Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career

The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
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Apr 11, 2019

There have been numerous air carrier accidents in which the crew attempted takeoff without the leading and trailing edge flaps extended to the takeoff position. Unlike many general aviation airplanes, large turbojet aircraft require high-lift devices (leading and trailing edge flaps and slats) for the airplane to safely get airborne. In some of these accidents, the Takeoff Warning System (TOWS) was intentionally disabled, preventing the crew from receiving a warning of incorrect airplane configuration.

Here are notable accidents resulting in 746 fatalities:

1974 Lufthansa flight 540, B747, 59 fatalities

1987 Northwest 255, MD 82, 150 fatalities

1988 Delta 1411, B727-200, 14 fatalities

1999 LAPA Flight 3142, B737-200, 65 fatalities

2005 Mandala Airlines 91, B737-200, 144 fatalities

2008 Spanair 5022 - MD 82, 154 fatalities

In every case, if the flight crews had performed their normal pre-takeoff checks, the accidents would have been averted. It is essential that all crew members actually confirm every item on the appropriate checklist.

As an additional mnemonic, many pilots will perform a FEATS check before every takeoff: Flaps, EPRs, Airspeed bugs, Trim, Speed brake.

Apr 8, 2019

Scott A. Huesing is a proven combat leader. He is a retired United States Marine Corps Infantry Major with 24 years of honorable service, both enlisted and as a commissioned officer. His career spanned 10 deployments to over 60 countries worldwide. Throughout his numerous deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa he planned, led, and conducted hundreds of combat missions under some of the most austere and challenging conditions.
Scott is a published author since 2005. His bestselling book, Echo in Ramadi, (Regnery, 2018) is a snapshot in time that changed the face of operations on the battlefield; a captivating story of Echo Company, 2d Battalion, 4th Marines during the Second Battle of Ramadi in support of the Multi National Forces Surge Strategy in 2006. His true-life account provides keen insights into what may be an unfamiliar world to readers, but very familiar to those, like Scott, who lived it and endured this historic fight. Echo in Ramadi was written to honor the sacrifices and spirit of his Marines and the families they supported. It not simply a war story—it is about the people and the power of human connection that speaks about leadership, team-building, and overcoming adversity under the toughest conditions.
Scott is an expert contributor and has written articles, editorials, and scholarly pieces for USA Today, Fox News Channel, Entercom, The Marine Corps Gazette, Military Times, Townhall, and The Daily Signal. He has been an author for the U.S. Marine Corps doctrine shaping the future of training within the world’s most elite branch of service. He is the creative author for the standard operating procedures for Marine Expeditionary Units, America’s first response force, with The Lightning Press.
Scott is a formally trained public speaker with 25 years of experience in both the military and private sector. He has spoken to audiences as large as 2,000 conveying his thoughts, intent, and goals to motivate listeners. Scott’s natural, outgoing style allows him to connect with audiences to share his experience. Scott dedicates his time to travel to military bases, college programs, veteran organizations, non-profit organizations, corporate leadership conferences, Gold Star Family events, and a multitude of venues to share the story of his epic journey and struggles. He is continually sought out to speak on leadership and his combat experiences—and the importance of writing about them.
Scott is the Executive Director of Save the Brave, a certified non-profit that connects Veterans through outreach programs—their mission is staying proactive to the needs of the Veterans they serve. He is also the President of the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines Association, a non-profit that helps Veterans and active duty Marines.

Apr 4, 2019

From Wikipedia

On the night of 1 July 2002, Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937, a Tupolev Tu-154 passenger jet, and DHL Flight 611, a Boeing 757 cargo jet, collided in mid-air over Überlingen, a southern German town on Lake Constance. All 69 passengers and crew aboard the Tupolev and the two crew members of the Boeing were killed.

The official investigation by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (GermanBundesstelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung, (BFU)) identified as the main cause of the collision a number of shortcomings on the part of the Swiss air traffic control service in charge of the sector involved, and also ambiguities in the procedures regarding the use of TCAS, the on-board aircraft collision avoidance system.

A year and a half after the crash, on 24 February 2004, Peter Nielsen, the air traffic controller on duty at the time of the collision, was murdered in an apparent act of revenge by Vitaly Kaloyev, a Russian citizen who had lost his wife and two children in the accident.

Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937 was a chartered flight from Moscow, Russia, to Barcelona, Spain, carrying sixty passengers and nine crew. Forty-five of the passengers were Russian schoolchildren from the city of Ufa in Bashkortostan on a school trip organised by the local UNESCO committee to the Costa Dorada area of Spain. Most of the parents of the children were high-ranking officials in Bashkortostan.[12] One of the fathers was the head of the local UNESCO committee.

The aircraft, a Tupolev Tu-154M registered as RA-85816, was piloted by an experienced Russian crew: 52-year-old Captain Alexander Mihailovich Gross (Александр Михайлович Гросс) and 40-year-old First Officer Oleg Pavlovich Grigoriev (Олег Павлович Григорьев). The captain had more than 12,000 flight hours to his credit. Grigoriev, the chief pilot of Bashkirian Airlines, had 8,500 hours of flying experience and his task was to evaluate Captain Gross's performance throughout the flight. 41-year-old Murat Ahatovich Itkulov (Мурат Ахатович Иткулов), a seasoned pilot with close to 7,900 flight hours who was normally the first officer, did not officially serve on duty due to this being the captain's assessment flight. 50-year-old Sergei Gennadyevich Kharlov, a flight navigator with approximately 13,000 flight hours, and 37-year-old Flight Engineer Oleg Irikovich Valeev, who had almost 4,200 flight hours, joined the three pilots in the cockpit.

DHL Flight 611, a Boeing 757-23APF cargo aircraft registered as A9C-DHL, had originated in Bahrain and was being flown by two Bahrain-based pilots, 47-year-old British Captain Paul Phillips and 34-year-old Canadian First Officer Brant Campioni. Both pilots were very experiencedthe captain had logged close to 12,000 flight hours and the first officer had accumulated more than 6,600 flight hours. At the time of the accident, the aircraft was en route from Bergamo, Italy, to Brussels, Belgium.

The two aircraft were flying at flight level 360 (36,000 feet, 10,973 m) on a collision course. Despite being just inside the German border, the airspace was controlled from Zürich, Switzerland, by the private Swiss airspace control company Skyguide. The only air traffic controller handling the airspace, Peter Nielsen, was working two workstations at the same time. Partly due to the added workload, and partly due to delayed radar data, he did not realize the problem in time and thus failed to keep the aircraft at a safe distance from each other. Less than a minute before the accident he realised the danger and contacted Flight 2937, instructing the pilot to descend by a thousand feet to avoid collision with crossing traffic (Flight 611). Seconds after the Russian crew initiated the descent, their traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) instructed them to climb, while at about the same time the TCAS on Flight 611 instructed the pilots of that aircraft to descend. Had both aircraft followed those automated instructions, the collision would not have occurred.

Flight 611's pilots on the Boeing jet followed the TCAS instructions and initiated a descent, but could not immediately inform Nielsen because the controller was dealing with Flight 2937. About eight seconds before the collision, Flight 611's descent rate was about 2,400 feet per minute (12 m/s), not quite as rapid as the 2,500 to 3,000 ft/min (13 to 15 m/s) range advised by that jet's TCAS; as for the Tupolev, the pilot disregarded his jet's TCAS instruction to climb, having already commenced his descent as instructed by the controller. Thus, both planes were now descending.

Unaware of the TCAS-issued alerts, Nielsen repeated his instruction to Flight 2937 to descend, giving the Tupolev crew incorrect information as to the position of the DHL plane (telling them that the Boeing was to the right of the Tupolev when it was in fact to the left).

The aircraft collided at 23:35:32 local time, at almost a right angle at an altitude of 34,890 feet (10,630 m), with the Boeing's vertical stabilizer slicing completely through Flight 2937's fuselage just ahead of the Tupolev's wings. The Tupolev broke into several pieces, scattering wreckage over a wide area. The nose section of the aircraft fell vertically, while the tail section with the engines continued, stalled, and fell. The crippled Boeing, now with 80% of its vertical stabilizer lost, struggled for a further seven kilomters (four miles) before crashing into a wooded area close to the village of Taisersdorf at a 70-degree downward angle. Each engine ended up several hundred meters away from the main wreckage, and the tail section was torn from the fuselage by trees just before impact. All 69 people on the Tupolev, and the two on board the Boeing, died.

Apr 4, 2019

From the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge:

The stability of the atmosphere depends on its ability to
resist vertical motion. A stable atmosphere makes vertical
movement difficult, and small vertical disturbances dampen
out and disappear. In an unstable atmosphere, small vertical air
movements tend to become larger, resulting in turbulent airflow
and convective activity. Instability can lead to significant
turbulence, extensive vertical clouds, and severe weather.
Rising air expands and cools due to the decrease in air
pressure as altitude increases. The opposite is true of
descending air; as atmospheric pressure increases, the
temperature of descending air increases as it is compressed.
Adiabatic heating and adiabatic cooling are terms used to
describe this temperature change.

The adiabatic process takes place in all upward and
downward moving air. When air rises into an area of lower
pressure, it expands to a larger volume. As the molecules
of air expand, the temperature of the air lowers. As a result,
when a parcel of air rises, pressure decreases, volume
increases, and temperature decreases. When air descends,
the opposite is true. The rate at which temperature decreases
with an increase in altitude is referred to as its lapse rate.
As air ascends through the atmosphere, the average rate of
temperature change is 2 °C (3.5 °F) per 1,000 feet.
Since water vapor is lighter than air, moisture decreases air
density, causing it to rise. Conversely, as moisture decreases,
air becomes denser and tends to sink. Since moist air cools
at a slower rate, it is generally less stable than dry air since
the moist air must rise higher before its temperature cools
to that of the surrounding air. The dry adiabatic lapse rate
(unsaturated air) is 3 °C (5.4 °F) per 1,000 feet. The moist
adiabatic lapse rate varies from 1.1 °C to 2.8 °C (2 °F to
5 °F) per 1,000 feet.
The combination of moisture and temperature determine the
stability of the air and the resulting weather. Cool, dry air
is very stable and resists vertical movement, which leads to
good and generally clear weather. The greatest instability
occurs when the air is moist and warm, as it is in the tropical
regions in the summer. Typically, thunderstorms appear on
a daily basis in these regions due to the instability of the
surrounding air.

As air rises and expands in the atmosphere, the temperature
decreases. There is an atmospheric anomaly that can occur;
however, that changes this typical pattern of atmospheric
behavior. When the temperature of the air rises with altitude, a
temperature inversion exists. Inversion layers are commonly
shallow layers of smooth, stable air close to the ground. The
temperature of the air increases with altitude to a certain
point, which is the top of the inversion. The air at the top
of the layer acts as a lid, keeping weather and pollutants
trapped below. If the relative humidity of the air is high, it
can contribute to the formation of clouds, fog, haze, or smoke
resulting in diminished visibility in the inversion layer.
Surface-based temperature inversions occur on clear, cool
nights when the air close to the ground is cooled by the
lowering temperature of the ground. The air within a few
hundred feet of the surface becomes cooler than the air above
it. Frontal inversions occur when warm air spreads over a
layer of cooler air, or cooler air is forced under a layer of
warmer air.

From AC 006B:

Vertical Motion Effects on an Unsaturated Air Parcel. As a bubble or parcel of air ascends (rises), it moves into an area of lower pressure (pressure decreases with height). As this occurs, the parcel expands. This requires energy, or work, which takes heat away from the parcel, so the air cools as it rises. This is called an adiabatic process. The term adiabatic means that no heat transfer occurs into, or out of, the parcel. Air has low thermal conductivity, so transfer of heat by conduction is negligibly small.

The rate at which the parcel cools as it is lifted is called the lapse rate. The lapse rate of a rising, unsaturated parcel (air with relative humidity less than 100 percent) is approximately 3 °C per 1,000 feet (9.8 °C per kilometer). This is called the dry adiabatic lapse rate. This means for each 1,000-foot increase in elevation, the parcel’s temperature decreases by 3 °C. Concurrently, the dewpoint decreases approximately 0.5 °C per 1,000 feet (1.8 °C per kilometer). The parcel’s temperature-dewpoint spread decreases, while its relative humidity increases. 

This process is reversible if the parcel remains unsaturated and, thus, does not lose any water vapor. A descending (subsiding) air parcel compresses as it moves into an area of higher pressure. The atmosphere surrounding the parcel does work on the parcel, and energy is added to the compressed parcel, which warms it. Thus, the temperature of a descending air parcel increases approximately 3 °C per 1,000 feet (9.8 °C per kilometer). Concurrently, the dewpoint increases approximately 0.5 °C per 1,000 feet (1.8 °C per kilometer). The parcel’s temperature-dewpoint spread increases, while its relative humidity decreases.

The parcel and the surrounding environmental air temperatures are then compared. If the lifted parcel is colder than the surrounding air, it will be denser (heavier) and sink back to its original level. In this case, the parcel is stable because it resists upward displacement. If the lifted parcel is the same temperature as the surrounding air, it will be the same density and remain at the same level. In this case, the parcel is neutrally stable. If the lifted parcel is warmer and, therefore, less dense (lighter) than the surrounding air, it will continue to rise on its own until it reaches the same temperature as its environment. This final case is an example of an unstable parcel. Greater temperature differences result in greater rates of vertical motion.

Apr 1, 2019

Gabriel Staschill is an ATC controller in Germany, and he shares insights into the similarities, and differences, between air traffic controllers and pilots.

Mar 28, 2019

From Wikipedia:

In the late 1960s, a series of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents took the lives of hundreds of people. A CFIT accident is one where a properly functioning airplane under the control of a fully qualified and certified crew is flown into terrain, water or obstacles with no apparent awareness on the part of the crew.

Beginning in the early 1970s, a number of studies examined the occurrence of CFIT accidents. Findings from these studies indicated that many such accidents could have been avoided if a warning device called a ground proximity warning system (GPWS) had been used. As a result of these studies and recommendations from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in 1974 the FAA required all large turbine and turbojet airplanes to install TSO-approved GPWS equipment.

The ICAO recommended the installation of GPWS in 1979.

C. Donald Bateman, a Canadian-born engineer, developed and is credited with the invention of GPWS.[

In March 2000, the U.S. FAA amended operating rules to require that all U.S. registered turbine-powered airplanes with six or more passenger seats (exclusive of pilot and copilot seating) be equipped with an FAA-approved TAWS. The mandate affects aircraft manufactured after March 29, 2002.

Prior to the development of GPWS, large passenger aircraft were involved in 3.5 fatal CFIT accidents per year, falling to 2 per year in the mid-1970s. A 2006 report stated that from 1974, when the U.S. FAA made it a requirement for large aircraft to carry such equipment, until the time of the report, there had not been a single passenger fatality in a CFIT crash by a large jet in U.S. airspace.[

After 1974, there were still some CFIT accidents that GPWS was unable to help prevent, due to the "blind spot" of those early GPWS systems. More advanced systems were developed.

Older TAWS, or deactivation of the EGPWS, or ignoring its warnings when airport is not in its database, or even the entire EGPWS altogether still leave aircraft vulnerable to possible CFIT incidents. In April 2010, a Polish Air Force Tupolev Tu-154M aircraft crashed near Smolensk, Russia, in a possible CFIT accident killing all passengers and crew, including the Polish President.[11][12][13][14] The aircraft was equipped with TAWS made by Universal Avionics Systems of Tucson. According to the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee TAWS was turned on. However, the airport where the aircraft was going to land (Smolensk (XUBS)) is not in the TAWS database. In January 2008 a Polish Air Force Casa C-295M crashed in a CFIT accident near Mirosławiec, Poland, despite being equipped with EGPWS; the EGPWS warning sounds had been disabled, and the pilot-in-command was not properly trained with EGPWS.[

The FAA specifications[19]have detailed requirements for when certain warnings should sound in the cockpit.

The system monitors an aircraft's height above ground as determined by a radar altimeter. A computer then keeps track of these readings, calculates trends, and will warn the flight crew with visual and audio messages if the aircraft is in certain defined flying configurations ("modes").

The modes are:

  1. Excessive descent rate ("SINK RATE" "PULL UP")[
  2. Excessive terrain closure rate ("TERRAIN" "PULL UP")
  3. Altitude loss after take off or with a high power setting ("DON'T SINK")
  4. Unsafe terrain clearance ("TOO LOW – TERRAIN" "TOO LOW – GEAR" "TOO LOW – FLAPS")
  5. Excessive deviation below glideslope ("GLIDESLOPE")
  6. Excessively steep bank angle ("BANK ANGLE")
  7. Windshear protection ("WINDSHEAR")

The traditional GPWS does have a blind spot. Since it can only gather data from directly below the aircraft, it must predict future terrain features. If there is a dramatic change in terrain, such as a steep slope, GPWS will not detect the aircraft closure rate until it is too late for evasive action.

In the late 1990s improvements were developed and the system is now named "Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System" (EGPWS/TAWS). The system is combined with a worldwide digital terrain database and relies on Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. On-board computers compare current location with a database of the Earth's terrain. The Terrain Display gives pilots a visual orientation to high and low points nearby the aircraft.

EGPWS software improvements are focused on solving two common problems; no warning at all, and late or improper response.

The primary cause of CFIT occurrences with no GPWS warning is landing short. When the landing gear is down and landing flaps are deployed, the GPWS expects the airplane to land and therefore, issues no warning. EGPWS introduces the Terrain Clearance Floor (TCF) function, which provides GPWS protection even in the landing configuration.

The occurrence of a GPWS alert typically happens at a time of high workload and nearly always surprises the flight crew. Almost certainly, the aircraft is not where the pilot thinks it should be, and the response to a GPWS warning can be late in these circumstances. Warning time can also be short if the aircraft is flying into steep terrain since the downward looking radio altimeter is the primary sensor used for the warning calculation. The EGPWS improves terrain awareness and warning times by introducing the Terrain Display and the Terrain Data Base Look Ahead protection.

In commercial and airline operations there are legally mandated procedures that must be followed should an EGPWS caution or warning occur. Both pilots must respond and act accordingly once the alert has been issued. An Indonesian captain has been charged with manslaughter for not adhering to these procedures.

Main article: TAWS § TAWS Types

TAWS equipment is not required by the U.S. FAA in piston-engined aircraft, but optional equipment categorized as TAWS Type C may be installed. Depending on the type of operation, TAWS is only required to be installed into turbine-powered aircraft with six or more passenger seats.

A smaller and less expensive version of EGPWS was developed by AlliedSignal (now merged with Honeywell) for general aviation and private aircraft.

For fast military aircraft, the high speed and low altitude that may frequently be flown make traditional GPWS systems unsuitable, as the blind spot becomes the critical part. Thus, an enhanced system is required, taking inputs not only from the radar altimeter, but also from inertial navigation system (INS), Global Positioning System(GPS), and flight control system (FCS), using these to accurately predict the flight path of the aircraft up to 5 miles (8.0 km) ahead. Digital maps of terrain and obstacle features are then used to determine whether a collision is likely if the aircraft does not pull up at a given pre-set g-level. If a collision is predicted, a cockpit warning may be provided. This is the type of system deployed on aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon.[22] The U.S. FAA has also conducted a study about adapting 3-D military thrust vectoring to recover civil jetliners from catastrophes.

On May 5, 2016 a military GPWS called Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) equipped aboard an F-16 made a dramatic save after a trainee pilot lost consciousness from excessive G forces during basic fighter maneuver training. In an approximately 55 degree nose down attitude at 8,760 ft and 652 KIAS(750 mph), the Auto-GCAS detected the aircraft was going to strike the terrain and executed an automatic recovery and saved the pilot's life.

Mar 25, 2019

Pierre-Henri (nick name Até) is a dual Canadian and French citizen. Até grew up on RAF Linton-On-Ouse with an exchange instructor father on the RAF Jet Provost.

After being Europe’s youngest pilot at 15 in 2001 and flying in the French national Precision Flying team for the 2006 World Championships, he joined the French Navy to fly jets.

 After 26 months as an exchange Officer in the US NAVY he graduated as a Naval Aviator and flew Super-Etendard from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

In 2014 he transitioned to the Dassault Rafale.

Até deployed several times including after the 2015 French terrorist attacks.

He flew missions over Iraq, flying combat missions from the French aircraft carrier both at night and day.
He received a Cross for Military Valour for meritorious action in the face of the enemy.

 Flying several seasons in the French Navy Tactical Display as wingman he became the Leader of the display in 2017. Meanwhile, he was appointed Rafale Navy Subject Matter Expert at just 29 and chief instructor for the Rafale in the Navy at 30 years old.

 Leaving the military to fly for a Major Airline on the Boeing 737MAX, he decided to share his experience.

Até holds over 2500 hours of flight time including more than 1850 hours on fighter aircraft.
He flew a wide range of aircraft from general aviation or aerobatic aircraft to Business jets and of course fighter aircraft.

He has completed over 200 carrier landings.

Enjoying triathlon, he took part in the 2007 Amateur Long distance Triathlon World Championships and in the 2009 Amateur Short Distance Duathlon World Championships.

He has spoken for events or companies like Dassault, Safran, MBDA, Thales, The London Tech Week, EdTechXEurope, and banks

Até is married with a family of three and now lives in Hampshire, UK.

Mar 21, 2019

The Women In Aviation conference was held in Long Beach from 14-16 March 2019. Our previous guest, Jennifer Aupke, attended and is providing an exciting recap of the event, including her meeting with notable aviation luminaries.

WAI Membership is open to women and men from all segments of the aviation industry, and all members may participate in their numerous scholarships. For more membership information, visit the WAI website.

Mar 18, 2019

Experienced Combat Rescue Instructor Pilot 👣 with a demonstrated history building teams and innovating for military officer training and combat planning and operations. Experienced in planning, programming, budget and execution operations at multiple levels as well as requirements management and operational test and evaluations. 340 combat hours and 76 saves. Motivational speaker, blogger, and change agent.

Previously served as executive officer to MAJCOM leadership (Four and Two star generals and SES), learning strategic communication and high level task management covering multiple directorates and operational capabilities. Ranked #1 of 17 execs in general officer’s career.

Skilled in Government Acquisition (Program Manager lvl 1), PPBE, Requirements management and Operational Test and Evaluation. Served multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Airplane and Rotary wing Multiengine Land Instrument and commercial Rating.

Innovator. Disruptor. Connector. Strong operations professional with a global perspective- M.S. focused in Leadership and Liberal Studies from Duquesne University. AFWERX contributor, DEF AGORA lead, Principal/Founder The Milieux Project, Advisory Board Member, GirlApproved.

Member of: EAA, WAI, Whirly Girls, and the Friends of CAP

Mar 13, 2019

Deborah Hecker originally had no intention of becoming a pilot. She graduated college with a degree in International Relations with the intention of becoming an attorney, went backpacking through the Middle East, and returned to study for her LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). On her birthday, a friend gave her a present of an airplane introductory flight, and she was hooked.

She bought a used Cessna 172 and pursued her ratings. She built up her time and got her first flying job flying automotive parts around the northeast. She later was hired by Piedmont, and eventually ended up flying for American Airlines.

Deborah performed management duties for American in addition to her flying, and worked her way up to Chief Pilot.

Deborah also has created several scholarships, all under the umbrella of Women In Aviation International (WAI). These scholarships are open to men as well as women - the only requirement is to be a member of WAI:

Keep Flying Scholarship

American Airlines Engineering Scholarship

American Airlines Veterans Initiative Scholarship

Mar 7, 2019

Adapted from Aero Crew News

Captain Valerie Walker started her aviation career in unconventional, adventurous ways full of interesting challenges. She was a flight instructor, police aerial patrol pilot in fixed wing and helicopters, DC-3 bush-pilot in Botswana, South Africa, Flight Test Pilot for Plane & Pilot and Air Progress magazines, plus various freelance aviation jobs. She was hired into Western Airlines’ first class to include a female airline pilot and many years later retired from Delta Airlines as a captain rated on the 727, 737, 757 and 767. Throughout her career she pursued her second passion in martial arts and continues to train, teach and hone that craft. On March 8, 1976, she was hired into Western Airlines’ first class to include a female airline pilot. Martial arts and flying have always been her two passions. Martial arts had to be put on the back-burner as she put everything she had into aviation. she built her flying experience as a with less than reassuring equipment or procedural safety margins. In her teens and twenties, the military didn’t accept women as pilots, so her career path was unconventional, adventurous and full of interesting challenges that made her adaptable and able to think outside the box. Later, aviation blessed her with the resources to pursue a variety of martial arts disciplines, and she’s done so for the last 35 years. She became a first-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate while continuing to train in Wing Chun, Jiu Jitsu, Aikido, Hapkido and Kendo. After 9/11, Valerie was one of 40 airline pilots selected to be in the first class of Federal Flight Deck Officers. They trained with Special Forces instructors in hand-to-hand combat and firearm retention, as well as in law and shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. At that time, she began developing a combination of the best common principles and thought processes from all of my martial arts disciplines. Her goal was to develop a 10-minute briefing for flight crews with no martial arts backgrounds yet who might encounter a terrorist situation. An airplane isn’t a politely scripted martial arts dojo. It’s a place where an unexpected real life-or-death situation can occur which requires us to be situationally aware and employ a few tools that are easily remembered; that don’t require a great deal of fine motor-skill finesse, and are good for fighting in the tight confines of a hollow tube that’s shooting through the air at Mach .82 with its tail on fire with no visible means of support and packed with panicked strangers. Valerie retired from Delta Airlines and still teaches martial arts, still trains, and is still always learning.

Mar 4, 2019

From Wikipedia:

Aponte was raised and educated in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. After receiving his primary and secondary education, he enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico and joined the campus ROTC program. On December 29, 1972, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

Aponte was assigned to Moody Air Force Base in the state of Georgia and completed his pilot training in August 1974. He was then reassigned to the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force BaseNew Mexicoas pilot-weapons system officer and aircraft commander General Dynamics F-111D. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on May 1, 1975. Aponte flew the F-111 F and D models, the 02-A and T-38 aircraft.F-111 - Type of aircraft flown by Aponte

Aponte became a Captain on May 1, 1977 and served as aircraft commander and instructor pilot of the F-111F aircraft of the 48th Tactical Fighter WingRoyal Air Force Lakenheath in the United Kingdom from August 1978 to May 1981. During this period, he earned his Master of Science degree in management science from Troy State University.

In May 1981, he returned to the United States and served as instructor pilot of the 0-2A aircraft, assigned to the 549th Tactical Air Support Training Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. During this period, Aponte attended the United States Marine CorpsWeapons and Tactics Instructor School in Marine Corps Air Station Yuma located in Arizona, the United States Air Force Squadron Officer's School and United States Air Force Air Command and Staff College (the latter two by correspondence). He served at Patrick Air Force Base until May 1984, when he was sent to Howard Air Force Base in Panama. Aponte was promoted to major on October 1, 1984 and was the chief of the Latin American Political Military Affairs Division and deputy director for Latin American Affairs.

On June 1988, Aponte was reassigned to Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico where he served as aircraft commander F111-D, 523rd Tactical Fighter Squadron and from 1989 to December 1989 as chief, Quality Assurance of 27th Tactical Fighter Group.[

In August 1990, Aponte joined the Air Force Reserve and was assigned to Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations Western Hemisphere Division in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.. At the Pentagon, Aponte was the international political officer who led the reserve officers assigned to the Western Hemisphere, European and Defense Attached Directorates. In 1992, the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron, The Thunderbirds, selected him as the Spanish Language Narrator for their highly successful Latin America Tour. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on June 18, 1993 and completed by seminar Air War College in 1994. From November 1999 to January 2001, he served as individual mobilization augmentee to Deputy Under Secretary International Affairs. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel on August 1, 1997.

In January 2001, he was assigned as a mobilization assistant to the deputy to the Chief Air Force Reserve. There he led transformation efforts and was a tiger team member in response to frequent mobilization and demobilization issues resulting from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

In April 2003, Aponte became the Deputy Director for Operations, Headquarters United States Southern Command in Miami, Florida. Aponte was promoted to Brigadier General on March 1, 2003. In October 2004, he was named Director, J-7, of the United States Southern Command.

His directorate is the focal point for transformation initiatives, knowledge management, experimentation and gaming within the U. S. Southern Command. The directorate seeks out new concepts and rigorously tests them both in simulation and as part of operational experiments. The first transformation initiative was the startup of the Secretary of Defense mandated Standing Joint Force Headquarters (SJFHQ). The SJFHQ, consists of planning, operations, knowledge management, and information superiority experts who form the backbone of the Joint Task Force command structure in the event of contingency operations. Aponte retired July 1, 2007.

Feb 28, 2019

From Ops Group

Starting 28th March 2019, a new trial will be implemented on the NAT called ASEPS (Advanced Surveillance Enhanced Procedural Separation) using ADS-B in the Shanwick, Gander and Santa Maria FIRs.

Compliant aircraft will see a reduction in longitudinal separation to as close as 14 NM. This is not restricted to particular tracks or altitudes, just between properly equipped aircraft – you’ll need RVSM/HLA approval, ADS-B, and to be fully PBCS compliant (that means meeting the specifications of RNP4, RCP240 and RSP180). Read this ICAO Bulletin for all the details.

When the ASEPS trial starts, there will also be some changes to the contingency and weather deviation procedures. Before, there was a lot of confusion around the wording of these two procedures – this has now been made much clearer, and they have even included a nice little graphic to help us understand what to do. Read this ICAO Bulletin for all the details.


ICAO have published all these changes in their updated NAT 007 Doc valid for 28th March 2019.

Further reading:

  • On Nov 1st we had a call with 140 Opsgroup members about upcoming changes on the NAT in 2019, and how we can effect change. Opsgroup members can find the PDF notes of this in your Dashboard.
  • A big thing driving the ASEPS trial is the rollout of Space-based ADS-B, which is scheduled to complete its deployment by 30 Dec 2018, giving us worldwide, pole-to-pole surveillance of aircraft. For more on that, and how it will affect operations on the NAT specifically, read the article by Mitch Launius here.
  • Use our quick guide to figure out where you are welcome on the NAT, depending on what equipment and training you have.
  • All the big changes on the NAT in 2018 are covered on our page here.
Feb 25, 2019

From John Ramstead's webpage:

John started out his career as a Navy F-14 pilot and flew combat during Desert Storm.  Following his Navy career, he became a successful startup entrepreneur and then joined the management team of a Fortune 100 company.   Four years ago he had a near fatal accident that put him under hospital care for two years and required 23 surgeries.  This taught him what is truly important and how to move from success to significance.

Today he is the founder of Beyond Influence, LLC, a global leadership coaching and consulting firm.

Their mission is to equip and empower leaders to achieve what has been inspired in them.  He now devotes his time to leadership coaching, consulting, and speaking.

Feb 21, 2019

Beth Powell was recently featured in Essence magazine as one of the few female African-American airline pilots operating in the United States.

Beth's interest in flying began when she was 15 years old and took an introductory airplane flight in her home country of Jamaica. She was immediately hooked, and started taking flying lessons when she was 16. She soloed at 16 and received her Private Pilot certificate when she was 17.

To pay for her CFI lessons Beth worked three jobs, and finally landed a position at American Eagle, and then later became a pilot with American Airlines, where she flies domestic and international routes. In addition to her flying duties, Beth is also a pilot manager at the Integrated Operations Center.

Beth is active in giving back to aviation, sponsoring a scholarship through the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) and, additionally through the Sisters of the Skies, which reaches out to young African-American girls to tell them about aviation.

Feb 18, 2019

Jason Harris attended the Air Force Academy, planning to be an attorney. Instead, after meeting original Tuskegee Airmen, he became interested in flying. He participated in the glider program, as well as free-fall skydiving five times.

After graduation he attended Undergaduate Pilot training and then flew the C-130, flying four combat deployments in the Middle East. After his C-130 assignment, he flew special operators in Cessna Caravans on classified missions, often landing on unimproved surfaces, at night using night vision goggles. He flew seven combat deployments in the Caravan.

Then he became an Instructor in the Military Training Department at the Air Force Academy and also an instructor pilot in the powered flight program. After two years he separated from the Air Force and joined the Reserves, serving as a T-1 instructor pilot at Laughlin Air Force Base. He now works at NORAD as a Joint Planning Logistics Officer.

After separating from the Air Force, Jason was hired by a legacy airline, where he currently flies international flights. In addition, he is now a member of the National Speakers Association and is a sought-after motivational speaker.

Feb 15, 2019

From Skybrary

In commercial operations, it is highly desirable that the most direct route between two airports be flown whenever possible. Where that route involves the overflight of extensive areas of high terrain, it is critical that escape routes and procedures be developed and used in the event that an emergency requires that the aircraft must descend to an altitude that is below the Minimum Obstacle Clearance Altitude (MOCA) (MOCA).

In many parts of the world, aircraft are routinely flown over terrain that has minimum obstacle clearance altitudes (MOCA) exceeding 10,000'. In most areas, however, the relatively short exposure time to the high terrain negates the requirement for predetermined escape routes and procedures.

There are several exceptions to the premise of minimum exposure time. These exceptions include central Asia due to its very extensive areas of high terrain. Avoidance of these areas by transiting aircraft could potentially add hundreds of extra miles to a given route and result in a substantial increase in flight time and the associated costs. This is not desirable from a commercial standpoint. To satisfy the commercial imperative while maintaining an acceptable level of safety, operators have developed escape routes and the associated procedures for use in the event of an emergency whilst overflying extensive high terrain.

The primary threats to safe flight over extensive areas of high terrain are those situations which result in the immediate requirement to initiate a descent. These threats include:

  • Engine failure
  • Loss of pressurisation
  • Fire

Analysis of these threats against the capabilities of the specific aircraft type and configuration will determine which of them defines the most restrictive terrain clearance profile. This, in turn, will determine what (if any) limitations must be applied to any route of flight that might be under consideration.

An engine failure or an emergency, which requires the immediate shutdown of an engine, will normally result in the requirement for a descent. If the one engine inoperative ceiling for the anticipated weight, corrected as required for the existing conditions, exceeds the maximum terrain height, the route is not limited by engine out performance. If, on the other hand, the aircraft is not able to maintain level flight at an altitude at or above the MOCA with one engine inoperative, the maximum exposure to the high ground must be limited by the distance that the aircraft could fly, using a drift down profile, prior to descending below the minimum safe altitude.

In the event of loss of pressurisation, the standard procedure is to initiate an emergency descent to the higher of 10,000' or the Minimum En-route Altitude (MEA) (MEA). If the MEA, as corrected for existing conditions, is above 14,000' (13,000' for some National Aviation Authorities (NAA)), continuing the descent to MOCA would be prudent. If the MOCA is also above 14,000', the route of flight will be limited by the availability of supplemental/emergency oxygen supplies. Flight crew supplemental oxygen is rarely limiting; however, passenger emergency oxygen, when provided by Chemical Oxygen Generators, is only available for a limited amount of time. This time is dependent upon the capacity of the generators that have been installed in the aircraft concerned. Regulations require a minimum passenger oxygen supply of 10 minutes. The majority of chemical generators have a useful life of between 12 and 20 minutes depending upon the type.

For flight over extensive areas of high terrain, the planned route must allow that an emergency descent to 14,000' (13,000' for some NAA) or lower can be safely made prior to exhaustion of the passenger oxygen generators. This descent will occur while following a pre-planned escape route that must also allow further descent to below 10,000' within 30 minutes of emergency oxygen supply exhaustion. In these circumstances, the descent will be progressive, based on the safe altitudes for the specific underlying segement of the escape route and will be flown at maximum forward ground speed. The distance that can be flown to reach 14,000' at the moment of emergency oxygen depletion defines the limits for the planned route of flight. As an example, an aircraft that can achieve an average ground speed of 5nm per minute that has 12 minute oxygen generators must be able to descend to 14,000' within 60nm of the planned route.

In itself, a fire does not limit the altitude capability of an aircraft. However, as part of the fire fighting/smoke removal protocol, it may be necessary to depressurise the aircraft. A minimum time routing and flight profile which will allow a timely descent to below 10,000' is desirable.

Safe altitude information can come from a variety of sources:

  • If following an ATS Route, the Minimum En-route Altitude (MEA) (MEA) and possibly the MOCA for the airway will be indicated on the applicable route chart.
  • For flights on a non-ATS or random route, the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) charts are overlaid with a grid indicating the Minimum Off Route Altitude (MORA). The MORA grid is usually presented in blocks measuring 1 degree by 1 degree and a minimum altitude for each block is given in feet with the last two digits omitted. As an example, a MORA of 12,500' would be shown as 125. In most parts of the world, the MORA will provide 1000' clearance above the highest point in the grid block when terrain heights are 5000' or less. If the terrain height exceeds 5000', the MORA provides 2000' clearance above the highest point in the block. On some charts, the term MORA may be replaced by Off Route Obstruction Clearance Altitude (OROCA).
  • As the MORA provides a single altitude for a grid block, topographical maps may be used to refine the minimum safe altitude when developing escape routes.
  • Other sources of safe altitude information include emergency safe and Minimum Sector Altitude (MSA) information from approach charts and altitudes published on terminal or arrival charts.

Emergency altitudes must be corrected for:

  • Altimeter Temperature Error Correction. If the temperature is less than that of the International Standard Atmosphere (ISA), altitude corrections must be made to ensure sufficient terrain clearance.
  • Altimeter Pressure Settings. If a local altimeter setting is not available and the area atmospheric pressure is less than 1013 mb, crews should be prepared to use an area altimeter setting or the lowest of the pressure settings for the route of flight.
  • Wind. If the strength and direction of the wind could result in the formation of Mountain Waves, altitude corrections to compensate for potential wave action should be made to the minimum safe altitudes.

Escape routes are developed based on the more restrictive of the drift down or loss of pressurisation scenarios. In most transport category jet aircraft, the loss of pressurisation case will define the escape route requirements. In either scenario, the limit of safe operations is defined by the criteria presented previously under the headings of "Engine Failure" and "Loss of Pressurisation."

For routes of flight that require a predefined escape route or routes, the following information should be provided to, or developed by, the crew prior to flight:

  • Minimum Route Altitude. This is the minimum altitude which ensures safe obstacle clearance at any point on the entire route of flight.
  • Route Segment. Depending upon the length of that portion of the route of flight that is over high terrain, there may be a requirement to divide the route into parts or segments. In this case, each segment will have its own designated escape fix.
  • Escape Fix. An escape fix is the pre-defined starting point of the escape route for a specific segment of the route of flight. Where possible, the escape fix should be a ground based navigation aid but, in many cases, an FMS extracted waypoint will be used. A minimum crossing altitude for the escape fix will be published as part of the vertical profile. This altitude will be safe within the applicable route segment between any point on the route and the escape fix.
  • Escape Route. An escape route defines the track to be flown in the event of an emergency. It starts at the escape fix and will terminate either at a diversion aerodrome or when the MOCA is at or below 10,000'. As well as a ground track, the escape route will also define an appropriate vertical profile. This profile must ensure that 14,000' (13,000' for some NAA) can be safely achieved prior to exhaustion of the emergency oxygen supply and that further descent to 10,000' or lower occurs within 30 minutes of oxygen supply exhaustion.

In the event of an engine failure, the crew will turn towards the escape fix while establishing an obstacle clearance drift down profile. This is accomplished by selecting maximum continuous thrust on the operating engine(s), disconnecting the autothrottle if fitted and slowing to best climb speed while in level flight. Once this speed has been achieved, descent will be initiated while maintaining maximum continuous thrust.

If the escape route requirement is as a result of a loss of pressurisation, the crew will don oxygen masks, turn towards the escape fix and commence an emergency descent to the predefined minimum route altitude. The escape fix crossing altitude can then be verified and the descent continued to comply with the predefined vertical profile.

Should the diversion be required due to a fire, the crew will don oxygen masks, turn towards the escape fix and accelerate to maximum forward speed. Initial descent will be to the minimum route altitude with further descent to the escape fix altitude once it has been confirmed. After crossing the escape fix, the escape route vertical profile can be followed.

In all cases, the FMS will be updated so the escape route is in the active flightplan. After crossing the escape fix, the pilots must follow the escape route lateral profile. In the depressuriation scenario, the vertical profile must also be complied with to ensure that the oxygen considerations are met. If the escape is being flown due to the loss of an engine, the vertical profile will be at the discretion of the crew on the provision that minimum altitudes are not compromised.

To be effective, escape route profiles must be executed immediately in the event of engine failure or loss of pressurisation. To achieve this, the crew must be aware of the current escape fix, the appropriate direction of turn to be made in the event of an emergency and the initial safe altitude for an emergency descent. Escape route charts and their associated altitude profiles should be immediately available and, where possible, the escape routing should be pre-programmed into the Flight Management System.

Most manufacturers and operators recommend that the autopilot be used for both an emergency descent and a drift down procedure. Appropriate use of the autopilot reduces flight deck workload and allows the crew to concentrate on accurately managing the escape profile. It also allows them to better manage secondary tasks such as as completion of checklists and coordination with ATC as well as providing time to consider the implications of the emergency. This is especially true during an emergency descent due to loss of pressurization or in the event of an on board fire as the flight deck crew will be wearing oxygen masks.

Feb 11, 2019

From the Phillips 66 website:
As a 39-year veteran for a major Chicago airline and Line Check Captain on the globally flying B-777, it is no wonder Gerry has over 30,000 hours of flying time. Being a Certified Flight Instructor, former three-time US Advanced Aerobatic Champion and Captain of the Gold Medal Winning 1997 US Advanced Aerobatic Team, it only makes sense that Gerry serves as President Emeritus and current director at the International Aerobatic Club. Gerry is type rated on the Lear Jet, Lockheed Jetstar, DC-3, B727, B737, B757, B767 and B-777. Before becoming a Phillips 66 Aerostar, Gerry flew the Sukhoi Su-26m, which is now on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Gerry is a proud alumnus of St. Louis University – Parks College.

Feb 7, 2019

Here are some of the incredible black aviators we've met on this podcast:

RFT 015 Brenda Robinson - Brenda was the first female African-American to earn gold wings as a navy aviator.

RFT 017 Donnie Cochran - Captain Cochran was not only the first black member of the Blue Angels naval aerial demonstration team, he later returned as the team's commander.

RFT 045 Dick Toliver - Colonel Toliver was the first African-American to graduate from the Air Force Fighter Weapons School.

RFT 068.5 Karl Minter - Airline Captain Minter is the Advisor Chair to the Organization of Black Aviation Professionals (OBAP).

RFT 073 Brian Settles - After serving in the Air Force, Brian flew for Eastern Airlines, then had an on-again/off-again relationship with several airlines, in addition to being an author.

RFT 099 Lawrence Chambers - Admiral Chambers was the new skipper of the USS Midway when South Vietnam fell and evacuating pilots were flying helicopters to every American ship they could find. A solitary two-place O-1 flew over the Midway and dropped a note, saying that the pilot's wife and five children were aboard, and he needed to land on the carrier deck. Admiral Chambers made the potentially career-ending decision to push all the helicopters that were cluttering the deck overboard to allow the O-1 to land.

RFT 109 Todd Curtis - Dr. Todd Curtis operates a top aviation safety website.

RFT 139 Otis Hooper - Ltc. Hooper - "Hoop" - was a VIP airlift pilot in the Air Force, and is a fitness professional with numerous awards, a movie actor, and a motivational speaker.

RFT 190 George Hardy - Ltc. Hardy was an original Tuskegee Airman who flew combat missions during World War II.

RFT 240 Willie Daniels - In addition to being a Captain for a legacy airline, Captain Daniels is the CEO of Shades of Blue.

RFT 241 Frank Macon - In addition to being an author and public speaker, Frank is an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

RFT 266 Jason Harris - You will meet former Air Force pilot, current airline pilot and motivational speaker Jason Harris on an upcoming episode on February 18th. He has an excellent article here.

Feb 4, 2019

Megan credits her life’s passion to one day: July 3, 2015. That’s the first day she took an introductory flight at Sporty’s Academy (flyGIRL’s partner in crime for the scholarship program). Before that day, she was, like many young people, unsure about what she wanted to do with her life.

“I remember walking away from the airport thinking,
‘everything just changed; I want to be a pilot.’” When she first heard about the flyGIRL opportunity, Megan had already earned her Private Pilot’s License. She spent most of her free time (and money) on flight training, even thinking about her paychecks in terms of flights. (“If I sell this account at work, that will equate to 5 flying lessons.”) She was so committed to achieving her dream of flying professionally for airlines, cargo, or a corporation that she had recently quit her full time job to begin training full time. Talk about

Matt, her Private Pilot instructor, wrote a recommendation letter for Megan. In it, he describes her as a determined, attentive, and hard-working student: “Her ability to control the aircraft was never in doubt when we flew together, and I can honestly say she had some of the best landings of any of my students.”

Turning Dreams into Reality – And Inspiring Others to Take Flight
Megan embodies everything flyGIRL is all about. Not only is she pursuing a career in flight, but she wants to give back to others with the same dream, too.

“I would love to give free rides and let people realize how incredible flying is. I would hopefully be able to spark something in them to have the same realization that I had on July 3, 2015.”

That is something to which I can certainly relate!

Putting it to Use
FlyGirl aims to inspire women to pursue their dreams. While aviation can give us confidence to explore the heavens, that exploration has real costs. Flight time means paying for a plane, an instructor and the gas to power the engines. That’s why our scholarship provides $5,000 to aspiring female pilots to help cover some of the various fees associated with becoming a pilot.

Jan 31, 2019

When it comes to aviation, there is no such thing as useless information.

If you've read this story on my author website, you will read how seemingly useless information saved my life 50 years ago.

A recent episode of Air Disasters highlighted the crash of Atlantic Airways Flight 670. In that accident, the BAE-146 aircraft was attempting to land with a slight tailwind on a short damp runway which had a major drop-off at each end. The airplane was unable to stop, and went off the end of the runway into a ravine and burst into flames. Four of the 16 passengers lost their lives.

The accident board found that, when the spoilers failed to extend upon landing, the Captain selected the emergency brakes. A relatively innocuous entry into the airplane flight manual notes that when the emergency brakes are engaged, the anti-skid system is deactivated.

What you may remember from your studies is the phenomenon of reverted rubber hydroplaning. When a lock tire skids over a damp surface, it heats up and the heat turns the water to steam. This layer of steam lifts the airplane off the runway, and the brakes become relatively ineffective.

In the case of Atlantic Airways Flight 670, seemingly unimportant information - the lack of antiskid protection when using the emergency brakes, and the potential for reverted rubber hydroplaning - led to this accident.

Takeaway: there is no such thing as unimportant information in aviation!

Jan 28, 2019

From Ric's Website:

Ric Hunter is a 27-year combat veteran of the Air Force; he retired as a colonel. He has 4000 flight hours in high-performance aircraft including the F-4 Phantom and F-15C Eagle. He commanded an Eagle squadron and was a 3-time Top Gun. After active duty service, Ric became a freelance writer/photographer for magazine feature articles in aviation, and hunting and fishing magazines. He was founder and president of the Panama City, Florida, Writers Association. After attacks on 9-11-01, he returned to serve his country once again as a civil servant for eight years. He took over world-wide program management of the Air Force’s 50-million dollar fighter aircraft flight simulator program, thus freeing young pilot staff officers to return to cockpit duties for the war on terror. Ric recently completed FIREHAMMER, an historical fiction novel, based on a true story, that puts the reader in the cockpit of an F-4 aircraft during evacuation of Saigon and then in the last battle of the Vietnam War, rescue of the SS Mayaguez and its crew. The novel is available on Amazon by Red Engine Press. His hobbies are hunting and fishing, and riding his Harley-Davidson through the Blue Ridge Mountains. He now resides with his wife, Jan, on top of a mountain in western North Carolina where he is a consultant to industry and freelance journalist, photographer and novelist.

Jan 24, 2019

From the LeRoy Homer, Jr. Foundation Website:
LeRoy Homer was a soft spoken man with an ever-present smile; his friends described him as having a heart of gold. He grew up as one of nine children, seven of them girls. LeRoy had dreamed of flying since he was a young boy. As a child he assembled model airplanes, read every book he could find on aviation, and at fifteen began flying lessons. He completed his first solo flight at 16 and by the time he entered the US Air Force Academy, he had a private pilot license.
He graduated from the US Air Force Academy and then began his military career flying C-141s. He served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm and received commendation for flying humanitarian operations in Somalia, an assignment that put his life at risk. During his active service in the US Airforce, LeRoy achieved the rank of Captain and later became a Major after he entered the US Airforce Reserves. In 1995, LeRoy joined United Airlines.
It was that same year that LeRoy met Melodie, his future wife. Introduced by friends, they communicated by telephone and eventually meet for the first time at LAX airport. The former Melodie Thorpe wondered if she would recognize him on their 3,000-mile blind date. Easy, he told her that he’d be the one in the pilot’s uniform. Two years later they were engaged and married in 1998.
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, United Airlines Flight #93 had 37 passengers including the two pilots, five flight attendants and the four hijackers. The pilots had received messages from United Airlines dispatch that said “beware of cockpit intrusion. 2 ac [aircraft] have hit the wtc.” Melodie Homer also sent a message to her husband via the cockpit computer system. When the cockpit door was breached, FAA’s air traffic control center in Cleveland could hear LeRoy Homer declaring “Mayday” amid the sounds of a physical struggle in the cockpit. According to the official transcripts of the cockpit voice recorder from the flight, the hijacking took place 46 minutes after takeoff, and the plane turned toward Washington, DC. It was later determined the plane was headed for the US Capitol.
As the hijackers attempted to fly the aircraft, the passengers and flight crew using GTE Airfones called family, friends and found out about the other attacks. The passengers were determined to take back the plane. What they didn’t realize was the automatic pilot had been manipulated in a way that made it difficult for the hijackers to fly the Boeing 757. They are heard on the cockpit voice recorder saying “This does not work now.” and then a minute later “Inform them, and tell him to talk to the pilot. Bring the pilot back.” The pilots were the first to fight the terrorists, and along with the crew and passengers saved Washington, DC from an attack.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” We know where LeRoy W. Homer Jr. was standing on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001.

Jan 21, 2019

Allyssa is a successful salon owner. She was initially not interested in fixed-wing flying - she wanted to fly helicopters. A family friend invited her to go along with him in his Cessna 150, so she went along. What started out as a few trips around the pattern on a Friday turned into a three-hour flight, and Allyssa signed up for flying lessons the next Monday!

She scheduled three lessons a week, and received her Private certificate in about six months. Six months ago she purchased half ownership in a Piper Cherokee 160, which she keeps in a T-hangar. She discovered that there are occasional maintenance issues involved in owning an airplane, so there may be occasional times when she wanted to fly and a maintenance issue prevented flying.

Allyssa flew her plane to Oshkosh with only 85 hours, and read all 30 pages of NOTAMS before takeoff! Once there, s he slept under the wing, the way REAL pilots do it!

Jan 17, 2019

From CBS News:

For the first time, a new network of satellites will soon be able to track all commercial airplanes in real time, anywhere on the planet. Currently, planes are largely tracked by radar on the ground, which doesn’t work over much of the world’s oceans.

The final 10 satellites were launched Friday to wrap up the $3 billion effort to replace 66 aging communication satellites, reports CBS News’ Kris Van Cleave, who got an early look at the new technology.

On any given day, 43,000 planes are in the sky in America alone. When these planes take off, they are tracked by radar and are equipped with a GPS transponder. All commercial flights operating in the U.S. and Europe have to have them by 2020. It’s that transponder that talks to these new satellites, making it possible to know exactly where more than 10,000 flights currently flying are.

Tucked inside the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that was blasted into space on Friday are 10 advanced Iridium Communications satellites, each the size of a Mini Cooper. Once active, they’ll power satellite phone communications, space-based broadband and carry a device which will solve an issue that’s plagued aviation for decades.

“Seventy percent of the world’s airspace has no surveillance. Aircraft fly over the oceans and report back their positions to air traffic control every 10 to 15 minutes at best and in between those periods, no one knows where they are,” said Aireon CEO Don Thoma.

Aireon, based in McLean, Virginia, was developing the technology to change that even before Mayalasia Airlines flight MH370 vanished over the Indian Ocean in March 2014. But a Boeing 777 with 239 aboard disappearing was a wake-up call, prompting years of safety experts demanding change.

“I can find my kids by pinging their iPhone. We shouldn’t have aircraft that disappear anywhere in the world today,” former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Debbie Herman said back in 2016.

To make that happen, the Aireon technology is hitching a ride to space as part of the largest technology swap the universe has ever seen. Iridium is replacing its existing constellation of 66 satellites and 9 spares orbiting the earth built and launched in the mid-90s.

Walt Everetts help designed the first generation of Iridium satellites, naming two of them after his sons Nicholas and Andrew. He’ll be in the company’s command center outside Washington, D.C. as his team maneuvers the new satellites into place, simultaneously powering on the new and devastating old. The legacy satellites will then be moved out of orbit where they’ll burn up in the earth’s atmosphere.

“It’s kind of like changing a tire on a bus going 17,000 miles per hour,” said Walt Everetts, vice president of satellite operations for Iridium. “With these new satellites that we’re putting up, we have more capacity, more processing capability, more memory … so we are taking an old flip phone and upgrading it into a smartphone.”

While not fully complete, the updated network circling the globe 485 miles overhead is already tracking planes. Aireon was able to instantly confirm the last known location of Lion Air Flight 610, the Boeing 737 Max that crashed in the Java Sea last October.

“With the Iridium-Aireon system, every airplane is in reach of an air traffic controller … so no matter what happened to that airplane we would know within seconds of where that airplane was,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch said.

The technology may also make it possible for air traffic controllers to allow more flights to be in the air at the same time on busy routes over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It could also allow for more direct flight paths, which means more flights, the potential for fewer delays, and shorter flights to places like Europe.

From Aerion’s website:

ADS-B is an air traffic surveillance technology that relies on aircraft broadcasting their identity, a precise Global Positioning System (GPS) position and other information derived from on-board systems. The data is broadcast every half a second from the aircraft, and is being used by Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) to identify and separate aircraft in real-time.

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