Chart Sales

AvWeb has an article today about how the FAA will soon only be selling charts to vendors who sell at least $5000 of charts annually, which is apparantly only 293 of the current 1790 vendors. There’s a link from there to a spreadsheet that shows annual net sales from last June to this June which I find fascinating…

  • top supplier, no surprise, is Sporty’s with 2,100,610.82 worth of net sales
  • second place is ‘My Plane Inc’ in Scottsdale whom I have never heard of, but did only a fifth of Sporty’s sales
  • top local supplier is El Cajon Flying Service, Inc at KSEE with 59,903.79 in sales; that’s number 13 in rank
  • I get my charts from Marv Golden and it’s good to see them at #17, with 47,701.36 in sales
  • the FBO at KMYF, Gibbs, is at #86, with 12,757.30 in sales

So the good news is that it looks like my local suppliers will continue to sell charts after October. I used to have a Sporty’s chart subscription but I like to support the local aviation businesses. I do miss the extra entries in the Skyhawk Sweepstake though.

Messy Instrument Clearance Readback

I didn’t actually get to take the flight so there is no more to this video than what you see and hear here. Not my finest radio transmission but it wasn’t until I was driving to work that I realised why the controller was being so picky about the readback. Anyway, for no reason other than I have it to post, here’s a little video of me asking for, and getting, a tower en route clearance from San Diego’s Montgomery Field to Carlsbad’s Palomar airport.

Papa Got a Brand New Bag

When I started flying lessons I bought my very first flight bag from the local Marv Golden store and a very good bag it is. But after getting my licence I realised it was just too big for the flying I was doing and dropped it in favour of a couple of different sports bags, neither designed for flying. I finally got tired of the mess inside it last week and ordered a new bag from Sportys – the IFR Flight Gear Bag.

It is so much better!

One odd thing though, for an “IFR bag” I am surprised that I can’t fit approach plates in the exterior chart pocket. Sectionals and en-route charts fit in there, but no room for a plate (when inside a protective cover). No biggie, it’s nice to have everything so much better organised, and easy to carry.

Ready to Copy! Deep Breath And….

I was at the airport tonight watching the traffic go around, listening to the radio, and it struck me (not for the first time) that most pilots like to read back their instrument clearance in one breath.

Cessna 1234 cleared to Brown Field after take off left turn 270 radar vectors Mission Bay VOR direct 3000 feet expect 400 feet 10 minutes after 119.6 and squawk is 5244

You literally hear the poor guy collapse at the end, gasping for breath. I know I am often guilty of this and actively try to pause after the route or altitudes part. I wonder why it is that we do this, and how it is that we never hear Clearance give us the clearance in this fashion – do they get special training?

Fuel in the tank but running on empty [Updated]

Yesterday I went up with my instructor to shake off my winter cobwebs (and instead ended up in IMC having a lesson on the Garmin 530 and autopilot, but that’s for another post) and had a very near fuel emergency.

Both tanks were filled to the collar before we took off in the 172SP, plenty of gas for our some holds at OCN, an approach at KOKB and return on the ILS into KMYF. We weren’t the only ones with the same plan and ended up having to do two more holding patterns that planned while the other plane shot the approach. It was during one of the turns that we noticed that the fuel gauge showed the left tank getting low, and the right tank still near full. We resolved to switch from ‘both’ to the right tank after the approach but in all the activity in the missed approach we forgot.

Not long before KMYF the “L Low Fuel” light came on and the gauge was sure enough very near to the bottom. We switched to just the right tank and carried on. As we got closer and closer the fuel imbalance remained, the left tank gauge was getting lower and lower. Although we didn’t say it to each other I think we were both already planning our dead stick landing to a nearby golf course. On final we switched the tanks back to ‘both’, landed and taxied back to parking.

After we were done we inspected the tanks – the right tank was as full as it had been at the beginning. Neither of us could see any fuel in the left tank at all, I don’t know how many minutes of ‘usable’ fuel there was left but I think we were pretty lucky that we made it down without an emergency.

I haven’t heard yet what the problem was (the plane is already back out of the shop) but I don’t understand how, if fuel from the right tank wasn’t flowing at all, the engine kept running when we switched the fuel to the right tank only. Surely it should have quit?

At the time I didn’t think much of it, but the more I think about it (and tell the story) the more I think we dodged a nasty bullet.

[Update:] From the plane owner: I had Sorbi take the plane off the line and check the fuel flow from both tanks. I had a concern that perhaps the fuel valve was not working right. Pablo took the fuel lime off the engine and had fuel flow from left, both and right positions and found that fuel flowed from all three positions in comparable quantities. When he went to check, both tanks had equalized and had the same amount of fuel in them. The only thing we felt that could contribute is that if you were making a significant number of right turns where the fuel would travel to the right tank.

We did do a lot of right hand turns, probably held over OCN for 5 right-turn holds so maybe that was it?

Fear of Taxiing

Over the last few months I’ve developed what I will call a fear of taxiing and it is interfering with my flying – you typically can’t fly if you can’t taxi to the runway! Here’s the problem (as I seem to see it). This (old) satellite image from Google shows the parking ramp at the FBO we use and the taxiway to 28L (and keep heading east to get to 28R); the pinkish line shows where the taxiway starts, everything south of that line is a non-movement area.

The parking area is busy, my club alone has 20+ planes in that area, and there is just the one way in and out. Planes typically have to yield but there’s very few places to “pull over” and, since its a non-movement area there’s no organisation to the chaos.

Recently I’ve been finding reasons to cancel flights – the parking ramp will be too busy, the plane I have booked is all the way at the end of the line, what if I meet someone coming down on my way out etc. All things that never used to bother me. So I cancel and then I haven’t flown for a month, now I’m worried that the crosswind might be too much since its been a month… so I cancel again and next time I wonder if I’m able to land in any condition so I cancel….

To combat this I’ve booked a couple of flights with my CFI, we’ll get my landing confidence back up, we’ll also re-check me out in the Archer (in preparation for the Arrow arriving in May), and we’ll talk about ways to mitigate my taxi fears. I don’t intend to let my licence go to waste but I need to get over this irrational fear.

NAF El Centro Air Show Videos Part 1

Some videos from the air show.

First, a walk around the static displays:

Next, the C-17 aerial demonstration

Finally for this post a combination clip of a B-1 Lancer bomber flyby and the F/A-18 show

I think there will be a couple more next week, including the Blue Angels show, and then I am done.

NAF El Centro Air Show

Last weekend was the 2009 Air Show at the NAF El Centro base in, guess where, El Centro, California. Weather was fantastic as usual and lots of interesting things to see. The main event is always the first Blue Angels exhibition of the year (they train in El Centro all winter) but I very much enjoyed the C-17 demo and the B-1 bomber flyover. Something new this year was the “inaugural” acrobatic air race that they plan to have at many more air shows this year: two Pitts planes flew side by side, the winner being the first one to complete all 9 acrobatic maneuvers. Quite exciting and a very close finish.

I hope to have some video from the event online during the week but until then you can see some pictures at my Flickr Air Show set.

Any Tips for Video in the Plane?

I’m finally ready to take some video from the cockpit when I fly but wondered if anyone had any tips for what makes an enjoyable video, and what makes a really dull one. I’m also curious about whether you prefer to see the view right over the prop, or maybe you prefer the camera looking to the side of the nose ?

I’m going to mount my Aiptek GVS HD camera on the passenger side front glass, shoot at 720p and feed the COM into the camera so we have ATC chatter. The camera is pretty no frills but has done a really good job so far in my on the ground tests. But once it’s attached to the window I don’t plan to move it so no panning of the sky, or close up of what a great job I’m doing on the localiser backcourse approach 🙂

Anyway, any and all comments appreciated.

Bad Weekend in San Diego

This past weekend saw two plane crashes involving Cessna 172s operating to or from my home base, Montgomery Field in San Diego.

The first one was on Friday when a plane en route from San Diego to French Valley (Temecula) was observed going down in the ocean about 30 miles west of Oceanside. After an extensive search, no body was found although plenty of debris from the plane was evident. Much has been made that the pilot was a “novice” and that he was not talking to any ATC facility once off the ground. This accident baffles me since if you look at a map of the area it should be impossible to wrongly navigate this trip.

oceanside airport - Google Maps

First this is a trip that student pilots make a lot during training out of MYF so the routes to it should be very well known. But mostly, it is easy because you just follow the coast. Weather was VFR so no reason why he could not see the land. To be so far off the coast makes me wonder if there was something more going on for the pilot to be so distracted to be flying in the opposite direction with such obvious navigational clues. Sad for a life to be lost, and for the flying club that lost one of it’s rental fleet.

The second accident occurred Saturday night when another 172 crash-landed just off Interstate-5 near Camp Pendleton (just north of Ocenaside) on its way from Orange County airport to KMYF. The three people on board suffered a range of injuries, at least two of them are still in hospital. According to an eye witness report the pilot stated that the engine had quit and he had been unable to restart it. Faced with a choice of the freeway or the beach the pilot tried for the latter and hit an unseen ravine. Not knowing where the engine out happened but in daylight the pilot may well have been able to see many places around that would have made decent landing strips. Hopefully all the people will recover well.