IFR Flight – College Station to Fort Worth

Flight track from College Station to Fort Worth

I flew from Easterwood airport in College Station, Texas to Meacham airport in Fort Worth, Texas yesterday. There was a fairly low overcast ceiling at both airports at the time I wanted to leave, so an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight was in order. In general, I don’t fly IFR from College Station back to Fort Worth if I don’t have to. Fort Worth to College Station is OK, but not the other direction.

That’s because I never get a direct routing coming back into DFW. In order to fit into the busy traffic flow into the DFW area, I always get routed off to the east of Dallas and then northwest into Meacham. This is called the DODJE3 arrival, NAVYS transition. It usually adds 10-15 minutes to the flight, which is why I usually try to avoid it. Yesterday there was a pretty good westerly wind at my cruising altitude of 6,000 feet with even stronger winds up higher. That meant this routing added an extra 20 minutes onto the flight.

I could have waited another hour for the ceiling to lift, but there was another consideration. There was a cold front approaching, and the winds at Meacham were forecast to reach 35 knots with gusts to 45 knots later in the day. I wanted to make sure I was back and safe on the ground before that happened.

So, IFR it was. The ceiling at Easterwood had lifted to 800 feet by the time I departed. The clearance I got was KCLL V194 NAVYS DODJE3 KFTW. In English that means to takeoff from Easterwood, intercept airway Victor 194, follow Victor 194 to the NAVYS intersection, and then follow the instructions for the DODJE3 arrival to get the rest of the way to Meacham. I took off from runway 16 at Easterwood with the instruction to fly a heading of 190 after takeoff.

After takeoff, the control tower handed me off to Houston departure. The controller in Houston gave me a choice of a left turn or right turn to intercept V194, and I chose a right turn, so she gave me a right turn to a heading of 020. I chose a right turn because I figured that was the most direct way to get to V194 (the shaded line running north-northwest to the left of my initial track and eventually merging with it), but a heading of 020 was heading me slightly away from V194 and not on a course to intercept it.

I flew that direction for  a couple of minutes then asked the controller to verify she really wanted me on a heading of 020. After a few seconds of silence she came on the radio laughing, saying she was used to vectoring jets with a larger turn radius and they normally end up to the left of V194, not on the right like me. She gave me a more northerly course to intercept V194, and we laughed again about my plane being so slow.

About a third of the way through the trip, I switched over to Fort Worth Center and the controller there was able to give me a shortcut, which was basically to fly directly to the endpoint of the DODJE3 arrival instead of having to follow all its turns.

By the time I got to Meacham the skies were clear, so I flew a visual approach to runway 16 . There was already a pretty good crosswind blowing at Meacham, so the landing was a good test of crosswind technique. The Cessna Cardinal RG handles crosswinds well, so it was no problem.

I am glad I got home when I did. As I was leaving the airport in my car, I could see a large dust cloud off to the west, and by the time I got home those 45 knot winds had arrived too – about an hour earlier than forecast. Landing in those winds would have been more of a skills test than I really want to take.

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The Rooster Crows at Dawn…

and takes off carrying a man shortly thereafter.

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I read the new Neal Stephenson novel, Reamde, over the holidays. It is less intricate than other recent Stephenson novels and more action-oriented. In other words, it is more Snow Crash than System of the World.

What caught my eye immediately about the book is that one of the protagonists is a CFD engineer. OK, an athletic, female, Eritrean-immigrant CFD engineer, as if just being a CFD engineer caught up in a wild adventure is not exotic enough. Since that is the field I work in, that hooked me immediately, and I enjoyed the whole story.

This is what real CFD engineers look like. (Image courtesy of Pointwise, Inc.)

Even though this book is not as complex as most Neal Stephenson stories, it still manages to interweave several story lines involving professional Chinese video gamers, drug smugglers, Idaho survivalists, Filipino prostitution rings, Russian mafia, al Qaeda terrorists, and a CFD engineer into a fast-paced and coherent adventure. Don’t worry, no CFD computations are performed in the course of this story. That would have killed the pacing and excitement right away. There is plenty of action and lots of interesting concepts to think about.

One of the intriguing ideas to me was that people can make money off their characters in multi-player, online, role-playing games. (Think World of Warcraft.) I am not into role-playing games, but apparently people already do this. In the novel, Chinese video gamers work at building up their characters and collecting weapons and virtual wealth they can then sell to other video game players for real money. The character’s weapons, power, and wealth are transferred within the game, and real money changes hands outside the game. It makes sense in the story, so maybe this is something that already happens frequently in real life. If not, I bet it becomes a trend before too long.

I put Reamde right up there with Cryptonomicon as one of my favorite Neal Stephenson novels. If you like techno-thrillers, you might like it too.

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Webinar or live meeting?

I attended two aviation-related events the past two days. On Tuesday evening I attended a webinar, Abnormal Procedures for General Aviation, hosted by the FAA FAAST team and conducted by flight instructor Gene Benson. Tonight (Wednesday), I attended a seminar at a local hotel, Wanted: Alive! Reining in the Fatal Accident Rate, sponsored by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Institute.

Both events were interesting and informative. Their subjects were related. The webinar was geared toward thinking ahead of time about unusual situations you might encounter while flying, like an abnormally high oil temperature gauge reading, and what steps you would take to address them before they develop into something more serious. The local seminar outlined several actual accident scenarios and tried to get you into the thought processes of the pilot’s involved so you might be able to prevent similar mistakes in your own thinking.

The different experience in the two formats was also interesting. The online webinar was nice because I did not have to leave my house. I sat in a comfy chair with a drink in my hand and watched the presentation. Gene Benson made good use of the online polling capabilities of GoToWebinar to outline several abnormal situations and then poll attendees on which of several actions they would take. There was one technical difficulty at the end of the webinar that caused him to not be able to tell who wanted to ask questions, but several people were still able to ask questions or make comments.

The in-person seminar was only 10 minutes away from my house, so it was still convenient, but not like sitting in my own house. The presentation format was similar to the webinar, except instead of multiple choice options for the scenarios the presenter left it open ended and let audience members provide there own actions. There was one technical difficulty caused by the presenter forgetting to plug in the power cord for his laptop, but that only caused a couple minutes delay while he grabbed the cord from his briefcase and attached it. Another advantage of the in-person seminar is that he was able to give away some hats and books as door prizes.

I can’t say one format was better than the other. I liked the convenience of the webinar, and I thought more about the scenarios in the webinar because there were no distractions. (A lot of the answers in the seminar were pretty far out in left field.) On the other hand, at the seminar I sat next to a friend and we were able to exchange ideas about the presentation as it was going on. Also, it was nice to see the other hundred or so people at the seminar to get an idea of the type of people interested in this. There were over 800 people attending the webinar, but I have no idea who any of them were.

The bottom line is both formats worked well. The quality of the presentation content plus the style of the presenter are much more important. Both of these events had high quality content and good presenters, so both were winners.

And if you are wondering why there are so many general aviation safety seminars going on, the general aviation accident rate is about 40 times that of the airlines. It is bad enough that general aviation safety is on the National Transportation Safety Board most wanted list. Most of the problems are caused by poor decision making by pilots, hence the number of seminars and other events related to general aviation safety.

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Customer Service

I went out of town between Christmas and New Year’s and my house was vacant. At some point during that vacancy burglars broke a window in my house, entered, and removed a television, home theater system, iMac computer, Dell Latitude laptop computer, Dell 3100cn color laser printer, AT&T 2Wire DSL modem/wireless router, a pilot’s flight bag containing 2 headsets and a bunch of flight gear, a KitchenAid Mixer, and various other items.

Consequently, I have spent a lot of time lately working with the police, my insurance company, and various companies to replace the stolen items. My experiences in dealing with these various entities have been mixed – for the most part positive, but with one notable negative exception.

First, the positives. The Fort Worth police were prompt in coming to my home even though the break-in was long over by the time I arrived home. The two officers who showed up were courteous and thorough. They took statements from my daughter and me, took fingerprints in several likely locations, and explained the investigative process. Since that initial call I have talked to the detective assigned to the case and to administrative staff to record serial numbers and other information about the stolen items. They have been unfailingly courteous and easy to work with.

My insurance company, USAA, has also been easy to work with. They quickly worked with me to make an inventory of the stolen items, reimbursed me for the depreciated value of the items, and then explained how to get full replacement reimbursement by sending in receipts for purchased replacements. At every step of the the way they have been easy to work with.

Apple and Dell computer have also been easy to work with by helping me  find serial numbers for stolen items and recover stored data. Again, they have been courteous, helpful, and easy to contact.

Lightspeed Aviation and Tina’s Pilot Shop were also easy to work with and helped me register my stolen headsets so they may be recovered if someone tries to sell them.

So what has been the negative part of this experience – aside from the burglary itself? My AT&T DSL modem was attached to my iMac and went out the door with it when the thieves departed the scene. Thinking Internet connectivity was one of the most important things I needed, the first purchase I made was a new DSL modem at the local AT&T store. Unfortunately, the modems were not in stock. Fortunately, they had some in the Fort Worth warehouse, and I could have one shipped directly to my home. I purchased one immediately, and then waited for it to arrive. And waited. And waited. And I am still waiting after two full weeks.

Everything else I needed to replace was ordered after this. Everything else I needed to replace has already arrived.

So where is my AT&T DSL modem? That is one of the unanswerable questions of the universe. I tried calling AT&T. Here is how that process goes:

  1. Call AT&T and get automated system requesting account information.
  2. Enter account information.
  3. Listen to menu of options.
  4. None of the options seem applicable, so pick what seems to be the closest.
  5. No, that was not it, so try something else.
  6. Finally, just stay on the line to talk to a person.
  7. Give the nice person who comes on the line, the same information entered in step 2.
  8. Find out this person cannot help, so they will transfer me to another number where I can get some help.
  9. Begin again at step 1.
  10. Repeat until you eventually give up.

OK, the phone does not work, so let’s go back to the AT&T store where I initially placed the order. Here is how that goes:

  1. Enter name at kiosk to get in line to be helped.
  2. Look at cell phones, tablets and other AT&T products and services for sale for 10 minutes while waiting for help.
  3. Give order information to friendly AT&T service rep who calls my name.
  4. Wait while they go in the back room to check on my order status.
  5. Listen while they explain it is not possible to figure out why a modem in the local warehouse still has not shipped and that it is best just to go home and wait.
  6. Watch as it seems that all AT&T service reps in the store seem to have trouble getting any useful information for customers.
  7. Go home and wait.

Yes, AT&T has been my sole negative experience, but it has been a doozy.   This is not my first experience with AT&T, and it is not my first bad experience with AT&T. In fact, their service has been unfailingly bad in every interaction I have had with them – from the business phone system salesman whose entire sales pitch was “We invented the telephone” to countless time spent waiting on hold or at AT&T stores.

However, I will point out that the service people I have interacted with at AT&T have been unfailingly  courteous and friendly. They have tried to help me, but the systems AT&T has set up make it impossible for anyone to determine anything of use to customers.

Finally, to make this whole situation even more absurd, I have to admit that I own stock in AT&T, thinking it was an undervalued component of the Dow. I now realize how stupid I was to think it was overvalued. I will be selling it tomorrow.

As for my DSL modem, I still have no idea when it will show up, and I do not think it is humanly possible to determine where it is or when it will arrive. (Posted with a modem loaned by a gracious friend.)

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Easy Lending Solves Overspending Problem?

Given: Financial markets are troubled by the poor fiscal situation of governments around the world as they are spending much more money than they collect in taxes.

Find: What is the best way to improve financial market performance?

Solution: Obviously, the solution is to make it easier for governments to borrow more money so they do not need to cut back on their spending.

Does this make any sense at all? We are in a repeating pattern where governments should be cutting their spending or increasing their tax revenue to reduce deficits, but instead they keep getting easier access to more borrowed money.

It seems like we are delaying the day of reckoning, and by increasing the amount of money owed we are also making the eventual reckoning much more painful.

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10 Things Evil Capitalists Really Think

This guy makes a lot of sense. I guess you can count me as an evil capitalist.

Via Advice Goddess Blog.

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