Operational Experience Training Complete

B-777F on Anchorage, Alaska ramp

B-777F on Anchorage, Alaska ramp

I am very pleased to report that my Operational Experience (OE) training on the B-777F with Southern Air is complete. Instructors are very thorough with a total of three trips around the world and a wide range of approaches and departures at the various airports we operate from.

B-777F interior cargo hold

B-777F interior cargo hold

The B-777F of course flies well and I had a lot of good input from various fellow pilots on landing technique, approach details, etc.

As an aside I installed the X-Plane simulator on my computer. X-Plane is an incredibly powerful flight simulation program with a wide range of aircraft, to include the B-777. Do take a look at their site, the realism of the various flight displays is truly amazing.

B-777F throttle quadrant

B-777F throttle quadrant

I am now home for a few days and will head out for another trip next week. I am looking forward to starting construction of a smaller version of the Yard Ace using the ParkZone electronics and motor as with my other indoor radio control models.

In addition, now that I am done with initial training I can work to learn TurboCAD on my Macintosh and make a few more videos on preparing RC model aircraft plans.

Boeing 777 Simulator Training

B-777 training for Southern Air has been going well. Our entire class is busy.  The instructors here at the Boeing Training Center in Miami are top notch and are all subject matter experts.  Just a lot to learn in a relatively short time period.

Student study session

Student study session

We recently completed out Flight Training Device instructional periods. The FTD is basically several very large touch screen computers that have the entire overhead and center panel displays graphically depicted.  The flight, engine and control instruments act realistically.  While that are no real buttons on the screens, the various levers, covers, switches, etc. all move in the correct direction when touched on the screen.

In short, the FTD is a perfect training aid for learning check list flows and procedures, while not worrying about actually flying the aircraft. In the FTD, the computer automatically flies the “aircraft” at whatever speed, heading and altitude you set in the autopilot.  The entire purpose of the FTD is to train in these fundamental procedures without using the very costly full motion flight simulators.

Computer workstations for academic lessons

Computer workstations for academic lessons

As part of the FTD training we all prepared for the FAA oral examinations. Oral exams are between you and the examiner.  A weight and balance calculation is first accomplished.  The examiner then takes the next two hours and goes over every switch and control in the cockpit, asking questions and systems issues as needed.  In short, a very effective way to ensure we all get into the books and learn the various B-777 aircraft systems.  My oral was completed last Sunday afternoon (the training center runs 24/7).

We are just beginning the Full Flight Simulator phase of training. The YouTube video at hyperlink shows just what a takeoff looks like.  The FFSs are large devices on hydraulic legs that tilt in various directions to provide a sense of motion.  The interior of the simulator is a completely accurate reproduction of the B-777 cockpit.  The sim has a graphic display that shows the runway, visual landmarks and the airborne environment.  Any sort of weather can be dialed in by the instructor.  The results are 100% convincing.  You are immersed in the experience and truly are “flying” a Boeing 777 jetliner.

I completed FFS number 2 yesterday. The ride went well with a great sim partner and superb instructor.  More to follow as I prepare for the check ride on March 22nd!

Southern Air Training

Things remain on track for my departure this weekend for Southern Air B-777F training.

I’ll head up to Cincinnati airport and attend one week of indoctrination lessons. This is normal class room instruction for any new airline pilot. Subjects include various FAA regulations and particular airline operations.

Inflight shot of a Southern Air B-777F

Inflight shot of a Southern Air B-777F

After indoc will be computer based training on B-777F aircraft systems. After that I will head down to Miami and attend Boeing simulator training. Will be a busy few months ahead.

Since my last flight at Mesa Airlines on Dec 19th I was not able to do any radio control modeling to speak of. There is a ton of very useful B-777 study materials out there and I took advantage of this time between jobs to prepare as much as possible for Southern Air training.

Of note to me is the incredible advances with computer simulations. The results of today’s computer and flight simulation programs are truly stunning.

YouTube has a number of videos that show folks demonstrating various airline simulation programs. A good example is Nick’s B-777 sim video showing the incredible cockpit detail, typical systems start up and a hand flown flight around the his local airport.

Screen capture of a YouTube video of a B-777 computer flight simulator program

Screen capture of a YouTube video of a B-777 computer flight simulator program

A second source of computer simulation instruction is a very new website at Airline2Sim. This site offers “cadet instruction” for various airliners. In my case I purchased the B-777 course for $40. The narrated videos contain around 20 hours of instruction on everything from the aircraft walk around and pre-flight to all cockpit checks and flight performance.

The neatest thing about Airline2Sim is that the videos are narrated by a veteran United Airlines Captain with 12 years experience flying the B-777 around the world. The videos are the most detailed and useful aviation instruction I have received in 42 years of flying. If you have any interest at all in this aspect of flying, the course is well worth the price.

That’s it for now. Plans and TurboCAD training video is available while I am away. I will post as able regarding my Southern Air training. And of course, lots to look forward to with radio control flight once I am complete!

Southern Air B-777F

Gordon (right side) on final flight with Mesa Airlines and the CRJ-700 aircraft, December 19, 2016

Gordon (right side) on final flight with Mesa Airlines and the CRJ-700 aircraft, December 19, 2016

It has been a busy few months for me. My last flight as a CRJ-700 First Officer with Mesa Airlines occurred on December 19, 2016. I had a wonderful two years flying for Mesa, logging 1,190 hours in the CRJ. The Captains are a great group and I learned a lot flying in the busy northeast sections of the US. All in all a tremendous experience.

I applied for a job as a pilot with Atlas Air earlier this year. Atlas Air is a global cargo airline flying to a wide range of international destinations. I was called in to an interview in September and accepted for employment.

Southern Air B-777 taking off

Southern Air B-777 taking off

I’ll start B-777F (freighter) training with Southern Air, a new Atlas Air acquisition, on January 23, 2017. I could not be any happier with this turn of events. I am “hitting the B-777 books hard” in preparation for my upcoming classes and simulators.

In the interim, model airplane plans and TurboCAD training videos are still for sale on the website! The moment I get a break in the action, will report on my model building activities.

Until then, Season Greetings and Happy New Year to everyone!

Bristol Brabazon

I have not been able to make much progress on the Buzz Bomb over the past two weeks. The United Express summer flying schedule out of Dulles Airport is very busy this year.  So the good news is lots of time flying around the eastern half of the United States in the CRJ-700, but less time in my model airplane workshop.  July should be a lot better with a few days of vacation to look forward to!

The Bristol Brabazon being towed to the flight line

The Bristol Brabazon being towed to the flight line

I added a page today on the development of the Bristol Brabazon, an early attempt by the British to build an airliner that could fly across the Atlantic non-stop.

We take long-range air travel for granted these days. Just as recently as June 3rd of this year, United Airlines inaugurated the longest non-stop flight by a U.S. airline with service between San Francisco and Singapore.  The length of this flight depends on the headwinds, but the initial flights were around 16 hours and 40 minutes.  I predict this will be a popular route as the previous stop in Narita or Hong Kong enroute to Singapore has been bypassed.

But these long range non-stop flights entailed a great deal of development. Work had to be done on everything from aircraft design to the all-important use of efficient jet turbine engines.

The Bristol Brabazon was an early attempt to meet these long range flight design goals. Much dedicated engineering effort went into this remarkable aircraft.  But commercial performance targets were not clearly understood in the mid-1940s, with the result that only one Brabazon was ever built and later sold for scrap after less than 200 test flights. A remarkable story worth reading.

 

Aviation History

I added a new section to the website menu bar on Aviation History.

Advanced version of the Wright brothers glider show pilot in a sitting position

Advanced version of the Wright brothers glider show pilot in a sitting position

The purpose of this section is to highlight some of the more interesting and lesser known aspects of aviation history by using photographs and video and discuss how this can relate to model aircraft design activities.

My opening piece is centered on a short film of the well-known German World War I ace Manfred von Richthofen and the Fokker Triplane.  Aviators during that era flew less than 15 years after the first flight of the Wright brothers.

Aviation advanced a great deal between the years 1914-1918 but was still in an evolving state. For example, things as basic as aircraft electrical systems and radios did not exist during the entire four years of the war.  Personally, I cannot imagine going on a night bombing mission with large numbers of aircraft with no way of communicating with other formation members or control authorities on the ground.

Fokker Triplane taxiing out for a takeoff

Fokker Triplane taxiing out for a takeoff

The film shows a church bell being rung to summon the pilots to their planes. You can view the amount of heavy clothing needed to survive in the completely unheated open cockpits of that time, with the temperatures at flight altitudes often below freezing.

These historical views are of interest on their own merit. But these images can also be used to provide detailed information for building radio control model aircraft, ranging from rigging and cockpit layouts to the view of a rotary engine being prepared for a start.

Thanks for stopping by! I’ll update the blog as I add additional pages regarding the fascinating background of flight.

Kit Bashing and the Dreamlifter

Korean Air B-747-400 touching down

Korean Air B-747-400 touching down

A great way to begin with radio control aircraft design is to “kit bash” a model made from a kit or set of plans. The idea behind “bashing” is to make simple changes in an aircraft’s shape and dimensions such that the overall flight characteristics will not change yet you have a plane that differs in appearance from the original version.

Bashing does not require drafting skills as you can eyeball the various changes. Examples would be changing the shape of the rudder and fin, perhaps lengthen the wingspan or add an upper deck.

Singapore Airlines B-747-400 on landing approach

Singapore Airlines B-747-400 on landing approach

As a general rule it is acceptable to change a control surface outline if you maintain the same surface area. Same goes for the wing.  For example you can increase the wing span without any harm to the flight handling characteristics.  On the other hand you could run into problems if you reduced the wingspan, as the smaller wing area would now have to support more aircraft weight per square inch.

Side view of the Boeing Dreamlifter

Side view of the Boeing Dreamlifter

Once you bash a few of your models it is a logical next step to consider designing an original airplane of your own!

Believe it or not, “bashing” occurs in a similar vein with full scale aircraft. The changes could be a simple as adding a canopy to an open cockpit homebuilt to a fuselage stretch of a jet airliner.  Perhaps one of the best examples of “bashing” a full scale aircraft is Boeing’s B-747 Dreamlifter.

Swing tail assembly on the Boeing Dreamlifter

Swing tail assembly on the Boeing Dreamlifter

When Boeing designed their new B-787 Dreamliner, ANA (All Nippon Airways) was one of the initial customers with an order of 50 aircraft. As part of this initial launch ANA built the wing for the B-787.  Fuselage production was also planned for the B-787 in Italy.

Boeing was faced with the problem of how to safely get these very large sub-assemblies to the Boeing factories in Washington and South Carolina. It would have taken up to 30 days to ship these items overseas via cargo ship and rail.  There was debate if this would even be a feasible approach due to the huge size of the assembly.

Boeing Dreamlifter taking off

Boeing Dreamlifter taking off

Boeing’s solution was to “bash” a B-747-400 to allow carriage of the fully assembled B-787 wings and fuselage sections. This entailed detailed engineering studies that created the Dreamlifter.

Four of these huge cargo aircraft exist and they are used solely to fly B-787 sub-assemblies from Japan and Italy to the United States for final assembly

The Boeing Moscow office did some of the initial Computer Aided Design work for the enlarged fuselage with a Spanish company devising the swing tail. Modifications of the B-747-400 were completed in Taiwan.

At 65,000 square feet the B-747 Dreamlifter’s cargo hold is the largest of any aircraft in the world, and three times larger than a B-747-400 freighter.

Interestingly enough, even after all of these changes the Dreamlifter flies much like an unmodified B-747-400.  Pilots who are type rated in the B-747-400 are fully qualified on the Dreamlifter with no special FAA check ride required.

There is a lesson to be learned here that with this amount of outline and fuselage volume changes to the Dreamlifter with minimal impact on flight characteristics, the same approach can be applied to changes with our radio control model aircraft. Go ahead and give it a try!

 

Mesa First Officer Training Update

Mesa CRJ-700 at Washington Dulles airport

Mesa CRJ-700 at Washington Dulles airport

I am happy to report that I am almost complete with my pilot training program with Mesa Air Group! I am released from training and I am officially a line First Officer flying the CRJ-700 out of Washington Dulles airport.

I still need to log 100 hours within 120 days of my simulator check to officially be done.  It certainly has been busy since I started with Indoctrination training on Jan 21st.

The four CRJ-900 observation flights went fine in late April. I had a chance to sit in the jump seat and observe four different crews fly their flights. All observations flights were flown in one day with a start and end in Phoenix.

Gordon standing by a CRJ-700 aircraft at Washington Dulles airport

Gordon standing by a CRJ-700 aircraft at Washington Dulles airport

I was assigned my Initial Operational Experience training flights from 28 March to 7 April which spanned two four day trips, with all but one of the flights out of Los Angeles to various Mesa destinations in the western US. This was my first time actually sitting in the right seat and flying the CRJ-900 aircraft.

Russ was my instructor Captain and he did a superb job. Our first flight was from San Francisco to Los Angeles on April 28th. Takeoff was at 6:00 am. Russ showed me the initial preflight. We then went up to the cockpit for various pre-takeoff duties to include getting the current weather, confirming our instrument flight clearance and programming the various aircraft computers.

View of the First Officer position in a CRJ-700 aircraft

View of the First Officer position in a CRJ-700 aircraft

Russ flew the first leg to demonstrate an actual takeoff and landing. My simulator training was very complete in retrospect. While you learn a great deal flying the actual aircraft, the simulator provided a great foundation.

On the next let, Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, it was my turn to fly. I must admit it was exciting to actually do one’s first jet takeoff. We headed down the runway, with rotation and liftoff around 140 knots. Off we go!

Departure out of LAX was not too complicated and we were soon at altitude enroute to OKC. The weather was nice in the Oklahoma City area, winds light and variable and my first-ever landing was quite acceptable. I was one happy pilot.

Interior of a Mesa CRJ-700 aircraft, showing 70 seat arrangement in First and Economy sections

Interior of a Mesa CRJ-700 aircraft, showing 70 seat arrangement in First and Economy sections

IOE finished up around 10 days later. Mesa gives new pilots three days off between the completion of IOE and reporting to their new base. I headed home to Chicago and packed and prepared for my initial trip as a new First Officer out of Washington Dulles.

So far I have flown two four day trips out of Dulles. The learning curve has been steep but the Mesa Captains have gone out of their way to teach me the ins and outs of Part 121 airline operations. My most recent trip, which ended yesterday, included 14 flights over four days. Dave and I were busy!

I’ll head back to Washington Dulles on Saturday for another four day trip starting Sunday. As things settle down a bit, I’ll be able to focus on various electric RC modeling projects. Thank you for your patience and please check back for further updates!

CRJ-700 Simulator Check

CRJ-900 in flight

CRJ-900 in flight

My training to become a First Officer flying the CRJ-700 for Mesa Airlines is progressing nicely.  I achieved a significant milestone this past Sunday when I passed my simulator evaluation to earn an FAA type rating for the CL-65 aircraft.

CL-65 is the official FAA designation for the Canada Regional Jet (CRJ) 200, 700 and 900 series of jet transport aircraft.  A new First Officer requires the type rating on their Airline Transport Pilot certificate in order to act as a Second in Command (i.e. a First Officer) flying the aircraft.

CRJ-700 flight simulator

CRJ-700 flight simulator

The simulator rides were challenging and at all sorts of start times (think a flight between 11:00 pm and 3:00 am).  The Mesa instructors are superb and all the students learned a great deal.  The majority of the sim sessions were in Toronto, Canada with the last two held in Phoenix.  While the simulator check ride was stimulating and lasted just over 90 minutes, I was well prepared and the profile went well.  Happy to get the call from the evaluator “Congratulations on becoming a pilot for Mesa Airlines.”

Mesa First Officer wings and epaulettes

Mesa First Officer wings and epaulettes

We next require four observation flights in the aircraft.  I’ll do these trips tomorrow with regular scheduled legs from Phoenix to Long Beach and back, then Phoenix to El Paso and return.  I will sit in the cockpit jump seat and observe a line crew perform these sorties.  These should be motivating events as I’ll see everything from the preflight, taxi out, take off, cruise flight and landing at the destination.

Integrated Procedures Trainer for the CRJ

Integrated Procedures Trainer for the CRJ

After the observation flights is the final segment of my training, Initial Operational Experience (IOE).  I do not have my IOE schedule yet but it could be here in Phoenix or one of several other Mesa crew bases.  I will advise once I have the timetable for these important flights.

IOE should be complete within three weeks, and then to Washington Dulles Airport and regular line flying.

Once I am done with Mesa training I am looking forward to getting back into radio control model airplane design and construction.  I have more than a few projects in mind!

Back in Training!

I returned to Phoenix and am continuing my ground training to become a First Officer flying the CRJ-700 regional jet with Mesa Airlines.

CRJ-900 regional jet at Phoenix Airport

CRJ-900 regional jet at Phoenix Airport

Happily, my fingerprints cleared the mandatory TSA review and I am cleared to start simulator training.  Sadly, however, not much for me to report in the way of radio control modeling until I am complete with training.  I should finish up by the middle of May, we’ll see how the schedules work out.  Always a lot of last minute changes in the world of airline training.

Another bit of good news is that I did get my first choice for a domicile (home airport with Mesa) at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

Checklist procedures trainer for the CRJ-700 regional jet

Checklist procedures trainer for the CRJ-700 regional jet

I recently started simulator training for the CRJ-700.  The flight training simulators are a FAA Level D (essentially the highest in terms of fidelity) which means that I can take my actual check ride in the sim.  In other words, the sim is good enough that a flight is not required to obtain a CRJ-700 type rating on my pilot license.

The sims offer full motion so the sense of flight and motion inside the sim, with a full set of visual computer graphics displayed through the windshield, is complete.  You can even feel the bumps in the taxi way as you head towards the runway, simply amazing.

I’ll head to Toronto on April 4th for the majority of my simulator sessions.  More to follow as I get started with this most challenging phase towards becoming a regional airline pilot.