Putting some wind beneath my wings

This week, my flying experiences spanned a broad spectrum. For the newcomers, I’m licensed to fly single and multi-engine airplanes, but lately, I’ve been flying airplanes with only one fan to keep the pilot cool (i.e. single-engine airplanes). However, this week, I had some new experiences.

Boeing 737-200 Simulator

A couple of days ago, I visited the Delta Flight Museum at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to fly their Boeing 737-200 flight simulator. Simulating an airplane that weighs over 100,000 pounds at takeoff, the Boeing 737-200 simulator represents the second biggest aircraft I’ve flown (simulated or otherwise). In college, I flew the Boeing 747-200 simulator with the flying club and the 747-200 weighs eight times as much as the 737-200.

Flying the “3-7” was pretty straightforward, especially since I didn’t have to worry about much beyond the stick-and-rudder (and throttle). My instructor/co-pilot/tour guide took care of the details (and the surprises). Although all of my pilot experience has been in much smaller planes, the 737 felt a lot like the Piper Seneca I learned in. The landing and takeoff speeds were twice as fast in the Boeing, but beyond that, it went where I pointed it and survived all of my landings–just like the Senecas did.

During the simulator ride, I managed to perform takeoff and landings at these airports:

  • KATL – Atlanta, GA. We had to take off from the airport we were based, of course. That and Atlanta has very large runways to help me as I improved my aim.
  • KSEA- Seattle-Tacoma, WA. If I’m going to fly a jet, I should at least go back and visit my friends in Seattle.
  • MHTG – Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After watching the landing from the back of the airliner earlier this spring (watching the houses go by the side windows on the approach), I wanted to see what it looked like from the front seats. (Spoiler alert: It’s just as exciting!).
  • KJAC – Jackson Hole, WY. Apparently it had all the thrills of landing in Tegucigalpa, but without the need to carry a passport. Judge for yourself.
  • KSAN – San Diego, CA. Flying the Sweetwater Visual approach to runway 27 provides quite the scenic view of the downtown. It’s so low, you almost have to pay attention to the traffic lights.
  • KDCA – Washington, DC. Another bush-pilot approach into the nation’s capitol. Normally, a pilot lines the airplane up with the runway several miles before touchdown. On the River Visual Runway 19 approach into DCA, you don’t line the plane up with the runway until its less than a mile from touchdown (about 10 seconds)–while avoiding the sensitive (and prohibited) areas of the nation’s capital along the route.

Here are a some highlights from the trip.

Landing at KSEA 34R (Seattle/Tacoma)

Landing at MHTG (Tegucigalpa, Honduras)

Landing at KJAC 19 (Jackson Hole, WY)

River Visual 19 approach and landing at KDCA (Washington National)

Could I land a real one if a disaster-movie plot were to come to life? Let’s hope I don’t have to find out. While I was 7 for 7 in the sim ride, I  know when not to push my luck.

My advice to the passengers would be, “Assume crash positions.”

Remote Pilot Certificate

Today, I received my first Remote Pilot Certificate for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (a.k.a. drones). Now I’m licensed to fly a plane from inside and from the outside. I still like flying them from the inside, but it’s good to have options.

As a licensed pilot, the rating required that I take only a written test, which reviewed the rules of operating in the National Airspace System–something every pilot is already familiar with, and how/where drones fit into that system.

Some of the things about drone flying that struck me (a pilot-from-within) as interesting:

  1. As a Remote Pilot, I don’t actually have to fly the drone. I can be the Drone Commander (if you want to give it a name) and have a drone operator and a drone observer working under my command. (Drone Commander… hmm, I could get used to that).
  2. As a Remote Pilot, you can fly a drone from a vehicle (except to deliver packages for hire). I’m pretty sure you can’t fly the drone while operating the vehicle, but I wouldn’t even if it wasn’t prohibited. (As if texting wasn’t bad enough).
  3. A small unmanned aircraft system weighs less than 55 pounds, fully loaded. In my book, that’s a pretty big model airplane (or helicopter). Not big enough to fly from the inside (although, not too far off from the 254 pound empty weight limit of an ultralight aircraft), but still pretty good sized.

I don’t have any drone plans in the foreseeable future, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Back to reality

After all this aeronautical excitement, I went back to my local airport in Perry, GA to fly the trusty trainer–a Cessna 152, which weighs, at most, a mere 1,670 pounds and lands about as fast the 737 taxis. After all of the week’s commotion and adventure, it was nice to wander leisurely through the skies at a relaxing 90 miles per hour.

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