Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I got back from my trip to the Northwest last night and though I'd post a few pictures of the experience. I never got a change to check out San Juan Airlines, but I did get up close to some of the planes that Kenmore Air operates.

Some of the scenery in the Washington cascades is surreal. Above, this is glacier-fed Diablo Lake. It would be pretty challenging to get a float plane in an out of here, even in good weather.

On the ferry between Anacortes and Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Interstingly, we had an escort of the coast guard and border patrol on either side of the vessel. Whenever another craft approached, they would circle themselves between them and us. I'm not sure how effective this would be if they wanted to bomb us like the USS Cole, but it was an interesting security gesture.

Kenmore Air is one of the coolest flight operations I've seen. It is a mostly float plane airline that goes from Seattle to the San Juans, Victoria, Vancouver and many other Northwest destinations. I took a picture of this sign posted on the dock at Friday Harbor. The line in the second to last paragraph reminds you that life is at a different pace here, "... sometimes we arrive early, at other times late."

Here I am next to one of the De Havilland Beaver's of Kenmore Air. Flying for them would be a great life. One of the pilots I met was in his 40's or 50's and the other was in is early 20's. I wouldn't mind building my time and living this kind of life for a while, even if there is no prospect for twin time. The hard part would be getting that sea plane time to qualify.

And finally, a few of Friday Harbor with one of the Beaver's taxing for departure in the distance.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Northwest is one of the most beautiful parts of the country in my opinion. One thing I notice when I'm there is that aviation plays a much greater role in day to day life. Driving down Interstate 5 north of Seattle, you can see personal and passenger seaplanes taking off and landing alongside you in one of the many offshoots of Puget Sound. Its a beautiful sight at sunrise with the Seattle skyline in the background, a snowcapped Mt. Ranier out in the distance, and rugged pine-tree covered terrain all around. The flying I'm sure is challenging, given the weather and terrain, but you can't beat the view from the air. Months ago I took a Horizon Air flight at dawn from Bellingham (KBLI) to Seattle. It was amazing seeing the activity down in the Puget Sound below. Tankers, trawlers, seaplanes, making there way around the San Juan Islands. When I was a kid, I went to Orcas Island with my mom and her friend, and remember seeing orcas (killer whales) from the ferry. They seem so majestic out in the wild compared to seeing them at Sea World. Maybe I'll go kayaking out in the Sound someday and see them a little closer (but not too close).

I would love to get a flying job up in the Northwest someday. The experience I gain would be amazing, and the views even more so. One of these days I want to take a San Juan Airlines flight out to one of the islands and see how the operation works.

I will be up in the Northwest until Tuesday, so this blog will probably not be updated until then. Stay tuned though.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I'm not sure if this was done on purpose for testing, but my father just forwarded me these images of the main landing gear on the A380. If anyone as any info to add, please comment. I'm sure the engineers will fix this... this is what flight testing is for. Yeah, its not the prettiest of aircraft but as soon as they are flying to LAX, I will probably be in line to get a ticket on one. I wish I had miles on Virgin Atlantic.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Well here it is... my first blog posting ever. After reading some great blogs from other pilots, I got motivated to do the same. I've never been much of a writer so I don't imagine this will be nearly as much fun to read as journals such as Freight Dog Tales and House of Rapp. I'll do my best though.

First, here's the Cliff Notes on me. I was born in 1974 and raised in San Diego, CA by my mother and father. My dad is a retired airline pilot who after flying as a forward air controller in Vietnam got out of the Air Force and was hired by PSA. During the period of his career that I can remember, he flew the 727, MD-80, 737, and 757/767, the later models coming after the merger with US Air(ways). Needless to say, I was exposed to aviation since birth, and even with virtually no pressure one way or the other have always loved everything having to do with flying. It must be genetic.

I was taught to fly by another PSA/US Air captain who's family has been very close to ours since before I was born. He didn't let me get away with much of anything and taught way beyond standards. I believe I will be a much better and safer pilot for the rest of my career because of his teaching and am forever grateful. My first solo was in a Cessna 150 out of Gillespie Field (KSEE) in San Diego, rented from a great flying club called Plus One Flyers that has planes at several of the airports in the county. I moved on to the 172, and managed somehow to pass my Private Pilot test with the examiner. I then moved on to get my instrument rating at a more formal Part 141 school at Montgomery Field (KMYF), American Flyers. The training was very thorough and professional, including the stressful hours in their Frasca simulator and before long I touch and puncture clouds legally. I was very happy with the training and the planes, but unfortunately that school got way too expensive compared to other options out there and I stopped after a few commercial lessons.

At this point, my life took a different track for a while. I continued to rent airplanes on my own and fly now and then, but it was time to go off to college at the University of California, Irvine and get a four-year degree that the airlines would eventually want to see. I choose Computer Science because I had to choose something and was pretty good with computers. Something very intersting happened around that same time... the internet boom. I found a flight school at John Wayne Orange County airport (KSNA) called Sunrise Aviation and started my commercial training there. I unfortunately got way to busy with school, work part time, and the other distractions of college student life and did not finish my training. I graduated with latin honors and was even accepted into the PhD program with an offer of a research assistant scholarship. At the same time I had multiple job offers in the $50k-60k range.

Now I would have been the first person in my family to be a "doctor" :) if I went into the PhD program, but I knew that my dream was to fly planes and that 5+ years of intense study with little pay would not be compatible with flying airplanes. I declined the offer, realizing that maybe the reason I applied was to know that I could have done that if I wanted to. Now those lucrative offers with stock options in 1998 were to good to turn down, and I moved back to San Diego to work at a big name wireless company. I reasoned that with the money I made I would be able to put myself through flight training, then switch over to being a CFI after a year or two. It turns out that working was just as time consuming as school, and I flew infrequently over the next 5 years. Financially it was great. I put a down payment on a house with my profits from stock options, and managed to keep employeed even through the dot-com bust. I even lived in Germany for 6 months as part of a work assignment. I did go back to flying in 2003, driving up to Sunrise Aviation on weekends trying to finish up my commercial. My training was interrupted when I got hit from behind by an 18-wheeler truck on the way back to San Diego from one of my flight lessons and was out for a few months. I didn't get back into the groove very quickly because I was working on transition to a new job (the one I'm at now) in the Los Angeles area.

Well, there is only so long you can be doing something else when what is in your blood and soul can no longer be contained. Reading blogs from other pilots and community sites such as Jet Careers makes that desire burn even stronger. I have been in Los Angeles for about 10 months and have started my commercial training again at a Part 61 school, Vista Air, at Whiteman Airport in Pacoima (KWHP). This airport is north of Burbank at the northeast edge of the San Fernando Valley. It is towered, but a sharp contrast to John Wayne. It does not have an ATIS and a single controller handles ground and air traffic. I have had a couple flights in the 172RG and feel right at home again. Today during a long lunch :) we practiced lazy-8's, chandelles, steep spirals, and short field landings. I was a little rusty on all of them at first, but its all coming back fast. Those d$@n lazy-8's not quite as fast as the others.

I won't be able to fly until the middle of next week because of my instructors schedule and that I am going out of town for a long weekend. Time to hit the books since my commercial written expired long ago! Stay tuned.