Sunday, July 05, 2009

This 'n That

The past couple of weeks have been uncharacteristically busy for a flight instructor without a medical certificate, but here's a grab bag of items that some readers might find interesting.

Villa of the Basking Hounds

It's been four months since Rio and Taz came to live with us and there's lots of progress to report. At first, Taz was distant and enigmatic while Rio was fearful, underweight and, frankly, more than a bit neurotic. With patience, a regular exercise routine, obedience training, and some TLC these two have begun to blossom. Taz has revealed her playful and mischievous side. Rio, while still a bit thin, has slowly begun to put on weight. He's also become much calmer and no longer shakes at the slightest sound. In fact, he barely reacted to last night's fireworks.

Part of their transformation is due, in part, to regular romps at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline. Situated on the Northeastern shore of San Francisco Bay and just a few minutes drive from our house, Point Isabel is the nation's largest off-leash dog park with 23 acres of space. Here's a photo of Rio and Taz sitting atop a picnic table with the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline in the distance.

We've very glad to have these two basenji in our lives and it wouldn't have been possible without Basenji Rescue and Transport and their dedicated volunteers. If you ever have an urge to donate to a non-profit, BRAT would be an excellent choice.

Lights On, Nobody Home?

For many years there have been two navaids at the Oakland Airport that have not been part of any instrument approach, yet they have been maintained and continued to operate. I'm talking about the CASES outer marker and the RORAY (AK) locator middle marker. I regularly flew with pilots who, while on the ILS RWY 27R, would announce the final approach fix when they saw the blue light flash on their marker beacon receiver. I'd point out, often to their amazement, that the outer marker was no longer part of the ILS and, in fact, wasn't part of any approach into Oakland.

CASES (5 DME from the OAK VORTAC) used to be the FAF for the ILS, but that was changed several years ago. The first change was to move the FAF to 5.5 DME from the OAK VORTAC, add the requirement for DME when flying the localizer-only version of the approach, and call the new final approach fix FITKI. If memory serves me correctly, that was about five years ago. A few months later, the FAF was renamed to CUVSA. The new FAF was located at 5.5 DME, yet the CASES OM at 5 DME continued to function. A few months ago, the FAA even issued a NOTAM telling pilots that the CASES OM would be out of service. Did they not know that it wasn't being used or is it part of some procedure not known to me and which is not published on the NACO web site? Or maybe they just forgot? Beats me!

The RORAY LOM also continued to function, something I'd periodically verify whenever I flew an aircraft that had a functioning ADF (which isn't often these days). I'd dial in 341 on the ADF, watch the needle swing toward the approach end of 27R, and hear the Morse code "AK."

Not wanting to rush to a decision or do something rash, the FAA has finally decided to decommission these two navaids.

Runway Re-Numbering

Astute readers know that the earth's magnetic field is constantly and (usually) subtly shifting. This can and has affected runway numbering schemes, which are supposed to be based on the magnetic direction of the centerline, rounded up or down to the nearest 10 degrees. At Tracy, runways 7/25 recently were changed to 8/26. And runways 16/34 at Davis University just became 17/35.

Now Oakland's RWY 27L and 27R centerlines have been 276 degrees for quite a while and I often had instrument students ask why they weren't 28L and 28R. I had to confess that I didn't know. Now it appears the process to renumber those runways may have finally begun. Again, you don't want to rush into anything ...

Draggin, in a good way

The two questions I answer most often are "Have you gotten your medical certificate back?" and "When will you get your medical certificate back?" I've toyed with the idea of having a button made that simply says "October." That way I could wear the button and when asked either of these questions, I could just point to button. I'm trying to not be impatient and mostly have taken my respite from PIC duties in stride, but I will be glad when this is resolved. It is a reminder to all pilots out there, young and old, to relish all of your flights because we are all just a medical exam away from losing our privileges.

So I decided that resuming the Citbria check-out I started over a year ago might be just what was needed to lift my spirits.

All of my previous tailwheel time was in a 152 Aerobat Texas-Taildragger conversion and I was fortunate to have Ben Freelove as my inital tailwheel instructor. Ben liked to refer to the 152 Texas-Taildragger as the "Scare-o-bat" because of it's occasionally hair-raising takeoff and landing characteristics. By comparison, the Citbria is well-mannered and stable with plenty of rudder and aileron authority.

My instructor for the recent Citbria flights was Jeff Reeder, a seasoned banner-tow pilot who's flown a variety of tailwheel aircraft. Jeff put me through the paces, which culminated in the trifecta: Multiple successive landings on Oakland's 27L - the first a wheel landing on the left side of the centerline, the second a wheel landing on the right side of the centerline, and a three-point landing to a full stop with 2000' of pavement still remaining.

Mountain High

Lastly, here are some photos from a recent mountain check-out flight I did for a former student to Reno-Stead. The winds aloft were fairly calm and we only saw some light turbulence over the Sierra Nevada.

Later this week I'll post a review of ReadyProcs, a slick application for downloading and viewing terminal procedure charts. Until then, here's wishing you a pleasant summer and safe flying.


Eric said...

Safe flying to you as well! Will you be at Reno for the air races this September?

Geek@NCT said...

OAK's runway re-numbering is planned to coincide with "rotating" the OAK and SFO VOR's which are both about to be out of magnetic variation tolerances.

As of now the planners are looking at summer of 2010.

Jack said...

Great news on the dog front John, glad to hear they're adjusting and showing more of their true colors. They look great together. Glad you're able to provide a good home for them.

John Ewing said...


I've never attended the Reno Air Races, but who knows - this could be the year!


Hmm ... I heard something about December of 2010.


Thanks, they are a couple of knuckle-heads and it's a lot of fun having dogs in the house again.