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: 2020
Mar 12, 2020

World Health Organization designates COVID-19 a pandemic.


Stock market tanks, enters bear market territory.


Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson test positive for COVID-19.


A passenger on a JetBlue flight tested positive for COVID-19, and fellow travelers were not quarantined!


NBA suspends season after one player tests positive.


Schools closing.


Colleges transitioning to online only.


All travel from Europe suspended for 30 days.


Some airlines canceling new-hire classes until Summer.


Unrelated: oil prices tank.

Mar 9, 2020

Juan Browne started his flying career as a teenager. He bought his first airplane when he was 15 years old, and has bought and sold dozens of airplanes since.


He earned his A&P license right after graduating high school, then attended college on a ROTC scholarship. After graduation, he was commissioned in the Air Force and attended Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Williams Air Force Base.


After UPT, Juan became a T-37 Instructor Pilot at Mather Air Force Base. His next assignment was flying the C-141, and he quickly rose to Aircraft Commander, flying all over the world, nonstop using air refueling.


He next flew C-130 aircraft with the Reno Air National Guard, and finally secured a job as an airline pilot.


Juan hosts the Blancolirio YouTube channel, with over 1000 videos uploaded.

Mar 5, 2020

The B737 has an interesting stabilizer trim system, which operates at four different speeds.


Main Electric Trim

   Flaps Up: .2 units per second

   Flaps Down: .4 units per second

   Autopilot Trim

   Flaps Up: .09 units per second

   Flaps Down: .27 units per second


On the -300 and later models, there is a system called Speed Trim, which provides trim inputs during low speed operations with low gross weight, and aft center of gravity. It is most frequently observed during takeoffs and go-arounds. Conditions for the system to operate are:


  Airspeed 100-300 KIAS


10 seconds after liftoff


  5 seconds following release of trim switches


  N1 above 60%


  Autopilot not on


  Sensing of trim requirement

Feb 29, 2020

Christina “Thumper” Hopper grew up in an Air Force family where both of her parents enlisted and served.  Her parents’ interracial marriage encountered harsh discrimination and Thumper experienced the demoralizing effects of racism on her first day of kindergarten. The shame and rejection she felt from this left a mark on her life that forever changed her.  She could have become bitter, depressed, and victimized, but instead through the wisdom, support and love of her parents, she developed a deep faith in God and the power of love, joy and purpose to overcome great obstacles.  

When the opportunity to fly combat fighter aircraft opened for women, Thumper was in college.  She had never considered an aviation career and didn’t think it was an option for her, but her ROTC Commander encouraged her to apply for a pilot slot.  After having a vivid dream about flying, Thumper took a step of faith and applied to pilot training where she earned an assignment to the F-16 Fighting Falcon and blazed a historic trail for women in aviation. She was among the first generation of women in fighters, one of only two black female fighter pilots in the Air Force, the first black female fighter pilot in a major war and the first black female fighter instructor pilot.  She served in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom and earned 4 Air Medals. Her story appeared in multiple media venues including the Harry Connick Jr. Show, 700 Club, and Good Housekeeping, Glamour, and Ebony magazines. She was also featured in Family Circle magazine as one of the Top 20 Most Influential Moms of 2018.  

Sport also played a huge role in shaping Thumper’s life.  At a young age, she took up competitive swimming and developed a strong sense of self worth, drive and discipline through competition.  Her success in swimming enabled her to compete at the collegiate level and set the stage for her ongoing competitive endeavors. After having three children, Thumper took up long distance running and triathlon at age 34.  She completed the Boston marathon twice, conquered IRONMAN Kona and the half-IRONMAN World Championships, and she currently competes as part of the Air Force triathlon team.  Through sport, Thumper learned to do hard things, overcome adversity, and make “impossible” things possible. 

Today, Thumper continues to inspire the next generation of fighter pilots as a Reserve T-38 Instructor Pilot.  She also flies for a major airline and raises three beautiful children with her husband Aaron, a retired Air Force F-16 pilot and airline pilot.  Doing hard things pervades every aspect of the Hoppers lives including their efforts to balance work, life, sport and giving back to the community.  

She also volunteers for Sisters of the Skies.

Feb 27, 2020

From CNN Travel:


A woman who's become an icon in the debate over whether it's OK to recline your airplane seat said she was "scared to death" by how a flight attendant handled her painful ordeal.Wendi Williams, who said she's a teacher in Virginia Beach, tweeted footage of a man repeatedly hitting the back of her reclined seat with his fist during an American Airlines flight in January.But what viewers saw in the video wasn't even the worst of it, Williams told CNN's "New Day.” A passenger filmed a man repeatedly pushing her reclined seat with his fist. Who's wrong here? Before she started shooting, the man behind her "started punching me in the back, hard," Williams said Tuesday."I tried to get the flight attendants' attention. They were not paying attention, so I started videoing him. That was the only thing that I could think of to get him to stop."Earlier in the flight from New Orleans to Charlotte, Williams said the man behind her asked "with an attitude" to return her seat to the upright position so he could eat from the tray table, she said.She obliged and moved her seat back up. But when the man was done eating, Williams said she reclined her seat once again.That's when he started "hammering away," she said. "He was angry that I reclined my seat and punched it about 9 times - HARD," Williams tweeted.


She also tweeted that she was injured, and that the incident caused pain."I have 1 cervical disk left that isn't fused," she wrote."I've lost time at work, had to visit a doctor, got X-rays, and have has [sic] horrible headaches for a week."After she started filming the man, "he did stop punching as hard," she told CNN. "So it did work to a certain degree."But Williams said she was stunned by what happened when she tried to get a flight attendant to help.She said she tried to alert a flight attendant as soon as the punching started. But the employee "rolled her eyes" at Williams and offered the man she accused of hitting her seat some complimentary rum, Williams tweeted.<a href=""></a>The great reclining debate: Is it OK to push your seat back?After that, the flight attendant handed her a stern form letter, titled "Passenger Disturbance Notice.""Notice: YOUR BEHAVIOR MAY BE IN VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW," the letter reads."You should immediately cease if you wish to avoid prosecution and your removal from this aircraft at the next point of arrival.""It was shocking," Williams told CNN."I think the more calm I remained, (the flight attendant) got angrier and more aggravated. So she said, 'I'm not talking to you anymore. I'm done with you,' or 'I'm done with this,' something to that effect, and then handed me this passenger disturbance notice."After that, the flight attendant told her, "'I will have you escorted off the plane if you say anything else. Delete the video,'" Williams said. "And I was scared to death."She said she's looking into possible legal action.In a statement to CNN, American Airlines said it was aware of the January 31 "customer dispute" aboard American Eagle flight 4392, operated by Republic Airways.<a href=""> </a>"The safety and comfort of our customers and team members is our top priority, and our team is looking into the issue," American said. Airline passengers are entitled to "fly rights," outlined by the US Department of Transportation, when they buy a plane ticket. Those ensure airlines will do things like provide passengers with water when delayed on the tarmac or, if overbooked, ask passengers for volunteers before others are bumped off involuntarily.But comfort and personal space are not among those rights.Air travel dos and don'ts are wildly divisive and regularly broken. Everything from who has ownership over the armrest (etiquette experts told CNN in 2014 the passenger in the middle seat gets both) to which animals qualify as "emotional support" creatures (a new federal proposal would ban ESAs like peacocks, potbelly pigs and iguanas from flights) have ignited fierce debate.Still, there's an expectation that when you fly, you'll respect other passengers and make the best of your cramped surroundings.Punching the back of a passenger's seat is impolite, according to many of the people who responded on Williams' Twitter feed. But was Williams in the wrong, too, for encroaching on the man's already limited personal space?Lilit Marcus, CNN Travel's Hong Kong-based editor, wrote in November that reclining should be reserved for "special occasions.""Reclining is a way of asserting that your travel needs, and only yours, matter," she wrote. "People are fine with doing it, but no one likes it when it happens to them.”


Delta CEO gives advice on seat reclining. Several of them told CNN in December that reclining is rude, particularly for passengers seated in economy class who already have restricted leg room. One reader said that because of her body type, if the passenger in front of her reclines their seat, she loses the ability to use the tray table to work while flying. Even Delta Air Lines' CEO has weighed in. In April 2019, Delta retrofitted many of its jets to reduce how far the coach and first-class seats could recline. A spokeswoman told CNN it was part of the airline's "continued efforts to make the in-flight experience more enjoyable." "It's all about protecting customers' personal space and minimizing disruptions to multitasking in-flight," the spokesperson said at the time. In an appearance on CNBC, company CEO Ed Bastian said while he doesn't recline his seat in the sky, people should have the right to -- as long as they ask permission."If you're going to recline into somebody, you ask if it's OK first," Bastian said. "I never recline, because I don't think it's something as CEO I should be doing, and I never say anything if someone reclines into me."

Feb 24, 2020

From Pasadena Now:


United States Air Force Lt. Col. Nicola “Rogue” Polidor makes history in Pasadena on New Year’s Day as the first female pilot ever to fly the B2 Stealth bomber over the opening of the Rose Parade. The 8:03 a.m. B-2 flyover kicks off the Parade and Pasadena’s first day of a new decade.




Polidor told Pasadena Now she and her crew “are honored to conduct these flyovers and we will remember it for the rest of our lives.”

Her career achievements embody the theme of the 2020 Rose Parade, “Power of Hope.”

The B-2 flyover has become a 15-year annual highlight as the Rose Parade steps off. This year’s 8 a.m. “Opening Spectacular” performance featuring Latin Grammy winner Ally Brooke of Fifth Harmony, and Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Farruko, along with 19-time Grammy winner Emilio Estefan and the Chino Hills High School drumline, will be followed by the flyover.

The 509th Bomb Wing, based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, announced Polidor will be piloting the B-2 with Maj. Justin “Rocky” Spencer.



Chelsea Ecklebe, Chief of Command Information said, the B-2 takes off from Whiteman and flies over Pasadena twice today, once for the parade at 8:03 a.m. and then at 2:04 p.m. for the game.

“We will fly the B-2 for a 13-hour mission in order to conduct the two flyovers,” Ecklebe confirmed.

A California native, Polidor, who goes by the call sign “Rogue,” became an aviator in 2004 a few months after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy. In 2011, she became the sixth woman to pilot the B-2 bomber, the world’s most advanced aircraft.

Polidor recalled that she wanted to fly since she was a little girl. When she was 12 years old, her and her mother toured Edwards Air Force Base.

“I was captivated when I saw the SR-71. It was such a unique airplane that represented technology and speed. When the B-2 was designed it was on the cutting edge of technology. It is very exciting to be part of a team that combines that with combat capabilities at the tip of the spear.”

Polidor started taking a serious interest in flying as a teenager, and had hundreds of magazine cutouts taped all over her bedroom walls – not of boy bands or heartthrobs from popular TV shows, but of airplanes!

She had pictures of small, big, commercial, military, all types of aircraft, she recalls.

“The fast, elusive military jets really captivated me,” she said in a profile statement released by her unit.

She actually started flying lessons at 14, and was soon flying a Cessna, taking instructions from a Finnish woman who was an Alaskan bush pilot by trade.

“She had a profound influence on me,” Polidor says. “I’ll never forget being able to solo a Cessna because of her guidance. The fact that she was a female, professional pilot, especially given her generation, was an unspoken, subtle inspiration that I could do anything I wanted.”

Throughout the B-2 bomber’s 30-year history, only 498 pilots have qualified to fly the long-range stealth aircraft. Only 10 of those pilots have been female, from the first, retired Lt. Col. Jennifer “Wonder” Avery, who was the 278th pilot to qualify and the only female to have flown the stealth bomber in combat, to Capt. Lauren Kram, who graduated from Initial Qualification Training in October.

Lt. Col. Polidor is currently Commander of Detachment 5, 29th Training Systems Squadron at Whiteman AFB. Three other women who are B-2 pilots are assigned to the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman, making this the highest number of female B-2 pilots that have been assigned to Whiteman AFB at one time.

There are several ways to become a B-2 pilot, Polidor pointed out, but generally speaking, it takes about 2 years to qualify in the B-2, including Air Force pilot training, Whiteman T-38 training, and B-2 initial qualification training.

Every B-2 pilot is a graduate of a rigorous six-month training program. The Initial Qualification Training program includes 266 hours of academics, 30 exams, 46 simulator missions and 10 flights in the B-2 Spirit. After graduation, the newly minted stealth pilots continue with Mission Qualification Training, a program designed to train aviators in tactically employing the aircraft.

When she first began flying, Nicky Polidor said she just tried to fit in. Today, she is treated like any other pilot, but she is more aware of workforce dynamics and the role gender plays when it comes to policies, pay and retention.

“I am encouraged to think that society is evolving, and one day soon the reaction to me saying, ‘I fly the B2’ isn’t ‘They let women do that?!’ anymore,” Polidor said.

Aside from the B-2 bomber, Polidor has also flown the DA-20 light aircraft while training at the Air Force Academy, and later the T-37 and T-38 jets. She has also flown the B-52 Stratofortress at the time she was assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Not including her cadet training time, Polidor has accumulated over 1,500 flying hours among these different aircraft types.

Looking towards the future, Polidor said, “I am personally very interested in space flight and working at JPL would be wonderful!”

In 2015, Lt. Col. Polidor was selected as an Olmsted Scholar where she earned a Master of Social Sciences in China and Asia Pacific Studies in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. In her last assignment, she served as Chief of Safety for the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB.

When Polidor’s B-2 flies over the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game, a team of officers from the Pasadena Police Department’s Air Operations Unit coordinate with the pilots and the U.S. Air Force ground crew to make sure communications are working and the airspace above the parade and the game is “de-conflicted,” meaning the space is clear from all other aircraft.

“This has been the procedure for several years,” Pasadena Police Lt. Bill Grisafe said. “Additionally, a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) has been put into place above both events so as to assist in securing the airspace.”

Speaking during the International Women’s Day celebration on March 8, Nicky Polidor said:

“What I would like to pass on to my daughter is that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to, much like my mother taught me. My children see both of their parents put on flight suits every day and go to work. I want them to grow up in a world where that is normal and that they can accomplish whatever they strive for.”

Feb 21, 2020

The CI is the ratio of the time-related cost of an airplane operation and the cost of fuel. The value of the CI reflects the relative effects of fuel cost on overall trip cost as compared to time-related direct operating costs. In equation form: CI = Time cost ~ $/hr Fuel cost ~ cents/lb.. The flight crew enters the company calculated CI into the control display unit (CDU) of the FMC. The FMC then uses this number and other performance parameters to calculate economy (ECON) climb, cruise, and descent speeds. For all models, entering zero for the CI results in maximum range airspeed and minimum trip fuel. This speed schedule ignores the cost of time. Conversely, if the maximum value for CI is entered, the FMC uses a minimum time speed schedule. This speed schedule calls for maximum flight envelope speeds, and ignores the cost of fuel.


In practice, neither of the extreme CI values is used; instead, many operators use values based on their specific cost structure, modified if necessary for individual route requirements. As a result, CI will typically vary among models, and may also vary for individual routes. Clearly, a low CI should be used when fuel costs are high compared to other operating costs. The FMC calculates coordinated ECON climb, cruise, and descent speeds from the entered CI. To comply with Air Traffic Control require­ments, the airspeed used during descent tends to be the most restricted of the three flight phases. The descent may be planned at ECON Mach/Calibrated Air Speed (CAS) (based on the CI) or a manually entered Mach/CAS. Vertical Navigation (VNAV) limits the maximum target speed as follows: n 737-300/-400/-500/-600/-700/-800/-900: The maximum airspeed is velocity maximum operating/Mach maximum operating (VMO/MMO) (340 CAS/.82 Mach). The FMC-generated speed targets are limited to 330&nbsp;CAS in descent to provide margins to VMO. The VMO value of 340 CAS may be entered by the pilot to eliminate this margin. n 747-400: 349 knots (VMO/MMO minus 16 knots) or a pilot-entered speed greater than 354 knots (VMO/MMO minus 11 knots). n 757: 334 knots (VMO/MMO minus 16 knots) or a pilot-entered speed greater than 339 knots (VMO/MMO minus 11 knots). n 767: 344 knots (VMO/MMO minus 16 knots) or a pilot-entered speed greater than 349 knots (VMO/MMO minus 11 knots). n 777: 314 knots (VMO/MMO minus 16 knots) or a pilot-entered speed greater than 319 knots (VMO/MMO minus 11 knots). FMCs also limit target speeds appropriately for initial buffet and limit thrust. Figure 3 illustrates the values for a typical 757 flight. Factors Affecting Cost index As stated earlier, entering a CI of zero in the FMC and flying that profile would result in a minimum fuel flight and entering a maximum CI in the FMC and flying that profile would result in a minimum time flight. However, in practice, the CI used by an operator for a particular flight falls within these two extremes. Factors affecting the CI include timerelated direct operating costs and fuel costs.


The numerator of the CI is often called time-related direct operating cost (minus the cost of fuel). Items such as flight crew wages can have an hourly cost associated with them, or they may be a fixed cost and have no variation with flying time. Engines, auxiliary power units, and airplanes can be leased by the hour or owned, and maintenance costs can be accounted for on airplanes by the hour, by the calendar, or by cycles. As a result, each of these items may have a direct hourly cost or a fixed cost over a calendar period with limited or no correlation to flying time. In the case of high direct time costs, the airline may choose to use a larger CI to minimize time and thus cost. In the case where most costs are fixed, the CI is potentially very low because the airline is primarily trying to minimize fuel cost. Pilots can easily understand minimizing fuel consumption, but it is more difficult to understand minimizing cost when something other than fuel dominates.


The cost of fuel is the denominator of the CI ratio. Although this seems straightforward, issues such as highly variable fuel prices among the operating locations, fuel tankering, and fuel hedging can make this calculation complicated. A recent evaluation at an airline yielded some very interesting results. A rigorous study was made of the optimal CI for the 737 and MD-80 fleets for this par­ticular operator. The optimal CI was determined to be 12 for all 737 models, and 22 for the MD-80. The potential annual savings to the airline of changing the CI is between US$4 million and $5 million a year with a negligible effect on schedule.


CI can be an extremely useful way to manage operating costs. Because CI is a function of both fuel and nonfuel costs, it is important to use it appropriately to gain the greatest benefit. Appro­priate use varies with each airline, and perhaps for each flight. Boeing Flight Operations Engineering assists airlines’ flight operations departments in computing an accurate CI that will enable them to minimize costs on their routes. 

Feb 17, 2020

Captain Charlie Plumb has lived what he believes to be the American Dream. As a farm kid from Kansas, he fantasized about airplanes, although he felt certain he would never have the opportunity to pilot one. It would be the United States Navy who afforded Plumb the opportunity to live out that dream.

After graduating from the Naval Academy, Plumb completed Navy Flight Training and reported to Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego where he flew the first adversarial flights in the development of what would be called The Navy Fighter Weapons School, currently known as “TOP GUN.” The next year, Plumb’s squadron the Aardvarks launched on the Aircraft Carrier USS Kitty Hawk with Fighter Squadron 114 to fly the Navy’s hottest airplane, the F-4 Phantom Jet. Code named “Plumber,” Charlie Plumb flew 74 successful combat missions over North Vietnam and made over 100 carrier landings.

On his 75th mission, just five days before the end of his tour, Plumb was shot down over Hanoi, taken prisoner, tortured, and spent the next 2,103 days in an 8-by-8 foot cell as a Prisoner Of War. During his nearly six years of captivity, Plumb distinguished himself as a pro in underground communications. He was a great inspiration to all the other POWs and served as chaplain for two years.

Following his repatriation, Plumb continued his Navy flying career in Reserve Squadrons where he flew A-4 Sky Hawks, A-7 Corsairs and FA-18 Hornets. His last two commands as a Naval Reservist were on the Aircraft Carrier Corral Sea and at a Fighter Air Wing in California. He retired from the United States Navy after 28 years of service.

Since his return home, Plumb has captivated more than 5,000 audiences in almost every industry around the world with stories that parallel his POW experience with the challenges of everyday life.

To this day, Captain Plumb continues to fly left seat at every opportunity. The most treasured plane he owns and flies is a WWII PT-19 Open-Cockpit antique which is currently on loan to the Commemorative Airforce Museum in Camarillo, CA. He also owns a Rutan-designed experimental single-engine Long-Eze.

Feb 13, 2020

Be sure to listen in on my interview on the 21Five Podcast!

On two separate recent occasions, A-350 aircraft have experienced engine failures following liquid spills on the cockpit pedestal. In another case, an aircraft had to divert from an oceanic flight due to a liquid spill.

This is not a new problem. It was described in Ernest K. Gann's novel Fate Is The Hunter, and dramatized in the 1964 movie of the same name (below).

I experienced a similar situation when I was a B737-200 First Officer. The flight attendant brought up two cups of coffee on a night flight to New Orleans, and handed them to us over the pedestal. I carefully carried my cup to the cup-holder next to the sliding window. The Captain was not so lucky. As he turned to thank the flight attendant, he spilled the entire cup of coffee onto the pedestal. The flight attendant brought up some napkins, and we dried up the mess.

A few minutes later, the number one VHF navigation receiver failed. We were in instrument conditions, and fortunately the other navigation receiver continued to operate.

Back then, cockpit cups were not provided with lids. Today they are.

To avoid cockpit spills, adhere to some common-sense rules:

Instruct flight attendants to always put lids on cups.

Instruct flight attendants to never pass liquids over the pedestal or any "glass cockpit" controls.

Secure all beverages away from instruments during periods of turbulence.

Feb 10, 2020

Sharon “Betty” Preszler was hand-picked as one member of the initial cadre of women fighter pilots in the United Stated Air Force.  She was the first woman to fly the F-16 (a single seat, single engine fighter), the first woman to fly combat missions and instruct in the F-16.  Betty has over 1300 hours in the F-16, including over 50 combat hours in Iraq and one ejection, due to electrical failure. In her 20+ years of service in the US Air Force she was also a navigator, piloted a Lear Jet, and spent time in North American Aerospace Defense Command writing our homeland defense plans after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, plans that are still in use today.  

After retiring from the Air Force, Betty went to work for Southwest Airlines, where she has flown over 8,000 hours in a Boeing-737.  When she isn’t flying, Betty is traveling or scuba diving with her husband and son, volunteering at a local animal shelter, or hanging out at home with her two dogs.

Feb 7, 2020

Corona Virus is affecting expat employment. Cathay Pacific airlines is asking 27,000 employees to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave.

In the mean-time, 10,000 Americans have died from influenza this season.

With Corona Virus captivating the news, it's worth taking a look at travel health.

Whether you're traveling to Asia (where most cases of Corona Virus currently are reported) or some other part of the world, including domestic, you should take reasonable precautions to safeguard your health while traveling.

Buy some alcohol wipes. You can buy a 4-pack of 80-count Lysol wipes for $15. If you want individually-packed wipes, you can buy 16-count alcohol wipe packs for $1 each at DollarTree!

When you travel, wipe down everything you touch! On the airplane, that means the seat belt buckle, the arm rests, the tray table, the air vent, the safety information card, the magazines in the seat pocket, everything!

Don't shake hands with anyone - use a "knuckle-bump" instead.

When you get to your hotel, wipe down everything in your room: the telephone, the remote control, the toilet flush handle, all surfaces, and all items you plan to hold.

Feb 3, 2020

Colonel Walter Watson USAF (Retired) was born in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the oldest of four children of the late Walter L. Watson, Sr. and Mildred Platt Watson. He attended public schools in Richland School District One and graduated from C. A. Johnson High School and Howard University in Washington, DC. At Howard, he earned a Mechanical Engineering degree and commission as an Air Force Officer via the ROTC program. Colonel Watson is the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor (SASI) of the C. A. Johnson Preparatory ROTC unit (SC-065).

He entered the Air Force as an avionics maintenance officer. However, in 1973, he was selected for aviation training. This began a journey on a very diverse and distinguished flying career in the Air Force. He became a flight instructor, flight examiner, and flight commander in tactical fighter and strategic reconnaissance squadrons that flew F-4C/D/E, F-111D, and SR-71 aircraft. Colonel Watson’s distinctive and unique aviation accomplishment is that he was the first and only African American to qualify as a crew member in the SR-71, a super secret aircraft that set altitude and speed records that still stand today. The SR-71 routinely cruised at altitudes in excess of 80,000 feet at speeds over Mach 3 (2,100 mph).

After his flying career, he continued to impact the Air Force in officer production and training. As Commander and Professor of Aerospace Studies at North Carolina A&T State University, his leadership helped his unit to achieve the following production milestones: 1) 20% of all African American Second Lieutenant pilots, 2) 50% of all African American Second Lieutenant navigators, and 3) 25% of African American female commissionees in 1993.

These accomplishments led to assignments to a number of leadership positions at HQ Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC at Maxwell AFB, AL). As the Chief of the AFROTC Scholarship branch, he supervised all scholarships for over 5,000 students across the nation with a budget exceeding $22 million annually.

While at Maxwell AFB, Colonel Watson was a key decision-maker for Air Force relations with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCO). He created scholarships aimed specially for HBCUs Science Instuctor (SASI). In 1999 Colonel Watson developed a student award program for the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. The Tuskegee Airmen Inc award recognizes superior student performance for AFJROTC cadets and impacts 744 AFJROTC unitsand 104,000 students aroung the globe. In 1998 Colonel Watson was selected Teacher of the Year for C. A. Johnson Preparatory Academy. Additionally he was twice designated by Headquarters Air Force JROTC as an Outstanding Instructor (1998-1999 and 2001-2002). The Columbia Housing Authority selected him for the Wall of Fame induction in April of 2003 because of his distinguished military service and sustained contributions to his community. In August 2003, the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. awarded him their highest award, the Noel F. Parrish Award. This award recognizes outstanding endeavors to enhance access to knowledge, skills, and opportunities.

In addition to his Howard University engineering degree, Colonel Watson holds a Masters degree from Chapman College of Orange, CA, in Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management. He is married to Joice P. Middleton Watson. They have a daughter, Major (Select) Alexandria R. Watson, son, Walter III, and a grandson, Isaiah S. Watson.

Colonel Watson has received numerous awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Humanitarian Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and the Legion of Merit Medal.


Jan 27, 2020

Executive Director David Hale has over 20 years of experience in aviation and aerospace medicine.  He is an exercise physiologist, commercial pilot, licensed skydiver and he has served as a member of several aviation advocacy organizations including: the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots (AOPA) and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).

David Hale received his undergraduate degree at the University of Oklahoma and accomplished his internship with Carolina’s Medical Center in Charlotte North Carolina. He completed post-graduate studies and certification with the American College of Sports Medicine. He served as an Exercise Physiologist in the cardiology department at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, California, and as a Registered Physical Testing and Evaluation Specialist for the California Department of Justice. He has completed extensive aeromedical training including ongoing training provided by the Aerospace Medical Association, The Civil Aviation Medical Association and the FAA. He has attended several basic and advanced courses such as the HIMS Basic & Advanced training for those who evaluate, supervise or sponsor airmen who are in chemical dependency or on antidepressants.

David Hale is a corporate member of the Civil Aviation Medical Association. He is a committee member of the Aerospace Medical Association, served on the advisory board for Spartan School of Aeronautics and he is a contributing author to several publications including: Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, The Federal Air Surgeons Medical Bulletin and Twin and Turbine Magazine.

Jan 23, 2020

The FAA sent a letter on December 17 warning&nbsp;charter broker BlackBird Air that pilots using the company’s online platform and app to fly&nbsp;passengers&nbsp;under Part 91 “are holding out and thus are engaged in common carriage.” The agency&nbsp;said it is planning to investigate BlackBird’s activities and possibly also pilots flying for BlackBird. In response, BlackBird has “paused” this feature of its offerings.


San Francisco-based BlackBird Air is primarily a charter broker, but also offers customers the option to hire a commercial pilot and lease an airplane to travel to a destination, all under Part 91. According to Crunchbase, BlackBird has raised $15 million in venture capital funding. BlackBird’s website homepage advertises: “Defy Gravity. Rent a plane and go anywhere. How it works: BlackBird helps you fly over traffic by connecting you with planes and pilots, bringing you true freedom of flight.”


The FAA doesn’t agree with BlackBird that this kind of operation is not a charter, and it said that the company and/or pilots must obtain a Part 119 certificate to transport people or property for hire or compensation.


According to an FAA spokesman, “We haven’t taken actions in relation to BlackBird per se, but we alerted pilots that they could be violating the regulations if they’re not operating under a certificate issued under Part 119.”


In the&nbsp;letter sent to BlackBird attorney Roy Goldberg, the agency’s Office of the Chief Counsel, Enforcement Division made a case that BlackBird’s pilot-hire and airplane-lease operation under Part 91 fits all the criteria that make an operation subject to requiring a Part 119 certificate and operating under Part 135 charter regulations.


For its part, BlackBird&nbsp;had sent a letter on June 10&nbsp;to the FAA&nbsp;outlining its business plan, explaining that it facilitates its customers with “leasing an aircraft and…separately hiring a commercial pilot to fly the aircraft the user has leased.” Because, BlackBird wrote, it doesn’t “own, manage, or maintain the aircraft and does not employ pilots…” and the customer selects the aircraft and pilot separately, “operational control of the aircraft remains with the user at all times.”&nbsp;In the FAA letter, the agency wrote that “BlackBird represents that it only facilitates the agreements, processes payments, and provides customer support to all three parties (user, i.e., person leasing the aircraft and hiring the pilot; pilot; and aircraft lessee).”


According to the FAA, BlackBird, itself, outlined the agency's&nbsp;criteria for determining whether an operator must hold Part 119 certification. From the December 17&nbsp;FAA letter:&nbsp;“As BlackBird noted in its [June 10] letter, to determine whether common carriage is present, the FAA assesses whether there is: (1) a holding out of a willingness to (2) transport persons or property (3) from place to place (4) for compensation.”


The FAA explained that BlackBird easily met the last three criteria, but “holding out” was subject to more discussion. The FAA letter went on: “We have little trouble concluding that the pilots listed on BlackBird’s pilot database selected by the user are transporting persons or property, from place to place, for compensation. Despite BlackBird’s assertion that the pilots are not transporting persons or property, it is clear that they are being hired for that very purpose. In addition, as BlackBird concedes, the pilots are being compensated for the flight service (whether the money comes directly from the lessee or through the BlackBird platform). That leaves only the issue of holding out.”


That BlackBird and its pilots are holding out is supported, the FAA claimed, by two legal interpretations involving aviation ride-sharing providers AirPooler and FlyteNow.


Essentially, because BlackBird’s online and app platform is available to anyone and pilots on the platform&nbsp;[from the FAA letter]&nbsp;“are available and willing to transport passengers who solicit pilot services through the platform…A pilot's participation in the BlackBird platform amounts to holding out a willingness to transport persons from place to place for compensation and requires certification under part 119 prior to conducting the operation.”


BlackBird doesn’t agree with the FAA’s interpretation. In its June 10 letter, the company had explained its operation thusly: “[u]nlike air carriers, BlackBird is not building an operation based on crews, aircraft, or routes. BlackBird is building an infrastructure that supports all of general aviation, which includes air carriers and operators."&nbsp;In the December 17 letter, the FAA elaborated, "BlackBird manages two databases: one for aircraft available for lease and a second one for commercial pilots (described as ‘independent person[s] with a specific skill set [pilot]).’ BlackBird uses the databases as part of a marketplace service that serves as an aggregator of information and connects third-party service providers (the pilots) with users seeking to charter an aircraft or purchase a ticket on a direct air carrier. BlackBird asserts, ‘the ultimate business goal is to create an online platform that surfaces the many options available to users; [and] NOT to provide air transportation.’”


Asked about the FAA’s warning in the December 17 letter, BlackBird founder and CEO Rudd Davis told&nbsp;<strong>AIN</strong>&nbsp;that the company is pausing its Part 91 pilot-hire, airplane-lease operations. Davis sent this statement to&nbsp; AIN: “We disagree with the FAA’s interpretation and look forward to continued discussions on this topic, given that their guidance isn’t law.&nbsp;BlackBird is the largest digital aviation marketplace in the world and the one place travelers can find and instantly book all private flight options. [Part] 91 operations are the minority of our business&nbsp;and for the moment we will pause that aspect of the marketplace and continue to provide charter flights and individual seats on private [Part 135] aircraft.”


The National Air Transportation Association has focused increasingly on the illegal charter issue, and NATA COO Timothy Obitts sent this statement to&nbsp;<strong>AIN</strong>: “We thank the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of General Counsel, Enforcement Division for the well thought out and articulate letter to BlackBird Air regarding non-part 135 operators' use of their platform.&nbsp;This letter is clear guidance from the FAA and confirms NATA’s understanding of the regulations.&nbsp;We hope that pilots pay heed to the FAA’s guidance. NATA, along with its Illegal Charter Task Force, will continue to work with the FAA on this very important safety issue.”


The FAA letter concluded that BlackBird pilots are holding out and “engaged in common carriage. Because these operations are subject to Part 119 certification, a pilot who holds an airline transport pilot or commercial pilot certificate must obtain and hold a certificate issued under part 135 or the pilot must be employed by a company operating the flight that is certificated under part 119. Accordingly, please expect further investigative activity into BlackBird's operations, particularly regarding its pilot database. In addition, we would be interested in learning of any action you intend to take in view of the jeopardy facing pilots who participate in BlackBird’s service.”


The BlackBird website no longer promotes the original pilot-hire, airplane-lease concept and now offers potential customers the opportunity to book flights with certified Part 135 providers, to “... fly over traffic by connecting you with charter operators.”

Jan 20, 2020

Laser attacks against aircraft are a major problem. There were over 7000 laser strikes against aircraft in the past year. Increasing the threat is the easy availability of hand-held lasers and the increased power of modern lasers.

Laser strikes have the potential to distract and blind pilots, and a solution is essential to aviation safety.

Dr. George Palikaras is a scientist who saw the need to protect pilots' eyes from laser illumination. His company, Metameterial Technologies, has developed a solution, and protection is available now.

Jan 16, 2020

There's a famous expression, "When one door closes, another one opens". That's certainly been my experience, although it didn't always look rosy when I was in the middle of a situation.

I was furloughed from United on April 1, 1981 (April Fool's Day). It was just after midnight, and I turned in my cockpit key, my company ID, and my flight manuals, and I was unemployed. Job prospects were miserable. The only pilots who had gotten work were the ones who were furloughed first. We had to sell our home, and moved out on our wedding anniversary. It was tough. A door had closed.

Through networking, I had gotten in touch with another furloughed pilot and heard that Lockheed was hiring. I interviewed and was hired for a job no one could tell me about until I had a security clearance. So I dutifully went into work every day and sat in a processing office waiting for my security clearance to come through. And I waited. Although I was getting paid - about the same as what I made at United - I hated the one-hour drive in California traffic, and I missed flying.

One day I came across an article in the Air Force Times about the Palace Recall Program, and I called the number listed. I told the person that I had left the Air Force almost four years earlier, and I was interested in geetting back in. He said, "You're not going to get in unless you're a fighter pilot". I said I was, and he let me apply. A total of 246 officers applied for the program, and 13 were accepted. I was one of them.

I ended up flying for the entire time I was furloughed, earned the Tactical Air Command Instructor Pilot of the Year Award, and eventually became a Squadron Commander. It was great, and it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been furloughed. A door had opened.

I've found this "door closes-door opens" numerous times in my career.

Jan 13, 2020

Hello APG fans! I am Captain Dana and would like to share a bit of my background with all of you. My first logged flight was on my seventeenth birthday in August 1987. Ever since I can remember as a child I always loved airplanes and flying. I graduated with my degree in aviation management from a small college in southeastern Massachusetts with a fairly large aviation program. While going to school I was hired by ACME JR in Boston as a customer service agent, eventually moving up to a supervisory role. Then I was offered a position with ACME and have worked in baggage service, ticketing, gates, reservations, ramp operations, supervisor, customer service operations instructor and Mad Dog systems instructor. While working full time I completed all my flight training all the way through flight instructor and started teaching on the side, bought a partnership in a PA28-161 (Piper Warrior), flew parachute jumpers and eventually became a corporate pilot earning my type rating in a Cessna Citation. I then took a position with ACME JR ATL leaving my career at ACME behind to fly the EMB120 and the CRJ200. Now I am fortunate to be back at ACME as a Mad Dawg pilot, which was my goal, since it is the aircraft I spent 3 years teaching and with the company I’ve spent most of my career. I have logged time over my flying career in 31 different civilian aircraft. I still currently hold a CFI/II and love to share my wisdom, experience and knowledge of my aviation career with anyone who listens. Thank you all for supporting Jeff, the APG crew and APG community. Fly safe.

Jan 9, 2020

Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 was a chartered passenger flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Sokoto, Nigeria on 11 July 1991, which caught fire shortly after takeoff from King Abdulaziz International Airport and crashed while attempting to return for an emergency landing, killing all 247 passengers and 14 crew members on board. The aircraft was a Douglas DC-8 operated by Nationair for Nigeria Airways. Flight 2120 is the deadliest accident involving a DC-8 and remains the deadliest aviation disaster involving a Canadian airline.

The aircraft departed King Abdulaziz International Airport bound for Sadiq Abubakar III International Airport in Sokoto, but problems were reported shortly after takeoff. Unknown to the crew, the aircraft had caught fire during departure, and though the fire itself was not obvious since it started in an area without fire warning systems, the effects were numerous. Pressurization failed quickly, and the crew was deluged with nonsensical warnings caused by fire-related circuit failures. In response to the pressurization failure, Allan decided to remain at 610 metres (2,000 ft), but the flight was cleared to 910 metres (2,990 ft) as a result of the controller mistaking Flight 2120 for a Saudia flight that was also reporting pressurization problems due to Captain Allan mistakenly identifying as "Nationair 2120" rather than "Nigerian 2120", a mix-up that lasted for three minutes but was ultimately found not to have had any effect on the outcome. Amidst this, First Officer Davidge, who had been flying C-GMXQ out, reported that he was losing hydraulics. The crew only became aware of the fire when a flight attendant rushed into the cockpit reporting "smoke in the back ... real bad". Shortly afterwards, Davidge reported that he had lost ailerons, forcing Allan to take control; as Allan took over, the cockpit voice recorder failed. At this moment, the air traffic controller realized that Flight 2120 was not the Saudia flight and was in trouble, and directed them towards the runway. Allan subsequently contacted air traffic control multiple times, among his pre-mortem communications being a request for emergency vehicles.

When the aircraft was about 18 kilometres (11 mi; 9.7 nmi) from the airport and at an altitude of 671 metres (2,201 ft), a point where the landing gear could conceivably have been lowered, it began to experience an inflight breakup and a number of bodies fell from it, indicating that the fire by that time had consumed, at least partially, the cabin floor. Just 2,875 metres (9,432 ft) short of the runway, the melting aircraft finally became uncontrollable and crashed, killing whatever portion of the 261 occupants on board—including 247 passengers—had not already suffocated or fallen out of the aircraft. Nine of the fourteen crew were identified, but "no attempt was made to identify the passengers".

Jan 6, 2020

Last year found me teaching at Metro State and working on my podcast and my script. It was actually a fairly fun schedule, with interviews for each Monday episode and educational information for each mid-week episode.

Whenever I interviewed someone who had written a book, I would read the book before interviewing them. Altogether, I read about 30 books in 2019.

In 2019 I started doing some speaking engagements. So far, all of the appearances have been pro bono, but I'm hoping to start expanding to paid venues. My topics are "Air Combat Lessons in Leadership and Life", "Layover Security for Travelers" and "Airline Safety Improvements From Accident Investigations". In 2019 I started writing and revising books to accompany those presentations.

Podcast guests Jason Harris and Lee Ellis have been incredibly helpful in guiding me on my journey. I met up with Jason at a local Denver meeting of the National Speakers Association, and Lee and I got together later in the year when he made a speaking appearance in Denver. Lee has been incredibly helpful in referring podcast guests to me, and his presentation left he huge audience mesmerized.

In February Nick Hinch told me that United was hiring ground instructors, and I applied. I was accepted, and started Basic Indoctrination training, along with 40 new-hire pilots, at the beginning of April. I was put on the B737 fleet, and my job is to be a Groundschool Instructor, teaching systems and procedures on the B737 NG. Although I initially had hoped to go to the B777, I am thrilled on be on the 737. I get to work with new-hire pilots and new Captains, and I get to influence these pilots for the rest of their careers.

United, it turned out, is a fantastic airline, totally changed from the toxic environment that existed in 2004. I attribute this change to the leadership under CEO Oscar Munoz, who is a breath of fresh air compared to the previous CEOs.

At United, I'm working full-time, so it's sometimes a bit of a challenge deconflicting my United schedule with my Metro teaching schedule. But I love both jobs.

In May the WGF Veterans Writing Group invited me to "pitch" my screenplay to eight Hollywood producers. The outstanding mentoring I had received throughout the previous year had really helped me refine my script to something I could be proud of. It was a fun experience, but I didn't get any nibbles at that time.

But my son Steve met another producer at the Austin Film Festival and mentioned my script, and the producer said he'd like to read it. So, hope springs eternal - Steve helped me put a final polish on the script and I sent it off shortly before Christmas. I'll be totally honest: it's not GOOD, it's GREAT!

Steve came out to Colorado in July and directed and produced the audio version of my book, Hamfist Over The Trail. He also produced the audiobook cover.

I did the narration, and it was certainly not a walk in the park! Altogether we spent five days recording, and then Steve spent a lot of time editing the file. He removed every audible breath and glitch and equalized the audio files. I think we ended up with a really great product. The audiobook is now being reviewed for release at ACX, and we hope to have it available to the public very soon.

Jan 2, 2020

As we start a new decade, I'd like to share my experiences of the last decade with you.

As I've mentioned in episode 300, my employment with Jet Airways in India ended toward the end of 2009. The Indian pilots were fully up to speed, and it was time for us expat pilots to leave. So there I was, 64 years old, unemployed, and no pension.

I filed to start drawing Social Security payments and started looking for work. As so many of our podcast guests have advised, networking is the key to finding employment. In my case, I recalled reading an update from a former United pilot in our retiree newsletter. He had mentioned that he had a job performing airline audits, and I contacted him to learn more. He put me in touch with the company he worked for, ARG/US Pros. Toward the end of 2009 I visited them for an interview, and they hired me.

In January 2010 I attended Auditor Training, and then went on my first assignment, to Japan, in February. One of the reasons the company sent me to Japan for a month - four audits - was because I mentioned in the interview that I spoke Japanese.

Each audit was five days long, and our team of five auditors (plus myself) would look at every area of an airline's operations, and debrief the airline CEO at the end of each day. On the weekends between each audit our team would work on our post-audit report and prepare for the next audit. During the first audit I mostly was observing, although toward the end I performed a lot of the auditing duties. For the last audit, I was "cleared solo" and operated by myself.

The audit process is called IOSA - IATA Operational Safety Audit - and during an audit the team uses an IATA (International Air Transport Association) checklist to look at everything an airline does, to determine if the airline conforms to the ISARPs (IATA Standards and Recommended Practices). There are over 1000 ISARPs the team examines. It's hard work.

For the next two years, I performed about an audit each month, and eventually became an audit team leader. Since I had studied Russian some 40 years earlier, I led a team to Moscow for a few weeks. By the end of the visit I was able to conduct the debriefs in Russian. Leading the team entailed planning for each audit and writing a detailed audit report at the end of each audit. It was a great experience, but I wanted to get a bit closer to airplanes.

In 2012, through networking with some of my former Jet Airways pilots, I heard that Boeing was looking for instructor pilots (IPs), and I applied. I went out to Seattle and interviewed, and was hired to be an IP on the new B787. I started as a contract employee on the anniversary of my United new-hire date, October 16th. I went through the 787 course as a student, took a check ride and received another type rating: B787. Then I went back through the course again as an instructor-trainee. Since the 787 was not yet flying, Boeing didn't have any real airline students, so three of us instructors would practice our teaching on each other. Two of us would play student while the other instructor would go over the planned lesson in the simulator, then we would each trade places. Finally the 787 was cleared to fly and we started getting real airline students.

I really enjoyed being back in a cockpit environment, but wasn't crazy about always being away from home. One day, a Boeing check airman told me that Omni Air International was looking for B777 IPs, and they were using the United simulators in Denver for their training. I applied to Omni, had a telephone interview with the Chief Pilot and the Director of Training, and was hired on a contract basis. So now I had two contract jobs: Boeing and Omni.

Omni was great with scheduling, giving me work assignments a month in advance. Boeing operated a bit differently. Typically, I would get a call saying I had a work assignment in two more days. Sometimes I could accept the assignment, but often it conflicted with my Omni commitment. After I turned down several assignments, Boeing advised me I was no longer a contract employee. So I was all-in on Omni.

Unfortunately, the United Training Center in Denver was getting busy with internal training, so Omni had to look elsewhere for simulators. Eventually, all of the Omni training was conducted at the Delta Airlines training center in Atlanta or in the Boeing training facility in Miami.

In 2016, again through networking, I heard that a training company in Tennessee, ARCS Aviation, was looking for a B777 Subject Matter Expert (SME) for some software development. I contacted the owner, and he drove up to Atlanta to meet me when I had finished an Omni simulator period. We hit it off, and I started doing consulting work for ARCS.

After a few years, Omni decided to use only their line pilots as simulator instructors, so we parted ways, and I spent all of my time as an SME, first on the B777, then the B787, then the B747. It was a great job that I could do at home, on my computer. Finally, the software programs were complete, and my work for ARCS was over.

In 2016 I started the Ready For Takeoff Podcast at the urging of an Omni pilot, Phil Pagoria, and my son Steve. Phil became one of my first guests on the podcast, and will make an appearance again soon! Steve walked me through everything I needed to do to produce a podcast, and has been my go-to person every time I need help.

In 2018 I heard from a friend, Nick Hinch (former RFT guest) that Wheels Up was looking for pilots. I hadn't flown in nine years, but had stayed current in simulators, and figured this would be my last chance to be employed as a pilot again. But, of course, my medical certificate had expired. So I made an appointment with my Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).

And I did something really stupid. For over 30 years, I had gone to the same AME, and every time on my application I had listed all of my visits to healthcare professionals since my previous visit (6 months earlier). And for some reason, I don't know why, I simply did the same thing. I listed all of my doctor visits since seeing him last. This is important: the form only asks for doctor visits in the last three years. But I foolishly listed all of them, and some from five, six or seven years earlier, were no one else's business, certainly not the FAA's.

My AME said he needed to send my information to the FAA, and the FAA Medical Department wanted some tests. Expensive tests, over $10,000 worth of tests. I saw the Wheels Up job disappearing, and asked the FAA if I could change my application from First Class medical to Third Class. No can do. Once you apply for a medical certificate, it must be either Approved or Denied. After many exchanges of letters, mine was Denied. After a Denial, an airman cannot get ANY medical certificate, including the new BasicMed. So, the only solo flying I can legally perform is in a glider, which does not require a medical certificate.

One of my first jobs when I had retired from United in 2005 had been teaching at Metropolitan State College of Denver, in their Aviation Department. In 2018 I visited them, now renamed Metropolitan State University of Denver, to see if they needed a classroom instructor. My timing was perfect, and I started teaching Fundamentals of Aviation and Basic Instrument Flight, two days each week, as a contract employee. Eventually, I became a full-time employee with the title of Lecturer, and I still teach courses two days every week.

In 2018 I was accepted to the Writers Guild of America Veterans Writing Project, and started working on a screenplay adaptation of my Hamfist novel series. (That's my son Steve sitting next to me in the first picture that comes up on that website).

In the next RFT episode I'll visit the year 2019.

Have a GREAT 2020!

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