From the South Ramp

--Hank Bruckner: 
 
 
  Hau'oli Makahiki Hou
 
 

 January 2003

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!
Remember when “Twentieth Century” was tied to things to make them sound modern and current. Now, the “Nineteen Hundreds” sounds antiquated, for we are now well into the 21st Century.  As the journey continues, we face a very changed world (hasn’t every generation said that?) from that of last century. Bad Guys became Good Guys, only to be replaced by Worse Guys, and those unprepared to deal with them are often all-too-ready to sacrifice freedom for perceived security.  Nothing new there, either, but just because a version of this tune has played before, doesn’t make it any less real.  And, like a spin, each time you go around may look the same, but you get lower and lower and never go back to where you were.  Our biggest challenge is dealing with ignorance on the part of those who rule and make rules regarding our chosen avocation—aviation.

Ever since the scumbags weaponized (one of my favorite Pentagon terms) civil aircraft in the public’s collective eye, there has been no shortage of misguided attempts to protect us all from anyone flying an aircraft.  The media is gaggingly consistent in their unfettered desire for hype and drama.  A few days ago, an apparently deranged German stole a motorglider and circled around Frankfurt, threatening to crash into a building.  The international media, especially NBC News, couldn’t resist the temptation to compare it to the September 11 attacks.  NBC News failed to note that, just like the kid who crashed a Cessna into an office building in Tampa exactly a year prior, the motorglider is incapable of doing much more than break some windows and kill the pilot.
My point is, that everything we do in and around aircraft will be scrutinized, misunderstood, and turned against us given half a chance by those who are unenlightened either by happenstance or choice. We must fly akamai and be ready to jump in and set the record straight whenever necessary.

The year began with a refreshingly different state government, and, along with that, the promise that many of the unchallenged practices of the past will come under close scrutiny.  Governor Lingle has taken great pains in her selection of key department heads and deputies, and all indications are that we should see some positive changes.  Stay tuned…

I guess it’s customary to make New Year’s resolutions—generally aimed at some sort of self-improvement—and then either gloat in their accomplishment later, or, as is perhaps more common, allow them to slowly and gently fade into mere wisps in our memories.  What’s mine?  I guess, to fly as if my life depended on it.  It does.

John R. MacDonald
Last month I neglected to note, sadly, the passing of John MacDonald.  John spent a career in the U.S. Coast Guard and then launched on a second one, flying air tours and charters.  He was a member of that pioneering group of Hawai'i tour pilots, flying for Panorama Air Tours during the heyday of the air tour business. John and his passengers survived a traumatic ditching off the Big Island.  He turned to teaching, and spent a lot of time in China.  John was a quiet, thoughtful and kind man who always had an encouraging word for those about him and he left behind many, many friends.  Godspeed, John.

Centennial of Powered Flight
This year heralds the one hundredth year since Wilbur and Orville Wright forever changed the course of history with their modest, brief, and yet huge flights in the flimsy Flyer at Kill Devil Hills.  Orville’s cryptic telegram to his father stated merely, “Success four flights Thursday morning all against twenty-one mile wind  started from Level with engine power alone  average speed through air thirty-one miles   longest 57 seconds  inform Press  home by Christmas.”

Had the Wrights not done it, I have little doubt others would have; there were several concurrent efforts in Europe and America.  None of the others, however, had yet figured out how to control the horizontal component of lift to effect turning flight and have true 3-axis control.  The Wrights did it by twisting the wing (“warping”). The subsequent invention of the aileron, of course, paved the way for larger and more capable aircraft. Interestingly, a fighter with a flexible wing that can be warped is currently under testing.
What has always amazed me is that the Wrights, and other early pioneers of flight, had to teach themselves to fly their creations (contraptions?) by trial and error. I gather from all accounts, including extensive wind tunnel testing and computer simulation, the original 1903 Flyer was somewhat unstable and quite difficult to fly.  Most attempts to fly Flyer simulators have ended in failure, even by experienced pilots.  It will be interesting to follow the progress of the pilots chosen to fly the replica Flyer for the EAA centennial celebration.  How would you like to be the one to strap on the replica, under the full, unblinking eye of the world’s media, and recreate that first flight? Talk about pressure!

Up, Up, and Away!
Dr. Ed Lu, GACH member and astronaut (or is it the other way around?) is preparing to launch on mission STS-114 aboard the Shuttle Atlantis in March to spend some five months on the International Space Station.  With any luck, we’ll be able to communicate with him from time to time.    This will be Ed’s third space mission since joining the Astronaut Corps in 1995.  His first, in May 1997, was STS-84, to the Mir.  His second, STS-106, involved an extensive space-walk installing some equipment on the ISS, prior to its becoming operational.  This time, he’ll get to spend some quality time aboard as the U.S. Science Officer, working with Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri. Ed has also progressed from Mission Specialist to Flight Engineer. Godspeed, Ed!

Winter Weather Wiles   
The New Year slipped in on El Niño slippers, and promises to be somewhat drier than normal.  Drier doesn’t mean less windy, though, and the first week of the year was punctuated with some heavy Kona winds that caused widespread, though generally light damage and made aviating a challenge.  Most runways in the state are more or less aligned with the prevailing trades and are near geographic features that shape the flow of air significantly and uniquely.  When strong westerlies blow, each airport takes on a wholly different character and some become downright ugly.

Kalaupapa, for example, becomes quite unruly when strong southwesterly winds prevail.  As they stream across west Moloka'i they get accelerated by the central valley and then tumble over the cliffs, arriving at Kalaupapa in a chaotic state.  The adventure is heightened when the surf is high and you have to avoid the sometimes huge fountains of white water right off the northeast end of the runway on your approach to land on 23.  Blustery crosswinds, a short and narrow runway, and high and moving obstacles on the approach can require you to dig deep into your bag of skills.  When the winds favor Rwy 5, the PAPI lights at Kalaupapa are useful, but you need to be wary.  The visual glide slope will take you well past the approach end of the runway, and if you are heavy and/or fast, especially in light or no winds, stopping on the remaining runway might put your tires and brakes to the test. Running off the end is absolutely not an option.

Lana'i Airport can also bedevil with tricky crosswinds.  It is quite common for the windsocks at either end of the runway to be showing radically different winds.  When that happens, you need to be prepared for low-level shear that can turn an otherwise normal landing into a high-pucker-factor adventure.

Port Allen sports a beautiful nearby beach within easy walking distance.   Of course, it also sports only about 2,400 feet of runway and no overruns, so precision is a good thing. 

 If you aren’t confident of your short field and crosswind capabilities, get with your favorite instructor and hone them to the fine edge you’ll need for winter flying in the Islands.

Wheeler Etiquette
Pilots are still misusing the Wheeler Tower frequency, and its continued availability for work in the South Practice Area is endangered if we don’t follow the rules.  First, remember it is Wheeler’s frequency, and is not for air-to-air use.  Secondly, and this is the key, remember that Wheeler does not provide traffic separation in the practice area.  Please, do not ask Tower for traffic advisories.  It is not their job (or that of any other Class D tower).  While they often provide advisories for transiting aircraft, there is no requirement that they do so. If they do it, consider it a gift, but don’t expect or demand the service.  Class D does not separate VFR traffic.  Moreover, most of the practice area isn’t within the Wheeler Class D airspace.  Simply, check in and out of the practice area with Wheeler, and listen up to keep your situational awareness.  Your Mark I eyeballs are the only approved traffic avoidance system in the practice area. Wheeler Tower also requests that you do not check in with them when transitioning between Kalaeloa and Honolulu.  Using the Wheeler frequency is a valuable tool for situational awareness.  Please don’t jeopardize this by abusing their frequency.  Instructors, this one is on you to fix.

Down To The Wire…
The Great Hawaiian Air Race is looming on the horizon—February 14 –18, 2003.  The first events (optional) actually begin on the 13th.  The serious part begins on Valentine’s Day and ends with the awards banquet on Tuesday the 18th.  There will have been some course changes this year, to keep it interesting.  Contact Greg Marshall at 373-1889 if you are at all interested in this excellent event.

Be careful out there.