May 31, 2016

Stacy Clark’s How to Be An Air Traffic Controller 101

Stacy rocking his Spanish World Cup Shoes in the tower.

Stacy rocking his Spanish World Cup Shoes in the tower.

By: Stacy Clark, 2001 

Note: Although this was originally written for VFR tower control much of it applies to all the ATC options.

After a particularly busy session one day a trainee asked me, “How do I do it, you make it look so easy?” This was my answer:

Being a controller comes down to those Nike commercials you’ve seen on TV… “Just Do It.” Simply put, you have no choice. The aircraft will keep coming whether or not it’s convenient for you at the time. As such, you need to make a conscious effort to foster those skills that are required for the job. You must learn to multitask. Whether that be writing and talking simultaneously, listening to two or three things at the same time, scanning the runway while thinking of your next move(s), observing what the other controller’s doing and how it fits into your (or their) overall plan, etc. Develop good habits in your strip, pad and board marking, in your scan pattern (pad/board, runway[s], scope, sky), in your basic phraseology and standard procedures. Listen actively. If someone reads something back wrong it is your job to catch it. If another controller misses something and you see it or hear it, it is your job to correct it. Control your frequencies. Talk to whom “you” need to talk to when you need to talk to them. You don’t need to answer each call as they happen. Prioritize. Work from the runway out; without the runway you’ve got squat. Learn your cutoffs, and then learn your outs…your safety valves, so to speak.

We all know that somewhat unjustified phrase “typical civil servant” and the negative connotation it brings forth in our minds. Never work from that angle while controlling. Never say to yourself, “Ah, its good enough, it’s all the same.” Working that way is nothing but laziness, pure and simple. And, it will generally bite you in the backside somewhere down the line. Never be an “Air Traffic Reactor.” You are an “Air Traffic Controller” – control – being the operative word. However, don’t over-control. Doing that is just as bad as not controlling enough. Always lay as much responsibility on the pilot as possible under the individual circumstance; take into account: wind, visibility, sky coverage, weather phenomena, speeds, aircraft performance, altitudes, pilot’s voice, etc. Think of these things as “tools”…because they are! Make your decisions and go with them, if they need changing along the line…do it, and do it then. ATC is a fluid game in practice, not highly rigid and inflexible. The decisions you make must always be the “best” for the overall picture. That is a learned skill that will come with time. As you gain experience, you will be able to see what needs to be done further out.

Though you may quietly have fear within you initially (as a developmental and as a newly rated controller) that will subside in time. NEVER transmit that fear over the radio to the pilots…they can smell it from a hundred miles away. They will begin to question you and your airspace will go sideways in a hurry. Never get angry, if you do, you will become fixated on that particular pilot and your pattern will suffer. Don’t forget the phrase “Remain outside delta airspace and standby.” Use it only as a last resort however. Try and avoid using “360’s” as a way of building space as generally the problem will come right back at you in 359.5 degrees, try suggested headings, 270’s to base/final, pointing the aircraft to a landmark, or to a point, etc. Always try and keep things flowing toward the airport. Use mind trip switches, i.e.: “report 3 miles,” “report xxx.” And then make an effort to call them before they call you. Understand you cannot make a pilot see another aircraft. It is ludicrous to play the “I’m not gonna clear you until you report him in sight” game. Sequence him and clear him…period. Then make sure it works. After a while those things that used to spin you around will become second nature and you will know what to do…because you’ve seen it a hundred times before. Learn from your mistakes and make mental notes to not do “that” again. SIT-DOWN, don’t stand up unless you absolutely need to. If there’s no chair then stand in one place… do not pace. Pacing only makes you “feel” busier than you usually are…it also wears out the carpet. If you “feel” something’s not right, it probably isn’t. Listen to that little voice inside your head…it’s trying to tell you something. Develop those gut feelings, for example, a pilot tells you he has the guy he’s supposed to follow in sight and your gut tells you “He’s seeing the wrong guy,” you’re probably right.

Know the 7110.65 and the AIM…know the exceptions. Know your local procedures and LOA’s cold. Know your approaches. Know your type aircraft and wake turbulence. Know your approach categories and how that fits in with the minimums. Learn and know those things that “seem” like just stuff that you memorize to pass the tests. Know the Departure Procedures and arrival routes/approaches for nearby airports and realize how those things affect “your” facility, and how your facility affects theirs. I strongly recommend getting a flight simulator (Microsoft) and “fly” them, fly the airways, know what headings get you from your airport to airport XYZ. Go flying as much as possible with local pilots. Not only does it build rapport but you’ll also learn volumes. Know your airspace from the pilot’s point of view. Observe from inside the cockpit what they are doing, and when. Understand their procedures and priorities. Know more than your fellow controllers; know more than the pilots. Know the minutiae. What does a Centurion and a Cardinal have in common…? (No wing struts, except for the original Centurion). What does a Cardinal and a Cherokee have in common? (Stabilator). What does a Cherokee and an Ercoupe have in common? (Designed by the same guy). Why is a Citabria called that…? (Spell it backwards…). And so on. Little tidbits like these may seem way beyond the pale, but these little extra bits of knowledge combined with a solid foundation are what make an average controller an excellent one. It’s your choice what type of controller you want to be. It’s in your hands…and so are the pilots and passengers. Good luck.

Oshkosh 2013 – Airventure Recap

Another Oshkosh is complete and what a fantastic Airventure week it was! For those of you who have been able to experience Oshkosh in the past, chances are you have memories of hot muggy weather or storms of enormous proportions (….or maybe both!).  This year was an unexpected break from both – we were lucky if we saw mid-80’s and only had a dusting of rain here or there throughout the week.  Needless to say it was an outstanding event!

I was lucky enough to be spending my 2nd Oshkosh with the amazing ICON Aircraft Team (my 6th Oshkosh overall) and it was, as always, great!  Although I wasn’t away from the booth much for a majority of the week, I did get the opportunity to sneak out for a bit and grabbed pics to share with Go Inverted.

A great friend and fellow aerobatic pilot, Michelle Kole (5g Aviation) and I were lucky enough to sneak a flight into Osh with a friend who was bringing in a Citation Mustang (jetAVIVA).  Within 5 minutes of being on the ramp in front of the Weeks Hangar we spied our first movie star!  Dusty was a hit with all ages, even flying during the show on a few of the days and then sharing his movie (Disney’s Planes) with everyone before it hit theaters on Friday night!

We spent the week meeting lots of amazing people at the ICON booth as well as seeing old friends – Oshkosh is the best place on earth to make new friends as well as catch up with old ones!

Kadie stopped by to say hello – she’s sure to be one of the next great aerobatic pilots so make sure to watch for her in the future!!

Chelsea, Jamie & Jessy

Chelsea & EAA Volunteer, John

Making new friends at Oshkosh is easy – everyone there is your friend whether you know it or not! It is such an amazing place where people with a passion for flying, fun and innovation gather once a year to share their passion for these things with others.  One of the most amazing things about this are the droves of volunteers that come every single year to help EAA make this show possible.  I had to take my picture with John, one of the volunteers at the exhibitor’s food tent (he made sure to keep us in line when we arrived each day) – how can you pass up a picture with such a fine young man, Oshkosh B’gosh overalls and all!?!

And of course I cannot go without mentioning all of the eye-candy that surrounded us this year!

Circling the Jumpers

The power house!

Father and son prepping the plane – what Oshkosh is all about!

Beautiful P-51 Mustang

Mustang Noses

As always Oshkosh provided the perfect setting for an amazing group of people to get together and share in the joy of aviation.  From the Weeks Hangar to the Sea Plane Base there were amazing sights to be seen and fantastic people everywhere! I can’t wait until next year when we get to see what people have been working on over the next 12 months and to see what the the latest and greatest additions to the show will be.  Maybe, just maybe, it will be this:

A Hellcat recently recovered from Lake Michigan – on it’s way to being restored!




Priming the System – G’ing-up for the 2013 Season


It’s that time of year again and people are beginning to gear up for the upcoming 2013 competition season.  With that said, there are many things to consider as you ramp back up.  How is your airplane? Any squawks during the annual? Has it been looked at closely since it was buttoned up for winter? Be sure to take the time to look it over closely, extra close if it has been sitting for a few months (even if it has been in a hangar).  And how about your parachute – has it been stored properly? Is it still within its packing dates or does it need to be repacked before you start flying again?


And how about you? Are you healthy? Have you been eating well and staying hydrated? Are you in shape? All things to consider before you start beating up your body and plane in the aerobatic box.



This blog is simply to mention G-tolerance.  Remember that you build a tolerance up and then if not maintained it will diminish.  Thus, if you’re just getting back into flying aerobatics, your body may need a week or two of flying (maybe even more) to get the systems primed again.  So take it easy initially, begin to add the G’s incrementally and remember that you don’t need to go for aerobatic endurance flights – 10-15 minutes of practice the first handful of flights is plenty! To be honest, I rarely practice more than 15-20 minutes at a time even when I’m at the peak of my training season.  And as for those negative G’s that so many of us know and love (or hate), it seems to require less training to regain a “tolerance” level.  I would argue that the negative G training should be light and minimal on each flight as it is less about priming your system and more about being able to maintain a relaxed state while under negative G in order to reduce your chances of bodily harm (remember if you strain you actually increase the pressure in your head during negative G maneuvers).  Many people have argued that large quantities of negative G are unhealthy (and anyone who has pushed a lot on a flight and had the negative G hangover for the rest of the day would probably agree) thus remember, one or two pushes a flight is more than enough in practice. Just remember to stay relaxed, don’t tense up and enjoy the ride.


A healthy diet, exercise and regular flights to keep your G tolerance up will not only help you feel better but also increase your levels of safety and success for each and every competition flight.  We are all vigilant about caring for our aircraft and parachutes but we must remember that our bodies also play an incredibly significant role and should be maintained just the same.


Have fun safe flights and I’ll look forward to seeing everyone around the competition circuit!

Get Involved – Become an IAC Judge!


Aerobatic judging is not only a fun and great way to get involved with the IAC, but also helps keep our sport alive.  There are lots of misconceptions when it comes to judging including thinking that you have to be aerobatic pilot.  News flash – you don’t have to be a pilot at all! Plenty of spouses and significant others attend judging school to learn how to be assistant judges or regional (and even sometimes National) judges as a way to get involved in the sport and we are very happy that they do!  Additionally for you current and future aerobatic flyers, becoming a judge is not only helpful to your sport but also a great way to become a better competitor!

So how can you get involved? Check out the IAC’s latest list of judges school’s scheduled for 2013

Our local IAC Chapter – IAC Chapter 26 – is holding an Introduction to Aerobatic Judging School March 9-10, 2013 at the Apple Valley Airport which meets the requirements for new judges (attend both days) as well as current judges that need to stay current or want to move up to National Judge status (need only to attend Sunday).  The school will include lunches, a BBQ/Movie Night on Saturday night and time permitting a mini camp Sunday afternoon with some real flying for you to try out your new judging skills!  It’s sure to be a great time and a wonderful way for new and long-time IAC participants, family and friends to get involved in one of the most exciting motorsports on the planet! For more information click the above links – we’d love to have you join us!

Pondering the Importance of Pre-Flighting

“This was from a Cessna 402 – the bottom is of course water with 100LL on top. Could have made a quiet flight if the fuel lines got cold!” – Donivan G.

The importance of pre-flighting is one of the very first things we learn as student pilots.  Follow your checklist.  Carefully walk around the airplane.  Check all the moving parts to make sure they move correctly and freely.  Inspect to make sure rivets, safety wire, cotter pins and screws are all in place.  How is the fuel quantity?  Did you check for water and sediment from the tanks as well as the lowest points in the system? Propeller, brakes, tires, flaps…the list goes on and on.

“During the run up, 2 EGTs’ were abnormally high on the right mag. Pulled back to the hanger because “it’s not right.” We pulled the mag harness (after looking at a bunch of other stuff) and found it was arching causing two plugs to not fire.” – Robert L.

Still it is amazing how quickly the importance of pre-flighting can disappear when people begin to rush or get complacent with experience.  And as important as pre-flighting is in general aviation, arguably it is even more important when aerobatic flight is added into the equation.  I would also argue that what aerobatic pilots know – or at least should know – is useful for all aviators whether they are flying a Piper Cub, Cirrus or Citation.


Aerobatic Pre-Flight = Risk Mitigation:


1. Sterile Cockpit

Aerobatic pilots know all about this – we toss our aircraft all over the sky and often it is open from the cockpit down the tail making it very easy for loose objects to find their way down to jam controls whether it be the stick, cables, tubes, etc.  But this is still something that is often disregarded by many as they become more and more complacent over time.  Pouches that Velcro closed do NOT guarantee safety – if you’re going to have a pouch in your plane make sure it is SUPER secured and consider one that has a zipper instead of Velcro. My personal opinion is don’t have anything in the plane but that’s not always a viable option.  But, for instance, flying with a cell phone in your pant pocket or Velcro pouch in the plane (which are easily opened or missed during pre-flight) is a commonly disregarded danger.  Is it worth the risk of jamming your controls just so you can sneak a picture of yourself for Facebook during a practice flight? Probably not.

I personally abide by the “EVERYTHING out that is not 100% necessary for that specific flight” rule.  If you’re flying cross country you’ll need different things than when you’re flying aerobatics – but either way maintaining a sterile cockpit and awareness of where everything is in the plane at all times may save you and/or your passengers life.


2. Parachutes

Believe it or not parachutes are not required in all countries – and for those of you who know your regs you know that if you’re flying solo (as long as the plane isn’t placarded that parachutes are required) you don’t have to wear a chute even here in the States.  But, is that wise? Most reasonable people would probably argue no – why take away your ace-in-the-hole?  Again, it is all about risk mitigation and having a parachute is often the only way out in the case of a catastrophic emergency.

Be sure that your parachute is in current pack and if you are borrowing one find out who packs the chute.  Additionally know how the parachutes are cared for and stored.  If the chute is regularly tossed on the hangar floor, left in the sun all day in the cockpit and the containers look uncared for those are all signs to beware.  You don’t want to be wearing a parachute that has been left resting in a puddle of oil, for example.  Remember that it is your one out if bailing becomes the proper response so take the time to look it over.


3. Know How & What to Pre-flight

Do you know the specifics of pre-flighting the exact type of airplane you are flying? Do you know the weak points, the places that may have caused problems or accidents in the past? Some airplanes have weak points in the tails, some have had rudder cable issues, etc.  If you know these things you can double check these areas and you should!  By knowing the history of the overall type of aircraft you are flying you will be much better prepared to pre-flight.


4. Maintenance

Of course it is important to know the maintenance history of an airplane your flying.  If you are borrowing an airplane make sure to talk to the owner and maybe even ask around to see if there is anything you should know prior to getting in an airplane.  Again, some people may be willing to take more risk with their aircraft and their life than you are – you make the final decision as to whether you will fly a specific airplane or not and you do not need to explain your decision if you choose not to.

If you are renting an aircraft absolutely do the research necessary to find out about the maintenance on the plane.  Often flight schools only have one or two aerobatic aircraft (if any!) amidst a fleet of GA airplanes and have no idea how important and specific maintenance for aerobatic planes is.  The best thing is if they have a mechanic who knows, understands and has experience with aerobatic aircraft.  Remember, going back to the sterile cockpit discussion, it is less of a concern to leave a tool under the seat in a Cessna – this same small error in a Decathlon, Pitts or Extra can be deadly.


5. The Pilot

Hopefully everyone knows of the IMSAFE checklist – we know that as pilots we need to pre-flight ourselves as well.  How are we feeling? Are we fighting a cold? Are we fatigued? How are our stress levels (and keep in mind that stressors are all negative things in our life – weddings, the birth of a child, etc. are also stressors)?  Every pilot, not matter what they are flying needs to make sure that they are physically and mentally ready to fly and that means that they are ready to fly in less-than-perfect conditions in case things change unexpectedly in flight.  In aerobatics this is also incredibly important as the stress placed on the brain and body are even more significant than that experienced in most GA airplanes.  If you’re not feeling 100% remember it’s okay to take the day off.


What this blog boils down to is safety.  Every time we set foot in an airplane we are taking a certain amount of risk and the way we make flying as safe as possible is all about risk mitigation and preparation.  What makes things even riskier at times is when we are renting or borrowing aerobatic aircraft as opposed to flying our own.  If you fly your own aircraft you know where it has been, how it has been cared for and flown, you can set it up exactly how you like, and so forth.  Still, often those who own their own planes become complacent in pre-flighting because they know what happened on the last flight and often forget that things may change even when sitting on the ground untouched between flights.  A friend on Facebook relayed the following story to me:


At a fly-in a guy went around with a large collection of clothespins. He put them in various places on the aircraft: non-pilot side flap, elevator, pitot tube, etc then sat at the end of the runway and took pictures of aircraft and their clothes pins! The harmless pins would not affect flight but teach a great lesson! – Thanks Spencer A. for the story!


On the other hand, when renting or borrowing an aircraft there are numerous unknowns including if the person/people before you have taken the sterile cockpit approach, maintenance history, procedures (are other renters caring for the engine appropriately?), etc.


“This might lead to further investigation!” – Chad S.


What is the moral of the story? Pre-flighting is important! Don’t become complacent – even if it just between same-day flights (remember every aerobatic flight stresses the airplane significantly!).  Stay vigilant and always try to learn as much as you can about the type of plane you’re flying as well as the specific airplane you are flying.  And always remember – you are pilot in command – if something is not right, don’t push it (even if it is the hair on the back of your neck standing up for what is seemingly no reason…sometimes attention should be paid to gut feelings) – the safety of your and your passenger(s) is the most important thing!


“This is a picture of the back side of the pilot’s left rudder pedal of the Kitfox IV I used to own. The crack is between the main pedal post and the arm that attaches the rudder cable, and completely out of sight. I noticed that left rudder was getting mushy so I did a full stop and felt around and found the crack. The welds on early Kitfox kits were not normalized so a few higher stress weld seams developed cracks. The Kitfox company issued service bulletins on this, but the mechanic I had performing the conditional inspection (annual) was not familiar with it. Don’t know how long the crack had been developing but it was about to fail.” – David I.


Thank You GoPro!

A HUGE thank you to GoPro!

GoPro has donated two HD HERO2 camera’s to help Chelsea video document her training and overall journey as she works towards try-outs for the U.S. Advanced Aerobatic Team in 2013!  Check out her latest video (taken with an HD HERO2 earlier in the summer) and stay tuned for more videos and photos to come!  If you’re interested in helping support the journey please visit Chelsea’s fundraising page!


Chelsea sees the world from a different perspective!


Don’t Let Fear Stall Your Flying!

Why are pilots scared of stalls? This is something I have asked myself time and time again. And more importantly, it is a question that I, as well as the majority of certificated pilots, have had to personally face. I was never terrified of stalls but at the same time I was also never comfortable with them.  The majority of my training occurred in a Cessna and my first stalls happened during the first few flights with no ground preparation.  Depending on who you ask about this to you will that probably receive one of two reactions to teaching stalls in this manner – either it will create less nervous anxiety or induce unnecessary fear.  For me I just was never really sure of what was going on with stalls and because of this I was never comfortable with them.  A wing-drop, which at the time I considered severe, is actually what led to my first flight with Sean D. Tucker.  My first taste of aerobatic flight is what started me on the road to becoming an aerobatic competitor, instructor and student of aviation safety….but I digress….

Back to the story… I made it through my private pilot checkride and then came my instrument, commercial, multi-engine and instructor training.  Stalls had become more comfortable for me, although that was because my control of them increased. My spin training, consisting of nothing more than a short ground session followed by a flight of a few spins in each direction in a Cessna 152 didn’t make me nervous…I thought I had it in the bag.  But, when the time came for me to give my first instructional flight that required me to go out with a student and have them do stalls I realized that I wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea of stalls let alone spins.  But why?  I had almost every rating I could have with the hours that I had, I studied and trained diligently.   Yet the questions remain.  Why are most pilots so uncomfortable with stalls and spins? And how does one overcome it?

I have been considering the question of why it seems almost natural for stalls and spins to go hand-in-hand with anxiety and fear. I think that the answer is far from simple but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Stalls are misunderstood.

Stalls (and spins) are misunderstood by many (and I’d hazard to say most) pilots, including flight instructors, and thus are often glossed over both on the ground and in the air with just enough to get students through the written and practical exams. Unfortunately stalls and spins are also often completely misunderstood and misconstrued in books, websites, and in other training materials.

2.   Stall experience is limited, at best, for most pilots.

Most pilots do whatever stall training is required for their certificate(s) and then rarely practice them again other than when a BFR or other recurrency flights require. With this, full stalls are rarely practiced more than a few times outside of primary training and stall recovery occurs at the first indication of a stall whether that be the stall warning horn/light, stick shaker or buffet. Training in flying an aircraft at the edges, including learning how to fly aircraft safe to do so in a stall, let alone practicing these slow flight and stalls regularly on our own are often the last thing on a pilot’s mind.

3.   Flying isn’t natural.

Flying is not a natural thing for, at least most, humans. We find what is both physically and psychologically the most comfortable, which is straight-and-level flight, and then do the minimal about outside of that attitude. Because of this we condition ourselves to become comfortable in that state but if the attitude of the aircraft is altered our comfort level quickly dissipates


Overall it seems that the fear and anxiety that accompanies stalls for most pilots comes from incomplete and/or incorrect information and understanding, lack of comfort (increased sensitivity) and lack of experience. So what are the ways to fix these issues? I will save my rant about increasing standards for flight instructors for another blog – as I believe that providing proper instruction is the root of a lot of this issue – but outside of that there are some things that you, as the pilot, can do to make yourself a safer and more confident pilot.

  1. Increase your knowledge.

Learn all you can about stalls – the aerodynamics, what they really are and what really affects them. Do you truly understand that a stall is not directly controlled by airspeed and what “stall speed” is? Or if you really want a challenge – try finding a complete lift/drag curve diagram to see what happens after a stall (since most books provide a diagram that ends after a sharp drop-off after the stall which isn’t 100% true). Find a flight instructor that has a lot of stall and unusual attitude experience and knowledge and pick their brain about that subject.

2.   Gain experience.

Like everything in life – experience, although not the only thing to rely on in sticky situations, can greatly assist you in making the right choices when faced with unexpected situations. The more experience you have, the easier it will be for you to react in high stress circumstances. For this, again, I recommend finding a flight instructor with an aerobatic airplane and lots of experience and knowledge so that you can be comfortable that you are in a safe and controlled situation to allow you to experience all edges of the flight envelop.

3.  Get comfortable – desensitize yourself.

This idea goes hand-in-hand with gaining experience, but I believe requires a little more discussion.  When gaining experience it is not specified whether the experience will be pleasant or unpleasant. The idea here is to become comfortable with stalls so that any stall situation, although potentially unpleasant if unexpected in certain situations, will be something that does not induce a panic or fear-based reaction in you. By experiencing stalls over and over in all difference situations and ingraining the recovery techniques, your brain and senses will become more desensitized to the situation and thus will allow you to react with a cooler and more collected manner.

A good flight school with well-trained instructors and well-maintained equipment is a must!

Stalls are simply a decrease in lift associated with exceeding the wing’s critical angle of attack. By reducing the angle of attack on the wing the stall is broken. This can occur at any power setting and at any airspeed. Of course if this happens close to the ground the outcome is often not a good one but when done a safe altitude (in many airplane types), it is not only quite safe but also a non-event.  By learning more about what a stall is, how they are manipulated, and all of the signs that accompany one you can increase your piloting skills will decreasing your chances of ever finding yourself in an unintentional stalling situation.   So find a good flight school with aircraft and instructors that are designed for this type of training, head up to altitude, and find out what stalls are all about!

Husky Pick Up Day 1 12-16-2011

Poor little frozen Husky (not the one we are picking up)!

Every time I get the opportunity to do some true cross-country flying my heart skips a beat. As a student pilot and even a new flight instructor I considered a flight from Sacramento to Santa Barbara a big trip; it wasn’t until I started working with Team Oracle and the Tutima Academy that I got a true taste of cross-country flight! Texas to King City, CA was my first big cross-country in the Extra. Yakima, WA to Auburn, CA in a SportCub was another fun trip (how could you not like flying low while seeing amazing views, wild horses and even a mountain lion from the air?!).  Since then I have flown back and forth, coast to coast, in Extra’s and have developed a very real respect for that kind of flying.

The Pilatus on the ramp at Afton.

Riding in style!

So, when I got the call that a client needed to go pick up his Husky after some maintenance at the factory in Afton, WY I was excited!  I was excited but also well aware that this was going to be a bit different than my normal summer trips….it’s December….and it’s COLD!  The client also has a Pilatus PC-12 so I met his pilot and another CFI in the Bay Area where we flew to Truckee to pick up the client.  He then flew us all out to Afton and the whole way I was saying to myself, ”Self…don’t get comfy….it’s going to be a lot colder coming back in the Husky!”  But, I have to admit – boy was the flight out in the Pilatus nice!

Approach to Truckee.

Clouds are starting to appear...

Even more clouds...

And....we're overcast!

As we started getting closer to Wyoming clouds began to fill in underneath us; from scattered to broken to overcast.  This wasn’t looking good.  They had to shoot the approach into the airport and when we landed we all groaned a bit as we looked at the weather from the ground – low clouds, poor visibility and mountains EVERYWHERE (never a good combination). We all headed down to Aviat so that he could settle up and move the plane to the FBO.  Now, I have tailwheel experience but no ice and snow experience.  The Husky is sitting on 31” Tundra Tires and the parting words they said to us regarding taxiing on ice were, “Just get her going in the general direction you want to go, go slow, and DON’T USE THE BREAKS. Oh yeah, and once you’re heading down the hill make sure to key the mic 3 times so that the gate is open by the time you get to it.” That’s comforting….an icy snow-covered taxiway going DOWNHILL with a gate at the bottom of it?! Hm. Thankfully it worked out well, but it is pretty amazing how useless the tail wheel becomes once it’s on ice!

Gotta love the sign hanging in the Aviat Factory!

The FBO at Afton is fantastic and the people there are the friendliest, nicest, most helpful people you could ever know.  After about an hour of talking through all of the route options, weather (including about 30 different weather web-cams they have bookmarked on the FBO’s computer) and what discussing what they recommend we decided to grab a bite before making the decision of whether to stay overnight or to fly home in the Pilatus.

The Afton Crew Car!

Welcome to Afton!

Fireworks and Tackle - what more could you need?

Afton's Olympic Gold Medalist lives here...I'm assuming...

Walking into the diner the four of us stuck out like sore thumbs – our iPhones and iPads in hand and all of us bundled up like we just arrived from Hawaii!  We chatted and checked weather (Foreflight is a god-send) over lunch and decided the two of us would stay the night and give it a go in the morning.

Afton's Mountain Inn Condos

A WARM and cozy condo in Afton.

So, the owner of the airplane and I grabbed rooms (or should I say condos) in Afton for the night and sent the other two pilots home….with all of our fingers and toes crossed that the skies will be clear in the morning so we can sneak out at the first light of day.  All the survival gear is packed, the SPOT has fresh batteries, and I will be bundled up like the little kid from A Christmas Story in the morning! It’s supposed to get into the negative numbers overnight…thank goodness they put a heater on the airplane in the hangar.  I have to admit this is making me rethink my desire to go fly in Alaska for a few years….brrrrrrrr!  With that said – it is gorgeous out here!  Stay tuned to see how it goes tomorrow….and check out my SPOT page if you want to track our progress!

Afton, WY

Update on the “Go Inverted!” 35% Giles G-202.

Jon Ott - Builder and Pilot of the Go Inverted 35% Giles!


I finally got the engine tuned better (actually, I finally got to go flying and just reset the needles to the manual recommendation then tweaked from there). Most of the low end shake is gone, a little more tweaking and it’ll be smooth.

I got two great flights out of it last weekend. Each flight burned about 16-18 ounces of gas (33oz water bottle tank, landed half full) in about 8-10 minutes. I should’a put a timer on it to see how long my flights were, but they felt to be around the 10 minute mark.

It was great to be able to fly it without having to worry so much about the engine running (or should I say dying) for a full flight.

I took it out a couple weeks ago, started it and it was running really rough (way too rich on both high and low) and the shakes broke the aileron servo mount out of the left wing. I epoxied it back in, and put some epoxy on the right wing servo mount too, just a fillet, to help strengthen it up some more.

Anyway, back to the successful flights…

The power is excellent…take off, establish a good climb then firewall it and pull vertical and it climbs forever.

Rolls are axial and blazing fast (almost fun-fly profile fast) on high rates. I have to do some mixing for knife edge, as it pushes to the gear some, and rolls opposite the rudder input.

Inverted flight required just a touch of forward stick to stay level in straight flight. I don’t remember it seeking the ground to bad when I relaxed the stick.

I also need to remember to coordinate some rudder in on loops so it tracks through it. Maybe a few points of elevator>rudder mix to assist the tracking.

It does get “snappy” on high rate elevator when you haul back the stick, but that is expected to a point.

Landings are sweet, and it does like to float in ground effect. Once the engine breaks in more, and I can lower the idle more, it’ll be really sweet.

The only issues I’m having with it are the typical issues with a new engine, and that’s just tuning. The shakes have cracked my plug cap blisters on the cowl, and broke some of the vinyl strip that holds the canopy on (I should put some canopy glue on the canopy to hatch joint to stabilize the canopy). No other issues with the airframe.

This winter, I’m planning on modifying the wing to a four servo, four aileron set-up with the ailerons split at the half-way point. I want to try having the inboard aileron moving 80% of the outboard aileron, kind of like what Sean D. Tucker did with the Challenger. He has eight (8) ailerons on the Challenger, with the inboard aileron moving ~80% of the outboard and his roll rate actually increased.

Why do I want to do this?

  1. ‘Cause it’s kinda cool
  2. It relives some stresses to the aileron servos
  3. Interesting mixing opportunities are available (crow speed brakes is one, flaps is another)
  4. ‘Cause it’s kinda cool

Oh, I also changed all the flight surface servos to Power HD 9501MG’s and the airplane did feel a more locked in to my inputs.

Hopefully next time I get to take it out, Mike “PitViper51” will be available to get some in-flight photos and video.

‘Til next time…Fly fast, roll right and “GO INVERTED!”



The Usefulness of Stunting – 1922


My best friend stumbled upon this in his search for other things and I couldn’t help but think that it was too good to not share with the rest of you. For anyone who appreciates how things once were in aviation and how they have changed, or for those in the aerobatic community this is a read that cannot be missed! Below is a link to a pdf file from the National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics, this particular article was published in November of 1922 by Edward P. Warner. Written when the FAA wasn’t the FAA, when the regulations were only a few pages long, and when we were still learning the basics of aerodynamics, this short article is fun to read and a direct look into the past. I hope you all enjoy it!


Click the link to download:

The Usefulness of Stunting