Archive for the airline pilot podcast Category

Tribute to a Fighter Pilot: Ed Rasimus

Posted in airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , , , on May 1, 2013 by Chris Manno

f-4 f105

Ed Rasimus will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery today with full military honors.

Ed flew more than 250 combat missions during the Vietnam War in F-105s and F-4s, earning the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses and 20 Air medals.

Here is Ed’s first person account of those years. Ed was a patriot, a leader, a friend and, one hell of a fighter pilot.

Or to download, click here.

How Big is the Sky?

Posted in airline, airline delays, airline industry, airline pilot, airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast, airline podcast, airport with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2013 by Chris Manno

cockpit panoThe cockpit is a solemn place in the pregnant pause between preflight and pushback. Always, like a deserted island where everything’s already been said: checklists done, preflight complete, systems verified, amen. Plenty more details and decision points ahead, but nothing to worry about now, because the litany of procedures, numbers, actions, maneuvers and control inputs are etched in your mind like an inscription in granite. Thinking about the details is unneeded; knowing what’s to come and when is like running a hand over the inscription without reading the words–and that’s enough for now.

“You have a visitor,” the number one flight attendant breaks the reverie, ushering a school-aged boy into the cockpit. He looked to be maybe seven . . . eight? Dutifully wide-eyed behind thick glasses, a woman–must be his mom–hovering behind.

“C’mon in,” you say. “Are you the new copilot?” You jerk a thumb toward the F/O. “Because he’s pretty useless. You can do a better job–you ready?” Covertly, F/O gives you the finger. You smile.

left seat

The young man shakes his head in silence. “Go ahead,” mom prompts. “Ask him.” Then she adds, “He’s usually a chatterbox; loves airplanes. I think he’s a little overwhelmed.”

Good thing I’ve been such a smartass–that doesn’t help. “Sure, ask away,” you say. Stuff about airspeed? Controls? How we operate systems? He fixes you with a flat stare like he was looking right through you and into your heart.

“How big is the sky?”

Now there’s a question I’ve never been asked. And I’m not even sure how to answer.

“Yeah, Captain,” a smirking F/O echoes, “You’ve spent about thirty years in the sky. Just how big is it?”

freefall

Hard to say. Seen it when it wasn’t big enough, plunging straight down with a tangled parachute, cows below coming into focus faster than I ever wanted. Had to get a reserve chute out before finding where the sky ended and the earth began and even then, hit like a ton of bricks as if both earth and sky wanted to teach me a lesson about leaving one for the other.

38Other times, the boundaries hardly mattered; gravity, the speed of sound–just mileposts on the way to somewhere higher, farther, faster and more furious than anything else in the thinnest parts of the sky. Those times felt like you were bigger than the sky itself, bulletproof and immortal.

But then you’ve seen it, too, when it was too large, swallowing up a past or a future, a passage never to be undone.

Because when it is, the sky is mute but bears the passage anyway, indifferent: coming back? Gone forever, though you thought not.

casket 1

There’s a road through the sky for that too. Too big, too far, but crossing the blue was a choice to be borne nonetheless. And if the sky were time, you’ve seen it too short, knowing some folks are making a one way passage . . .

old-young

. . . while others are only now setting out on their first. We’re all in the same sky, big or small as it is. You can ask the question, but the answer depends.

“I mean,” a small voice breaks into the suspended moment of thought and silence. “I mean in case we fall.” Big eyes, in all seriousness, all seven or eight years looking ahead and asking.

You just can’t worry about that. In fact, it wouldn’t matter anyway–we all go where we must, take the sky as it comes, cross it where we can, while we can. With those close to us or alone, however we must. Shepherded by mom today, shepherding his own tomorrow.

At the speed of sound on his own, without wings if he wants (bad idea, trust me), to new worlds and old, forward as we all go through the blue till it dims to black.

Smile. “We won’t,” you tell him. “You won’t, and we won’t. So let’s go fly.”

He thinks about it for a moment, his eyes searching, but not on me; elsewhere, maybe finding a place for the idea, judging for himself the size of the sky ahead of him. Mom gives me a look: what, knowing? Ponderous? Then a smile, steering him by the shoulders back to the cabin.

Couple more minutes and it’ll be time: seal it up, push it back, light the fires and taxi, then take off.  How big is the sky?

Well, let’s go find out.

cockpit sunrise

A Flight Attendant’s Story

Posted in airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast, airline podcast, flight attendant, flight crew with tags , , , , , , , on October 24, 2012 by Chris Manno

What is a career as a Flight Attendant like?

The lifestyle, the experience, the passengers, the flights:

JetHead Live goes one-on-one with veteran flight attendant

Carola Shroeder-Delong

To download, click here.

Subscribe Free on iTunes:

Just click on the icon above.

Ask an Airline Pilot: Why Do I Feel So Worn Out After a Flight?

Posted in air travel, airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by Chris Manno

This is a question that I get asked by the most astute travelers: why do I feel physically worn out after a routine flight?

That’s a very good question, born of savvy observation among those passengers who fly often. And they’re right: flying has a direct physical impact on your body for very clear reasons, which I’ll explain. And–good news–there are some things a passenger can do to minimize many of these effects.

The culprit with the most insidious effect is one of the most obvious factors in your flight–and also the most underestimated, and that is, ALTITUDE. I’m only talking about the aircraft’s altitude indirectly, because what really affects you as a passenger is the cabin altitude.

The controlling factor in the cabin altitude is the the hull design of the aircraft. Because the pressure at altitude is a fraction of that at sea level, the aircraft’s pressure hull must have the strength to hold survivable (for humans) pressure in an extremely low pressure environment at altitude. For the sake of structural integrity, the difference between inside and outside pressure has to be minimized and the way to do that is to allow the cabin altitude to climb with the aircraft altitude, gradually, to a higher altitude to minimize the differential pressure.

The picture above is of a pressurization gage that shows aircraft altitude, cabin altitude–and the difference between the two. The aircraft’s pressurization system gradually raises the cabin pressure with the climb to altitude to keep the differential within the aircraft hull’s design limits. The result? At 41,000 feet, the aircraft cabin is over 8,000 feet.

That’s like being transported to Vail, Colorado (elevation, 8,000′) in a matter of twenty or thirty minutes. Suddenly, your body must make do with a significantly reduced partial pressure of oxygen, and this after being depressurized like a shaken-up soda can: every bit of moisture in your body–and gasses as well–are affected by the rapid (compared to a gradual drive from sea level to Vail) change of pressure.

This affects your body like the bulging of a balloon animal: the pressure reduced around you makes everything swell. Maybe not as dramatically as the balloon animal, but with definite and perceptible effect. And that cycle is repeated on the way down, in the opposite manner: your body must accommodate the repressurization.

Some people are more susceptible to the effects of altitude than others: I’m one who doesn’t feel well doing prolonged physical activity at altitude above 5,000 feet. I don’t like skiing or the outdoors type stuff in the mountains because of the flu-like effects of physical exertion at higher altitudes. Common side effects, or what’s called “altitude sickness,” include flu-like symptoms such as headache, body and joint pain, fatigue and a feeling of being out of breath.

If you’re the type who is susceptible to “altitude sickness” in any degree, you shouldn’t underestimate the effects of cruising for several hours at a high cabin altitude.

Next on the list of stress factors has to be humidity–or more importantly, the lack of humidity at altitude. The cabin air comes from outside at altitude where the humidity is around 1% to 2%. Fresh air is drawn in, heated, then mixed with cooler air to provide a comfortable cabin temperature. Mythbusters: I’ve heard the urban legends about “restricted air flow” to save money; recirculated rather than fresh air in airline cabins. That’s all bunk, at least in Boeing and Airbus aircraft. The cabin pressure is maintained through constant circulation and in the Boeing, large fans draw the air throughout the cabin and cargo compartments, then through the electrical compartments for cooling, then to an outflow valve for metered release with respect to a stable cabin altitude.

The pressurization and air conditioning systems work great, supplying fresh, conditioned air but . . . the humidity is very, very low because the source air at altitude is exactly that way. So, if you as a passenger aren’t drinking water constantly–you’re going to feel the effects of dehydration quickly at altitude.

The last of the major but often underestimated stress factors is also obvious but insidious: noise and vibration. Consider the basic fact that each engine on a 737 weighs over a ton and each has a core that spins at over 30,000 RPM at idle power. At cruise power, the vibration is subtle but distinct, transmitted through the airframe to everything and everyone on board.

That has a physical side effect added onto the motion effects of flight: pitch and roll changes in combinations you don’t experience on Earth. Like trains, ships and cars on a rough pavement, vibration is transmitted to your body and has a wearing, fatiguing effect.

Noise? Absolutely: there is a layered level of noise from engines, airstream outside and air flow inside that is both fatiguing and cumulatively, wearing.

What can you do about these three factors that can literally wear you out as you travel by air? Let’s start with the last factor: noise. This one has a really easy solution:

Earplugs. The foam kind, available in any hardware store. We use them in the cockpit all the time, because wind noise in the pointy end is much louder than in the back, depending on altitude and speed. They’re disposable, they’re cheap–and they work. You can still hear normal conversation just fine and the important thing is that they will reduce the fatigue level you will feel after a long flight. Try them on your next flight.

Low humidity? This is tied to the altitude effects as well, and this is a simple solution as well: hydration. Certainly on board you should be drinking plenty of water (yes, you’ll have to bring water with you–it’s available in airports everywhere; if you’re really cheap, just bring a bottle and refill it at a water fountain in the airport) but also, you need to think ahead.

Like the preparation for a marathon, you need to stay well-hydrated the day and night before the event.

If you step on board marginally hydrated or actually slightly dehydrated, the 2% humidity at cruise altitude will outpace any attempt you make to catch up, much less keep up. Coffee? Alcohol? Diuretic soft drinks? See photo above.

Finally, the high altitude effects of cruise flight. The good news is, going forward, that the next generation aircraft like the 787 “Dreamliner” are capable of maintaining significantly lower cabin altitudes during cruise. This is very important on long flights and the fact that Boeing designers recognized this passenger stress factor and have designed a way to minimize the effects underscores my original point about the stress.

For now, though, the best you can do is to deal with the other two key stress factors–hydration and noise–and simply try to be in decent physical shape: those who are suffer less with the stress of altitude exposure.

In the final analysis, you can’t completely avoid the physical stress of air travel without avoiding air travel itself. But, if you are a savvy traveler, you can at least recognize the effects and take simple steps to minimize the effects of air travel on your body and ultimately, your trip.

Bon voyage.

JetHead Live with Mark Berent

Posted in air war in vietnam, airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2012 by Chris Manno

Mark Berent not only wrote the gripping 5-book series on the airwar in Vietnam–he lived it.

Over 400 combat missions in F-100s and F-4s, earning a Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and over two dozen air medals, and all of them captured in his book series.

And now, he’s live, one on one with Jethead:

To download, click here.

Also available on iTunes free–just click the icon below:

Jethead Live: Inside Los Angeles Air Traffic Control.

Posted in airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2012 by Chris Manno

The air traffic controllers working the airspace around Los Angeles have their hands full with an incredible volume of diverse air traffic. How do they sort it out?

Here’s Air Traffic Controller Pat Keane from Los Angeles Approach Control with an inside look:

To download, click here.

JetHead Live From Oshkosh 2012

Posted in airline pilot blog, airline pilot podcast with tags , , on August 2, 2012 by Chris Manno

Here’s an audio report from Oshkosh filed by our favorite KLM airline captain, Martin Leeuwis:

To download, click here.

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