On Sunday, October 1, 2023. Well-known general aviation pilot and educator Richard McSpadden ‘flew west’, quite unexpectedly. Richard had most recently served all of GA in his role as Sr. VP., AOPA Air Safety Institute, (ASI).
He and another pilot, former AFL football player Russ Francis were departing Lake Placid, New York, KLKP, in a single engine Cessna Cardinal 177RG, and shortly after takeoff the aircraft developed some kind of problem, and apparently they tried to turn back, and crashed short of the runway. Both died on impact. A tragic loss for all.
Richard was actively involved in the general aviation community, as pilot and educator. Before joining AOPA, in 2017, Richard had had 2 previous careers. He first spent 20 years in the USAF as a pilot, and during that time had become the Lead pilot for the Thunderbirds, the Air Force aerial demonstration team. And then after he retired from the Air Force, he worked in the IT industry for several years, before leaving that to join AOPA, in 2017.
Richard was well known in the general aviation world because he was actively involved. He was not ‘stuck in the office’. Instead, he participated in several general aviation organizations. He traveled and spent time in the field, as part of his work in support of aviation safety. He also wrote columns for AOPA’s Pilot Magazine. And he produced content for the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s YouTube channel. In fact, recently he was making videos offering commentary on some recent accidents, for both piston and turbine aircraft.
I had met Richard a few times while at AirVenture over the past few summers. He was always easily approachable, very personable, and there was great camaraderie with him. And he was the guest speaker in 2022 at the annual SAFE Dinner, an organization of aviation educators, of which I am one of the founding members, back in 2009. Through his work with the Air Safety Institute, he made a difference in all of our lives as pilots. Godspeed, Richard. You will be missed! Condolences to the families.
I bet maybe you don’t. I thought I did, until recently. Did you know that the ATC equipment code suffixes have changed? Yup, they have! In fact, they changed about 4 years ago, in 2019! I’m talking about the suffixes, like /T or /U or /G ‘codes’ that we used to use for our avionics capability when talking to ATC or when filing a flight plan, as in, a Cessna 150/U? Well, it has changed.
So how did I learn this? Well, I have been aware of it, but I have not been using the new codes, not when flying my Cessna 150. No ATC controllers at SoCal have said anything to me. Nor any of the briefers at LEIDOS, when I have called many times for a weather briefing.
However, recently when I called Leidos, 1-800-wxbrief, for a standard weather briefing, when I initially told the briefer that my Cessna 150 was a ‘/U’, boy he called me out for this and went on a RANT! He spent several minutes reprimanding, like I shoulda known better, oops, and spelling it out in some detail, and all I could say was, sorry, I goofed. No point in arguing. Mea culpa. Yep. But gee, last summer, when flying my Cessna 150 2/3’s of the way across the country to Oshkosh for AirVenture, not one briefer made any mention of this. Hmm. Well, that’s just the way it is.
So, what’s behind this? Well, as I see it, this is due to the introduction of so many new avionics units/devices on the market in recent years; by several manufacturers, and because of so many different GPS receivers now. And, also because of the many newer displays (glass cockpits) and transponders now, and the varying capabilities of each, the FAA has had to ‘recategorize’ avionics, according to what each does. That’s how I see it. E gads! Hard to keep up.
So, do you know the codes for the airplane you fly? It depends on what avionics you have. Have you seen the FAA form that sort of ‘explains’ this? In the AIM, the ‘flight planning form’ is in the back, in Appendix 4. At the beginning of the Appendix are several pages of explanations. Officially, it’s FAA Form 7233-4-International Flight Plan.
I find it to be confusing! Maybe because I’ve been using the old flight planning form for so long. So, I’ll try and explain a little of it. Very briefly. With thanks to Richie Lengel, and his very popular book ‘Everything Explained for the Professional Pilot’….; instead of the suffix U which was for Transponder with Mode C Altitude Reporting and no DME, if you are flying a single engine airplane, with ‘standard avionics’ including NavCom with VOR/ILS and VHF communications, like many of us, then your equipment code/suffix is now ‘S’. And for the transponder code, now there are three choices; A, C or S. For my 150, it’s now code C. There’s MUCH more to this. But I can see I’m going to have to work on creating a pamphlet to explain this, in more detail, and better.
That’s all for now. I have my work cut out for me.
In the meantime, fly safely!
The Lancair Legacy is a speedster!!
On Saturday, March 25, 2023, I was finally able to get a ride in a Lancair Legacy, an experimental aircraft!! It was awesome!!
A good friend owns one. The Lancair Legacy is in the experimental category, being built from a kit. Which means, it’s not ‘FAA Certified’. It’s a small 2-seater, with just enough room for an overnight bag behind the pilot’s seats. It’s like a 2-seat sports car, with wings! You wear it!! It’s a very tight fit in the 2-seat cockpit. The engine is a 6- cylinder Continental IO-550, which puts out 310Hp at 2,700RPM, and it cruises at 276 mph!! It only weights 2,200#. So, it has a high thrust to weight ratio. The performance is impressive!
We met at John Wayne Airport (KSNA), where he keeps his Lancair Legacyi, and flew it to Camarillo, CA (KCMA), about 70 miles northwest, where we met up with several other pilot friends, for lunch, at the Waypoint Café. Their Saturday special is tri-tip sandwiches, which are delicious! The Café was filled with diners on a lovely Saturday in SoCal.
It was a beautiful day to fly here, after many, many weeks of unrelenting rain. Ugh. So glad that is over! On the way to Camarillo, I was in the right seat, just watching what my friend Henry was doing in the left seat, as this was my first time in this airplane. After takeoff, and upon reaching our cruise altitude, 4,000’, he turned on the autopilot and let it do the flying.
The cockpit of the Lancair Legacy is very high-tech, with a ‘glass-cockpit’ panel and voice command technology as well, which means there are synthesized voice prompts for certain things, reminding you that you are off of the assigned altitude, for example. You generally only find ‘voice command’ technology on turbine aircraft. But that is changing also. The flight time to Camarillo was about 25 minutes, at our speed of about 230 knots (260 mph).
Once at cruise, he asked if I’d like to fly! Of course! You don’t have to ask me twice! He turned off the nav mode of the autopilot and let me fly. Since we were in level flight at cruise, there was not much to do. But I carefully applied some pressure to the control ‘stick’ and the controls were very responsive. After a few minutes, I told him he could take it again.
We landed at Camarillo and waited for a group of friends to arrive, a few at a time, in their various airplanes. We ordered lunch and waited and watched. It was a beautiful day to be outside, with no rain! Eventually about 15 other pilot friends had arrived, and it was a lively, jovial crowd. The food and service are good at the Waypoint Café.
After a leisurely lunch and some socializing, we all left to fly back. There was actually a line of aircraft waiting to take off. Camarillo is a busy one-runway airport, bult back in the early 1940’s during WWII as an Army Training base for Air Corp Cadets. It has now created nearly 2,000 jobs and contributes nearly $230 million annually to the local economy.
After a short delay, we were able to takeoff, and it was an uneventful flight back. About halfway back, I asked Henry if I could fly, and asked him to please turn the autopilot completely off. Before he had only partially turned it off. Now, I could get a chance to see how it flies, without automation.
Ok, so the flight controls are quite sensitive, meaning only slight pressure is required to get a response. But I was able to quickly adapt, and it handled very nicely. It was FUN!! I flew it the rest of the way back to John Wayne Airport, as SoCal Approach (the radar facility) gave us vectors to the final approach to runway 20R. Then, once on final, about 2 miles from the runway, I gave the controls back to Henry, so he could land his airplane.
It was easy enough for me to keep up with ATC as the controller gave me, in quick succession, a series of turns, and descents and then had me slow down to fit in with the flow of airline traffic on final. It was no different than any other turbine powered aircraft that I’ve flown. You just have to stay mentally ahead of it, and be able to anticipate what’s next. That is not a problem. Plus, I know the area, well.
After we landed the Lancair Legacy and taxied in and shut down, Henry congratulated me on my flying! He told me I did a really nice job, and now it’s just a matter of learning the avionics…and how they operate. Thank you, Henry! That’s the challenge now, knowing the avionics. There are several different avionics ‘vendors’, such as Garmin, Avidyne, and Dynon, to name a few, all of which have slightly different operating systems.
So, another fun day of flying! And another make and model of aircraft flown, for me. I’m now up to 148 different makes and models flown, according to my logbooks. Actually, I started an Excel spreadsheet about 3 years, ago, with all of this information, so now I know, when the aviation insurance underwriters ask, as they always do, either when I might have a contract flying job, or when I’m going to instruct someone in their airplane. How much time in a particular make/model of aircraft? That’s just the way it is now.
And on Sunday, April 2, I’m off to the east coast, Rocky Hill, CT, to spend a few days learning my new job training pilots how to fly ‘by instruments’, aka flying IFR, in their airplane, in an accelerated 10-day course. This is my new challenge. It should be fun! I’m looking forward to this.
The last Boeing 747 was delivered to a customer on January 31, 2023.
It marks the end of an era, the end of a 53-year long production run for Boeing. The last Boeing 747 was delivered to Atlas Air, on January 31. Atlas is a major scheduled cargo airline, and passenger charter airline, based in Purchase, New York, just outside New York City. The 747 is iconic in America’s pop culture. It’s instantly recognizable with the distinctive ‘hump’ on the top.
Polar Air Cargo
I have had the good fortune to both ride on the 747 as a passenger, a time or two, and in my professional work, years ago, I worked for a cargo airline, Polar Air Cargo, as an aircraft dispatcher and was ‘dispatch qualified’, as they call it, on the 747. This meant I was qualified to do the flight planning for cargo flights going around the world. And of course, it was all done via computer. We did not have time to do it by hand. Those days are long over.
The 747 is a logistical nightmare at times, given the complexities involved with international flight planning over long distances, sometimes up to 12 hours, when considering various international routes (north Atlantic, Trans-Pacific, Hawaii) available and the upper-level winds, fuel consumption, cruising Mach number, and would it be able to fly non-stop, or would a ‘tech’ stop (fuel stop) be required? Many calculations were involved.
As I recall, we had an 18-item checklist that we used when flight planning, so we did not miss anything. And for European flights, we had to check with what is called Euro-Control, of which there were two ‘centers’, one in Brussels, and the other in Paris as I recall. Euro-Control controlled the ‘airways or routes that were used in Europe, and they would approve or deny the flight plans that I submitted. If denied, we would then have to work up another flight plan and hopefully it would be approved. It could get quite complicated. It was a lot of work! It was very hectic as well. But it was good experience, as well as an eye opener into the world of international flying and what is involved.
Boeing 747’s are sure to be flying for several more decades. They made long distance travel available to the masses. The 747 has been given the nickname, ‘Queen of the skies’, which is well deserved.
IF you are in need of any proficiency or FAA Wings Training, please get in touch with me to arrange this.
As I write this, today is the 119th anniversary of the Wright Brother’s historic first flight. One hundred nineteen years ago, on December 17, 1903, on the wind-swept sand-dunes of Kill Devil Hill in North Carolina, Orville Wright successfully made the first flight in a heavier-than-air aircraft, the Wright Flyer! He was only airborne for the short distance of 120’. The brothers, Orville, and Wilbur, who by trade owned a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, built their aircraft out of wood. In 1903 there were no other airplanes in existence. So, they had to build one.
And, using their own crude (by modern standards) engineering methods, through experimentation, trial, and error, they were able to build a simple ‘airframe’ structure that worked. And they had to find a mechanic to build the two engines for their airplane, because there was no internal combustion engine available that suited their purposes, either. They found one, locally. They were pioneers, and were starting an industry, but they were not aware of that, in their day.
How far we’ve come in 119 years! It’s amazing. What’s next? We take air travel for granted now. And how the airplane and air transportation have shaped the world that we live in today. Air transportation has influenced war and peace. Air commerce is now a driving force both in our culture and our world today, and has spawned an entire industry that moves millions of people and tons of cargo, annually. Even in remote corners of the planet.
Among the milestones since the first flight in 1903; in October 1944, a young USAF officer and test pilot, Chuck Yeager, broke the ‘sound barrier’ in an experimental rocket-powered aircraft, the Bell X-1, which he had named Glamorous Glennis, after his wife. And then in July 1969, the US put a man on the moon. Today, long-haul airliners span oceans and continents, flying up to 14 hours non-stop.
And for the occasion, I flew my Cessna 150 on a one-hour local flight, from Long Beach, because I had not flown it in 3 weeks. I’ve been busy or the weather has not been good enough to fly.
And, with this being December, this will be my last blog post for this year. Starting next month, in the new year, I will start to focus more on avionics (aviation electronics), which has become a huge industry in itself over the past twenty years. Now even the smallest of aircraft have instrument panels that are entirely ‘glass’, as it is called. How far we’ve come.
I would be remiss if I did not mention UAV’s, (unmanned aerial vehicles), which are a component of the UAS, or unmanned aircraft system, aka drones! They have become very popular in recent years, and now fill an increasingly important role in our world today.
And the FAA even has a separate certificate for drone operators, called the Remote Pilot Certificate, or RPC. I took the online training for this last year, to get a better understanding of drones, and now I have a Remote Pilot Certificate. It’s not a pilot certificate. It’s separate.
Goals and Adventures
As for any goals for next year, there are more airplanes that I hope to be able to fly, and more adventures that I hope to be able to take, when I am able to. I have a long bucket list! And it looks like I will be getting re-hired to go back to my job, after 2 years, 8 months being out of work. Ironically, work might get in the way of some adventures!
Possible adventures include an attempt at a record-setting flight in my 150 (yes, really). A record-setting flight will have to meet both US and FAI (Swiss-based Fédération Aeronautic Internationale) requirements and will likely be a one-way flight from Long Beach, CA (KLGB), to Chandler, AZ (KCHD), with a fuel stop in Blythe, CA (KBLH). I’ll just have to see how things go…
If you the reader, are in need of any proficiency or FAA Wings Training, let me know.
Fly safely, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year,
Long Beach Airport Festival of Flight is opened to the public annually
On Saturday, October 29, 2022, a portion of the west side of Long Beach Airport was opened to the public from 10am – 4pm, for the annual Long Beach Airport Festival of Flight. There were some airplanes on display, including my Cessna 150, which was one of several smaller aircraft being displayed. There were also many exhibitors, though fewer than last year, including some airport businesses, food vendors and music. It is a family friendly event.
This is a once-a-year event to allow anyone who is interested to see airplanes up close and ask questions. It is promoted on Facebook and Social-Media, as well as the local newspaper. The event organizers reached out to local businesses and were able to arrange for a UPS Boeing 757 cargo jet to be on display, along with several helicopters, and a US Coast Guard C-27 twin-turboprop, which is used for search and rescue.
My Cessna 150 was a very popular attraction, once I opened the pilot’s door! Shortly after that, a line started to form, and for about 90 minutes, parents and their kids stood patiently in line waiting for a photo op with their children in the pilot’s seat, with a big grin on their faces! It almost resembled a line at Disneyland! Seriously. It was nice. I stood close by and watched carefully and answered a few questions that were asked about the airplane. The parents were very respectful of my airplane and the time, quickly taking pictures and keeping the line moving, thanking me as they moved on.
An event like this is really important now, as helps people get a better idea of what goes on at an airport, and the importance of aircraft and the many roles that they play in our world today. Many are simply not aware of this, aside from an occasional airline flight that they might take, or when they have something shipped vis FEDEX or UPS. Just the way it is now.
So perhaps this made a positive impression on some of the attendees, or on some youngsters, who might decide to find out more about airplanes and perhaps consider aviation as a possible career choice. This also serves as good PR for the airport and the community in general, to make those who come out to see this, more aware of the airport and get a better idea what goes on. It’s better to be proactive, and build community support in advance, than reactive, after something happens, to try and educate people.
And did you know that the Long Beach Airport provides 9% of the jobs in Long Beach and has an annual economic impact of $11 Billion? This has been reported in the Long Beach Business Journal.