Saturday, September 26, 2015

Flying in the Garden Isle: Aviation Musings from Kauai

Bali Hai at sunset - from Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii.
Photo by Dan Pimentel
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

As I sit in the Lihue, Hawaii airport about to depart on a redeye back to the mainland after a week of bliss on Hawaii's oldest island of Kauai, it gives me time to pause and reflect on some aviation thoughts that have come my way while on holiday.

Before even landing at KLIH a week ago, I began thinking about what it means to fly in an airplane 2,123nm from San Francisco to KLIH (at least that is what it said on my luggage tag, but try and use that in Foreflight and it'll generate the dreaded "no joy"'s PHLI in the flight planning world). Our flight out here was longer than I had remembered, but not as long as if I had flown my Cherokee 235 here with ferry tanks. That would have required just over 17 hours and about 206 gallons of fuel.

San Francisco, outbound:
I was treated to live Flight Deck audio from United courtesy of Channel 9 on their audio system, which was replaced with some boring elevator music not long after the crew pointed the nose of our 757 at the islands and floored it. I guess not much happens for the next 4.5 hours, when the view does not change and all the traffic is company jets flying the same routes.

About 45 minutes out of Lihue, the flight deck audio came back on, and the crew spoke as if they had flown the exact same routing and approach 1,000,000 times. We bomb through a couple of clouds on to the ILS, and were wheels down in paradise..piece of aviation cake, at least it was in a -57.
As we rolled out at LIH (or, um, PHLI), I began to think about Pan Am's Honolulu  Clippers that flew out here. Sure the flight was much, much longer, and the food was served not in a cardboard box packed in Oakland, but on fine china prepared on board. This must have been quite the voyage, taking between 16 and 20 hours depending on winds. Flying a "Clipper" was more like taking an ocean cruise, and people dressed nice. The women wore pearls and dresses while the men - in suits and hats - smoked Pall Malls and sipped scotch while discussions of acquiring pineapple plantations ensued in the Parlor.

Today, it only takes about five hours, but you are crammed so tight on this route, it is literally impossible to exit your seat row to the aisle if the aisle seat in front of you is fully reclined. Not. Kidding. My wife and I had to climb OVER the outside armrest to get to the aisle. Juan Trippe would have been mortified.
Helicopter tour pilots are good here:
A day of snorkeling with gigantic Hawaiian sea turtles at Tunnels Beach on Kauai's North Shore was complete with beautiful scenery, great water conditions, and an aviation soundtrack that made me think of...Oshkosh.

You know that Bell 47 that does endless laps over EAA AirVenture all day, every day? You get to a point on about day three when the sound of its rotors beating the air into submission fades away. That was how my day at Tunnels was...except the choppers were mostly turbine rotorcraft flying in trail past the nearby Na Pali coast. Helicopter touring is big business here in the Hanalei area, and from sun up to sun down, it's a freeway of these craft raking in the dough hauling tourists up for short scenic flights.

I am all for this, and good on them for being this busy. I actually loved the scene, commenting to nobody in particular that they really have this choreographed well...same routes, same altitude, everything in coordination. Except the weather, which kind of sucked:
On Kauai's North Shore, it rains every day this time of year. Not all day, but in five minute microbursts of drenching sheets of rain. And then it stops. And then it starts...all day. But the clouds that hang along the peaks of the surrounding mountains are persistent, so these chopper pilots just make do with them and get to work. They mostly go around the weather, staying close enough to shore to get people paying $150 and up for an hour of flight in an A-Star a good show. But I did see a chopper pop right out of the clouds, and am guessing there was no IFR flight plan anywhere in sight. Must have gave Mom and Dad from Iowa a real jolt in the back seat.
Not many fixed wings on Kauai:
As any pilot, my eyes are always on the sky. I like to make mental notes of what flies by, but on Kauai this trip, I saw very few fixed winged craft. They were so rare over one week, I can tell you them in one sentence: A Pilatus PC-12, a Cessna Caravan and one biplane. My guess is the C208 and biplane were tourist operations, and the Pilatus might have been a private ride giving family a scenic tour.

Every time I come to Kauai, I threaten to sell everything I have and move here. Real Estate used to be somewhat affordable, and I could sure get comfortable with the "808" lifestyle. But today, even tiny 375 sq. ft. condos sell for $250,000, and any house with acceptable living space was in the $1.2 million range. Can't even afford that, but wow, wouldn't it be great to be so far away from the daily shootings and general B.S. of mainland USA - almost 2,200nm out in the middle of the Pacific - and still be on United States soil.

The one thing that has kept me planted in the "Lower 48" is aviation. Yes there is GA in Hawaii, but my island of choice, Kauai, is not that big. You can drive from Princeville on the North Shore all the way around to the East (Kapa'a) through Lihue and over to Waimea Canyon in a couple of hours. But in my Cherokee 235, it would be a quick flight...more like a hop. Barely enough time to warm the oil. Imagine how boring it would get to go around a basically circular island again and again. I'd be forced into some pretty long overwater legs to get to the other islands, and I have never been all that keen on long GA flights over water in a vintage single-engine plane.

Crazy airline pilot work schedules:
Taking a redeye back to the states is one trick my wife knows for extending our Hawaiian vacay a few more hours. You check out of your hotel (or in this case, our condo) and have all day and early evening to lollygag around, play some more at the beach, do whatever...before moseying over to the airport for a sleepy ride home.

As we waited at LIH's gate 10 tonight, our flight crew showed up, bright eyed and ready to aviate. But it got me thinking how everyone in the back is going to board and fall asleep, while the crew up in front has to stay wide awake for a boring five-hour flight, flying a route they might have flown too many times.
I used to work graveyard shifts, so I know it is possible to sleep during the day and work all night. So kudos are in order to the flight crews all over the globe that figure out how to sleep, eat, live life, fly and have a family while trying to keep that all in balance. I am feeling tonight that line pilots put more work than we realize into being sharp when the dispatcher wants them to steer one of their pressurized tubes across the square states or over an ocean at some crazy hour. Sometimes we think of pilots like Karlene Petitt spending their down time sipping Espressos in a little cafe in Amsterdam's Rembrandtplein district, or expect to see Eric Auxier lounging by the pool at the Hollywood Hilton. Instead, I believe it is more like fly, take the shuttle to the hotel, sleep, eat, take another shuttle to the airport, and fly again. Rinse and repeat.
Home now back in Eugene, after spending a few hours in the luxury of the United Club at KSFO during a four-hour layover. Nice quiet place to hang out and use up the two free "one-time" passes that come with our agency credit cards. Granola was decent, oatmeal was passable, coffee was adequate. But really, United, you want to impress me with the glitz and polish of your United Club?

Offer free bacon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Eighteen-Year-Old Launches ‘The Mars Generation’ to Raise Excitement for Human Space Exploration

"Astronaut" Abby Harrison
College Freshman Credits Worldwide Support of Her Dream to be First Astronaut to Mars
as Inspiration Behind New Organization

SEPT. 15, 2015 – WELLESLEY, MA – College freshman and aspiring astronaut Abigail Harrison, known on social media as Astronaut Abby, announced today the founding of a new organization that aims to renew the nation’s recognition of and investment in human space exploration.

The Mars Generation, a 501(c) 3 non-profit, will focus its efforts on advocating for NASA's Journey to Mars and advancing public interest in space exploration.

“The mission of The Mars Generation is to excite young people and adults about space and science education and to help people understand the importance of these two elements to the future of humanity on Earth,” Harrison said. “I am looking forward to helping my generation, the Mars generation, make our journey to the Red Planet happen during this new era of human space exploration.”

In addition to Harrison’s leadership, The Mars Generation launches today with an accomplished board of advisors, including:
•    Wendy Lawrence, retired Navy Captain, NASA Astronaut and veteran of four space shuttle missions (STS-67, STS-86, STS-91, STS-114)
•    Kent Rominger, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Orbital ATK and retired NASA Astronaut (STS-73, STS-80, STS-85, STS-96, STS-100)
•    Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, retired NASA Educator-Astronaut (STS-131) and aquanaut commander on the NEEMO 16 mission
•    Dr. Phil Tilman, Planetary Scientist University Central Florida, Founder of NASA Swamp Works Laboratory
•    Myron Fletcher, Space Launch System (SLS) Rocket Propulsion Engineer at Boeing
•    Penny Pettigrew, International Space Station Payload Communications Manager (PAYCOM) at NASA, Space Camp Hall of Fame Member
•    Nujoud Merancy, Orion Mission Planning and Analysis Lead at NASA
•    Dawn Brown White, Nonprofit CEO, Compas Inc.
•    Rob Pearlman, Founder and Editor of
•    Sean Costello, Canadian Technology Entrepreneur and photographer for SpaceFlight Insider
•    Kathleen Butts, Urban Educator, North Philadelphia Schools
•    Kristin Maija Peterson, Creative Director, Grand Ciel Design
•    Elizabeth Bierman, Aerospace Engineer, Honeywell Aerospace
“The Apollo Program inspired many in my generation to get an education in a STEM-related field. I firmly believe human exploration of Mars can have the same impact,” said Wendy Lawrence, retired naval aviator and NASA astronaut. "That’s why I’m honored to be joining The Mars Generation as an advisor, focusing on the new Student Space Ambassador Program and Space Camp Scholarship Program."

True to Astronaut Abby’s own personal mission statement: Dream Big, Act Big and Inspire Others, The Mars Generation will have three core programs designed to help meet the mission of the organization:
1.    Student Space Ambassador: Will help inspire teens and young adults to share their own excitement about space exploration with their communities.
2.    Space Camp Scholarship: Will provide 100% funding (including airfare) for kids with aptitude in STEM and financial need to attend U.S. Space Camp which provides exceptional, inspirational experiences to talented kids to help shape their educational future.
3.    The Future Of Space Outreach: Launched originally in 2013 by Astronaut Abby, will help excite kids and adults to support space exploration and inspire them to dream big.
The Mars Generation, as a 501c3 organization, will receive funding through sponsorships and individual supporters. All contributions are tax deductible.

In 2011, Harrison joined Twitter as Astronaut Abby, looking for a quote from a NASA employee for a school project. She was immediately embraced by the space community online as a leader in her generation. In 2013, Harrison decided to start a worldwide outreach program as part of her role as Earth Liaison to her mentor, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano, while he was living on the space station. The outreach program continues to thrive as part of the new nonprofit. Harrison has built a community of over 400,000 members on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram with a potential reach of over 15 million people each month.

“I am committed to helping ensure that NASA makes it to Mars in the 2030s, whether or not I am part of that first mission,” Harrison said. “Making it to Mars is essential to our economic well-being. Our ability to dream big and work towards the impossible pushes us beyond what we think we are capable of as we evolve new technologies and innovations that have real life applications. This is what human space exploration does and why it is so important to the future of humankind. With a rate of return of approximately $8 for every $1 the U.S. spends on space exploration, it makes sense to work toward sending humans to explore the next frontier, Mars.”
Harrison is a 2015 graduate of South High School, a Minneapolis Public School, and completed a dual-credit program through the University of Minnesota during high school. 

Harrison is currently attending the prestigious Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She is studying astrophysics and microbiology with a goal to enter directly into a doctoral program after graduation. Her goal is to become a scientist, her dream is to eventually become an NASA astronaut and be chosen as part of the first mission to Mars.

For more information on The Mars Generation go to:
Twitter: @TheMarsGen
Instagram: @TheMarsGeneration

For more information about Abigail Harrison go to:

For an interview with Abigail Harrison or any advisory board member contact: Nicole Harrison,

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Working to Preserve Aviation History at KCMH

Original Terminal Building and ATC tower
at KCMH (photo courtesy Jennifer Shale)
Guest post by Jennifer Shale
(Jennifer is an aviation enthusiast and history buff who works for a medium-sized airport in the Midwest.)

Preserving our aviation history is about more than just restoring old airplanes and keeping them flying. In Columbus, Ohio, it is about saving a building which played a major role in the the early days of the airline industry.

The original terminal building at Port Columbus Airport was built in 1929 to serve passengers traveling west as part of the transcontinental air/rail service between New York and the west coast. Travelers arrived in Columbus by train and then transferred onto Ford Tri-Motor aircraft to continue on to Oklahoma. One of the distinguished passengers on the inaugural flight was Amelia Earhart. Other notables in attendance at the grand opening of the terminal included Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford.

The design of the original terminal was inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and features an octagonal glass ATC tower. The location of the terminal (at the southeast corner of the current airport property) had been picked by Charles Lindbergh who was the technical advisor for Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT). TAT later merged with Western Air Express to form TWA. The original TAT hangar still stands next door to the terminal and is currently used for storage.

In 1958 a new, much larger terminal opened to serve the growing number of passengers and increased air traffic. The original terminal remained the property of the Airport Authority, which leased it out as office space. In 2008, the last tenant to occupy the building moved out, after which it fell into disrepair. Leaks in the roof allowed water to seep in, damaging the interior and filling it with mold.

TAT hangar at right, with Trimotor boarding for the
westbound journey
(photo courtesy Jennifer Shale)
Airport property is a valuable commodity and as the years passed the Airport Authority began to consider the costs of repairing the original terminal building vs. demolishing it and repurposing the land. In the meantime the building had been placed at the top of Ohio's list of endangered historic buildings. This drew the attention of a group of citizens who believed the building should be saved.

These concerned citizens joined together to form the Original Columbus Airport Terminal Stabilisation Project (OCATSP). Its goal has been to seek funding to first stabilize and repair the building, and then secure a tenant for the property. OCATSP, working in partnership with the Ohio Historical Society, and with donations from both private citizens and the Airport Authority itself, has raised enough money to secure a matching grant from the Columbus Foundation. These funds have allowed repair work to begin.

At the same time, Heartland Bank, a locally owned business with roots in the central Ohio area, has stepped forward to be the next tenant of the original terminal building as well as the TAT hangar. The CEO of Heartland, Scott McComb, is an aviation enthusiast whose father was a pilot. There are still some hurdles that must be overcome, such as securing approval from the FAA and tax credits from state and federal authorities, however if all goes well the bank could move in as early as the end 2016.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

AOPA's Advocacy "A Team" Will Not Include Av8rdan

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I have always been extremely impressed with AOPA's Government Affairs team, along with their Regional Managers spread out across the USA. When it comes to staying on top of legislative issues facing general aviation, they are the "go to" people, and they've got our backs.
News came in recently that I was a finalist for their open Regional Manager position in the Northwest Mountain region, but was not the person chosen for the job. The man they hired has tremendous legislative affairs experience, and pilots in the Northwest will be well represented going forward.
It is no secret to people who have followed Airplanista from the beginning that I have always wanted to work for AOPA. They are a vital association that does exemplary work preserving our freedom to fly, and without them, the aviation family would be toast.
Through the interview process for the job, it allowed me to reflect a great deal on my own advocacy work, and I spent a lot of time looking back...and looking forward. Like other pilots, I possess the same gene for helping to improve the aviation community, and over the last 15 years, I have found great joy in telling the stories of anyone in GA that gives back more than they receive. Stories of these advocates and volunteers are literally endless, and not a day goes by that I do not stumble upon yet another incredible pilot or aviation enthusiast who is doing some extraordinary.
To see where my advocacy work is today, first you have to go back to the very beginning:
In 2002, I was a member of a small aviation club called Central Valley Aviation Association, based at Fresno (CA) Chandler Downtown Airport. This club had one purpose, and that was to get together once a month, have a brief meeting, and then hop in our planes and go "fly out" to eat somewhere. I thought we could do more, so I created the Welcome Sky Aviation Scholarship Program in the club, which stole the playbook from Robin Hood by asking the wealthier among us to chip in so we could award full-ride private pilot scholarships to the best and brightest 18-24 year-olds we could find. After lots of grass roots fund raising and plenty of arm-twisting, we raised enough cash and "in kind" donations from flight schools to pay for three new pilots to be trained. As far as I can tell, these three bright young pilots are still flying today.
Sure, it was only three pilots. But it was something. I moved away from the Fresno area in 2003, and the program eventually died. It has always been my dream to take it national, because I have proven that if you ask the right number of rich pilots to open their wallets or checkbooks for this very important cause...they will. But lack of time and career responsibilities have prevented me from really pushing this on a national level. Maybe when I retire...
These days, I write for five national aviation magazines, with a focus on telling as many "advocates and volunteer" stories as I can dig up. But I am only one guy, which was why I applied for the AOPA gig. To have the muscle (and yes, the resources) of such a prestigious association behind me, I know I could have done great things on a very large scale. Now, I will not get that chance to change all those lives that I might have touched.
Looking back on my recent advocacy work, I have been seeing clues that suggest some of it might have crept past its expiration date. Audience participation at this year's #Oshbash event at Oskhosh was dismal, about 30% of the previous two events, when it was standing room only. There was lots going on at AirVenture at the same date and time I scheduled #Oshbash, which drew away much of the crowd. But leading up to the event, Twitter buzz was almost non-existent, telling me loudly that people just are not that interested in my #Oshbash events any longer.
Readership on Airplanista has dropped in the past year, due in part to my editorial schedule being filled with so many paying magazine gigs. I am guilty of not keeping the blog fresh, and in the blogosphere, stale equals a loss of relevance. That is all on me.
So, where do I go from here? I could let the missed opportunity at AOPA get me down, or I can re-focus and push onward to the next big thing. As I pondered whether to crawl back under my rock never to be seen or heard from again, or remain straight-and-level in coordinated flight and keep doing what I've always done - writing interesting content about interesting aviation people - the choice was mine...
I guess I was looking for a sign. Which way to turn, what to do? It was then that I watched "Astronaut" Abby Harrison's TEDx Talk asking "What's YOUR Mars?" This 18-year-old brilliant young woman has set her goal to be the first astronaut on Mars, and after watching her talk and visiting her site,, there is zero doubt that if we get to Mars, she could be the first person stepping on the Red Planet. Abby's tagline is "Dream Big, Act Big and Inspire Others." That inspirational message is a now a big sign on my office wall, and she has convinced me that my "Mars" is to keep pushing forward, because when you ascend, you soar, but slip into a vicious, uncontrolled descent and eventually, you crash and burn.
That's the great thing about the advocacy work we all do...the outcome is really random, and you never know what life you will touch...or even change. This one future astronaut's drive and unwavering ambition has captured my attention, and her message screamed at me to keep going on my current trajectory, because just like the way her work inspired me, my work will inspire someone else...that's how this works.
So thanks Abby, you've touched my life, and I will pay that forward.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Goodyear's New Wingfoot One Airship is Not Your Grandfather's 'Blimp'

Outside Wingfoot One as it glides over Wisconsin
To view a photo gallery of this incredible flight, click here.

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

All of us have grown up watching sports on TV, and as far back as we can remember, they would always show a ground shot looking up at the "Goodyear Blimp" as Al Michaels or Howard Cosell would say "...and aerial photography provided today by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company." Sometimes they would add that the "blimp" we were seeing was the Spirit of America or Spirit of Innovation, two of Goodyear's blimp/non-rigid airship fleet. Their ships are iconic, and are woven into the fabric of America.

That was then, and this is now:
Yesterday at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, I was lucky enough to be given a media ride in Goodyear's brand new semi-rigid airship "Wingfoot One," which had only a few hundred hours on the Hobbs. Sleek and beautiful, it still has that new airship smell. And while I might call Wingfoot One an "airship" here, and you might say "there goes the blimp," in fact we are both sort of correct. Goodyear's PR team will not correct media who calls it a blimp even though it is technically a Zeppelin NT Model 101, and James Kosmos, a Senior Pilot with Goodyear, says the terms are basically interchangeable.
Before climbing aboard Wingfoot One, Airplanista sat down with Kosmos to learn more about what he calls "the most high tech airship on the planet." And the differences between Wingfoot One and the older blimp fleet are night and day.

"The old blimps were non-rigid," Kosmos said, "meaning they were a big bag of helium. Wingfoot one has a framework inside making it a semi-rigid dirigible. It is 246' long and holds 300,000 cubic feet of 99% pure helium. It has three Lycoming IO-360 engines, one on each side and one in the tail, with the front engines being able to vector from 0 to 120 degrees allowing us to take off and land vertically or even takeoff backwards depending on obstacles."

Wingfoot One's two rear propellers can use different pitches to achieve different results needed to fly what seems like a giant envelope of helium waiting to float away if you let it. "The rear propellers can be vectored to act as sort of horizontal and vertical stabilizers, which gives us the control we need to maneuver the airship in no wind conditions," Kosmos said. "The ship is all fly-by-wire, with one computer for each engine. We move the pilot side stick up, down, right or left, and the computers convert that input into different propeller pitch and vector information, depending on what mode we are in. Flying characteristics are like nothing a fixed wing pilot has experienced, because you are basically flying a sail. Each side has more surface area than all the sails combined on one of the old Tall Ships."

With a top speed of 73 mph and a typical average cruise of 35 knots, Wingfoot One can stay aloft for 30 hours, as the pilots can get fuel burn down to 10GPH total for all three engines. There also is no crosswind component, as the airship is always landed directly into the wind. And if you think the weight and balance on your Piper or Cessna is complicated, multiply that by 1,000 for Wingfoot One:

To understand this ship's weight and balance envelope, one must first get their PhD in the physics of Helium. You would think by looking at such a massive craft that it could haul up two semi-trucks loaded with elephants, but you'd be way wrong. Kosmos tries again to explain it to me:
"This is the only aircraft I have flown that can get heavier as it flies," he said. "The helium expands and contracts depending on the angle of the sun on the envelope and the difference between the temperature of the helium and the OAT. A cloud can move over and our weight changes, sometimes dramatically...the ship's weight is changing constantly. It can make calculating weights much more challenging. And there are other factors too, like when the ship has been sitting outside in the rain. We have to eyeball the envelope and try to figure out how much water is resting on the top, because that's weight, but when we begin to move forward, that water instantly slides off and in a second, we can be 600 pounds lighter."
Even though Wingfoot One has the latest in glass cockpit technology, it does not have an autopilot. Because you cannot turn off the lifting characteristics of helium, it is flying 24/7...all day every day. Even when attached to its massive Mast Truck, it is flying. And so when the pilots are assigned a football game, it is all hand-flown. That's because when the airship is configured for TV with a forward camera rack and removable computer system inside, each game is flown differently depending on winds and the whims of the broadcast director. Goodyear's first-class, highly-trained pilot crew does what it takes to get the Director the shot, sometimes doing endless laps around a venue, other times hovering at zero knots for hours.

Enough about the ship, let's get on with the ride story...

After a short van ride to the airship, I watched it arrive, but the Crew Chief on the radio with the pilot had some bad news. There was a problem with the aft hydraulic system, and with the slashing hand across the throat sign, the Chief told the crew to shut down and "put it on the mast." This is never a good sign when waiting for the flight of a lifetime.

After all of Goodyear's 15 ground support team hovered around Wingfoot One for an hour, it was determined - after reading through the many thick service manuals aboard - that all was well. They could see that the fluid levels were fine by using binoculars to look up high on the tail and view indicators. It's like everything with airship do not just slide up a ladder and look around. Wingfoot One is ALWAYS blowing around here and there, especially when masted, it is just a big wind sock. So everything is done with technicians fast on their feet, moving with the ship to connect ground equipment or put on and remove ballast to correct for the constantly changing weights.

So, the flight went from NO GO to GO many times, until it was time to board. That itself is rather interesting. Wingfoot One's beautiful new gondola has 10 passenger seats, and the environment closely resembles that of a rather sparse but comfortable regional jet. When one flight lands, two passengers are removed, and two new people are put on. They do this until the new load of humans are aboard, all to maintain a constant weight...there's that word again.

Once buckled in, I met my flight partners, a couple from Anchorage who had won a "blimp ride" at AirVenture two years ago, a mother/son who also won a ride in that same Goodyear raffle, and an Aero News Network video crew. It takes no time for the crew to get aloft, and as I was blasting away with my camera, I did not even know we had left the ground, it was that smooth and graceful. Once in the air, that sort of changed:
Nothing about "flying" an airship is what you'd expect as a passenger familiar with fixed wing flight. Cruising westbound away from KOSH at 32 knots ground speed, the feeling is more like a boat than an airplane. This is a BIG craft, and it feels like it wants to do what it pleases. While the ride is indeed smooth and peaceful, the movements are, well, just weird. One minute you are heading on a straight 270 heading, and then you look down at the farms sliding underneath and we are sort of crabbing somewhere. Maybe it's left, no, now it's to the right. With a trajectory that feels like the pilot is in constant negotiations with the ship as to direction of travel, Wingfoot One just floats along, a little up, now a little down, I want to go here, no, now I want to go there. But the extreme talent of the Goodyear pilots - all young, handsome, courteous and with perfectly-pressed uniforms - is evident. The pilot always wins the negotiations, and they are always in full control. Even when the pilot turns to talk to inquiring reporters, their left hand can be seen moving the side stick, which needs to be moved constantly so it seems.
Our flight was supposed to be maybe 30 minutes, but when Oshkosh's afternoon airshow ran long, the F-22 Raptor flight demonstration was delayed, and we were held by the Airboss six miles west of the airport for an hour! So around and around in circles we went as dairy farms came and went under us. It was surreal, as the view from the gondola is straight down. We also were flying in magic hour light sneaking through a scattered overcast, and the ride was just magical. When we returned to the show grounds, the pilot came in on a left base over the EAA Museum, turned base and final over Pioneer Airport, and coaxed Wingfoot One to again return to the ground pointed straight into a fairly stiff wind.

I was really impressed with everyone on the Goodyear team, it is a respected group that does remarkable work. Think of the pilots as sort of the Blue Angels of airship flying, they just do not get any better than this.

To view a photo gallery of this incredible flight, click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Donuts for Fisk: FAA's Finest Calm Under Pressure as Emergency Develops at #OSH15

Thomsen Meeks and his dad, Tom enjoy the view at FAA's Fisk Arrival "tower" during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

It was a perfectly sunny morning at Fisk with an upbeat vibe, until an accident
at the Oshkosh airshow closed the airport to incoming arrivals

Cost of admission: While it is not officially mandated,
apparently the drill is that to visit Fisk and watch
some of FAA's finest controllers work the Conga Line
of arrivals, there MUST be donuts involved.

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

(OSHKOSH, WI) A tragic accident early on day three of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh closed the airport to all arrivals and departures, and it is being reported that the aircraft involved was a Piper Malibu with five people on board. The Oshkosh Northwestern reported four people made it out before the plane caught fire but one person had to be evacuated by helicopter. We want to join the entire aviation family to keep the family of the injured in our thoughts.
When KOSH airport closes during AirVenture, it sets up a massive chain reaction that ripples out for miles, effecting sometimes huge amounts of inbounds in the air heading to this gigantic show. Many of those arrivals fly the VFR "Fisk Arrival" which is a well-known procedure that brings all VFR traffic over a tiny berg west of the show in a nose-to-tail "Conga Line" of all varieties of airplanes. The drill is pretty simple:
You fly at a published altitude and airspeed to "Fisk" which is a temporary FAA "tower" set up to control the very high number of inbounds coming into Oshkosh. To prevent radio chatter, the controllers on the ground make a radio call based on color of plane and other features such as high or low wing, taildragger, biplane, etc. Based on type of airplane, these controllers give you a quick vector in two directions...east to make a left base to RWY 36, or down the railroad tracks to make a right downwind and base to RWY 27, with the inbound pilot instructed only to "rock your wings" as acknowledgement that they understand there assignment. It is an aerial ballet that is well-rehearsed and works very well.
What makes the Fisk arrival work so well is the high quality of the FAA controllers at the "tower," which is nothing more than an office trailer, a radio transmitter, and a giant bank of colored LED lights that flash to let inbounds ID the "tower" from the air. Working Oshkosh each summer is a coveted assignment for these controllers, who bid for the chance to come here and work traffic during the world's largest aviation celebration.
Today I had the opportunity to join my new besties Tom Meeks and his son Thomson for a run out to visit the controllers working Fisk. We first had to swing thru the Pic N Save for donuts, because as I understand it, the "unofficial" requirement to visit is to bring donuts. They were well received, and the five controllers polished off half a dozen pastries not long after we arrived.
To get to "Fisk," you head down a tiny country road, off of another country road. It sits in a non-descript field surrounded by farmhouses and grain. If not for the sea of bright pink FAA ATC shirts, this might be a cellular system work trailer, or a small construction site. You could drive right by and never know of the important work these controllers are doing. But when you stop - carrying donuts - you quickly see just how talented these controllers really are:
We were welcomed (must have been the pastries) and every controller was more than happy to explain what they were doing, and how it all worked. I was instructed to look through a dip in a grove of nearby Maple trees to see a tiny speck with a landing light coming our way. That was one of a continuous line of inbounds these guys were working. This was a slow day because GA parking and camping at the show was already at capacity, and still, there was a new plane ever 30 seconds or so...non-stop. Two controllers ID the airplanes with binoculars, calling out the color and type. The lead controller stands and hovers around, calling out what that airplane needs to do. The last and maybe most important on the team is the radio operator, who relays the instruction via radio to the inbound. The vibe was upbeat, light, lots of joking and laughter, and it was clear these guys loved what they were doing.
Working Fisk is sort of a badge of honor for these controllers, and if you could measure their excitement level on a 10 scale, they were cruising along at a 3. Cool, calm and collected, it did not even ruffle their feathers when an unidentified plane came into view, flying southbound directly towards the inbound Conga Line. They just rolled with it, calling out the traffic,
But five minutes into our visit, the "no big deal" element changed as the crash at the show closed the airport. What that means is that Fisk now had to do something with their line of inbounds, you can't tell airplanes to just pull off to the side of the road. As the lead controller jumped on the phone to coordinate everything, the four other controllers simply started calling out holding instructions. For airplanes outside the City of Ripon, they were sent into a hold over Green Lake, while airplanes between Ripon and Fisk were sent to hold over Rush Lake.
The controllers worked maybe 20 arrivals, shoving them into these two holds, or releasing them out of the area at pilot's request. But what was surreal was the composure of these that needle on the excitement needle never budged. It was just another day at the office - or in this case, a trailer in a grain field - and these guys handled the closure of the airport without so much as one tiny bit of stress. That could be because they come from some of the country's busiest commercial towers, so this is just no big deal.
I have always held FAA's controllers in the highest regard...they do a tremendous job. But today at Fisk, standing five feet away from a crew working an emergency situation without one single drop of sweat made me realize that my respect for FAA's ATC team is well-earned, and truly deserved.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Magic That is EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is Evident on Day Zero

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I usually begin my coverage of this incredible aviation family reunion that is "Oshkosh" when I walk onto the show grounds for the first day of my visit to this beautiful, magical place. It is hard for non-aviators to "get" why we come here, but for those of us lucky to be right here, right now, indescribable joy surrounds us, embraces us, pulls us in and overwhelms us. It is this powerful, almost magnetic attraction that draws us to this otherwise sleepy Upper Midwest city every summer.
When I say this is a magical place, if you've never experienced Oshkosh, you might not understand what that means. But today, as I arrived via the commercial airlines for my 3.5 days of aviation bliss, the "that can only happen at Oshkosh" moments began full throttle. Spoken of singularly, each of these things that happened to me today were fantastic, but consider them collectively and you start to paint a picture of why this is the world's largest aviation celebration. Let me set the stage:
After an rather uneventful eastbound ride in a couple of pressurized tubes full of people who had no idea what Oshkosh is, I finally found myself at O'Hare Airport's gate E1A waiting to board a short 25-minute hop up to Appleton, the closest airport to the show with commercial service. And like every flight to this place in years past, a glance around the gate revealed maybe half the people were wearing some sort of shirt or hat identifying them as aviation people. It's cool to strike up a conversation with any of them, and with each word, the adventure begins. Some are coming to work the show at a booth, others are just coming to go full immersion in airplane wonderland for a few days. At Oshkosh - and even in the airport heading there - it doesn't take much to make new friends. Everyone is giddy, knowing what lies at the other end of this short hop up the west side of Lake Michigan.
The flight northbound towards the show was the usual vectors to avoid the busy KORD airspace, and usually, KATW is approached from the south, and it is easy to see the expanse of the show off the right wing. But this arrival was much, MUCH different:
I was on the wrong side of the plane, so out my left window, I looked down hoping to maybe see the Conga Line of VFR arrivals over Fisk. But to my amazement, under the wing slid Camp Scholler, directly below us! That had to mean that our routing was taking us directly OVER the show, northbound just about over the flight line. We looked to be maybe 8000', well above show traffic. At about the precise point where we would have been right over the B-52 waiting for us on Boeing Plaza, the Embraer 145 pilot (who BTW had a jump seater riding in the flight deck) cranked it fairly hard right out over Lake Winnebago, as if he was doing a "flyby" because HE WAS! The photo in this post - a screen grab from FlightRadar24 - shows the path of our arrival. As soon as we banked right over the show, I pointed down and turned to an AOPA manager sitting across the aisle, who was also pointing straight down. We both mouthed "WE'RE RIGHT OVER THE SHOW!" in silent unison. Truly a magical Oshkosh moment.
After Thomsen Meeks - X-Plane's Social Media manager - and his dad Tom picked me up at KATW, we went direct to Oshkosh's iconic Ardy and Ed's 1950s drive-in restaurant...a required stop for everyone attending this show. And again, magic happened:
Out on the patio, diners at this great place have a perfect view of incoming arrivals to KOSH's runway 27. O.K., not perfect...their big metal umbrellas do a fine job of providing shade, but also blocks out a direct view of the traffic overhead. So like a sort of ballet, whenever anything cool comes over, everyone jumps from their tables and runs out to see what it is. In the minutes it took me to devour a Drive-in Double (burger AND Brat patties), fries and  Black Cow, we saw a P-51 Mustang, maybe three Twin Beeches, a serious old vintage biplane, and one Vari-Eze that sounded like one magneto or maybe his fuel filter was crapping out big time. He made it in despite his rough engine, followed closely by another Vari-Eze that purred by.
What makes this a magical Oshkosh moment is that I was surrounded by a group of really cool people...aviation family I only see this one time a year. Cory Robin had parked his Wilgabeast and was there, and Brandi and David Fill had arrived with Glen Towler from New Zealand, who flew over 11,000 miles to be there.
Oh, but the fun was not over. In between bites and while participating in endless aviation conversation, David Fill told us of his two-year-old daughter Audra's newest word. Now, whenever she sees ANY biplane (yes, she knows the difference, even at two), she points up and shouts "STEARMAN!" So from that point on - and I suspect throughout #OSH15 - any time even a Cessna flew over, some wiseass would point up and yell "STEARMAN!" It was the kind of priceless camaraderie that only can happen here.
Yes, I am energized - this is going to be a magical few days. And I haven't even set foot on the show grounds yet.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Look at the 2015 #Oshbash Guests

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Yes aviation friends, it's just about that time of the year again, when we descend into usually sleepy Oshkosh, Wisconsin to celebrate all that is wonderful about our aviation world. We'll come by the hundreds of thousands from all parts of the globe to eat, drink, shop, gawk and meet back up with our friends and family at aviation's biggest and most important family reunion.
And if this is Oshkosh season, it has to also be #Oshbash season too. I'm really looking forward to making this year's event more social, less structured, and will be sure you have plenty of time to mingle and meet other #avgeeks you've seen on Twitter.

#Oshbash has lined up six very cool guests, and I have written recent Affirmative Attitude columns about most of them. You'll hear them speak about their GA advocacy and volunteerism work, and have a chance to ask some audience questions. Here's a few words on each:
Joseph Vazquez
Major General Joseph "Joe" Vazquez - As National Commander and CEO of Civil Air Patrol, Joe knows a thing or two about pulling in volunteers to help with CAP missions. He knows that the time of CAP's volunteer pilots and non-flying staff is valuable, and he knows how to get the most out of CAP's pilots with standardized training. I'll be asking him about the time commitments to become a CAP pilot, and also how the average pilot can learn from the training and certification they receive as they work towards the right seat of a CAP Cessna 182 Skylane.
Katie Meyer
Katie Meyer, EAA Airventure Volunteer Manager - As we arrive at KOSH, we'll see the work of 5,000 EAA volunteers everywhere we look at AirVenture. It's a huge job each spring and summer to thaw the place out, pull everything back out of storage, and prep the show grounds for a week of going "full-immersion" into airplane heaven. I'll want to know how this massive volunteer team is put together, and how each volunteer's talents are put to specific use as an entire city is built each summer. This should be a great segment, and we are lucky to have Katie for a short time, given the magnitude of her work during show week.

Ryan Pemberton - In the world of aircraft restoration, it does not get any better than Pemberton and Sons Aviation in Spokane, WA. Along with his father, Addison, and a big crew of
Ryan Pemberton
volunteers, the Pembertons are responsible for doing exceptional work to keep these vintage airplanes flying. I'll be asking Ryan about his volunteers and how the shop manages to balance work, life, family while carving out time for restoration work. Pemberton is also a very good photographer, and I will be asking him about backstory of how he set up a shoot with the family 1928 Boeing 40C and a 787 Dreamliner. 
Martha Phillips - In her role as International President of The Ninety Nines, Martha works hard to
Martha Phillips
try and solve the biggest riddle facing we get more women to start flying. It is my opinion that The Ninety Nines is an underutilized asset in this quest to move the female pilot numbers north of six percent, and I'll be asking what the organization will be doing in the future to work towards that goal. She is also generous with her time to support #Oshbash, and was on the GA Power Collective panel last year. When she left that event, she said if I ever wanted help with anything, just name the place and time. Now THAT is an Affirmative Attitude!

Patrick Lofvenholm
- As a volunteer pilot for Pilots N Paws Pet Rescue Service, Patrick will be able to tell us just how important the work is that he and fellow PNP pilots perform. They burn their own gas and devote their free time
Patrick Lofvenholm
to save pets that are more than likely going to be euthanized. If you are a pet lover - especially if you have dogs - you'll want to hear how PNP puts their pilot crew together, and what joy comes from the delivery of each rescued pet.

Mark Spencer, Founder and CEO of FlyQuest - Mark will tell us about the work FlyQuest is doing with their custom "six degrees of freedom" simulator. If you think
Mark Spencer
having a sim is no big deal, you'll want to hear what Spencer and FlyQuest does with theirs. Trust me, it is a cool story. I'll be asking Mark about the present and future of FlyQuest, and I'm sure you'll be entertained and educated when his segment ends.
So as you add events into your EAA AirVenture app (iOS and Android versions available) make sure to go to the "Attractions" screen, click "Meet and Greet" at the bottom of the sections, and then scroll to the end of "Tuesday, July 21st" to find the 2015 Airplanista #Oshbash event way at the bottom. It is 5:30P - 7:30P in the Press Tent - to find it, head to the tower and walk outbound on the 025 radial...big air-conditioned white tent full of #avgeeks...can't miss it. Come early if you want a chair as it is usually SRO.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Non-Aviator's Ultimate "A-to-Z" Guide to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

 (Ed. note: This is a recycled post from 2013, as we like to practice "green" blogging here at Airplanista - dan)

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

As I prepare to depart for #OSH13 in one sleep, I've been thinking a lot about EAA AirVenture...or as most pilots and aviation family calls it, just "Oshkosh." For people who have been lucky enough to attend this annual flying festival, block party and gawkathon, you already know this show is like no other. And, yes, it does make a difference in what you call this mammoth event. "AirVenture" is a huge EAA convention and trade show, while "Oshkosh" is the world's largest, most incredible hangar party anyone could possibly imagine.

But I have many Airplanista readers who are not aviators, and who have no way of fully grasping the magnitude of this event. To give a shout out to these readers who never understand why we pilots become giddy as the end of July approaches each summer, here's the definitive A-to-Z guide to this event. Scan this list and I'll bet you'll find something here that you can relate to, so the spectacularity of Oshkosh will finally begin to sink in. Enjoy...

Oshkosh is...

...Buying 10,000 shares of Apple in 1994 for $2.96 per share and having $4,385.000 today.

...Ordering Bacon with your eggs at the diner and becoming overjoyed with caloric exhileration as the Waitress brings you the "Original Bacon Explosion"...a Pork Bomb Sausage Barbecue BBQ Roll.

...Heading over to the mall to buy some Chanel No. 5 and leaving with not only a gallon jug of No. 5, but also considerable amounts of No. 4, No. 3 and No. 6 too.

...Wanting to get your Ducks in a row and watching as not only your Ducks, but 80% of the Ducks in the United States amass in your front yard, all in perfectly asymmetric lines.

...Taking an Elephant ride in Africa, and laughing uncontrollably as the pachyderm does a wheelie and blasts off into a full-blown run...with you still on its back!

...Going Fishing on Mexico's Sea of Cortez with a good friend and catching enough Cravelle Jack and Triggerfish to literally fill an entire Toyota pickup bed two feet deep with fish. (O.K., cheating here..this actually happened to me in 1986 fishing Punta Colorada with my good friend Dan Hearne).

...Jamming with your Guitar on in a beach while vacationing in Grenada and having Gwen Stefani sit down next to you and start rapping out lyrics.

...Going out to ride your Harley-Davidson to the store for a six-pack of ale and ending up in Sturgis, South Dakota dancing on a table with a girl named Sinammon.

Vernazza, Cinque Terra, Italy. Photo: Dan Pimentel
...Having your spouse surprise you on your birthday with that little vacation home you've always dreamed of, and then finding out the place is in Vernazza, perched on a cliff in the Cinque Terra region of the Italian Rivera.

...Trying not to chuckle when your weird Uncle buys you a "Dude Ranch" vacation for Christmas, only to arrive at the Crazy Mouse Ranch and see that all they have to ride are big, aggressive and unusually sweaty Jackalopes...and you're cool with that.

...You buy a used Dodge "K" car online for $500 and instead they send you a Koenigsegg CCXR Swedish Hypercar worth $2 million USD.

...Becoming kinda famous by doing something notable and ending up on Leno. And the Late Show with David Letterman. And Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And Jimmy Kimmel Live! And the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. And Last Call with Carson Daly. And even Saturday Night Live.

...Going to a wedding and dancing the Macarena over and over, and having completely anonymous people throw large sums of money at you to make you stop.

...Taking the wrong turn off an Interstate in North Carolina and ending up on a NASCAR track when a race is your Dodge Neon...and you WIN!

...Posting an obnoxious video of your cat singing Moves Like Jagger on Youtube, finding out you won the "Best Director of a Short, Overdone Pet Film" category from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association before getting a personal phone call from a major film studio asking you to direct the feature-length version of "Silly Kitty Sings Maroon 5" in 3D.

...Cashing in a lotto ticket you thought was a $5 winner only to find you hit the Powerball grand prize, and having the money to buy a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera, a 560 hp Porsche 911 Turbo S, and a Plymouth Prowler.

...Starting out on a quick quest to buy a QWERTY keyboard before ending up getting totally quaffed on quality Quaaludes and getting a quickie from a queen who teaches Quicken to quipsters.

...sitting down to the piano to play Chopsticks and watching as your hands play Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

...Accepting a dinner invitation to nosh with a "few of the girls" from your sister's Film Study Group, and then finding out those "girls" are Sandra Bullock, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara and Selena Gomez. While eating, you try not to show how relieved you are that Snooki didn't show up.

photo: Tesla Motors
...Feeling good about helping to save the earth by driving a "green" car, and then buying a bright red Tesla Roadster.

...Attempting to ride a rented Unicycle in Cagnes-sur-Mer, and ending up in the peloton of the Le Tour de France...and blowing off all those dudes to capture the Yellow Jersey...even without wearing any spandex.

...You visualize world peace...and it happens.

...Spending the weekend making whoopie, and finding out the person you're with is not turned off at all by you calling "it" whoopie.

...Reading the ingredients label on your cheap frozen dinner and learning it contains xanthogenate, xanthoxylene, xiphiplastra and xylobalsamum, and being smart enough to know what all those things are.

...Going to the marina to ride in your new girlfriend's "boat" only to find it's really a 103' motor yacht. Yeah, maybe she IS a keeper after all.

...Going to the Zoo to see Zebras because the zeitgeist of the times says horse-like creatures with alternating black and white stripes are all the rage with hipsters, only to realize that Zulus have fed the animals zucchini from Zimbabwe, and they are all inside their little Zebra enclosures catching some ZZZZs.

Oshkosh is that. And more. Much more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Strong Women of Aviation: Getting your 'Mommy" rating doesn't have to mean you can't be a Pilot too!

Natalie Hoover and the family Cessna 172 on her way to
Oshkosh in 2014. She thought nothing of making the trip
while being eight months pregnant.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

In another of my "Strong Women of Aviation" interview series, I introduce you to a high-time professional pilot who is clear evidence that for a female, having children does not have to mean your flying dreams stop about the time the diapers start needing to be changed.
The fact that only six percent of active U.S. pilots are female is a mind-bender for the aviation industry, and the reasons this percentage is not higher remains one of aviation's unsolved riddles. One of the things we hear often that might be keeping women from punching their pilot's ticket is that if they want to have kids - and most young women eventually do - it means there will be no time left for flying, and that the terms "mommy" and "pilot" cannot co-exist in our aviation world.
In her interview below, Natalie Hoover will point out that it is in fact possible to be an active pilot and also a parent of young kids. The interview is presented verbatim...and please share this if you know females who have demonstrated a passing interest in learning to fly. These answers are GREAT, and Natalie's experience has to be considered required reading for any young woman who is trying to decide between flying or starting a family. Because as she reports below, you can by all means have them both.

AIRPLANISTA: Please introduce my readers to yourself.

I'm Natalie Hoover and I fly in the Memphis area, out of Memphis International, and Olive Branch Airport, a small airport 5NM to the southeast. I do all things aviation, including flight instructing, corporate flying in a Beechjet 400A, aviation writing, and working as an FAA designated pilot examiner. I have 6,000 hours (4,000 as an instructor) and hold ATP, Gold Seal CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates. I'm assistant chief instructor at Air Venture Flight Center at Olive Branch Airport and the Lead FAA Safety Team Representative for Mississippi. I've also flown for the airlines and done some charter work. I’m the recipient of the Greg Laslo award for aviation writing contributions and also FAAST Rep of the Year 2012 for Mississippi. I currently own a Cessna 172 named Lola, that we lease back to the local flight school.  

AIRPLANISTA: Describe how you became interested in flying, at what age, and who was the person (or persons) that you can say made the biggest impact on you becoming a pilot.

NATALIE HOOVER: I am not one of those people who grew up wanting to be a pilot. My dad was a pilot, in the USAF and later for FedEx. He loved his job and the lifestyle it afforded our family but never tried to push me into aviation. After I completed my undergraduate degree in literature in the spring of 2004, I was all set to go to grad school in the fall for journalism. Out of sheer boredom (and maybe a little curiosity) that summer, I took a flight lesson and then another and another. I never went to grad school….

AIRPLANISTA: As a female, did any of the big aviation groups do anything that brought you into aviation? (Young Eagles ride, WAI conference, Ninety-Nines reaching out to you?).

There was one woman who reached out to me, June Viviano. She was a member of Women in Aviation and also an MD-11 Captain at Fedex. She continued to invite me to meetings and help me get involved in the local activities of WAI. She is one of those people who would do anything for anybody, and I continue to be grateful she took me under her wing. It’s so important to have good mentors in this business. So find someone you look up to and develop a relationship with him or her. Aviation is such a strange little world that has a set of rules all of its own. A trusted mentor can help you navigate and also help you avoid some of the mistakes that the books won’t warn you about.   

AIRPLANISTA: How has becoming a mother of two young children changed the way you schedule flying?

NATALIE HOOVER: I used to say yes to every flying opportunity that came my way. I flew seven days a week for anybody who would let me fly their airplane. I went from zero flying time to my first airline job in just under two years. Once I had that job, I bid the lines with the most flying hours per month. I just wanted to move up to the captain’s seat as fast as possible. Somewhere in there, a very patient man decided he wanted to marry me. That changed everything. For the first time, I started turning down trips just to get a little more time at home. Then I started to wonder why I was even chasing that airline dream so hard in the first place. My heart truly wasn’t in it anymore. I’m not sure if it ever was. Now that I have two kids, I am very selective about which flying jobs I take. I have learned to say no. I only choose the jobs that get me home in time for dinner. Dinner at my house might mean the three-year-old is crying because she doesn’t want to eat her peas and the eight-month-old might be laughing as he throws his peas across the room. But I don’t want to miss one single crazy, magical minute of it.  

AIRPLANISTA: Describe your support system as a mother (husband, parents, neighbors etc.) and explain how these people are essential to giving you the time to pursue aviation.

NATALIE HOOVER: I have been blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband. He works hard at his own job as a residential contractor, but also takes a lot of pride in my accomplishments. Whenever the mail comes with a magazine that has one of my articles in it, he stops everything just to sit down at the kitchen table and read what I wrote. We both have flexible jobs that allow us to pick up the slack at home when the other has a busy week. If he is starting a big project, I will schedule a lighter flying week, and vice versa when I have a lot of flying to do. He will cook and clean and run the kids back and forth. I cannot imagine being able to focus on my career without his support.

AIRPLANISTA: What would you say to young women who want to learn to fly but also want to start a family?

NATALIE HOOVER: You really can have it all, a flying career and a family too. I always thought when I had kids, I would have to hang up my flying hat. But that hasn’t been the case. I’ll admit that being eight months pregnant and still climbing in and out of an airplane will earn you some interested stares, but why should you have to stop doing what you love just because you are also someone’s mom? Aviation has so many varied opportunities. The airlines are probably the most common path, but there are lots of other flying gigs that will allow you the flexibility to be a mom and a pilot. You may have to make some sacrifices and turn down some jobs that don’t line up with your ultimate goals. But in my experience, life has a way of working itself out if you just remember what’s important. I never would have dreamed that the designated examiner deal would happen as soon as it did or that I would be offered a corporate flying job that allows me to be home every night. It may not be as exciting as some flying jobs. I’m not traveling to Europe and staying in posh hotels. But at the end of the day, I get to fly an airplane and have time with my family. Life doesn’t get much better than that. So stick to your priorities and be patient for the right opportunities to come along. 

AIRPLANISTA: How do you find time to write aviation features and any other writing you do?

I have to be intentional with my time. When the kids are napping, I lock myself in a room with my computer and I write. I know that would be a great time to get the laundry done and the house clean, but those things can wait. I think when I’m old and look back on my life, I’ll be proud of that decision. Who cares if the house was spotless? Writing makes me happy. It makes me feel whole. God gave me this one, short life, and I plan on filling it up with things that truly matter. 

AIRPLANISTA: Your oldest child is now three-years-old, has he or she shown an interest in aviation, and do you look forward to introducing your two kids to flying?

NATALIE HOOVER: As much as I would love for my kids to share my passion for aviation, I understand that we were all made differently. They will have their own interests and dreams and I plan on encouraging them to follow their hearts.

AIRPLANISTA: As a DPE, what is the one thing you see constantly that private pilot students do wrong in checkrides?

NATALIE HOOVER: Most applicants are not familiar with the Practical Test Standards. I tell them all when we make the checkride appointment that the exam will come straight from the PTS. There are no surprises! There is this wonderful “cheat sheet” that is freely available to all on the FAA website, so why not take advantage of it? For example, the PTS says that I must ask about all classes of airspace, including weather minimums and equipment requirements. It is a guaranteed checkride question. So why would you walk into the checkride without being able to rattle off those answers? Read the PTS cover to cover and your checkride should go much more smoothly.  

AIRPLANISTA: What is the best advice you can give to young females who have shown an interest in learning to fly?

NATALIE HOOVER: I tell all of my female students that confidence is the most important flying trait they can develop. Confidence passes checkrides. Confidence makes for successful job interviews. Confidence allows you to believe in yourself enough to fly out of a stressful situation in the airplane. Nobody wants to hear that their pilot is less than confident in her ability to handle the airplane. It makes people nervous. For some reason, we ladies tend to possess a high level of self-doubt, more so than our male counterparts. So, if there is something that makes you feel uncomfortable in an airplane, get some extra training or do some more studying until you feel sure of yourself again. Do whatever it takes for you to feel a very healthy level of self-confidence about your flying abilities. Once you have done that, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you aren’t good enough. Remember, if you believe in yourself, others will too.  

AIRPLANISTA: As a part-time corporate pilot, what are some of the scheduling challenges you encounter in regards to balancing work and family?

NATALIE HOOVER: The corporate flying job actually found me; I didn’t go looking for it. Someone I once flew a trip with at the airline recommended me to his friend, the aircraft manager for the corporate job. When the manager approached me, I told him that the job sounded great, but that I may not be the right person to be flying around the CEO or the President of the company because my family comes first. He assured me that he understood my priorities and he has been true to his word. When I turn down a trip because it’s my kid’s birthday or because we don’t have childcare, he never gives me a hard time. I think as long as you are honest about who you are and where you stand up front, people are actually very understanding. 

AIRPLANISTA: This is a freestyle question, go ahead and tell a funny story, soapbox some topic important to you...anything you want to add that I did not ask.

NATALIE HOOVER: On my first day on the job as a charter pilot years ago, the passengers walked up and took one look at me and said, “I didn’t know we had a flight attendant on this flight.” When I told them that I was, in fact, their pilot, they came back with, “Sweetie, are you even old enough to drive a car?” Over the years, I have heard countless comments like those. I truly don’t think they are said with an ill intent or meant to be degrading. Most people just expect to see a man in that pilot seat, and if he has a little grey hair, then that’s even better. To passengers, that means wisdom and experience. I don’t think getting angry or offended is the proper response, nor is it effective. As a young female, I understand that the best thing I can do is earn their trust, one safe flight at a time. Changing public perception is a task I’m certainly up to for several reasons. First, I love flying. It’s a privilege that most people never get the chance to do. So if I have to put up with a little bit of ignorance and outdated notions along the way, it was still worth it. And secondly, I have a three-year-old daughter who may want to fly one day. Hopefully the world of aviation will be a much more accepting place for her because of the women and men who have helped to pave the way.

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Five Magazine Editors Crave Fresh Content - Send me Your Feature Article Ideas Now!

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Those of you who have followed my aviation writing career know it has experienced tremendous growth recently. Even though I began my freelance writing career in 1979, it took until 2014 to break into the big aviation magazines on a regular basis as a feature writer and columnist.
I had a few very nice features years ago in AOPA Pilot Magazine thanks to the support of their Editor, Tom Haines, but it was Jen Dellenbusch - Editor of Cessna Flyer and Piper Flyer Magazines - that cut me the break I needed when she picked up my Affirmative Attitude monthly column to run in both of her association's magazines. I have also enjoyed an explosion of interest from AOPA Pilot Magazine, EAA Sport Aviation Magazine, and HAI's Rotor Magazine. All are running my features now...and as a result, I am slammed with deadlines.
This is where YOU come in.
I am actively soliciting story ideas from anyone with an aviation story to tell. Maybe it's a great vintage airplane that you have restored, one a spectacular history, or the guy at the airport that just happens to be Boeing's 747 test pilot. Could be that rich guy on your field who just cashed in his billion-dollar corporate 401K and is now financing flight training for 100 local teens. There are endless aviation feature stories swirling all around every aviator, and I need you to send me anything you think would be great content for any of the magazines I write for these days.
No idea is too far out. Just hit the giant EMAIL ME YOUR STORY IDEAS link at the top of this post and tell me your idea. I may be able to find a home for it, or know of a way to angle it so one of the magazines can use it in print and on their website. With five magazines listening to my pitches - plus my popular Airplanista blog - I have a constant need to "feed the machine" as I call it. It only takes a minute to email me with an idea, and I will reply promptly with my opinion of what I may be able to do with it to gain that story some national magazine ink. If it has no chance of making it out of the "pitch phase" I will tell you honestly.
If you want to share this post with anyone, simply copy the URL below or use the share buttons below. I hope to hear your ideas soon. I cannot guarantee that one of the magazines will accept it for print or if I will choose to pitch it to them, but I promise to listen to your story idea and give it careful consideration.
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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Is this the summer you finally make it to Oshkosh? If yes, do it right!

Use the "My Itinerary" feature of
to plan each day of your Oshkosh visit.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

About this time each year, many thousands of people in the aviation family start thinking about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and say "this is the year" they will finally make their first visit to this incredible celebration of aviation. For some reason, life, work or a plethora of other reasons has always made the trek to the shores of Lake Winnebago impossible.
But not 2015, because finally, this year will be different, you say. If one of the things that has prevented you from going is the complexity of such a large multi-day event, rest assured you can go to Oshkosh on any day of the show and see and do things that will blow you away. In fact, there is so much to do at the "world's largest aviation celebration" that it is actually possible to go for the entire week and not see everything.
So, in my attempt to help you jump down off the fence, buy your tickets and plan travel to KOSH, here are some random thoughts about what you will experience while there. These are just a taste of what's waiting for you, and by all means, if this post gets you psyched to attend, visit and start clicking away. Their great scheduling tools allow you to pick the days you will be on the show grounds to display all that is happening before filtering down to the stuff you absolutely must see. Add those things to the "My Itinerary" tool after you log in or create an account. It's a great way to methodically plan your visit to the show.
There are a few things though you will not find on this official schedule, and it's these events and activities that I'll focus on in this post. And, this is aimed squarely at Airplanistas who have never been to Oshkosh, because if you have, some of this will seem Old Hat.
Come for more than one day: If one day is all you can get to come to Oshkosh, then just do that and you will have a ball. But I recommend three days minimum. It'll take you most of the first day just to get your bearings. Make sure to pick up the EAA maps that are everywhere on the grounds, you will be lost in a sea of airplanes without it. If you do two days, take some time at night to reflect on your first day, look at the map, read the excellent AirVenture Today newspaper, and try to plan your next day. On that second day, you'll have a much better chance of finding the things that really matter to you. And that third day is when you begin to feel like an Oshkosh long-timer as you will have the lay of the show down and can get around quickly to see more great things.

Use the Trams: Your first task upon entering the show grounds on Day One is to find that EAA map and learn the Tram routes. They basically run North-South from the North 40 gate to the far south end of the Ultralights area...and there are stops everywhere along these routes. Find out what the Tram stops look like and where those Trams go, so when you are way WAY out in Vintage drooling on the row after row of Beech Staggarwings and realize the Warbirds in Review presentation for the P-38s is about to start down in the Warbirds area, you can quickly and efficiently hop the Tram system. As a donated John Deere tractor driven by a very friendly Oshkosh-area local navigates the crowded lanes, you can beat the heat and save your feet. Usually give yourself 30 minutes from one end of the show to the other via a Tram.

Make it to Ardy and Ed's for a burger: O.K., this tip is not technically at AirVenture, but after you take it, you will agree this is a required stop for your visit. Find some way to this classic 1950s Drive-in for burgers, fries and Root Beer that is literally stuck in time. Cute young female carhops on Roller Skates will take your order carside, or consume a Drive-in Double (burger AND Bratwurst patties...yum) on the patio. What is incredible about this place is its location...directly under the final approach to runway 27 at KOSH. So as you eat this legendary food surrounded by aviation family members all having a blast, a nose-to-tail Conga line of inbounds to two-seven slides by overhead. You'll see anything from a mess of Cessna 172s and Piper Cherokees, to Cubs, bizjets, endless experimentals, warbirds, it is truly limitless. You will learn to eat with your head pointed straight up gawking at airplanes, but it just makes the food slide down that much easier.

Visit Camp Scholler at night: To the south and west of the show grounds, acres of camping areas come alive at night. To the people camped here, this is why they socialize with friends they may only see one time a year at Oshkosh. Even if you do not know anyone, just walk up to most any group standing around a campfire, introduce yourself, and start talking airplanes. If you are carrying beer, it always makes you welcome just about anywhere in Scholler. On every row will be organized groups like the always-singing South Africans, the technologically-advance Avgeeks, and plenty of local EAA chapters partying and enjoying the kind of camaraderie you will not find anywhere else.

Bring lots of digital film: Unless you are a pro shooter, you do not own enough memory cards for your digital camera. Buy extra, you will need it, because it is completely possible to fill up several SD cards a day photographing so many gorgeous airplanes. I recommend 64GB SD cards, it takes work to fill them up, and they have lots of room for video...and you WILL take video.

Pack water and update your phone's weather apps: For guys like me from Oregon, the heat and humidity of Wisconsin in summer is unbearable. So carry a decent-sized water bottle for each member of your party, and refill often at the many H20 filling stations around the grounds. And keep that weather app handy, because the weather at Oshkosh can be brutal and unpredictable. It can go from choking hot to massive thunderstorms in an hour. So carry a good app with NEXRAD radar, and look at the regional map each hour. You will see anything developing, and if it's headed towards the show, start thinking about ways to take cover.
There are just a few ideas for things to make your first Oshkosh more enjoyable. As the show gets closer, I will post a few more, so add your email to the SUBSCRIBE field near top right of this page to receive updates from Airplanista in your email inbox. We never solicit you or give away your address, it is only used when new content is posted.

Monday, June 08, 2015

#Oshbash 2015: One Way for #Avgeeks to Meet Up at AirVenture

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Each day brings the #avgeek world one day closer to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and for those of us who plan our next trip to the aviation family reunion on the shores of Lake Winnebago, we start planning that trip as we leave the grounds each year.

Many of my readers know this blog hosts a social media "meetup" event at Oshkosh each year called #Oshbash, and this year on Tuesday, July 21st, we #avgeeks will again take over the EAA Press Tent for another two hours of fun, friends and frivolity, indulging in a bit of "face time" in real time. It's a chance for those on aviation social media to meet each other and enjoy the kind of camaraderie that erupts when the room is full of aviators that love technology and social media as much as they do flying.

In my never-ending quest to provide a bit of entertainment at #Oshbash, this year I am presenting Affirmative Attitude Live!...a "live" version of my column that appears monthly in Cessna Flyer and Piper Flyer magazines. What is Affirmative Attitude Live? Glad you asked... 
An "Affirmative Attitude" is what drives GA's incredible volunteers and advocates. You've read about them in my magazine column, now see them LIVE at EAA Airventure Oshkosh. The column honors the extraordinary people in the aviation family that are making a difference in our GA world. These are regular people pushing their personal envelope to reach higher and accomplish more. Each has a backstory to tell, and all are eager to honor the GA volunteers in their organizations that make their work possible. Now come to #Oshbash and meet these movers/shakers to see what motivates them and learn ways you can channel your passion for aviation into giving back to our flying community.
This year's #Oshbash is sponsored by Cessna Flyer Association and Piper Flyer Association, who are getting behind the event to show support for aviation social media and the people who use it. Their magazine's editor, Jen Dellenbusch, has promised a very special surprise for those audience members who are present in the Press Tent at the conclusion of the event.

The format will be more social and laid back than in previous years, with myself doing short but informative interviews on stage with some of the people and organizations I have written about in Affirmative Attitude. So far, the guest list includes: 
• Major General Joe Vazquez, National Commander and CEO, Civil Air Patrol, who will talk about what it takes to coordinate 60,000 volunteers and a fleet of 550 airplanes,
• Katie Meyer, EAA Airventure Volunteer Manager - who will give us insight into the massive annual effort that is EAA's volunteer community.

• Ryan Pemberton, Pemberton and Sons Aviation, Spokane, WA, who will discuss the fine art of keeping vintage airplanes flying and the Pemberton volunteer team,

• Martha Phillips, International President, The Ninety Nines on how the organization she leads is reaching out to the next generation of female pilots around the world, 
• Pilots N Paws Pet Rescue Service (Speaker TBA) on how this important organization manages a nationwide network of volunteer pilots. 
• Mark Spencer, Founder and CEO of FlyQuest, an organization that uses a custom-built 6-DOF simulator to introduce the public to flying.
If you are planning to be on the show grounds on Tuesday, July 21, come to the Press Tent at 5:30 PM and see what this #Oshbash fun is all about. Be advised that #Oshbash is always SRO, so if you desire a chair, get there early as the venue only seats about 85-90 people.

Airplanista gives special thanks to EAA's Communications Director Dick Knapinski for arranging the venue and providing logistics support, and to Dave Allen and the crew of Other People's Airplanes for the live streaming video support, and Julie Celeste, Managing Partner of Celeste/Daniels Advertising & Design for public relations and web development support.

If you have a question about #Oshbash, email host Dan Pimentel here, or hit him up on Twitter as @Av8rdan.