Monday, June 29, 2015

Gun Free Zone Debates

Two out of three kinds of men support Gun Free Zones.  Let us hear their arguments.

Mr. Goodheart:

Guns are the problem.  If there were no guns there would be no violence.  We just need to enact common sense laws, laws requiring background checks for every purchase.  Our government is very good at implementing such laws and rarely makes any mistakes.  I am the kind of guy who thinks civil order is a good thing.  People should not have to walk around the city in fear and most people simply wish to go about their way not causing trouble and not experiencing trouble either.  What's wrong with that?  With strict and complete gun control laws in place our streets would be much safer.  I always feel safe in a Gun Free Zone.  Besides, we could always call 911 if something ever does happen.
I vote YES for Gun Free Zones.

Mr. Knight:

I am a peaceful man.  I have never been in trouble with the law.  I do realize that there are other people who are not peaceful in heart.  Just read the papers!  One cannot get through the first page, on any day, without reading of a heinous crime.  My heart always goes out to the victims.  I cannot stand the thought of anyone getting needlessly hurt or killed by a lunatic.  That is why I carry a handgun with me everywhere I can.  If something bad were to happen to me or anyone around me, I want to be prepared.  Gun Free Zones are my bane.  I have three choices when considering entering a Gun Free Zone.  I can decide to not enter.  If something bad goes down inside, I won't be in there.  Those folks in there are sitting ducks.  Secondly, I could ignore the signs and carry my gun into the Gun Free Zone anyway.  Honestly, I have done this numerous times.  While this exposes me to some legal trouble if caught, I never have been.  Funny how easy it is!  The third choice is to enter the Gun Free Zone without my gun,  This, is always my last choice and one that pains me.  I never visit a public school or anyplace with metal detectors.  I know that I am helpless to stop a mass killing without my gun.
I vote NO for Gun Free Zones.

Mr. Fangs:

People make me so mad!  They are all out to ruin my life.  It is amazing how each boss I had at all those jobs were total jerks.  They were always riding my case and blaming me for stuff that was not my fault.  What's up with my girlfriend lately?  Space!?  Why do we need space?  Hell, I'll send her to space!  That will show her that no one puts me away.  She works in that office building with the Gun Free Zone sign.  That's perfect.  No one else will have a gun and I'll show them all how to share my pain! The more the better!  If the security guard gives me trouble - Boom! - I'll let him have it!  I haven't done anything like this yet, so the background check was a cinch.  Ha!
I vote YES for Gun Free Zones. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

New Jersey Failed - Big Time

Carol Bowne, is dead.  Carol Bowne knew she was in danger.  She had a restraining order against Michael Eitel.  She had security cameras installed around her home.  She applied for a handgun permit from her local police.  That application was made on April 21, 2015.  She followed up on the delay in approval two days before she was murdered in the first week of June.  Those cameras recorded the murder as she returned home.  Eitel did not use a gun to kill her, he didn't need one, he used a knife. That worked just fine.

There are calls for New Jersey to streamline their application process for people like Carol, who have restraining orders against potential assailants.  These calls are stupid because, even if Ms. Bowne had received her permit to own and had procured a gun, she would still have been prohibited from carrying it on her person outside of her home, since New Jersey has a complete carry prohibition system.  So, New Jersey didn't let her down at all by stonewalling the application, since owning a gun, stored inside of her home, would have had zero positive effect in her self-defense as she was attacked outside of her home.  These restrictions are insane!  The murderer will kill regardless of the laws and has a much easier time of it knowing that his victim has no gun.  Did those public "safety" laws actually keep Eitel from getting a gun himself?  Apparently not, since he was found in another woman's house, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot.  It looks like he had one but knew he didn't need it to kill Carol.

New Jersey needs to scrap every one of it's laws concerning the owning and carrying of firearms.  This should be the only such law:

A well regulated militia,being necessary to the security of a free state,the right of the people to keep and bear arms,shall not be infringed.

Short of that, a New Jerseyan who needs protection simply needs to move to Virginia, where he/she can purchase and carry, in public, a handgun, simply by stopping by the gun store and buying it.  An added bonus is that Virginia's murder rate is lower as well.

Remember this silly anti-firearm public "safety" ad?

Now we can give the woman in this video a name, Carol Bowne.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Loadin' Up For Knoxville

Loadin' Up For Knoxville
June 10, 2015

I snapped this shot with my smartphone as we were boarding our flight from Washington Dulles to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Night The Ground Came Up

My previous post, "Geronimo!" got me thinking fondly of N2064P.  Though Jere and I only flew a few flights in her, both he and the Chief Pilot of the school now had a confidence in my ability to fly the Geronimo safely.  In fact, in time, it led to opportunities to fly other light twins.  Jere kept her on our flight line, hoping for some rental revenue.  I rented her myself when I could.  There was one trip out to Henderson, Texas when I took my father on a business trip.  It has been said that pilots run through four distinct stages when acquiring a new skill set.  The first stage is "Intimidated", the second, "Cautiously Confident", the third, "Cocky", until something bad happens and then we are back to, "Intimidated".

It is true, I was growing out of the "Cautiously Confident" stage as the Geronimo and I were becoming good friends.  I learned a hard and valuable lesson one clear night in October, 1987 and the Geronimo was my teacher.  While I didn't quite bounce all the way back to "Intimidated", it was humbling.  Our flight school had arranged a maintenance program with a mechanic on Luck Field, an airport on the south side of Ft. Worth.  Luck Field is how it is listed in my logbook however, I cannot find it on a current chart, so it must have changed names or succumbed to land development, a fate many delightful airports suffer.  We had a Cessna-152 over at Luck which was ready for pick-up.  My fellow flight instructor, Mike, and I flew over there in the Geronimo and Mike got out to fly back in the 152.  It was late and I was in a hurry to get back to Redbird and home.  So, as soon as Mike slammed the door shut and I latched it, I was taxiing for take-off.  A few minutes later I was cruising at 2000 feet above ground level and all was right in the world.

Piper aircraft have a unique door system.  They almost always have just one door on the passenger side which open outward.  The top of the door necessarily follows the contour of the fuselage, thus curves in, giving it a clam shell look.  There are two latches, the main one located low and a secondary latch located up high above the curve.  Failure to secure both of these latches properly results in the door popping open and a lot of ambient noise.  Anyone who has flown Pipers long enough will experience one or more of these sudden door openings and they will notice two things right away, firstly, the door cannot be closed.  The slip stream follows the Venturi law and creates far more suction on the door than one can overcome and the door stubbornly trails about three inches open, and secondly, the plane will fly just fine, in spite of the fact that the trailing door creates a turbulent airflow across the horizontal stabilizer and elevator.  The main aggravation lies in the fact that to close the door and resume relative peace, a landing and another take-off is required.

Piper Arrow with open door

I had just leveled off and was heading east, when "PHWOOSH!" the door popped open.  I instantly realized what the noise was about and for the first moment I was simply annoyed.  However, in another moment I realized that I had a serious problem.  When the door came open the airplane started to descend.  This descent was happening at a rate of about 250 feet per minute and was occurring in spite of my having the yoke pulled all the way back, against the stop.  Quick mental calculations came up with several disappointing conclusions, namely that I wasn't going to get the door closed, I could no longer stay in the air and I wasn't going to make Redbird airport.  Ahead and to my left was the Grand Prairie airport and to my right was the Arlington airport.  Arlington had a little longer runway and I figured that the wind favored landing south, so Arlington it was.  I was relieved upon lowering the landing gear to note that my control ability was no worse with the configuration change.  I was unable to let go of the yoke long enough to look up the proper Common Traffic Advisory Frequency, the radio frequency with which I would be able to alert other airplanes near Arlington of my predicament and intentions.  I lit up every light I had and aimed for the runway knowing that this first approach would be the only possible approach.  I didn't risk using flaps, fearing that the nose down tendency would only get worse.  If anyone had been near enough to the runway to see that landing, they would have judged it to be a really poor one.  With the nose low and a little excess speed the airplane hit on the nose wheel first.  That popped the nose up and began a cycle of hitting the nose...the mains...airborne...nose...mains...airborne...nose...mains... with each cycle getting shorter and less pronounced and me holding the yoke back against the stop the whole way.  Finally, the old Geronimo was rolling down the runway in a normal fashion.  If you have ever heard of "knees going weak" following a stressful event, I can tell you that it's true.  I could barely stand up after crawling out of the cockpit. 

There was a period of time after that event wherein I was confused on why things went so wrong with a simple door pop-open.  Soon, upon calmer reflection I figured it out.  An airplane lives and dies by it's weight and balance.  In flight, with the center of gravity in the proper limits, the wing holds up the craft while the horizontal stabilizer provides a balancing downward force.  The elevators provide the modulation of that downward force to give the pilot his range of pitch attitudes, up and down.  An improperly loaded airplane will have one of those ranges limited.  In my case, I was alone in a four seat airplane and the CG was probably too far forward, thus requiring nearly all of my up elevator travel to maintain level flight.  When the door popped, the resulting turbulent airflow across my right elevator reduced it's efficiency causing my pitch attitude to re-balance slightly negative and down we went.

The FAA describes the accident sequence as a chain of errors, which individually are harmless, but when linked in series are catastrophic.  My failure to calculate an accurate weight and balance for this solo flight coupled with failing to latch the door securely set up the event.  Having a place to land, thankfully, broke the chain.  This was a huge lesson as I moved from the single engines to more complex aircraft.  The loading options in the single engines are limited and one learns what works without having to go through the trouble of a complete computation.  Computing the weight and balance used to be a pencil and paper affair requiring numerous adding, multiplying and dividing steps.  Today, a smart-phone app could do it in a few seconds.  I learned to slow down and meticulously complete each step of flight planning from this night when the ground came up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


In May of 1987 I was still in the Professional Pilot Wanabee stage of my career.  The good news was, I was making definite progress.  I was free lance working as a flight instructor for a school located on Red Bird Airport, on the south side of Dallas, Texas.  My pilot logbook numbers had grown to a little over 900 hours with almost 40 of those hours in multi-engine airplanes.  The key to making that next jump to a "here-to-there" flying job in contrast to the "here-to-here" work of instructing, was multi-engine time.  Naturally, 95% of instructing is in single engine airplanes.  Students wouldn't want to rent a multi-engine, at twice the costs, to learn the basics of flying, nor would it be prudent to suggest that they do so.  Like any starving instructor, who was about 460 hours short, I would leap at the chance to fly a light twin, any light twin, but one had to be patient.  Also, the ever present insurance obstacle loomed, without 500 hours of multi-engine time I couldn't instruct in twins regardless of the fact that I held a Multi-engine Flight Instructor Certificate.  Sigh....

One day, serendipity walked in the front door of our school.  A man named Jere F. came in asking the normal questions about what it would take to learn to fly.  His questions quickly veered in an unusual direction when he asked if one could go through the Private Pilot course in a twin-engine airplane.  While I replied, "Certainly." , I also asked why? He told me of a beloved uncle who had owned and flew his own Piper Apache / Geronimo for as long as Jere could remember.  This uncle had finally accepted the brutal fact that time and age wear a man down and had decided to part ways with his precious airplane.  However, he was very dismayed to learn that time and age had worked on his plane as well, as he could not find a buyer who would pay for what he was selling, a precious touch stone of a grand life's adventure.  His solution was to give the plane to his nephew and maybe Jere could continue the magic.  The only hang-up was the crucial fact that Jere wasn't a pilot.

The Piper Geronimo started life as a Piper Apache.  The Piper Apache was an under powered bulky light twin which had some success due to being one of the first on the post-WWII private airplane market.  However it's lackluster performance made it ripe for improvement.  The Seguin Aviation company developed several improving modifications including more powerful engines, a pointed nose and a more effective rudder, which transformed the Apache into a nice light-twin.  While it did perform respectably, it had a "nerdy" look, especially when parked next to modern, sleek airplanes.  Jere's airplane was a 1956 model and from it's long life of not being hangared it looked positively geriatric.  Poor ole' N2064P had seen better days.  In fact, as we were looking it over, it had a flat nose tire.There were two other instructors there who quickly turned up their noses while I was getting excited about the possibilities.

Soon after that first introduction to Jere and N2064P we were in business.  Our shop gave it a look over and determined that it was airworthy, Jere had signed a lease agreement with our school and our Chief Pilot went up with me and determined that I was capable flying the Geronimo.  Jere was satisfied with the liability issue since he had very little invested in the airplane.  So, off we went.  I quickly learned to love that old machine.  It was built like a tank and flew like a dream.  Jere and I got along well and we had put in several lessons which showed me that Jere had the enthusiasm and the ability to become a fine pilot.  It looked like his Uncle's fond dream was coming true.

Suddenly, Jere stopped scheduling lessons.  I called him and asked him what was wrong.  He came in soon after and gave me his reason for quitting the project.  He and his wife had been married by a minister who was also a dear family friend.  Shortly after Jere and I started flying, this minister went on a long trip to Montana with several other friends.  It was while traveling back, in a private Cessna - 421 Golden Eagle, as I recall, that their plane disappeared from radar and was lost.  The agony of waiting and hoping to hear good news while dreading the worst was what stopped our lessons.  After a couple of weeks, when the worst was confirmed, Jere's heartbroken wife put her foot down and forbade him to continue flying N2064P.  I was as sad for Jere as I was for the poor lost souls on that plane.  That experience was a growing one for me.  Up to that point, all of my flying was centered on the fun.  Listening to Jere describe their saddnes made me come face to face with the awesome responsibility a pilot takes on as he leaves the ground with people trusting his judgement and skills.  It took away some of the sparkle, but it added depth of sight.