Thursday, July 24, 2008

Unusual Names

I've always felt that unusual names add a bit of flavor to one's personality. Partially it's personal bias, since "Guy" is at least a moderately unusual name in the U.S. (although I'd fit right in in France or the U.K.). But there is such a thing as taking it too far.

And the parents in New Zealand who named their child "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii" arguably have gone that far, and then some. A judge sensibly allowed the child to change her name to something more reasonable.

Also entertaining from the article were some of the other names that people have attached to their offspring -- my favorite is "Number 16 Bus Shelter."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Instrument Pilot

After almost a year of instrument flying lessons, I finally took my instrument practical test (and passed, more importantly). The instrument rating means that I can now fly into regions of low visibility, fly through clouds, and land at airports that are overcast. It also means that I have at least a basic knowledge of the many pages of regulations specifying under what conditions I cannot do those things.

The picture (courtesy of FlightAware) shows the exact path my aircraft took over the course of my check-ride. My clearance was KRHV RV SJC V-334 SUNOL V-195 ECA KSCK. We flew from Reid-Hillview to Stockton, did a GPS approach at Stockton, followed by a failed-instrument approach to Tracy. I missed my initial call to turn and join the course on that one, so the controller took me through a 270 turn to come back and join the course. I go straight west until joining the 220 radial off of ECA, then fly towards the Tracy airport until we hit the missed approach point.

Normally at that point I would fly north along the SAC-157 radial, but when I tried to dial in the SAC VOR, I got nothing, so the examiner told my to use the GPS to fly to the TRACY intersection and hold. You can see my holding pattern as the part that looks like a scribble in the middle of the trace. After holding for a bit and getting my act together, we flew the ILS into Livermore (hard to see, since the track is very close to my outbound track).

After going missed at Livermore, the ride was basically over, so I flew us back to Reid-Hillview while chatting with the examiner. After pulling off a nice no-bump landing, the examiner signed my temporary certificate and asked, "So when are you going for your commercial?"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Almost There

So I tried -- for the second time -- to have my instrument flight test today, but I was stymied by an uncooperative aircraft. Last night I tried to start the plane and it wouldn't turn over (dead battery), so I pulled the battery, bought a battery charger at AutoZone, and hooked it up to the charger overnight. This morning I went out to the airfield early to reinstall the battery and prep the aircraft. After filling up the tires with air, I got in the plane and tried to start it. The battery was nice and healthy, but the engine wouldn't go.

It would catch and turn a few times and then stop, which I couldn't figure out. Eventually I tapped one of the mechanics on the shoulder and had him try; he couldn't get it started, either.

So I called up the inspector and cancelled the test, and pulled (literally) the plane over to the hanger of another mechanic. I gave him the keys and headed into work, and just about the time I got to the office, the mechanic gave me a call. Apparently he looked at the magnetos, which were fine, tried starting the plane and it started right up.

Go figure.

Will try again next week.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Return Leg

I'm just finishing up my last day in Israel and getting ready for my return flight. I had a fun weekend poking around Tel Aviv with my co-worker Lior (more on that later), and now am looking forwards to my outbound interrogation at the airport and red-eye back to Newark. Managed to nap a bit on the way outbound, hopefully I can repeat the trick on the way back. I've found that even a couple hours of sleep puts me in much better shape once I hit the ground.

Due to the plummeting dollar, the exchange rate here is not so good, and I may be deprived of reading material for the simple reason that I can't afford to buy any more books. I picked up one book for the flight -- a history of the battle of Stalingrad -- for around 80 NIS, which works out to about $25 USD for a book that's marked as $7.99. I've heard of reading being an addiction but this is just silly.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I arrived in Tel Aviv monday evening (local time), and took a taxi from Tel Aviv to Haifa, where I am staying for my trip. The hotel is on a hill overlooking the sea, which gives a nice view from some of the rooms. My room is on the side of the hotel, so I get a little slice of sea mixed with the hillside.

Haifa seems to be mostly built on the local hills. According to my local informants, this is because it is very humid at sea level, and the climate on the hills is cooler and generally much more pleasant, so most of the hotels and nicer houses are on the hill. It's still relatively humid at the hotel, though.

I walked around briefly last night to stretch my legs and try and tire myself out for bed, but haven't really looked around the city. Tonight I may go for a lengthier excursion, including finding somewhere to eat other than the hotel restaurant, whose prices are murderous at the current exchange rate. The 130 NIS for dinner may be a normal hotel price, but it turns into $40 for a buffet dinner. I suspect I will have a fight with the reimbursement department when I get back.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Same problem, different continent

According to El Reg, my favorite sarcastic news site, the British are having some of the same problems we are in convincing their Generals to fight the war they are fighting right now, as opposed to some theoretical war in the future that requires lots of fancy toys.

I could almost take my post from a couple weeks ago and replace "F-22" with "Eurofighter Typhoon" and be done with it. They say misery loves company, but for some reason it doesn't make me feel any better to know that another country is blowing their taxpayer dollars on less-than-useful kit, too.