Words on Wednesdays: Edge of Space

This week brought back memories of my trip to Mojave one warm summer day, eons ago, back in 2004. In a historic first commercial space flight, Mike Melville, aboard SpaceShipOne and WhiteKnight, made it to the edge of space to experience the brief moment of weightlessness.

This week also brought back my many planned but unsuccessful trips to Florida to watch a launch. Back in 2010 when NASA announced the end of Space Shuttle Flights, I remember the unsuccessful trip of waiting in Florida for Discovery’s last flight. I never got to see the launch.

Then there was the time, I made it to KSC one fine morning to watch the launch of Orion. After hours of waiting, the mission was scrubbed and launched the next day which of course I missed.

On July 11th, VSS Unity, a SpaceShipTwo category, rocket powered crewed spaceplane with 6 people on board including Richard Branson, made the successful trip to the edge of space and successfully returned.

Ten days later, Jeff Bezos along with two two history-making passengers: 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, the oldest person to fly in space, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutch student who is the youngest ever to fly in space blasted off to the edge of space aboard New Shepard and successfully returned to earth.

Seems eons ago that SpaceShipOne paved the way to commercial space flight, but the last ten days and the two trips definitely are key milestones that will usher in the next era of commercial space flight that will open the door for many to reach the edge of space: go where very few men and women have gone!

Repost: Partial Panel

1001, 1002, 1003… stop left turn and level off. Didn’t quite work as planned, I thought. I overshot again. Try one more time 1001, 1002. Stop right turn and level off. Almost there, just a little bit correction to the left this time. I wondered what the Center folk were thinking with my zigzagging attempts of flying along the airway.

“You need to watch the compass when your course matches and try to fly that heading,” suggested Michelle, “What are the compass rules?” she queried, as we racked our brains to remember all the nice acronyms that our instructors had rammed down our throats. “ANDS,” she remembered triumphantly. “Accelerate North, Decelerate South.” I interjected. “And of course UNOS, Undershoot North, Overshoot South”.

Napa Valley

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Repost: Half Moon Bay

Quaint fishing village. Art Galleries. Shops. and so much more.

Even the name sounds quaint… like a town out of a story book!

Half Moon Bay (HAF) is a delightful town in the North Coast of California. Less than 30nm by car from the San Francisco, it is easily accessible by car or airplane. More fun by the latter.

Pacific Coast Freeway or Cabrillo Freeway as it is known in these parts meanders as it winds its way south through Monterrey, Carmel and the Big Sur Coast, continuing south through beautiful Central Coast, San Simeon, Cambria, Morro Beach, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and further south to San Diego and beyond. It is the most driven road out west for it’s pristine beauty. Most tourists stop over on their way south at the famous Lone Pine Tree golf course and the town of Carmel as they make their way south along the scenic Pacific Coast. Art Galleries abound. Quaint local restaurants and shops grace the streets.

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Repost: BFR – It can be fun!

Current Again!

It has been 4  months and 8 days since my last flight. The first time ever that I let such a long gap between my flights happen. It is good to be back in the air and  in control!

Over the last decade I have had a total of 5 flight reviews. Each had it’s unique flavor to it. For, each CFI has his or her own style. Each different, yet a good experience. While some might consider it a waste of time or wish to go through with it quickly and at minimum cost, I have always enjoyed a detailed flight review. After all safety begins with the pilot and I always want to be sure I am staying sharp and safe.

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Repost: Cape May

 After a fun evening and morning spent with family and friends, my copilot and I reconvened a little before noon at Republic Airport for the return trip back to the Mid Atlantic. Aircraft fueled and preflighted, we set off north this time. The plan was to circumvent the busy NY airspace around JFK and LGA airports from the northeast and fly down the Hudson River from the north heading south before flying back home.

The airwaves were quieter on Easter Sunday and the air smooth as we made our way south. There was not a cloud in sight but sadly haze still clung around the area preventing crisp, crystal clear photographs and videos. We flew southbound reporting all the check points along the way: Alpine Tower, GWB, Intrepid, Clock and Statue of Liberty. We descended lower to 800 ft as we practiced our turns about the point over the Statue of Liberty.

Tracing the eastern New Jersey shore past Long Beach Island, Atlantic City, Ocean City and Sea Isle City we landed at Cape May, the southern tip of New Jersey a little after 2:00 pm. Cape May Airport (KWWD) is a general aviation airport with 2 major runways.

Once a Naval Air Station, it is currently a civilian airport and houses the Aviation Museum in Hanger 1. The Flight Deck Diner is located in the main terminal building and open daily from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm. Unfortunately, we had forgotten to check the operating hours of the restaurant, after feeding the aircraft at the self serve fuel station, my copilot and I headed home, sans any veg(ham) burger. If you did get one at Cape May, drop me a line 🙂

Repost: Lewisburg

After a hiatus of almost 6 months, the dc99s kicked off their flying season with a flight to Lewisburg (LWB) WV. It was one of those days when the forecast weather was glorious at the departure airport: 80s with sunny skies with a chance of rain in the afternoon which is common on most days during summer in the east coast.

Debbie and I set off in her C182 G1000. The decision was last minute. Since her aircraft was off for maintenance. Given the glorious weekend weather we pushed our monthly flyout to Sunday so her aircraft would be back in action and also not to overlap the  International Learn to Fly day.

We departed Frederick Airport (FDK) to clear, blue, warm skies. Before we knew it, 30 miles out we hit dark gloomy skies with rain bearing clouds! Wasn’t this supposed to be one of those glorious summer days? Unsure what lay ahead I prompted Debbie to turn around 180 degrees. Fortunately her C182 G1000 was equipped with Weather, and Traffic information. Looking at the rain cells and considering our options, we plotted a route to circumvent those cells. A little longer route but still do able. So we pressed on. What looked impossible in that instant, watching Debbie navigate and see her comfort zone, I knew she was okay with flying through a little rain and dark gloomy weather. “Look below,” she said,” we are still VFR.

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Repost: Blue Ridge Airport

We lucked out this past weekend. I had planned a flyout to Blue Ridge Airport and the weather actually was perfect! Unfortunately the holiday weekend meant there were fewer pilots interested in the flight. But Gert and I had the aircraft reserved all day long and there were opportunities to fly, grab a vegeburger, collect stamps and maybe shoot approaches!

bra2

We set off as usual a little later than planned. I don’t remember a time I left ahead of schedule. This time, I had somehow unknowingly filed FLUKY -> HEF as opposed to HEF->FLUKY. And living inside the SFRA meant that ATC  couldn’t let us depart without a valid flight plan in place or refile the flight plan for us. This meant we had to shut off the engine, call in a new flight plan and wait the necessary few minutes for the flight plan to arrive at the tower.

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Repost: Cannary Row and the Monterey Coast

Full throttle, right rudder and we were headed down the runway. The airspeed indicator read “0”. Come on! I waited for it to pick up. Soon, the nose lifted off the runway, yet the airspeed indicator stayed “0”.  “Have I forgotten anything?”, I wondered. But I am getting ahead of my story.

It had been a gorgeous day out in the California Central Coast.  When my college friend Manu, decided to visit California, as fellow pilots (and wanna be pilots) we started planning a cross country flight. I had just gotten my license to fly a month ago and had barely taken my first passenger in the air. I was excited and thrilled to plan a flight. In those days most of my cross countries tended to be up and down the California coast line, either following the coastline or Highway 101 which prevented me from getting lost. This was really important since all I had in the cherished 152 I flew those days was a single NAV/COMM. No GPS, no glass cockpit with traffic, weather and all the latest avionics! I navigated using 101 highway or the coastline. So the immediate choice for destination was Monterey.

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Repost: Yikes! I Almost Stalled over Lakeland!

Fly 'n Things

“Aircraft arriving over Lake Parker, expect holding until 7:15 pm over Lake Parker,” was what we heard on the radio a few minutes after our planned group departure from Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) in Leesburg, Florida.

snf0Four aircraft from the Mid-Atlantic had made it easily, albeit, at different times to our chosen airport of rendezvous. Considering the aircraft in play: a Columbia 400, a twin Baron, a Cessna 182 and a Cessna 172, we definitely needed a rally point to meet, prepare, and plan a departure to Sun ‘n Fun (SNF).

snf9According to our original plan, we had all congregated at KLEE, briefed the arrival procedures and departed on cue around 6:00pm. The plan was to arrive at Lakeland Airport around 6:30pm for a group arrival.

Being the slowest aircraft of all, a Cessna 172, we had departed last. Hearing the SNF radio communications, Linda and I, pondered our options…

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Jackie Cochran

I might have been born in a hovel
but I am determined to travel with the wind and the stars.
— Jackie Cochran

Born Bessie Lee Pittman in Pensacola, FL in 1906, Jackie Cochran, was the youngest of five children. She rose from a poverty-stricken childhood to become one of history’s most accomplished female aviators. She worked in a cotton mill at the age of six, and labored at a series of jobs before answering her call to the air. She married Robert Cochran in 1920, and after the marriage ended with the death of Robert in 1925, she retained the name of Cochran and began using Jacqueline or Jackie as her name.

She learned to fly in 1932 at the Roosevelt Flying School in Long Island and pursued advanced flight instruction at Ryan School of Aeronautics going on to get her instrument, commercial and air transport pilot ratings. Some of her achievements included:

  • In 1934, she flew in the London, England to Melbourne, Australia race.
  • In 1935, she became the first woman to fly in the Bendix Trophy Race, which she won in 1938.
  • In 1937 she became the first woman to make a blind instrument landing.
  • In 1939-40 she set new women’s records in altitude and open class speed.
  • She was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean during World War II, leading to the formation of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program.
  • In 1950, she received the Harmon Trophy as the Aviatrix of the Decade.
  • In 1953, she became the first woman to break the speed barrier.
  • In 1962, she subsequently set 73 records in three years.
  • In 1964, she exceeded Mach 2.
  • She was also the first woman to land and take off from an aircraft carrier

She was a sponsor of the Mercury 13 program, an early effort to test the ability of women to be astronauts. She served as the President of the Ninety Nines for two terms. She received the Distinguished Service Medal for her leadership of the WASP and three Distinguished Flying Cross awards for other records. She was also a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Jackie Cochran also authored two autobiographies —The Stars at Noon and, with Mary Ann Bucknam Brinley, Jackie Cochran.

Jackie Cochran pioneered women’s aviation as one of the most prominent racing pilots of her generation.

See Also:

The National Hall of Fame

Women in Aviation and Space History

Jacqueline Cochran and the Woman’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)