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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Now displaying: January, 2018
Jan 29, 2018

Major General Donald W. Shepperd, USAF (Ret.) is president of The Shepperd Group, Inc. He performs independent consulting on defense, strategic planning, executive leadership, information technology and visioning and preparation of executive teams for the 21st century. He was a fighter pilot who flew 247 combat fighter missions in Vietnam. He retired in 1998 from the Pentagon where he served as head of the Air National Guard. He commanded over 110,000 Air National Guard personnel, 1400 aircraft, 88 flying units, and 250 support units spread throughout the 54 states and territories. General Shepperd was a military analyst for CNN.

He is also a writer and provides military commentary for radio in Arizona, Colorado, and the east coast.  He serves on several boards and was an ad hoc member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.

He lives with his wife in Tucson, Arizona. His latest book, Bury Us Upside Down, published by Random House, is available in bookstores and on-line.

Jan 25, 2018

November 28, 2013
0312 Greenwich Mean Time West 87 Degrees
Altitude 4000 Feet


As we continued westward, we maintained radio contact with other aircraft on 123.45. It appeared that the entire electrical grid for the United States was wiped out. No one had any idea what caused it or how long it would take for the system to be restored. It seemed pretty clear to us that once we were on the ground, it would be quite a while before we would be able to travel anywhere.

This was a major concern for Jim and me. While Mark lived locally, in Schaumburg, Jim and I were both commuters, from Denver. Initially, we discussed perhaps renting a car and driving from Chicago to Denver, then reality set in. Without electricity, it would be impossible to rent a car or conduct virtually any other type of financial transaction, since pretty much everything is done with computers and internet connections.

And, even if we could get our hands on a car, we wouldn’t be able to reach Denver on a single tank of gas. The previous year’s aftermath of Hurricane Sandy demonstrated how fragile the fuel infrastructure is. Without electrical power, there was no way we would be able to refuel enroute from Chicago to Denver. So driving home was out of the question.

Mark listened to us discussing our predicament, and finally chimed in.

“Hey, guys, you can stay at my house.”

I wanted to at least make an effort to object, but it would have been totally transparent. He offered his help, and we needed it badly. We accepted his offer. I momentarily felt sorry for his wife and kids. They were expecting Mark to be coming home to their own rescue, and here he would be dragging complete strangers with him. And, with all communications out, there wouldn’t even be any way for him to give them a heads up.

We allowed our FMC to guide us to O’Hare, and set up for a visual approach to Runway 32 Left. I configured the aircraft a bit early, so that we could see if all of the onboard equipment was operating normally. Everything worked pretty much as advertised except for the autobrakes.

The Autobrake System was designed to automatically apply the brakes to slow the airplane at a predetermined, pilot-selectable deceleration level upon landing. It wouldn’t be a problem to use manual brakes and get the airplane stopped on the runway. What concerned me more was the potential for the Anti-skid System to also malfunction, so I would need to be extra careful with manual braking, since I would be the human-powered antiskid. Still, not a problem.

I easily picked out the landmarks along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and set myself up on a long straight-in final approach to Runway 32 Left, using the TCAS to give myself five miles spacing on the aircraft ahead of me. When I was on a three-mile final, I gave a quick call on 123.45, then on 121.5.

“WorldJet Airways 407 on three-mile final to three-two left.”

On short final, I looked over toward the control tower to see if they would flash a green light at me, the backup system to provide landing authorization. Nothing. There was no way to know if there was even anyone in the tower. I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had abandoned the tower hours ago, since there was nothing they could accomplish without any form of communications capability.

After we landed, I cleared the runway and shut down the left engine. My weight was light enough that a one-engine taxi would be no problem, and I wanted to save as much fuel as I could, to operate the APU if necessary. The Auxiliary Power Unit would provide electrical power and air for heating and cooling, if we needed to be self-sufficient for a while, such as remote parking.

We proceeded along the outer taxiway in a counter-clockwise direction to the International Terminal, the only terminal authorized for flights originating out of the United States. I knew from previous experience, inner taxiway goes clockwise, outer taxiway goes counter-clockwise. I just hoped the other airplanes on the ground knew it also.

And there were a lot of airplanes. They were everywhere. From what I could see at the concourses of the main terminal, every parking spot was occupied, probably by aircraft that were on the gate when the power failed.

Frequency 123.45 became the de-facto CB radio, with everyone chiming in on their location and intentions. I could see that there were some open gates at the International Terminal, but the automatic Accu-Park parking system would, obviously, be inoperative.

I picked an empty gate, turned in along the lead-in line painted on the tarmac, and slowly approached the gate. As I got closer, I reached up to the overhead panel and started the APU. Just as I was about to slow to a stop, I saw a mechanic running toward our parking spot, with directional wands in his hands. As he got to our gate, he started marshaling me to the parking spot. When he gave me the “stop” signal, I set the brakes, confirmed that the APU was running, and shut down the right engine. The mechanic plugged his headset into the communication jack in the nose wheel well.

“Welcome to Chicago, Captain. We’ve had an exciting day!”
“So have we. Can you fill me in on what’s going on?” I asked.
“About five hours ago, a huge sun spot storm knocked out all power, pretty much all

over the world, as far as we can tell. Internet, phone lines, everything is out. All of our electronics are fried. The only radios that work are the hand-held transceivers that were in the garage and the baggage sorting area. Not very many. Let me ask you something, Captain. How much fuel do you have?”

“Twenty-two thousand pounds. Why?”

“We’re trying to get an idea how much fuel we have if we need to rob one airplane to fuel another. I’m going to be off headset for a little while to try to get some boarding stairs hooked up to door six left.”

“Why can’t we hook up the loading bridge?”

“The terminal backup power is out, and the loading bridge needs power to position it up to the airplane. Also, even if we had the bridge up to the airplane, we couldn’t use it without power, because the auto-leveler wouldn’t work.”

Of course – the auto-leveler. As people enter or leave an airplane, the weight of the airplane changes, and the auto-leveler adjusts the height of the loading bridge so that it remains at the height of the bottom of the aircraft door. When you offload over two hundred people, the aircraft can raise as much as three feet.

So we waited for portable stairs. At least we had the APU, so we could have electrical power for lighting and services, such as toilet operation. And heating. The sun was starting to go down, and the temperature was dropping quickly. After about an hour, portable stairs were positioned at door four left, and everyone slowly deplaned. It took about forty minutes for everyone to deplane, with all of their carry-on luggage. When everyone was off, I shut down the APU, turned off the Battery Switch, and headed to the back of the airplane, where the stairs were located. The Captain is always the last to leave. No telling when I’d be flying this baby again.

By now it was dark inside the airplane, and I reached into my flight bag, pulled out my new LED flashlight, and pressed the switch. Nothing. I cycled the switch a few more times, with the same results. About this time, the mechanic had entered the plane to make sure everyone had gotten off okay. His flashlight was working fine.

“Is that an LED light, Captain?”
“Yes, but it’s not working.”
“The radiation has wiped out pretty much all the LEDs. If you have HID headlights in

your car, they won’t work, either. As far as I can tell, most of the cars are operating okay, though.”

“Thanks for your help. We have a good ship. The only squawk we have is the autobrakes aren’t working. Other than that, clean bird.”

“Good to hear, Captain. Have a safe trip home.”

A safe trip home. With no way to communicate to the airline planning department, no way to flight plan without weather information, no way for the airline to even know where its planes or pilots were located, no way to communicate to the flight crews or passengers, and a winter storm approaching, a safe trip home would be nice. Really nice.

But it wouldn’t be happening very soon.

Jan 22, 2018

In Ready For Takeoff episode 83 we met Ryan Rankin, a Navy Instructor Pilot who had the goal of flying in 52 different aircraft over the course of one year - one per week. In this episode we catch up with Ryan, to see if he reached his goal and to find out about the exciting and unusual aircraft - airplanes, rotorcraft, and seaplanes - he flew.

Ryan describes how he traveled as far away as Poland in his quest, and he describes some really interesting and exciting rides.

Ryan documented his journey in his website, with photos and videos.

You're going to find his journey fascinating!

Jan 18, 2018

November 28, 2013
2346 Greenwich Mean Time West 60 Degrees
Flight Level 310


It was time to give ATC a call on Guard frequency. We were still over the ocean, but, I estimated, we would be in range of one of the radio facilities on the east coast.

For the previous three hours we had maintained a listening watch on VHF 123.45, and had passed along our information, sparse as it was, to aircraft following us. If this had been a domestic flight, we would have come into contact with aircraft that were headed east, but the NAT tracks only operate in one direction. Flights on the tracks go east at night, usually to arrive in Europe around the time the airport control towers accept arrivals, typically 0600 local time, like Heathrow. Westbound flights operate in the daytime.

From what I could determine, all of the airplanes I had made contact with had exactly the same indications we had, in terms of inoperative equipment. Fortunately, our TCAS was working, since it was dependent only on the operability of onboard equipment. That meant we would be able to visualize nearby aircraft on our TCAS display, and we would all be able to maneuver to avoid midair collisions with other TCAS-equipped aircraft. At these high altitudes, all aircraft were required to have TCAS. It might be a different story altogether when we got lower, as we approached to land,

since light planes didn’t usually have that equipment. But I suspected there wouldn’t be any light planes flying by the time we got to Chicago.

We had a fairly lengthy discussion about exactly where we should land. Given that the meteorological conditions were virtually the same everywhere, arrival weather would likely not be a factor. There was the real potential that, wherever we went, we might not get a gate at the terminal. That would mean remote parking.

The problem with remote parking was that we might not be able to get off the airplane. The 777 sits so high that it takes a special loading bridge or portable stairs to reach up to the aircraft door sill. If we were to divert to an airport that didn’t routinely accept 777s, we could have a problem with our passengers trapped onboard.

That’s what happened when I was flying a trip on September 11, 2001. Like today, weather was crisp and clear all over the United States. When the national aviation emergency was declared, every aircraft was told to land immediately at the nearest airport.

At the time, I had only been a 777 Captain for two years. Two years may sound like a long time, but the 777 is a highly sophisticated airplane, and it takes quite a bit of time for a pilot to fill his bag of tricks on a new airplane. I was flying a domestic trip, from Washington Dulles Airport to Denver International Airport. We were over Kansas when the national emergency was declared. It seemed like a no-brainer to me to continue to Denver, but when the controllers said land immediately, they meant immediately. The closest small blue circle on my cockpit moving map display, denoting a suitable airport, was labeled “KFOE”. From my Boeing 727 days, when I had flown nothing but domestic

trips all over the country, I had remembered that FOE was the VOR identifier for Topeka.

With some great help from my copilot, I had scrambled to program Topeka into our FMC to enable the pressurization system to schedule properly, located the paper approach charts for Topeka that I carried in my “brain bag”, the catalog case that carried all of my documents, and set up for an immediate landing. As I extended the speed brakes and executed an emergency descent, my copilot had made a quick Passenger Address announcement advising everyone on the aircraft that we were making an emergency landing at Topeka.

When we landed at Topeka, the Ground controller advised us that the loading bridges could not accept any aircraft larger than a 727, so we would have to deplane remotely. Then they told us that the only portable stairs they had would be three feet short of our door sill. I still remembered, now eleven years later, how I had stood on the top step of the portable stairs and helped the passengers deplane, one by one. We had three wheelchair passengers that day. It was grim.

I wasn’t going to let that happen again today, if I could help it. The passengers already were aware that something was wrong. About a half hour after the glitch happened, the purser came up to the cockpit.

“Captain, is there something going on that I need to know about? One of our passengers noticed that our airplane symbol isn’t moving on the Airshow moving map display on the passenger video screens. He did a pretty good impression of Scotty from

Star Trek when he said, ‘They have us in a tractor beam.’ Anything wrong besides the Airshow?”

“We’re not sure, Bill. We’ve lost contact with our GPS satellites, and with all ground- based communications facilities. We’re hearing from other airplanes that the power grid is out all across the United States. Right now, we’re planning on continuing on to O’Hare, but that’s subject to change. I’ll keep you posted as soon as I hear anything new. I’ll make a PA announcement to let the folks know what little I know.”

“Thanks, Ham.”

Bill was one of the few Flight Attendants that could get away with calling me by my nickname. We had flown trips together for years, and I had gone to dinner with the cabin crew on numerous layovers. I usually treated the crew. Bill ran a tight ship in the back, and his crew always did an outstanding job of taking care of the passengers.

Several years ago, I had been dead-heading in the cabin on a domestic 737 flight where Bill was the purser when a passenger, an overweight lady in her sixties, had a heart attack. At the time, not all WorldJet Airways planes had Automatic External Defibrillators onboard, and the 737 fleet was the last fleet scheduled to get outfitted with AEDs. We didn’t have any on board. Worse yet, there were no medical personnel among the passengers, and the two other Flight Attendants were new-hires and had not yet gotten CPR qualified. Since I had been trained on Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation as part of my side business as a fitness trainer, I volunteered to help out. Bill and I administered CPR as a team for over 40 minutes while the Captain made an emergency divert to Spokane. By the time the medics got aboard, we were exhausted. But we saved

the lady’s life, and after the passengers deplaned, we were overcome with emotion. I guess when you’ve cried with someone, he can call you by your nickname.

I picked up the PA handset.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Hancock. You may have noticed the moving map display on your video screens is not working properly. That’s because the Global Positioning System signals are not tuning properly. Apparently, there’s also a problem with the domestic power grid, so we may experience some difficulties with the loading bridge after we arrive at Chicago. We don’t know a whole lot more right now, but I’ll keep you posted as we receive additional information.”

That should do it. Keep it short and sweet. For the life of me, I wanted to start out by saying “We have good news and bad news”, but years ago the company had said that was a big no-no. A career-ending no-no. So I kept it short and sweet.

Now it was time to see if Guard frequency was alive. We tuned the left VHF transmitter to 121.5 megahertz, and made a transmission in the blind.

“This is WorldJet Airways 407 on Guard in the blind. Are there any Air Traffic Control facilities reading my transmission?”

No response. I tried several more times, with the same results. It looked like we would be on our own.

Shortly after we passed over the east coast, our Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System, called EICAS, displayed the warning, “Unable RNP”. That meant that the FMC was not able to maintain the Required Navigation Performance. In short, the navigation information from the FMC might not be very accurate.

Fortunately, I could see the ground. As our flight progressed, I was able to identify several airports on the ground that corresponded with the blue airport symbols on my cockpit moving map display, so I knew I was reasonably close to on course. Onward.

Jim, Mark and I had a fairly extensive discussion about where we should land, and I made the decision to proceed on to O’Hare. Landing there would be as safe as landing anywhere else, we had plenty of fuel, and O’Hare was where the passengers, and the airplane, needed to be.




Jan 15, 2018

From Lyle Prouse's website:

This is the story of the first airline pilot ever arrested and sent to prison for flying under the influence. He was fired by his airline, stripped of his FAA licenses, tried, convicted, and sent to Federal prison. This was a first. It had never occurred before.

Lyle Prouse came from a WWII housing project in Kansas and an alcoholic family where both parents died as a result of alcoholism. He rose through the ranks of the United States Marine Corps from private to captain, from an infantryman to a fighter pilot. He made his way to the pinnacle of commercial aviation, airline captain...then lost it all.

Today he is a recovering alcoholic with nearly twenty-two years sobriety. This story describes his rise from the ashes of complete destruction from which he was never to fly again. It is full of miracles which defy all manner of odds.

In a long and arduous journey, he eventually regained his FAA licenses. He never fought his termination; he considered it fair and appropriate.

Miraculously, after nearly four years, the President/CEO of his airline personally reinstated him to full flight despite the adverse publicity and embarrassment.

In effect, the President/CEO gambled his own career by taking such a risk on a convicted felon and publicly acknowledged alcoholic pilot.

In another stunning event, the judge who tried, sentenced, and sent him to prison watched his journey and reappeared eight years after the trial. He became the driving force behind a Presidential pardon although he'd never supported a petition for pardon in all his years on the bench.

Lyle retired honorably as a 747 captain for the airline he'd so horribly embarrassed and disgraced. He lives with his wife of nearly forty-nine years and has five grandchildren.

He continues to work with all the major airlines in their alcohol programs. He is also active in his Native American community, and he provides hope to those struggling with the disease of alcoholism, no matter who they are or where they are.

Lyle has documented his fall, and his redemption, in his fascinating memoir, Final Approach.



Jan 10, 2018

November 28, 2013
2013 Greenwich Mean Time West 30 Degrees
Flight Level 310


I had just drifted off to sleep, with the rhythmic undulations of the aircraft gently rocking me to sleep, when there was a loud knock on the bunk door. Calling the claustrophobic space a bunk was a stretch, but at least it provided the opportunity to get a power nap while my two copilots manned the cockpit. I opened the door and swung my legs to the aisle floor, being careful not to completely sit up so I wouldn’t hit my head on the bottom of the upper bunk.

I blinked against the light in the narrow hallway between the passenger cabin and the cockpit as I let my eyes adjust. Bill Burton, our Purser, was standing in the hallway.

“Captain Hancock, the crew called me to wake you. You’re needed in the cockpit immediately.”

“Thanks, Bill. Could you please send up a coffee, black with Splenda?”
“Right away, sir.”
My mind raced to clear the cobwebs as I tried to envision what the problem was. I

could fully appreciate what the Captain of Air France 447 must have experienced, as he was awakened from his crew rest and rushed to the cockpit as his airplane was falling out of the sky. Two minutes later, he was dead, along with everyone else on his plane.

But this was different. Unlike Air France 447, we were operating in daylight hours. At night, every emergency is at least twice as difficult to handle. More important, we were in a Boeing 777, not the Airbus 340 that Air France 447 flew. Every time I thought of 447, I muttered to myself, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going”.

I entered the cockpit access code into the keypad on the door lock and waited for the crew to unlock the fortified door. Mary, the First Class Flight Attendant, had arrived behind me with a Styrofoam cup of coffee. I took a quick sip, and the fog instantly started to clear from my mind. Obviously, my degree of sleepiness or wakefulness was totally psychological.

Jim Johnson, the copilot assigned to the left seat, peered through the viewport and opened the door. I swiftly entered.

“What’s up, guys?”

“Sir, we’re having a lot of different problems,” said Mark Mason, my other copilot. “They all happened at the same time, about ten minutes ago. And they all seem unrelated.”

“Okay,” I replied, “let’s go over them one by one. What’s the most serious?”
“ Well,” Jim answered, “we lost our GPS positioning. Both of them.”
That was unusual. Really unusual. The 777 has enough redundancy in its systems

that if one component fails, another will pick up the slack. I’d been flying the 777 for over ten years, and never had a Global Position System fail. The odds against both failing were astronomical.

But it wasn’t that big a deal, really. The Flight Management Computers on the airplane would simply compute our present position, groundspeed and wind vector from the Inertial Reference Units. The IRUs were much more accurate than the Inertial Navigation Systems like we had in the older airplanes. An INS will get you position accuracy within a few miles after a 10-hour flight like ours, while an IRU will get you within a hundred feet. And once we were over land, instead of the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where we presently were, the FMC would use land-based navigation transmitters, VORs, to update our position.

My copilots were too young to remember when we didn’t have “glass” cockpits, with moving-map displays and GPS positioning. During our layover in London, when we’d been doing some “hangar flying” at the hotel bar, they’d confided to me that they’d never flown anything but glass. Even their basic flight training airplanes had glass instruments. Using old-fashion round dials, like I’d been flying with for most of my forty-year career, would be an emergency procedure for them.

“Okay,” I responded, “not that big a problem. What else?”

“ At 30 west we couldn’t get CPDLC to work, and we’ve been unable to raise Gander on either HF or VHF.”

“Did you try the left, right and center radios for both VHF and HF?” I asked. “Yes,sir,” Jim responded,. “tried them all. Nothing.”
That could be a problem, but not a show-stopper. The Controller-Pilot Data Link

Communications System was the airborne equivalent of sending emails back and forth between aircraft and Air Traffic Control. CPDLC made it much easier to talk to ATC

than trying to make contact on the radio through static and interference from other aircraft transmissions. Our fallback communications method would be what we used back in the old days – voice transmissions on the radio, using either HF or VHF. It was really unusual for both radio systems, with their triple redundancy, to be inoperative.

Fortunately, the weather was severe clear. I looked ahead and could see an Air Canada 767 a thousand feet below us, slightly ahead, our speeds perfectly matched. Well ahead I could see contrails, those white trails that form when an aircraft disturbs the air and causes ice crystals to form, that indicated where we would be flying next. All aircraft on North Atlantic routes, called NAT Tracks, flew on assigned flight paths at specifically-assigned speeds. There were additional tracks every thirty miles north and south of our route.

I could see the other aircraft on our Traffic Collision and Avoidance System, called TCAS, and everyone seemed to be on course with no problems.

“Have you tried 12345?” I asked.

“Not yet,” Jim answered, “We thought we’d get your input before we went outside our airplane.”

That was a good call. It could have been something as simple as a couple of popped circuit breakers, and there was no reason to tell the world yet. I instinctively glanced at the overhead circuit breaker panel. None were tripped. I moved my transmitter selector to the right VHF radio, which was tuned to the oceanic inter-plane frequency of 123.45 megahertz.

“This is WorldJet Airways 407 on 12345. Is anybody up on frequency?”

“Hello, WorldJet Airways, this is Air Canada 332, a bit past 30 west. We’re having problems contacting Gander on any of their frequencies, and we’ve lost our GPS. And our SATCOM isn’t working also. Are you having the same problems?”

“That’s affirmative,” I answered, “We have no comm with our company on ACARS also.”

The Arinc Communication and Reporting System was an automatic data link with our company headquarters. Theoretically, we could maintain communications with our company anywhere in the world with either ACARS or the Satellite Communications system. When Air Canada mentioned SATCOM, Mark pointed at the Satellite Communications control panel and gave me a thumbs down signal.

“Same here.”

“WorldJet Airways and Air Canada, this is Delta 883. We’re about sixty miles ahead of you. Did you hear US Air’s transmission?”

“Delta, this is WorldJet Airways 407. Negative. Would you relay for us?”

“Roger, WorldJet Airways. US Air said that the word is being passed along that there’s been an EMP attack. No one is in contact with ATC, and we’re all pretty much on our own.”

An Electro Magnetic Pulse attack, the detonation of a nuclear weapon at high altitude over the United Airways States, could wipe out the entire power grid of the country in the blink of an eye. There’d been stories about the Iranians planning something like that, and the subject had been in the news recently when Boeing had announced that they had developed a drone that could do the same thing to an enemy

on a more local scale. But something about the EMP attack story didn’t sound quite right.

“Wait a minute, guys,” I transmitted, “an EMP attack wouldn’t knock out our GPS satellites. I think it might be something else, like sun spot activity.”

“This is Delta 883. You’re right, WorldJet Airways. I’ll pass this up ahead and see if anyone has any more information.”

I heard Delta relay my message, then I heard an intermittent, scratchy retransmission from an airplane ahead of him. Maybe one of the planes ahead of us would get more information. We had our own airplane to worry about.

“Jim, do you have the WBM?”
“Here you go, boss.”
I looked at all five pages of the Weather Briefing Message. It was like I always said:
I’d rather be lucky than good. Severe clear weather over the entire eastern half of the United States, from Colorado east, for the next two days. A winter storm was predicted in a couple of days, but right now it was smooth sailing. This was great news. If the power grid was out, there was no telling if the backup systems at all the airports would be operational. We may have navigation signals, we may not. At least it was daytime, and the weather was good. We’d be able to make a visual approach to wherever we were going to land.

Chicago O’Hare Airport, our destination, was always hectic, even when communications were working. Even on a good day when everything was going smoothly, the ATC controllers usually sounded more like tobacco auctioneers than tower operators. If there was any snag in communications, it was going to get pretty hairy.

I looked at the O’Hare forecast. The wind was going to be from the west. At an airport that’s not very busy, that would most likely mean landing to the west. At O’Hare, unless the wind was greater than 10 knots, takeoff and landing directions were not so set in stone. My guess was that we’d be using Runway 32 Left, 32 Right, 27 Left or 27 Right. Depended on which runway they were using for takeoffs.

But wait. If communications were out, there wouldn’t be any takeoffs. Only landings. That meant our potential conflicts had just been cut in half. Things were starting to look up. I turned to Jim and Mark.

“Okay, guys, I think there’s been some kind of event that’s taken out most of the radios and the power grid. Is anything else on the airplane inop?”

“The only other thing I noticed is the EFBs aren’t working,” Jim said. “I think they quit around the same time as the GPS.”

I looked down at my Electronic Flight Bag. The screen was black, unpowered. Unlike when we carried 40 or 50 pounds of paper charts and maps in our “brain bags”, the leather catalog cases pilots had carried since the beginning of commercial aviation, all of our flight documents were now in our EFBs, with backup copies in the iPads we’d recently been authorized to use in the cockpit.

I looked on the overhead circuit breaker panel and found the EFB-L and EFB-R circuit breakers and pulled them out. One potato, two potato, three potato. I pushed them back in. It would take a few minutes to see if recycling the breakers would get the Left and Right EFBs back in operation.

“Jim,” I said, “check your iPad. We may need to use the charts in there.”

“Bad news, Ham,” he answered. “I tried cranking it up a few minutes ago, and all I got was a black screen with the Apple logo. I tried both of the others, too, and none of them are working.”

“Hamilton,” Mark said, “why would some of our equipment work and some not?”

“Most of our electronics,” I answered, “are in the lower electronics bay. That area is well shielded, and the airplane itself acts pretty much like a Faraday cage. The electronics in the cockpit, like the iPads, aren’t so well protected because of all of the windows. My guess, and it’s just a guess, is that there was some form of event, like a sun spot, that caused a glitch. When we get closer to land, within radio range of the States, we’ll try Guard frequency. I suspect that Guard transmitters have some sort of power backup, and they’re probably well shielded. We’ll just have to wait.”

Mark and Jim silently nodded. After about three minutes, the EFBs came back to life. At least we’d have our charts. It was going to be at least three more hours before we were within range of any American or Canadian radio stations.

It was going to be a long three hours.


Jan 6, 2018

MAJOR GENERAL (RET) PAT BRADY served over thirty-four years in the Army in duty stations across the world: In Berlin during the building of the Wall; as commander of the DMZ in Korea, in the Dominican Republic; in the Pentagon as chief spokesman for the Army and for two years in Viet Nam. In two tours in Viet Nam he rescued over five thousand wounded and flew over twenty-five hundred combat missions. He is identified in the Encyclopedia of the Viet Nam War as the top helicopter pilot in that war and is one of two Viet Nam soldiers to earn both the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation's second highest award. Some pundits also identify him as the most decorated living veteran. His awards include: Two Distinguished Service Medals; the Defense Superior Service Medal; the Legion of Merit; six Distinguished Flying Crosses; two Bronze Stars, one for valor; the Purple Heart and fifty-three Medals, one for valor. He is a member of both the Army Aviation and Dust Off Halls of Fame. Brady is a former president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and a past Commissioner of the Battle Monuments Commission during the construction of the WWII memorial. General Brady has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Seattle University and an MBA from Notre Dame University.

Jan 2, 2018

Every time you fly a visual or instrument approach you will be flying a nominal-3 degree flight path. This podcast covers several techniques to fly a 3-degree final approach, whether you have glide slope guidance, such as an ILS, or simply referring to visual cues.Since the glideslope on most ILS installations and the desired visual glide path is 3 degrees, we will look at ways to easily fly a 3-degree glide path.

A 3-degree glide path is equal to an altitude loss of 300 feet per mile. Considering that a nominal threshold crossing height (TCH) is 50 feet, the proper glide path would be an altitude of 350 feet above ground level (AGL) at a distance of one mile from the runway, 650 feet AGL at 2 miles, and 1000 feet AGL at 3 miles (I'm a pilot, so I try to simplify things!). If you know your distance from the runway and the elevation of the airport, it's fairly easy to keep yourself on the right path. You can determine your distance from the runway using GPS, VOR/DME or visual references.

The vertical speed (VSI) (in feet per minute - FPM) to arrive at a 3-degree flight path is one-half your groundspeed in knots times 10. For example, if your groundspeed is 100 knots, your VSI for a 3-degree flight path would be 500 FPM. It's important to note that this is GROUNDSPEED, not airspeed.

You can determine your groundspeed from your GPS (if you have one) or by calculating your true airspeed (TAS) and subtracting your headwind. To calculate your TAS, you can estimate it by increasing your indicated (or calibrated) airspeed by 2 percent for every 1000 feet of altitude. So if your IAS is 100 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS) and you are at 5000 feet MSL, your TAS would be 110 KIAS. You can estimate your headwind by taking the headwind component at the runway and increasing it by about 20 percent. In this example for a 100 KIAS approach flown at 5000 feet MSL with a 20 knot headwind, you have a groundspeed of 90 knots, and would descent at 450 FPM.

If you do not have an ILS receiver and are approaching a runway served by an ILS, you can fly toward the runway in level flight, configured and at final approach airspeed, until reaching the outer marker (OM), then simply lower the nose 3 degrees.