and not afraid to tell you his views, but he's always the first to help out on Twitter when a fellow #avgeek needs something.
Mike Miley - @mike_miley   
TWITTER PROFILE: Father, Systems Engineer Manager, Flight Instructor, Adjunct Faculty, bad clarinet player. Schaumburg  about.me/mike.miley
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Mike is a very good aviation photographer...evidence of that leads off this post. He's also one of the most devoted #avgeeks you will find, and like so many others in this article, does something in the computer realm that nobody really understands. Is part of the Chicagoland arm of the #avgeek world, and my guess is he can lead you straight to the city's finest deep-dish pizza.
David Allen - @DaveFlys   
TWITTER PROFILE: Husband, father, storyteller, aviation ambassador, new media producer, host of Other People's Airplanes, technology lover, Christ-follower, linux newbie. Melbourne, FL  vizify.com/david-allen-3
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: The Quarterback of Team OPA (Other People's Airplanes) Dave is a stand-up family man who divides his love between his family, his God, his tech gear and the #avgeek community. Can always be found at Oshkosh with a camera, microphone or mobile device in his hand. Never met a slice of bacon he didn't like.
Ken Mist - @eyeno   
TWITTER PROFILE: I love airplanes. I take pictures of airplanes. My views are mine.
Brampton Ontario Canada  kenmist.com
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Comes from the Great White North, and takes very nice photos of mostly warbirds. Can fill up a memory card in his dSLRs in record time. In his day job as an Airport Host, he can say "the restrooms are up there, on the right, eh" in 14 different languages, reportedly even in Swahili.
Shelley Delayne - @ShelleyDelayne   
TWITTER PROFILE: Connector of collaborators. Graphic designer. Tango Dancer. SCUBA diver. Mom. Aspiring pilot. Sometimes Painter & Maker of Things. Always a cockeyed optimist. Austin, TX
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Shelley was one of the first #avgeeks I "met" on Twitter, and I have so much in common with her, I make sure to see anything she posts. As her profile says, she's a "cockeyed optimist" and in my world, you score extra points for not being negative. She and husband Dean Siracusa are the force behind Flying Eyes "headset friendly" sunglasses, and she recently cut off the majority of her hair to donate for use by cancer patients when their Flying Eyes Indiegogo campaign hit the $20,000 goal. I do not know her personally, but I get the feeling we are old friends who just happen to have never met. She might also be the only #avgeek who actually understands why I love the TV program "So You Think You Can Dance."
Jo Hunter - @futureshox   
TWITTER PROFILE: Aviation photographer, PHP developer, beer lover, owned by cats, weather station operator. Austin, TX  about.me/johunter
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: I do not know a lot about Jo, but like many of the #avgeeks in this article, I have a lot in common with her. We're both photographers, we both are owned by cats, and I wish I were a weather station operator. Oh, and when she visits the hippest city in my state, #Portlandia, she can be found at any one of the dozens of craft breweries on either side of the Willamette River. And she gets extra points by being from Austin, which I hear is on the same celestial plane as Eugene, in some weird, metaphysical way.
Brent Owens - @fixedwingbuddha   
TWITTER PROFILE: Pilot & blogger. See me at fixedwingbuddha.com & facebook.com/fixedwingbuddha. Columbus
AV8RDAN'S COMMENTS: Super nice dude, excellent blogger, and knows a boatload about how to save money on flying. Wears very nice suits to work at a very large company that flies a monster fleet of jets, and has been known to take selfies in his RV-8, wearing the same nice suits. But get him on the flight line at Oshkosh, and he'll blend in to the crowd with his beat up cowboy hat, t-shirt and shorts.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Marketing Aviation to the Public: Change the Game or Risk Extinction

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I recently had a lengthy conference call with a couple of #avgeeks I know who have been following the story of my Oshbash event at this past EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. They have been supporters of my GA Power Collective Panel Discussion I organized this year at Oshbash, and asked me what the "next step" action items will be.
  
You might have read here that the "Collective" idea was to get the conversation started that might lead to the major aviation associations joining their financial and intellectual resources together to grow the pilot population to 1,000,000 certificated pilots. At Oshbash, we did in fact succeed in at least starting the conversation, but I made it clear that as one aviator, I did not have the answer to the aviation industry's growth dilemma.
  
But as this conference call continued, I did explain what I think needs to happen if the number of certificated pilots is to reach that elusive seven figure mark. I did not go into detail about this at Oshbash because I wanted the time to be filled with commentary from the Panelists. They were the stars of the event, and we did hear plenty of great ideas.
  
So it has become clear to me that I need to lay it all out there, my idea for turning this growth situation around. Yes, everyone has an idea for growing aviation, and this is mine.
  
We need to find the aviation version of "Uncle Phil."
That would be "Phil" Knight, a native of Oregon and the co-founder and chairman of Nike, Inc. In 2014, Forbes named Knight the 43rd richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$18.7 billion. A native Oregonian, he ran track under coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon (UO), who co-founded Nike with Knight. Here in my hometown, it is hard to ignore the massive financial impact Knight and his money has had on UO, mostly in athletics but also in numerous other areas as well.
Here are just a few highlights of Knight's philanthropic generosity at UO, courtesy of Wikipedia:
• In 2000, Knight was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for his Special Contribution to Sports in Oregon. At the time of his induction, he had contributed approximately $230 million to UO, the majority of which was for athletics.
    

• In August 2007, Knight announced that he and his wife would be donating $100 million to found the UO Athletics Legacy Fund to help support all athletic programs at the university.
    

• Knight was responsible for financing the UO's $68 million 145,000 square-foot gridiron football facility that was officially opened in late July 2013.
    

• The 2010 construction of the UO basketball team's facility, Matthew Knight Arena, was the result of a partnership between Knight and former Oregon Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny. Named after Knight's deceased son, the venue cost over $200 million and was achieved with the direct financial support of both Knight and Kilkenny.
• Along with mega-donations to UO athletics, Knight has also given large financial support to OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
Of course, I am NOT saying we need to tap into the seemingly overflowing Knight fountain of money. But the aviation industry does need to find someone with this sort of high net worth to ride in on preferably a white stallion and save the day. Stay with me, now:
Out there somewhere is one very, very rich person who has the same sort of passion for aviation that Knight has for UO athletics. This is the kind of person who can write a check for $100 million and it won't dent their bank account. Knight does this all the time for UO, and I can assure you he still has sufficient bank left to make it through life. Once this person steps forward with that bankroll, we - the aviation industry - need to start thinking bigger...MUCH bigger. Because of you want to sell flying to the public, you need to do it like Nike sells shoes. You need to launch and maintain a massive advertising campaign. And before you think that I have sort of agenda here because I am in the advertising profession, trust me when I tell you that anything I do here is not, repeat not, an obvious ploy to generate a job. Sure, if someday this idea I am describing comes together and the ensuing RFP hit my desk, I would be honored to submit my best shot at getting the gig. But that remote possibility is not what drives me in my quest to get the industry's attention about a growth problem I believe grows more serious by the day.
Since magazines and television has been around, Madison Avenue has been successfully selling America and the world every product imaginable, from cigarettes to Chevys to Courvoisier. Companies spend millions to pepper your subconscious with their brand's logo and sales message, and when enough money is thrown at a campaign, people buy stuff.
  
Advertising is tricky to get right, but the recipe is always the same. Craft the right message, determine the best demographics to target, and then show them the message over and over, in every medium they visit...with enough frequency to implant your message in their craw. That way, when they want to buy what you are selling, they think of your brand. Not. Rocket. Science.
  
The aviation industry needs to market flying exactly the same way. Of course, this would take millions, literally. But the only way we will get the pilot population to seriously grow is to target adventure sports enthusiasts, young families, boomers and retirees, and flog them with a slick campaign that sends this one message loud and VERY CLEAR:
You ask anyone at the mall how much it costs to earn a pilot's license and they will tell you "$10,000 to $15,000" if they even know at all. I have done this, and the vast majority of the public has zero clue that you can get into flying for much less, earning a Sport Pilot ticket for $5,000 or less. To an adventure sports enthusiast or serious bicyclist, that's about the same as their last kayak or bike. Many people spend five grand on a ski or golf vacation, and a decent bass boat costs far more that that.    
My point is that if these people knew that they could achieve their long-held dream to earn their pilot's license for this much lower buy-in, they would jump at the chance. But for the industry and the associations to keep it a secret to the non-flying public is deplorable. When these adventure sports demos have it top of the mind that flying GA airplanes is cool and affordable, soon they will HAVE to hit the local flight school to start lessons...because everyone else will be doing it.
  
We need to make flying a fad, like Zumba, or the Ice Bucket Challenge, or yes, even bacon. Light off a big glitzy print campaign, run edgy spots with smiling young faces on cable channels that these demos watch, and enlist every trick in the book to saturate social media with the message that if you want to hang with the cool kids, you had better be a pilot because all the adventurous hip people are out at the airport. And NOT the big airline airport.
  
When it becomes hip for the general public to kick it at the small municipal airport at the edge of town with their pals, when everyone is blasting out grinning selfies of themselves in GA airplanes, and when aviation advertising has the same look and feel of any ad you see in Surfing Magazine...this is when we get to 1,000,000 certificated pilots.
  
Continuing to market aviation to those already IN aviation - from several different silos with different but slightly related messages - now that's just crazy talk there, man. The status quo marketing attitude of the aviation industry will kill GA someday, unless everyone involved agrees to pull together and change the game.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pilot, Avgeek, Airplanista: A Guide to Aviators, for the Non-Flying Public

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

You're in the checkout line at the local Piggly Wiggly when you reach for your credit card and accidentally pull out your FAA-issued Pilot's License. When you tell the checker that, ha ha, you probably can't use your PILOT'S LICENSE to pay for groceries, she says, "Oh, you're a pilot, wow, you mean, like, for the airlines?

"No, I am just a private pilot," you answer, without trying to say it like, "hell yeah, I'm a PILOT, a serious trained aviator that gets to fly AIRPLANES!" Because if you answer in the way your inner #Avgeek wants to answer, you'd be dancing on that belt, you know, the one that moves the Huggies slowly closer to the scanner. Security would get involved, and the Officer would not be amused when you explain that your uncontrollable exhilaration stems from sharing some skills - and maybe a tidbit of DNA - with Orville and Wilbur Wright.
  
So in an attempt at education the non-flying public, here is a cheat sheet that people can download and save for future reference as I attempt to describe a few key sub-cultures of the aviation family:
#AVGEEK - These aviators are the technologically-advanced pilot types, usually found on Twitter, always with more than one mobile device on their person, with a stronger-than-usual craving for bacon. #Avgeeks spend late nights on their computer coding and developing websites that serve as pilot communities and forums, and have a tendency to regularly record podcasts. They fly all sorts of airplanes, experimentals, Cessnas, Pipers, and even a few airliners. Often has a job in the aviation industry, or derives at least 50% of their take-home pay from a job at or very near an airport. Would never, ever, EVER think of attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and not camping in Camp Bacon.

AVERAGE JOE/JANE PRIVATE PILOT - Knows their way around the airport coffee shop, has never met a $100 hamburger they didn't devour. Owns and flies an older 172, or something from the Cherokee family. Does not work in aviation, but they purposely took a corporate job working in a cubicle because it has a window on the side of the building where they can watch the inbound air traffic to the local airport. Changes their own airplane oil, and can find their way around the show grounds at Oshkosh with a bandana tied over their eyes.

EAA MEMBER - Knows 1,001 ways to rivet various materials together, and can spot the differences between an RV-6A and RV-9A from 500 paces. Owns a portable grill for pancake breakfasts and has a Leinenkugel's sign in his or her hangar. Has flown over 750 Young Eagles, and their airplane was shipped to their house in a crate. Has plans to restore a Fieseler Storch, and dreams of owning a Lancair Evolution.

PROFESSIONAL AIRLINE PILOT - Can run a checklist while ordering fuel, managing a passenger manifest and drinking coffee from a tiny paper cup, all at the same time. They can pack a roller suitcase in 15 minutes for two-weeks worth of RONs, and every uniform shirt will look perfectly pressed when they step aboard the Triple Seven to haul a load of humans over the pole to Grandma's house. The elite of this group can write two novels, raise a family, install a putting green in her backyard on a day off, and earn a Ph.d, just because she has 15 minutes of layover before her next flight to Amsterdam. Might live in Seattle.

JET OWNER/PILOT - A rare breed, found at airports with long and very smooth runways. Rents only luxury cars, and drinks wine that has been aged longer than most #Avgeeks have been alive. Seems to always get a golf cart at Oshkosh because the know people who know people. Has a net worth equal to many small countries. Owns a company, often uses his or her jet to fly cancer patients, and because of their philanthropic ways, are some of the most important aviators because their generous donations to the major aviation associations keeps the aviation family alive to push forward. It's not true they will only eat burgers made from $10 bills, they much prefer Kobe beef.

STUDENT PILOT - A younger demographic, these aviators have wide eyes, big dreams, and unstoppable motivation. They still remember most of what they were taught in ground school. Works two jobs to pay for flight lessons, and has never met a Cessna 150 they didn't love. Went to Oshkosh for the first time this year, and used the word "awesome" in 493 tweets during show week. Will own an airplane some day, but at the present time is just trying to scrape up enough coin for a sweet Bose A20 headset.

AIRPLANISTA - Writes more than he exercises, and knows the HondaJet will have insane quality of workmanship because his Honda lawnmower is virtually indestructible. Stares at the sky any time an airplane - ANY airplane - flies overhead. Corrects tech support people who say "Apple David Nancy" by telling them it's "Alpha Delta November." Drives a seasoned Toyota truck that runs perfectly so he can afford to fly a seasoned Cherokee 235 that runs perfectly. Has never met a pound of bacon he didn't like, and his current challenge is to cram enough camping equipment into a suitcase and haul it from Oregon to Oshkosh next summer to camp with the #Avgeeks in Camp Bacon.
There it is, everything you need to know to tell the aviators apart out at the airport. And if you are at the mall or a sporting event, you do not even need this guide, just look for the people who are smiling. That's because those pilots have just returned from flying. Makes no difference what they were flying - a Piper J3 Cub or a Phenom 300, Pilatus PC-24 on floats or a 1929 Boeing 40C - doesn't matter.

It's flying. It's airplanes. And it rocks.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The GA Power Collective: Where do we go from here?

Just a few of the #avgeeks who wore the official event
shirt at #Oshbash to show their support for the idea of creating
a GA Power Collective. (photo Neil Reagan)
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

This year's edition of my Oshbash social meetup is history, and from all accounts I have heard, the event was receiving positive reviews. After months of planning, the execution of the GA Power Collective Panel Discussion went off without any really obvious hitches other than some bandwidth and audio issues with the live stream, and from comments I heard post-event, everyone enjoyed the show.

What I set out to do was put together a panel to begin a conversation about growing the pilot population to 1,000,000 pilots, without a timetable in mind. To get there, I suggested that the major aviation associations should consider joining forces to tackle the industry's epidemic growth problem together. I purposely left the gate leading down that path open because I wanted the buy-in to this theory to come from the panel and not from me. As moderator, my job was to ask the questions that would spark that conversation.

A full house of about 100 people fill the Press Tent and some of the outside Press Hospitality area, while people not at Oshkosh tuned into the Other People's Airplanes live stream. The video crew did a stellar job of setting the stream up, installing a multi-cam system and even a small Jib camera crane. David Allen created very professional "bottom third" titles for each panelist and myself, along with a very cool pre-roll slide show that the @FlyOPA broadcast on the stream pre-event. But due to some unforeseen networking issues, reports came in that the stream was less than ideal. That is unfortunate, but it was not for any lack of effort from the video crew. I believe they had the setup to do a perfect live stream, but as gremlins are known to do, the broadcast deteriorated in spots. I blame it on the storm:
One of our panelists was Dick Knapinski, EAA's Senior Communications Advisor, a.k.a the "Busiest Man in All of Aviation" during this show week. He had told me that he's be happy to represent EAA on the panel but was technically on call, and might have to bail if something came up that needed his immediate attention. "My pocket buzzed once while sitting on the panel," Knapinski said, "and I knew something was up. When it buzzed a second time, that was it, I knew the storm we were predicting all day had arrived."
That storm was a fast-moving typical afternoon front that glowed orange, yellow and pink on the NEXRAD. Since everyone at the show has some version of an aviation WX app on their phones or iPads these days, it was not news that a storm was brewing. Later, during a chat over in Camp Bacon, one of the #avgeeks described what might have caught Knapinski's attention. "You could see the storm starting to hook," said Sam Wiltzius (@wiredforflight), "and you know what that means." Of course he was referring to the early stages of a tornado, but that did not develop, and the storm split in two just north of KOSH. The "Oshkosh Gods" had again protected the field as the heaviest downpours and hail went east and west of the airport.

But while the storm had minimal impact on the grounds, it did empty a fair amount of chairs at #Oshbash. This could have been people who fled to run back to check tiedowns or secure their camps. It was apparent during the door prize drawing when a surprising number of attendees who had received a drawing ticket did not materialize to claim their prize. But with the help of Esmeralda Mendoza and Teresa Venegas of Art Craft Paint - organized by Jolie Lucas of Mooney Ambassadors - we were able to give away all the swag:

The largest door prize was donated by Aero Glass, who is developing a very exciting augmented reality 3D HUD system to be used while flying with Epson Moverio Smart Glasses. Jeff Johnson, with Aero Glass, said interest in their product was off the charts at their booth (#1110). To learn all about this emerging aviation technology, visit the Aero Glass website and watch their latest video. Other door prizes from Phoenix Graphics, Sporty's Pilot Shop, Torgeon Swiss Aviator Watches, Flying Eyes Headset-friendly Sunglasses and authors Karlene Petitt and Eric Auxier were all very well received.

The idea of the major aviation associations joining forces in a manner that could produce a legit effort to seriously grow the pilot population is a good one, so says anyone I spoke with who attended #Oshbash. The tagline of the event was "the conversation starts right here, right now" and yes, that conversation has technically began. Starting it was the easy part, now what are the associations and the industry going to do next?

As I walked the grounds today at #OSH14, I am afraid to report that a disturbing number of pilots I asked think this was a good idea that was DOA the minute my event ended. I am not so negative, but I cannot honestly I feel like the ball was moved very far either.

To jump start the number of certificated pilots in the aviation family, it will take something far more substantial than any of the many great ideas and programs that were discussed at #Oshbash. It will take a bold leap off a cliff into a black hole of the unknown, one that could be hard for many of the associations to take. I have never said I thought a "GA Power Collective" would actually come together, only that the idea of working together is a discussion we absolutely need to have.

The conversation has started. Where will it end, what is the outcome we seek, and how will the massive roadblocks of different opinions within the associations be overcome to "save" GA? I never like to say GA is dying, but some of the people I spoke with today at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh says it is. One very well-connected writer I spoke with today said that left unchecked, decreasing pilot numbers will mean the end of..."this." With wide arm movements, he was saying "this" - as in Oshkosh itself - may one day go away if something isn't done to reverse the trend of a shrinking pilot population.

Sitting on that bench, in that place, during this week, listening to someone lament about a GA world where we have no "Oshkosh," made me realize that this HAS to happen, the associations need to come together, period. There is no time left for excuses, it has to happen, now.

Because the alternative is completely unacceptable.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Full-tilt #Avgeekery on Display at AirVenture's Camp Bacon

Adam Fast doing a bit of Python coding around the
Camp Bacon campfire. Photo: Damon Favor
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

If you hang around this blog long enough or follow the #OSH14 feed on Twitter, you've no doubt heard of Camp Bacon...a growing encampment of #avgeeks that inhabits a large corner of Camp Scholler this time each year. There you find a celebration of airplanes, technology and the Sus scrofa domesticus.

To the rapidly growing community of #avgeeks on Twitter, Camp Bacon is the epicenter of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. It is the place where friends gravitate towards, and it's become the place to circle back to when tech-savvy aviators need to recharge their souls and their cell phones while participating in some VERY interesting conversations.
 
Last night after the Kenny Loggins opening day concert, Camp Bacon again started drawing back home the legions of #avgeeks that love the camp's vibe. As the campfire glowed - fed by some sort of alcoholic beverage being poured on the fire by one of the #avgeeks - the chairs were circled and the laughter and conversation began. And what happened was a priceless "Oshkosh moment" that could have only taken place inside this camp.
 
First, let me set the stage:
After another challenging commercial flight to get to Appleton, WI airport on my way to AirVenture, I was picked up by Thomson Meeks (@THR_18 on Twitter) and his dad Tom, and we immediately headed direct to Ardy and Ed's Drive-in for some burger and Black Cow love. As we chowed down, I joked that Thomson - one of those young brilliant types who just "gets" tech in a way most in his generation can - could probably code an app while we were sitting at the dinner table. He laughed and said "you must have me confused me with Adam Fast (@adamcanfly) who REALLY knows how to code."
 And he was right on with that comment. As I sat around the Camp Bacon fire with Fast and a number of other #avgeeks, the conversation centered around the trend that more and more aviation apps are all using names that were so similar. They seem to all start with "I-this" or "E-that" and we concluded that what needed to happen was for someone to create a way for new start-ups to quickly name their new apps. And then it happened...
One of the #avgeeks joked that what we needed was a "aviation app random name generator"...so that with a mouse click, these start-ups could have their name determined for them. As we laughed at this silly notion, nobody noticed that Fast has vanished. But when he appeared back around the fire, he was holding his laptop and typing away calmly. No more than five minutes has passed before Fast debuted this exact random name generator, one he CODED on the fly using Python...in five minutes. We roared at the names Adam's generator produced, like "iPlanner Palooza" and "ePlan-o-matic."
This was one of those "Only at Oshkosh" moments that we #avgeeks will never forget. And it proved yet again that aviators are some of the best humans on this planet. And the subculture of that group, the #avgeeks, are even more friendly and more entertaining than the average run-of-the-mill aviator. These are my people, I am at home when surrounded by them. If you are at AirVenture, follow the #OSH14 hashtag for real-time information, and to learn why you too probably are an #avgeek, stop by Camp Bacon (corner of Lindbergh and Forest Home...look for the Airpigz red Chevy HHR) Wednesday 6PM - 8PM for the first 2014 Bacon Party. You will not regret it, I can guarantee that.

#Oshbash is Today! Watch the live stream at 530PM CDT

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

After months of planning, the day has finally arrived for this blog's #Oshbash GA Power Collective event today at 530PM Central in the Press Tent at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Is this the beginning of an aviation industry quest to grow the pilot population to 1,000,000 certified pilots? Nobody knows the answer to that, or to the many questions the aviation family is facing, such as regulatory roadblocks, societal opinions about general aviation or financial concerns about the cost of training new pilots and providing the airplanes those pilots need to fly affordably.

The GA Power Collective will bring together seven influential leaders from some of the major aviation groups for a Panel discussion to talk about the viability of creating a "collective" between the associations and the industry to determine a new way to communicate the many benefits of GA flying to the public. All of these associations have enormous resources at their disposal, and they all do great things to help solve the growth riddle facing GA. But it is quite clear that working alone, what is being done today is just not working. The Panel will bounce around the idea of joining forces to see if as one large entity combining both financial and intellectual resources, we could come up with something new and effective to start growing the pilot population at the fast pace needed to keep up with our senior pilots who are losing their medicals.

You can go to the link below to watch the event live:

Otherpeoplesairplanes.com/oshbash

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Plan* for Oshkosh 2014 (*Subject to change)

The #avgeek crowd at #CampBacon enjoys spirited talk
no doubt centered around airplanes, technology,
beer or bacon. Photo: Ron Klutts
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

(Eugene, OR) You notice from the dateline at left that I have not yet departed for the aviation world's annual family reunion at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. I won't go wheels up until Sunday, when I blast off out of KEUG on a United regional jet flying a "Dawn Patrol" flight to KDEN. With the WX Gods on my side, I should make it through KORD unscathed and arrive in the land of cheese and airplanes a little before 4PM to catch the shuttle bus from KATW to the show grounds.

My readers who have been lucky enough to attend Oshkosh know that once your boots (OK, technically really good walking shoes) hit the ground, you are running constantly, and no matter how much you try, plans go haywire all day, every day. The veteran AirVenture attendee knows that pivoting is one of the best skills you can bring with you to this massive show.

Knowing that this will no doubt change, here is a look at my Plan "A" before, of course, it deteriorates into "Plan B" and finally goes completely off the rails and no longer even resembles a plan:
MONDAY:
After a sumptuous breakfast at Blackhawk Commons next to the luxury dorm room I have rented at the University of Wisconsin, I plan to be escorted to the show on a $659,000 (just guessing here) Go Transit Oshkosh City Bus before swooping through the Media Hut to grab my Airplanista media credentials.

First planned stop at the show is Boeing Plaza at 930A where Honda will be introducing us to their first production HondaJet. They are planning a "hat giveaway" and if their hats are of the same high quality as their jet, I MUST get one of those onto my dome.

Next I will swing by a couple of donor's booths to pick up swag and visit with some of the cool aviation companies donating door prizes to #Oshbash. That is followed by a hike over to my first visit to #Campbacon to meet up with @LarryOverstreet, my anointed Guardian of the Swag at the show. He's offered to hold it all so I do not have to hoof it on my back for two days. Larry is also jumping in to support #Oshbash by bringing chilled bottled water for the Panelists. I love #avgeeks like Larry, he just "gets" what it means to belong to this aviation family.

After a few hours baking in the sun watching the afternoon air show, I will migrate back to Boeing Plaza for the Opening Day Concert featuring Kenny Loggins. His music (with Jim Messina) was on constant loop when I was a younger lad, and my step-son, Michael, even played "Danny's Song" at my wedding 27 years ago (with a broken arm). But of course, like everyone else in the audience, I will be waiting for him to hit the first few notes of "Danger Zone" from the "Top Gun" movie soundtrack. I'm not the only one that hopes EAA has arranged for an F-14A Tomcat (flown by Tom Cruise, a.k.a Pete "Maverick" Mitchell) to blast over the show grounds at warp speed at treetop height right about the time Loggins sings "right into the DANGER ZONE" for the first time. That happens and it would forever be remembered as one of Oshkosh's most epic moments...ever.

TUESDAY   
Another breakfast of bacon, waffles and coffee at Blackhawk precedes my biggest day of the show for 2014. I have a confirmed 930A interview on EAA Radio to discuss #Oshbash and the GA Power Collective, followed by another interview at the Announcers Stand out on the flight line to also talk about growing the pilot population to 1,000,000.

After a lunch of brats and a couple of gallons of water, I will stroll the halls and grounds sniffing out stories for all the magazines that are currently buying my work. With Cessna Flyer Magazine, Piper Flyer Magazine, Rotor Magazine, EAA Sport Aviation Magazine and AOPA Pilot Magazine throwing ink my way - plus this blog - my main goal at OSH14 has shifted from finding ad agency clients to finding interesting people to write about. This follows a path forward for me towards eventual retirement from advertising so I can focus 24/7 on my writing.

Around 4P, I will "move into" the Press Tent for #Oshbash, helping to set the stage and coordinate with Dave Allen and his TV crew from otherpeoplesairplanes.com, who will be broadcasting the event live on their youtube channel. That means even those on mobile (non-Flash capable) devices will be able to watch Oshbash from anywhere on the show grounds...or even in Hong Kong, where Lynda Meeks will hopefully be tuned in.

From 530P to 730P, I will moderate the GA Power Collective Panel Discussion at this blog's #Oshbash event. This is going to be a day "filled with surprises" as my wife likes to say, because nobody knows what's going to happen. After the lights go out and the crowd is gone, I hope to find a great meal with some #avgeeks that may or may not involve bacon.

WEDNESDAY   
This is going to be a full day, but I have purposely left my schedule wide open just to search out some #avgeeks and chill...of "chilling" is possible when the "feels like®" temperature of a Wisconsin summer approaches what feels like 212 degrees. This is my day to go left if I feel like it, or go right...no set course, just wander and have fun in airplane wonderland.

In the morning around 10A, I might run into one client, Field Morey of Morey's West Coast Adventures, who is driving up from the family airport in Middleton, WI to attend a LOP seminar by Teledyne Continental. His 2013 Cessna Corvalis TTx has one of their engines, and it will be put to the test in September when Field and a friend depart on their "Capital Air Tour" to fly the TTx to 49 state capitals...in TWO WEEKS. My team at the agency will be handling PR for this aggressive flight, and Field's goal is to show the non-aviation media along the way that GA airplanes are capable of such a flight, while telling them that the local GA airport is an asset that should be used to increase tourism into their area.

Ramona Cox and her TU-206
Before heading out to the flight line for the afternoon air show, I will catch Ramona
"Skychick" Cox's presentation on backcountry air camping at 230P in Forum 6. I wrote about her for an upcoming magazine story, and this ought to be time well spent.

After the acts are done bringing their "A" game to "The Box" in the afternoon, I hope to hook up with Neil Reagan (@NTR_09) and a bunch of other young #avgeeks for a run over to Ardy and Ed's for burgers and a malt. It is always cool to listen to their enthusiasm...it re-kindles my own passion for aviation.

Before watching the night air show, I hope to wander back through #Campbacon for the Bacon Party 6P - 8P, where @AirPigz will be using his new modified Kenmore kitchen stove to cook up a mess of his signature Sus scrofa domesticus. This is a must-attend event for me, it is the epicenter of all things #avgeek at #OSH14.  ()

THURSDAY
My flight home is not until the afternoon out of KATW, so I get a bonus four hours at #OSH14. On the last day of this trip, I will have my roll-aboard with me, so dragging it all over the grounds is always a challenge. I usually stay within dragging distance of the Bus Park.

From there it is a shuttle ride back to Appleton's Airport, and a jaunt through ORD and Portland before arrive back in Eugene at midnight.
Yes, this is my published "Plan A" but you can be assured it will change. In fact, as I write this, it is currently changing. All I know at this point is I will be in Oshkosh for a few days to see my friends and indulge in a sea of airplanes, drinking in all the joy that is flying, in whatever form it comes at me.