Saturday, March 18, 2006

New airplane and overconfident instructor: a bad combination

A friend recently bought a nice Cessna T182RG (Turbo 182 with retractable gear) and went to pick up the plane abouth 45 nautical miles from our homebase. He took a pilot he trusts, an FAA certified flight instructor (though he is mexican) that has lots of experience but none in this type of airplane... My friend himself is kind of new at aviation and has less than 300 hours on a Piper Cherokee 180. So it was a good idea to have an experienced instructor on-board. Or wasn´t it?

First takeoff:
The new owner (my friend) pushed the throttle forward and prepared to rotate. Being as careful as he is, he noticed and commented to the instuctor that the AI (airspeed indicator) seemed to be indicating anomalously. The instructor, probaly because he does not know the 182 very well, saw the needle move and overrided my friend´s assesment. An my friend succumbed to the higher experience... After all, in this new aircraft the instructor was the pilot in command.

First Landing (part 1):
Normal approach speed is selected and the instructor is performing the landing. 80 kts on final approach, high altitude airport (8,100 ft) and kind of a short runway for this altitude (3,500 ft). Temperature: 27C (around 81F)... To be continued.

Second takeoff... and second landing:
My friend, $1,100 USD poorer that the previous day was not very optimistic and confessed to be a bit intimidated by the aircraft. I told him that the 182 is one of the safest and easiest planes to fly and that he was going to be comfortable after a few hours in the plane. And off we went for our first familiarization flight. On taxiing I joked with him over the new set of tires and the not very fortunate first landing of the plane of the last afternoon, but he smiled only politely. Well I thought, no jokes today. But I kept trying on cheering him up. Warm up, runup and ready for take off. Since this airplane is turbocharged it accelerates very well, and we were waiting for the correct airspeed. And with no warning, at just under 40 kts the plane lifted eagerly and smoothly by itself. This sounded a bell in my brain and checked everything right away... Everything, exept the airspeed seemed and felt ok. I know this because I owned a C182 for three years during which I took it on several long trips. In any case the remaining runway was not adecuate to try (again) to abort the landing and stop since is kind of short and downhill. We were way too close to the cliff that limits our home airport. I decided to continue. Two seconds had elapsed. I told him to keep the nose down to accelerate, although by the behaviour of the plane told me that the airspeed was not correct. We departed the pattern at what the airspeed indicator said was 50 kts to troubleshoot and climbed to 2,000 agl.
My friend set cruise parameters to see he behaviour of the plane.
-This AI is not working correctly- he said. -This cannot be-. The needle was moving but refused to go beyond 80 kt even in high cruise.
-Ok- I said -look at the setting and the GPS. We should be doing 140 kts at this settings, and this is what the GPS is telling us anyway-.
-Rrrright- he responded. - your airplane!- he continued.
I looked at him for a second trying to make my mind if this was an opportunity for an emergency lesson. But immediatly decided againts it, this was a noble but still a high-performance, complex aircraft and this was only his second flight in it.
-I have the plane-. I concurred. My last check was to turn 180 and check the GPS speed to make sure we were not being fooled by the wind but no, the groundspeed was still 140 kts. There was no wind.
-Atizapan traffic, this is IFT returning to the pattern and... uh... gentelmen, I am going to bother you because I need to land on runway 22-. There were several 152´s on the pattern on school touch and goes, and I had just told them that I was going to land in the opposite direction. I did this because our 04-22 runway has a 5% slope and all takeoffs have to made on runway 04. You can land in that runway also, although twins prefer to land on the 22 for safety. This helps reducing the speed rapidly, and in this case it wold be an extra safety factor because I would have to ignore the indicated airspeed. This is a high altitude, high temperature airport.
-IRC on downwind is going to perform 360´s until runway is clear- said one of the instructors.
-IKT on base will be on 360´s until runway clear- said the one in another plane. And the rest followed with similar messages.
Everybody gave us preference with no questions. With experienced instuctors on board, they needed no other expanation from me but my request knowing right away that there was a reason for it. This is nice in the aviation community.
Back to the cockpit I thought that my friend was a very cool customer but he was silent.
-I am going to have to land by the seat of my pants- I said casually. -When on final please read me the GPS speeds-.
A much more animated "Ok" was his answer. I did not really need that, but using everything you have at your disposal is always a good idea and also, there is nothing more useless in a cockpit than a pilot-owner with nothing to do.

There is nothing spectacular about landing a plane with no airspeed indicator (though it has killed even airline crews) if you are current. It is also very important to know the plane because the unpredictability of events is both the interesting thing about aviation and the dangerous thing about aviation. At the end I did not have the benefit of GPS speed because being new to the Garmin 430, my friend kept fumbing with the low terrain indications that blocked the speed indications of the GPS. But I ignored that and came to a nice textbook landing. No fast, not slow, just a regular old full stall landing. Sure, you bet I am bragging...

First Landing (part 2):
The pilot-instructor performed the landing and made several mistakes that resulted in a thousand or so dollars in damage to the plane. No injuries but my friend told me they finished 3 feet from the edge of the cliff at the end of runway 22 with two blown tires and abroken wheel. And a very scared pilot-instructor.
The first mistake was made long before this first landing. I guess that being experienced at instucting, and believe me, he IS a good pilot, he thought a turbocharged 182 would pose no challenge to him. He has driven much more comples twins and singles. I do not know if he studied the POH (pilot operating handbook) of the plane but I hope so. In any case, not having had a checkout himself with an instructor familiar with the 182 started the chain of events. On rotation, my friend noticed the AI was not normal. The instructor, unfamiliar with the airplane could not tell the difference but decided to call it bully. My friend decided to go silent against experience. Something I hope he will not continue to do, no matter the hours of the other guy. He is relatively inexperienced but very careful and pays close attention to his airplane. They talk to you. Most of the times they scream about your mistakes in advance. But we do not always hear. And in this case the instructor was the noise in the communication. The second mistake was really a consequence of the first, and it was not noticing that the airspeed on approach could not be right. From the flight we made the following morning (also not knowing that the AI was malfunctioning) I know the AI was wrong for at least 30 kts. It is hard to believe that he thought the airspeed was correct because on crossing the threshold he was doing more than 110 kts and not the 80 kts he saw on the AI, something very high even for a twin like the Seneca or the 90 mph he uses on a Skymaster flown frequently by him. Third mistake: not going around when seeing that the plane was floating incredibly. The attitude of the plane should have been very flat in this moments and trying to land like this in a short, high-altitude downhill runway is inexcusable unless you do not have a working engine in front of you. The result was 3 feet from being catastrofic and a tribute to the engineering of the brakes and wheels in the plane. A brake designer somewhere has probably saved many lives in this way. Wherever you are, I salute you man! Fourth mistake: the worst from my point of view since the whole thing teached nothing to the instructor because he was not paying attention or did not care to understand exactly what had happened. The next day when we went flying the whole thing was rationalised as bas luck or bad wind. I have been trying to be merciful on this guy but the fact that my friend figured out the problem three seconds after we took off the next morning, makes mercy... inadecuate.

I realize I am being tough in judging the mistakes of a fellow pilot. But I permited myself this for two reasons: I strongly believe that if this particular pilot did not learn anything, the rest of us should. And avoid excuses and protagonism because "I am way past 1000 hours". Also, because I will grant the opportunity of critizising my own stupidity since my next writing is going to be about my own mistakes.

So, with my mind at ease, I have to say that maybe this is not fair, maybe it was just bad luck. But maybe being a thorough, procedural and responsible piot is not enough. Checklists cannot substitute a thinking pilot in command. You, the pilot, still have to think. And be honest about your own capabilities. No matter how much experience.

Ignore it, and it will bite you sooner or later.

Think-fly when you fly.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Fuel starvation and conspirations: too many stupid pilots...

About how things conspired to create 5 seconds of discomfort for seen what you want to see and not qhat you should...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ice encounters of the worst kind: in a C172

John, the Freight Dog, has been writing lately about his daily ins and outs as a professional pilot driving a Cessna Caravan moving freight. Work has to be done icing or no icing, even though the FAA is apparently concerned about airworthiness in icing conditions. So it is no surprise that he feels only too glad to be on the ground after icy night flights. And remember, he has all the dicing bells and whistles... I did not, 7 years ago when I encountered unexpected icing in a Cessna 172 at 13,000 ft.
What was I doing at 13,000 IFR on a 172? Well, there was an airshow in Acapulco beaches, 2 hour flight from Mexico City where I am based and the weather briefing said VFR all along the route. The weather is usually good all year round in Mexico so I had no doubts in my mind about this flight. But weather surprises are not alien to flying. 30 minutes into the flight I found cloud formations that blocked the mountain pass VFR flights have to use to clear the 12,000 ft mountains south of Mexico. The temperature was +10C at 11,000 ft just below the clouds and the clouds themselves did not appear bad ones so I naturally asked the controller for an IFR clearance which he gave me right away. So far so good, I was probably going to be in the soup for 10 minutes or so to cross the mountains, and then enjoy the usual stable weather typical of the southern part of Mexico facing the Pacific.

Entering the clouds, pitot heat on, stay on the gauges, fly the plane, no turbulence, all good. Being inexperienced, I did not checked the OAT right away. I could not have imagined a temperature dropping 12C just entering the clouds! But that is exactly what happened, though I did not noticed at first. My only passenger and girlfriend at that time, was the first to notice the instant frost in the windshield. She said calmly... "Is that supposed to happen?" I turned from the instruments right away and I could not believe what I saw. In front of my eyes, ice was accumulating at an alarming rate! I checked the temp gauge, and the wing. I was in deep trouble now because when 3 seconds later my eyes were back to the instruments, they found that the airspeed was decreasing and the plane was going down at 500 ft/m. Yes, you read correctly, the speed was decreasing. The reason was clear but confused me for several seconds. I was pulling the yoke to get Vy (best climb speed) but the RPM´s were slowly but steadily diminishing. All this within the boundaries of what we now call A airspace of Mexico City International airport. How could so many things go wrong so fast? I felt my brain froze for like a thousand years, but I guess it was only a couple of seconds. After that I heard myself declaring an urgency (PAN, PAN, PAN... ). I requested an immediate vector from the controller away from the mountains, which were certainly below me by now, and out of the icy clouds. My confusion was so high because of the sudden high workload, that it took me an eternity to comply with the vector issued by the controller. Two things were invaluable here: I suddenly remembered the 1-axis autopilot in this 1997 172R, so the heading bug did the job of getting us out of the clouds while I troubleshooted the dying engine. The other was the immediate decision to get out of the ice. The whole encounter could not have lasted more than a minute and a half, but I easily had half an inch of ice on the wings by the time we cleared the clouds in a heading that was perpendicular to my original trajectory and towards Mexico City International Airport, where the skies were clear, just 18 NM to the north. I lost 1,500 ft before the engine started to get back enough power to stop descending and I was also fortunate that just outside of the clouds the air was at 10C like before, which shed the ice very fast. 3 minutes after or so, both me and the controller were calm again, and the damn C172 was flying like if nothing had ever happened! With my shaky, inexpert knees trembling, the only option was to get back to Atizapan (MMJC), my home airport, to live another day. I did not even thought of trying a different way to Acapulco, I have had enough flying adventure for that day. Or so I thought... Because after taking off with calm wind, the conditions for landing half an hour later were so turbulent that it took me 3 tries and two scares to firmly put the plane on the ground at 90 Kts. The schools flying at the time were lucky to bring back the planes they had in the pattern that day, because the instructors had my same problems for landing.

So you see, I understand perfectly the feeling of Freight Dog loving to fly but thinking how good it is being on the ground when the ice is up.

What had happened? Well, 1999 is remembered in Mexico City because that winter night we had something very rare in these latitudes: a hell of a snow storm. It was not forecasted and took even the airliners by surprise, because of the severe turbulence it caused later that night, just before the storm. It did not actually snowed in downtown Mexico, but it did on all the mountains around. All over central Mexico, hills around were absolutely and immaculately white the next morning.

I will not bother you with the lessons learned, which should be obvious. Instead let me tell you about the satisfactions: the next day, the girl still went with me to the airshow and the cristal clear air left by the snowstorm allowed us to see all of the 5 major volcanoes, all snowed, at the same time while enroute. This is a thing I have never seen before or since. It was worth the price.
But of course, respect ice. It can accumulate at unbelievable rates...

Monday, January 02, 2006

2005: an odyssey to the Arizona desert/Part 1

With this I start relating the memories and reflections of the long travel through half mexico and half (kind of anyway) of the US in my T337, the trustworthy XB-IXP. Each part covers a flying day and I think you will find it interesting. I was planning to use this trip for several purposes. To get well acquainted with the plane before a planned trip to Europe in the 337, to get more experience flying in the flight levels weather, to fly the Grand Canyon and to eat and shop a little in San Antonio, TX.

December 23th, Mexico city to Monterrey, NL for the "posadas". A failed magneto in good weather.

Fortunately or not, the only problems I get on my trips occur in day one. Once I forgot to check in advance that the paperwork was on the plane (a 182 at the time), and of course my partner had forgotten the airworthiness certificate in a foreing airport the previous week. He had not even realized that and it took 2 hours and a dozen phone calls to get a new airworthiness certificate... But that is, like they say, another story.
Today I noticed a little bit more drop than usual on one of the front engine magnetos at runup, but almost none in the other one. Since I flight-tested the plane the previous afternoon, I suspected a dirty plug. Since there was no roughness when tested, I decided to continue the flight and keep an eye on the magneto and check that the plug cleared... It was not going to be that simple.
But we were climbing now, gear up... cycle complete... flaps up and power adjust. A quick check on the front magnetos and... Ah, no, no problem. But of course the mixture is rich for the turbochrged climb to 13,000 ft. Scan complete... a quick glance at the new electric backup attitude indicator and... Oh sh...!!!
I just installed an electric attitude indicator because part of the trip was probably going to be IFR in the US winter, and now I do not have a backup. There it is, new, blue and brown, no flag but obviously ten degrees tumbled to the right. Damn!!!
Half way into the flight to Monterrey, with the mixture leaned, I gave the magneto check another shot. Brrrrrrrr...brrrp... ...brrrrp... cogf, cof....brrrp.... Holy cow! Not good. Well, so much for the plug theory. I closely followed the magneto behavior and it appeared to worsen with time, though it did not show with both magnetos operating. I was halfway into the flight and with no intermediate suitable airports for repairs and VFR weather, I dedided to continue the flight all the way to Monterrey.
Murphy´s law --- 2, Me --- 0.
After sending my girl and 2 other passengers to the hotel, I spent the rest of the day close to the mechanic analyzing the front right magneto. A good thing that we were to spend the next two days in Monterrey for the Christmas festivities. There was no rush.
But the mechanic needed only two hours. Just after opening the cowling, the problem was evident. -There you have it- said the A&P. The right magneto was half opened, screws not tightened. -That´s it?!!- I asked incredously while dialing for a furious conversation with my mechanic back at home... -How (/&/)(/&"·$!/()=$$%"·%&/·$%!!·"$$%% this happened!!!!- I yelled over the phone.
The local mechanic suggested removing and inspecting the magneto to make sure nothing was damaged before tightening the screw which of course we did. I learned to dismantle and look for problems inside a magneto and tested the engine. Beautiful! Same small drop from both magnetos.
I went for Chistmas 150 bucks poorer but a thousand times more confident for the flight ahead.
Merry christmas.
The short 3 hour flight from Mexico city was otherwise uneventful, but you always learn a lot from this things. And of course, I enjoyed "las posadas"...

Friday, November 18, 2005

At pilot's discretion...

-Atizapan traffic, IXP is taxiing into position 04-
-Roger, IXP. Takeoff at pilot´s discretion...-

At pilot´s discretion always sounded to me like a "are you sure you want to do this?" kind of recrimination from someone who probably knows very little about the hazards involved in a low visibility takeoff. But I could see the phrase on the radio making his effect when my friend Andres (and PIC for that flight) suddenly looked to me and said, more inquiring than anything else... -Eh, maybe we should not attempt this takeoff...-
He had just finished aligning the plane on runway 04, in our home airport.
-At pilot´s discretion means exactly that, you have to decide for yourself- I said with a distracted air.
-Do not let him intimidate you- I continued a second later, -just aknowledge the message and make the decision based on the facts, not on someone else´s perception that maybe you should not do this-.
Actually I understood his hesitation. He is under 200 hours total and he is not yet all that confident on airplanes; not to mention this was only his 10th or so hour behind the controls of the 337 Skymaster that we co-own. In addition, he was surely thinking about the rest of the planes waiting, apparently, that someone else decided to go up first.
The fog that was rising so many doubts appeared, like so many days in the late autumm, from nowhere. In the time it took us to start the engines and taxi to the runway, the day changed from sunny-perfect to completely foggy. You see our home airport is kind of an aircraft carrier stuck in the hogh mountains surrounding the west part of Mexico City. So curiously enough, the fog always appears to come from the lower terrain towards the city. But it also makes an interesting effect. Since the terrains flattens a little bit in the airport surroundings, many times the fog completely covers the Hangars but leaves the runway clear. This cannot be seen from the hangars or the tower, but from previous experience I knew this could be the case so I decided to taxi all the way to the runway... And voilå, there there was the whole extension of therunway ahead of us with almost no fog even thoug we could not see the hangars to the north side of the airport.
Since our airport is officially uncontrolled we completed our checklists and advised on the frequency that we were rolling fro takeoff.
Andres smiled a bit but still looked concerned about the fog just beyond the limits of the airport that appeared to be headed our way.
-Nothing to worry about- I said. -Remember that we will be more that 200 ft above the runway when we get there even on one engine- reminding him of our preflight review of single-engine procedures and performances earlier that day.
-So do you think is safe to takeof like this?- he insisted.
-I do, but remember that today you are the pilot in command and It is your call-.
This is a common situation with low time pilots and students, they feel inclined to delegate the responsability on the instructor or the more experienced pilot in the cockpit. This might seem conservative and a good practice, but I always turn down this behavior and refuse from making the call unless I see some danger in them.
You always find a situations like this in aviation and the bottom line is that to be a pilot you have to be comfortable with the decisions you have to make a hundred times a flight. And sometimes you encounter external noise, in the form of another pilot in the cockpit or the dreadful "at pilots discretion" we just heard. But still, you have to make your own decisions. So, I waited for his...
Andres is very prudent and thorough, so even if unexperienced, I regard him as a very good pilot. He made his decision.
-Ok, lets go said through the intercom- and to the traffics: -Atizapan traffic, IXP starting takeoff roll-.
The takeoff was of course uneventful but kind of dramaatic to the eye, from the back seats, Andres's wife and my girl told us later that for them int was like seeng nothing and then emerging on top of a beautiful lit white carpet of clouds (actually it was fog). A right towards the city and south put us into position to see the airport we just left. It was very odd seeing the airpot completely covered in fog, except for the norrow strip just above the runway. I made a pirep for the traffics.
-Atizapan traffic, IXP left runway heading and is bounded south-. Then continued: -The runway trajectory is clear of fog up to runways end, beyond that the top of the fog is 200 ft agl, though I would not try to outclimb it in anything less than a 182-. I knew the 150's from the school had like 20 minutes waiting for takeoff but the instructors know me and the message was for them. Turn off your engines, your practice area is in solid fog and the 150's would most surely penetrate the fog in front of the runway after takeoff at these high altitudes (Atizapan is at 8120 ft).
As we climbed we took a glimpse at a C206 turbo climbing above the fog departing to the north and reporting the same we had informed. So the message was clear, if you have a turbo and able to climb fast the fog was no problem, if not stay on the ground. The students and instructors stayed on the ground. Clmbing south we saw that all Mexico City was under the fog and the controllers there were reporting 1 and a half mile visibility. The atmosphere was calm and cool.
In a couple of minutes we enjoyed the spectacular view of the volcanoes showing its peaks above the fog and always making an opportunity for a photograph... If, you bring the camera that is. I have to make a travel checklist.
An hour and a half later we were less than half an hour from our destination in the beach and the pilot had to face another decision. His wife has always problems inthe descent of more than 500 ft/min., but the thing is that our destination in the beach is also very close to mountains topping about 11,000 ft. So, either you end up 5,000 ft high on arrival or drop like a brick after the mountains... At least at first sight. Predictably enough, the question finally arrived.. -What should we do?-
-At pilot's discretion- I responded with a sarcastical smile.
After a short silence I added:
-Use everything at your disposal, distance, altitude, and TERRAIN info on the GPS-
Being a smart guy the solution presented itself to him right away. He started studying the terrain info in the GPS.
-Ok...-he probed -if we deviate slightly to the right we can pass lower terrain sooner and then turn back right!-
-Correct, that is the logical thing to do and it will not add more than a 5 to 10 miles to the total trip- I said, kind of proudly.
It is impossible to teach anybody every possible situation they will find in flight and everyone gets its license long before knowing all the complexities of airplane systems, weather and like in this case, navigation complicated by very high terrain.
By the way, the GPS terrain turned out to be an invaluable help in this case since from a distance, it would have been very difficult tu judge that the terrain was lower to the right side of the trajectory because it was very hazy.
As typical and simple as this flight was, it illustrates the fact that general aviation, at least in Mexico, faces every day: it does not matter if you have a C172 or a twin Cessna 431, or if you happen to have 40 or 5000 hours on your logbook, you are on your own when it comes to making decisions. And the only way to cope with that, even if you are rather inexperienced, is being prepared...
So, pilot... pilot!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Going out to space... in your own little machine

NASA´s shuttle is about to come back and other than wishing good luck to the guys up there, I was wondering on a cloudy lazy Sunday morning about joining them. Going to space... How about that? HOW ABOUT THAT!!! I decided I was going to space that Sunday.
Not that is cheap (ask NASA) but if you are not that picky about seeing the blackness of space, the definitions about where space really begins in the atmosphere or the fuel consumption of a turbocharged twin, a bunch of lucky guys in general aviation can alwas go to space. No sir, not in their dreams... literally. Consider this: space is characterized to some extent by the absence of air so you cannot breathe. Also, life is not sustainable because of the temperatures existing there. Oh yes, and the spectacular views... Well, I don´t know about you, but -30C (-22F) and the need of oxigen to travel the flight levels is outer space for me. We also get the view... No way you say? Ok, here is some physics or physiology facts if you want.
1) The average useful conscious time at -30C, in shirt sleeves, which is how we fly, is about 10 minutes.
2) The average useful conscious time at FL250 without oxigen is, if you are still in your 20´s and exercise regularly... 8.5 minutes.
So... this is clearly not the biosphere! This is not the place nature designed us to survive. Astronauts certainly have more extreme conditions to face and consequently their times in case of catastrophic life support failure is less than 1 minute but, really, living 10 more minutes than an astronaut in case of catastrophic failure is not a significant difference when defining outer space. Bottom line... respect the flight levels (you ARE in outer space), stay on top of your equipment and enjoy...
IFR flight plan to Tampico... FL190... 175 KTS... Engines humming on the Skymaster... Temperatures in the green (except outside air temperature)... Oxigen flow checked on all four astronauts today... Yes, it is time for a picture. Click! A volcano view from outer space.
But this happened much later in outer space...
A little bit sooner we were still in the IFR departure from Atizapan, my home airport 13 miles from Mexico City international. It is a complicated procedure for both the pilot and the controllers since it takes you against the flow of big iron landing in Mexico City, so you have to be on top of your game. It is also usually IFR early in the morning, like today. "IXP (my callsign), radar contact, fly direct SLM, climb and maintain 11 thousand and contact departure on 120.5 immediatly for traffic information and higher altitude" We make the call, and the next controller warns us just as we are breaking ontop of the stratus layer we have been into for the last 3,000 ft now: "IXP, traffic, one o´clock, 2 miles southbound, Airbus 319, descending from 13 thousand for 12 thousand opposite direction"
Holy cow!
This occasion rivals that one time going to Oshkosh where we broke ontop to see a full moon at sunset, the view is fantastic! -Look, the volcanos are on the right!-. There was no moon this time but I swear this 319 is a beautiful alien spaceship. For a moment there I swear I can see the passengers through the windows. The sunglasses of the pilot... I think they are Oakley´s... -"Departure, IXP has the traffic in sight"-. "Roger" said the controller, I think, a little relieved. And continues: -"Continental 3495, you have traffic, twelve o'clock, 6 miles, Cessna 337 reaching 11 thousand. Descend and maintain 12 thousand" Those pilots are looking for us since they do not answer immediatly but within seconds they report us in sight. I am sure we were less than a mile from both planes and one thousand feet in altitude. It always looks much closer than that but it is a typical departure from Mexico City airspace. Clearly this is not the time for daydreaming but cannot help wondering. Where do all this people come from? Did someone curious in the window got a glance at this little machine driving us up, up and up!? I like this stuff, but the candy was still ahead for me.
-"IXP now clear of traffic, turn heading 020 to intercept V19 to Tampico, climb and maintain FL190"- says the controller sharply as if knowing I am supposed to pay attention to the airplane instead of dreaming. But my brain is still in the mood and I hear myself saying "020 for V19 to Tampico and climb to outer space..." This controller is also obviously in the mood for he replies after just one second of confussion: "Right IXP, and switch to Houston Mission Control upon reaching initial orbit..." Damn he is good! "IXP will report reaching FL190" I add returning to proper procedure. On FL190, now HE cannot avoid departing from procedure when two minutes later he sends me to Mexico Center. -"IXP, now contact Center on 126.6 and have a nice spaceflight sir"-. I switch frequencies smiling wishing the controller could see what I have in my windshield. But I am pretty sure he knows I´ll be smiling all the way to outer space...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Yes, we physicists have a life...

Just for the record:
No, we are not boring (or bored). Yes, we like beautiful girls. Yes, we have fun. And yes we have a llife besides physics. You can see my little family with parents and sister, and the nice girl saying hi in the back is the fire of my twin-engine, physics-planes life. Other than this (just ti give the blog a human touch) I promise to stay basically on Skymasters and planes...