Monday, February 28, 2011

The Denver Winds Aloft (or, “Going on a Geek fieldtrip”)

The Denver Winds Aloft (or, “Going on a Geek fieldtrip”)
It was about the 2nd week of Dispatch class at Jeppesen when instructor Steve B took us thru the winds aloft section of our training. Winds aloft are gathered in several ways, primarily by weather balloons with their attached data collectors (radiosonde’s), launched 2x a day around the world, with the collected global data broadcasted at 00Z and 12Z.  Homework problems had us examining this collected data and determining what the wind direction, speed and temperature aloft would be on a flight from STL-MEM-MSY at FL330. This essential data would be a constant variable as we flight planned across the nation on our Boeing 737-800’s. Wind factors affect the fuel burn and time enroute on these flight plans. Get ‘em wrong, you get your plan wrong, you fail and life snowballs downward from that point on. They’re pretty important.
Being Meteorology major, I also studied these lofty gusts back in my Kean College (now Kean University) days. About 100 balloons are launched across the USA 2x per day, about 500 around the world, on the same schedule.
Today, with the ink still wet on my Temporary Airman Certificate, I found the launch site for the Denver NWS weather balloon launch site. It’s located on the grounds of the former Stapleton Airport in Denver, near the corner of Havana and Smith, on the grounds of the “Urban Farm”.
The building is easy to spot. It’s a one story garage type building with a large rollup door (tall enough to fit a 6’ balloon thru) and what appears to be a bathysphere on the roof. I knocked and introduced myself to Charles, the NWS guy at the helm there.
“I don’t get to many visitors here. Want to launch the balloon?”
After an explanation and examination of the balloon, the radiosonde and the radiosonde’s parachute, I was told to stand “about over there” and “just let ‘er go”. I guess I had the thought that I would “let ‘er go” on the command of the global balloon launch center (GBLC), but that didn’t exactly happen. After a few seconds, the balloon was already well on her way aloft. We retreated inside and watched as the radar unit, located on the roof in the bathysphere-type dome, tracked the balloon and displayed its data. Charles explained that the total reporting time of each balloon is about 100 minutes, at which point the balloon is at the 8mb level of the atmosphere. At this point, the balloon would pop and the radiosonde would parachute to earth. Mailing instructions are on the side of the radiosonde. I had always heard that if you mail a radiosonde back after filling in the attached card that you got $5., but Charles told me that didn’t happen.
Here are MY winds aloft !!!!

FDUW01 KWBC 010157
DATA BASED ON 010000Z   
VALID 010600Z   FOR USE 0500-0900Z. TEMPS NEG ABV 24000

FT   6000    9000    12000   18000    24000   30000   34000

DEN  2624+02 2732-03 2842-18 2629-28  264245  274155  265565
A very cool day (especially at altitude !!!)
Denver NWS Balloon launch building

Charles with the balloon. Note the orange radiosonde parachute

DF launching the weather balloon

within seconds, its aloft and away

Charles monitoring the data from the radiosonde

The radiosondes transmission data

A radiosonde 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm now a certified FAA Flight Dispatcher (ADX)

This morning I passed my final test and am now a certified FAA Flight Dispatcher.
I had my one-on-one test today with an FAA examiner. The test took about 5 hours. I was somewhat nervous about “the unknown”… what would he ask, would I know it….
This final test was open books, all 40+ pounds of them, so, having lived with these things glued to my eyes the past 6 weeks, the Q&A actually went smoother than I thought it would. I know what I know and I know what I need to know more about, so I guess that’s a lot like life itself. Part of the exam was constructing a flight plan from Denver to Las Vegas on our Boeing 737-800. They could have thrown a few curves into the game at this point but, having done these type of flight plans ( computer program allowed) for the past several days, I knew the why, where, and what to watch out for, so it went ok. I "landed" in Vegas with fuel to spare !!
Mission accomplished.
Several months ago I was laid off from my position as the Manager of the Dispatch office for an aviation management company in Pittsburgh. As I career hunted, I found that most of the top of the line places wanted their Flight Ops people to have this FAA rating, even though it’s not required in the non-airline world that I work in. Companies are looking for their Dispatchers to have the ADX rating to enhance their Safety programs, now being able to report that their Dispatchers are as trained as an Airline Transport Pilot's (ATP) and know how all the pieces of the puzzle of a flight work together.
I learned a lot.
I’m glad I chose the school that I went to, as Jeppesen is a globally recognized power in the aviation industry. I met a lot of good people there too.
I can now sign my name “Daniel Flynn ADX”
Cool too is my son & daughter-in-law making me a congratulatory dinner of spaghetti and meatballs (my fav!!)
Thank you everyone who supported me thru this school. I appreciate all of the notes of support, the prayers, the good wishes etc.
More later …. time to not study for a while...

Friday, February 25, 2011

"T - 40 minutes, Jeppesen launch control ...."

Today was the last day of classes at the Jeppesen Academy in Denver for my Flight Dispatchers rating (ADX).
Funny…you’re with people for a short 6 weeks, but they were with you in the trenches, day in and day out, battling shifting weights on the aircraft and different fuel burns at altitude. I had some great people in my class, a very bright group. I had guys from United, some fresh out of college, a woman from Jeppesen, some former ATC people, some ex-military, pilots, a chap from the UK, and some people from Angola and Nigeria. I’m going to miss them. We all worked hard and yes, we also laughed hard too.
Our instructor for the last 2/3rds of the class, Katie, is off to teach soon-to-be flight dispatchers in the UAE. She's a bright lady.

Very cool was a visit from Brad Thomann, COO of Jeppesen. Mr Thomann is one of those done-it-all pilot guys. He came into the class and gave a great rally talk, and even met up with us and chatted with us during lunch … a very nice man. You could tell by how the Jeppesen people related to him that he was a good leader. Cool.

T-minus 40 hours until I take my Oral and Practical test with an FAA Examiner this Sunday afternoon. We’ve had a week of practice for the O&P, and I feel pretty good about it. The test is about 4 hours long.
I encourage anyone interested in getting their ADX Flight Dispatchers rating to consider the Jeppesen Academy. I was very impressed with the entire package.
Resumes are out there …..

Monday, February 21, 2011

last week of classes .. monday down, 4 to go....

Good class today:
We are now doing flight planning, flying our Boeing 737-800 from SFO to SAN and other assignments.
The high level charts are out, the stars, the sids....
We're now using performance charts for the B738, climb charts, cruise, decent, at ISA temps and ISA-5....
...the wind doesn't change en route ... problem Ms Katie Instructor Lady, throw it at me....

Day one is always the intro.
Everything is great
Tonite we're given a homework assignment.
The short flight should take a little over an hour, yet so far its taken me over 3 hours to plan it !!!


I can almost hear the music from "Jaws" in the background ... do do do do do do .........
Sure, the wind is near calm today in flight planning, but by Wednesday I'm sure a Notam or two will pop-up, ILS's will be down ....
items will be MEL'd with altitude penalties .....

This is fun.

The homework desk of a Jepp ADX student

There's a statue of Mr Jeppesen outside of the building.

Our classroom

I'm enjoying this ......



Friday, February 18, 2011

one FAA test done, one to go ....

Today I passed my FAA Written test for the Flight Dispatchers rating!!!
I PASSED!!!!!!
What an event that was. In order to take the test, you have to go to an FAA Examiner’s office where you can bring nothing except your flight calculator and your ID. You get 80 questions/situations & 3 hours to finish. The test covered everything we’ve studied in the past 5 weeks. Weight and Balance calcs, flight planning, stars, sids, transitions, little flags with x’s and r’s thruout, fuel burns, things that (thankfully) computer systems do for Flight Departments now. Regulations are well covered and tested. That was a lot … I think my brain is doing a somersault right now.
Monday, the last week begins. Now we take all of this theoretical knowledge and plan the flight from here to there on our Jeppesen Airlines B737-800’s. A week from this Sunday I have my 4 hour live test with an FAA Examiner. I’m a bit more relaxed about that one then the test today. It certainly should be difficult, make no mistake about that.
Well, I’ve given myself a night off.
Monday will come too soon !!
I’m enjoying my time at Jeppesen.

...Oh, and I decided to reward myself .... Tomorrow I'm visiting Denver's "Wings Over the Rockies" Museum.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

down to the wire….crossing the 7th furlong...rounding third base...

We are down to the wire …. crossing the 7th furlong …. rounding third base …. in the shootout after the tied score third period, in the Red Zone (oh, allow me to hold off on that one since the Steelers didn’t win the Super Bowl!!)….
This Friday we take our FAA Written Flight Dispatcher Final. The final is about 130-ish questions, a mixture of all of the chapters of the Gleim Study Guide, which are all of the questions which can be on the FAA final. The book has over 1300 Q&A’s, so, I imagine if you could simply memorize the book you could pass.
My brain, unfortunately, isn’t wired like that. Besides, real life experiences are usually a combination of 3+ situations at the same time, so, even though you might pass the written, a week from then we get the honor of being with an FAA Examiner mano y mano for 4 hours, asking you questions, calculating flight plans, tossing some weather situations at you here and there….. so you have to know your stuff !!
Nervous?? Not me!! (well, maybe a little ….)
It gets to a point in this class that all of this begins to click and tie in. Yes, the written is a no book event, but the person-to-person test allows you to use all of the texts that Jeppesen provided, just like you’ll be able to do in real life.
Between now and the final, we need to squeeze in some Federal regs and aircraft systems of the 737. I’ll be busy busy for the next few days, learning new info and doing a lot of review.
I want to speak about the quality of the instructors in our class. Steve taught the 1st two weeks in his specialties of Weather and ATC. What a brilliant man, and a great instructor. A lifelong weather geek who to this day does the hourly report (METAR) and forecast (TAF) for Denver’s Centennial Airport (KAPA). Steve also worked at several ATC facilities across the states. Smart guy.
Taking over after Steve is Katie. Katie is an airline pilot who knows aircraft procedures, systems, loading factors, navigation and regs inside out. Although she’s a Green Bay Packers fan, she’s a great instructor. She’s speaks to all levels of the class, those who speak pilot speak and those who are new to it. She has a lot of material to cover and does it well.
New instructor guy Mark steps up to the plate every now and then … a former USAF pilot who’s flown corporate, Mark is a bright guy and another great instructor. He's doing his student teacing gig with us ... they'll cut his shirt tail and he'll solo the next class.
I’m impressed with the faculty Jeppesen has put together for this Dispatcher course.  
Gotta go …. Studying HazMats, Federal Av Regs part 121 and 135, and then I take a practice test on all.
Review, review review …..
I'm enjoying every second of this. I made a good decision to come to Jeppesen for this course.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

learning how to get from here to there ....

The pace has definitely picked up in class. A week from this Friday we’ll be taking our FAA written test for the Flight Dispatcher (ADX) rating. We take a practice test in class the day before to help us see where we’re at. Unless you get a 75, Jeppesen doesn’t let you go to the feds because they’ve found that students generally score very close to this pre-test. In the meantime, the Gleim study book that we have provides software to take a practice test over and over and over.
Yes, my brain hurts.
We’ve now moved into navigation, learning how aircraft navigate thru the airspace system. NACO charts, Jeppesen charts, STAR’s, SIDS, enroute charts, airport charts, how aircraft transition thru various stages of flight …. EXTREEMLY FACINATING!!!! We’re now doing manual flight planning, aircraft moving thru different altitudes enroute etc. Interesting to see how all of the pieces come together. In the spoiled real world, about 20 seconds worth of data loaded into one of the many commercial online flight planning tools can crank all of this out in 2.4 nanoseconds.
We’re also studying navigation tools onboard aircraft. When I learned to fly X years ago in my Cessna 152 and Cherokee 140, I had basic flight instrumentation. Now I learning about glass cockpits, trying not to rotate my head too much as I learn how Horizontal Situation Indicators and Radio Magnetic Indicators work. Ya gotta hate that reverse sensing!!!!
In the meantime, I’ve been sending out resumes and hope to get some callbacks. As I mentioned earlier, this rating is a requirement for the Airline industry (part 121), but more and more 91 & 135 Dispatch offices have been including the rating in their requirements. This week the NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers conference is going on in Savannah, and I’ve asked a few colleagues to keep their eyes and ears open for me.
Gotta go …. I need to plan my Beech 1900 for a flight from PWK to LGA. Silly … we ought to go to TEB !!!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ok, from this day forward, NO ONE is allowed to change their seat or move cargo on my airline!!!

I believe we’re now about half-way thru the Flight Dispatcher (ADX) class here at the Jeppesen Academy in Denver. I’m told that this week and next are called “hell week” as we learn all there is to know about Aerodynamics, Weight and Balance, Aircraft Performance and Navigation. These 4 subjects taken individually can be a college major themselves!!! The pace of the class has definitely picked up. I’m finding the classes fascinating …. There is A LOT of detail that happens in the Dispatch office pre, during and post flight.
We have completed the Weight and Balance section and were tested this morning. I scored a 91. Kinda pretty good, but I’m a type A, so it’s not good enough. Of course, testing helps point out what needs tightening up, so review review review continues. Weight and Balance studies the Center of Gravity of the aircraft, MAC, LEMAC, and how this CG changes as payload gets added, removed or moved. From this day forward on my airline, NO ONE is allowed to move anything!!! A knowledge of the definitions of the different weights of the aircraft apply in every equation, its relation to the Center of Pressure, the effects of flight on the CG being forward or aft or wherever in-between etc. We setting trim tabs on the Boeing green band on our imaginary fleet of 737’s and determine pallet load limits.
Now we are in the Aircraft Performance section, learning about all of the takeoff limitations placed on the aircraft, VEVENT, V1, VR, VLOF, V2 and on and on…
Class is a strange event as we’re in class 8 hours a day, go home, and hit the books for 4 more hours … tomorrow, the alarm rings, class begins, 8 hours, go home, 4 hours ….. This is a lot of study!!
A few of my classmates have interviews with SkyWest airlines tomorrow and I wish them well. I’m attending class with some pretty bright people. Myself, I’m a 135/91 guy, so I’m sending out resumes and sure do wish I’d hear back from someone (anyone?).
Love to chat more, but I can hear an Accelerate-Stop-flaps Takeoff performance chart calling my name.