Flying Visits. An Aviation Video by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, December 10, 2013


                            



"Flying Visits"


A selection of images from a range of stories that I have written in recent times.





                                                                 

The Right Stuff? An Aviation Blog By Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Friday, November 08, 2013




The Right Stuff?

By Owen Zupp


Tom Wolfe's book made 'The Right Stuff' famous and then the film rocketed the phrase and the concept to an entirely new level. It was meant to describe that intangible quality that separates elite aviators from those of us that sit back in the pack. Strangely enough, as every year passes I find the 'right stuff' increasingly difficult to recognise and virtually impossible to identify.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Despite the Hollywood slant on the events surrounding the breaking of the sound barrier and the Mercury astronauts, it was exciting entertainment and great viewing. It brought the story home to a generation that were virtually ignorant of the events that transpired as man pushed the limits of flight.

Still the right stuff sat uncomfortably with me. A shared many a conversation with fighter pilots of that same era and the vast majority ranked luck as the prime requirement for success. In combat and in flying the first generation of jet fighters, they had a litany of tales of how they almost broke their necks through ignorance and stupidity. They watched good friends make the same mistakes, only to leave a crater in some remote field.

Furthermore, they would recount fellow pilots who had the qualities that were perceived as the right stuff. They were 'natural' pilots with superior stick-and-rudder skills and unflappable confidence. They earned top marks and won the trophies and accolades and were held in envy by their peers. Yet as these old, greying pilots continued to chat, they would recall how a good many of these wonderful pilots had actually died in the air.

They had been killed pushing on in bad weather, executing a low level manoeuvre that just didn't work or taking the aircraft a little further than the designers had seen as prudent. They offered over confidence and complacency as factors in the demise, but as always, bad luck played its hand too.

These old pilots were never critical of their talented comrades who had died doing what they loved. Sometimes pause as if for the first time they could see a link between ability and mortality. Perhaps they would shrug their shoulders or raise an eyebrow, but little more. After all, it was a dangerous vocation back then.

The majority if these ageing aviators held themselves in far less regard. "I was very average" and "I got through by the skin of my teeth" were common expressions from this generation of pilots who had literally been there and done that. They saw themselves as fortunate survivors rather than 'aces' and to me this seemed strange.

Perhaps the right stuff lay more in recognising the limits than pushing them. These gentlemen had flown hundreds of combat sorties between them and been amongst the first to fly jets. They had done everything that could be asked of them and survived and yet all they saw in the mirror was an average pilot with luck on his side.

When I consider the modern generation of pilots that I have flown with, I find common ground with these pilots of the past. The demographic of air crew is fairly standard and recruiting processes look to maintain that. A few individuals step out of the box, but generally speaking there is similarity amongst the breed that is pulled more closely together by standard operating procedures in a disciplined workplace. There are gifted pilots, but a greater number are average and live from one simulator check to the next. They are always there own toughest critic and lament how they could have flown so much better. In their eyes they just get by, it's always the other guy that has the right stuff.

To be a pilot you don't need to be special, just the right sort of person for the job. A degree of flying ability is required, but so too is a level of proficiency in interfacing with technology and interacting with other people. Rather than possessing one single quality, it is about a balance of a few. It's about keeping them in proportion and shifting them in priority as the situation dictates at the time.

Being strong in one area and weak in another is far from an ideal situation. The best manipulative pilot needs to be able to master the automation and the pilot who plays the technology like a keyboard must also know when it is time to hand fly the aeroplane. And as good as they are in either situation they must be able to work with those around them.

Fellow pilots, cabin crew, engineers and ground staff are all valued components in the complex aviation cycle. Drawing upon these valuable resources and communicating effectively across the board can be as challenging as any skill a pilot may need and as critical as any need they may encounter.

Reflecting upon the wealth of knowledge of experienced aviators that I have known and my own time aloft, I am still no closer to truly understanding the right stuff. I've always perceived it as an intangible quality, so perhaps I am destined to never get any closer to the heart of the matter. Regardless, I don't believe that it is a single quality. I think it is a blend of traits that are brought to the fore and tucked away as needed.

The transition from one skill to another, or their co-existence is a seamless affair. It is a stealthy harmony that underpins the more obvious basic skill sets that push the aircraft about the sky The right stuff? I honestly don't know. Perhaps it's really more about possessing the right mix.

Fly safe.





                                                                 

"50 Tales of Flight" an Aviation Best-Seller! by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, February 27, 2013
"50 Tales of Flight"

an Aviation Best-Seller.


A sincere 'thank you' to everyone for supporting my new book.



 

 

 

 

                                                                    

 

 

Ground Rush. (Part One) Landing an Aeroplane. An Aviation Training Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ground Rush. (Part One)

 

The Right Approach

 

By Owen Zupp

 

 

What goes up, must come down and for every successful flight, its end is marked with an equally successful return to earth. Only occupying a fraction of the flight time, the landing continues to provide a focal point for pilots, passengers and the chap on the hill with the telephoto lens. Why is it when the wheels meet Mother Earth, sometimes it’s a kiss and sometimes it's a slap? Often the answer lies well before the touchdown.

 

Method or Mystique?

 

Many words have been written and hours of briefings undertaken in search of mastering the ability to land. Some have been scientific and even mathematical in nature, while others have been far more general. For pilots, part of the problem is that landing is a mixture science and art. It involves the hard figures of approach speeds, aircraft weight, and available runway length, but also the judgement of when the appropriate control inputs need to be initiated and then modulated to guide the aircraft back to earth. Blend into the mix the varying ambient conditions of wind and temperature and the pilot is challenged by a genuine act of complex co-ordination.

 

As such, the input of a flight instructor and the age-old art of ‘practice makes perfect’ are often the best means of managing the individual’s manipulative issues. However, there are a number of fundamental matters that each pilot can attend to that will make the instructor’s lot much easier and go a long way towards improving the approach and landing phase.

 

Often very unfairly, a flight is judged or remembered because of the landing. The preflight planning, standard operating procedures and navigational finesse that brought the aircraft safely over the runway threshold are too often overlooked when the flight terminates with a less than gracious arrival. This culture can serve to exacerbate the pressure to perform that some pilots feel and ultimately climbs into their concentration, eroding their performance further. This is human nature, yet if we look at automation; it doesn’t suffer from such subtleties.

 

Advanced modern aircraft equipped with sensors and coupled autopilots routinely conduct ‘Autolands’ as the pilots watch on in the role of a monitor. These emotionless autopilots resist the tendency to over-control and are without trepidation as the ground looms large ahead. It is purely an exercise in calculation and function, timed precisely for a successful outcome. Even so, automation on aircraft may still have defined limitations such as crosswind, beyond which the pilot must intervene. As such, the need still remains for the pilot to be the manipulative master of the aeroplane and yet regardless of experience, the landing phase can turn and bite. Some of the reasons are those faced by student pilots every day.

 

 

The Goal.

 

It is firstly worthwhile to review what is sought from landing an aircraft. The smooth ‘greaser’ landing should not be the ultimate goal, though it can be a rather satisfying side-effect. In fact on wet runways, the aircraft manufacturers recommend a firm or positive touchdown as an extra defence against aquaplaning.

 

Safe landings are about arriving at the aim point, on the centre-line at the required airspeed and aligned with the runway. As long as the touchdown is not unduly heavy, bounced or askew, the goal has been achieved. The degree of comfort will be enhanced with a lower rate of descent at touchdown, but this should not be the driving force. Undue focus on the smooth touchdown can lead to the consumption of significant amounts of valuable runway as the pilot ‘feels’ for the ground. And even after such an effort, if contact not been made by the time the airspeed has eroded below flying speed, the aircraft will thump onto the ground anyway. Wasted runway, wasted effort.

 

Safety must always come first. Finesse will come with experience and maintained with currency. When the goal of the landing is clear in the mind, it serves to reinforce and clarify what is being sought on final approach; aim point, speed and centre-line.

 

Relax.

 

Before the manipulation skills even come into play, the mind has to be on the job. For any phase of flight the pilot must be well rested as fatigue will erode the performance and safe conduct of the flight. As the landing by its very nature comes at the end of a sector, fatigue may be at its very worst, so rest should always form a critical element of pre-flight preparation. Yet beyond the physical fatigue, pilots can induce a degree of mental fatigue by focusing too much upon the landing well before it is even an issue. This can serve to distract the pilot from the tasks at hand and eat at the holistic viewpoint that is needed for sound flight management. It is best to preserve the mental energy until it is actually needed.

 

Tell tale signs can also start to creep in and instructors over the years have seen them on numerous occasions. Often nervousness manifests as the landing pilot starts to discuss the prevailing weather conditions in a negative sense as if to offer an excuse for the upcoming performance. There is no argument that hot, gusty conditions, or low visibility present their own challenges to the landing, but idle banter doesn’t help. Review the conditions and consider how they may best be countered before the aircraft is flying down final. Do the gusts warrant a speed additive on final? Where is the crosswind coming from and what actions are required to be aligned with the runway at touchdown? May a higher flap setting lower the nose for better visibility in passing showers? Respond to the conditions with an assessment and a plan rather than nervous tension.

 

 

 

White knuckles are another sign that the landing holds some demons for the pilot. Strangling the control column does not threaten the aircraft into flying better and actually destroys much of the pilots ‘feel’. It can lead to subconscious control inputs and poor trimming of the aeroplane. Both of these actions can interfere significantly with the flaring process where there are major changes in pitch and power. 

 

Similarly, a pilot’s posture can interfere with the landing. Whether through fatigue or stress, pilots can often slump or lean to one side as they fly the final approach. This can play havoc as landing is about appreciating the perspective of the runway ahead and a constant ‘picture’ is one of the best aids. At the flight’s commencement the seat was adjusted in an unrushed manner based on the best outlook, so any slumping or leaning is going to adjust that set of visual cues.

 

Often these traits are subconscious and build gradually beneath the surface as the landing draws closer. In the training phases, there is an instructor present to offer a wake up call, but once licensed, pilots must take this task upon themselves. Whether flying an ILS or sliding down a visual approach, use a cue to prompt a self review. It may be the selection of the final stage of flap, a certain height or capturing the Glideslope, but at some point take a moment to remind oneself to sit up straight and relax. Take a breath, adjust the posture and relax the grip on the control column to feel if the aircraft is really in trim. You are now physically ready to land the aeroplane.....

Check back soon for Part Two of 'Ground Rush'.

 

 

 

 

"Boeing 737. The Next Generation." (Part One) An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, March 04, 2012

         

             "Boeing 737. The Next Generation." (Part One)

 

Somewhere across the globe a Boeing 737 takes off or lands every 5 seconds and over 1200 of their compatriots are aloft at any given time. With the 7000th aircraft rolled out in December 2011, the 737 has truly brought the term ‘prolific’ to airliner production and considering the maiden flight of the 737-100 took place in 1967, it is quite appropriate that the latest metamorphism be dubbed the “Next Generation”.
 
With its title clipped to the more easily handled, “NG”, the ‘next generation’ covers the -600 through to the -900 series of the 737. Of Boeing’s latest offering the 700 and larger 800s have gone on to dominate the skies, while the ‘Max’ is still yet to come. The NGs predecessors, the -200, -300 and -400 had provided the backbone of short haul travel in a very similar way. Whilst the number of earlier models is ever dwindling, they have gone on to be referred to as ‘The Classics’ as they reflect a last bridge between the analogue and digital flight deck. Whilst a highly visible transition, the clocks and dials are but one area of many in which the Classic has been superseded.

737 Next Generation Development:
 
The 737NG program was launched in 1993 under the title of 737-X. Boeing recognized the time-tested qualities of the type, but needed to bring the efficiency of new technology and systems to its most enduring machine. Fundamentally, the 737-X was to fly higher, farther, faster and more fuel efficiently than its predecessor without evolving into a new machine requiring a new designator and certification. A challenging task to say the least.
 
Much of the efficiency revolved around the redesigned wing. With 25% more total surface area and potentially 30% more fuel capacity, the new wing has much to offer. Boasting a higher span than the Classic, the new wing is a more swept with a constant angle of sweep and double-slotted continuous span flaps. Gone is the double swept leading edge and characteristic ‘kink’ of the earlier wing. Similarly, there have been changes to the leading and trailing edge flaps that have resulted in weight saving as well as aerodynamic efficiency. For all of the improvements to the aerofoil and lift augmentation devices, the most visible change to the wing and the aircraft generally, is the emergence of blended winglets on the 737.
 
The smooth, upward sweeping fairings at the tips stand a prodigious 2.4 metres and increase the span by a metre and a half. Simply put, the winglets benefit the aircraft through the reduction of induced drag and consequently improved operational and economic performance. Whilst yielding an impressive 4% saving in mission block fuel, the winglets also increase the 800s range by over 100nm. (Source: Boeing) Improved performance out of ‘hot, high and humid’ airfields is another advantage of the blended winglet. In fact, this aerodynamic device has proved so successful that it is now being retrofitted to 757s as well as 737s.

 

                                       

                                                          The Flight Deck of the Boeing 737-800.

 
The NG also sees the introduction of GPS to the 737 navigation system. Previously only equipped with dual Inertial Reference Systems (IRSs), the system relied upon ‘updates’ from ground based VORs and DMEs to continually refine the aircraft’s present position. Without such updates, the pictorial presentation on the map display could be inaccurate requiring the crew to heavily rely on ‘raw data’ from conventional radio navigation aids. GPS provides a far more consistently accurate map display for the crew and allows for more integration of the aircraft’s Lateral Navigation (LNAV) and Vertical Navigation (VNAV) systems. Additionally, the NG is equipped with a Predictive Windshear Warning and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS). This ‘forward-looking’ form of the original GPWS provides improved terrain clearance by such mechanisms as Terrain Clearance Floor, Look Ahead and Runway Clearance Floor algorythms.
 
Efficiency and costs savings can also be achieved on the ground. Production line improvements saw the final assembly of a 737NG in a record-breaking 11 days in 2005. On the maintenance side, the NG was developed with an eye to reducing airframe maintenance costs by 15%. Comprised of significantly less parts than the Classic, the NG was also designed with far more ‘ease of access’ for maintenance crews. Redesigned leading edges, landing gear, electronics, APU and the 15% more efficient CFM56-7 engines all contributed to the bottom line. In conjunction with improved maintenance documents, corrosion prevention and extended scheduled maintenance intervals, the 737NG has won the battle of the dollar over its forerunner.

On the flight deck, the 737NG strongly resembles its twin-engined big brother, the Boeing 777. The panel is dominated by the presence of 6 LCD panels arranged side by side, replacing the combination of EFIS and analogue that was found on the Classic. For the pilots, this means a degree of modification of their instrument scan from the vertical to the horizontal. The flight deck was designed in response to the demand by operators that a new type endorsement not be needed. As a consequence, the overhead panel closely resembles the Classic with its array of toggle switches and dials, though the operation of the system behind the switch may well be different.

 

          

                     A QANTAS Boeing 737-800 awaits its take-off clearance as another 737NG comes 'over the fence'.

 
As for achieving higher, faster, farther and more fuel efficient performance; Boeing delivered. The NG possesses greater range by more than 400nm over the earlier model, whilst topping out at FL410 (41,000 feet) as opposed to the Classic ceiling of FL370 (37,000 feet). With a typical cruise speed of 0.78M and a sprint capability to 0.82M, the NG draws away from the Classic’s average cruise of 0.745M, whilst all the while burning less fuel. Furthermore, depending on the cabin configuration, the -800 can achieve all of this while carrying around 40 more passengers than its predecessor. From humble beginnings as the 737-100 nearly 40 years ago, the 737 has kept pace with the times through ongoing development and improvement. The 737NG is no exception.
 
Technologically, some 737 NGs can be equipped with a ‘Head-Up Guidance System’ or ‘HGS’. The HGS 4000 system features a transparent drop-down screen in front of the Captain on which is projected an array of flight information, allowing the pilot to operate in lower visibility situations than would otherwise be possible. Head-Up Display (HUD) technology has been available for years on military aircraft and Alaska Airlines started flying HUD on their 727s back in the mid-80s and all of their 737-400s are equipped with the technology.
 
Some airlines have opted for the Vertical Situation Display (VSD) on their aircraft. The VSD displays the current and predicted flight path of the aircraft and indicates potential conflicts with terrain. The VSD is designed to enhance situational awareness on the flight deck and is yet another way in which the Next Generation is offering advances over its predecessor......

 

Check back later this week for the conclusion to "Boeing 737. The Next Generation."

"Late in the Day." An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, February 24, 2012

                      

 

"Late in the Day"

Friday's Flight Bag. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, February 24, 2012

                    "Traffic Ahead." A very popular image on the blog this past week.

 

Hi All,

Thanks once again for a tremendous week at this aviation blog. Your support just keeps on growing!

The choice of highlighting the most popular blogs is getting more difficult each week as the numbers seem to be rising right across the range of stories. In a news sense, the post on the collapse of 'Air Australia' seemed to strike a nerve. As a series, 'The Practical Pilot' seems to be very popular, so you can be sure that more of that style of content will be on its way. Similarly, the second instalment of 'The Fatal Stall' inspired quite an amount of comment and feedback; particularly given the fate of Air France 447 in more recent times.

I would like to humbly thank Karlene Pettit for mentioning this blog and profiling me at her very popular website. I also received my copy of her book, "Flight for Control", in the mail a couple of days ago and I recommend that you check it out at her website also.

Episode 82 from the lads at the PCDU podcast hit the airwaves where we chatted about topics like 'The Fatal Stall' and the recent Air Test of the GippsAero GA8 for 'Australian Aviation' magazine.

Well, you've probably grasped that it's been another busy week and I'm currently organising content for the seven days ahead. It's a significant task, but the ongoing support of this aviation blog is making it all worthwhile.

Please keep the feedback and comments coming and don't forget to subscribe to this website or 'Like' me on Facebook.

Cheers for now,

Owen

"Just One of Those Days." An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"It was just one of those days."

 

It was just one of those days again.....in a good way.

Like so many mornings in the airline game it began in a hotel room with an alarm clock sounding at an hour too early to accurately recall. A shower, a shave and a stealthy exit, carefully trying not to slam the door and disturb the other guests. An exchange of pleasantries and a room key to the sole staff member manning the foyer desk, before a cheerful ‘Good Morning’ to my fellow pilot.  As the car makes its way to the airport along the darkened roads, we both check the latest weather and radar paints on our iPhones. What did we do before these things? In the briefing room we pore over the detailed weather and ‘Notices to Airmen’ before ordering our fuel load, passing through security and finally walking out to our aircraft sitting quietly on the tarmac.

The control tower was still asleep as we brought the Boeing to life for the day and then passengers started to climb aboard. A few more calculations and then the ‘tower’ was open for business. We received our ‘airways clearance’ from the chirpy Air Traffic Controller and I’m sure that I could smell coffee on his voice. The runway lights were on, the sun was threatening to rise in the east and we were all ready to go. Engines started; we’re on our way.

Climbing out from Hobart, the darkness grew deeper very early in the flight as we entered a low layer of cloud. Some thousands of feet later the cloud began to glow and then I was in clear air with a line of bright orange sunrise back over my shoulder. The brilliance only lasted a few minutes, before once again the cloud consumed the aircraft and held it in its grasp until 30,000 feet. By then we had well and truly set course for Melbourne and a solid white blanket lay below us. Thirty minutes later and we were over Bass Strait with the thrust levers closing to initiate our descent into the Victorian capital.

Not much was happening on this sleepy Sunday morning, so Air Traffic Control instructed us to fly a straight line at our maximum speed to join final for the northern runway; an instruction that we happily complied with. As the cloud thinned out the coastline lay below and we shadowed the waterline with the high-rise of the city looming ahead and out to our right hand side. This stretch of coast was familiar to me as I had dawdled along it during my fund-raising flight around Australia in 2010. At that time I was flying at 120 knots and around 1,500 feet, now I was on descent from the flight levels at 320 knots. Still, from the higher vantage point I could pick out various features and mentally retrace my steps.

The view as we passed Melbourne’s skyline was beautiful as we began to decelerate. The early morning sun silhouetted the buildings without affording the full detail of colour. But there was colour; seven or eight dots of colour. In the stillness of the early morning air, a sea of hot air balloons silently drifted into the sun’s earliest rays and was illuminated by its light. They appeared to be untethered lanterns welcoming the day from on high. It was spectacular.

We continued on and landed at Melbourne, but after such a breathtaking start to the day, the latter phase of the flight could not compete as a spectacle. The flight deck truly is the best seat in the house and I treasure every day I spend there. Every day offers something new, so really, today was just another one of those days.....but in a good way.

 

Title Image supplied by "Picture This Ballooning."

 

"Traffic Ahead." An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, February 20, 2012

  

    A contrail at dusk as the traffic ahead turns the corner, bound for home.

The Collapse of 'Air Australia'. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, February 17, 2012

                                                       

The day was not so old today when the news of another airline's collapse filtered down the wire. There had been rumours circulating over recent days, but nothing untoward in an industry that is traditionally underpinned by third hand speculation. Even so, when the news was confirmed it was still a shock to the system, particularly for those caught in the cross-fire. Personally, it took me back ten years to when my old employer, Ansett Australia, ceased operations in the wee hours.

On that occasion I was left standing outside the terminal with the passengers as the automatic doors refused to budge despite limitless arm-waving at the sensor. Eventually I gained access under the watchful eye of a security guard, emptied my letterbox and was shown the door. All before 6am. It's a surreal experience to be standing on the footpath, in uniform and unemployed. The thoughts racing through the mind are difficult to harness; action needs to be taken, but what's to be done? Where to from here? Abandonment, vulnerability, confusion and grief all show their faces as the rational half of the brain endeavours to create a strategy to move forward from this mess.

As the announcement of Air Australia's collapse filled the air waves, that day on the footpath did not seem to be a decade ago. The corporate impact hardly registered with me as I felt immediate empathy for the staff. A number of the pilots at Air Australia were my workmates at Ansett, so the blow they have taken must be a bitter case of 'deja vu'. Once again they are asking, “Where to from here?”

For so many, aviation is more than just a job; it's a passion. As such, the loss of employment can be a twisted blend of fiscal uncertainty and a slap in the face by a cold-hearted lover. And similarly, both may take years to fully 'get over'.

If there is any solace, it may lie in the fact that many have been down this road before and have managed to regroup and rebuild. Resilience is so often a by-product of disappointment. It may be cold comfort in these first days when any sense of perspective is difficult to come by, but rest assured that the thoughts and good wishes of many are with you.

To the staff of Air Australia, stay strong and treasure those who really matter the most as they are the ones who will get you through.

Take care one and all.

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