One bit of blogging advice is to pick a single topic and focus on that. The idea is to attract and keep those interested in the topic. I tried that with my first blog, a baseball blog, and I have a separate blog for computer programming. (For the record, neither attracted anyone, so maybe it’s me. 😮 )
This blog does have a central topic — “Stuff That Really Interests Me” — but my tastes are pretty eclectic. Math theory, 3D modeling, and basic physics fascinate me, but so does baseball, beer, and Hawaiian volcanoes. (Not to mention the Mandelbrot and science fiction, both very dear to my heart.)
Right now I’m into commercial aviation.
Which has always fascinated me a little — the idea of flying is an ancient dream (literally, sometimes). There is something very exciting about being in an aircraft just as it takes off.
(There’s something even more exciting about jumping out of an aircraft. As skydivers quip: “If riding in an airplane is flying, then riding in a boat is swimming. To experience the element, get out of the vehicle!”)
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
A text beloved by many who’ve experienced flight, from skydivers to airplane drivers to astronauts. (Number me among those who find it profoundly affecting.)
And I do think riding in a large airplane doesn’t give the same experience, but if you’ve ridden in a smaller aircraft, like a Cessna for example, then you’ve had a taste of real flying.
For me it’s all about whether you get a forward view during take-off and landing. In commercial aircraft, all you get is a side view. It ain’t the same!
And that’s where my current aviation kick started: with “inside the cockpit” videos — the ultimate in forward views.
Those videos led to a whole world of aviation videos. I’ve learned a lot about how commercial aircraft work from Captain Joe and Mentour Pilot. They’re just two of many commercial pilots who do informational videos.
And then there is “Kennedy Steve” — a former (now retired) Wall Street guy turned ATC at New York’s JFK airport. Someone has a channel dedicated to ATC conversations, many of them starring Steve, who is hysterical.
But today I have a pair of real-life events involving student pilots.
Not to worry, no one gets hurt, but these are exactly the sort of occurrences they put in movies. What makes these so compelling is that they are real.
They’re also testaments to the professionalism of those who work in ATC.
The first story involves a 17-year-old student pilot on a solo flight.
During take-off, one of her landing gear falls off…
Maggie does excellently. You can hear the stress in her voice.
But pilots are trained to remain calm, follow procedures, and fly the aircraft. Their mantra is: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. (In that order.)
The channel for this video (and the two below) posts ATC conversations, usually along with radar images (sometimes maps). Most of the videos involve situations of some kind.
To help read the radar tracking images, Maggie’s plane (in green) is labeled with the aircraft number (N2496X) on top and the altitude (in hundreds of feet) and airspeed (in tens of knots) below.
With commercial flights, instead of the aircraft number, it’s the flight number (e.g. DAL234 for Delta Airlines flight 234).
For example, you can listen to ATC trying to talk down the guy in Seattle who stole, flew, and crashed, the Dash-8 in 2018. (Tragic. He was obviously mentally unwell.) You can even listen to the ATC traffic involved with the Kobe Bryant crash.
But those have bad endings.
The second good-ending story involves a student pilot on his first training flight when his instructor passes out.
As it turns out, the student had experience with a different aircraft, so he wasn’t without experience. But it’s still a fascinating little story:
As you see, not all the videos on this channel come with radar images (or even ground maps). Here’s part two:
All’s well that ends well!
As they say, any landing you walk away from is a good landing.
How bad have I got it? Pretty bad. I got an app for my phone that lets me listen to ATC traffic for many of the major airports in the USA and quite a few in other countries.
There is something weirdly soothing about it. Apparently some people use it to fall asleep to. The app even has a sleep timer.
I’ll put a couple clips of Kennedy Steve in the comments, but I’ll warn you: They are worse than potato chips when it comes to having just one. Very addictive.
You may find yourself at 4 AM tomorrow morning saying, “Just one more,… just one more…”
Stay in high flight, my friends!