Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Handflying the PMDG B738

I purchased FSPassengers some time ago, and it has brought me great joy. Last night I replicated flight SA302 from FACT to FAJS. My settings for FSPassengers allow a 1% chance of something failing in a flight. And last night, for the first time, something did.

After departing RWY01, I switched on VNAV, LNAV and the autopilot, and headed towards WY. All instruments were normal, and I relaxed in the last minutes of darkness before dawn. This was also my first fully laden flight in the B738. 125 passengers, full cargo, and maximum allowable fuel. After all, I had to make money off the flight, and she climbed like a dog.

The autopilot switched off by itself, and my efforts to re-engage it were unsuccessful. A look to the overhead panel resulted in a chill down my spine. It was a mess. The main generators would not activate again, battery was switched off, and I had a fluctuating DC voltage. Switched on the APU, APU generators engaged, and I was able to restore some sense of normal on the overhead panel.

I had no trim, but was able to maintain climb through throttle usage and moderate control yoke pressure. I comtemplated landing at FABL, but since the aircraft was fully flyable, and she was still heavily laden, I decided to push on to FAJS.

RWY03L was active at FAJS, IMC, but I was very glad for the straight in approach. And this is where the trouble started. We were at 240 KIAS 50nm inbound, FL080 came soon, and glideslope intercept was a breeze. Gear down, full flaps eventually, and a near-perfect approach. With a thousand feet to go, I reached full back pressure on the yoke, and I realised that I was in trouble. Not only me, but the crew, and the passengers. When I told my wife about the electrical system failure, she said I should just start over. But how could I? It was about proving whether I had what it takes.

The ground was coming up pretty fast, and my brain just froze. I knew it was over, but I was going to fly her into the ground for as long as I could. Suddenly it dawned on me, the throttles! Full throttle, watching my rate of descent decrease agonisingly slowly. Missed the beacon, missed the ground, the runway threshold came and went, and we set down, bursting tires in the process. But we made it.

For some obscure process, the passengers were happy with the flight. If only they knew. Me, I could have done better. I have no problem with handflying a big jet, but it was a risk I should not have taken. I should have returned to Cape Town after dumping fuel over the Atlantic. But then again, I did deliver my passengers safely, albeit only just.

I am reminded of a plane crash in 2005, northern hemisphere (details withheld to protect companies and individuals), where a businessman had an important meeting in a large city. The procedure called for de-icing the plane before startup, and this took longer than normal due to heavy snow. Not wanting to be late, he apparently phoned the airline company, who in turn ordered the pilot to take off immediately. No one survived the crash, and no one turned up for the important meeting.

The pilot in command maintains ultimate responsibility, and should always have the final say. And even though it is quite a burden to bear, you can not let the thought linger in your mind. For then you may never leave the ground.

To the real-world commercial pilots repeating drills like the above (and much worse) on a regular basis, I salute you.

SA302 - Springbok 302, daily flight departing Cape Town at 06h00.
FACT - Cape Town International
FAJS - Johannesburg International (Jan Smuts)
RWY01 - Runway 01, approximately 010 degrees magnetic.
VNAV - Vertical navigation
LNAV - Lateral navigation
WY - Wolseley Non Directional Beacon
B738- Boeing 737-800
DC - Direct Current
APU - Auxilary Power Unit
FABL - Bloemfontein
IMC - Instrument Meteorogical Conditions (flight by visual reference not possible, pilot has to fly by instruments alone)
240 KIAS - 240 Knots Indicated Airspeed.
50nm inbound - 50 nautical miles inbound to the JSV VOR (Very high frequency Onmidirectional Range beacon)
FL080 - Flight level 080, roughly 8000 feet above sea level, but altimeter setting is for standard pressure.
glideslope - navigational aid assisting a pilot to descend in a controlled fashion to the intended runway for landing.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Satisfying weekends - keep your house clean

What makes weekends satisfying? It is not only the chance to relax after a hard week at the office. It is spending time with my daughter when she wants to, doing what she wants. It is helping cleaning house, doing dishes, laundry. So that when my wife gets home, stuff is clean.

I am reminded of a saying (author unknown): "How do you keep your house so clean?" "We clean it." As simple as that. A house does not stay clean by itself. It needs to be cleaned, swept, on a regular basis.

And so it is with my spirit. It needs to be swept clean regularly. And I only realised this profound insight as I was typing this post. Leaves and dust gather in our spirits every day, together with some leftover pizza, and empty cooldrink bottles. If we do not clean it out, the junk just piles up, attracts flies, and the rest is history.

Of course, the problem with the above analogy is that I am assuming a normal house. But if the Holy Spirit resides in such a house, filling me with abundance, and overflowing, how much space is there for junk exactly?

From the Amplified translation:
1Co 6:19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own,
1Co 6:20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.

Although the above scripture applies to sexual immorality, it can be interpreted as applicable to many more aspects of life. Such as smoking. We get but one chance to live life on this planet. Early people lived in excess of 900 years, and I want to reach at least 100. Why? Because it is possible. But if I continue smoking, I am doing myself harm, possibly permanent harm.

But I digress. Perhaps my analogy does hold true. For which inhabitant of a house will just park on the couch, messing, and refuse to get up so you can vacuum around the couch? Alright, I can think of a few people! But the Holy Spirit certainly not.

So, what I am really trying to say is that I should clean my spiritual house more regularly. Cleaning my physical house is rewarding, how much more rewarding will a clean spiritual house be?

What I want for my birthday

A Line6 Bass Pod XT Live.

Need I say more? Perhaps that my birthday is April 10'th. ;)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I seem to be posting a lot of links to videos lately. Well, here are three more: A better job for George Bush, Brokeback to the Future, and the best toy ever.

I disagree, of course. The best toy ever has to be this to get you there, and this to play with.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Car facing a B747 backwash

I suppose that's what you get when you drive a Ford...

Best positions in bed

I am not going to let the cat of of the bag, visit this site and enjoy.

Johny Savage - Internet Celebrity

Great site, with news on celebrities. Be sure to watch this video on online networking from The Daily Show.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Eclipse Aviation wins 2005 Collier Trophy

This trophy is awarded only to the best of the best, based on their contribution to aviation. And as stated in this award link, the Eclipse 500 Very Light Jet is bringing jet engines to a much larger community of pilots, and a new type of air travel - the air taxi.

Me, I just want one because it is cheap to purchase. It fulfills all my operational requirements, and is the same price as a new Beech Baron 58. Yet, it is pressurised, can thus fly above the weather, and if you follow the sidebar link to Eclipse Aviation, you will see why I like it so much.

Well done, Eclipse! We are waiting patiently until you can start building some planes.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Climate Change Prediction - how you can help

If you are interested, you can donate some of your computer's spare processing time to this cause. It is all about statistical validity of results. The more permutations are run, the more confidence in the accuracy of predictions.

View the programme here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My musical journey

Last night (Valentine's day), the power was off in our area. I decided that we would eat in town. Went Japanese, unfortunately, bacause the quality is just not the same as in Japan. The sashimi was nice, though. Went home, and I was nearly at home, when I decided that there was no way I was going to music practice. Started texting a message as well, that I was quitting. But as I was about to send it, my whole being shouted in protest. And unfortunately, that is something I have experienced before as well.

So I did not send the message. Instead, I asked my wife to help me, packed all my gear, and I arrived only ten minutes late. And I had a wonderful evening. So many people enquired about my long absence. I think it has been three months since I last attended. And my team leader said it's time to get me on stage.

Wht is any of this important to you as a reader? Because as easy as it was to say: "Stuff it, I am not going", it was to say: "Stuff it, I am going".

We will never be tempted above our ability. We may still fail, because our fallen nature means that we will make mistakes. But it is satisfying to get it right every now and then. Indeed.

I mentioned something about music. I play bass guitar. A Yamaha TRB6P. One of the best boutique bass guitars ever manufactured. Sadly Yamaha has brought out an updated version, and the colour is all wrong, it now has a bolt-on neck, and I could list a few more. But the original one is magnificent. This was the last instrument I ever purchased, back in 1993. Twelve years old by now, still in immaculate condition, and I changed strings last year for the first time.

Sounds strange to keep the originals that long, but they lasted, and the rich sound was lost immediately after I changed strings. And it was quite a journey to trace the original factory-fitted strings.

Before that I had a Hohner ST Scorpion electric guitar (mine was black), a Korg M1, which I later replaced with a Korg O1Wfd. I still have that, and of course the bass. My daughter loves the synth, and we can make quite a bit of noise together on a good day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's day

Happy Valentine's Day to Sanet. Thank you for my lovely daughter, thank you for staying with me for all these years.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Blog update rate

To all my regular readers, my apologies for the lack of updates recently. Things at work have been quite hectic, and I even realised yeaterday that I have not phoned my wife from work in a long time (I normally do it daily, as a rule).

Did phone her today, though!

It might still be slow for a while, but like all good things in life, will pick up eventually.

What did you do at work today, daddy?

This from steve-lacey.com:

"Here’s a cool video that an international airline pilot put together to show his three year old daughter what he did at work.
The five minute video shows a three day Boston to Paris roundtrip, set to the music of U2. A very cool piece of work.
Watch it over on YouTube."

Thanks, Steve, great link!

Monday, February 06, 2006

International Star Registry

Well, I finally did it. It was my wife's birthday on 1 February, and I purchased her a star (I named a star after her, to be more exact). Delivery was prompt from the International Star Registry, and the package arrived in time for her birthday.

As stated on the website, included was a starmap, indicating the exact location of the star. It was a tossup on whether to purchase some land on the moon, or name a star in her honour.

My daughter helped me make up a nice starry card, and then we hid the present. But she could not wait until the next morning. We had to deliver the present that night. Did not take long to convince my wife of earlier delivery, and the two of them unwrapped the gift (the main attraction for a four-year old)!

Went outside and found the star. Not visible with the naked eye, but I have a telescope, and visible through there.

The night after my daughter and I were lying in bed, and she looked out the window, and said:" There is mommy's star".

It seems money can purchase such a level of enthusiasm for astronomy...

Check out the International Star Registry, but keep it to yourself until you have made a purchase. No need to let the cat out of the bag... Oh, and by the way, I also received a voucher for my next purchase.