Saturday, January 23, 2010

First Relief Mission Complete

A generous construction company owner from upstate NY bought a total of 600 tents and then needed to move them to Haiti. I volunteered, along with my friend, Philip, to relay them to Turks and Caicos on January 20-22, 2010. Each of the two missions transported 18 of the 10-person tents, so enough housing was moved for 360 people. From Turks and Caicos, a combination of King Airs and Barons took them on a short hop into a small strip in Haiti.

The biggest challenge? Not the weight planning, the weather, nor the long over water legs. It was U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and their awful eAPIS tyranny. This miserable site requires very specific information for both entering and departing the U.S. with specific border crossing times in the air. Besides entering all this information, a pilot still has to call the local CBP office ahead of time. The only way to file eAPIS information is via the web. Well, what happens if you are flying to a small remote country that has spotty or no Internet connection? Answer: you're stuck.

It was very satisfying to contribute in a tangible way. I'm probably the only white guy who has stayed overnight in Turks and Caicos but did not go to their world renowned beaches. Another time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haitian Relief Waiting in the Wings

So Thursday morning in Seattle, Neil comes down to breakfast and says: "What are you doing next week?"

"Funny you should ask that - I was about to ask you the same question."

"Wanna to fly to Haiti?"

"That's what I was going to ask you."

You'd think it would be simple to load up 600 lbs of urgent supplies and up to four people in order help out. As I previously taken Red Cross Shelter Operations courses, it isn't so easy. You need organization, coordination and most importantly trained volunteers. It's great that individuals want to help, but without training it becomes even more taxing on relief workers. Which is why at times like this, the Red Cross and other organizations ask for money instead of time.

The stories coming from the Haitian airport are daunting so far: circling for 2-3 hrs, no fuel at destination, no coordination to get supplies out. The military is far better equipped for this. A C5 burns in fuel in one minute the equivalent of the Mustang's total baggage capacity.

Nevertheless, I've registered at the NBAA Haitian Relief web site and waiting for their call. In additional to money, I hope to be able to help with time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coast to Coast in a Day

We went from Boston to Seattle yesterday, in the longest trip yet in the Mustang. After 1.5 hr delay in the morning (because SOMEONE forgot their bags and had to go home to get them), we headed off into clear skies. "Cleared direct Manchester direct destination."

Well north of Lake Huron, the radios were quiet so we asked always friendly Canadian ATC where the closest traffic was: "I've got a guy 60 miles south of you". First stop in the Upper Michigan Peninsula (CMX) was not looking good due to ever present Great Lake moisture. With only a 20-30 kt headwind, we diverted further down the road to Hibbing, MN (HIB), home of Bob Dylan's youth. In the FBO were various animal trophies. My Israeli-born passenger inquired if that indeed had been a real bear, which of course it was.

We continued on over North Dakota, land of frozen rivers. Even though visibility was hundreds of miles in all directions, we still could not pick out the ICBM launch sites from 8 miles up in the air.

Landing in beautiful, 20 dC warmer Great Falls, Montana (airport diagram), ATC asked us to exit runway 21 at taxiway A3. With a 2 mi runway, no visible traffic, nothing showing on our cockpit traffic, why would the tower ask us to attempt a landing with only 1500' of runway? We declined and used a more practical 5000'. Before fully exiting the runway, we had our answer as two ANG F15s screamed behind our back for a military break and landing.

The final short leg to Seattle was at lower altitude in go-fast mode. We hit some light icing, the most we've had so far in the Mustang. The boots did their job adequately. Constant moisture from the Pacific coupled with mountain lifting in the Cascades, makes the Pacific Northwest one of the ripest areas for icing in the world. On approach at Boeing Field (BFI), a small piston was in the pattern on the parallel runway while we broke out at 700' above minimums for a landing on the wet runway.

Amazing what you can see in 8 hours of flying.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cirrus Sold

Cirrus SR22 N97RJ has been sold as of December 31, 2009. Congratulations to the new buyer. Thanks for all your inquiries and a special thanks to Philip for his original posting on his Cirrus SR20 page that generated a lot of interest.