Friday, March 29, 2013

Terence's Friday Soaring Report ,North Wind Wave day - with thanks to Ramy - March 22, 2013

Ramy called a north wind wave day for Friday and Paul very kindly offered to get out to the airport early to support Ramy's audacious attempt to fly downwind to Santa Barbara.

Ramy launched around 9am and connected with the Los Vaqueros wave at WAVE3. Soon after Walter and I tried to do the same in KP, but we didn't see any lift worth taking, so we exercised patience and stayed on tow until WAVE1 where smooth 2kt lift was found. As you will notice from the flight trace, we attempted to find better than 2kt lift to the east and west of WAVE1 but no joy.

Walter alerted Ramy on 123.3 that WAVE1 was working and he soon joined us and out-climbed KP. We took about 1.2 hours to reach 18,000 where the wave gave hints that it was getting stronger. Had NorCal granted us higher, I think we could have made 20K+.

After topping out and hearing Ramy head south, we decided to burn up some altitude by exploring West, however, NorCal wanted us out of there:

"1KP, I'm vectoring SFO departures around you, state intentions"

Time to cut and run- we turned around and headed towards Tracy. On the way back a different NorCal controller inquired "say type of aircraft" and we had to repeat "glider" several times. Cognitive dissonance I suppose. No one expects a glider to be at 15,000 feet.

By the time we got back the winds were blowing strong at Byron- 320 23G28. Walter made an excellent low energy landing, despite getting smacked around on short final.

Many thanks to Paul for getting up early on his day off to make it happen for us. Yesterday was definitely a top 10 flight for me. And thanks to Ramy for the encouragement.





Wednesday, March 27, 2013

High Altitude Chamber Ride in OKC

NCSA club rules specify that: ":Members who fly at altitudes higher than
18,000' are required to have attended a high altitude FAA-USAF
physiological training course." This was easy to arrange until some
years ago, as the nearby Air Force Bases offered these courses several
times a year and initially only cost $20 or less. When this was no
longer an option, members could do what Walter did last year and go to
Van Nuys for the 'normobaric training', where there was no pressure
change, which remains at sea level. The oxygen level is controlled via
piped air which the trainee breathes through a mask, to simulate a climb
to high altitude. The only other option for this training is through
the FAA CAMI in Oklahoma City.

Maja chose that option and describes her experiences:

"Hi all,

For civilian pilots who want to test their own tolerance to hypoxia in
the controlled environment, only two kinds of options are available
these days:

a)going to CAMI - Civilian Aeronautical Medical Institute in Oklahoma
City, an FAA establishment, for a hypobaric and hypoxic chamber ride or
b) commercial normobaric hypoxia testing in Van Nyues in Southern
California or few other and more distant places.
CAMI high-altitude chamber ride obviously means hypoxia with
concomittant decompression, as if one is really climbing in the
atmosphere. Normobaric testing, like in Van Nuys, means ground level
pressure at all times, and the oxygen-starved air is supplied via the
face mask.
The other relevant difference between these two options is the
distribution of cost for the test and travel. CAMI offers morning of
lectures and a chamber ride plus the spatial disorientation course with
the simulator the same afternoon for zero dollars. Two hour normobaric
testing in SoCal was close to $300. Travel to OKC does cost money,
though: but if one flies to Dallas and then drives the rental car to
OKC, that costs about $300. A night in the hotel is needed for either
option. So, finances being about the same, I have opted for the hypoxia
physiology training in CAMI in Oklahoma City.
For those who have never done it, "the chamber" really is a sealed
walk-in chamber, fits about 12 students plus 2 staff. It is connected
via valves in the walls to large compressors (?) which can take out or
whoosh in the air at different speeds and of different O2 pressure.
The first part of the "ride" takes you to 5000 ft AGL and back to ground
level, at 3000 ft/min (just like lazy Byron thermal), as a test of the
health of ones sinuses and ability to clear the ears. Whoever finds this
part painful should leave the chamber, because it will only get worse
after that. First real "ascent" is to 8000 ft (3000 ft/min), O2 mask
hanging on the wall above your left shoulder. About that altitude an
unannounced rapid decompression (10-15 s) to 18.000 ft occurs and one
has to recognize that moment and jump for the O2 mask. This is supposed
to simulate the loss of cabin door in an airliner. Such a rapid
decompression is a very violent sensation, at least it was for me, so
there is really no way that it cannot be noticed.
What follows is the real test of your hypoxia tolerance. Masks on, we
"climbed" to 25.000 ft at 3000 ft/min. Once 25.000 ft is reached, half
of the students take off the masks for up to 5 min, while the other half
sitting across with masks on and watching and writing down symptoms they
see in other people. Everyone has a worksheet, most important part of
which is to check your symptoms during the first, second ... fifth
minute while without the O2 mask. The goal is to identify 3-4 symptoms,
some more some less obvious. However, the moment one has a very obvious
symptom the mask should go back on, and you should record both that
symptom and the O2 saturation reading from the pulse oxymeter. I had
identified 3 symptoms, all within the first minute: blurry vision - not
too obvious, very obvious heart racing, and finally rapidly developing
dizziness. The last made me put the mask back on at 47 s: did not think
I could detect anymore symptoms if I actually fainted.
After that I "enjoyed" watching men getting silly by refusing to put the
mask back on. At the end of minute 3, it looked like the collective IQ
of all the students which still had the mask off was about 70. They
grinned very happily when addressed by staff, but could not execute the
simple tasks given, like stretch your arms and pretend to fly around.
Some could execute tasks - one guy was asked to put plastic pieces into
his hood or front of the sweatshirt, which he did quite well, but later
could not recall that it was him who did it, rather the staff person.
Temporary amnesia is apparently common in hypoxia. Eventually, all these
men needed help to put the O2 masks back on. Time of useful
consciousness at 25.000 ft is said to be between 3-5 minutes. However,
if one cannot put the mask back on, that consciousness if not very
useful. Two minutes at 25.000 ft without O2 seemed like a better
approximation, which was also mentioned during the morning lectures.

The last test was back at 18.000 ft for five minutes, demonstrating the
effect of hypoxia on night vision. Once the lights were out, we were
given a chart with 5-color printed pin-wheels (color vision testing),
with "Z"s around the periphery (peripheral vision testing), and small
sectional chart legends to focus on (foveal focusing). I did not think I
noticed much of an effect of O2 deprivation on night vision: could still
tell apart yellow from white and green from neighboring blue, could see
all "Z"s and focus on most of the text. It's just that it became much
easier when I put the O2 mask back on: the colors got brighter, and I
could tell apart more of those sectional chart legends.

Other interesting tidbits: 1)For CAMI, one needs a current FAA Medical,
which can be older than 1 year (mine was). 2) The session is recorded on
a video (ours wasn't by mistake), so if you end up being really silly it
will go to YouTube and go viral around the globe :-)
3) Men with beards: if you have one like President Larry, it will be
hard to seal the O2 mask to your face; goatees and mustaches are manageable.
4) I was the only female in the group.

If one can afford taking couple of days off during the work week to go
to OKC, it is definitely worth it. I learned a lot: I have not expected
those particular symptoms of hypoxia that I have noticed. Also, even
though I thought I would be more susceptible to hypoxia than most men, I
did not think I could "last" only 47 sec. Teachers and instructors are
doing a good job, and I found it useful to do it in a large and
interactive group of people.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Bruce Wallace is a newish club member who recently soloed, He is writing to introduce himself to NCSA members.

If you know anything about me, being brief is not one of my
attributes. So, with that in mind I'll tell some stories about my
experiences in Scotland in parts, to give readers a little break. I
won't talk about solo in Byron first.

Part I, cloud flying:

To begin, I was sent by my company to Scotland in 1975 to support 4
small computer systems. Each weighed more than 500 lb and were
generally not that reliable. There was no one in Britain qualified to
work on them. They were sent there as software development tools for the
programmers on a smaller system built locally. At some point the
university of St Andrews(programmers) may come in to the story, their
graduates are formidable.

I found myself in Scotland, a qualified pilot and owner of a
C-150(N7203X). I went to a local airport and discovered that renting
airplanes was over the top expensive, but also found there was a gliding
club about 30 miles north of Edinburgh near loch Leven. That club was
and is the Scottish Gliding Union, its near a small village Portmoak.
This club could be transported to Byron and you would not notice a
significant difference. The club had a single employee, and she managed
the airport/farm during the week and was the cook on weekends. Otherwise
it was an "all hands on deck" operation, if you flew you needed to help.

So, on to cloud flying. I had been a member of this club for a
couple of months. I may or may not have gone solo at that point, its not
relevant to this story. I was at the club one weekend when a young
pilot went off in a single seat Pirat(SDZ), he was probably 20 and I was
old, maybe 30. This glider actually had some electrical stuff on board.
None of the other gilders had radios, or other electrical
paraphernalia. The Pirat had an electric turn and bank gyro powered by
a pair of dry cells. This gyro was invented by the Sperry company about
1920 plus-minus a couple of years and was the first to be used in
airplanes. Prior to that flying in clouds was a death wish.
On that day there were layers of clouds around about 2000-3000 agl,
maybe 50% cover. Anyway, the young man went off in the Pirat and later
found himself well above the cloud level. Eventually he needed to
return to the airport, but a cloud deck had moved in below him. He
descended through the clouds and landed normally. On landing he seemed
quite wound up and animated. He had figured out that he had connected
the battery backward, so when the gyro said left, the gilder was going
right. He said he really needed to concentrate when descending through
the cloud to not misinterpret the gyro. Well, imagine the little fly
wheel in the gyro spinning backwards due to reversing the polarity of
the battery, and the gyro is giving you bogus info, and imagine knowing
that to fly trough clouds.
Afterward I was left with doubts, what about flying through the clouds,
what about that? Generally I didn't sense any interest in this. I made
some discrete inquires about this. I was told that cloud flying in
Scotland was ok, as long as it was outside airways. Remember I'm an
alien in Scotland. So I asked what about midair's? I was told, not from
the young man, we use "natural separation". Natural separation was
described as the low probability of two aircraft in the same cloud.
More parts to follow on request.

Netscape. Just the Net You Need.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Matthew joins Walter and Terence on a tour of Oakland ARTCC tour!

At the last minute, I was able to add myself to the Oakland Center
tour that Walter arranged with his retiring neighbor.

The short version: It was awesome.

The long version:

I've never visited an ATC facility before, and in my time flying with
NCSA, I've only needed to contact ATC once, back when we tried to do a
transponder check on 81C by contacting Norcal. When Walter sent out
the invite, I couldn't resist seeing the other side of the mic.

ZOA manages airspace from about halfway down the California coast up
to almost the Oregon border, plus a great deal of airspace out over
the Pacific Ocean. When you put in all the Pacific territory, it
manages about 11% of the earth's surface. I was surprised to learn
that missile test launches are routinely communicated to ZOA so they
can vector traffic around splashdown zones.

The highlight of the trip was a chance to talk with controllers in the
sector that handled traffic in the Reno area. The controller working
the Tahoe/Reno sector was not very busy. For quite some time, he had
a few VFR planes doing flight following, a couple of commercial
flights, and some military activity. (For some reason, the F-16s
moved across his scope really fast.) Walter, Terence, and I had a
chance to talk with him for quite some time in between work with the
aircraft in "his" airspace.

Each controller has a primary radar scope. IFR aircraft show up very
clearly, with a flight number and altitude. Computer systems work to
hand off aircraft between controllers and even between ATC centers,
and the computers automate the handoff. When an aircraft is tracked
using only primary radar returns, it's a small blip on the scope, and
it can come and go depending on whether terrain blocks the radar
returns. Sometimes terrain even causes radar returns, so at one point
the controller pointed at a blip on his scope and said "this is always
there, so I think it's a radar return off terrain." The scope did
have outlines for the wave windows near Tahoe, and had lines for the
localizers on each runway at Reno.

To become a sector controller, the training takes more than a year.
Before getting to work on your own, you have to be able to draw the
map of your area from memory, be familiar with daily weather patterns
as well as seasonal variations, and know the major flows through the
sector. Watching controllers at work, their experience clearly showed
through. I found the display to be kind of a jumble, and it was much
easier for me to track transponder returns than primary returns
because the transponder signals are displayed much more notably on the
radar screen. We did ask the controller what we could do as glider
pilots to help him do his job, and he said that transponder-equipped
aircraft are much more visible, and that visibility translated into
better separation. If he sees a glider operating out of Minden
intercepting the localizer to Reno, it's easy to send traffic around
something he knows is a plane at a certain altitude. The example he
gave is that if a glider is at 16,000 feet, he can hold a plane
descending into Reno at a temporarily higher altitude for separation
(17,000?) or give it a slight turn around the glider.

It was a great way to spend a morning (though I'm not sure my boss
would have agreed, which is why I didn't give him a choice). I'm glad
I was able to go before doing my first flying in the mountains this

Before you ask: there are no pictures. The pictures on Wikipedia are
pretty accurate, though. The lighting is fairly low to improve
readability of scopes, and it kind of reminded me of the way a Vegas
casino tries to keep the same light regardless of the actual time
outside. (Just way more important to life and safety than a Vegas