Lonely weblog gets new post

I don’t write here much, and there’s probably good reasons for it.  I spend time on Twitter (@stevekirks) and on the web forums for PilotEdge so this space get neglected.  I’m still working for CenturyLink doing basically the same thing I’ve done for years: help people understand the technology they have and then help them understand the technology they need.

I keep thinking that this site is for personal items or longform writing, neither of which I’ve been motivated to write.  Mostly it’s time–I like to write something of quality and not a blurb or comment–so that leaves me at a crossroads.  I spend all day on a computer for work, then some evenings on the flight simulator, practicing or flying for fun, so writing seems like the furthest thing from my mind.

Learning to Fly – Part 1

On April 13th of this year, I was finally able to take my first flight lesson.  A gift from my dad, it was about and hour behind the controls of a Cherokee 140 out of the airport in Bolivar, MO (M17).  It included a quick pre-flight walkaround, then a flight over to Stockton, MO for some basic maneuvers and back to Bolivar.

It was an experience I’ll never forget…

I’ve been flying using a home simulator setup for about the last year or more so much of the flight was familiar but the real life sensations weren’t.  I was on sensory overload most of the flight but was able to fly the plane using the habits already in place from the time on the simulator.  My instructor told my dad that “he’s a natural” and my dad was impressed that the landing was good remarking “if you’d greased it on the first flight I would have been shocked”.

It cemented the idea in my mind that I could indeed become a pilot.  About a month later it was my birthday, and everyone chipped in to open a savings account in my name for flight lessons, filled with enough cash to get three lessons booked.

I’ll try to keep these posts updated as a log of what I do

It’s been a long time

Looks like it has been awhile since I posted to the ol’ weblog.  I think it might be time to start up again.  I’m travelling for work and that’s caused me to break up old routines and start new ones.

Quick Notes about my WorldFlight 2013 Experiences

Here’s some quick notes about my experience flying some of the legs from this year’s WorldFlight on VATSIM:

Flying the 777 during high traffic events:

Man, this plane is amazing!  FMC programming was a breeze and takeoff/landing was relatively straightforward.  I had some issues landing at some airports due to my scenery files were not updated but the FMC navigation data was.  One of the flights had the ILS localizer about 100 feet to the left of the scenery’s runway.  A quick dance to disengage the autopilot and a slide to the right and all was well.

Knowing how to program a HOLD at a fix in the FMC:

I was quickly able to program a random, non-published hold in the FMC while on approach.  That was mainly due to reading the manual and having it open while working the sim.  I got about 5 minutes warning before reaching the fix:

“FedEx 4345, a delay is required.  Hold at fix TUBBY, one minute circuits, left hand turns, maintain flight level 350”

That was reasonable simple, but I had never done it and it was nerve-racking for sure.  Luckily it was one circuit so within a 5 minute span of time, I programmed the hold, completed the circuit and exited the hold, with aircraft in front and behind me.

Tips for flying in events:

  1. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know how to do something or declare unable.  It’s more important to say what you can/can’t do so controllers know how to handle your flight.
  2. Don’t trust the FMC and autopilot to fly the plane.  When you’re in a densely populated area of air traffic, set the heading and speed as “fixed” and wait for the controller to tell you direction.  Most of all, it’s up to you to slow the plane for the arrival and landing UNLESS given speed restrictions.
  3. Make sure you understand engine de-rates an climb thrust for your airplane.  On two separate takeoffs, I used assumed info when programming the flight and that left me woefully underpowered for the climb out.  A quick trip to the FMC to program an override was my solution.  Others were not so lucky.

ATC Coverage:

The WorldFlight ATC team was great and worked very hard to keep everyone on track, inbound and outbound.  I’ve got some ideas about helping these guys out for next year, but I’ll save that for a future post.

Initial thoughts: Flying the PMDG 777

I bit the bullet last night and purchased the PMDG 777 add-on for Microsoft Flight Simulator X.  It’s nearly $100 and worth *every* penny.  Here’s some initial impressions:

  • I now know why PMDG charges what they do.  From the installation experience to the docs and the actual flight, it’s clear they made a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that is FSX.  My older PC with a low-end NVIDIA card handles the aircraft without breaking a sweat.  It’s every bit as usable and fun as the default C172.
  • I was able to make a flight from Memphis to Springfield without much of an issue within 10 minutes of finishing the install.  I already knew the basics of FMC programming but this was my first real exposure to it and it’s very logical and easy, once you have the right mindset.
  • I can see that this would be easy to fly for both long and short flights.

What iPhone should I buy?

As the family’s tech authority, I frequently get this question:

“What iPhone should I buy?”

The answer is easy, but most people don’t listen.  For the family reading this, do yourself a favor and read this twice before making the decision.

1. Buy one with the biggest amount of storage you can afford.

The most important feature you should be shopping for is storage.  Most of the people I come across use their phone as their primary camera.  That means it’s jammed with photos.  I mean *jammed* like 2 to 4 GB of photos.  When you have a 16GB phone and the OS/core apps take 2GB-ish, that means almost 20% of your phone will be photos–more if you take videos.  The speed of the iPhone 5S is meaningless to 90% of the users out there and the fingerprint sensor is “first generation” so skip that for now and wait for the 2 year upgrade to get the much better version of what’s out there now.

2. Buy it outright if you can afford it.

It’s expensive to do it but you should buy the phone outright without the burden of a contract.  That will allow you to move between carriers and/or upgrade more often if that’s your thing.  Don’t buy into the carrier’s “upgrade once a year” plan–it’s a money trap.

3. Buy iCloud storage that matches the amount of your device, maybe more

If you have a 16GB device, buy iCloud storage equal to or greater than the device so that would be 10GB additional for $20/year.  That will ensure all of your photos are stored at Apple in case your device is stolen.  It’s cheap and easy to do right from the device.

4. Buy iTunes Match if you have a music collection.

Adding iTunes Match ($24.95/year) ensures your music is safe, just like iCloud for your photos.  Even better, your Music app will show your iTunes library of music, but without actually storing it on the device.  Want to listen to a song? Tap it and it streams from the cloud.  You can even flag songs to be stored on the device.