Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Laugh at the Calf..... on the taxiway! - Video

So here I am, about 5 years ago, on a peaceful Spring Day in Northern California taxiing in my Cessna 182 with a load of skydivers on what we thought would be an uneventful hop 'n pop (low altitude skydive) day.

Little did I know that we were about to come very close to a baby cow with our propeller and eating Veal, whether we wanted to or not! As I'm proceeding down the taxiway towards the runway to take off, I see in the distance what I thought was a large black dog on the taxiway. I focused more on the creature and realized that it was either the largest dog that I have ever seen in my life or indeed NOT a dog but something else. Something that was very curious about airplanes and was not removing itself from the taxiway. In fact it started running towards the spinning propeller!

That was when I started asking my skydivers, "What the bleep is on the taxiway?" At that point all four of us start leaning so far forward that our noses were almost touching the windshield! Also, at about that point everyone's cameras started rolling. Thank God that skydivers usually have a camera mounted to some part of their body! Because if we did not have this video and had to rely on explaining it to people with just words, it would not be nearly as funny. 

During the video I am obviously being a "smart ace" when I I state that I don't have reverse. Oh, and the strange noises that you hear.... that's Kyle making Raptor noises. Why you might ask, we're not sure. A mating call maybe? Enjoy!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How a Wingsuiter should NOT be exiting your Skydive Aircraft

This is how a Wingsuiter should NOT be exiting your Skydive Aircraft. This guy is very lucky that he did not strike the horizontal stabilizer, severely injuring himself or even bringing the airplane down. Every Wingsuiter knows that you always exit the airplane with your legs together, never step out because this will open your leg wing. Also, keep your arms by your side for at least 3 seconds to clear the airplane's tail. The person pictured here is clearly not following best safety practices or he would not have his wings open while being in front of the horizontal stabilizer.

According Google Analytics over 3,000 people have viewed this article, not to mention the thousands that saw it on Facebook and Instagram. Yet still we have ONE guy named "Ben" that insists on arguing with me that the person in this photo is doing nothing wrong. He also mumbled something about the camera angle yada yada. So now the Wingsuiter and Cameraman are creating illusions? Should they start an act in Vegas? We'll have Ben do the introductions since he's their self appointed spokesperson. Save that BS for someone else guy. Is that why the Wingsuiters that jumped before him still have their arms close to their sides? Is that why every comment from Skydivers and Jump Pilots under this photo on Facebook was similar to, "Yikes!", "No Bueno!", "Wingsuit FAIL!" etc etc.?

Not to mention, he's missing the point to this entire article. We've all met this type of person, they want to debate just for the sake of debating. They do not truly care if they're right or wrong. However, I will use this situation to prove yet another point to my newer Jump Pilots. If you end up flying skydivers for more than a minute, you WILL have a guy that does stupid and/or dangerous stuff in or near your aircraft and will insist (or lie) and tell you that he did nothing wrong and to chill out. You MUST stand up to him as soon as practicable. Sometimes their adrenaline is so high that they don't think straight. It might sound funny but it's true.

I have taken a few guys aside and reminded them of what they did and to not do it again or they're done for the weekend. If they screw up on the Sunday sunset load then the next time I see them at the DZ, they can have fun watching everyone else because they're not jumping out of any airplane that I'm flying. Anytime that I've ever had to do that (luckily only a couple times), the DZO backed me up. If they had not, I would've tied the airplane down and left the DZ within minutes.

As a Skydive Pilot in Command you need to be talking to your skydivers (especially Wingsuiters) on the ground regularly. Also, at the start of the day or in between loads when you have a chance to talk to a Wingsuiter that you do not recognize at the DZ, go introduce yourself. I always do. I also ask them how many wingsuit jumps they have and I remind them to let me know when they are on the load and in which direction are they going to track so that our courses don't cross. I also remind them to stay tucked until they are well clear of the aircraft.

A few years ago I had a Wingsuiter open up (his arm and leg wings) too early and he struck my horizontal stabilizer. The strike only slightly dented the sheet metal. However, it broke his right arm severely, which made it much more difficult for him to deploy his parachute and manipulate his toggles. 

Luckily he landed safely. I waited to yell at him until after he returned to the DZ with his cast on and his pain pills in full effect. 

Remember, if anything bad happens while you're flying that Jump Plane, the FAA will mostly be looking at you unfavorably and asking you uncomfortable questions and making you fill out stacks of Federal forms... not the skydiver. Don't lose your Pilot's License because of some moron. Fly safe guys!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The USPA Safety Day is March 14th. What will you speak about as their pilot?

The United States Parachute Association (USPA) designates the second Saturday in March of every year to be its Safety Day and this year that happens to be on March 14th.  Started in 1997, it is the day that all of the USPA drop zones around the country gather up their employees and skydivers to review safety issues.  

Many of the skydivers are a little rusty from not jumping much (if at all) during the Winter months and is why it is held at this time of year. The only problem with Safety Day is that it's only one day a year. If I owned a drop zone we would have safety meetings every month. Even if it was simply a 15 minute safety review on a Saturday morning.

If this will be your first Safety Day at your DZ as a Jump Pilot, be sure and ask your DZO if it will be okay if you can speak at the general meeting. Be sure and write down at least an outline of items that you want your Skydivers, Manifest and Ground Crew to know or be reminded of.  As pilots we are taught that safety is #1, so do not simply stand up and say a couple words.  Take advantage of the fact that you have everyone's attention on the topic of safety. Personally, I usually talk about Weight & Balance, Safety Belts, Emergency Procedures and Prop Awareness during hot fueling, to name a few.

One of the most important things to remind your skydivers of, is what you as Pilot in Command will DEMAND of them in the event of an emergency. I personally demand that they remain calm (or try), do not tap me on the shoulder to ask silly questions (usually to ask if they can jump) and NO ONE touches that door unless I say so. 

If a s skydiver ever opened the door and jumped out during an emergency situation without my approval, I would have them grounded for a weekend. If the DZO disagrees with my punishment for them, then he/she can find another pilot for that weekend. Luckily I have only had to discipline a couple skydivers over the years. They all ended up thanking me for giving them a "time out" and they ended up respecting me more as their pilot.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Flying the EAA 1929 Ford Tri-Motor!

Recently I was honored to be able to fly EAAs 1929 Ford Tri-Motor! I flew it out of Shreveport Louisiana (DTN) on a beautiful sunny weekend. The Ford Tri-Motor has always been one of my favorite aircraft of all time. So, as you can imagine I was in heaven that day, a day that I will never forget.

Trying to maintain my cool and a heading!

My Captain for the day was Cody Welch, a retired airline pilot with over 33,000 flight hours. As if it wasn't hard enough for me to maintain my cool, I had one of the most experienced pilots in the entire state next to me. Capt. Welch ended up being one of the most down to earth and happy pilots that I've ever met. I confided to him that this was a dream come true for me to fly this airplane. He told me that he knows exactly how I feel. He said, "I still feel that way after numerous years of flying this bird!"

Capt. Cody Welch and Chris Rosenfelt

As a lot of my readers know, I have been flying skydivers for over 7 years now. So it was definitely cool to discover that the Tri-Motor that I flew also has a history of flying skydivers! It turns out that specific airplane use to fly Smoke Jumpers, helping to put out forest fires in Missoula Montana back in the 1950s. I have included a cool photo that I found of it back in the day about to take on a load of Jumpers.

Smoke Jumpers about to board Ford Tri-Motor in Missoula MT.

One of our passengers had a very interesting story to tell. He is Shreveport businessman Byrum Teekell. When he was only 5 years old (80 years ago) his father took him to the, then new Shreveport Downtown Airport to take his first airplane ride. It turns out that it was this very same airplane! That first flight inspired him to become a pilot, which he did, and even flew around the world in 1992!

Mr. Teekell told us that his first time up in this Tri-Motor it was piloted by legendary pioneer pilot Clarence Duncan Chamberlin. The second man to pilot a fixed-wing aircraft across the Atlantic, carrying the first transatlantic passenger. Yep, hearing that was definitely humbling for me to hear. Something I probably need more of.

Monday, March 2, 2015

New Jump Pilots, let's have a SAFE and fun 2015!

Most of the Jump Pilot hiring is done between now and the end of April and I have been reminded of that this past week. A lot of emails from newly hired Jump Pilots with tons of questions about their new job and the industry. 

I love helping younger pilots, so keep the emails coming. As I told them, I will repeat here... you will more than likely be pressured to fly a load of skydivers when you know that you should say no. SAY IT! If you don't, it might be more than your license that you lose. 

In my years as a Jump Pilot, I have refused to fly in marginal weather and/or quickly approaching crappy weather. I have refused to start the engine until everyone was seated the correct direction and wearing their safety belts. I have refused to start the engine after noticing that an extra skydiver boarded. They thought it was funny. It is not funny and those silly games can kill us and a respectable DZO will have your back every time. If he/she doesn't back you as a Jump Pilot.... leave. 

Here's to a SAFE and fun 2015!