Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas -- An Interview with the World's Oldest ATP

Gang, listeners, children of all ages...

Thanks to some connections of mine with our Friendliest Aeronautical Agency, UCAP was able to land an interview with The Man, the Great Old Elf Himself -- yes, The World's Oldest ATP.

Strictly a FAR 125 driver, the Great Old Elf (GOE) continues to ply his trade in large measure because he avoided flying for any of the FAR 135 or FAR 121 carriers -- the passenger airlines. And his lengthy career has not been without its foibles, close encounters, close calls and near misses. Not for publication, he talked about dodging traffic along the Atlantic Seaboard, the TCAS system screaming near Heathrow, the almost unintelligible controllers over France -- "English isn't their first language, you know," he said -- and the unrelenting demands for vectors from the St. Louis TRACON. And he wouldn't touch issues of the missles over the Middle East or the interceptors over Russia. "Those folks are lucky I even wander into their airspace."

But he says he still loves his job and was heading back to Hangar I -- for "Igloo" -- to prep for his longest flight and duty day starting the evening of Dec. 24. He wanted our loyal UCAP listeners to be aware that they can sit and track his progress that night thanks to the cooperation of our trusted guardians of the sky at the North American Air Defense Command, or NORAD, at this link:


So with no further ado, let's get on with the interview.

UCAP: First thing, Santa, on behalf of all of us children who work on and listen to Uncontrolled Airspace, let me offer our deepest thanks for you taking time to talk with us.

Santa: No problem. You could say I'm a long-time listener, first-time Blogger. Glad to do it.

UCAP: So when did you first know you wanted to fly?

Santa: ...Man, it's been so long ago, it's sometimes hard to remember; but I can tell you that I was no bigger than knee high to an Elf -- I couldn't even reach the bottom of a sleigh.

UCAP: Did you have trouble finding an instructor?

Santa: Trouble finding an instructor? I had trouble finding somebody who'd even admit to the idea of flying! And trouble finding a sleigh that would work, a flight crew, you name it. The Wright Brothers thought they had it bad! And I'd already been flying for...well, for quite a while -- and I'll leave it at that.

UCAP: A lot of people credit you with coming up with the idea for your, well, unique propulsion system. What inspired that idea?

Santa: The inspiration was watching a bunch of reindeer trying to keep their feet warm! That's the whole key to what makes 'em work! They really hate having cold hooves -- that and they take themselves very lightly, if you know what I mean.

UCAP: Now that's an angle I'm sure none of us would've ever thought of.

Santa: Well, what really nudged them from just large, high, long leaps to actual cross-country flight was convincing them that between midnight Dec. 24 and midnight Dec. 25 that they risked permanent hoofbite -- that's frostbite to them -- if we stayed on the ground longer than the average round trip through the average chiminy.

UCAP: Then how to you ever get them to land?

Santa: Oh, leg warmers stuffed with pre-heat pads, wired to a big battery underneath the sleigh.

UCAP: So there's some real technology at work here.

Santa: Well, some technology, some psychology and a little physiology -- their little hooves are very sensitive to the cold. That's why we can turn in such a high number of cycles in such a short period of time. They're anxious to get back off the cold, cold ground. They even think that sand is just a gritty form of dry ice -- and they don't ask too many questions as long as they know that Mrs. Claus has plenty of alfalfa and clover waiting for them at the end of their duty day.

UCAP: That brings up a question a lot of us have had since childhood: How to you stay awake and alert through such a long duty day. I mean, in 24 hours you fly more cycles than a CRJ first officer at the bottom of a regional airlines seniority list.

Santa: That's partly a product of the environment. I mean, the cabin heat isn't very effective. I used to stuff hot coals into a covered skillet and put it on the floor just to keep my toes from freezing -- now we use those chemical warming pads they sell for sore muscles. But otherwise, the cold, crisp air keeps me going strong. That and these neat battery powered glove warmers this pink rabbit dropped off a few years ago -- even included a lifetime supply of batteries. Personally, I think he's in the battery business...

UCAP: Now when you started, air traffic conflicts must've been non-existent but...

Santa: You don't know the half of it; birds, everywhere we flew, birds, until a few hundred years ago when contraptions from some guy named daVinci kept popping up. But no one believed his stuff was practical and it pretty much died out within a few years.

UCAP: Traffic conflicts? In the Middle Ages?

Santa: Well, nothing like today, you know. It all started a few years after I dropped off some drawings in the stockings of those two bike mechanics in Dayton, Ohio. Been worse every year since!

UCAP: So today, NORAD tracks you, the FAA inspects you and the DoT checks your paperwork. That must be something of a hassle.

Santa: Sure, -- it might be if the guys they sent weren't so worried about getting lumps of coal in their stockings...that and what their wives would do if they found out that their hubby had a hand in grounding Santa! So they handle it very, well, nice. And I'll have to leave it at that.

UCAP: Has modern technology been any help to you?

Santa: Let me tell you, if it weren't for some of those modern boxes under my seat, the kids in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and -- the worst -- New York area would've stopped getting anything on Christmas day decades ago. I mean, Jeez! How many movements do those airline guys think they can squeeze into one space in 24 hours? If it weren't for getting priority handling from ATC, I'd never get west of New Jersey!

UCAP: If those areas are the worst, where are the easiest areas?

Santa: Bedford Falls. Seems like there's never any traffic over Bedford Falls -- or over downtown D.C., the past few years. It's like the airspace doesn't know aviation exists there...never tried to figure out why, though. Just count it as a blessing and move on as fast as I can. And after D.C., my time-to-climb numbers and cruise speeds all get better because I get to offload a lot of coal in that airspace. ...I think you know why...

UCAP: What's your ground support like?

Santa: Fortunately, I've got the best ground support an old elf could ever wish for. They know the machine inside out -- and they fit into every nook and cranny, inside out. But you can't rush 'em or they get, well, a little short with the Mrs. And Mrs. Claus! She's absolutely top notch in the dispatch department, checking the manifest, working out the international clearances and remitting the ridiculously high overflight fees they demand for handling in Europe, the U.K. and Canada. I tell you, whoever came up with those schedules has gotta be a product of the Washington think tanks. Cost too much, the billing forms are complicated, we have to satisfy dozens of bureaucrats -- and the service is far inferior to what we get over the States. And for handling by the U.S. ATC, we just pay a simple excise tax on the alfalfa and clover bales. Couldn't be easier or simpler. And the controllers themselves couldn't be nice or better -- well, maybe except a couple of TRACONs...but that's a story for another day.

UCAP: So your elves and The Mrs. handle all the ground chores, the reindeer handle the propulsion engineering. What's the toughest job in your operation?

Santa: Oh, the guy who handles the sanitary engineering job. No Ramp Rat servicing the lav holding tanks of a 747 or A380 ever had to put up with the (expletive deleted) that my guy has to handle...Ooops! Sorry! I can't say (expletive deleted) here can I...Sorry! Cut out that part, will you?

UCAP: Not to worry; our producer, Jack, will take care of any (expletive deleted) that shows up.

Santa: That's a relief! Now, where was I...Oh, yeah. The sanitation job. Let me leave it this way: you try riding behind nine flighty, overworked reindeer for 24 hours straight and see if you don't need help with the sanitation problem. But I've got a couple of IA's working on a field-approval fix to that problem that is a Green solution and will reduce our carbon hoofprint.

UCAP: Uh, OOOKay...

UCAP: Ever think about upgrading your hardware to something more modern?

Santa: Well, every few years we'll get a visit from some of the marketing guys with the factories in Savannah, Seattle, Toulouse and Wichita. Those Wichita guys are really persistent. But so far none of these geniuses has been able to show me anything with equal capabilities -- nothing that can compete with the STOL performance, full-hay payload, top speed, alfalfa efficiency and maintenance simplicity. You know, sometimes the older designs just can't be improved upon. But they keep trying.

UCAP: How about recreational flying the rest of the year?

Santa: Well, I wouldn't want this to get out, but I've got my eye on one of those new LSA things -- in fact, I think the Mrs. may surprise me with one this year...I've only been hinting about it since last year's Sebring show. We went ingognito and kicked a few tires, got a couple of demo rides... but I don't want her to know I suspect; no sense spoiling the surprise, you know.

UCAP: So do you have any advice or encouragement for our listeners who are still trying to find their way into aviation?

Santa: Sure! Just take a look at me! If a height-challenged elf from the wrong side of the North Pole can learn to fly and land a job as great as this one, anyone with a little drive and a bit of alfalfa can make a go of becoming a pilot -- even those really tall guys over 5-6!

UCAP: Just one last question, please, Santa.

Santa: Make it quick! I've got a slot reservation into JFK and I can't afford to miss it.

UCAP: What's you favorite part of being the world's oldest ATP? The flying? The giving? The sights you see?

Santa: Well, those are all important elements and I love all of 'em. But my real favorite is hearing from my littlest fans and knowing that they never tire of leaving out my favorite snack.

UCAP: Oh, you mean the milk and cookies?

Santa: Naw, not the milk and cookies. The cases of Leinnies they ship north to the house for when I get home! I don't have to worry about getting out to the store for another 51 weeks! And the job security is excellent! Who else are they gonna get who would take on all the work it takes doing the post-flight maintenance after a 24-hour duty day and a few billion flight cycles and chiminy squeezes -- not to mention flying behind nine little (expletive deleted) making machines? Oops! Sorry...did it again...

UCAP: This has been a real treat, Santa! Thanks again!

Santa: Sure...now, before I go, I hope you, Jack and Jeb weren't really counting on anything this year...I've had some pretty ugly reports from the folks at the TSA, you know...and they want me to, to... Well, I can't actually talk about that. And besides -- I don't know anything about anatomy.

So let's leave it at this before we launch:

Merry Christmas to All! And to all, a good flight!


Monday, December 15, 2008

100th Episode Pic from EAA

Here's a scan of one of the signed photos we received from Tom Poberezny and EAA. It's an incredibly touching gesture which the three of us agree we will value forever.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New Restaurants Section

The popularity and success of the UCAP Airports Restaurant List has resulted in us spinning it out into its own section of the website.

Check it out here:


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reps Gone Wild! Or, The Sad Saga of Congress & Detroit

OK, there's no getting around this image breaker, so let's get it out of the way right up front.

When the head men of Detroit's Big Three Automakers headed to D.C. in November, those hats they had in hand spent the trip in the coat closet of three large-cabin business jets. They didn't mean for it to look the way it looked -- callous, pampered execs so filled with the hubris of self-importance that they just couldn't help but pick the company jet without thinking of how it looked.

Call it force of habit; call it short sighted. Some of my pilot friends -- many of whom fly such executive jets for their weekly rice bowl -- call it "stupid, plain and simple stupid."

And watching a variety of Members of Congress take turns flailing the flesh of those poor, suffering multimillionaires was, well, alternatively painful and maddening.

The same Big Three Automaker head men, only slightly more contrite, last week returned to address those same Congressional panels, this time with something akin to actual plans for their own recovery. And with memories of the prior visit's loss of flesh still fresh in their minds, they all noted right up front that they'd all driven the trip -- and they all drove hybrids, it seems.

Wow! How about two weeks too late in the smarts department? Why would I say this?

Because, again with fresh memories of the visions of executive excess still dancing in their heads, some House lawmakers insist that any aid come with one particular string attached to go with many others. These watchdogs of the taxpayers' money -- what?!? -- these Members of Congress want the automakers to shed their corporate-aircraft fleets. No owning, no leasing. I'm surprised these custodians of our cash coffers didn't flail them for failing to car pool.

Sorry, but no sense, Members of Congress. No sense at all, this insistence on losing the private planes.

So how about a little quiz and maybe a salient solution for this issue?

First, would all the Members of Congress who have never benefited from the access and efficiency of a private aircraft -- any private aircraft, ultralight to ultralarge biz liner -- please raise your hands? Wow...that's not many of you...not many at all.

Second, would all if you who support such ill-informed ignorance of the facts tell me why this requirement -- along with the salary cuts, benefits reductions, etc. -- wasn't part of the language attached to the bailouts for Wall Street banks and investment houses? Eh? You're awfully quiet here.

Third, would you entertain a sensible alternative to your no-plane, no-sense proposal? It's a method dear to the heart of the White House, the GOP in general and even a significant number of Democrats: A cost-benefit analysis.

Impose a limit on the fleet; restrict use if you want -- but make the restriction based on the costs versus the benefits of taking the company jet. Too complicated, to obvious you say? How would we know, who would decide and how fast can such analysis be done, you asked?

Man, I'm so glad you asked. There just happens to be a computer-based software tool that performs exactly this function and it's employed by hundreds of companies daily to help them decide when company staff goes commercial Human Mailing Tube and when they go private aircraft. The National Business Aviation Association commissioned its creation to solve this very real question for company finance managers, execs and board members.

It's called "Travel$ense" and it's available through NBAA. And it's nothing short of brilliant in the depth and range of factors used in the equations.

First, the user plugs in the aircraft type, and the program helps with operating costs based on user-supplied figures for fuel, insurance, maintenance reserves, crew costs and wait times. Travel$ense also factors in such variables as hotels and meals if required. And finally, it looks at real-time air fares for proposed trips, rental cars if needed to get from the airline airport to the ultimate destination -- important since the company plane can go places the Airlines don't -- as well as the cost of staff time using the airlines versus the company jet. And if the airline trip can't get the employees home same day, it also will look at real-time room and meals costs -- for one person or dozens.

Then it caculates the real-time, relative costs of (a) going by Commercial Human Mailing Tube and all necessary sundries; and (b) the actual costs of using the company plane, along with any necessary sundries. As most of us know, many times the private plane can accomplish the trip in less time -- say same day, in many cases -- where the airline times lose out.

But when all is said and done, the CFO, CEO and Chairman of the Board can all see which mode makes the most financial sense to the company.

Requiring the use of Travel$ense or some comparable, equally effective way to calculate the cost-benefit numbers for the company plane and the airlines makes huge sense for a company trying to make the most with little.

Allowing the companies to keep what they need for company travel and requiring the calculations to show the gain for using those aircraft would likely bring an end to such madness as allowing multimillionaire execs to ride home for the weekend -- at company expense -- but it would preserve the sensible, cost-beneficial aspects of corporate aircraft for companies with very real financial issues, as well as security and efficiency issues solvable far more inexpensively by using business-aviation aircraft.

And it would also help change the equation in how the public views the whole field of private aviation after hearing repeatedly that the company planes are used only when they make financial sense.

Of course, that requirement could still result in a dent in FBO business when companies found they could no longer find themselves required to attend a meeting in Louisville, Ky. -- curiously the day before the Kentucky Derby -- or in Indianapolis the week of the 500, or in whatever city the Super Bowl lands in -- the day before the Super Bowl.

In other words, CEOs and high-flying execs would no longer be free to be stupid about their business-aircraft use. And that would reduce the so-called excesses of corporate aviation to only those able to pay their own way -- the very rich -- and Members of Congress, who we know aren't always quite that bright.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Final Flight

Here's a posting forwarded to me by listener Richard H. It's from Mark V. on the Aeronca List. Hope they don't mind me republishing it here.


Date: Mon, Dec 8, 2008 at 9:41 PM
Subject: [f-AA] ###"The Final Touchdown"###

Two items non Aeronca related I'd like to pass along to this group who I suspect will appreciate them. The first is a self written text from a local aviator who recently passed. Following the text is is a short 4 minute youtube video a friend of mine made 3 winters ago that is befitting the text.



Dutch Redfield was a Professional Flight Instructor at Pan Am. A respected author, terrific human being, and a lover of every aspect of aviation. Fitting for him to write his final chapter.

Holland "Dutch" Redfield

"The Final Touchdown"

During a lifetime in aviation, I have experienced only one forced landing. It was not difficult. The dead-stick glide began at three thousand feet. There were several suitable fields from which to choose. Things worked out nicely. Yet I know that I have one more forced landing lurking and waiting for me out there. I believe that at
this stage of my life, I am ready for it. Perhaps there will be warning, maybe not.

Will there be time for me to plan a good approach to this final touchdown? Will it be a hasty no power, no options, straight ahead steep descent to a walloping hard touchdown? Or will it be a soft afternoon peaceful glide?

Whatever, for this final glide, I ask only for an open cockpit, so I can, however briefly, savor for the last time the feels of flight, as biplane wings forward of me exquisitely frame and record the slowly changing, tilting scenes as I maneuver and silently bank and glide onto what I have long known will be my very final approach.

Please, no helmet, so old ears can best sense vital changes in speed, relayed through the lovely sounds of whistling interplane struts and wires, and so cheeks and bared head can best read changing airflows swirling behind the cockpit's tiny windshield.

Below, in a forest of trees lies a grassy field long ago set aside for biplane flyers of old. It looks small, tiny. With lightly crossed aileron and rudder I'll slip her a few inches over the fence. I'll level her off, then hold her off, with wheels skimming the grass tips.

The lift of the wings, the sounds of flight, rapidly diminish. With stick full back, lift fades, a slight tremor, then she and I are bumping and rolling across the beautifully sodded field. The wooden propeller remains still.

We roll to a stop. I have no belt to loosen. I raise goggles and slowly climb out. Suddenly there is applause, then bear hugs and slaps on the back. "Hey, you old goat, you really slicked that one on!" I am with old friends.

Dutch Redfield

Dutch passed away in his sleep on November 13th.

(Minnesota looks just like this video tonight)

Aeronca mailing list

Saturday, December 06, 2008

YAJP (Yet another jet pack)

[Video found at Dvorak Uncensored

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What ARE they drinking at EPA -- and DHS?

The entertainment never stops! Not even with only 48 days to go before a major changeover in the powers in Washington, D.C.

Our fine friends at the federal level are really beginning to make me worry about their mental faculties -- and I'm not talking about the fine folks at our Friendliest Aeronautical Agency.

I'm talking about the dutiful people who worry about threats from our air and water at the Environmental Protection Agency and the nice folks who worry about threats from bad people at the Department of Homeland Security.

For most of the past eight years, the EPA has acted to reduce or otherwise eliminate protections, while the DHS has worked to guard us against, largely, us. We see the results of the latest DHS concern in the form of its Large Aircraft Security Program proposal;. from the EPA, its a proposal growing out of a court decision essentially forcing the department to regulate Greenhouse Gases, or GHGs -- something the agency's bosses have steadfastly resisted for most of the last six years.

So what does the EPA do, when forced to? Propose GHG regulations with no -- zero, zip, nada -- sense of proportionality.
Stay with me for a few graphs and you'll see what I mean -- and where the lines cross.

Years ago, the EPA evaluated GHG emissions and found that general aviation contributed only 4 percent of all the GHG produced by aviation – and that aviation in total produced only small minority percentage of the overall contribution of transportation equipment…which, in turn, was not a majority contributor of total GHGs emitted by the U.S.

We could have told the EPA that proposing to regulate GHG -- and, also, lead emissions -- for GA was impractical due to the small scale of use and the high cost of any conversion or equipment changes to the aircraft.

After all, according to various sources, U.S. use of avgas in 2006 totaled only 236 million gallons or so; that’s less than one half of one percent of what our cars use – and far, far less than what the kerosene-burners in Diesel- and turbine-powered vehicles burn.

So why – no, seriously, why? – is the EPA wasting valuable staff time and federal dollars, staff time and association dollars, and my time and dollars, even proposing such a non-useful set of rules change encompassing general aviation.

No, seriously! Why?

Isn’t the administration that loves to tout its devotion to the cost/benefit equation?

Unless the Bush EPA wants to tell me why it’s OK to let coal mine operators dump tailings into a stream, as it's about to allow in a loosening of rules, but horrible to let a relative handful of pilots contribute an inconsequential amount of GHG (or tetra ethyl lead) to the environment, it’s hard to believe these ostensibly smart people are serious.

I mean, geez! It took me only three minutes of Internet search time to come up with figures confirming – yes, factually – that avgas, in particular, and Jet A as used by general aviation – amount to a miniscule percentage of the fossil fuels pumped and burned in this country.

As concluded by an earlier EPA analysis of GHG emissions in the U.S., a good method for assessing the contribution of transportation segments is the amount of fuel they burn. Check with the handful of refiners; check with theFBOs; check with the distributors, pilots -- hell, try Wikipedia, for taxpayers' sake!

Guess what, EPA?

GA comes in dead last in the race – behind recreational boats, behind commercial marine vessels, behind our personal cars and commercial Diesel trucks, which all ran ahead of commercial jets.

EPA didn’t even need AOPA’s response. AOPA used EPA’s own GHG emission inventory to point out that general aviation’s contribution is a miniscule 0.74 percent of the overall transportation sector – which means GA’s contribution to the whole of GHG emissions is even smaller! When you peg the piston segment, well, that’s smaller still.

This proposal makes an observer wonder whether the EPA people who proposed this rather draconian idea for a totally inconsequential mode of travel might be sharing a water cooler with their federal colleagues over at the Department of Horrible inSecurities?

Both the EPA's GHG proposal and the DHS’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program rules stand as sparkling examples of a skewed philosophy of applying to totally non-existent problems wholly ineffective solutions.

But then, why should I expect anything better in the final year of an eight-year run than we’ve gotten in the previous seven?

So if the EPA is open to a suggestion, withdraw your GHG NPRM, rewrite it with at least a nod to the segment with an inconsequential impact, and then resubmit. You'll be cost effective by saving us and you a lot of wasted staff time and money.

Although my expectations are zero for this, maybe EPA’s example would serve to enlighten the DHS and result in that department in withdrawing its LASP proposal – at least, that is, until the DHS can answer the basic question of how its proposal would do anything to improve security.

At least EPA has an answer to how the rules its proposed could improve air quality.

To its credit, DHS did recognize a point of diminishing returns for its theory on "enhancing" aviation security by ignoring airplanes weighing 12,500 pounds or less. But so far, DHS has failed to say anything more useful than the LASP proposed would “serve to enhance” aviation security as a justification.

And that statement carries the weight of credibility not even equal to the weight of hydrogen. Which means it might fly – but it won’t carry anything.

-- Dave Higdon