Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Preparation for a mission pilot check ride

Capt Lutz Heinrich
Mission Observer
Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188
California Wing

OAKLAND, CA - On Sunday, the 1st of April 2012 (what a date!), Captain Yudis Coreas and I had the good fortune and pleasure to ride with Captain Noel Luneau on a preparation flight for his annual mission pilot check ride. The Cessna 182-R was stationed at Concord airport, KCCR, from where we commenced our training mission. Upon arrival at the gate, we saw a sign stating that the key fob we have been using for years would be inoperative. Remember, it was April fool's day! However, we were lucky; the announcement was for the following day.

CAP453 being readied for it's flight
Sometimes several events can conspire against you. The preflight preparation of CAP453, our airplane, including all the necessary paperwork went as planned, well, that's what we thought until we found out we could not get a flight release.  Noel had pre-arranged his flight release but minutes before take off the FRO (Flight Release Officer) was not reachable by phone. However, thanks to Capt Luneau's perseverance, another FRO was found, and we were cleared and eager to takeoff.

Then…we were seated in the plane when just prior to engine start; there was an unexpected and frantic phone call from Capt Luneau's wife.  It appears she had locked herself out of her office and needed his help badly. This was a wake up call on how personal matters can interfere with a serious task, and the importance of managing it properly. Once again Captain Luneau handled the situation calmly and he was able to provide his wife the assistance she needed.

Great flying conditions in the Central Valley
He then declared "Alright, everything is solved now, but with one more issue we will declare this flight as a no-go". To me that was a very wise statement, and evidence that Capt Luneau recognized a potentially unsafe chain of events was trying to take hold, and he was not about to let it happen.

Fortunately there were no further issues, and after our pre-flight briefing and run-up we were finally in the air and on our way to our planned practice area, Grid SFO 239C.  Our mission was to fly three search patterns followed by placing the plane over an intersection for a photo reconnaissance.  We started by "Boxing the grid", which means that you first fly along the grid borderlines at a higher altitude than the actual search altitude. This allows the crew to familiarize itself with the ground conditions, and landmarks within the grid.  This familiarization often proves valuable when flying subsequent search patterns.

Intersection of Hwy 205 and Tracy Blvd
We flew a Parallel Search, a Creeping Line search and an Expanded Square, all at 1000 feet AGL and 90 knots indicated airspeed. As the Mission Observer, I had to handle the GX 55 GPS for accurate orientation and position and take a picture of the intersection of Hwy 205 and Tracy Blvd, which was a double overpass.

Flying all of these patterns takes a few hours, and requires high concentration and crew coordination. Luckily, there were no strong wind gusts and bumpy air that day. However, after returning to Concord home base I was pretty tired. All of the required tasks were successfully completed; we were happy with the results and we all gained valuable experience from this great training flight.

Practice, practice, practice... That's what makes our duties and missions fun!

• Pictures of the flight are located here.

- Images courtesy of Capt Heinrich and Capt Coreas

No comments:

Post a Comment