Thursday, November 25, 2010

One day flight simulator will look like this :)

Amazing video, play at 1080p if you have the bandwidth, of what can be accomplished with Microsoft's Flight Simulator FSX, with the add-on's of FTX, and REX.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

California Wing Conference

So, there I was on Wed, the 10th of Nov, preparing for my first California Wing Civil Air Patrol Squadron (CWG CAP) Conference down in lovely Santa Maria, California. This was my first conference, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was my trip to Santa Maria would start with a 4-5 hr. drive from Oakland. Then I received an email from the Noel, the Squadron Deputy Commander.

Through the grape vine he had heard that Lt Col Dolnick was flying to Santa Maria on CAP 450MB, a Cessna 206, and there was an extra seat. Lt Col Dolnick informed me he was leaving Friday morning and the flight would only take 1.5 hours.  Wow!  When you travel as much as I do and someone says you can stay home a few extra hours and enjoy your holiday, it sure makes your day.

Friday morning at O’ Dark hundred I met up with Major Dana Kirsch at Squadron 10 in Palo Alto. Our pilot Lt Col Dolnick arrived and soon we were airborne to Santa Maria. Shortly after takeoff I was amazed to see how close the Monterey Bay is to the Bay Area. It appears so far away when driving by car but by plane it’s right there!

On the way down the coast, I took a few pictures of Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, and Monterey out in the distance. Another thing that amazed me was seeing Camp Roberts (Camp Bob) and how vast it is. It made me think we should be using this base for training opportunities more often. Now what amazed everyone onboard was our unusually fast 152 knot cruising speed in the 206. 

After the short flight, we landed and I began my day. The conference offered many topics and as the squadron’s Director of Communication, my main goal was to find out as much as I could about the Wing Communication program. Friday was the Advanced Communications User Training (ACUT) instructor course. Ah yes, another four hours of ACUT love. This makes a total of four ACUT classes under my belt. The best thing about being at the conference was meeting people from all over the Wing as well as catching up with others I’ve met at previous CAP events.

The theme for Friday evening was the 40’s. Some folks dressed up in their 40’s era uniforms and outfits, but you were still accepted if you dressed in the current era. The food was pretty much O-Club buffet grub but it was really really delicious. There were a couple of legs of cow, dinner rolls, chips /salsa/guacamole, and even salmon. Then it was over to the bar. I would continue but as the saying goes: “What goes TDY stays TDY” (Temporary Duty: TDY). 

Saturday activities started with a general assembly meeting. Capt Noel Luneau and I decided to make a little adjustment to the seating arrangement by removing a chair which gave us Senior Members a little more room for our larger tail surfaces if you will. The Region, Wing, and Group commanders were lined up at the front of the stage. At first I thought it was strange because I had never seen any thing quite like it on active duty but then I realized how great it was to associate names with faces finally and receive briefings from across the wing as well as Headquarters CAP.

Afterwards I attended three communication’s meetings and a Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) meeting. We were given a communications update, reviewed radio frequency channel plans, and discussed future net communication training. Yes, there was a lot of discussion focused on communications and all questions were happily answered by the instructors.

The GSAR meeting was very good too. There I learned the true reason for the push to have ground team members wear orange vests. Apparently, it is easier for CALEMA and the Sheriffs Deputies to see the orange vests and accept you as a SAR member rather than the BDU’s. I don’t agree with it but I understand the reasoning.

 Saturday evening, I met up with Lt David Dunham for the awards dinner, at which our Squadron was nominated for Best Senior Squadron. Although we didn’t win I felt it was great to be in the running. The Master of Ceremonies was very funny and kept us laughing all night. The one thing I found refreshing and different from my active duty experiences was the speakers and recipients. Everyone said what they need to say and sat down. I didn’t feel the need to bring in the “Wrap Up” sign from Chappelle Show.

Come Sunday morning I was burned out with meetings, so I decided to go for a walk. I walked and walked till I finally ended up at the Santa Maria Museum of Flight. The museum includes a beautiful wooden hangar built for the movie, “The Rocketeer”. I fell in love with the hangar. I felt like I was transported back to the early era of aviation. For the most part the museum covered civil aviation with maybe a third covering military aviation.

At noon, it was time to meet up with my crew for the flight home. Capt Luneau arrived and we took pictures during the preflight. There was talk of flying back together but Noel was not in a hurry to depart with us. Some 45 minutes later I found out why when he passed us by in his 182 RG like we were standing still. 

Overall, the conference was a great experience and I am looking forward to the next one here in Oakland, from 26-28 August 2011.

Capt Demetrius Wren is SQ188's Communications Officer and is a qualified Mission Observer.

Images courtesy of Capt Demetrius Wren and Capt Noel Luneau.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mount Diablo Search

Cessna 182
By 2d Lt Patrick Bitz.

It was the type day that you’d want to be flying, low 70s with visibility improving on a late Saturday morning, October 16th.  It seemed to have all the makings of a great day for flying.  The conditions were some early autumn fog in Oakland and good conditions to the East across the foothills.

Capt Noel Luneau, MP, 2d Lt David Dunham, MO, and myself, 2d Lt Patrick Bitz, MS, met at the Squadron HQ for the preflight briefing and tabletop planning.  As quarter Grids 237A and 
237C had been preselected,  Lt Dunham and I redrew the grids with high points and prominent terrain, checked our Lat/Long points of entry, and search pattern.  We briefed time and fuel, weight and balance and weather.

Completing the Preflight Inspection
The weather briefing indicated light WNW wind, light windward up drafts and possible stronger down drafts leeward.  The plan was to safely test the actual Mt Diablo wind speed in the aircraft and manage our distance to the mountain based on the velocity.  Capt Luneau said that his turns today would always be away from the mountain and that caution would be required in the leeward side if the winds got stronger.  

The Contour search is what we planned for and to further educate, the following is a quick reference from the CAP Mission Aircrew Reference Text, Volume 2 - Mission Pilot/Mission Observer Rev. Apr 10:

Mount Diablo up close
"The contour search pattern is best adapted to searches over mountainous or hilly terrain. When using this pattern, the pilot initiates the search at the highest peak over the terrain. As in the case of mountains, the pilot flies the aircraft around the highest peak "tucked in" closely to the mountainside. As each contour circuit is completed the pilot lowers the search altitude, usually by 500 feet. While descending to a lower altitude, the pilot turns the aircraft 360ยบ in the direction opposite to the search pattern.

As you may have already gathered, the contour search pattern can be dangerous. The following must be kept in mind before and during a contour search:

• First and foremost, the pilot and crew must be qualified for mountain flying and proficient.

• The crew should be experienced in flying contour searches, well briefed on the mission procedures, and have accurate, large-scale maps indicating the contour lines of the terrain."

Odd looking ridge
After briefing with the crew, completing our Operational Risk Management matrix, and IMSAFE, we all headed out to the plane for the walk-around inspection. Winds were calm and the conditions were flawless.  Rising above Oakland looking East, no comment required, sterile cockpit, we could see and feel that we were in for a great couple of hours of proficiency flying.  The visibility was excellent as we approached Mt Diablo from the West.

Once in grid we reduced our speed to 90 knots and viewed this mighty East Bay landmark up close as we never have before.  Very good terrain contrast, green and golden, much of the foliage was sparse, allowing us to see through the trees to the floor of the mountain.  Mt. Diablo appears to have just one improved hard surface road on the western side winding to the top and meeting the observation tower.  
The sides of the mountain are sprinkled with small ranches, the access road in these areas appear marginal, and the landscape in general has very little erosion.  The North and East sides are rugged and the Southern side has a gentler slope with odd looking rocky Stonehenge like figures that are amazingly beautiful.

Returning to Oakland
We did experience some turbulence leeward but we were able to complete the contour search pattern and finish with a flight over the top and down a sloping Northern canyon ending past a rock quarry.

Capt Luneau’s MP skills gave us the confidence we needed to the enjoy this flight through amazingly rugged terrain.  After the practice search w
e headed south from Mt. Diablo to the Livermore airport for a few touch and go’s, then back to Oakland for debriefing.

The East Bay is a great place to fly, offering great terrain to practice and perfect our CAP Search skills. 

I would encourage and strongly suggest to any CAP Aircrew to practice the search patterns as often as we can.  Not only will that improve our skills, it will add to being successful within the CAP SAR expectations.

2d Lt Bitz is Squadron 188's Aerospace Education Officer and is a qualified Mission Scanner.

Images courtesy of 2d Lt Pat Bitz.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Civil Air Patrol's Gulf oil spill response featured in 'AOPA Pilot Magazine'

October 28, 2010

MISSISSIPPI -- Civil Air Patrol’s Gulf oil spill response is featured in an article written by Alton K. Marsh of AOPA Pilot Magazine. Marsh rode with a CAP aircrew as the oil spill response was winding down in early September. Click here for an online look at his “GA Serves America” feature, entitled “Above the Spill.”

Below is an official CAP video on the response provided to combat the Oil Spill.