Welcome to my Blog

I am starting this blog just as I am starting my airline career. Feel free to ask any questions, or if you are in need of any help related to seeking employment with an airline then just let me know. I really enjoy helping others in any way that I can.

This is my blog with a name that stems from a long standing joke. Damnit Bobby was a term thrown out during a fun family sports match. Damnit Bobby Airlines was destined to be a loving name given to any flight I conduct which has passengers on board

I was a flight instructor and a part 91 (private carriage) pilot prior to becoming employed with an airline. Please enjoy the blog, and feel free to comment about anything and everything.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This is who we are

As a professional pilot I hold certain responsibilities. Professional pilots have an obligation to ensure the safety of the public through obtaining a high degree of skill and forming sound judgment. We also have a responsibility to other professional pilots who depend on us to follow established practices and policies. Every crew member aboard depends on each other also. We must all have sound leadership skills and form a solid, cohesive, team. This does not mean each crew member must be a leader, but rather possess core traits of a leader. These traits can be learned, but without them the result is nothing short of what can be described as a "sloppy" crew member. This is one reason why former military personnel make great crew members aboard commercial aircraft. Not all former military personnel become pilots, but even their presence in the cabin can have a direct impact on an entire crew if they possess the core leadership traits.

We also have a responsibility to our companies. Obviously they have entrusted us with the responsibilities associated with the safe conduct of flight, but it does not stop there. Just as the police are the first form of governmental contact the public has, crew members are the first form of contact the flying public has with company management. No, we are not the managers of the company, but as pilots we do accept the responsibility to uphold and make decisions which are in the best interest of our company's management team. The direct impact we have on passengers lives is a responsibility we do not downplay. We recognize the reasons passengers are flying. I have often thought of an airport as the only place in the world where you can stand in a terminal and see people walking by who represent every emotional state a human can be in. From the trajic to the happiest of times, not even a hospital can match the diversity of emotional and social reasons why people are there.

What that all means to me is that I have an obligation to my family, passengers, company, and fellow crew members to always observe the highest level of standards possible, never allow myself to be emotionally or physically compromised prior to accepting any flight, maintain the highest level of knowledge and proficiency, and never let any personal needs come before that of my duties and responsibilities as a crewmember.

These are the things that make us who we are. These are the things that drive myself to never settle for anything less than my personal best. Of all the things I have tried to describe, I know I cannot do adequate justice to what this job is all about, but to sum it up with the simple truth: Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean to me.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Well, it has been a full year since I first received an invitation to an interview. Every day has brought new experiences, challenges, and even new friendships. Flying for the general public has been, and continues to bring great joy to this pilot. The first day was fun and exciting. After going through 4, 2 hour simulator sessions and a PC (Proficiency Check - explained below) I found myself in the beautiful Northeast. My first flight was from Dulles International to Binghamton, NY. Boy! Did we ever hit the ground running. Here is a copy of my first week of IOE (Initial Operating Experience)


That was obviously a fun week, and it was with it's maintenance issues, scheduling conflicts, and passenger issues. I experienced my first medical emergency on my third day. The first time to step in the cockpit (other than the simulator) gave me the same feeling as when I completed a checkride. You spend a lot of time studying, training, and then you get to see the real deal. Definitely a rush. I couldn't help but take a few pictures of my first time in the plane - just as I have always done.



With some of my downtime, and new travel privileges, I enjoyed a week of downtime by visiting the aviation holy land:



Once I finished my IOE, I was given 5 GDO's (Guaranteed Day's off). If you are going to move to your base, these are the days you do it. If you're going to commute, as I continue to do, these are your days to get you SIDA badge - Company "V" file, send in your IOE paperwork, ect... or you can sit on your a$$. They are your vacation days that you earn during your first year.

Once in Houston, I was given a build-up line for my first month off of IOE. A build-up line involves taking flights (we call them trips) that are in open time and assigning them to you so you have a complete schedule for the month. Open time is just as it sounds - unassigned flights. After the first month I was fortunate enough to become a line holder. A line holder is someone who has enough seniority to bid for available schedules, and be awarded one. A reserve pilot is one who can not "hold" a regular line (think of it as a normal schedule). A reserve pilot will be assigned trips on an as needed basis. This may be to fill open time, fill in for a sick pilot, fill in for one who is taking vacation, ect...

Since starting with my first line in August, I have been flying as much as regulations permit. With all times included, I have reached the company time requirements for upgrade to Captain. Right now I am just waiting for the award (as we call it). The schedules I choose are normally afternoons. The time we are supposed to report for duty is called our "Show Time", for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, since I live in Arkansas and fly in Texas I try to find "commutable" lines. These are the lines (schedules) that start late on the first day and finish early on the last day. This gives you the chance to fly in to work on your first day, and fly home on the same day you finish work. Thanks to the kind pilots at ExpressJet, I have had a fairly easy commute.

So that has pretty much been my first year. I've shared some of my experiences in other posts both on here and on the AOPA forums, so no need to be redundant. Just to finish this post off. In case you ever wondered what our training was like, here is a short synopsis.

All new hires go to Training Center at MEM (Memphis International Airport). They put us up in a nearby hotel where we lived for roughly six weeks. Because Memphis is so close, I went home most weekends. Then we were randomly paired together with our classmates. There were 10 in my class (one of the smallest they had). Each pair of students went to simulator training facilities in Houston (Hobby) or St. Louis. I was again fortunate to go to St. Louis as my oldest sister lives about 3 miles from Lambert Field. There we spent a week going through a very structured syllabus. The instructor's had enough freedom to add challenges and ensure you always stayed one step behind the plane. Doing so requires you either adapt and quickly learn to keep pace with the new plane, or you go home. No one in my class failed (all but 4 are now in Houston with me). At the end of simulator training, you are either flown to the other simulator facility or a different sim instructor is flown in to your current sim facility. This instructor gives you a proficiency check, and for us that is the same as a checkride. We officially refere to them as jeopardy training events, since two TP's (train to proficiency) result in a failed checkride... and a failed checkride results in termination. To expound on TP's a little more... Should you not follow company procedures for specific things (say configuring the airplane during a single engine circling approach) the sim instructor must pause the PC and provide immediate remedial training. One more chance to get things right or you are done. After the PC, the training department releases you to the line. Yes, that is yet another use for that term, LOL. A line pilot is simply a pilot who is flying in the field, as opposed to being a management pilot (such as a training director).

Once on the line, you are current for 1 year. At the end of that year you must go back to the simulator for another PC. Several companies, mine included, require that pilots go back to the simulator every 6 months. When this is not a PC the sim session is a PT (proficiency training). A PT is a really great idea, because it is the same as if a pilot from a local GA airport had an instructor go fly with them to identify any weaknesses and/or just improve upon skills.

I hope you enjoyed that or at least enjoyed the little insight into training. As always if you have any questions please feel free to ask. If I don't know the answer, I will definitely find out.

Have a great one,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nothing but pictures

I'm a little pooped after the last post I made here, but I have some photos that I'd love to share and give just a short background on.

Here are a couple pictures of a recent encounter we had with moderate rime ice:






An unsuccessful attempt to de-ice:



A few neat pictures of winter storm clouds:



A few Pictures of Houston:






This was a beautiful day:


A few to end with:




A little overdue

We recently had a huge revision to our procedures and flows. Flows are tasks performed from memory designed to quickly configure the aircraft so either more attention may be spent on other things during a critical phase, or accomplished prior to completing a checklist in order to expedite the process. We are gearing up for our merger, and part of that process is integrating procedures between the companies for similar aircraft. In light of that, I have been spending much of my free time studying and familiarizing myself with out new procedures.

For those out there who may be considering a Career with an airline, here are some thoughts that I have about that and a few things I've learned along the way that may be useful.

Being an airline pilot can be one of the world's best jobs. First year salaries range from $25,000 to over $50,000 per year. Pilots who have worked for a company for 10 years could have annual earnings close to $300,000. It is possible for a pilot to have even higher earnings during the course of a career. A pilot might only work 8 days in a month. They never have to take their work "home" with them; their job is finished when they leave the airplane. Pilots have retirement and benefit packages that exceed what most other professionals earn. They get free or reduced rate travel. They get reduced rate hotel and car rentals. Pilots even have the time off to use these fringe benefits. Most pilots love their jobs, to the point that they even will fly for fun on their days off. Sounds great, right? Well, there is another side of the coin.

While some pilots do earn those high salaries, most pilots at major airlines earn around $100,000 per year. Still, not bad, however you have to consider that very few pilots actually work for major airlines. Unlike other professions, which can be reasonably assured that they will get a job once they have finished school, etc., the majority of qualified pilots are not able to procure jobs with a major carrier.

How many days a pilot works depends on a number of factors, including which company a pilot works for and how long the pilot has worked for that company. Pilots can work as few a 8 days in a month, to as many as 20. While pilots at a major airline might work 14 days in a month, you must keep in mind that they are not coming home from work on those 14 days. They are actually away from their homes and families half of every month, or more. This is a high price to pay. It would not be physically possible to work much more. Pilots are already living out of their suitcases half their lives.

While pilots do not take their work home with them, they are required to be prepared for tests.. Most pilots take a checkride twice a year. This requires some home study. In the event of failure a pilot could find him or herself out of a job. In addition, pilots are expected to maintain currency in new techniques and procedures, and keep their charts up to date.

Another drawback is the high cost of becoming qualified to be a pilot. A pilot either has to go through the military, which is an 8 year commitment after pilot training, or pay for that training him or herself. In addition to needing a bachelor's degree (in any subject), a pilot needs a lot of intensive training in the field of aviation itself. This is expensive, especially if you consider that there is a fairly good chance that a pilot will never work for an airline.

A pilot also needs to be in good physical condition. Pilots have to have a physical examination once a year or every 6 months, depending on their age. A pilot could be out of a job if a health problem is discovered. In addition, pilots are subject to regular drug and alcohol tests. If you have ever had a problem with drugs or alcohol you need to choose a different profession. Furthermore, your driving record is scrutinized, and any felony convictions are disqualifying. In addition to the physical requirements, a pilot must be mentally fit to perform the job. Unlike most other professions, many people's lives depend on the pilot's ability to stay calm and collected while solving problems.

Finally, a person seriously considering a career in the airline industry should be aware that the airline business does not offer much in terms of job security. Airlines that once seemed to be invincible have gone out of business, like Pan Am and Eastern airlines. The pilots of those carriers had to seek employment elsewhere. If they took a job as a pilot for a different airline, they started again at the bottom. Eventually they may move back up to Captain, but they are not given any special priority over anyone else who was hired at the same time. All promotions within a company are based on seniority (years of service) with that company. Previous experience might help someone get hired, but that is all.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee of advancement at any airline. If you get hired at the right time, you could be a Captain in as little as one to three years, while those hired just six months later might spend five years or more as a First Officer before they even get a chance to become Captains.

All this needs to be considered if you are thinking of being a pilot.

What does a pilot need to know?

Well, of course a pilot needs to be able to fly an airplane. Flying an airplane is nothing like driving a car. It requires a very high level of skill. It literally takes years to acquire the skills necessary to fly commercial jets. Furthermore, a pilot is always working on his or her skills; there is always room for improvement. Most people think that this is all there is to it, once you have acquired the skill to control the airplane you can safely fly it. While these skills are impressive, they are only the tip of the iceberg for a professional pilot. Many pilots will tell you that the skill of flying an airplane is only 5% of what it takes.

What else is there?

A pilot must be very knowledgeable on a variety of subjects. To be a professional pilot you must:

1) Understand theory of flight: This requires a fundamental understanding of physics. While there is no requirement to understand mathematics above algebra (although it helps if you do understand higher math), you do have to be able to understand and apply the concepts of physics. A pilot must understand laws of motion, mass, inertia, pressure, temperature, fluids and gasses. This is the only way to understand aerodynamics (subsonic and supersonic), aircraft performance (including aircraft loading), hydroplaning and system operations and limitations.

2) Understand meteorology: This, too, is rooted in physics. A pilot must not only be able to interpret the weather that he or she is provided, but must also be able to make judgments as to the validity of the weather forecasts themselves. Often the pilot is the only one that can observe weather phenomena, and must be able to report what he or she is seeing accurately as well as make a quick analysis of the conditions. This includes how the changes may affect the weather forecast itself and how those changes may affect the safety of the flight.

3) Understand aircraft systems: All machines use the principles of physics to operate, and so a pilot must understand the areas of physics that apply. In addition, a pilot must understand aircraft maintenance, otherwise there is no way to tell if the mechanics did their job right. It is not enough to trust the mechanic; your life, and the lives of your passengers, are at stake.

A pilot must fully understand how their engines operate (be they turboprop or not), as well as how all of the various components on the engine function and interact. The engine is not the only mechanical component, however. The pilot must have a full understanding of electrical systems (including all of the components), the hydraulic systems and the pneumatic systems. In addition, the pilot must be familiar with the cable and pulley systems that may be incorporated to operate flight controls, etc. Without a thorough understanding of these components there would be no way to trouble shoot a problem that occurred in flight. (Remember, the mechanic does not fly with you).

The pilot must also understand metal bending limits, material fatigue, etc. In this way the pilot can determine if there is a possible structural problem, and if there is, how serious it might be.

4) Understand navigation: Navigation is a broad subject, with many important aspects. There is much more to navigation than simply getting from one point to the next. First, a pilot must understand how maps and charts are constructed in order to properly interpret them. There are many ways of making charts, and each has advantages as well as pitfalls. Charts made for pilots to land in poor weather have their own sets of limitations and problems. A pilot must fully understand the safety margins that are incorporated into charts, and how they affect each phase of flight. There are times that an altitude or course deviation of just 100 feet could be dangerous. A pilot who does not understand charting will be flying inefficiently at best, and could even risk a crash.

While it is true that much of today's enroute navigation uses airborne computer equipment, what if it fails? A pilot must be able to navigate via dead reckoning, celestial, or any other means of navigation that would enable the flight to be completed safely. There are times when a pilot will navigate using only the chart and visible landmarks, and other times when a pilot will use ground based radio signals. The pilot is responsible for understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each type of navigation used, and knowing when to use them.

To be able to navigate also requires a thorough understanding of geography. Furthermore, a pilot must be familiar with international laws and current political situations in various countries. In an emergency, a pilot must know which countries are hostile or unstable, and which are safe. This requires staying abreast of current world events.

Part of navigation also involves the weather. Pilots will often have to deviate from their normal course to avoid dangerous weather conditions. Sometimes this is not possible, and the pilot must be able to make decisions based on the known risks.

5) Regulations and air traffic control: A pilot must be familiar with all the regulations that may affect his or her flight. There are literally hundreds of regulations that must be complied with for every flight. These regulations are written by legal professionals, therefore, a pilot must be able to read and understand legal documents. Most of these regulations come from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but a pilot is expected to comply with the regulations of various other government bodies, both Federal and State. In addition, pilots flying Internationally are governed by International law as well as the laws that are specific to the country to which they are operating.

A large section of these rules pertains to the carriage of hazardous materials. A pilot must understand the properties of various chemicals and other agents in order to be able to comply with these rules.

Air traffic control involves many regulations. In addition, there are books of procedures that air traffic controllers must follow. The pilot must also be familiar with these procedures. In the event the controller makes an error, it is the pilot's responsibility to recognize that error and to then take what ever action is necessary to complete the flight safely. In additions to the procedures, the pilot must understand the limits of the controller's radar and radios. Radios include the communication radios as well as ground based radio navigation aids. This requires an understanding of electromagnetic wave signals, and how the different wave lengths of radio and light waves can be affected by various phenomena.

6) Pilots must have some knowledge of physiology:. While a pilot is not expected to go to medical school, the FAA does expect a pilot to be able to recognize physical problems that may affect him or herself or any passengers. The pilot also has to know how to prevent these problems in the first place. In addition, the pilot must understand the various illusions and sensations that occur in flight that could adversely affect safety.

Pilots also need to study past aviation accidents so they can better understand the human factors that may have contributed to them.

This is only a partial list. Each of these subjects can be studied in depth. In fact, most of these subjects are available as Doctoral programs in our universities. While a pilot is not expected to have multiple doctorate degrees, he or she is expected to thoroughly understand these subjects. Without such understanding, the pilot cannot operate safely. Flying an airplane requires risk management, and risk management is not possible without fully understanding all the principles involved.

Jobs outside of Major Airlines
Flying for a major airline is not the only choice. Although airline flying is the top of the field in terms of salary and benefits, there are other ways to make a living as a pilot. Some of these are corporate aviation (flying company airplanes), agricultural flying (crop dusting), and you could fly full time in the military. If you like to teach, you can teach people to fly for a living. This can be at the primary level up through airline instructing. Pay scales for all these jobs vary, as do working conditions. You can expect salary ranges of $20,000 through $80,000 per year.

If you want to be involved in aviation, but being a professional pilot is not for you, there are many other jobs within aviation. You can work as an attorney practicing aviation law or as a doctor in aero-medicine. Other possible fields include meteorology, air traffic control, business management, aircraft mechanics, etc. While you do not need to be a pilot to do these type of jobs, being a pilot might provide more insight into the various opportunities available to you.

After reading all this, if you still feel aviation is the career for you, than you are ready for the next question.

How do you start?

First of all, the younger you start the better. If you are still in high school, now is the time to start. If you're older, that's O.K., but do not procrastinate.

If you have never flown an airplane, go out to the local airport and take an introductory ride. These are usually fairly inexpensive, and you will get a chance to fly the airplane. If you don't like it, stop here.

If you're like most people, you will enjoy that first ride. Although the flight school will probably try to persuade you to start flying lessons right away, it is better if you don't. Instead, see if they offer a ground school course. If they don't have one themselves, they may know of one. Ground school is where you will begin learning the basics of the subjects mentioned above. If the school does not offer ground school, or if the next ground school course does not start for several months, pick up some books and get started on your own.

There are quite a few books that are written for beginners. One of the better ones is the Student Pilots Flight Manual by Kershner. The FAA also has a good collection of books. You can visit a section of the FAA's online library here: http://www.faa.gov/library/manuals/aviation/

Now comes the real test. If you enjoy what you are studying in ground school (or in the books) you will probably enjoy flying as a career. Everyone likes flying the airplane, but being a professional pilot requires a lot of study. If you don't enjoy the subjects, flying is not for you.

While most of todays airline pilots came from the military, it is not the only route. By earning your flying ratings and acquiring the experience through private lessons and later by working as a pilot for small companies, you can get the experience you need to apply to a carrier.

Whether you choose the military or civilian route, you should learn to fly privately first. This start will help you in military flight school, if you choose that route, so you can't lose by taking lessons. Get out to the airport and get started. Your worst enemy is procrastination.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

No Title

I had hopes of announcing that I was accepted for transition training to the Dash 8-Q400! Unfortunately, I won't be eligible to be awarded the transition until my month of hire (1 year seat lock). I was hoping they would award me the transition now, and give me a class date in May. It is possible to talk them into it, but I think I will take upgrade to Captain first. I had been going back and forth with the pros and cons of making the switch, and I concluded that the transition to the Q was the best option. Lots of things went into that thought process, but it came down to a matter of the effect of the merger on my chances to upgrade to Captain.

The winter weather we experienced in Houston this week was pure havoc on the system, to say the least. We had a lot of canceled flights - per Continentals request - and many flight crews stuck at outstations. First on all of our minds were the passengers. We knew many were trying to go to the Superbowl or business meetings. One of the things that is important to us is our customers... after all, it isn't the company who pays me! The passengers are our employers, and without them there would be no job for me to enjoy. We completed every flight that we could just as quickly and as safely as possible.

The kind of winter weather we experienced is one reason why I have a lot of respect for the Saab. The plane was designed to be flown in the European high country for corporate flying and airline service into short, unimproved, airfields. It is a very robust plane, and I think I would much rather be in a Saab during severe turbulence then just about any other plane - not that I want to be in that condition in the first place, LOL. The de-ice and anti-ice capabilities of the Saab are actually better then most all of the other turboprops flying the skys today.

I know this post is pretty short, but the main reason is because I am still recovering from a very nasty cold that I had. It started to turn into pnemonia, but thankfully the anti-biotic shots they gave me really started to work well.

Tomorrow I am going to try and post some information for those who may be trying to become airline pilots. I will share some of my experience with the hiring process, and give some ideas on how to answer the really tough questions they pose during the interview. Also, I will share some thoughts on different paths someone could take to become an airline pilot. I will reiterate this in that post, but the most important step in the process is to take the time to thoroughly research the basics of the career you are about to embark on. I see too many people quit because things turn out to be so different from what they were expecting. I really don't know why there isn't more information out there, but I will try to give some more insights into the daily life of an airline pilot. Hopefully, someone can benefit from the information. I was a very fortunate young man when I was growing up. Due to my parents business I was able to meet and befriend many airline pilots. The information they provided me was invaluable to helping me make an informed decision. Every person wanting to become an airline pilot should have access to gain the knowledge they need to make that decision. That is where I will spend most of the time on my next post tomorrow.

Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to read this. I enjoy sharing the information, and please... if you have any questions feel free to ask.

A very good friend of mine once told me.... I like helping people learn about being an airline pilot, and the only thing I ask in return is that if you are ever in a position to do the same... pay it forward.

Have a great one,

Friday, January 14, 2011

Days gone by

So today, while working with my father at his business, I started to reflect on some of my time as a mission pilot with the Civil Air Patrol. It was something I was very proud of, I was not only the first mission qualified pilot who was a Cadet, but I was also 17 at the time I passed my mission pilot checkride. I would have never thought that being a mission pilot would bring so many opportunities to be involved in actual searches. I had figured that as a Cadet, I was to be more of a marketing tool (which, I was published in several local papers and in the CAP's Monthly Newsletter). As I was talking with Dad about the missions I went on, a few came to mind that I thought I should share with the world. It is something that I think will help me get a little frustration out, and share some stories that few people outside of a small circle have ever heard before.

My first actual mission was in 2000. There was a local pilot who had departed Malvern Airport at 6am on a business trip to Sulphur Springs Texas. I was just getting home from school when Dad called me (he was our Squadron Commander), and said they needed me to fly a mission. All of the other mission pilots were not available at this off-hour time of day or were out of town. I headed down to the airport, and finished the paperwork for the flight and mission. We took off about 4:30pm to relocate down to Malvern airport as this was going to be mission headquarters for this search. When we got there, several other flight crews had already arrived and were getting ready to begin the search. As my flight crew got our briefing, we found out the details of the proposed flight the pilot intended on making. Sadly, like all accidents there were a string of events that combined to result in an accident. The pilot was a newly instrument rated pilot, and on the morning of his departure there were widespread IMC conditions all over the state. He had an important business meeting to attend, so delaying the departure time meant loosing a possible lucrative contract. After failing to contact ATC following his departure from Malvern, ATC began the process of notifying the proper authorities of an overdue aircraft. Purely due to timing of phone calls, the Air Force AFRCC center received a "hit" from an ELT in the general area of Malvern. You have to keep in mind that ELT signals will "bounce" off of metal buildings, and I have been tracking aircraft that the AFRCC said was 20 miles from an airport only to locate the ELT on the field and being improperly tested or disposed of. So, for the ELT to be "in the area" really didn't mean much, but the fact that one was going off in that general area was cause to get CAP involved prior to their usually 3 "hits" before they contact us. We began the search about 6:00pm, and we flew a "grid" that was not far from the airport. The first CAP aircraft to arrive was already sent on a GPS direct track between the two airports, and they hadn't located anything.

The part of that whole day that still grips my heart occurred after we got back from our first search pattern. We fueled up, and were taking a break (hot day, and we were staying about 1,000 AGL). As I was getting a drink of water, this lady walked up to the three of us and asked if we saw anyone out there. I told her that we hadn't found anything yet, but we will not give up. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and asked me... "Please help bring my husband home". I couldn't say anything because of the lump in my throat, and she gave all three of us hugs and then said "Thank you all so much, please help us bring him home". The Observer flying with us was a retired engineer who worked for a brick company, but he had also been flying for over 40 years (he was 82 when flying with us).. He was the one that managed to talk to this nice lady and tell her enough to not give her false hope, but also just enough to be able to keep the hope alive. We went out with not much daylight left. We were just about to head back to mission base due to the low light situation when the scanner (Dad - who has unbelievable vision) thought he saw a shimmer in the trees off in the distance a little. We went to investigate (going off anything is better then nothing), and we did locate the accident plane. It was almost impossible to see from the air due to the small size of the crash area in the trees. I later heard a comparison from the Sheriff's office that the total area of the accident was no greater then a washing machine. The near vertical flight path profile meant there was very little relative damage to the forested area. Jerry, being the observer, called our coordinates back into mission base, and we headed back shortly there after. I was dreading getting to mission base because I was sure the wife was going to still be there, however she wasn't. I never saw her again, but I don't think any of the three of us wanted to either.

The last CAP search I wanted to share is a much shorter story... at least I am going to make it much shorter ;-). My dad woke me up at 5:30am on a Saturday. I don't remember the month, but it was towards the end of winter, because it was very cold and very wind this day. The day before, a Beechcraft Baron was going into my home airport, Hot Springs, AR (KHOT), and the pilot was going to fly a GPS approach to runway from the southwest's IAF of the TAA GPS approach. There was another aircraft inbound to HOT, so the Barron was just being extremely polite when he let them go first. It was a hard IFR kind of night, but the Barron pilot planned on holding over the IAF. The problem was just a momentary lapse in situational awareness by the pilot. I don't remember the exact details... I will search for the accident report after posting this, and when I find it I will append it to this post.... From my memory, after letting the other pilot proceed in for an approach he began the hold, but didn't reset the autopilot's altitude preselect for the minimum altitude at the IAF, he had it set for the intermediate segment of the approach. As a result, during the inbound leg of his holding pattern they descending into terrain.

We tried to get airborn to aid in the search of the Barron, but the ceilings were too low and Jonesboro FSS told us that even the TAF's were not promising all day. We assembled our ground team and went to aid Hot Spring County Sheriff and rescuers with the search. We got there around 8am, and the Sheriff put us to work right away. They sent us to the area where they felt was a high probability for the location of the accident site. They had a team in there earlier, but they couldn't get more than a few miles into the woods before they had to stop due to terrain - Very hilly, they didn't have any stamina for the job. We split into two teams and began the search through the woods. I was with my Dad and the other team went with a senior member from the Little Rock CAP Squadron. We found the crash site about 6 miles in, on the top of a hill - what we call a "mountain" in Arkansas. Actually, Dad smelled it before we ever got close enough to see smoke... Unfortunately, when I say Dad smelled it I mean that because of his time in the Air Force he was very aware of what burnt flesh smells like. You could smell that "odor" well, and it wasn't until we were closer that you could smell the avgas. The people in the plane all looked so peaceful. It really sounds strange, but aside from the fire, they didn't look dead at all. The two on board were not completely burned. The passenger in the right front seat still had his hands crossed in her lap. The pilot just had his head slumped down, but sitting upright in the seat. Probably, the rain aided in keeping the fire somewhat at bay.

After we were relieved by the Sheriff's department, we went back on ATVs with other search personnel to mission base. When we got there, the family members of the victims were arriving. They hadn't been informed of the news yet, and you could tell by the look on their face that they were all very scared but praying about the safe return of their loved ones. Dad was very good at avoiding the questions they started asking us (we were in military uniforms, people tend to go straight to you in situations like these). A crisis manager from the State Police's office quickly came over to talk to the family members, and took them inside the trailer the Sheriff's office had brought. Thanks to radio's, everyone already knew we located the accident site. But, let me tell you... I heard a scream from that trailer that I never want to hear again. The wife of the pilot was the one who was screaming... she had to be carried back to the car after they had told everyone of the news. Then, I'm not sure if it was because she was still in disbelief or if she was just so distraught that she couldn't think straight... She asked one of the police officers if she could go to the crash site so she could get his wedding ring.

So, if you have ever read any of my other posts elsewhere where I talk about not remaining with the CAP as a senior member, this is part of the reason why. The other is because of all of the bureaucracy and politics involved.

EDIT: Here is a link to the NTSB report of the above: http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief2.asp?ev_id=20001204X00053&ntsbno=FTW99FA074&akey=1


P.S. Tomorrow or Sunday I am planning on another blog entry about my latest experiences while flying the SAAB and I hope to be able to make a big announcement then also.