A Windy Proposal

Spring is finally here and hopefully I will get some more flying in. This blog has been pretty empty because of the bad winter weather we had here in Northern New Jersey. On top of the bad weather I have had too many busy weekends that also took away from available flying time. This past March I was fortunate enough to squeeze in a quick flight that deserves a blog post. On the surface, a 20min flight beginning and ending at my home airport would be a non event. However on this flight I managed to propose to my girlfriend.

I spent 3 hours the previous night making huge 7ft letters out of poster board and duct tape. The plan was to have my buddies lay out the letters on a baseball field in my hometown. I picked the field because it is near a huge cemetery and easy to spot from the air. I would then just fly over it, girlfriend would read it, and voila proposal complete.

The wind however disagreed with this simple plan. After waking up that morning and checking the METARs/TAFs I was contemplating calling it off. While the wind was mostly down the runway it was gusting a lot and was going to make it pretty bumpy up there. It was still within my personal limits so I decided to not scrub the flight and check once again after driving to the airport. I received the ‘all clear’ text message from my ground crew that the sign was setup and ready to go.

After hopping in the plane we lined up and took off. It was gusting quite a bit and I immediately realized this might make today more interesting than I had planned. The baseball field is only about a 10min flight from my home airport. As I approached the field and told my girlfriend to look I noticed that there was quite a problem on the ground. Apparently just minutes before I flew overhead the wind completely blew all of the letters all over the field. The guys were scrambling around to try and fix everything. Instead of it saying ‘Marry me, Anca?’ it just looked like the local fire department was practicing some sort of disaster exercise with red stretchers.

I started laughing and basically had to make her guess what it ‘might’ have said. After a few seconds she figured it out and started cracking up too. The whole time she just thought this was a typical $100 hamburger flight.  After all of the laughing and crying was over I was able to get an audible ‘Yes’ out of her. After circling around a few times the guys managed to fix some letters but wind picked up even more and I decided flight needed to come to an end. I made a decent landing back at MMU runway 23 and the rest is history.

engagement

McGuire Air Force Base Tour

In February 2012 I went on a tour of McGuire Air Force base with my buddy Matt. The purpose of the tour is to familiarize pilots who fly in the area with the airspace and operations that take place at the base. I have been meaning to do this write up for over a year and just lost track of the draft post here on my site. After some recent house cleaning I spotted it again so here it goes.

Our bus driver/tour guide/comedian for the day was Lt. Col. Dean “Deano” Owens, the 514th Air Mobility Wing Chief of Safety. We met off base in a nearby parking lot and were greeted by the Lt driving an old school bus. Our first stop was a McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender. This aircraft is part tanker part cargo plane. It’s multipurpose ability is rather unique according to the Lt. At the time there was no other plane that could simultaneously tanker fuel, carry passengers, and a load of cargo. Unfortunately the fleet is being phased out for new equipment in the near future. We were able to walk all over the aircraft and even go inside the boom pilot’s station.

After crawling around the KC-10 we hopped back in the bus and went to check out the control tower. We were able to speak with a couple of the men and women who work the tower on a daily basis. They gave us a brief run down of what it’s like and pointed out some of the equipment. Then we stepped outside on the tower’s catwalk. We had perfect timing because a C-17 was out practicing landings and take off so the tower told them to give us a little show. The short landing and takeoff capability of the aircraft is incredible.

The next plane we toured was a Boeing C-17 Globemaster. This is a large cargo plane. The inside is just a huge empty cavern. Calling it the Globemaster is actually pretty funny. According to the Lt when it was first built it lacked the range to fly across the Atlantic ocean non-stop because of some poor engineering. Boeing had to develop a special fuel bladder that was installed in between the wings along the roof. The C-17 is one of the few planes that can turn on it’s reverse thrust in flight. The Lt says it becomes a rather wild ride with the plane exceeding a 4,000fpm decent rate.

We ended our tour indoors with the RAPCON and simulator rooms. RAPCON is the approach control room. McGuire AFB has a large area of New Jersey that is under their control. This is the darkened room where the men and women you are speaking to on the radio sit. It is filled with radar screens and other equipment. One of the more interesting machines was the PAR station. Precision approach radar is a system used to guide a pilot using radar vertically and laterally all the way to the landing threshold. To put it simply the controller guides you over the radio and tells you to fly higher lower etc. There is no special equipment in the aircraft. Any pilot can request to practice this approach assuming they aren’t busy and more importantly assuming the pilot doesn’t actually touch down at the base. The next room was the KC-10 full motion simulators. They are much bigger than I expected and are of course full replicas of the inside of the machines. Just like the KC-10 itself these sims are on their way out for new equipment.

It was a great day at the air force base. Lt Col Dean Owens was not only informative but also very funny. The men and women at the base were all professionals and extremely welcoming. We were all proud to have such great people serving our country. In order to go on the tour you must apply by contacting the Mid Atlantic Aviation Coalition (Bob Checchio to be specific). The tour is free but you must apply in advance for security purposes.

The Year in Review – 2013

Is it that time of the year already? Like every other pilot I wish I flew more than I did but I had a great year overall. My non-flying adventures certainly added up to a year well lived. It seemed like this year the planes were down for extended periods throughout the year. Throw in some lousy northeast weather and the weekends quickly drifted away. I am happy that I did get to take two great day long trips with my girlfriend. There weren’t as many firsts as 2012 but I did get to take my older sister up for the first time. It was just a lap around the pattern but something I have been wanting to do for some time.

I already know there will be at least one first for 2014. This Christmas my girlfriend conspired with my parents to surprise me with a gift that is a major bucket list item for any aviator. I will be flying a P-51 Mustang! Exact time and place are still to be determined but you can bet I will be blogging about it. To say I was surprised with this gift is an understatement. It’s something I never thought I would do until I was in my 50’s and was lucky enough to have money burning a hole in my pocket. Let’s just say she is a definitely a keeper and I have the best parents a guy could ask for.

2014 is looking very promising!