Tag Archives: aviation education

Post 201

Profile PicYesterday was an odd day. I suppose it was odd for many Americans for a variety of reasons. The most obvious of course being the 14th anniversary of 9-11, so I didn’t notice that my post yesterday was my 200th post.

For me September 11th has a strangely linked secondary meaning, it was also the day I started my formal flight-school training in 2003, though technically my first flight was April 22nd, 2003. I only had three flight lessons before deciding to go the professional academy route and the next available start date began five months later on September 11.

I always seem to think about aviation stuff on 9-11. Most of the time it is a sub-conscious shift in thought. I don’t even realize I have been thinking aviation until after my thought have shifted. Yesterday’s post obviously was aviation in theme and I have been mulling around a lot of stuff the last 12 hours or so.

When I notice the post being #200 this morning, it got me thinking of the many firsts I have encountered in the last decade or so; first pilot’s license, first college class taken, first instructors license, first aviation class taught, first mechanic’s license, first college class taught, first college degree, first amateur radio license, and my first VE session.

I’m sure there have been many other firsts along the way, certainly many smaller firsts came about as a result of these, but these in particular are mile-stone moments to me. They are all significant events marking recognized achievements in areas I am passionate about. Aviation, and radio, are things that are deeply embedded in my being. They have been a part of me in some form for much longer than a decade.

My contemplations of yesterday and today have been not only a pondering of opportunities and ideas. They have been a review of accomplishments, a review of the goals I have set for myself, how they intertwine, and how at several points I allowed myself to be distracted from the task at hand. Looking back from today’s vantage point, many of those delays were actually necessary. Ether to gain non-related skills, take the time for technology to change, or just let some things ruminate.

FrieslandIn many ways it is analogous to the farmer. Working the soil, providing nutrients, and sewing seeds. As the farmer must wait for the seeds to germinate and grow, I have been doing other “chores” waiting for that germination and growth. Stuff around the farm that may not directly relate to that crop, but still important for the overall operation of the farm. Now it’s time to do the finishing. Harvest comes soon, some will be reaped and some let go to seed.

What I really want to be doing as shifted, reformed, and modified, but those basic goals are still the same. The same as they have been for over a decade. Now I am in a much better position to see them through. Now it’s time to refocus on the finishing before harvest and make things happen.

I like it when an analogy comes together.

Until next time,

Like a phoenix…

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Vintage Areo Works

The old brain spins round and round, sometimes at speeds that make me dizzy as I frantically try to get down “on paper” what is rolling about in the brain pan.

As always, whenever I think about where life is taking me, my thoughts eventually wander to aviation, more specifically, spinning wrenches, experimental aircraft, and being the test pilot for first flights.

Whenever I start down a creative road I like to think about how I can get the most of my eclectic skill pool; how to incorporate as many of my interests as possible in the project. This one, at least as it is rolling around in my head now, has the potential to draw on a lot of my skills, and set me up for some new ones too!

I’m not really sure where the current thought process is going to take me but I was really inspired by the short video below. No, I’m not looking to build a swarm rotorcraft, but it really got the neurons in a frenzy and I want to run with it, see how far the rabbit hole goes as it were. In the meantime, have a gander at a really neat experimental rotorcraft.

BTW: A drone is an unmanned vehicle, this is obviously not a drone. Just saying.


Safety Washer Tab Tool

The whos-a-whats-a? I started a new project yesterday in class, the overhaul of an Marvel-Schebler MA 4-SPA carburetor. The overhaul isn’t too big a deal even though there were spider webs in the barrel of the carb and a bunch of crud came out of the float bowl when I split the halves.

There wasn’t much of a problem disassembling the carburetor down to a few piles of small parts and the two halves of the body. Today I was ready to strip it down to the bare castings when I came upon a bit of a problem. There are two safety washers with tabs that are bent up along the flats of the nuts to keep them from turning while the engine is in operation. One is on the Pump Discharge Nozzle Valve and the other Nozzle Assembly in the barrel.

The problem is that the tabs were bent up very well and getting them back down so I can remove the assemblies was proving to be a challenge. I didn’t want to gouge the assembly to the casting and I couldn’t find anything thin enough that I could tap in between the tab and the nut faces. I mangled one on the main Nozzle Assembly and decided that this was going to get messy very quickly if I didn’t come up with another option. Everyone else was saying to just use a screw driver… ah… no.

Enter, the solution. I had a small piece of soft steel and took it over to the grinder to put a rough bevel edge on the end following up with a file and sandpaper to clean up the edge. I wanted to keep the rounded edge so I could get it into some tight places. The plan is for this to slide in between the nut and the tab with the bevel pushing the tab out away from the nut. To make sure that the edge of the tool doesn’t cut into the nut I put a slight back bevel on the flat side.

The edge fit up to the nut perfectly flat and the bevel edge is just thin enough to wedge the back side of the tab and bend it outward. All it needs is a slight tap with my 8 oz. ball peen hammer and voilà, the tab tips down very neatly without gouging the nut and doing minimal damage to the tab. I was very happy with the results.


And there was much oooing and awwwing about the shop. Well, okay, maybe not. But there was a few “that’s cool”  vocalizations. I think so at least. Anyway, it worked and I was happy with the results as were the parts and the instructor; and that’s what really counts.

That’s all for now.

Blue skies and tail winds,

A&P School: Almost Done

It’s been three and a half semesters since A&P school started on August 10th, 2011. Here I am getting ready for my last mid-term in the program. It feels really good to be so far along but there is still a ton to get done in a short time. There is a mid term, several quizzes and tests, and a final. After that there are still the FAA tests, the written, and the oral/practical that need to be passed to add the Powerplant rating to my mechanic certificate.

After finishing my mechanic ratings there is still the matter of finishing my AS in Aviation Maintenance Technology. The good news on this front is it looks like I will be able to finish my AS over the summer with three classes, one of which is a single unit in kinesiology (P.E. for those over 30.)  Then I can transfer to San Jose State to finish my undergrad work with a BS in Aviation Maintenance Management.

Ever since I embarked on this journey making plans has required factoring in lots flexibility and not making any plans too dependent on outside influences. In short, not making plans so much as having general ideas and making sure I can easily divert from one to an alternate without too much upheaval in the universe. Building all of this flexibility into the planning process has made it very difficult to do any advance work down one path or another. In one sense this has been beneficial because it has kept me on a fairly narrow focus towards completion and has been an education in and of itself. I have been keeping projects at arms length because I know I don’t have enough time to complete them and along the way I have also learned the importance of the word “no” and how to use it.

Another important skill set I have been honing is applying value to my time going beyond coming up with an hourly rate by encompassing the value of learning from projects. Deciding if a project is worth taking on or is the time better served by farming it out. Sometimes when I know I can do something, it’s not the can I that is the important part, it is the should I part that needs the thinking. This is where the time and resource Black Hole can rear its ugly head and make a fun project suck, or a profitable project turn into a money pit.

With all of this learning and self realization going on you might think I would awaken from this aviation dream and realize that it is a bitch to make any money in this industry. Nope, no such luck. I’m hooked. I do think I have learned a few “secrets” to aviation/business success though. Keep it simple, keep the scope narrow, get and stay known in your niche, and never compromise on the quality of your work. An aviation business can always fail, but these are the key things that seem to cause a business to fail, aviation or otherwise.

What is the take-away from all of this? Work with what you have. Take on only the work you can do now. Grow slowly with well planned steps. Never stop learning. Keep an eye to the sky, an ear to the ground, and your nose to the grind stone, then you just might make it.

Blue skies and tail winds,

The workshop and stuff

It’s been a really long time since I posted here on FlyBoyJon. I have been posting sporadically on Facebook and at my new haunt LumberJocks and you may be thinking “what’s up?”

Here’d the deal, Aviation is my primary focus in career and for pure enjoyment. I am also a toolmaker who really wants to improve his skills. One of the ways I have made a living in the past was in tool repair. It is something I also enjoyed very much. Throughout my life I have always made or modified the tools I was using at work and at home, so it would be no surprise that this tradition continues in aviation. Building jigs and other job aids is very common in the experimental world as is making and modifying tools to meet the task at hand.

So what does all of this have to do with, well, anything? I have been in A&P school for a year and a half. I have earned my Airframe Mechanic certificate from the FAA and I am over half way through my powerplant program to add a Powerplant rating to my mechanic certificate.

That’s great but what happens when you get your Powerplant rating? That’s a good question. What I really want to do is restore aircraft that were made from 1915 to 1935, or there abouts. It is however not likely that I will just fall into a gig like this right out of school so I need to get something going while I work into what I really want to do. There are a number of components that I can overhaul like magnetos and carburetors, or a variety of things that  don’t require a hangar or large shop.

All this means I need to get the work and clean up the shop and get it set up to do some real work.

The Long and the Short of it…

PlanningThere has been a lot going on in and around the old homestead. Some of it has even been aviation related!

To begin with, I spent the last month clearing out old projects. Ether finishing them or cutting them off my list of things to do. I have also decided that 2011 is going to be a year of completing outstanding projects and divesting of outmoded ones. I have been completing little projects right and left and trying really hard not to start new ones, even small ones.

All this housecleaning has also got me organizing and prioritizing the projects I am working on. Always number one on the priorities list is family. Next on the list, out of necessity, is the day job. I have a lot of flexibility here but I need to stay on top of work projects and close out as many as possible by years end.

The third in line on the priority list is school. I enrolled in classes for the Spring term at San Jose City College. A couple of years ago I enrolled at Mountain State University in an Aviation BS distance learning program. Without going into too much detail, I had a 4.0 at MSU, I even made the Dean’s List. Something happened and my GPA hit the floor causing me to loose my funding. I need to bring my overall GPA back up before I can go back and finish my degree at MSU, enter SJCC. I am working on a General AS in Physical Sciences with concentrations in Physics and Chemistry. This is a long term goal, but I need to stick with it. It needs to be a priority.

My fourth priority area is aviation. In truth, this one will move up one or two spots on the list as things progress. This is a broad area because it includes so many small(ish) goals for various endorsements, ratings, and additional certificates. The top of the list here is building the Volksplane. Building an airplane ties into a lot of areas within aviation that are important to me. One of which is working on my A&P Mechanic Certificate.

Having defined these areas and the goals within them, I outlined processes to get to the goals. Since then I have been streamlining. The biggest challenge for me in recent years has been motivation. I suppose that is because up until recently I didn’t really have a defined life goal. I have talents in many areas and I have been searching for some way to incorporate as many as I can into some kind of commercial enterprise. Up to this point I haven’t been able to pull that one off.

I have known for several years that I needed to find a life goal but it always seemed to elude me by staying in the shadows as some vaporous, obscure conglomeration of skill sets that looked like they might work themselves into a good gig. Since that approach didn’t worked, it was time to make the damn decision once and for all. Looking at the non-family things that really bring me joy and satisfaction and making a career out of them, I find myself happy with the results. What I want to do is build, repair, restore, and maintain aircraft. In short, that makes me a mechanic; it also includes many ancillary aviation related things, and thats fine by me.

As for other interests, if it doesn’t move me towards my goal, I am not going to spend a lot of time on it, if any.

Sitting here thinking and typing this post I am feeling a lot of life stress dissipating. For the first time in my life I can see myself twenty years from now doing something I love to do, and actually know what it is. I could be anywhere, as long as I’m in a hanger with tools, music, and an airplane destined to fly again.

Frequent Quitters Club

FlyBoyJon.comI just finished reading Rod Machado’s “licence to Learn” column in AOPA Pilot about the ‘Frequent Quitters Club’. Having had some interesting experiences in my own flight training, I tend to agree with Mr. Machado.

Flight instruction is a noble profession but for better or worse, it is most likely going to be a first aviation job for most working pilots who are not going to be instructing long term. What this may mean for a newcomer is an instructor that is under 25, has less than 500 flight hours, and is looking to build time so they can go and get a “real” flying job. This certainly doesn’t describe all instructors, but it does describe more than we would like to admit.

All of the “how to get started” literature makes a point of telling perspective pilots to take the time and look for a good student/teacher match before getting started on the meat of flight training, but it seems as though many ether don’t try, or don’t really know what to look for.

Here are a few recommendations for the perspective flight training student.

First off, make sure you have a good feeling about the school and instructor. Trust you instincts. As a pilot you have to learn to trust your instincts. I’m not suggesting that your instincts are the be-all-end-all but it is often the gut feeling that something is wrong that causes you to analyze your situation and re-evaluate it, leading to the discovery that something needs correction. If something feels wrong about the school or instructor move on and keep looking.

Next is punctuality and courtesy. They are important on both sides of the relationship, both student and instructor must respect each others time and schedules. If an instructor is habitually late, or flakes on appointments, call them on it and if it doesn’t stop, find an instructor who respects you.

Another thing you should understand is that there is hard work involved, there will be times when you get frustrated, there will be times when you hit a plateau of learning, these are all part of the learning process and in the long run you will look back and remember how much fun it all is. There is no free lunch as it were, anything worth doing requires effort on your part.

The best way to gain some perspective when you are not sure about something, or something doesn’t feel right, find an aviation mentor and ask them questions, get that second opinion.

12 things I want to do for the next 40 years

I love aviation. For someone not IN aviation it can be difficult to understand how all encompassing this love is. It is not just one aspect of aviation like flying, for me it is nearly everything about aviation as a whole.

As a kid in the 70s I always wanted to learn to fly. One summer my aunt took me on one of those Bay Tour helicopter flights out of the wharf in San Francisco. Ever since then, the desire to fly has been rolling around the back of my mind.

Once I started flight school it woke up all of those fascinations of childhood. They are here to stay. There are so many things I want to do, so many things I want to share with friends, family, and anyone else who is interested in aviation and flying.

Some people ask what I want out of aviation and what I want to do in aviation and the two questions are so tightly woven together that it seemed easier to make a list with a little detail.

12 things I want to do for the next 40 years:

Fly: Kind of obvious don’t you think. I love to fly. There is nothing like flying along the coastline at 500 feet a little off shore, or flying through mountain passes and landing on remote grass airstrips out in the middle of nowhere. A feeling of freedom and exhilaration I have yet to find anywhere else.

Add Ratings: There are so many different kinds of aircraft to fly; so many related things to do that need some kind of rating or endorsement. To pursue aviation is to be a perpetual student.

Exposure Flights: Part of the joy of flying is sharing that joy with others. There are so many people of all ages that would love to go for a flight who have never done it before. Giving people an opportunity to fly is a gift I am thrilled to give.

Adventure Flights: I am an adventurer at heart and there are a lot of adventurous flights I would love to plan and fly, not to mention sharing the experience with everyone else.

Write About Aviation: When I am flying regularly there are so many things to share with different groups in the aviation community.

Photo Missions: Along with writing, taking pictures is another way to share the joys of being airborne and of seeing those other magnificent flying machines that show up at fly-ins, and the tips and tricks that can be shared with images.

Produce Media: Audio and video can enhance articles and other stories that I would like to share. From education to entertainment the written word, still photography, audio, and video can come together to become amazing and expressive multimedia that is a great way to share aviation with the world.

Movie Pilot: Flying for motion pictures and other media, ether on screen or as a platform is one of those dream gig kinds of things.

Build and Restore Aircraft: I am a hands on kind of person, I like to build, maintain, and restore stuff in general. Building, maintaining, and restoring aircraft is another extension of who I am. The satisfaction of completing projects and enjoying the fruits of the labor.

Participate in Air Shows and Fly-ins: Participation in the aviation community at large is one of the integrating elements of the rest of this list; it is the getting out there and sharing with the flying community. An opportunity to take aircraft out and show them off and promote everything else I am doing in the community. It is also one of the best ways to fellowship with the community, meet and greet, hanger talk, and see some of the exciting people and machines out in the wild.

Aircraft and Powerplant Research & Development: There are a lot of new things going on in the aviation industry, changes on the horizon, and I have ideas. From new designs to unique applications of off-the-shelf materials there are test to be done.

Teach: While last on my list, it is by no means least. I learn when I teach, and I love to learn. With every new rating, endorsement, and project there are opportunities to practice and teach new skills.