Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Static Line Failure? Altimeter Malfunctioning? No Problemo!

The weather is blowing sideways here in lovely San Diego, and I figured it would be a good time to update my blog with a review that I recently wrote regarding a watch I purchase.  Many of you will immediately wonder why I'm writing a review for a watch, since it is used fairly infrequently in the cockpit, and most airplanes com equipped with a clock.  My enthusiasm for writing this stems from the functions that this watch can perform.  Read below:

It would probably fly off if I left it here...
I have been scouring the interwebs for a new watch, and finally landed on a watch that can hold its own inside the cockpit. I have been aching to get my hands on this bad boy since I first saw it a few months back on the Citizen website.

My day job these days is to fly a large banner around San Diego (those of you who live here will probably have seen me at some point ---> GIECO) and wanted this watch for something to fiddle with while flying (no joke, it can get boring). I picked this particular on up from Electronic Bay .com (to quote an idol of mine: Ron Swanson) on Monday. I had been checking The site every few hours for a black example to pop up, and when I saw one for $592, I snapped it up ASAP. The seller has since raised the price to $750 or so, which makes me think I may have gotten this one during a mistake on their part.

It arrived this morning (long wait for priority shipping LA to San Diego), and my initial feeling when I boxing was the weight, or lack thereof. I have a Citizen Scuba Fin, which is my "do-everything" basher watch, and this feels significantly lighter. Another shocker for me is the strap. I had been planning on replacing it very soon after taking ownership, but I think I will keep it around. It is so soft, and holds very securely. Another is the quality of the crowns, which compared to my only other screw down crown Citizen I own (Scuba Fin) is worlds better. They unscrew smoothly and are spring loaded to slightly pop out a bit, so you're not constantly rubbing the threads when adjusting the watch. I have only been ogling the watch for a few hours, but thought that if anyone else out on the forum was as obsessed as I have been about getting this as I have been...they would want to read a bit about it too! I will update this post tomorrow after another flight, where I will video the altimeter on the watch next to the planes altimeter to get an idea of the refresh rate, accuracy and smoothness of the reading. Hope to have the video posted tomorrow evening or maybe Monday afternoon.

On the money.
Sunday I had a flight and got a chance to stack up the mighty Promaster Altichron BN5035-02F against the altimeter in my Piper Pawnee PA-25 Banner tow rig. First let me begin by explaining the simple function of a "kollsman window". The kollsman window on the altimeter is the indicator for the small adjustment to atmospheric pressure changes that frequently happen while flying. I typically fly for 4 hours at a time, and will cover quite an array of landscapes, these changes (over ocean, desert, city etc) will often come with a barometric pressure change. Every time i transition from one airspace center to another, the Air Traffic Controller I speak to will give me the current altimiter setting for that area. like stated earlier, this number will change throughout the flight, and allows my altimeter to be calibrated for the airmass I am traveling through at the moment. While on the ground, if the altimeter is set to the current barometric pressure the altimeter will indicate the elevation of the ground that you are resting on above MSL (mean sea level = height above the average altitude of the ocean).

Ill pause to let that soak in. Its not too complicated, but will help you understand some info about the watch below.

The watch has no such kollsman window . BUT.....never fear! It is a good thing! instead of having to track down the barometric pressure while on your hike, or out on the road you simply have to know your current elevation, which is readily available on maps, road signs and the nearest ol' timer. Setting this value into the watch will ultimately adjust the watch to non-standard pressure and you will have an accurate reading UNTIL you move into another airmass of a different pressure. This change can happen throughout the day if: a front passes, sun goes down, wind speed changes, etc.

After setting my watch the the field elevation of my airport and setting the aircraft's altimeter to the current barometric pressure, the indicated altitudes lined up perfect! Who would have thought! In the video below, differences in the indicated altitudes between the watch and the aircraft are NOT the fault of the watch. I had changed the value in the kollsman window several times, and did no adjusting to the watch during the flight. I just wanted to give you all a lengthy explanation as to why there was a small (25-50' variation) in the indicated altitudes in the video. this was no fault of the watch at all, in fact I was nothing less than amazed at the speed and accuracy of the readings.

If I wanted to I could have simply adjusted the watch's altitude to the known altitude given by the altimeter, and it would have essentially given the same result as setting the watch on the ground, I was just feeling lazy.

Video below of the 2 altitude instruments side by side for a comparison during some ascents and descents in the aircraft. Let me know what you think!

PS I understand this isn't a typical watch review, however I wanted to share my experience with the altimeter function. I was skeptical of its capabilities at the beginning, however I walk away amazed, and wanted to share that. Also my job allows me to be able to test its performance in a way not many can, so I thought that would be valuable info to some. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Pilot with No Name returns

 Good day fellow aviation enthusiasts, bored internet surfers, and family members (they make up the majority of my subscribers).

Let me first say: No, I haven't forgotten about my duties on my blog, but I have been catching up on other interesting stuff in the past months.  So let me get you all caught up!

I'm in San Diego! Surprise!!

After a long, 42 hour cross country in a cramped Pawnee flying formation with  my buddy, I made it to San Diego.  It was a cold trip, as this occurred in late December 2012.  It was a sweet journey though, one that I wouldn't hesitate to do again in a heartbeat.  A few photos from the journey:

Following a shower and setting in to a new apartment, I began the banner contract I would be operating under for the next 10 months.  I would fly a banner 4 hours a day, 4 days a week for a total of 16 hours a week.  The freedom that came with this assignment was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I am all alone!

My company sent me out here with a general guideline for my duties, and I got to fill in the rest.  Having the freedom to find a maintenance staff, choose my routes, make sure the scheduled aircraft maintenance was done, and not having to worry about anyone else breaking my plane was an amazing feeling.  It is somewhat frustrating when thinking about the difficulties of explaining maintenance issues via cell phone to someone 3,000 miles away before they will approve a fix, but other than a few hiccups that were few and far between...its great!

Right now on this 7th day of October, I'm sitting in my office "nook" with the sunset shining through the imitation cobwebs and Halloween decorations thinking about all my future posts about the shenanigans and excitement that has gone on in the last 10 months...Oh the possibilities.

Look forward to some pilot oriented product reviews, some maintenance troubles, some awesome photos and some other random updates about my ongoing adventures to become a pilot in the "big leagues".

Teaser: I have another piloting job lined up here in beautiful sunny San Diego!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


   Well, I have been very busy the past few months. Upon completion of my Commercial Single Engine Addon I got on the horn and began calling around trying to utilize my new certificate, and my high(ish) tailwheel time. Within 2 days, I had an interview lined up in south Florida with Aerial Banners Inc. I drove all the way down to Ft Lauderdale, FL and started training. The drive was long, but not without hiccups (see attached pic).

   My training was completed in about 2 weeks, and consisted of some training in a Cessna O-1 Birddog, and doing alot of practice picks. A 'pick' is the maneuver the tow pilot uses to catch the banner with his hook. it consists of a steep descent followed by the addition of full power and a swift pull up and level off just above stall speed. It is quite exciting, if I may say so.
   I have been working for about 3 weeks, and have been getting about 20 or so hours a week, PAID. I am just still baffled that someone would pay me as much as they do just to fly over the beach all day. Its crazy. In addition to the hours flying I have been working in the hanger towards my A&P. I hope to finish that up in a year or two.
   More updates, pics and videos will be up soon!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Today was a beautiful flying day for powered aircraft, clear blue skies with cooler temperatures than usual for this time of year made for a pleasant towing experience at the Soaring Club of Houston. Not so much for gliders. Flat, with little thermal activity lasting beyond 3pm. Only a few gliders were able to remain up after the big rush at 1pm. It was a brief flying day, everyone queued up for a 1pm launch. After about 3pm, when everyone was up, and all the re-lights were back into the air I go ta chance to relax and sit in the cool shade of the dispatch bay. It was there that I recounted the frightening second tow of the day... Pawnee 2 was flying great. Its a PA-26/235, equipped with flaps. The wind on this day was stiff, but right down the runway, and I shouldn't have had much trouble, but I have not been know for always taking the path of least resistance. The treeline on the approach end of the runway made form some bumpy landings on my part, and the flaps never help me. Flaps on the Pawnee are merely a tool for making me look like more of a fool when I'm trying to make a wheel landing. They always seem to force me into a nose high attitude on touchdown, and I get to do a 3 point landing at wheel landing speeds. The roughness of the field doesn't help either, launching me into the air right when I think the flight is over. Overall it was a safe flying day and I learned a lot, even if it was not very flattering to my image as a pilot. On the second tow of the day, I was towing a PW-5 to 3,000' straight out, just to get upwind a bit. At roughly 250' I noticed a wasp crawling on my right arm. I do not usually give much notice to sting insects, but when I am trapped in a cockpit flying that low with a glider in tow, it had my full attention. It crawled around on my arm, probably enjoying the coconut scented sunscreen layering my forearm for roughly one minute before flying to the window on my left. Without giving it much thought, I snapped up the only "un-stingable" object within reach, my Iphone, and smashed the wasp to bits on the plexiglass with the Apple devised miracle device. Later I found 4 more dead wasps in the cabin, and then found the small nest which I quickly hosed down with my favorite insect killer: Brake Cleaner. So let me experience remind everyone flying this summer to make a conscious effort to not only preflight for regular aircraft damage, but also unusual things like beehives and snakes inside the cockpit. Things like this can be devastating if you are surprised with them during a critical phase of flight. I shudder to think what it would have been like if I had an engine failure while a wasp was on my forearm at 250'. I imagine it would have been a very rough landing in the field upwind of the runway, and I would have likely been covered with welts from a furious wasp. Stay vigilant with the preflight inspections out there!I did not have a picture of actual wasp I killed, as he was mooshed into a thousand pieces, but here is one of the several wasps I found while searching for the nest:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

10,000' in the Citabria

Decided I would fly up to 10,000' just because.  It took too long to climb up there, but was pretty fast on the decent, mainly because I was in a spin...  I didnt get any video this trip, as I forgot my memory card for the GoPro at home (D'oh!).  Maybe next time.

So it begins...

   The gliding season is almost in full swing, and I have been towing alot more in the past few weeks.  The season usually fires up this time of year, when the temperature is higher, and the heat from the sun can rocket some strong thermals higher into the sky.  Prime time is usually from about 1-3pm, which is typically when you have the best thermals.  It takes a few hours after the morning cloud cover burns off to heat up the ground enough to push some good thermals skyward.  What this means for the tow pilots, is that the schedule will be very light all morning but right when you're ready to take a break and eat lunch, everyone wants a tow and they want it right now.

The next 2 hours of the day will be non-stop towing.  Students and instructors in training ships, leisure pilots in whatever is available, and the competition oriented guys in their hotrod ships all waiting on you.  I like to have a 2.75 liter Camelbak to drink from during this 2 hour period, it reaches 110 degrees in the cockpit and can be alot of work if there is a student or novice on tow.  

Anyways, that is roughly how a busy day towing will look from the cockpit of the Agwagon/Pawnee.  I also took some more good video clips with the GoPro, and hope I can finish up a video with it soon.  I only have one camera, so to make one video with several angles takes quite a while.  Mainly I because I cannot stop after one tow and move the camera, there are usually 4 or 5 more gliders waiting for a lift.  I might only get one or two different angles in a day.  Anyways, I think I have enough angles to get a few more videos put together.  I'll post them up as soon as I get them finished.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Citabria Refresh

     Got to fly in a American Champion Citabria for the first time in a few months Friday before that nice cold front blasted through Houston. It was an uneventful flight, if not shorted than I had hoped. I was planning just to ease the minds of the owner by getting a "refresher" in the airplane, since I hadnt flown in it in quite a while. I have been getting some steady hours in with the Piper Pawnee and the Agwagon, but they are admittedly different handling machines. The Citabria is much sleeker and less bulky, which is something you would expect from an airplane not designed to fly with a 200 gallon payload of chemicals.
     The instructor was happy to sign me off with little more than a landing or two, and we stayed in closed traffic to avoid the worsening thunderstorm just 5 miles to the North of the field. We had to throw in the towel when it started raining inside the cockpit on short final. I always have a blast flying that airplane. There is something about it that makes flying more intimate, maybe the tandem seating that puts windows a few inches from your eyes, or the fact the visibility is outstanding with that plexi-glass roof. In any case, I am always giddy when I lift off the tarmac in the Citabria. Video soon to follow...