STS-106

From The South Ramp --Hank Bruckner: 

Oct 2000


 STS-106
 Ed Lu, long-time member of GACH, blasted off into space aboard Atlantis right on schedule on September 8th in another stunningly spectacular launch.  We were again privileged to watch, this time from the Causeway viewing site—about 41/2 miles from the launch pad. This, Ed’s second flight aboard the Shuttle, was a daylight morning launch that was threatened only by a stubborn occluded front across northern Florida that was loaded with the usual rain and thunder.  Although it was moving slowly southward and looked very ominous indeed, the weather didn’t arrive until well after the launch.  Ed’s first launch, STS-84 on May 15th, 1997, also went exactly as scheduled.  It appears to be a good thing to have Ed on board if you want your launch to go on time.

One of the cool things about going to a launch is that the local hotels have NASA TV on cable. Much of the time is spent watching flight control personnel walking around either the Launch Control Center or the Mission Control Center; however, when something neat is happening, you get it live.  Ed got to do a space walk for about six and a quarter hours after the shuttle docked with the International Space Station (ISS), and we got to watch him in real time.

Another cool thing about going to a launch is all the wildlife you get to see in the process.  Cape Canaveral is in the middle of a major wildlife preserve. While we were waiting for the launch, we got to see the sun come up over the Banana River and experience Mother Nature shedding the night and coming to life. Herons, cormorants, egrets, gulls, terns, and countless other birds all took wing and began their daily search for food, putting on some spectacular fly-bys in the process.  As the bugs awoke, so did the fish that eat them, and the dolphins and alligators that eat them. Quite a show, and all of this playing out just yards from where we sat.

The coolest thing about going to a launch, of course is the launch itself.  From our vantage point, we could hear the roar, shake as the earth moved underfoot, and actually feel the heat from the rockets as Atlantis rode its column of fire and smoke into space.   It’s difficult to describe the to-the-marrow emotional and spiritual thrill as you experience a friend enveloped in so much power embark on such a journey.  As the countdown nears zero, there’s the flash as the main rocket engines ignite, immediately followed by a rapidly-expanding cloud of white smoke and steam. In a matter of seconds, the shuttle rises out of the billowing smoke, trailing a tongue of fire three times its length. At about the same time, the sound of millions of pounds of thrust shredding the air reaches you and your whole body resonates to the rumble. And then, the heat arrives.  As you gaze at the spectacular column of fire and smoke, your face is gently bathed by the heat—five miles away!  In moments, it’s gone. And in moments more, they’re in space.  Talk about a rate-of-climb!  Hard to wrap the mind around.

Ed graciously carried a patch from the French Connection, depicting Montaine and Daniel in their signature canopy-to-canopy formation, into space. The patch will be presented to the family. 

In this world of sound bites and headline news, I was struck by the paucity of coverage given this (or most other) space flight.  CNN noted the launch, docking, space walk and opening the ISS in very brief clips, and hardly even mentioned the landing at mission’s end. Other networks had even less.  NASA/TV is only widely available in the immediate vicinity of the cape, unless you have satellite TV.  It certainly isn’t available on Oceanic Cable on O’ahu. The fact that this mission set the stage for what should be  the beginning of a permanent manned presence in space aboard the ISS that will involve the most ambitious space construction program ever seems to fall below the threshold of those who manage the things we want to or need to know.  And yet, some of us will sit for hours watching people sitting around a room scratching themselves or whatever other “real TV” concept happens to be hot at the moment.  Go figure.

Anyway, Ed, thanks for the opportunity to witness your launch again.  We hope to entice Ed to address a group of pilots here when he comes back to visit.

Port Allen Fly-In
Intrepid Aviators Discover Airport  on South End of Kaua’i!  Some Ten People in Three Airplanes Braved Sunny Skies and 50-Mile Visibility and Forged Their Way to Port Allen. Since we are now Seneca-less, the CAP-10 made its first overwater voyage under its own power since it arrived in Hawai'i four years ago.  Greg was there with his Lance, and Rob came in the Cardinal.  We all walked to the beach, had lunch, and talked story in one of the pavilions, and then battled the beautiful weather back to O’ahu.  That was it. So, where were you?

Hana Fly-In, 2000
In all the hustle to get the September issue out (I only had all summer), I forgot to mention the June Hana Fly-In. About a dozen or so aircraft, from three of our Islands, made it there, including Bob Justman’s YAK-52W.  For the first time in memory, I didn’t have the Seneca and had to actually RENT an airplane to get us and the Dawsons to Hana.  (Believe me, it’s tough to rent when you own!)  The sometimes fickle weather was gorgeous, and the great folks at Hana Airport had the place immaculate, as usual. 

Mike Webb repeated as winner of the Accuracy Landing event, with Jay Von Brimer of HCC/UND earning a 2nd place, and Joe Kiefer also earning another trophy.  It seems that Mike and Joe have made a habit of collecting GACH trophies.  Well done, y’all! 

Hana’s breathtaking natural beauty and the openness and friendliness of the local folk make it a truly special place.  Of all the places in the world, Charles Lindbergh chose to slip out of his mortal bonds near Hana.  I hope we’ll see more of you there next year.

Kala’eloa Transition, Part II
Last month, we told everyone about the new transition to Kala’eloa (JRF).  In the interim, however, several members of the local aviation community objected to the fewer options available to a pilot when making a direct entry to the base leg from the waterpark in the case of a traffic conflict, and we had a big meeting to hash it all out.  The upshot was that the group decided to modify the current entry (roughly a 45-degree entry from Makakilo) to avoid overflying the Villages of Kapolei, instead of using the waterpark transition depicted in our last issue.   We also agreed to boost the pattern altitude to 1,000’ from 800’. However, after much gnashing of teeth, a little name-calling, some hackle-raising, and many hours of jawboning between and amongst the several parties, the revised procedures have been put on hold.  Bottom Line:  When the trades are blowing, expect to continue to enter the pattern from the H-1 near Makakilo.  Just, please, do not overfly Makakilo or Kapolei. It’s really easy to do.  If you stay over the H-1 and not north of it after passing Harbor View until turning toward JRF, you’ll miss Makakilo.  Kapolei is easy to identify and easy to avoid as you fly the pattern entry.  Leaving JRF, climb straight ahead until a safe altitude and then turn northward over the power poles, between Kapolei and Ewa Village until past the overlying approach to HNL’s Rwy 8 Left, and then head toward the Sugar Mill.  Stay at or below 1,000’ until north of the 8 Left approach corridor, and plan on 1,500’ by the Sugar Mill.   Under Kona conditions, follow JRF tower’s instructions, being mindful of not overflying Ewa or Kapolei or Makakilo. If you are coming out of HNL, the West Loch 3 Departure will line you up for a good entry to either of the 22’s at JRF, as instructed by tower.  If you are coming from the practice area, call JRF by Harbor View for instructions.  Fly heads up and try to be a good neighbor.

Not Forgotten
September 20th marked the third anniversary of Jim Kincaid’s last long cross country.  Many of you who fly our skies do so because of him to some degree or other.  He was my mentor, and scarcely a day goes by that something he said or did doesn’t ease into my consciousness.  One of his favorite comments, when I was flying a hundred feet off my assigned or chosen altitude, was, “You’re doing such a great job holding 2,600 feet, I bet you could do the same at 2,500.” That one comes up probably more often than it should. A lot of what I know about flying and teaching flying 
and aerobatics and just a whole lot else I owe to Jim. Here’s to you, Jim. 

Helping Out
 When a friend or relative is missing at sea we often feel driven to help out in any way we can. Sometimes we are called on by friends and family of the missing person/s to conduct an aerial search.   As pilots, this is something we can do.  And, if we are not careful, we can also easily become part of the problem.  If an organized search is underway, it is really important for you to coordinate your activities with the rescue assets involved for a number of reasons. 

When an organized search is in progress, the search area is divided among the search assets to insure the best coverage and prevent collisions.  The hazards of two aircraft operating in the same search area are obvious, especially when most eyes are directed at the ocean.  The Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, CAP, Air Force, Navy and Guard/Reserve forces all use established search patterns and communications frequencies that are assigned by the coordinating agency (either the Coast Guard or the Joint Rescue Center) based on the nature of the search, type of search asset and conditions.  All search platforms will have GPS to locate precisely anyone or anything found. 

Typically, there will be an on-scene commander in the search area (either a surface vessel or aircraft) and most comms will be on VHF-FM marine channels—usually Channel 23.  If you are going to be out there, you really need a high degree of situational awareness so that you don’t endanger anyone else.  On board, you and your observer will want to be wearing good survival equipment (more than just a life vest) and have an egress plan. 

What you are searching for determines your search altitude.  If you are looking for persons in the water, you’ll likely be down around 500’—higher if you’re searching for a small boat, but not likely above 1,000’, especially if there are whitecaps on the surface. That doesn’t give you much time to deal with an emergency.  It’s comforting if you are part of a search effort with on-scene assets not too far away.  Coast Guard and Auxiliary platforms check in with Group or the on-scene commander every 15 minutes.  If you miss a check in, you get immediate attention.  If you are searching independently,  on your own, you may really be on your own, especially if your search area and altitude preclude radar coverage by Center.  All part of the equation.

We all want to help.  If you are going to, however, you owe it to yourself and everyone else to be properly equipped and crewed and do it right.  You may even wish to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Civil Air Patrol and get some excellent training and experience.

NEXRAD Rules!
The weather was questionable.  We’d cancelled an air tour the previous day due to forecast low ceilings and heavy rain which turned out to be true. A tropical depression south of the Big Island was moving west and originally wasn’t supposed to affect us, and then, once it did, was supposed to clear quickly, but didn’t.  On the day in question, skies looked clear, winds were light, visibility was excellent, and there was an AIRMET for VFR not recommended due to heavy showers and thundershowers in the vicinity of Kaua’i.  Departing Kahului, Maui, for Lihue, Kaua’i, I called the Honolulu AFSS for an update and found that the AIRMET was still in effect. However, the specialist also was able to look at the NEXRAD and tell me that my intended route was actually clear of the showers that were prevalent to the south, and we completed the flight uneventfully. Nothing beats having a weather avoidance system in the cockpit; however, having NEXRAD at the AFSS is the next best thing.

Gotta Go
Sometimes you just do.  Have to go, that is.  Inconvenient, however, if you’re in an airplane and the next island is a half-hour or so away.  American Inotek markets a line of products called RESTOP that can help in your moment of need.  The Flight Extender II is a sturdy bag with a built in funnel for all users and a blend of stuff (polymers, enzymes and deodorizers) that turns urine into an odorless gel on contact.  No smells and no spills.  Sounds like a great idea. Sure could have used one many years ago on a fall day in Virginia in a Piper Tomahawk… If you are interested (in the product, not my Tomahawk trauma), give me a call (836-1031) or drop me an email at acrobat@pixi.com.

See you at the GACH Christmas Party.

Be careful out there.
 

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