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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Sep 2, 2021

This advice is my opinion only!

Goal: avoid being infected, and avoid being placed on No-Fly list!

Now more than ever, preparation is key.

If you are in the high-risk group (over 65, asthma, heart disease, other underlying disease) don’t fly.

Avoid Low Cost Carriers (LCCs)

Get vaccinated and take a photo of your vaccination card.

Enhance your immunity with zinc lozenges and IGg.

Don’t fly if you have a cold.

If traveling overseas, check with State Department (

Check with Centers for Disease Control ( for latest risk information, including quarantine requirements, at your destination.

Consider travel medical insurance policy, including medevac. May be included in your platinum card.

Keep all prescriptions with you, not checked bags. Use national pharmacy chain.

Conditions changing day by day. Reminds me of how we improvised securing the cockpit post 9/11.


no shorts or flip-flops!

I recommend long pants for women as well as men, and no high-heel shoes for women 

I will discuss evacuation shortly

Face mask - actually TWO face masks (in case head band breaks) carbon filter n95

aerotoxic syndrome - only B787 does not use bleed air from pneumatic system

Bring empty water bottle - fill at filing station, not water fountain

Anti-bacterial wipes

Hand sanitizer - Bring up to 12 ounces of sanitizer - possibly screening delay

Take your temperature before leaving home

If it’s above 100 you may not be allowed on the airplane

Get COVID test before/after trip

Put ALL medications into hand-carried bags

fanny pack even better

Check in kiosk - use smart phone vs touch screen

TSA bins probably filthy

bin covers 

Wash hands after TSA screening

Consider taking disposable gloves

Stay hydrated! 

airline cabins have very low humidity

low humidity makes it harder for your body to fight off viruses

some aircraft, such as A350 and B787, have humidification systems.

Don’t drink alcohol - many airlines no longer serve alcohol

cabin typically at 8000 feet

already party hypoxic

being drunk is a type of hypoxia

easier to get drunk at altitude

Bring reading material, computer or kindle - DO NOT touch inflight magazine (if it exists)

Disinfect ALL seat surroundings

seat belt buckle


air vent

safety information card

tray table

You may be sitting next to a total stranger - not all airlines block middle seats.

Direct air vent onto yourself

Pay attention to FA safety briefing

DO NOT argue with FA, even if they're wrong!

Lavatories - disinfect EVERYTHING you touch!

flush handle

faucet handles

door handle

faucet will not give you 20 seconds to wash hands AND water may not be safe! - use hand sanitizer instead

disinfect everything again when you return to seat, including hands

Evac - Keep your shoes on for takeoff and landing

All occupants must be able to evacuate thru half exits in 90 seconds

One FA per 50 pax, more if needed to pass evac test

Luggage claim - sanitize luggage surfaces

Aug 30, 2021




Originally posted in Marine Corps Gazette, September 2007



In my 76th year, the events of my life appear to me, from time to time, as a series of vignettes. Some were significant; most were trivial. War is the seminal event in the life of everyone that has endured it. Though I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republic and was wounded there, Vietnam was my war.




Lt. Col. George Goodson (Ret) and family

Now 42 years have passed, and thankfully, I rarely think of those days in Cambodia , Laos, and the panhandle of North Vietnam where small teams of Americans and Montagnards fought much larger elements of the North Vietnamese Army.

Instead I see vignettes: some exotic, some mundane:

*The smell of Nuc Mam

*The heat, dust, and humidity

*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets

*Elephants moving silently through the tall grass

*Hard eyes behind the servile smiles of the villagersBeauty and the Beast streaming

*Standing on a mountain in Laos and hearing a tiger roar

*A young girl squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her baby

*The flowing Ao Dais of the young women biking down Tran Hung Dao


*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland

It was late 1967. I had just returned after 18 months in Vietnam.  Casualties were increasing. I moved my family from Indianapolis to Norfolk, rented a house, enrolled my children in their fifth or sixth new school, and bought a second car. A week later, I put on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated before entering my new office. Appearance is important to career Marines. I was no longer, if ever, a poster Marine. I had returned from my third tour in Vietnam only 30 days before. At 5’9″, I now weighed 128 pounds, 37 pounds below my normal weight. My uniforms fit ludicrously, my skin was yellow from malaria medication, and I think I had a twitch or two.

I straightened my shoulders, walked into the office, looked at the nameplate on a Staff Sergeant’s desk and said, “Sergeant Jolly, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Here are my orders and my Qualification Jacket.” Sergeant Jolly stood, looked carefully at me, took my orders, stuck out his hand; we shook and he asked, “How long were you there, Colonel?” I replied “18 months this time.”

Jolly breathed, “You must be a slow learner Colonel.” I smiled. Jolly said, “Colonel, I’ll  show you to your office and bring in the Sergeant Major. I said, “No, let’s just go straight to his office.” Jolly nodded, hesitated, and lowered his voice, “Colonel, the Sergeant Major. He’s been in this job two years. He’s packed pretty tight. I’m worried about him.” I nodded.

Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Major’s office. “Sergeant Major, this is Colonel Goodson, the new Commanding Office. The Sergeant Major stood, extended his hand and said, “Good to see you again, Colonel.” I responded, “Hello Walt, how are you?”

Jolly looked at me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door. I sat down with the Sergeant Major. We had the obligatory cup of coffee and talked about mutual acquaintances. Walt’s stress was palpable. Finally, I said, “Walt, what the h-ll’s wrong?” He turned his chair, looked out the window and said, “George, you’re going to wish you were back in Nam before you leave here. I’ve been in the Marine Corps since 1939. I was in the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for 12 months. Now I come here to bury these kids. I’m putting my letter in. I can’t take it anymore.”

I said, “Okay Walt. If that’s what you want, I’ll endorse your request for retirement and do what I can to push it through Headquarters Marine Corps.” Sergeant Major Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He had been a good Marine for 28 years, but he had seen too much death and too much suffering. He was used up.

Over the next 16 months, I made 28 death notifications, conducted 28 military funerals, and made 30 notifications to the families of Marines that were severely wounded or missing in action. Most of the details of those casualty notifications have now, thankfully, faded from memory.

Four, however, remain.


My third or fourth day in Norfolk, I was notified of the death of a 19 year old Marine. This notification came by telephone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The information detailed:

*Name, rank, and serial number.

*Name, address, and phone number of next of kin.

*Date of and limited details about the Marine’s death.

*Approximate date the body would arrive at the Norfolk Naval Air  Station.

*A strong recommendation on whether the casket should be opened or closed.

The boy’s family lived over the border in North Carolina, about 60 miles away. I drove there in a Marine Corps staff car. Crossing the state line into North Carolina , I stopped at a small country store / service station / Post Office. I went in to ask directions.

Three people were in the store. A man and woman approached the small Post Office window. The man held a package. The Store owner walked up and addressed them by name, “Hello John. Good morning Mrs. Cooper.”

I was stunned. My casualty’s next-of-kin’s name was John Cooper!

I hesitated, then stepped forward and said, “I beg your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper of (address.)

The father looked at me – I was in uniform – and then, shaking, bent at the waist, he vomited. His wife looked horrified at him and then at me. Understanding came into her eyes and she collapsed in slow motion.

I think I caught her before she hit the floor.

The owner took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and handed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I answered their questions for a few minutes. Then I drove them home in my staff car. The store owner locked the store and followed in their truck. We stayed an hour or so until the family began arriving.

I returned the store owner to his business. He thanked me and said, “Mister, I wouldn’t have your job for a million dollars.” I shook his hand and said; “Neither would I.”

I vaguely remember the drive back to Norfolk. Violating about five Marine Corps regulations, I drove the staff car straight to my house.  I sat with my family while they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night, alone.

My Marines steered clear of me for days. I had made my first death notification


Weeks passed with more notifications and more funerals. I borrowed Marines from the local Marine Corps Reserve and taught them to conduct a military funeral: how to carry a casket, how to fire the volleys and how to fold the flag.

When I presented the flag to the mother, wife, or father, I always said, “All Marines share in your grief.” I had been instructed to say, “On behalf of a grateful nation….” I didn’t think the nation was grateful, so I didn’t say that.

Sometimes, my emotions got the best of me and I couldn’t speak. When that happened, I just handed them the flag and touched a shoulder.

They would look at me and nod. Once a mother said to me, “I’m so sorry you have this terrible job.” My eyes filled with tears and I leaned over and kissed her.


Six weeks after my first notification, I had another. This was a young PFC. I drove to his mother’s house. As always, I was in uniform and driving a Marine Corps staff car. I parked in front of the house, took a deep breath, and walked towards the house. Suddenly the door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushed out. She looked at me and ran across the yard, screaming “No! No! No! No!! I hesitated. Neighbors came out.

I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered stupid things to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the house.  Eight or nine neighbors followed. Ten or fifteen minutes later, the father came in followed by ambulance personnel. I have no recollection of leaving.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The funeral took place about two weeks later. We went through the drill. The mother never looked at me. The father looked at me once and shook his head sadly.


One morning as I walked into the office, the phone was ringing.  Sergeant Jolly held the phone up and said, “You’ve got another one, Colonel.” I nodded, walked into my office, picked up the phone, took notes, thanked the officer making the call and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, came in with a special telephone directory that translates telephone numbers into the person’s address and place of employment.

The father of this casualty was a longshoreman. He lived a mile from my office. I called the Longshoreman’s Union Office and asked for the business manager. He answered the phone, I told him who I was, and asked for the father’s schedule. The business manager asked, “Is it his son?” I said nothing. After a moment, he said, in a low voice, “Tom is at home today.” I said, “Don’t call him. I’ll take care of that.” The business manager said, “Aye, Aye Sir,” and then explained, “Tom and I were Marines in WWII.”

I got in my staff car and drove to the house. I was in uniform. I knocked and a woman in her early forties answered the door. I saw instantly that she was clueless. I asked, “Is Mr. Smith home?” She smiled pleasantly and responded, “Yes, but he’s eating breakfast now.  Can you come back later?” I said, “I’m sorry. It’s important. I need to see him now.” She nodded, stepped back into the beach house and said, “Tom, it’s for you.” A moment later, a ruddy man in his late forties, appeared at the door. He looked at me, turned absolutely pale, steadied himself, and said, “Jesus Christ man, he’s only been there three weeks!”

Months passed. More notifications and more funerals. Then one day while I was running, Sergeant Jolly stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth and held an imaginary phone to his ear.

Another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, said, “Got it.” and hung up. I had stopped saying “Thank You” long ago.

Jolly, “Where?”

Me, “Eastern Shore of Maryland . The father is a retired Chief Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the body back from Vietnam.” Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, and then said, “This time of day, it’ll take three hours to get there and back. I’ll call the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I’ll have Captain Tolliver get one of his men to meet you and drive you to the Chief’s home.”

He did, and 40 minutes later, I was knocking on the father’s door. He opened the door, looked at me, then looked at the Marine standing at parade rest beside the car, and asked, “Which one of my boys was it, Colonel?” I stayed a couple of hours, gave him all the information, my office and home phone number and told him to call me, anytime. He called me that evening about 2300 (11:00 PM). “I’ve gone through my boy’s papers and found his will. He asked to be buried at sea. Can you make that happen?” I said, “Yes I can, Chief. I can and I will.”

My wife who had been listening said, “Can you do that?” I told her, “I have no idea. But I’m going to die trying.” I called Lieutenant General Alpha Bowser, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, at home about 2330, explained the situation, and asked, “General, can you get me a quick appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?” General Bowser said,” George, you be there tomorrow at 0900. He will see you. I was and the Admiral did. He said coldly, “How can the Navy help the Marine Corps, Colonel.” I told him the story. He turned to his Chief of Staff and said, “Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?” The Chief of Staff responded with a name.

The Admiral called the ship, “Captain, you’re going to do a burial at sea. You’ll report to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson until this mission is completed.” He hung up, looked at me, and said, “The next time you need a ship, Colonel, call me. You don’t have to sic Al Bowser on me.” I responded, “Aye Aye, Sir” and got out of his office in a hurry.

I went to the ship and met with the Captain, Executive Officer, and the Senior Chief. Sergeant Jolly and I trained the ship’s crew for four days. Then Jolly raised a question none of us had thought of. He said, “These government caskets are air tight. How do we keep it from floating?” All the high priced help including me sat there looking dumb. Then the Senior Chief stood and said, “Come on Jolly. I know a bar where the retired guys from World War II hang out.” They returned a couple of hours later, slightly the worse for wear, and said, “It’s simple; we cut four 12″ holes in the outer shell of the casket on each side and insert 300 lbs. of lead in the foot end of the casket. We can handle that, no sweat.”

The day arrived. The ship and the sailors looked razor sharp. General Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Navy Band were on board. The sealed casket was brought aboard and taken below for modification. The ship got underway to the 12-fathom depth.

The sun was hot. The ocean flat. The casket was brought aft and placed on a catafalque. The chaplain spoke. The volleys were fired. The flag was removed, folded, and I gave it to the father. The band played “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” The casket was raised slightly at the head and it slid into the sea. The heavy casket plunged straight down about six feet. The incoming water collided with the air pockets in the outer shell. The casket stopped abruptly, rose straight out of the water about three feet, stopped, and slowly slipped back into the sea.  The air bubbles rising from the sinking casket sparkled in the in the sunlight as the casket disappeared from sight forever.

The next morning I called a personal friend, Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and said, “General, get me out of here. I can’t take this anymore.” I was transferred two weeks later. I was a good Marine but, after 17 years, I had seen too much death and too much suffering. I was used up.

Vacating the house, my family and I drove to the office in a two-car convoy. I said my goodbyes. Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my family, looked at me with tears in his eyes, came to attention, saluted, and said, “Well done, Colonel. Well done.”

I felt as if I had received the Medal of Honor!

Aug 26, 2021


From FAA:

Advanced Qualification Program (AQP)

The Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) training system is developed using a systematic training program methodology. AQP is a voluntary, data-driven, alternative means of compliance to the ‘traditional’ regulatory requirements under 14 CFR Parts 121 and 135 for training and checking.

Under the AQP performance-based regulatory framework of 14 CFR Subpart Y, FAA is authorized to vary from traditional prescriptive requirements under 14 CFR 121 Subparts N and O (i.e., ‘traditional training’), subject to justification of an equivalent or better level of safety. As part of the systematic development process, AQP requires a front-end analysis of both training and operational data to establish proficiency objective requirements for all aspects of training.

Unlike traditional aviation training, AQP provides a multitude of training and safety benefits including data-driven improvement and program flexibility; integration of CRM; crew evaluation; planned hours (i.e., ‘trained-to-proficiency’); and scenario-based training and evaluations.

Technical assistance and policy support provided by the Training and Simulation Group
Email Air Transportation Division or call (202)-267-8166

AQP Summary Topics




What and Who

AQP is a voluntary, alternative method for qualifying, training, and certifying crewmembers and operations personnel, such as:PilotsFlight AttendantsInstructors and EvaluatorsDispatchersOther operations personnel (as applicable)

AQP is an alternative to ‘traditional’ training programs, which are defined under part 121 Subparts N & O - and are based on a prescriptive rule that assumes a “one size fits all” approach to training.AQP encourages innovation in the methods and technology that are used during instruction and evaluation.AQP is a process (or performance-based rule) that allows for customized training to the certificate holder’s unique demographic and flight operation.


AQP was established to allow a greater degree of regulatory flexibility in the approval of innovative training programs.AQP improves flight crewmember performance by providing alternative means of compliance with traditional training rules and promotes the innovative use of modern technology for flight crewmember training.

The AQP methodology directly supports the FAA’s goals for safety enhancement, through data-informed, and data-driven improvement.Catalyst for this alternative method of compliance proposal was airline training management familiarity with instructional systems design (ISD), and proficiency-based training experience from military flight training programs.


AQP was introduced in 1990 under SFAR 58 special rule.AQP regulatory codification was published in 2005 as 14 CFR Part 121 Subpart Y.

In contrast to original traditional training rules from the late 1950’s and updated in the early 1970’s with the advancement of aircraft simulation technologies, and a recognized need to introduce CRM to training programs.

How Many

90% of Large 121 carriers(over 1000 pilots) utilize AQP100% of Medium size 121 carriers( 501-999 pilots)5% of Small size 121 carriersOver 90% of U.S. airline pilots train under AQP

95% of small 121 carriers(less than 500 pilots) choose compliance with traditional training rulesTo date, there are 71 active 121 carriers43 of those carriers still train under traditional Subparts N&O

FAA ATP Practical Test Standards

Aug 23, 2021

Shinji Maeda is a Shin-Issei who is active in our community as founder and president of Aero Zypangu Project, a 501c3 non-profit organization he founded with his supporters. Its mission is “to provide opportunities and experiences that inspire hope, strength, and joy in people with disabilities, in youngsters, and in their families through aviation activities.” Through his motivational lectures and discovery flight lessons, Shinji delivers his message, “Nothing is impossible,” through his own life experiences.

Shinji began dreaming about becoming a pilot when he was a kindergartener.

“The view of Tokachi Plain looking down from my flight back from Tokyo, which was my first trip out from Hokkaido, was so beautiful. I remember I was convinced to become a pilot to see this kind of scenery all the time.”

As a child, Shinji loved looking up at the sky from his father’s farmland, thinking about becoming a pilot. After graduating from junior high school, he left his parents’ home to attend Japan Aviation High School in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo. From there, he was admitted to the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the College of Science and Technology, Nihon University. As he was striving toward his dream, he experienced a major setback in his first year of college. He was hit by a car on the street and lost sight in his right eye.


In Japan, you cannot be a pilot with sight in only one eye.

“Many adults back then advised me that it’s almost impossible for people with disabilities to play an active role in the aviation industry. I had been thinking about life only as a pilot, so I was totally lost,” says Shinji.

He even thought about suicide. But harsh words from his high school teacher, who called him from Yamanashi, saved Shinji.

His teacher told him, “Even if you die, the world will just forget about you and nothing will change. I will forget you, too. If you die here, you are the loser. The only thing that happens is that your parents will cry for you throughout the rest of their lives.”

All his friends from high school and college also supported him in chasing his dream of becoming a pilot.


After graduating from Nihon University, he moved to the United States to earn a master’s degree at Embry-Riddle Aviation University, Prescott, Arizona, with the aim of finding a job in the aviation industry as his career.

“I realized that I cannot pursue my dream if I stay in Japan. I did research to find colleges outside of Japan which offer master’s programs in risk management, which I started to become interested in after I suffered from the car accident. Embry-Riddle was the only option.”

After graduating from Embry-Riddle, he started working as a technical coordinator at the North American Headquarters of ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd. in California.

“This very first opportunity for me to work in the aviation industry gave me great understanding about aerospace production and its industry,” says Shinji.

After working a few years at ShinMaywa, he was headhunted by his client at Boeing.

“It was a great surprise for me. I never thought that I could get a job at Boeing!”

Now he has been working as a manufacturing operation specialist at Boeing for 13 years.

“My job is to analyze how to efficiently build the wings of airplanes and manage the process,” says Shinji.

He has been successfully working in the aviation industry which he was told was “impossible.”

Another turning point for him came when he was on a long-term business trip in Japan for Boeing.

“It was more than ten years after I moved to the United States. But I realized that the sky in Japan had not changed. There were no pilots with disabilities in Japan,” says Shinji.

He also questioned how most engineers in the Japanese aviation industry had no experience flying aircraft. He wanted to change this situation. When he returned to the United States, he obtained a license as a commercial pilot. He had previously obtained licenses as a non-commercial pilot and a flight instructor. Although he had already started delivering motivational lectures at different educational institutions, he then launched the Aero Zypangu Project to officially start his activities. With his instructor’s license, he began leading “Discovery Flights” where anyone can hold the control stick on his airplane and experience flying.

“My message with Discovery Flight is ‘you can be a pilot!’”

It does not have to be only for those who want to become pilots.

“It is important to give confidence to young people through this ‘I can do it’ experience,” explains Shinji.

He also started to warm up to the concept of a round-the-world flight mission to spread his “you can do it” message even further.

Carrying out the round-the-world flight as a pilot and aviation engineer

“Lucy” is the aircraft that Shinji took off in on May 1. She is a Beechcraft Bonanza made in 1963.


“I purchased her from my former boss at ShinMaywa. He gave me a very reasonable price after I told him about my round-the-world flight mission,” says Shinji.

It was a long process after the purchase.

“It took about four years. I worked with professional engineers who are experts in different areas to retrofit her. We replaced her engine, propeller, navigation system, etc.”

This process was possible because of his career background.

“Honestly, I used to be worried about whether or not I could really go around the world with such an old aircraft,” he confesses. “At that time, I met Adrian Eichhorn, who made a successful round-the-world flight with the same Beechcraft Bonanza 1963 aircraft in 2016.”

When Shinji contacted Adrian, his reply was very curt, as he assumed Shinji was not serious like many other inquirers.

But after looking at Shinji’s serious plan in progress, Adrian messaged Shinji, “Sorry, I wish I had cooperated earlier. I will help you out.”

After that, Adrian frequently visited Seattle from his base in Washington, D.C. to help Shinji and his mechanics team retrofit Lucy.

With each retrofit, Shinji became fascinated by Lucy’s old charm.


“Her aircraft body smells like the age of 1963. Through her, I can feel what the engineers in that era used to think when building the aircraft. It is quite interesting as an engineer. She is a beautifully crafted airplane.”

Now, it is an age where new technology is always highlighted and appraised.

However, “I feel this mission can also demonstrate the beauty of retrofitting old things. I want to prove that this old aircraft can go around the world if refurbished to the best condition.”

Flying around the world is a big project. It includes over ten hours of intercontinental travel from Canada to Ireland, as well as from Japan to Seattle. There will be many risks involved. Does Shinji have any worries?

“Of course, there are risks. However, since I am not visiting dangerous areas such as war zones, all risks can be under control. I can minimize risks by preparing for them,” says Shinji.

During the four-year preparation period, he did all he could do to retrofit Lucy to the best possible condition. Through the connection with Adrian, who used to work as a commercial pilot, Shinji was able to conduct various flight trainings for possible accidents. His flight route was thoughtfully planned, including refueling spots and safe accommodations. Adrian gave Shinji much advice from his previously successful mission.

Obtaining visas to enter different countries and understanding COVID-19 safety regulations were also part of his preparations.

“So, once I leave for the mission, all I have to do is keep flying.”

Message for the next generation

In 2019, Shinji’s father, who always encouraged him to pursue his dream, passed away.

With his wife Makiko and their children. Shinji met her at work, as Makiko also used to work in the aerospace industry.

“When I was so worried about financing, as I spent on Lucy as much as I would to buy a house, I earnestly told her about giving up the round-the-world mission. Makiko was mad at me and told me ‘don’t give up just because of money.’” Makiko is the most understanding person of Shinji’s projects.

“When he was lying in the hospital bed, my father told me, “I finally understand how you felt when you were hospitalized for months after the car accident. It must have been hard for you as an 18-year-old young man. Everyone faces their own obstructions, small and large. You have overcome yours and your dreams have come true. Tell more people what you did so others can do it, too.

“This was the last message from my father and it made me determined to complete the round-the-world flight mission.”

“I think young people can feel hopeful by learning from a one-eyed ojisan (old man in Japanese) like me enjoying my own freedom, flying around the world, pursuing my dream,” remarks Shinji. “I indeed want to have young people especially with handicaps and disabilities to have dreams and step forward with them.”

His passion and energy simply pursuing his dreams flying around-the-world on his own should surely inspire people in the current pandemic recovery period.

Aug 19, 2021

"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted” - Arthur Miller

From War On The Rocks:




President Joe Biden failed America’s allies — and my family — in 1975. He should not repeat his mistake in 2021.

My mother was a Vietnamese national who risked her life working for the U.S. naval attaché in Saigon. My father was a South Vietnamese army officer. In April of 1975, as communist forces closed in on Saigon, the fate of my family and tens of thousands of other Vietnamese allies hung in the balance as President Gerald Ford and congressional leaders debated.

Today, America faces a similar challenge as the Taliban control the capital of Afghanistan, the United States evacuates its embassy, and the lives of America’s Afghan allies and their families hang in the balance.

Back then Ford showed remarkable leadership by appealing to the American people on television, despite popular opinion against the evacuation. Lacking a mandate from Congress, the president used executive authority to rescue 130,000 Vietnamese allies in a single month, relocating them to Guam. My family and I were among those liberated.

Ford faced marked opposition from key members of Congress, including then-Sen. Joe Biden. On April 23, the same day my family boarded a U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifter for Guam, Biden took to the Senate floor and stated, “The United States has no obligation to evacuate [one], or 100,001, South Vietnamese.”

Had Biden prevailed in his view that day, I and 130,000 other Vietnamese who had worked hard for the United States — and their families — would have suffered the fate that befell those not rescued: reeducation camps, torture, and death. I would have likely grown up an orphan in communist Vietnam instead of an immigrant in a free America.

Biden seemed to soften his view because in May 1975, he supported legislation to bring Vietnamese allies to the United States. In 2020, he went as far to express his explicit support for this cause in an op-ed published in a Vietnamese newspaper.

After coming to the United States, we lived with a sponsor family before settling into a home in Tumwater, Washington. Growing up, I learned about my family’s exodus and felt a deep sense of gratitude and obligation to the United States and to the men and women who served in Vietnam. In order to repay that debt, I attended West Point, followed by five years on active duty. I continued my service as a lawyer, eventually working in the White House as an associate counsel to President George W. Bush. When I left the White House, I recommissioned as a U.S. Army captain and served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom with a U.S. Army special forces company.

In Afghanistan, my fellow soldiers and I placed our lives in the hands of Afghan interpreters, analysts, and other Afghan allies daily. In turn they risked their lives for us. Like the communists in Vietnam, the Taliban in Afghanistan hold a dim view of those Afghans who worked alongside Americans. Several Afghan allies were killed during my time in Afghanistan by Taliban forces. I vividly remember one who told us that helping Americans would cost him his life.

Days later he was found killed, the cell phone he used to communicate with our company shoved in his mouth.

Just weeks ago, I was contacted by one of my Afghan allies, Jabar, who now resides in Kabul with his family. Jabar and thousands of others were startled by Biden’s decision to formally withdraw from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11 of this year. While the United States has a system in place to process special immigrant visa applicants like Jabar, it is simply broken. Current estimates place the backlog at more than 18,000 applicants along with over 53,000 dependents.

And now, it is too late. With Kabul under Taliban control, America’s Afghan allies are out of time.

I fear every day for the safety of Jabar and his family. I cannot help but see in them my own family’s uncertain fate 46 years ago.

Once again history has put Biden in a position where he needs to decide where he stands. On July 14, his administration announced that it would airlift Afghan allies and their families through Operation Allies Refuge. However, announcing an airlift is not the same as completing one. To date, only 1,200 of the estimated 18,000 eligible Afghan allies and their families have been airlifted to safety. Tens of thousands of Afghan allies and their families still face persecution, torture, or death.

Biden and his administration can and need to do better. My family and I were rescued from communist forces in 1975 because Ford provided the leadership and resources to overcome the tremendous bureaucratic and logistical hurdles involved in evacuating 130,000 Vietnamese allies within weeks. Biden has failed to do the same in 2021.

What Biden should do is, using existing authorities, immediately designate America’s Afghan allies and their families as parolees. These parolees should then be marshalled at Kabul under the protection of rapidly deployed U.S. forces, before evacuation to a location outside Afghanistan for care and processing. The full and vast capabilities of the U.S. Air Force supplemented by contractor aircraft should be used to complete this urgent airlift. The administration can then determine, in coordination with Congress, which individuals will be resettled in the United States and implement a plan to do so properly. Finally, Biden should immediately and clearly state his public support for this effort and back his words by empowering the secretary of state and secretary of defense to take all actions necessary for the United States to fulfill its moral obligation to its Afghan allies.

There is still time to save Jabar, his family, and the tens of thousands of Afghan allies like them who risked their lives alongside soldiers like myself.

France Hoang commissioned twice as a U.S. Army officer, served as an associate White House counsel to President George W. Bush, and is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of boodleAI and a partner at the law firm of FH+H. 

Aug 16, 2021

Body-for-LIFE has become a best-selling book in the United States, and millions of Americans have regained control of their lives through this fitness/nutrition program. In May 2000, as a fat 55-year-old with a 36-inch waist, I accepted the challenge. Eighty-four days later, I was fitter than at any time in my life— including my time as a college gymnast—and I’d lost 25 pounds of fat and sported a 32-inch waist. 

At the end of the year, I was honored by being selected first runner-up for the men-over-50 category, becoming one of the 37 champions selected from the 700,000 people who had entered the 2000 challenge. 

Over the past 2 years, I have helped hundreds of airline employees, mostly pilots, complete their own transformations. Almost all of them initially felt that this program would be great for someone with regular, predictable hours but would just be incompatible with the airline lifestyle. I’d like to pass on some tips for success that worked for me and, subsequently, for them. And I’d like to share some thoughts on what to do when you find yourself on a layover in the Bates Motel, with ‘nary a workout facility within a country mile. 

Actually, when you think about it, probably no group of people in the world should be more successful on a fitness/nutrition program than airline pilots. At the heart of the program is the concept of setting goals and then following a specific plan to reach those goals. 

And that is something we airline pilots do for a living! On every flight we have a goal, such as safely and efficiently flying from Chicago to Denver. And we have a specific plan to do it, such as flying the O’Hare departure, direct DBQ, then J84 to SNY, then picking up the LANDR arrival to DEN. 

On the way, we may have to take a reroute for weather, or deviate around buildups, but we still do what we’re told: we salute smartly and, overall, follow the magenta line. 

So following a simple plan that tells us when and what to eat, and when to exercise is really a walk in the park for us. It’s in our genes! The only hard part is deviating around the buildups (ground delays that cause our crew day to stretch out ad infinitum, missing crew meals, getting to the hotel after the exercise room has closed, etc.). 

The first part of your mission, should you accept it, is deciding on realistic goals. This can be tricky. If you choose goals that are too easy to attain, when you finish the 12 weeks you’ll feel little sense of accomplishment. And if you select goals that are unreachable, you’ll feel like a failure. 

Let me suggest that you choose goals that seem slightly out of reach, goals that, if you heard of someone else achieving them, would really impress you. And remember, no hard-and-fast rule says you can’t change your goals along the way. Just as you sometimes divert to an alternate rather than continue to the destination, you may amend your goals if they appear to be too easily achieved once you’re under way. 

The more specific the goals are, the easier measuring your progress will be. For example, "I want to lose weight" is a goal that is easy to measure, but not specific enough to judge your success. If you lose one pound in 12 weeks, were you successful? How about 10 pounds? A better goal would be "I want to lose 10 pounds of fat in the next 12 weeks." That’s a measurable, achievable goal. Similarly, "I want to lose 2 inches off my waist" is measurable and achievable. 

Because 61 percent of the adult American population is overweight, I assume that at least one of your goals is to lose fat. We frequently fall into the trap of equating losing weight with losing fat, and I’d like to discuss this for a moment. 

Many of the yo-yo diets that have been popular in the past (and successful in the short term and very unsuccessful in the long term) emphasize losing weight, rather than losing fat. Much of their short-term success is based on losing water weight and muscle. Because muscle weighs more than fat, you can indeed lose a lot of weight by allowing your muscle mass to deteriorate. And since muscles hold water, you will also lose weight from water loss. 

Losing fat is a different matter. Fat is not very dense, so you need to lose a lot of fat before you notice it on the scale. But you will quickly notice it by the way your clothes fit. So I suggest you measure your bodyfat percentage, rather than your weight. You can do this rather easily with a set of plastic calipers, available for about $20 from most health food stores. In my opinion, the absolute best way to use a scale is to stand squarely on both feet in front of the scale. Carefully bend over and lift the scale with both hands. Now, carry it over to the garbage can and throw the damned thing out! Since you probably won’t do this, at least get into the habit of measuring your bodyfat at the same time you weigh yourself. 

Eating six small, balanced meals each day can be problematic when you’re flying a trip. This works out, roughly, to a meal every 3 hours. Even on a short domestic flight, you’ll probably be sitting in the cockpit for at least 3 hours counting preflight and ground taxi times. Unless you eat right before enplaning and are lucky enough to have minimal ground delays, you will probably need to eat some of your meals in the cockpit. 

A little planning here goes a long way. If your airline boards customized crew meals, you might be able to eat a meal that’s right along the lines of the program, courtesy of your employer. For example, at United, I order the lighter-choice chicken crew meal. It’s a chicken breast about the size of my outstretched palm (one of the standard Body-for-LIFE measurements), a scoop of rice about the size of my clenched fist (the other standard measurement), and lots of vegetables. Now, that’s a perfect meal! 

In this program, a meal ideally will consist of equal portions of protein and carbohydrates, plus lots of vegetables. A portion is an amount about the size of your outstretched palm or clenched fist. Of course, you won’t always get a crew meal. That’s where the planning comes in. A lot of meal replacement bars are available and are excellent. Be sure to look at the nutritional information and make sure that the bar contains about equal portions of protein and carbohydrate. Most of the "weight loss" bars do not qualify, as they contain lots of carbs and very little protein. 

Another option is ready-to-drink shakes made by EAS, the sponsor of the Body-for-LIFE Transformation Challenge. These are slightly smaller than a soft drink can, and I usually have a few stashed in my flight bag, along with a few bars. I also have at least three for each day of my trip packed in my suitcase. The residual advantage of this is that you get a great workout just lifting your bag at the beginning of the trip! 

Healthy eating on your layover can also present a challenge. If you find yourself out in the boonies along a motel strip with only fast food available, you need to get creative. Eating a healthy meal at virtually every fast-food chain in America is possible, but you need to pay attention to what’s on the menu. 

First, you need to forget about anything that’s fried—no french fries, no fried chicken patties, no onion rings. Next, be sure to order your sandwich without mayonnaise. If you want to spice up the taste a bit, add catsup yourself. Get all the lettuce and tomatoes on your sandwich you can. It will give you a feeling of satiety, and make your meal healthier. I opt for the Chicken McGrill without mayo at McDonald’s when I’m forced to go the fast-food route. Most of the yuppie restaurant chains have something relatively healthy on their menus. For example, at Outback Steakhouse, the salmon dinner is an excellent choice: a large salmon filet, a nice assortment of vegetables, and a rice pilaf. 

The only problem is that it’s about twice the size of an ideal meal. As soon as I get my entrée, I cut it in half and put one part of it in a takeout box. If you have a refrigerator in your room, you can save it for later. I suppose another choice is to split the meal with your flying partner, if he or she goes to dinner with you. Of course, if you pay for it, you’ll probably find yourself expelled from the Captains Club! 

When it comes to alcohol on layovers, I’ve learned to "Just Say No." It doesn’t take many beers to completely ruin your nutrition program. If you can nurse one drink for the entire evening, fine; otherwise, I suggest you go without. I’ve found that the workout facilities at my layover hotels have ranged from fabulous to dismal. Because the basis of the exercise program is to preplan your workouts in advance, this can present a problem. If you’re set for a lower-body day, for example, and no weights of any kind are in the workout room, maybe you need to swap around your lower body and cardio days. Just like deviating around the buildup, we may need to deviate in our workout plan. Trust me, missing one workout in its proper order will not sidetrack your program. 

What if you arrive in the evening at the hotel, the one with the fabulous workout room, only to find the room closed? Well, that’s when the in-room workout plan takes over. You can get a terrific workout right in your room with very little in the way of equipment. I strongly suggest you include a stretch band and a jump rope in your suitcase. They take up very little space and can work wonders in a pinch. Unless you’re on the ground floor, I don’t recommend jumping rope in your room, but you can usually find someplace in the hotel where you won’t disturb anyone. 

Jumping rope is a skill unto itself, so you may have some difficulty initially, but it’s a great cardio workout. A typical 20-minute rope jumping session burns about 250 calories. Stretch-band exercises are limited only by your imagination. You can usually improvise a stretch-band exercise that’s pretty close to the free-weight or machine exercise you were planning on doing. Let’s not forget the two pieces of weightlifting equipment you brought with you: your suitcase and your flight bag. Remove some manuals or add the hotel phone book, and you can customize your flight bag to just about any weight you want. This adjustable weight can be used for one-arm rows, curls, two-hand presses, and squats. Don’t forget dips between chairs, with your feet on the bed. And as long as you have a few feet of floor space, you can get a great ab workout by doing crunches with your feet up on the bed, and a great tricep/chest workout by doing pushups with your feet on the bed. 

Frankly, although workout rooms are fun to go to just to stand around and flex and look in the mirrors that are everywhere, I’d be lying if I said I needed them for a complete workout. If you’re longing to regain that lost fitness of your youth, you could not start at a better time than now. And, in my opinion, you can get no better all-around program for doing it than Body-for LIFE. You can find additional information on fitness for the airline pilot at Start now, and in less than 3 months, you could be looking at a slimmer, fitter you staring back in the mirror. 

Aug 12, 2021

Flight 401 departed JFK Airport in New York on Friday, December 29, 1972, at 21:20 EST, with 163 passengers and 13 crew members on board.

The flight was routine until 23:32, when the plane began its approach into Miami International Airport. After lowering the gear, First Officer Stockstill noticed that the landing gear indicator, a green light identifying that the nose gear is properly locked in the "down" position, had not illuminated. This was later discovered to be due to a burned-out light bulb. The landing gear could have been manually lowered, nonetheless. The pilots cycled the landing gear, but still failed to get the confirmation light.

Loft, who was working the radio during this leg of the flight, told the tower that they would discontinue their approach to their airport and requested to enter a holding pattern. The approach controller cleared the flight to climb to 2,000 ft (610 m), and then hold west over the Everglades.

The cockpit crew removed the light assembly, and Second Officer Repo was dispatched to the avionics bay beneath the flight deck to confirm via a small porthole if the landing gear was indeed down. Fifty seconds after reaching their assigned altitude, Captain Loft instructed First Officer Stockstill to put the L-1011 on autopilot. For the next 80 seconds, the plane maintained level flight. Then, it dropped 100 ft (30 m), and then again flew level for two more minutes, after which it began a descent so gradual it could not be perceived by the crew. In the next 70 seconds, the plane lost only 250 ft (76 m), but this was enough to trigger the altitude warning C-chord chime located under the engineer's workstation. The engineer (Repo) had gone below, and no indication was heard of the pilots' voices recorded on the CVR that they heard the chime. In another 50 seconds, the plane was at half its assigned altitude.

As Stockstill started another turn, onto 180°, he noticed the discrepancy. The following conversation was recovered from the flight voice recorder later:Stockstill: We did something to the altitude.Loft: What?Stockstill: We're still at 2,000 feet, right?Loft: Hey—what's happening here?

Less than 10 seconds after this exchange, the jetliner crashed:Cockpit area microphone (CAM): [Sound of click]CAM: [Sound of six beeps similar to radio altimeter increasing in rate]CAM: [Sound of initial impact]

The location was west-northwest of Miami, 18.7 mi (30.1 km) from the end of runway 9L. The plane was traveling at 227 miles per hour (197 kn; 365 km/h) when it hit the ground. With the aircraft in mid-turn, the left wingtip hit the surface first, then the left engine and the left landing gear, making three trails through the sawgrass, each 5 ft (1.5 m) wide and over 100 ft (30 m) long. When the main part of the fuselage hit the ground, it continued to move through the grass and water, breaking up as it went.

The TriStar's port outer wing structure struck the ground first, followed by the No. 1 engine and the port main undercarriage. The disintegration of the aircraft that followed scattered wreckage over an area 1,600 ft (500 m) long and 330 ft (100 m) wide in a southwesterly direction. Only small fragments of metal marked the wingtip's first contact, followed 49 ft (15 m) further on by three massive 115 ft (35 m) swaths cut through the mud and sawgrass by the aircraft's extended undercarriage before two of the legs were sheared off. Then came scattered parts from the No. 1 (port) engine, and fragments from the port wing itself and the port tailplane. About 490 feet (150 m) from the wingtip's initial contact with the ground, the massive fuselage had begun to break up, scattering components from the underfloor galley, the cargo compartments, and the cabin interior. At 820 ft (250 m) along the wreckage trail, the outer section of the starboard wing tore off, gouging a 59-foot-long (18 m) crater in the soft ground as it did so. From this point on, the breakup of the fuselage became more extensive, scattering metal fragments, cabin fittings, and passenger seats widely.

The three major sections of the fuselage—the most intact of which was the tail assembly—lay in the mud towards the end of the wreckage trail. The fact that the tail assembly—rear fuselage, No. 2 tail-mounted engine, and remains of the empennage—finally came to rest substantially further forward than other major sections, was probably the result of the No. 2 engine continuing to deliver thrust during the actual breakup of the aircraft. No complete cross-section of the passenger cabin remained, and both the port wing and tailplane were demolished to fragments. Incongruously, not far from the roofless fuselage center section with the inner portion of the starboard wing still attached, lay a large, undamaged and fully inflated rubber dinghy, one of a number carried on the TriStar in the event of an emergency water landing. The breakup of the fuselage had freed it from its stowage and activated its inflation mechanism.

Robert "Bud" Marquis (1929–2008), an airboat pilot, was out frog gigging with Ray Dickinsin (1929–1988) when they witnessed the crash. They rushed to rescue survivors. Marquis received burns to his face, arms, and legs—a result of spilled jet fuel from the crashed TriStar—but continued shuttling people in and out of the crash site that night and the next day. For his efforts, he received the Humanitarian Award from the National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation and the "Alumitech – Airboat Hero Award", from the American Airboat Search and Rescue Association.

In all, 75 survived the crash—67 of the 163 passengers and eight of the 10 flight attendants. Despite their own injuries, the surviving flight attendants were credited with helping other survivors and several quick-thinking actions such as warning survivors of the danger of striking matches due to jet fuel in the swamp water and singing Christmas carols to keep up hope and draw the rescue teams' attention, as flashlights were not part of the standard equipment on commercial airliners at the time. Of the cockpit crew, only flight engineer Repo survived the initial crash, along with technical officer Donadeo, who was down in the nose electronics bay with Repo at the moment of impact. Stockstill was killed on impact, while Captain Loft died in the wreckage of the flight deck before he could be transported to a hospital. Repo was evacuated to a hospital, but later succumbed to his injuries. Donadeo, the lone survivor of the four flight-deck occupants, recovered from his injuries. Frank Borman, a former NASA astronaut and Eastern's senior vice president of operations, was awoken at home by a phone call explaining of a probable crash. He immediately drove to Eastern's Miami offices and decided to charter a helicopter to the crash site as the swampy terrain made rescue difficult and Eastern had not heard any news of progress in rescue efforts. There he was able to land in a swampy patch of grass and coordinate rescue efforts. He accompanied 3 survivors on the helicopter to the hospital including a flight attendant and passenger who lost her baby in the crash.

Most of the dead were passengers in the aircraft's midsection. The swamp absorbed much of the energy of the crash, lessening the impact on the aircraft. The mud of the Everglades may have blocked wounds sustained by survivors, preventing them from bleeding to death. However, it also complicated the survivors' recuperation, as organisms in the swamp caused infection, with the potential for gas gangrene. Eight passengers became infected; doctors used hyperbaric chambers to treat the infections. All the survivors were injured; 60 received serious injuries and 17 suffered minor injuries that did not require hospitalization. The most common injuries were fractures of ribs, spines, pelvises, and lower extremities. Fourteen survivors had various degrees of burns.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation discovered that the autopilot had been inadvertently switched from altitude hold to control wheel steering (CWS) mode in pitch. In this mode, once the pilot releases pressure on the yoke (control column or wheel), the autopilot maintains the pitch attitude selected by the pilot until he moves the yoke again. Investigators believe the autopilot switched modes when the captain accidentally leaned against the yoke while turning to speak to the flight engineer, who was sitting behind and to the right of him. The slight forward pressure on the stick would have caused the aircraft to enter a slow descent, maintained by the CWS system.

Investigation into the aircraft's autopilot showed that the force required to switch to CWS mode was different between the A and B channels (15 vs. 20 lbf or 6.8 vs. 9.1 kgf, respectively). Thus, the switching to CWS in channel A possibly did not occur in channel B, thus depriving the first officer of any indication the mode had changed (channel A provides the captain's instruments with data, while channel B provides the first officer's).

After descending 250 feet (76 m) from the selected altitude of 2,000 feet (610 m), a C-chord sounded from the rear speaker. This altitude alert, designed to warn the pilots of an inadvertent deviation from the selected altitude, went unnoticed by the crew. Investigators believe this was due to the crew being distracted by the nose gear light, and because the flight engineer was not in his seat when it sounded, so would not have been able to hear it. Visually, since it was nighttime and the aircraft was flying over the darkened terrain of the Everglades, no ground lights or other visual signs indicated the TriStar was slowly descending.

Captain Loft was found during the autopsy to have an undetected brain tumor, in an area that controls vision. However, the NTSB concluded that the captain's tumor did not contribute to the accident.

The final NTSB report cited the cause of the crash as pilot error, specifically: "the failure of the flight crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final four minutes of flight, and to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent impact with the ground. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew's attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed."

In response to the accident, many airlines started crew resource management training for their pilots. The training is designed to make problem solving in a cockpit much more efficient, thus causing less distraction for the crew. Flashlights are now standard equipment near jumpseats, and all jumpseats are outfitted with shoulder harnesses.

Aug 9, 2021

Randall Brooks’ varied flying experience supports the advancement of APS’s unique flight training programs and advanced pilot training techniques. Randall joined APS in 2012 with seven years of experience in the UPRT field and more than 25 years of flight operations and training experience as a pilot and aviation manager.

Prior to joining APS, Randall held multiple director of flight operations and director of flight training positions. While vastly skilled providing flight instruction in flight simulators, gliders, aerobatic aircraft, multi-engine jets, and military jet training aircraft, he finds UPRT the most challenging and gratifying as providing such training offers the greatest potential for worldwide aviation safety improvement.

Randall served as the president of the Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Association (UPRTA), focusing on instructor and training program standardization. He has also served as the leader of training analysis for the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE), an international working group founded by the Royal Aeronautical Society. Randall has assisted in drafting FAA Advisory Circulars and other guidance material in the area of stall training and loss of control prevention, and has appeared as a subject matter expert for multiple Aviation Rulemaking Committee proceedings on these subjects.

As an instructor pilot, Randall has over 25 years of experience in the delivery of all-attitude/all-envelope flight instruction. He served as a primary instructor for the FAA Flight Standardization Board’s evaluation of pilot training for a newly certified business jet aircraft and developed a unique training program combining both simulator and aircraft training for European aviation authorities. He was also instrumental in creating a required program of upset recovery instruction for customers of a certificated light jet aircraft.

Randall is a 3 time Master CFI–Aerobatic and has over 13,500 hours of flight experience in over 100 different aircraft types. As an airshow demonstration pilot, he performed over 500 surface level aerobatic displays throughout North America and the Caribbean. He served as a member of numerous civilian formation aerobatic teams and flew formation aerobatics professionally for 19 years. Randall’s diverse airshow experience includes demonstration of a single-engine jet aircraft prototype and leading a two-ship sailplane team. As the director of operations for the Red Baron Squadron, he was responsible for the formation training and airshow qualification of all pilots of a seven-ship fleet of aerobatic aircraft.

Randall holds a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado. In the field of flight simulation, Randall worked as a flight test engineer creating and executing a test plan to gather data for flight simulator development and has evaluated operational and research simulators assessing their upset recovery training potential and capabilities. In 2019, he received the NBAA Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism Award recognizing individual aviation professionals who have demonstrated their outstanding professionalism and leadership in support of aviation safety in the business aviation industry. 

Randall’s articles and presentations on flight training to reduce the LOC-I Accident Threat

  • “Loss of Control in Flight – Training Foundations and Solutions”, European Airline Training Symposium, Istanbul, Turkey, 9-10 November 2010
  • “Aerobatics versus Upset Prevention and Recovery Training”, Civil Aviation Training Magazine, Issue 2, 2011
  • “The Psychological Boundaries of Flight Simulation”, Royal Aeronautical Society, Flight Simulation Group Conference, London, UK, 8-9 June 2011
  • “Integrated Upset Prevention and Recovery Training”, Simulation and Training for Resilience and Safety Symposium, London, UK, 27 March 2019
Aug 5, 2021

United Airlines Flight 266 was a scheduled flight from Los Angeles International Airport, California, to General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, Wisconsin via Stapleton International Airport, Denver, Colorado with 38 on board. On January 18, 1969 at approximately 18:21 PST it crashed into Santa Monica Bay, Pacific Ocean, about 11.5 miles (18.5 km) west of Los Angeles International Airport, four minutes after takeoff.

Rescuers (at the time) speculated that an explosion occurred aboard the plane, a Boeing 727. Three and a half hours after the crash three bodies had been found in the ocean along with parts of fuselage and a United States mail bag carrying letters with that day's postmark. Hope was dim for survivors because the aircraft was configured for domestic flights and did not carry liferafts or lifejackets. A Coast Guard spokesman said it looked "very doubtful that there could be anybody alive."

Up until 2013, United used "Flight 266" designation on its San Francisco-Chicago (O'Hare) route.

The crew of Flight 266 was Captain Leonard Leverson, 49, a veteran pilot who had been with United Airlines for 22 years and had almost 13,700 flying hours to his credit. His first officer was Walter Schlemmer, 33, who had approximately 7,500 hours, and the flight engineer was Keith Ostrander, 29, who had 634 hours. Between them the crew had more than 4,300 hours of flight time on the Boeing 727.

The Boeing 727-22C aircraft, registration N7434U, was almost new and had been delivered to United Airlines only four months earlier. It had less than 1,100 hours of operating time. The aircraft had had a nonfunctional #3 generator for the past several days leading up to the accident. Per standard procedure, the crew placed masking tape over the switches and warning lights for the generator. Approximately two minutes after takeoff, the crew reported a fire warning on engine #1 and shut it off. The crew radioed to departure control that they only had one functioning generator and needed to come back to the airport, but it turned out to be their last communication, with subsequent attempts to contact Flight 266 proving unsuccessful. Shortly after engine #1 shut down, the #2 generator also ceased operating for reasons unknown. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was unable to determine why the #2 generator had failed after it had become the plane's sole power source, nor why the "standby electrical system either was not activated or failed to function."

Several witnesses saw Flight 266 take off and reported seeing sparks emanating from either engine #1 or the rear of the fuselage, while others claimed an engine was on fire. Salvage operations were conducted to recover the wreckage of the aircraft, but not much useful information was gleaned as the cockpit instruments were not recovered. The wreckage was in approximately 930 feet (280 meters) of water and had been severely fragmented, however the relatively small area in which it was spread indicated an extremely steep, nose-down angle at impact. There was little in the way of identifiable human remains at the wreckage site, only two passengers were identified and only one intact body was found. The #2 and #3 engines suffered severe rotational damage from high RPM speeds at impact, but the #1 engine had almost no damage because it had been powered off. No evidence of any fire or heat damage was found on the engines, thus disproving the witnesses' claims. The small portion of the electrical system that was recovered did not provide any relevant information. The CVR took nearly six weeks to locate and recover. NTSB investigators could not explain the sparking seen by witnesses on the ground and theorized that it might have been caused by debris being sucked into the engine, a transient compressor stall or an electrical system problem that led to the eventual power failure. They also were unable to explain the engine #1 fire warning in the absence of a fire, but this may have resulted from electrical system problems or a cracked duct that allowed hot engine air to set off the temperature sensors. The sensors from the #1 and #2 engines were recovered and exhibited no signs of malfunction. Some tests indicated that it was indeed possible for the #2 generator to fail from an overload condition as a result of the operating load being suddenly shifted onto it following the #1 generator's shutdown, and this was maintained as a possible cause of the failure.

N7434U had recently been fitted with a generator control panel that had been passed around several different UAL aircraft because of several malfunctions. After being installed in N7434U the month prior to the ill-fated flight, generator #3 once again caused operating problems and was swapped with a different unit. Since that generator was subsequently tested and found to have no mechanical issues, the control panel was identified as the problem after it caused further malfunctions with the replacement generator. Busy operating schedules and limited aircraft availability meant that repair work on N7434U was put on hold, with nothing that could be done in the meantime except to disable the #3 generator. The NTSB investigators believed that the inoperative #3 generator probably was not responsible for the #2 generator's in-flight failure since it was assumed to be isolated from the rest of the electrical system.

With the loss of all power to the lights and flight attitude instruments, flying at night in instrument conditions, the pilots quickly became spatially disoriented and unable to know which inputs to the flight controls were necessary to keep the plane flying normally. Consequently, the crew lost control of the aircraft and crashed into the ocean in a steep nose-down angle, killing everyone on board. The flight control system would not have been affected by the loss of electrical power, since it relied on hydraulic and mechanical lines, so it was concluded that loss of control was the result of the crew's inability to see around the cockpit. It was theorized that the non-activation of the backup electrical system might have been for one of several reasons:

  • The aircraft's battery, which powered the backup electrical system, could have been inadvertently disconnected by the flight engineer following the shutdown of engine 1, as he made sure that the galley power switch (which was similar in shape and adjacent to the battery switch) was turned off (in accordance with procedures for operating with only one functional generator).
  • The battery, or its charging circuitry, could have malfunctioned, rendering it unable to power the backup electrical system.
  • The flight engineer could have mistakenly set the aircraft's essential power switch to the APU position, rather than the standby (backup) position; the switch has to pass through a gate when turning from the APU position to the standby position, and the flight engineer, turning the switch until he encountered resistance, may have assumed that this meant that the switch had reached the end of its travel and was now in the standby position, when it had actually hit the detent between the APU and standby positions. The 727's APU is inoperative in flight.
  • The flight engineer could simply have neglected to switch the aircraft to the backup electrical system; the United Airlines procedures for the loss of all generators did not, at the time, explicitly tell the crew to switch to backup power (instead focusing on regaining at least one generator), and it is possible that the flight engineer repeatedly tried to bring a generator back online instead of immediately switching the aircraft to the backup system.

The CVR and FDR both lost power just after the crew informed ATC of the fire warning on engine #1. At an unknown later point, both resumed operation for a short period of time. The FDR came back online for 15 seconds, the CVR nine seconds during which time it recorded the crew discussing their inability to see where the plane was. No sounds of the plane impacting the water could be heard when this second portion of the recording ceased.

At the time, a battery-powered backup source for critical flight instruments was not required on commercial aircraft. The accident prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to require all transport-category aircraft to carry backup instrumentation, powered by a source independent of the generators.

The NTSB's "probable cause" stated:

"The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was loss of altitude orientation during a night, instrument departure in which the altitude instruments were disabled by loss of electrical power. The Board has been unable to determine (a) why all generator power was lost or (b) why the standby electrical power system either was not activated or failed to function."

As a result of this accident, all air carrier aircraft are required to have an additional attitude indicator (Standby Attitude Indicator) that has its own power supply and will operate without selection in the event of a failure of the aircraft electrical system.

Aug 2, 2021

Kevin Sweeney is the only person to successfully land a KC-135, the military version of the Boeing 707, after two of the four engines were ripped completely off the airplane while on a night combat mission in Desert Storm. This challenging experience taught him to think on his feet and be highly flexible, which means that he will quickly make adjustments to his presentation to be sure that your audience is receiving the most applicable information possible.

The unique life experiences of Kevin Sweeney have molded him into an inspirational speaker, allowing him to effectively motivate members of any organization. Through his presentation, people learn how to shine during the tough days by using specific techniques, helping them to maintain a calm composure when faced with change or challenge.

Kevin has written Pressure Cooker Confidence: Pressure Cooker Confidence takes you on a true story of a phenomenal military jet flight where the two engines on the left wing of the KC-135E tanker aircraft (military version of the Boeing 707 aircraft) come completely off the airplane. Without warning the crew is suddenly faced with this terrifying life-threatening emergency. How they react will determine their ability to survive this airborne crisis. The unforeseen crisis happens at night, at maximum gross weight, and on a Desert Storm combat sortie. The story takes you through the remarkable successful recovery of the airplane.

Jul 29, 2021

Pan Am Flight 214 was a scheduled flight of Pan American World Airways from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On December 8, 1963, the Boeing 707 serving the flight crashed near Elkton, Maryland, while flying from Baltimore to Philadelphia, after being hit by lightning. All 81 occupants of the plane were killed. The crash was Pan Am's first fatal accident with the 707, which it had introduced to its fleet five years earlier.

An investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Board concluded that the cause of the crash was a lightning strike that had ignited fuel vapors in one of the aircraft's fuel tanks, causing an explosion that destroyed one of the wings. The exact manner of ignition was never determined, but the investigation yielded information about how lightning can damage aircraft, leading to new safety regulations. The crash also spawned research into the safety of various types of aviation fuel and into methods of reducing dangerous fuel-tank vapors.

Pan American Flight 214 was a regularly scheduled flight from Isla Verde International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Philadelphia International Airport with a scheduled stopover at Baltimore's Friendship Airport. It operated three times a week as the counterpart to Flight 213, which flew from Philadelphia to San Juan via Baltimore earlier the same day. Flight 214 left San Juan at 4:10 p.m. Eastern time with 140 passengers and eight crew members, and arrived in Baltimore at 7:10 p.m. The crew did not report any maintenance issues or problems during the flight. After 67 passengers disembarked in Baltimore, the aircraft departed at 8:24 p.m. with its remaining 73 passengers for the final leg to Philadelphia International Airport.

As the flight approached Philadelphia, the pilots established contact with air traffic control near Philadelphia at 8:42 p.m. The controller informed the pilots that the airport was experiencing a line of thunderstorms in the vicinity, accompanied by strong winds and turbulence. The controller asked whether the pilots wanted to proceed directly to the airport or to enter a holding pattern to wait for the storm to pass. The crew elected to remain at 5,000 feet in a holding pattern with five other aircraft. The controller told the pilots that the delay would last approximately 30 minutes. There was heavy rain in the holding area, with frequent lightning and gusts of wind up to 50 miles per hour (80 km/h).

At 8:58 p.m., the aircraft exploded. The pilots were able to transmit a final message: "MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY. Clipper 214 out of control. Here we go." Seconds later, the first officer of National Airlines Flight 16, holding 1,000 feet higher in the same holding pattern, radioed, "Clipper 214 is going down in flames." The aircraft crashed at 8:59 p.m. in a corn field east of Elkton, Maryland, near the Delaware Turnpike, setting the rain-soaked field on fire. The aircraft was completely destroyed, and all of the occupants were killed.

The aircraft was the first Pan American jet to crash in the five years since the company had introduced their jet fleet.

A Maryland state trooper who had been patrolling on Route 213 radioed an alert as he drove toward the crash site, east of Elkton near the state line. The trooper was first to arrive at the crash site and later stated that "It wasn’t a large fire. It was several smaller fires. A fuselage with about 8 or 10 window frames was about the only large recognizable piece I could see when I pulled up. It was just a debris field. It didn’t resemble an airplane. The engines were buried in the ground 10- to 15-feet from the force of the impact."

It was soon obvious to firefighters and police officers that little could be done other than to extinguish the fires and to begin collecting bodies. The wreckage was engulfed in intense fires that burned for more than four hours. First responders and police from across the county, along with men from the United States Naval Training Center Bainbridge, assisted with the recovery. They patrolled the area with railroad flares and set up searchlights to define the accident scene and to ensure that the debris and human remains were undisturbed by curious spectators.

Remains of the victims were brought to the National Guard Armory in Philadelphia, where a temporary morgue was created. Relatives came to the armory, but officials ruled out the possibility of visually identifying the victims. It took the state medical examiner nine days to identify all of the victims, using fingerprints, dental records and nearby personal effects. In some cases, the team reconstructed the victims' faces to the extent possible using mannequins.

The main impact crater contained most of the aircraft's fuselage, the left inner wing, the left main gear and the nose gear. Portions of the plane's right wing and fuselage, right main landing gear, horizontal and vertical tail surfaces and two of the engines were found within 360 feet (110 m) of the crater. A trail of debris from the plane extended as far as four miles (6 km) from the point of impact. The complete left-wing tip was found nearly two miles (3 km) from the crash site. Parts of the wreckage ripped a 40-foot-wide (12 m) hole in a country road, shattered windows in a nearby home and spread burning jet fuel across a wide area.

The Civil Aeronautics Board was notified of the accident and was dispatched from Washington, D.C. to conduct an investigation. Witnesses of the crash described hearing the explosion and seeing the plane in flames as it descended. Of the 140 witnesses interviewed, 99 reported seeing an aircraft or a flaming object in the sky. Seven witnesses stated that they had seen lightning strike the aircraft. Seventy-two witnesses said that the ball of fire occurred at the same time as, or immediately after, the lightning strike. Twenty-three witnesses reported that the aircraft exploded after they had seen it ablaze.

The aircraft was a Boeing 707-121 registered with tail number N709PA. Named the Clipper Tradewind, it was the oldest aircraft in the U.S. commercial jet fleet at the time of the crash. It had been delivered to Pan Am on October 27, 1958 and had flown a total of 14,609 hours. It was powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6 turbojet engines and its estimated value was $3,400,000 (equivalent to $28,700,000 in 2020).

In 1959, the aircraft had been involved in an incident in which the right outboard engine was torn from the wing during a training flight in France. The plane entered a sudden spin during a demonstration of the aircraft's minimum control speed, and the aerodynamic forces caused the engine to break away. The pilot regained control of the aircraft and landed safely in London using the remaining three engines. The detached engine fell into a field on a farm southwest of Paris, where the flight had originated, with no injuries.

The plane carried 73 passengers, who all died in the crash. All the passengers were residents of the United States.

The pilot was George F. Knuth, 45, of Long Island. He had flown for Pan Am for 22 years and had accumulated 17,049 hours of flying experience, including 2,890 in the Boeing 707. He had been involved in another incident in 1949, when as pilot of Pan Am Flight 100, a Lockheed Constellation in flight over Port Washington, New York, a Cessna 140 single-engine airplane crashed into his plane. The two occupants of the Cessna were killed, but Captain Knuth was able to land safely with no injuries to his crew or passengers.

The first officer was John R. Dale, 48, also of Long Island. He had a total of 13,963 hours of flying time, of which 2,681 were in the Boeing 707. The second officer was Paul L. Orringer, age 42, of New Rochelle, New York. He had 10,008 hours of flying experience, including 2,808 in Boeing 707 aircraft. The flight engineer was John R. Kantlehner of Long Island. He had a total flying time of 6,066 hours, including 76 hours in the Boeing 707.

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) assigned more than a dozen investigators within an hour of the crash. The CAB team was assisted by investigators from the Boeing Company, Pan American World Airways, the Air Line Pilots Association, Pratt & Whitney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Aviation Agency. The costs of the CAB's investigations rarely exceeded $10,000, but the agency would spend about $125,000 investigating this crash (equivalent to $1,060,000 in 2020), in addition to the money spent by Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Pratt & Whitney, and other aircraft-part suppliers during additional investigations.

Initial theories of the cause of the crash focused on the possibility that the plane had experienced severe turbulence in flight that caused a fuel tank or fuel line to rupture, leading to an in-flight fire from leaking fuel. U.S. House Representative Samuel S. Stratton of Schenectady, New York sent a telegram to the FAA urging them to restrict jet operations in turbulent weather, but the FAA responded that it saw no pattern that suggested the need for such restrictions, and Boeing concurred. Other theories included sabotage or lightning, but by nightfall after the first day, investigators had not found evidence of either. There was also some speculation that metal fatigue as a result of the aircraft's 1959 incident could be a factor, but the aircraft had undergone four separate maintenance overhauls since the accident without any issues having been detected.

Investigators rapidly located the flight data recorder, but it was badly damaged in the crash. Built to withstand an impact 100 times as strong as the force of gravity, it had been subjected to a force of 200 times the force of gravity, and its tape appeared to be hopelessly damaged. CAB chairman Alan S. Boyd told reporters shortly after the accident, "It was so compacted there is no way to tell at this time whether we can derive any useful information from it." Eventually, investigators were able to extract data from 95 percent of the tape that had been in the recorder.

The recovery of the wreckage took place over a period of 12 days, and 16 truckloads of the debris were taken to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. for investigators to examine and reassemble. Investigators revealed that there was evidence of a fire that had occurred in flight, and one commented that it was nearly certain that there had been an in-flight explosion of some kind. Eyewitness testimony later confirmed that the plane had been burning on its way down to the crash site.

Within days, investigators reported that the crash had apparently been caused by an explosion that had blown off one of the wing tips. The wing tip had been found about three miles (5 km) from the crash site bearing burn marks and bulging from an apparent internal explosive force. Remnants of nine feet (3 m) of the wing tip had been found at various points along the flight path short of the impact crater. Investigators revealed that it was unlikely that rough turbulence had caused the crash because the crews of other aircraft that had been circling in the area reported that the air was relatively smooth at the time. They also said that the plane would have had to dive a considerable distance before aerodynamic forces would have caused it to break up and explode, but it was apparent that the aircraft had caught fire near its cruising altitude of 5,000 feet.

Before this flight, there had been no other known case of lightning causing a plane to crash despite many instances of planes being struck. Investigators found that on average, each airplane is struck by lightning once or twice a year. Scientists and airline-industry representatives vigorously disputed the theory that lightning could have caused the aircraft to explode, calling it improbable. The closest example of such an instance occurred near Milan, Italy in June 1959 when a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation crashed as a result of static electricity igniting fuel vapor emanating from the fuel vents. Despite the opposition, investigators found multiple lightning strike marks on the left wing tip, and a large area of damage that extended along the rear edge of the wing, leading investigators to believe that lightning was indeed the cause. The CAB launched an urgent research program in an attempt to identify conditions in which fuel vapors in the wings could have been ignited by lightning. Within a week of the crash, the FAA issued an order requiring the installation of static electricity dischargers on the approximately 100 Boeing jet airliners that had not already been so equipped. Aviation-industry representatives were critical of the order, claiming that there was no evidence that the dischargers would have any beneficial effect, as they were not designed to handle the effects of lightning, and they said that the order would create a false impression that the risk of lightning strikes had been resolved.

The CAB conducted a public hearing in Philadelphia in February 1964 as part of its investigation. Experts had still not concluded that lightning had caused the accident, but they were investigating how lightning could have triggered the explosion. The FAA said that it would conduct research to determine the relative safety of the two types of jet fuel used in the United States, both of which were present in the fuel tanks of Flight 214. Criticism of the JP-4 jet fuel that was in the tanks centered around the fact that its vapors can be easily ignited at the low temperatures encountered in flight. JP-4 advocates countered that the fuel was as safe, or safer than, kerosene, the other fuel used in jets at the time.

Pan American conducted a flight test in a Boeing 707 to investigate whether fuel could leak from the tank-venting system during a test flight that attempted to simulate moderate to rough turbulence in flight. The test did not reveal any fuel discharge, but there was evidence that fuel had entered the vent system, collected in the surge tanks and returned to the tanks.[1](p9) Pan American said that it would test a new system to inject inert gas into the air spaces above the fuel tanks in aircraft in an attempt to reduce the risk of hazardous fuel-air mixtures that could ignite.

On March 3, 1965, the CAB released its final accident report. The investigators concluded that a lightning strike had ignited the fuel-air mixture in the number 1 reserve fuel tank, which had caused an explosive disintegration of the left outer wing, leading to a loss of control. Despite one of the most intensive research efforts in its history, the agency could not identify the exact mechanics of the fuel ignition, concluding that lightning had ignited vapors through an as-yet unknown pathway. The board said, "It is felt that the current state of the art does not permit an extension of test results to unqualified conclusions of all aspects of natural lightning effects. The need for additional research is recognized and additional programming is planned."

Accident Report

Safety Recommendations

The following recommendations for your consideration are submitted:

  1. Install static discharge wicks on those turbine powered aircraft not so equipped.
  2. Reevaluate problems associated with incorporation of flame arrestors in fuel tank vent outlets. We believe positive protection against fuel tank explosion from static discharge ignited fuel/air mixtures at fuel tank vent outlets can be provided by flame arrestors having sufficient depth.
  3. A possible alternative to No. 2 that may be considered is to render the mixture emitting from the vent outlet non-ignitable by the introduction of air into the vent tube.
  4. We believe the surge tanks located just outboard of the reserve tanks, by virtue of their location near the wing tip, are vulnerable with respect to lightning strikes. Burn marks on the skin in the tip area of N709PA substantiates this belief. This being the case, it is believed a measure of protection will be attained if the wing skin is not utilized as part of the surge tank walls. This could be accomplished by providing an inner wall with an air gap between it and the wing skin to form the surge tank. It is recommended that this concept be considered. Another alternative appears to provide sufficient thickness of the skin in this area to prevent burning through by lightning strikes.
  5. Suggested for consideration is the requirement that only Jet A fuel be used commercially. Vapor flammability temperature charts provided by Esso show that much less of the operations would occur with the vapor in the flammability range while using Jet A fuel as compared with Jet B fuel.
  6. Finally, it is recommended that every effort be expanded to arrive at a practical means by which flammable air/vapor mixtures are eliminated from the fuel tanks. There appears to be at least two approaches to accomplish this act. There is the possibility of inerting the space above the fuel by introduction of an inert gas. An alternate approach is to introduce sufficient air circulation into the tanks to maintain a fuel/air ratio too lean for combustion. There may well be other approaches to attain this goal; if so, they should be explored. Other problems of like complexity have been resolved and we feel the resolution of this problem is likewise attainable at a cost commensurate with the benefits. We recommend that FAA/CAB solicit the aid of the aviation and petroleum industry as well as government and defense agencies to provide a solution to this problem that is applicable to aircraft in service as well as new aircraft.
Jul 26, 2021

FlightSafety International, a Berkshire Hathaway company

Ron was named the President, FlightSafety Services Corporation (FSSC), in January 2014. FSSC provides turnkey aircrew training systems (ATS) and contractor logistics support (CLS) to its military customers. It includes aircrew training, courseware, advanced technology training devices, computer based training workstations and support for simulators at 18 U.S. military bases. Current programs include the development and fielding of the ATS for the new KC-46 aircraft., CLS for T-1 and T-38 training devices, instruction and CLS for KDAM ATARS (special operations) and the KC-10.

Ron joined the FlightSafety International team as the Director of Military Business Development, FlightSafety Simulation, in October 2011. His responsibilities included finding first-class training and simulation solutions for its military customers. This covered the spectrum from part-task trainers to high fidelity, full flight simulators. He was then named as the Vice President of FSSC in October 2013.

He previously served in the U.S Air Force obtaining the rank of Major General. He commanded the first squadron operating the new C-17, a C-141 operations group and a KC-135 air refueling wing. He also led the Air Force’s center that directed worldwide flights of its fleet of 800 cargo and tanker aircraft – about one takeoff every 90 seconds. Ron’s interagency experience includes international contingency planning as the senior Air Force officer at the Department of State. His Pentagon experience includes planning and budgeting about $30 billion to support Air Force logistics. He also ran the Air Force’s accredited Staff College. Finally, Ron’s Air Force career culminated with leading 17th Air Force which directed all Air Force activities in Africa to include anti-terrorism, anti-piracy and disaster relief operations. Ron has about 4,800 hours as a pilot and instructor flying C-141A/B, C-17A, KC-135R (Boeing 707) and C-21 (Lear 35) aircraft.

His formal education includes a degree in Engineering Mechanics from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a master’s degree in Business Administration from Webster University a degree from Air Command and Staff College and a master’s degree from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Ron also attended the Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Jul 22, 2021

On Friday, December 16, 1960, a United Airlines Douglas DC-8, bound for Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport) in New York City, collided in midair with a TWA Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation descending into the city's LaGuardia Airport. The Constellation crashed on Miller Field in Staten Island and the DC-8 into Park Slope, Brooklyn, killing all 128 people on the two aircraft and six people on the ground. It was the deadliest aviation disaster in the world at the time. The death toll would not be surpassed until a Lockheed C-130B Hercules was shot down in May 1968, killing 155 people. In terms of commercial aviation, the death toll would not be surpassed until the March 1969 crash of Viasa Flight 742, which crashed on takeoff and killed all 84 people on board the aircraft, as well as 71 people on the ground. The accident became known as the Park Slope plane crash or the Miller Field crash, after the crash sites of each plane respectively. The accident was also the first hull loss and first fatal accident involving a Douglas DC-8.



United Airlines Flight 826, Mainliner Will Rogers, registration N8013U, was a DC-8-11 carrying 84 people from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago to Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport) in Queens. The crew was Captain Robert Sawyer (age 46), First Officer Robert Fiebing (40), Flight Engineer Richard Pruitt (30), and four stewardesses.[1]

Trans World Airlines Flight 266, Star of Sicily, registration N6907C, was a Super Constellation carrying 44 people from Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, to LaGuardia Airport in Queens. The crew was Captain David Wollam (age 39), First Officer Dean Bowen (32), Flight Engineer LeRoy Rosenthal (30), and two stewardesses. Star of Sicily's sister ship N6902C, Star of the Seine, was destroyed in another mid-air collision with a United Airlines flight in 1956.

At 10:21 A.M. Eastern Time, United 826 advised ARINC radio — which relayed the message to UAL maintenance — that one of its VOR receivers had stopped working. ATC, however, was not told that the aircraft had only one receiver, which made it more difficult for the pilots of flight 826 to identify the Preston intersection, beyond which it had not received clearance.

At 10:25 A.M. Eastern Time, air traffic control issued a revised clearance for the flight to shorten its route to the Preston holding point (near Laurence Harbor, New Jersey) by 12 miles (19 km). That clearance included holding instructions (a standard race-track holding pattern) for UAL Flight 826 when it arrived at the Preston intersection. Flight 826 was expected to reduce its speed before reaching Preston, to a standard holding speed of 210 knots or less. However, the aircraft was estimated to be doing 301 knots when it collided with the TWA plane, several miles beyond that Preston clearance limit.

During the investigation, United claimed the Colts Neck VOR was unreliable (pilots testified on both sides of the issue). ("Preston" was the point where airway V123 — the 050-radial off the Robbinsville VOR — crossed the Solberg 120-degree radial and the Colts Neck 346-degree radial.) However, the CAB final report found no problem with the Colts Neck VOR.

The prevailing conditions were light rain and fog (which had been preceded by snowfall).

According to the DC-8's FDR, the aircraft was 12 miles (19 km) off course and for 81 seconds, had descended at 3,600 feet per minute (18 m/s) while slowing from more than 400 knots to 301 knots at the time of the collision.

One of the starboard engines on the DC-8 hit the Constellation just ahead of its wings, tearing apart that portion of the fuselage. The Constellation entered a dive, with debris continuing to fall as it disintegrated during its spiral to the ground.

The initial impact tore the engine from its pylon on the DC-8. Having lost one engine and a large part of the right-wing, the DC-8 remained airborne for another minute and a half.

The DC-8 crashed into the Park Slope section of Brooklyn at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place (40°4038N 73°5825W), scattering wreckage and setting fire to ten brownstone apartment buildings, the Pillar of Fire Church, the McCaddin Funeral Home, a Chinese laundry, and a delicatessen. Six people on the ground were killed.

The crash left the remains of the DC-8 pointed southeast towards a large open field at Prospect Park, blocks from its crash site. A student at the school who lived in one of the destroyed apartment buildings said his family survived because they happened to be in the only room of their apartment not destroyed. The crash left a trench covering most of the length of the middle of Sterling Place. Occupants of the school thought a bomb had gone off or that the building's boiler had exploded.

The TWA plane crashed onto the northwest corner of Miller Field, at 40.57°N 74.103°W, with some sections of the aircraft landing in New York Harbor. At least one passenger fell into a tree before the wreckage hit the ground.

There was no radio contact with traffic controllers from either plane after the collision, although LaGuardia had begun tracking an incoming, fast-moving, unidentified plane from Preston toward the LaGuardia "Flatbush" outer marker.

The likely cause of the accident was identified in a report by the US Civil Aeronautics Board.

United Flight 826 proceeded beyond its clearance limit and the confines of the airspace allocated to the flight by Air Traffic Control. A contributing factor was the high rate of speed of the United DC-8 as it approached the Preston intersection, coupled with the change of clearance which reduced the en-route distance along Victor 123 by approximately 11 miles.


The only person to initially survive the crash was an 11-year-old boy from Wilmette, Illinois. He was traveling on Flight 826 unaccompanied as part of his family's plans to spend Christmas in Yonkers with relatives. He was thrown from the plane into a snowbank where his burning clothing was extinguished. Although alive and conscious, he was badly burned and had inhaled burning fuel. He died of pneumonia the next day.

In 2010, on the 50th anniversary of the accident, a memorial to the 134 victims of the two crashes was unveiled in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. The cemetery is the site of the common grave in which were placed the human remains that could not be identified.

The events of the collision are documented in the 5th season, episode 1, of The Weather Channel documentary Why Planes Crash. The episode is titled "Collision Course" and was first aired in April 2013. 

As a result of this accident, the following changes were instituted:

Pilots must report malfunctions of navigation or communication equipment to ATC.

All turbine-powered aircraft must be equipped with Distance Measuring Equipment (DME).

Jet aircraft must slow to holding speed at least 3 minutes before reaching the holding fix.

Aircraft are prohibited from exceeding 250 knots when within 30 nautical miles of a destination airport and below 10,000 feet MSL.

Jul 19, 2021

Ivana is the Governor of the African Section a non-profit organization of International Women Pilots called the Ninety-Nines. It is the only and first organization for women pilots established in 1929 by 99 women pilots founded by Amelia Earhart in the USA. Female pilots remain a rarity especially in Africa. The numbers are starting to increase but it is still a minuscule amount. The African Section aims to work with schools, careers and offices to help enthuse girls to look into gaining a career in aviation. Many girls in Africa do not participate significantly or perform well in Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. This situation becomes more pronounced as the level of education increases and a combination of factors, including cultural practices and attitudes, and biased teaching and learning materials, perpetuate the imbalance.Many African countries face significant challenges in educating their youth at all, due to lack of equipment and access to basic amenities like electricity, as well as non-attendance in school. As a result, many youth may be unable to read even after several years of education. The African Section will teach educational sessions to the youth and adults to bolster Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in Africa under the "Girls Wings For Africa" (GWFA) Project. Working with under privileged children visiting local schools in villages and starting STEM camps will inspire youth and a new generation of youth to reach great heights.

With the global shortage of pilots and shortage of skilled aviation professionals and gender disparity. STEM is needed now more than ever.

"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world"~ Nelson Mandela - Former President South Africa

Jul 15, 2021

Northerly Turning Errors
The center of gravity of the float assembly is located lower than the pivotal point. As the aircraft turns, the force that results from the magnetic dip causes the float assembly to swing in the same direction that the float turns. The result is a false northerly turn indication. Because of this lead of the compass card, or float assembly, a northerly turn should be stopped prior to arrival at the desired heading. This compass error is amplified with the proximity to either magnetic pole.
One rule of thumb to correct for this leading error is to stop the turn 15 degrees plus half of the latitude (i.e., if the aircraft is being operated in a position near 40 degrees latitude, the turn should be stopped 15+20=35 degrees prior to the desired heading).

Southerly Turning Errors
When turning in a southerly direction, the forces are such that the compass float assembly lags rather than leads. The result is a false southerly turn indication. The compass card, or float assembly, should be allowed to pass the desired heading prior to stopping the turn. As with the northerly error, this error is amplified with the proximity to either magnetic pole. To correct this lagging error, the aircraft should be allowed to pass the desired heading prior to stopping the turn. The same rule of 15 degrees plus half of the latitude applies here (i.e.,
if the aircraft is being operated in a position near 30 degrees latitude, the turn should be stopped 15+15+30 degrees after passing the desired heading). 

Acceleration Error
The magnetic dip and the forces of inertia cause magnetic compass errors when accelerating and decelerating on easterly and westerly headings. Because of the pendulous type mounting, the aft end of the compass card is tilted upward when accelerating and downward when decelerating during changes of airspeed. When accelerating on either an easterly or westerly heading, the error appears as a turn indication toward north. When decelerating on either of these headings, the compass indicates a turn toward south. A mnemonic, or memory jogger, for the effect of acceleration error is the word “ANDS” (AccelerationNorth/Deceleration-South) may help you to remember the acceleration error. Acceleration causes an indication toward north; deceleration causes an indication toward south.

Jul 12, 2021

Chris Doyle and his wife Maria have been working in Colorado since 2009 doing agricultural aerial application and formed CO Fire Aviation in 2014, they have a 4 year old son, Patrick, and a 2 year old daughter, Sophia.


Chris first started flying lessons at 14 years old has 27 years of aviation experience. He has been a commercial pilot for 22 years, with vast international experience, including SEAT flying in Australia, Indonesia and the United States. He has amassed more than 10,000 accident free hours of which the vast majority has been in the SEAT aircraft.


 Chris has FLIR and NVG experience from flying Air Tractor 802’s armed with laser guided weapons in the military environment as a test pilot in the Middle East for 3 years.

He is multi engine instrument rated and is a Certified Flight Instructor for fixed-wing aircraft and also has more than 1,000 hours of commercial rotary wing time. He is an Air Tractor factory certified instructor for the purpose of endorsing new pilots to fly the 802.


As with other programs he has been involved with, he has a passion for research and development of new techniques and methods to progress with the times, and the SEAT program is no exception.


Chris has been responsible for developing company checklists and Training manual. He managed and was the primary Level 1 pilot for our new additional operations base in John Day Oregon in 2016 where he developed company polices on location. He has mentored and overseen the development of 7 Level II pilots of which all have become or gained the experience to become Level I.


Aerial firefighting along with safety have always been his main passions. With this passion and knowledge, he along with partner Kyle Scott formed CO Fire Aviation to combat the increase in wildland fire activity. They are a professional and dedicated aviation company whose sole purpose and focus is to provide Aerial Fire Suppression to any community in need of assistance.


With headquarters located in Des Moines, Iowa, VREF has expanded to Illinois, California, Idaho, Florida, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, and China.

Jul 9, 2021

Dead Reckoning

On May 21, 1927 Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, France after a successful non-stop flight from the United States in the single-engined Spirit of St. Louis. As the aircraft was equipped with very basic instruments, Lindbergh used dead reckoning to navigate.

Dead reckoning in the air is similar to dead reckoning on the sea, but slightly more complicated. The density of the air the aircraft moves through affects its performance as well as winds, weight, and power settings.

The basic formula for DR is Distance = Speed x Time. An aircraft flying at 250 knots airspeed for 2 hours has flown 500 nautical miles through the air. The wind triangle is used to calculate the effects of wind on heading and airspeed to obtain a magnetic heading to steer and the speed over the ground (groundspeed). Printed tables, formulae, or an E6B flight computer are used to calculate the effects of air density on aircraft rate of climb, rate of fuel burn, and airspeed.

A course line is drawn on the aeronautical chart along with estimated positions at fixed intervals (say every ½ hour). Visual observations of ground features are used to obtain fixes. By comparing the fix and the estimated position corrections are made to the aircraft's heading and groundspeed.

Dead reckoning is on the curriculum for VFR (visual flight rules - or basic level) pilots worldwide. It is taught regardless of whether the aircraft has navigation aids such as GPS, ADF and VOR and is an ICAO Requirement. Many flying training schools will prevent a student from using electronic aids until they have mastered dead reckoning.

Inertial navigation systems (INSes), which are nearly universal on more advanced aircraft, use dead reckoning internally. The INS provides reliable navigation capability under virtually any conditions, without the need for external navigation references, although it is still prone to slight errors.

Transcontinental Airway System

In 1923, the United States Congress funded a sequential lighted airway along the transcontinental airmail route. The lighted airway was proposed by National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and deployed by the Department of Commerce. It was managed by the Bureau of Standards Aeronautical Branch. The first segment built was between Chicago and Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was situated in the middle of the airmail route to enable aircraft to depart from either coast in the daytime, and reach the lighted airway by nightfall. Lighted emergency airfields were also funded along the route every 15–20 miles.

Construction pace was fast, and pilots wishing to become airmail pilots were first exposed to the harsh wintertime work with the crews building the first segments of the lighting system.

By the end of the year, the public anticipated anchored lighted airways across the Atlantic, Pacific, and to China.

The first nighttime airmail flights started on July 1, 1924. By eliminating the transfer of mail to rail cars at night, the coast to coast delivery time for airmail was reduced by two business days. Eventually, there were 284 beacons in service. With a June 1925 deadline, the 2,665 mile lighted airway was completed from New York to San Francisco. In 1927, the lighted airway was complete between New York City and Salt Lake City, Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Los Angeles to San Francisco, New York to Atlanta, and Chicago to Dallas, 4121 miles in total. In 1933, the Transcontinental Airway System totaled 1500 beacons, and 18000 miles.

The lighted Airway Beacons were a substantial navigation aid in an era prior to the development of radio navigation. Their effectiveness was limited by visibility and weather conditions.Beacon 61B on a modern display tower, originally installed on route CAM-8 near Castle Rock, WA

24 inches (610 mm) diameter rotating beacons were mounted on 53-foot (16 m) high towers, and spaced ten miles apart. The spacing was closer in the mountains, and farther apart in the plains. The beacons were five million candlepower, and rotated six times a minute. "Ford beacons" (named after Ford Car headlights) were also used, placing four separate lights at different angles.Air ports used green beacons and airways used red beacons. The beacons flashed identification numbers in Morse code. The sequence was "WUVHRKDBGM", which prompted the mnemonic "When Undertaking Very Hard Routes Keep Directions By Good Methods".Engineers believed the variations of beacon height along hills and valleys would allow pilots to see beacons both above ground fog, and below cloud layers.

Towers were built of numbered angle iron sections with concrete footings. Some facilities used concrete arrows pointing in the direction of towers. In areas where no connection to a power grid was available, a generator was housed in a small building. Some buildings also served as weather stations. Many arrow markings were removed during World War II, to prevent aiding enemy bombers in navigation, while 19 updated beacons still remain in service in Montana.



An automatic direction finder (ADF) is a marine or aircraft radio-navigation instrument that automatically and continuously displays the relative bearing from the ship or aircraft to a suitable radio station. ADF receivers are normally tuned to aviation or marine NDBs (Non-Directional Beacon) operating in the LW band between 190 – 535 kHz. Like RDF (Radio Direction Finder) units, most ADF receivers can also receive medium wave (AM) broadcast stations, though as mentioned, these are less reliable for navigational purposes.

The operator tunes the ADF receiver to the correct frequency and verifies the identity of the beacon by listening to the Morse code signal transmitted by the NDB. On marine ADF receivers, the motorized ferrite-bar antenna atop the unit (or remotely mounted on the masthead) would rotate and lock when reaching the null of the desired station. A centerline on the antenna unit moving atop a compass rose indicated in degrees the bearing of the station. On aviation ADFs, the unit automatically moves a compass-like pointer (RMI) to show the direction of the beacon. The pilot may use this pointer to home directly towards the beacon, or may also use the magnetic compass and calculate the direction from the beacon (the radial) at which their aircraft is located.

Unlike the RDF, the ADF operates without direct intervention, and continuously displays the direction of the tuned beacon. Initially, all ADF receivers, both marine and aircraft versions, contained a rotating loop or ferrite loopstick aerial driven by a motor which was controlled by the receiver. Like the RDF, a sense antenna verified the correct direction from its 180-degree opposite.

More modern aviation ADFs contain a small array of fixed aerials and use electronic sensors to deduce the direction using the strength and phase of the signals from each aerial. The electronic sensors listen for the trough that occurs when the antenna is at right angles to the signal, and provide the heading to the station using a direction indicator. In flight, the ADF's RMI or direction indicator will always point to the broadcast station regardless of aircraft heading. Dip error is introduced, however, when the aircraft is in a banked attitude, as the needle dips down in the direction of the turn. This is the result of the loop itself banking with the aircraft and therefore being at a different angle to the beacon. For ease of visualisation, it can be useful to consider a 90° banked turn, with the wings vertical. The bearing of the beacon as seen from the ADF aerial will now be unrelated to the direction of the aircraft to the beacon.


Very high frequency omni-directional range (VOR) is a type of short-range radio navigation system for aircraft, enabling aircraft with a receiving unit to determine its position and stay on course by receiving radio signals transmitted by a network of fixed ground radio beacons. It uses frequencies in the very high frequency (VHF) band from 108.00 to 117.95 MHz. Developed in the United States beginning in 1937 and deployed by 1946, VOR is the standard air navigational system in the world, used by both commercial and general aviation. In the year 2000 there were about 3,000 VOR stations operating around the world, including 1,033 in the US, reduced to 967 by 2013 (stations are being decommissioned with widespread adoption of GPS).

A VOR ground station uses a phased antenna array to send a highly directional signal that rotates clockwise horizontally (as seen from above) 30 times a second. It also sends a 30 Hz reference signal on a subcarrier timed to be in phase with the directional antenna as the latter passes magnetic north. This reference signal is the same in all directions. The phase difference between the reference signal and the signal amplitude is the bearing from the VOR station to the receiver relative to magnetic north. This line of position is called the VOR "radial". The intersection of radials from two different VOR stations can be used to fix the position of the aircraft, as in earlier radio direction finding (RDF) systems.

VOR stations are fairly short range: the signals are line-of-sight between transmitter and receiver and are useful for up to 200 miles. Each station broadcasts a VHF radio composite signal including the navigation signal, station's identifier and voice, if so equipped. The navigation signal allows the airborne receiving equipment to determine a bearing from the station to the aircraft (direction from the VOR station in relation to Magnetic North). The station's identifier is typically a three-letter string in Morse code. The voice signal, if used, is usually the station name, in-flight recorded advisories, or live flight service broadcasts.

Area Navigation

The continuing growth of aviation increases demands on airspace capacity, making area navigation desirable due to its improved operational efficiency.

RNAV systems evolved in a manner similar to conventional ground-based routes and procedures. A specific RNAV system was identified and its performance was evaluated through a combination of analysis and flight testing. For land-based operations, the initial systems used very high frequency omnidirectional radio range (VOR) and distance measuring equipment (DME) for estimating position; for oceanic operations, inertial navigation systems (INS) were employed. Airspace and obstacle clearance criteria were developed based on the performance of available equipment, and specifications for requirements were based on available capabilities. Such prescriptive requirements resulted in delays to the introduction of new RNAV system capabilities and higher costs for maintaining appropriate certification. To avoid such prescriptive specifications of requirements, an alternative method for defining equipment requirements has been introduced. This enables the specification of performance requirements, independent of available equipment capabilities, and is termed performance-based navigation (PBN). Thus, RNAV is now one of the navigation techniques of PBN; currently the only other is required navigation performance (RNP). RNP systems add on-board performance monitoring and alerting to the navigation capabilities of RNAV. As a result of decisions made in the industry in the 1990s, most modern systems are RNP.

Many RNAV systems, while offering very high accuracy and possessing many of the functions provided by RNP systems, are not able to provide assurance of their performance. Recognising this, and to avoid operators incurring unnecessary expense, where the airspace requirement does not necessitate the use of an RNP system, many new as well as existing navigation requirements will continue to specify RNAV rather than RNP systems. It is therefore expected that RNAV and RNP operations will co-exist for many years.

However, RNP systems provide improvements in the integrity of operation, permitting possibly closer route spacing, and can provide sufficient integrity to allow only the RNP systems to be used for navigation in a specific airspace. The use of RNP systems may therefore offer significant safety, operational and efficiency benefits. While RNAV and RNP applications will co-exist for a number of years, it is expected that there will be a gradual transition to RNP applications as the proportion of aircraft equipped with RNP systems increases and the cost of transition reduces.


Inertial navigation is a self-contained navigation technique in which measurements provided by accelerometers and gyroscopes are used to track the position and orientation of an object relative to a known starting point, orientation and velocity. Inertial measurement units (IMUs) typically contain three orthogonal rate-gyroscopes and three orthogonal accelerometers, measuring angular velocity and linear acceleration respectively. By processing signals from these devices it is possible to track the position and orientation of a device.

Inertial navigation is used in a wide range of applications including the navigation of aircraft, tactical and strategic missiles, spacecraft, submarines and ships. It is also embedded in some mobile phones for purposes of mobile phone location and tracking  Recent advances in the construction of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have made it possible to manufacture small and light inertial navigation systems. These advances have widened the range of possible applications to include areas such as human and animal motion capture.

An inertial navigation system includes at least a computer and a platform or module containing accelerometers, gyroscopes, or other motion-sensing devices. The INS is initially provided with its position and velocity from another source (a human operator, a GPS satellite receiver, etc.) accompanied with the initial orientation and thereafter computes its own updated position and velocity by integrating information received from the motion sensors. The advantage of an INS is that it requires no external references in order to determine its position, orientation, or velocity once it has been initialized.

An INS can detect a change in its geographic position (a move east or north, for example), a change in its velocity (speed and direction of movement) and a change in its orientation (rotation about an axis). It does this by measuring the linear acceleration and angular velocity applied to the system. Since it requires no external reference (after initialization), it is immune to jamming and deception.

Inertial navigation systems are used in many different moving objects. However, their cost and complexity place constraints on the environments in which they are practical for use.

Gyroscopes measure the angular velocity of the sensor frame with respect to the inertial reference frame. By using the original orientation of the system in the inertial reference frame as the initial condition and integrating the angular velocity, the system's current orientation is known at all times. This can be thought of as the ability of a blindfolded passenger in a car to feel the car turn left and right or tilt up and down as the car ascends or descends hills. Based on this information alone, the passenger knows what direction the car is facing but not how fast or slow it is moving, or whether it is sliding sideways.

Accelerometers measure the linear acceleration of the moving vehicle in the sensor or body frame, but in directions that can only be measured relative to the moving system (since the accelerometers are fixed to the system and rotate with the system, but are not aware of their own orientation). This can be thought of as the ability of a blindfolded passenger in a car to feel himself pressed back into his seat as the vehicle accelerates forward or pulled forward as it slows down; and feel himself pressed down into his seat as the vehicle accelerates up a hill or rise up out of their seat as the car passes over the crest of a hill and begins to descend. Based on this information alone, he knows how the vehicle is accelerating relative to itself, that is, whether it is accelerating forward, backward, left, right, up (toward the car's ceiling), or down (toward the car's floor) measured relative to the car, but not the direction relative to the Earth, since he did not know what direction the car was facing relative to the Earth when they felt the accelerations.

However, by tracking both the current angular velocity of the system and the current linear acceleration of the system measured relative to the moving system, it is possible to determine the linear acceleration of the system in the inertial reference frame. Performing integration on the inertial accelerations (using the original velocity as the initial conditions) using the correct kinematic equations yields the inertial velocities of the system and integration again (using the original position as the initial condition) yields the inertial position. In our example, if the blindfolded passenger knew how the car was pointed and what its velocity was before he was blindfolded and if he is able to keep track of both how the car has turned and how it has accelerated and decelerated since, then he can accurately know the current orientation, position, and velocity of the car at any time.

Global Positioning System

The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally Navstar GPS, is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force. It is one of the global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) that provides geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. Obstacles such as mountains and buildings block the relatively weak GPS signals.

The GPS does not require the user to transmit any data, and it operates independently of any telephonic or internet reception, though these technologies can enhance the usefulness of the GPS positioning information. The GPS provides critical positioning capabilities to military, civil, and commercial users around the world. The United States government created the system, maintains it, and makes it freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.

The GPS project was started by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1973, with the first prototype spacecraft launched in 1978 and the full constellation of 24 satellites operational in 1993. Originally limited to use by the United States military, civilian use was allowed from the 1980s following an executive order from President Ronald Reagan after the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 incident. Advances in technology and new demands on the existing system have now led to efforts to modernize the GPS and implement the next generation of GPS Block IIIA satellites and Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX). Announcements from Vice President Al Gore and the Clinton Administration in 1998 initiated these changes, which were authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2000.

During the 1990s, GPS quality was degraded by the United States government in a program called "Selective Availability"; this was discontinued on May 1, 2000 by a law signed by President Bill Clinton.

The GPS service is provided by the United States government, which can selectively deny access to the system, as happened to the Indian military in 1999 during the Kargil War, or degrade the service at any time. As a result, several countries have developed or are in the process of setting up other global or regional satellite navigation systems. The Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) was developed contemporaneously with GPS, but suffered from incomplete coverage of the globe until the mid-2000s. GLONASS can be added to GPS devices, making more satellites available and enabling positions to be fixed more quickly and accurately, to within two meters (6.6 ft). China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System began global services in 2018, and finished its full deployment in 2020. There are also the European Union Galileo positioning system, and India's NavIC. Japan's Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a GPS satellite-based augmentation system to enhance GPS's accuracy in Asia-Oceania, with satellite navigation independent of GPS scheduled for 2023.

When selective availability was lifted in 2000, GPS had about a five-meter (16 ft) accuracy. GPS receivers that use the L5 band can have much higher accuracy, pinpointing to within 30 centimeters (11.8 in). As of May 2021, 16 GPS satellites are broadcasting L5 signals, and the signals are considered pre-operational, scheduled to reach 24 satellites by approximately 2027.

Jul 5, 2021

Brushy Four

On 1 July 1972 I was number 4 in Brushy Flight, attacking a target in Kep, North Vietnam. As we exited the target area, our flight was targeted by a Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) from our left 7 o'clock position. This SAM was tracking differently than a typical SA-2. The typical SA-2 traveled in a lead-pursuit flight path, not too difficult to defeat if you can see it. this SAM was different. It was traveling in a lag-pursuit flight path, aiming directly at out flight.

We separated into two sections of two aircraft, about 1000 feet apart, with each wingman flying in close formation with his lead aircraft. As number 4, I flew in formation on the left wing with Brushy 3, the deputy flight lead. I watched the missile track toward our section in my left rear-view mirror. It was heading directly for me. As it was about to hit me, I flinched to the left and was immediately rocked by the sound of the explosion as it hit Brushy 3.

Fortunately, Brushy 3 did not go down. The missile detonated as a proximity burst. His aircraft was leaking fluids, but continued to fly. Because he had lost his utility hydraulic system Brushy 3 could not refuel, so he would have to land at DaNang, South Vietnam, if his fuel supply lasted. I was assigned to escort him to DaNang. Miraculously, his fuel supply lasted, and he landed with an approach-end engagement on runway 17 left while I landed on runway 17 right.

After refueling, I led another F-4 in formation back to Ubon. The reason I led the flight, at low altitude, was because the other aircraft could not pressurize. It had taken a small arms round through the rear canopy, right through the back-seater's heart.

Walnut Four

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial – The Wall – has panels that list the KIA (Killed In Action) casualties in chronological order of their loss. Panel W1, the last panel, encompasses the date July 30, 1972. My name is not on that panel, because my military Brothers, Sid Fulgham, J.D. Allen and the crew of Purple 28, saved my life.

I was Number Four in Walnut Flight, four F-4s on a strike deep into enemy territory north of Hanoi. The flight was being led by our new squadron commander, Sid Fugham, on his first mission leading a strike over Hanoi, and J.D. was the deputy flight lead, Walnut Three. Enroute to the target, we faced heavy reactions. SAMs (surface-to-air missiles), AAA (anti-aircraft artillery) and MiG calls (enemy aircraft). As we egressed the target area over the Gulf of Tonkin, Lead called for a fuel check, and that was when we all realized that my fuel was significantly below the other airplanes in the flight. In fact, I wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it to the post-strike refueling point.

Sid was out of ideas, and that’s when J.D. went into action. With Sid’s concurrence, J.D. took command of the flight, sent us over to the emergency GUARD frequency, and made contact with the refueling tankers. One of them, Purple 28, volunteered to fly up into enemy territory to meet us. That crew put their airplane, their lives, and their careers on the line to save me.

Back in 1972, navigation was not the GPS precision it is today. The INS (inertial navigation system) position on the F-4 could be off by as much as 10 miles for every hour of operation. The only way to roughly determine our position was radial/DME from a TACAN located on a Navy ship, far away. J.D. asked the tanker for his position from the TACAN, then gave the tanker a heading to meet up with us. Picking the tanker up on radar, J.D. told him when to begin his turn to a heading to match ours, and told him to start a descent. In the meantime, he directed me to start a half-nozzle descent.

My WSO and I were running through the Preparation For Ejection checklist, and I was periodically reporting my fuel state. The last reading I recall seeing was 0 on the tape and 0030 on the counter. About two minutes fuel. With fuel gauge tolerance, perhaps a bit more, perhaps less.

Up until this time I had simply been flying the headings, speeds and altitudes J.D. had assigned. I was pretty much operating on mental autopilot. The next thing I knew, I looked up and saw the refueling boom of the tanker directly above me, flying a "toboggan maneuver". I opened up my refueling door and immediately heard the rush of JP-4 entering my aircraft. And I knew I wouldn’t need to step over the side on this mission.

I think of J.D. and the tanker crew, and silently thank them, every time I hold my wife, my kids, my grandkids. If they hadn’t stepped up to the plate when they did, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have made it home. When you pull the ejection handle over shark-infested enemy-controlled water, there are a thousand things that can happen to prevent a happy outcome.

So on this coming July 30th, I want to once again thank my Brothers, the brave tanker crew, Sid Fulgham, and J.D. Allen.

My Last F-4 Flight

In 1973 I was assigned to the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron, at Kadena Air Base, in Okinawa. The squadron was on long-term TDY to CCK Air Base, in Taiwan. I was going through squadron check-out in the F-4C, and had flown a gunnery mission to Ie Shima bombing range in Okinawa. 

For several weeks before July 5th I had been feeling unusually tired. I still ran five miles every day, and put in a lot of hours at the squadron on my additional duties as Life Support Officer, as well as filling in for the Admin Officer, who was TDY. But, naturally, as a self-designated Iron Man, I didn't check in with a flight surgeon.

On this flight, I was feeling really, really weak. During the pitch-out during our arrival back at the base, I was blacking out from two Gs! After we taxied in to park, I couldn't climb out of the airplane by myself, and an ambulance crew took me to the hospital. Turned out I had Mononucleosis.

After I was released from the hospital, I was placed on non-flying duties for several months, and during that time I was reassigned to Wing Headquarters in a desk job. Although I continued to fly after I recovered, it was in the T-39 Sabreliner, not the F-4. So I never had the closure of a "champagne flight" in the F-4.


Jul 1, 2021

On June 29, the second day of the counteroffensive, an OV-10 flown by Air Force Capt. Steven L. Bennett had been working through the afternoon in the area south and east of Quang Tri City.

Bennett, 26, was born in Texas but grew up in Lafayette, La. He was commissioned via ROTC in 1968 at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. After pilot training, he had flown B-52s as a copilot at Fairchild AFB, Wash. He also had pulled five months of temporary duty in B-52s at U Tapao in Thailand. After that, he volunteered for a combat tour in OV-10s and had arrived at Da Nang in April 1972.

Bennett’s partner in the backseat of the OV-10 on June 29 was Capt. Michael B. Brown, a Marine Corps airborne artillery observer and also a Texan. Brown, a company commander stationed in Hawaii, had volunteered for a 90-day tour in Vietnam spotting for naval gunners from the backseat of an OV-10. Air Force FACs were not trained in directing the fire of naval guns.

The two had flown together several times before on artillery adjustment missions. They had separate call signs. Bennett’s was “Covey 87.” Brown was “Wolfman 45.”

They took off from Da Nang at about 3 p.m. During the time they were airborne, Brown had been directing fire from the destroyer USS R.B. Anderson and the cruiser USS Newport News, which were about a mile offshore in the Tonkin Gulf. Bennett and Brown had also worked two close air support strikes by Navy fighters.

It was almost time to return to base, but their relief was late taking off from Da Nang, so Bennett and Brown stayed a little longer.

The area in which they were flying that afternoon had been fought over many times before. French military forces, who took heavy casualties here in the 1950s, called the stretch of Route 1 between Quang Tri and Hue the “Street Without Joy.” US airmen called it “SAM-7 Alley.”

SA-7s were thick on the ground there, and they had taken a deadly toll on low-flying airplanes. The SA-7 could be carried by one man. It was similar to the US Redeye. It was fired from the shoulder like a bazooka, and its warhead homed on any source of heat, such as an aircraft engine.

Pilots could outrun or outmaneuver the SA-7—if they saw it in time. At low altitudes, that was seldom possible.

“Before the SA-7, the FACs mostly flew at 1,500 to 4,500 feet,” said William J. Begert, who, in 1972, was a captain and an O-2 pilot at Da Nang. “After the SA-7, it was 9,500 feet minimum. You could sneak an O-2 down to 6,500, but not an OV-10, because the bigger engines on OV-10 generated more heat.”

The FACs sometimes carried flares on their wings and could fire them as decoys when they saw a SA-7 launch. “The problem was reaction time,” Begert said. “You seldom got the flare off before the missile had passed.”

About 6 p.m., Bennett and Brown got an emergency call from “Harmony X-ray,” a US Marine Corps ground artillery spotter with a platoon of South Vietnamese marines a few miles east of Quang Tri City.

The platoon consisted of about two dozen troops. They were at the fork of a creek, with several hundred North Vietnamese Army regulars advancing toward them. The NVA force was supported by big 130 mm guns, firing from 12 miles to the north at Dong Ha, as well as by smaller artillery closer by.

Without help, the South Vietnamese marines would soon be overrun.

Bennett called for tactical air support, but no fighters were available. The guns from Anderson and Newport News were not a solution, either.

“The ships were about a mile offshore, and the friendlies were between the bad guys and the ships,” Brown said. “Naval gunfire shoots flat, and it has a long spread on impact. There was about a 50-50 chance they’d hit the friendlies.”

Bennett decided to attack with the OV-10’s four 7.62 mm guns. That meant he would have to descend from a relatively safe altitude and put his aircraft within range of SA-7s and small-arms fire. Because of the risk, Bennett was required to call for permission first. He did and got approval to go ahead.

Apart from its employment as a FAC aircraft, the OV-10 was rated for a light ground attack role. Its machine guns were loaded with 500 rounds each. The guns were mounted in the aircraft’s sponsons, stubby wings that stuck out like a seal’s flippers from the lower fuselage.

Bennett put the OV-10 into a power dive. The NVA force had been gathering in the trees along the creek bank. As Bennett roared by, the fire from his guns scattered the enemy concentration.

After four strafing passes, the NVA began to retreat, leaving many dead and wounded behind. The OV-10 had taken a few hits in the fuselage from small-arms fire but nothing serious. Bennett decided to continue the attack to keep the NVA from regrouping and to allow the South Vietnamese to move to a more tenable position.

Bennett swept along the creek for a fifth time and pulled out to the northeast. He was at 2,000 feet, banking to turn left, when the SA-7 hit from behind. Neither Bennett nor Brown saw it.

The missile hit the left engine and exploded. The aircraft reeled from the impact. Shrapnel tore holes in the canopy. Much of the left engine was gone. The left landing gear was hanging down like a lame leg, and they were afire.

Bennett needed to jettison the reserve fuel tank and the remaining smoke rockets as soon as he could, but there were South Vietnamese troops everywhere below. He headed for the Tonkin Gulf, hoping to get there and drop the stores before the fire reached the fuel.

As they went, Brown radioed their Mayday to declare the emergency. Over the Gulf, Bennett safely dropped the fuel tank and rocket pods.

The OV-10 was still flyable on one engine, although it could not gain altitude. They turned south, flying at 600 feet. Unless Bennett could reach a friendly airfield for an emergency landing, he and Brown would have to either eject or ditch the airplane in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Every OV-10 pilot knew the danger of ditching. The aircraft had superb visibility because of the “greenhouse”-style expanses of plexiglass canopy in front and on the sides, but that came at the cost of structural strength. It was common knowledge, often discussed in the squadron, that no pilot had ever survived an OV-10 ditching. The cockpit always broke up on impact.

Another OV-10 pilot, escorting Bennett’s aircraft, warned him to eject as the wing was in danger of exploding.

They began preparations to eject. As they did, Brown looked over his shoulder at the spot where his parachute should have been. “What I saw was a hole, about a foot square, from the rocket blast and bits of my parachute shredded up and down the cargo bay,” Brown said. “I told Steve I couldn’t jump.”

Bennett would not eject alone. That would have left Brown in an airplane without a pilot. Besides, the backseater had to eject first. If not, he would be burned severely by the rocket motors on the pilot’s ejection seat as it went out.

Momentarily, there was hope. The fire subsided. Da Nang—the nearest runway that could be foamed down—was only 25 minutes away and they had the fuel to get there. Then, just north of Hue, the fire fanned up again and started to spread. The aircraft was dangerously close to exploding.

They couldn’t make it to Da Nang. Bennett couldn’t eject without killing Brown. That left only one choice: to crash-land in the sea.

Bennett faced a decision, Lt. Col. Gabriel A. Kardong, 20th TASS commander, later wrote in recommending Bennett for the Medal of Honor. “He knew that if he saved his own life by ejecting from his aircraft, Captain Brown would face certain death,” said Kardong. “On the other hand, he realized that if he ditched the aircraft, his odds for survival were slim, due to the characteristics of the aircraft, but Captain Brown could survive. Captain Bennett made the decision to ditch and thereby made the ultimate sacrifice.”

He decided to ditch about a mile off a strip of sand called “Wunder Beach.” Upon touchdown, the dangling landing gear dug in hard.

“When the aircraft struck water, the damaged and extended left landing gear caused the aircraft to swerve left and flip wing over wing and come to rest in a nose down and inverted position, almost totally submerged,” Brown said in a statement attached to the Medal of Honor recommendation.

“After a struggle with my harnesses, I managed to escape to the surface where I took a few deep breaths of air and attempted to dive below the surface in search of the pilot who had not surfaced. Exhaustion and ingestion of fuel and water prevented me from descending below water more than a few feet. I was shortly rescued by an orbiting naval helicopter and taken to the USS Tripoli for treatment.”

Of Bennett, Brown said, “His personal disregard for his own life surely saved mine when he elected not to eject … and save himself in order that I might survive.”

Bennett’s body was recovered the next day. The front cockpit had broken up on impact with the water, and it had been impossible for him to get out. He was taken home to Lafayette, where he is buried.

North Vietnam’s Easter Offensive, battered by airpower, stalled. The South Vietnamese retook Quang Tri City on Sept. 16, 1972. The invasion having failed, Giap was forced to withdraw on all three fronts. It was a costly excursion for North Vietnam, with 100,000 or more of its troops killed and at least half of its tanks and large-caliber artillery pieces having been lost.

The Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Steven L. Bennett on Aug. 8, 1974. It was presented in Washington to his wife, Linda, and their daughter Angela, two-and-a- half years old, by Vice President Gerald R. Ford in the name of Congress. (Ford made the presentation because President Nixon announced his resignation that day. Ford was sworn in as President the next day, Aug. 9, 1974.)

The citation accompanying the Medal of Honor recognized “Captain Bennett’s unparalleled concern for his companion, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life.”

Since then, there have been other honors. Navy Sealift Command named a ship MV Steven L. Bennett. Palestine, Tex., where Bennett was born, dedicated the city athletic center to him. Among other facilities named for or dedicated to Bennett were the ROTC building at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, the gymnasium at Kelly AFB, Tex., and a cafeteria at Webb AFB, Tex.


Steven Logan Bennett (April 22, 1946 – June 29, 1972) of Palestine, Texas was a United States Air Force pilot who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Vietnam War on August 8, 1974

Prior to entering the U.S. Air Force, Steven Bennett attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette) in Lafayette, Louisiana; he graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. He was in ROTC and received his private pilot's license in 1965. He entered the Air Force in August 1968, and earned his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas in 1969. In 1970, he completed B-52 bomber training course at Castle AFB, CA. He was stationed at Fairchild AFB, Washington. He flew B-52s out of Thailand for almost a year. He then transitioned to become a Forward Air Controller (FAC), and graduated from the FAC and fighter training courses at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, before reporting to Da Nang, Vietnam in April 1972. He had only been in combat for three months before his Medal of Honor mission and had also won the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. He was also awarded the Purple Heart and the Cheny Award.

His call-sign at DaNang was Covey 87. Bennett had recently turned 26 when he was killed.

Captain Bennett was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Vice President Gerald Ford presented the decoration to Captain Bennett’s wife, Linda, and daughter, Angela, at the Blair House on August 8, 1974. Bennett is buried in Lafayette Memorial Cemetery at Lafayette, Louisiana. He was survived by his wife and one child. He had two brothers, David and Miles, and three sisters, Kathe, Lynne and Ardra. His mother, Edith Alice Logan Bennett, preceded him in death and his father, Elwin Bennett, died many years later in 2006. His daughter now lives near Dallas, TX with her husband, Paul, and two children, Jake and Elizabeth. His wife, Linda Leveque Bennett Wells, died on July 11, 2011.

Bennett's observer, Mike Brown, and was reunited with Bennett's wife and daughter in 1988. They have since remained close and together have attended numerous dedications in Bennett's honor throughout the United States.

Angela is a lifetime member of the OV-10 Association located at Meacham Air Field in Fort Worth, Texas. They have acquired an OV-10 and painted the names of both Bennett and Mike Brown on the side in memory of their last flight together. Angela was named by her father, who chose Angela Noelle, as in Christmas Angel; she was born near Christmas.

He is the namesake of the ship MV Capt. Steven L. Bennett (T-AK-4296) and his name is engraved on the Vietnam Memorial at Panel 01W - Row 051. There have been numerous other dedications done in his honor. They range from streets being named after him to buildings, including a gymnasium and a cafeteria, a sports arena and VFW posts, and many monuments. He has been mentioned in several military history books.

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
20th Tactical Air Support Squadron, Pacific Air Forces.
Place and date of action: Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam, June 29, 1972.
For service as set forth in the following


Capt. Bennett was the pilot of a light aircraft flying an artillery adjustment mission along a heavily defended segment of route structure. A large concentration of enemy troops was massing for an attack on a friendly unit. Capt. Bennett requested tactical air support but was advised that none was available. He also requested artillery support but this too was denied due to the close proximity of friendly troops to the target. Capt. Bennett was determined to aid the endangered unit and elected to strafe the hostile positions. After 4 such passes, the enemy force began to retreat. Capt. Bennett continued the attack, but, as he completed his fifth strafing pass, his aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile, which severely damaged the left engine and the left main landing gear. As fire spread in the left engine, Capt. Bennett realized that recovery at a friendly airfield was impossible. He instructed his observer to prepare for an ejection, but was informed by the observer that his parachute had been shredded by the force of the impacting missile. Although Capt. Bennett had a good parachute, he knew that if he ejected, the observer would have no chance of survival. With complete disregard for his own life, Capt. Bennett elected to ditch the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, even though he realized that a pilot of this type aircraft had never survived a ditching. The ensuing impact upon the water caused the aircraft to cartwheel and severely damaged the front cockpit, making escape for Capt. Bennett impossible. The observer successfully made his way out of the aircraft and was rescued. Capt. Bennett's unparalleled concern for his companion, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.

Jun 28, 2021

VREF plays a crucial role in advising decision-makers within the aviation industry and is the Official Valuation Directory and Appraisal Company for the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). VREF provides valuations, appraisals, and litigation consulting services to a worldwide client base of aviation professionals, including:

  • Aircraft owners
  • Banks
  • Financial institutions
  • Law firms
  • Leasing companies
  • Manufacturers
  • Operators
  • Suppliers
  • And More

VREF Aircraft Value Reference, Appraisal & Litigation Consulting Services was founded in 1994 as an aircraft valuation firm. It has since become the go-to source for aviation.

  • VREF Online: Real-time Software to Create Aircraft Valuations
  • VREF Appraisals: USPAP Compliant Appraisals
  • VREF Verified: On-Demand Valuation Reports, “The Carfax®” For Aircraft
  • VREF Expert Witness: Litigation And Expert Witness Services
  • VREF Consulting Services: Expert Advice for Your Aircraft Investment

With headquarters located in Des Moines, Iowa, VREF has expanded to Illinois, California, Idaho, Florida, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, and China.

VREF plays a crucial role in advising decision-makers within the aviation industry and is the Official Valuation Directory and Appraisal Company for the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). VREF provides valuations, appraisals, and litigation consulting services to a worldwide client base of aviation professionals, including:

  • Aircraft owners
  • Banks
  • Financial institutions
  • Law firms
  • Leasing companies
  • Manufacturers
  • Operators
  • Suppliers
  • And More

VREF Aircraft Value Reference, Appraisal & Litigation Consulting Services was founded in 1994 as an aircraft valuation firm. It has since become the go-to source for aviation.

  • VREF Online: Real-time Software to Create Aircraft Valuations
  • VREF Appraisals: USPAP Compliant Appraisals
  • VREF Verified: On-Demand Valuation Reports, “The Carfax®” For Aircraft
  • VREF Expert Witness: Litigation And Expert Witness Services
  • VREF Consulting Services: Expert Advice for Your Aircraft Investment
Jun 24, 2021


An approach lighting system (ALS) is a lighting system installed on the approach end of an airport runway and consisting of a series of lightbars, strobe lights, or a combination of the two that extends outward from the runway end. ALS usually serves a runway that has an instrument approach procedure (IAP) associated with it and allows the pilot to visually identify the runway environment and align the aircraft with the runway upon arriving at a prescribed point on an approach.

Modern approach lighting systems are highly complex in their design and significantly enhance the safety of aircraft operations, particularly in conditions of reduced visibility.

The required minimum visibilities for instrument approaches is influenced by the presence and type of approach lighting system. In the U.S., a CAT I ILS approach without approach lights will have a minimum required visibility of 3/4 mile, or 4000 foot runway visual range. With a 1400-foot or longer approach light system, the minimum potential visibility might be reduced to 1/2 mile (2400 runway visual range), and the presence of touchdown zone and centerline lights with a suitable approach light system might further reduce the visibility to 3/8 mile (1800 feet runway visual range).

The runway lighting is controlled by the air traffic control tower. At non-towered airports, pilot-controlled lighting may be installed that can be switched on by the pilot via radio. In both cases, the brightness of the lights can be adjusted for day and night operations.

Depth perception is inoperative at the distances usually involved in flying aircraft, and so the position and distance of a runway with respect to an aircraft must be judged by a pilot using only two-dimensional cues such as perspective, as well as angular size and movement within the visual field. Approach lighting systems provide additional cues that bear a known relationship to the runway itself and help pilots to judge distance and alignment for landing.

After World War II, the U.S. Navy and United Airlines worked together on various methods at the U.S. Navy's Landing Aids Experimental Station located at the Arcata–Eureka Airport, California air base, to allow aircraft to land safely at night and under zero visibility weather, whether it was rain or heavy fog. The predecessor of today's modern ALS while crude had the basics — a 3,500 foot visual approach of 38 towers, with 17 on each side, and atop each 75 foot high tower a 5000 watt natural gas light. After the U.S. Navy's development of the lighted towers it was not long before the natural gas lights were soon replaced by more efficient and brighter strobe lights, then called Strobeacon lights. The first large commercial airport to have installed a strobe light ALS visual approach path was New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Soon other large airports had strobe light ALS systems installed.

All approach lighting systems in the United States utilize a feature called a decision bar. Decision bars are always located 1000 farther away from the threshold in the direction of the arriving aircraft, and serve as a visible horizon to ease the transition from instrument flight to visual flight.

Approach lighting systems are designed to allow the pilot to quickly and positively identify visibility distances in Instrument meteorological conditions. For example, if the aircraft is at the middle marker, and the middle marker is located 3600 feet from the threshold, the decision bar is 2600 feet ahead. If the procedure calls for at least half a statute mile flight visibility (roughly 2600 feet), spotting the decision bar at the marker would indicate enough flight visibility to continue the procedure. In addition, the shorter bars before and after the decision bar are spaced either 100 feet or 200 feet apart, depending on the ALS type. The number of short bars the pilot can see can be used to determine flight visibility. Approaches with lower minimums use the more precise 100-foot spacing systems for more accurate identification of visibility.

Several ALS configurations are recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); however, non-standard ALS configurations are installed at some airports. Typically, approach lighting systems are of high-intensity. Many approach lighting systems are also complemented by various on-runway light systems, such as Runway end identifier lights (REIL), Touchdown Zone Lights (TDZL), and High Intensity Runway Lights (HIRL). The most common approach light system configurations include:

  • MALSR: Medium-intensity Approach Lighting System with Runway Alignment Indicator Lights
  • MALSF: Medium-intensity Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing lights
  • SALS: Short Approach Lighting System
  • SSALS: Simplified Short Approach Lighting System
  • SSALR: Simplified Short Approach Lighting System with Runway Alignment Indicator Lights
  • SSALF: Simplified Short Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing Lights
  • ODALS: Omnidirectional Approach Lighting System
  • ALSF-1: Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing Lights configuration 1
  • ALSF-2: Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing Lights configuration 2
  • CALVERT I/ICAO-1 HIALS: ICAO-compliant configuration 1 High Intensity Approach Lighting System
  • CALVERT II/ICAO-2 HIALS: ICAO-compliant configuration 2 High Intensity Approach Lighting System
  • LDIN: Lead-in lighting
  • REIL: Runway End Identification Lights
  • RAIL: Runway Alignment Indicator Lights

In configurations that include sequenced flashing lights, the lights are typically strobes mounted in front of the runway on its extended centerline. These lights flash in sequence, usually at a speed of two consecutive sequences per second, beginning with the light most distant from the runway and ending at the Decision Bar. RAIL are similar to sequenced flashing lights, except that they end where the white approach light bars begin. Sequenced flashing lights and RAIL do not extend past the Decision Bar to avoid distracting the pilot during the critical phase of transitioning from instrument to visual flight. Sequenced flashing lights are sometimes colloquially called the rabbit or the running rabbit.

Jun 20, 2021

On this Father's Day I want to honor my father, Morris Nolly. He was the reason I became a pilot.

Morris Nolly was a first-generation American, the fourth of five children born to Russian immigrants Wolf and Tillie Noloboff in 1909. He grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Speaking only Yiddish at home, he didn't learn English until he entered grade school. He excelled in his studies, and received a full scholarship to New York University, where he studied Aircraft and Navigation Instruments, and he graduated from Cooper Union College with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

Finding money for flight training was a challenge during the Depression, but he periodically took lessons in a J-3 Cub starting in 1935, and eventually earned his Private Pilot certificate in 1941. His logbook originally had the name Noloboff, but was changed to Nolly when Morris officially changed his name.

As an Electrical Engineer, he designed the entire lighting system at the Aquacade at the 1939 World's Fair in New York, and then was hired by DuPont Company in Wilmington, Delaware. A fellow employee introduced him to his niece, Rose Dworkin, and it was love at first sight. They married shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Morris enlisted in the Army Air Force and was assigned as a Research Engineer, stationed at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Dayton, OH, where he specialized in airfield lighting systems and photographic lighting. During his free time he taught himself gymnastics and had success as an amateur boxer. While in the Army, he filed his invention for the precursor to Inertial Navigation System (see below).

After the war he bought a J-3 Cub and continued his flight training, eventually earning his Commercial Pilot certificate with an Instrument Rating. Then, when he was laid off from DuPont, he sold the airplane and went into business for himself as the proprietor of a liquor store. He renewed his flying with the Civil Air Patrol, where he served as a Major.

Morris taught himself Morse Code and was active in "ham" radio, using the call sign W3FZM. He used his ham radio to summon emergency response forces when a bonanza disintegrated in flight over his house on April 28, 1955. The pilot, Floyd Quillen, was Morris's friend.

Father's Day 1960 was a special day. We spent the day on the Chesapeake Bay, and posed for a photo to see who had a bigger nose. It was the culmination of a time period when Dad and I had been especially close.

Two days later Dad was killed during a robbery of the family store. He was 50 years old.

Jun 17, 2021

Inertial navigation is a self-contained navigation technique in which measurements provided by accelerometers and gyroscopes are used to track the position and orientation of an object relative to a known starting point, orientation and velocity. Inertial measurement units (IMUs) typically contain three orthogonal rate-gyroscopes and three orthogonal accelerometers, measuring angular velocity and linear acceleration respectively. By processing signals from these devices it is possible to track the position and orientation of a device.

Inertial navigation is used in a wide range of applications including the navigation of aircraft, tactical and strategic missiles, spacecraft, submarines and ships. It is also embedded in some mobile phones for purposes of mobile phone location and tracking  Recent advances in the construction of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have made it possible to manufacture small and light inertial navigation systems. These advances have widened the range of possible applications to include areas such as human and animal motion capture.

An inertial navigation system includes at least a computer and a platform or module containing accelerometersgyroscopes, or other motion-sensing devices. The INS is initially provided with its position and velocity from another source (a human operator, a GPS satellite receiver, etc.) accompanied with the initial orientation and thereafter computes its own updated position and velocity by integrating information received from the motion sensors. The advantage of an INS is that it requires no external references in order to determine its position, orientation, or velocity once it has been initialized.

An INS can detect a change in its geographic position (a move east or north, for example), a change in its velocity (speed and direction of movement) and a change in its orientation (rotation about an axis). It does this by measuring the linear acceleration and angular velocity applied to the system. Since it requires no external reference (after initialization), it is immune to jamming and deception.

Inertial navigation systems are used in many different moving objects. However, their cost and complexity place constraints on the environments in which they are practical for use.

Gyroscopes measure the angular velocity of the sensor frame with respect to the inertial reference frame. By using the original orientation of the system in the inertial reference frame as the initial condition and integrating the angular velocity, the system's current orientation is known at all times. This can be thought of as the ability of a blindfolded passenger in a car to feel the car turn left and right or tilt up and down as the car ascends or descends hills. Based on this information alone, the passenger knows what direction the car is facing but not how fast or slow it is moving, or whether it is sliding sideways.

Accelerometers measure the linear acceleration of the moving vehicle in the sensor or body frame, but in directions that can only be measured relative to the moving system (since the accelerometers are fixed to the system and rotate with the system, but are not aware of their own orientation). This can be thought of as the ability of a blindfolded passenger in a car to feel himself pressed back into his seat as the vehicle accelerates forward or pulled forward as it slows down; and feel himself pressed down into his seat as the vehicle accelerates up a hill or rise up out of their seat as the car passes over the crest of a hill and begins to descend. Based on this information alone, he knows how the vehicle is accelerating relative to itself, that is, whether it is accelerating forward, backward, left, right, up (toward the car's ceiling), or down (toward the car's floor) measured relative to the car, but not the direction relative to the Earth, since he did not know what direction the car was facing relative to the Earth when they felt the accelerations.

However, by tracking both the current angular velocity of the system and the current linear acceleration of the system measured relative to the moving system, it is possible to determine the linear acceleration of the system in the inertial reference frame. Performing integration on the inertial accelerations (using the original velocity as the initial conditions) using the correct kinematic equations yields the inertial velocities of the system and integration again (using the original position as the initial condition) yields the inertial position. In our example, if the blindfolded passenger knew how the car was pointed and what its velocity was before he was blindfolded and if he is able to keep track of both how the car has turned and how it has accelerated and decelerated since, then he can accurately know the current orientation, position, and velocity of the car at any time.

All inertial navigation systems suffer from integration drift: small errors in the measurement of acceleration and angular velocity are integrated into progressively larger errors in velocity, which are compounded into still greater errors in position. Since the new position is calculated from the previous calculated position and the measured acceleration and angular velocity, these errors accumulate roughly proportionally to the time since the initial position was input. Even the best accelerometers, with a standard error of 10 micro-g, would accumulate a 50-meter error within 17 minutes. Therefore, the position must be periodically corrected by input from some other type of navigation system.

Accordingly, inertial navigation is usually used to supplement other navigation systems, providing a higher degree of accuracy than is possible with the use of any single system. For example, if, in terrestrial use, the inertially tracked velocity is intermittently updated to zero by stopping, the position will remain precise for a much longer time, a so-called zero velocity update. In aerospace particularly, other measurement systems are used to determine INS inaccuracies, e.g. the Honeywell LaseRefV inertial navigation systems uses GPS and air data computer outputs to maintain required navigation performance. The navigation error rises with the lower sensitivity of the sensors used. Currently, devices combining different sensors are being developed, e.g. attitude and heading reference system. Because the navigation error is mainly influenced by the numerical integration of angular rates and accelerations, the Pressure Reference System was developed to use one numerical integration of the angular rate measurements.

Estimation theory in general and Kalman filtering in particular, provide a theoretical framework for combining information from various sensors. One of the most common alternative sensors is a satellite navigation radio such as GPS, which can be used for all kinds of vehicles with direct sky visibility. Indoor applications can use pedometers, distance measurement equipment, or other kinds of position sensors. By properly combining the information from an INS and other systems (GPS/INS), the errors in position and velocity are stable. Furthermore, INS can be used as a short-term fallback while GPS signals are unavailable, for example when a vehicle passes through a tunnel.

In 2011, GPS jamming at the civilian level became a governmental concern. The relative ease in ability to jam these systems has motivated the military to reduce navigation dependence on GPS technology. Because inertial navigation sensors do not depend on radio signals unlike GPS, they cannot be jammed.






In 2012, researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory reported an inertial measurement unit consisting of micro-electromechanical system triaxial accelerometers and tri-axial gyroscopes with an array size of 10 that had a Kalman filter algorithm to estimate sensor nuisance parameters (errors) and munition position and velocity. Each array measures six data points and the system coordinates the data together to deliver a navigation solution. If one sensor consistently over or underestimates distance, the system can adjust, adjusting the corrupted sensor's contributions to the final calculation.

The addition of the heuristic algorithm reduced a flight's calculated distance error from 120m to 40m from the designated target. The researchers coupled the algorithm with GPS or radar technology to initial and aid the navigation algorithm. At various points during the munition's flight they would cut off tracking and estimate the accuracy of the munition's landing. In a forty-second flight, 10s and 20s availability of aiding demonstrated little difference in error as both were approximately 35m off target. No noticeable difference was observed when experimentation took place with 100 sensor arrays rather than ten. The researchers indicate this limited experimental data signifies an optimization of navigation technology and a potential reduction in cost of military systems.




Jun 14, 2021

Anthony “AB” Bourke is a highly experienced F-16 fighter pilot who has flown tactical missions in countries all over the world. He has accumulated more than 2,700 hours of flight time in numerous high performance aircraft and was one of the first pilots to fly his F-16 over New York City in the homeland defense efforts on September 11th.

Following his impressive military career, “AB” took the tools and techniques that made him one of our nation’s premier fighter pilots and applied those to the competitive world of business. He ascended early in his career to become the top producing mortgage banker in the Western US for a prominent lending institution. His success in the mortgage industry led to a new opportunity at a California based start-up company where his team of 40 professionals dramatically grew revenue from $500,000 to $65M in three years.

Following these two endeavors, “AB” partnered with two other fighter pilots to form Afterburner Inc., a global management training company. “AB” served as Afterburner’s CEO & President where for over a decade he combined his love of business with his passion for tactical aviation. Under Bourke’s leadership, Afterburner grew into a best-in-class training company and was twice named one of Inc Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies.

As CEO & Founder of Mach 2 Consulting, Bourke brings his tactical knowledge and vast business experience to the forefront of the management training world. “AB” has traveled the globe sharing his message of peak performance with over 50,000 people in nine different countries, and is currently working on a book titled “The Art of The Debrief.”

Jun 10, 2021

FOQA is a voluntary safety program that is designed to make commercial aviation safer
by allowing commercial airlines and pilots to share de-identified aggregate information with the
FAA so that the FAA can monitor national trends in aircraft operations and target its resources to
address operational risk issues (e.g., flight operations, air traffic control (ATC), airports). The
fundamental objective of this new FAA/pilot/carrier partnership is to allow all three parties to
identify and reduce or eliminate safety risks, as well as minimize deviations from the regulations.
To achieve this objective and obtain valuable safety information, the airlines, pilots, and the
FAA are voluntarily agreeing to participate in this program so that all three organizations can
achieve a mutual goal of making air travel safer.

From AOPA:

The FAA requires ADS-B Out capability in the continental United States, in the ADS-B rule airspace designated by FAR 91.225:

  • Class A, B, and C airspace;
  • Class E airspace at or above 10,000 feet msl, excluding airspace at and below 2,500 feet agl;
  • Within 30 nautical miles of a Class B primary airport (the Mode C veil);
  • Above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of Class B or Class C airspace up to 10,000 feet;
  • Class E airspace over the Gulf of Mexico, at and above 3,000 feet msl, within 12 nm of the U.S. coast.

From AvWeb Insider:

If I were more diligent about keeping logbooks, I could look up the date when my airplane partner and I flew up to meet John and Martha King in Jacksonville for some kind of event or another. When we got to the airport to depart, the weather was crap; probably ¼-mile and indefinite ceiling. It was night. This was—and probably still is—just the kind of instrument flying I love. I remember John saying he agreed and was happy to see someone else actually doing it.

Despite that avuncular presence on the green screen, Mr. King’s inner wild child is revealed by another comment he made earlier that day when we were discussing the five bad attitudes the FAA is always trying to browbeat us with to warn that a mild-mannered podiatrist can metastasize into a psychopath at just a whiff of 100LL. You remember them, right? Anti-authority, impulsivity, invulnerability, macho and resignation. “Hell,” John observed, “you have to have three of those just to want to be a pilot in the first place.” My three are that I have resigned myself to my anti-authoritarian impulsivity and so far my machismo has rendered me untouchable. I guess I’m over budget.

And here, I’ll segue into the Martha Lunken story Russ Niles filed this week and which is otherwise bouncing around social media like a rubber check in a tile bathroom. Summary: Ms. Lunken, a well-known Ohio aviation personality and Flying Magazine columnist, decided, on a whim, to fly under the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge that carries I-71 over the Little Miami River in Oregonia. Ohio. Here’s a picture, so you can see the appeal. It’s the highest bridge in Ohio. If your reaction is, “that would be a cakewalk,” you’re not alone.

But the act is indefensibly boneheaded, which she admits. But for one line in the FAA enforcement letter, it’s not wild-eyed crazy, either. The line is: There were people under the bridge. It provides no further detail so we don’t know if they were in boats or having picnics on the shore. For me personally, if I were willing to take on the bridge stunt, I’m not willing to risk the remote chance of having the flaming wreckage with me in it land between the chicken and the potato salad of the Stooldrear’s Sunday outing. That, if you’ll pardon me, is a bridge too far.  

I’m not too worried about knocking the bridge over or hitting cars. Still, I wouldn’t try it for reasons related to the thrill-versus-consequences ratio. The potential ^%$ storm Ms. Lunken is now inevitably enduring, with this blog being another predictable gust, is hardly worth the payoff. Now if I were flying with Michael Goulian inverted … give me a minute on that. Nor would I accept the argument that one bridge buzz job is necessarily emblematic of a pattern of bad judgment or a gateway drug to yet more demented acts, say, like buying an Ercoupe.

Being a columnist and all, Lunken is an opinion leader of sorts and thus expected to be, if not a moral guidepost, at least not too much of a knucklehead. It is a kind of burden to bear, earned or deserved or not. Readers develop a perception of a media persona as somehow an exemplar. Perhaps showing yourself to be all too human is the on-ramp to redemption. Nonetheless, one needn’t bore holes under a major interstate artery to reach that higher plane of aeronautical wisdom conferred upon those of us who sin, repent and rejoin the flock. The more mundane runway excursions, fuel exhaustions and taxiing into hangar doors should suffice without the prospect of a permanent chair on the beach because you appeared to show criminal intent.

The eye-opener is that the FAA raised the charge to Murder 1 because they claimed Lunken intentionally turned off her ADS-B to avoid detection. She says she did not. This shows the low standard of proof in administrative law. You are presumed guilty if the government says you are and the burden is on you to prove otherwise. They revoked all of her certificates. She has to start anew if she wants to fly again. Odd calculus indeed. If I had to go through all that just to reinstate my certificates, I’d rejoin my bowling league. That said, there might yet be a pretty good T-shirt business is this. Aviation, like motorcycling, has its outlaw contingent.

Her case also shows the uneven way penalties are assessed. The day before we reported this, I got a call from a reporter in Oregon asking about a case where a local pilot—the mayor of a town—was suspended for 200 days for operating a Skyhawk that was two years out of annual and without having had a flight review in six years. He appears to have run the airplane out of gas and landed on a beach causing grievous injuries to one of his passengers. Scroll to 11:11 in this video to see it. In my view, he got a light sentence despite a persistent pattern of bad judgment and noncompliance.

While we’re at it, don’t let it escape notice that ADS-B is now an enforcement tool, even if isn’t working. And I did not know that if the FAA decides you turned it off to evade detection, it’s an automatic—or at least potential—revocation.

And since bad things come in threes, I learned of another accident this week in which ADS-B may be a factor. A flight school Skyhawk crash landed on a golf course after an ADS-B track that may show impromptu aerobatics. Even if that isn’t true, the ADS-B will be the music for a rug dance for the pilots, I’m sure.

There are two blades to this dull axe. On the one hand, if knowing that ADS-B is the all-seeing eye it may appear to be serves as an inhibition to doing stupid stuff—like flying under bridges on a whim—that’s not a bad thing. On the other hand, the data might be compromised or made to somehow catch you in a marginal act leading to enforcement that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. I’d much prefer they spend their resources trying to find causes for all those unknown engine failures.

Of course, if your airplane has no electrical system, like my old Cub, that’s different, isn’t it? (It does have the 1930’s style three-foot N-numbers under the wing, however.) I’m still not doing the bridge thing. Bucket list or not, I’ve never liked explaining myself and I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna start now. Don’t want the time, not doing the crime.


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