Jaylon Joins the Family of Aviators

Jaylon Joins the Family of Aviators

I could not be more proud of this young man. I first met Jaylon in 2015 when he was just 14 years old as part of the EAA’s Young Eagles program. He had requested a flight through the program and I was excited to take him flying.

When he first showed up to the flight, I immediately knew he was unlike anyone I had ever taken flying. At age 14, he proudly told me that he had lots of Microsoft Flight Simulator time and was even part of a virtual airline (I didn’t even know that existed!). He had lived and breathed aviation from a young age, and knew it was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

When we went flying, I was shocked to see that although he had never been in a real plane, he was able to actually fly the plane and talk on the radios quite well. A natural pilot! Then I remember he looked over to me and said that he always wanted to go into the Houston Class B. I laughed pretty hard because I had never had a young enthusiast want to do that. After all, they usually want to make shooting noises and do steep turns! I called up approach and requested it, and they repeated back the instructions and transponder code. I looked over to change the transponder and Jaylon had already changed it. He was so excited. I knew this kid was special, and made it a point to continue to encourage his flying and hep him in any way I could.

Just like me, his family wasn’t able to support his dreams. Jaylon got a job working at the Pearland airport to help pay for his training, working every day it seemed while in high school. With the generous contributions of his instructor Tommy Etheredge who donated his time for free, he was able to finish his private pilot certificate just before starting college in Georgia. I keep saying this kid is going to go places and generations behind us will see his name in history books. I know that to be a fact. And he is no longer the young 14 year old that I took flying – he is an absolutely accomplished, hard working young man embarking on his aviation career.

And another huge thanks to everyone who has touched his life and mentored him in any way. Marcus, Katelyn, and so many others who have touched his life and given him the much needed words and actions of encouragement.

I’m so proud of you Jaylon, and I know only good things are to come. Welcome to the ranks of licensed aviators. As you go forward in your career, I hope that you continue to give back to the community and never give up on your dreams, no matter how hard it seems.

And from Tommy (his instructor):
“I am super happy for him! I’m glad it all worked out. It was tough, but he was worth helping. The examiner said he was excellent, just like you and I had encountered, and he felt it was worth helping him out as well.

I always wanted to help out someone like that since before I was a CFI, and I never thought it would happen so early in my career. It was tough, but definitely worth it. I’m glad you were able to help him when he started his flying. If he wasn’t as good as he was when I started teaching him, it would have been much harder.”

Let’s all welcome Jaylon to the family!

 

Scholarships Announced for 2019!

Scholarships Announced for 2019!

First and foremost, we would like to congratulate the 2018 Scholarship Winners! All of them have successfully completed their desired training.

In 2019 we are offering two (2) tailwheel endorsement flight training scholarships valued at approximately $1600 each. The window for applications begins on June 15, 2019 and ends on August 15, 2019. Winners will be announced prior to September 30.


Scholarship Application Documents:

  • 250-500 word essay detailing your interest in tailwheel airplanes
  • Resume

On June 15, there will be an online form on this page that will allow you to copy and paste your resume and your 250-500 word essay. This is the preferred method for submitting your application. If unable to use this feature, please email both the resume and essay to: education@fullthrottlaviationllc.com. After submission, essays and resumes will have the names redacted and current FullThrottle Aviation pilots will vote for the winners.

FullThrottle Aviation Tailwheel Training Scholarship
Number of Scholarships: 2
Approximate value: $1,600
Differences from 2018: The applicant must have only a minimum of a private pilot certificate.

The FullThrottle Aviation Skills Enhancement Flight Training Scholarship is for a pilot who is looking to expand their skillset with a tailwheel endorsement with the intense 3-day course curriculum. All training will be conducted with Delaware Valley Taildraggers, a FullThrottle Aviation company, located at the Northeast Philadelphia Airport (KPNE). Ground training & flight training (to a maximum of 8 hours of flight instruction) will be provided. Additional training needed over 3 days and 8 hours of training will be billed at $180/hr for dual instruction. Lodging at a local hotel will be provided for 2 nights, and the instructor will provide local transportation (from Philadelphia (PHL) , Newark (EWR), and to/from the hotel near KPNE). Recipient is responsible for all travel expenses if they are not in the local area. Applicant must weigh below 250 pounds.

More details about the course and syllabus can be found at: www.delawarevalleytaildraggers.com

Applicant Requirements:

  • Current private pilot certificate or higher level 
  • Pilot must be current and have flown 10 hours in the preceding 90 days.
  • Current 3rd, 2nd, or  1st class medical (no BasicMed)

Applications can be submitted online at:

http://www.fullthrottleaviationllc.com/scholarship.html

Engine Failure in the Northern Rockies of Canada

Engine Failure in the Northern Rockies of Canada

The mission was to ferry a Twin Comanche from Seattle to Alaska. I had been contacted by an organization that was looking to add a multi-engine trainer to their fleet. At the last minute, I had been contacted by the organization and asked if I would fly with their newest multi-engine instructor to give him some experience in the plane on the way to Alaska. I agreed to this and called the instructor to learn about his experience so I could tailor the flight toward his experience. The instructor was a former military instructor pilot, and had gotten his MEI (multi engine instructor) rating by using his military equivalency. I found out quickly that he had very limited experience in piston aircraft as most of his time was in turbines and turboprops. Having flown both on a regular basis, I was up to the challenge in helping him transition.

We met in Seattle. He was quite out of practice, so I flew the first leg into Canada. After clearing customs, I put in him the left seat. There were no brakes on the instructor’s side but given his experience I didn’t think it was a problem. At first he started with the radios as well while we worked on a plane to incorporate some CRM in the flight. The takeoff was a bit shaky but not unsafe. The plan was to cross to the eastern side of the Rockies as a front was coming in and would bring strong winds and rain to the trench route. The Alaska Highway route, although out of our way in distance, often featured better weather and was more reliable for travel. Although the plane was IFR equipped, even in the summer you can expect to pick up ice if you are in clouds above the mountains. We started heading over the mountains and quickly realized we would need to climb to get above the clouds. We were flying VFR, and we would need to climb to about 13,000ft for about 50 miles in order to get above the clouds. In Canada, Class B airspace starts at 12500ft so we needed a clearance to climb above that. I started trying to get Vancouver on the radio but with no luck. I had asked the instructor to initiate the climb hoping I could pick up a clearance before we got to 12,000ft but I couldn’t get anyone on the radio. I later found out that the radio on the right side didn’t work.

After getting to 12,000ft, I told him that we would just need to descend back down and cross the mountains below the clouds, which still allowed for at least 2,000-3,000ft of clearance. He then began the descent. Descending through about 10,000ft, the plane started shaking and I looked out to the right and saw that the right engine propeller stopped moving, almost in a feather condition. I called out engine failure and took the controls from the instructor who got very excited. I then worked to stabilize the plane so we could troubleshoot the problem When I added power to level off, it seemed that the left engine did not want to come up on power either. I thought that was weird, and then looked down to see the prop levers had been both pulled back almost to where the throttle idle position would be, while the power levers will still up at cruise. I then realized that the instructor had tried to descend using the prop levers and had pull the right engine back to feather I corrected the left engine by putting the prop lever back up and it roared to live. The instructor was visibly upset so I told him that I had the airplane and asked him to pull out the securing engine and in-flight start checklist. In the twin Comanche all the controls are on the left side of the pilot’s seat, making it inaccessible for the instructor on the right. We re-started the engine successfully but the instructor insisted we diver to Prince George so he could collect himself.

We landed safely in Prince George and it occurred to me that maybe this individual was not yet ready to take on the tasks of being an instructor. I told him that it would be his job to shut down engines and re-start them, and that it’s really not that big of a deal. I think in the end he decided against his retirement job as a multi engine instructor in Alaska, although I never followed up after completion of the trip.

In debriefing the scenario, I found just how valuable the airline’s approach to these kinds of emergencies is. I felt that we applied Threat and Error Management well when dealing with an unanticipated threat. I was already somewhat prepared mentally for in-flight errors to happen given the fact it was a training flight, and years of conditioning on how to deal with in-flight engine failures and re-starts was helpful. Although in general aviation we don’t teach Threat and Error Management much, there are a lot of good resources available out there for pilot to learn tools to use when dealing with emergencies in flight. It helps the pilot focus on the issue and work through problem solving steps to come toward a solution. In the end, it worked out well but as an instructor it’s always good to watch your students like a hawk, especially in a high workload environment!

Sarah Rovner holds an ATP certificate with B-767, B-757, B-737 and CL-65 type ratings and is currently an FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, Master Instructor, and pilot for a major U.S. Airline. Since changing careers after years as a senior network engineer for the oil and gas industry, Sarah obtained her ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown about 5000 hours. As the owner and chief pilot of an international ferry pilot company, FullThrottle Aviation LLC, Sarah has flown over 117 different types of general aviation airplanes in 15 different countries, including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through mentoring and education; volunteering at many different events and presenting original seminars on aviation safety and human factors. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she still enjoys flying her Super Cub on her days off.

Arctic Crossing and Winter: Flying a Cessna 210 from the USA to Europe

Arctic Crossing and Winter: Flying a Cessna 210 from the USA to Europe

The weather in the arctic regions is unlike anywhere else in the world. The winters feature intense freezing precipitation combined with extreme fronts and negative temperatures. The summers are often a mix of good and bad, often with storms popping up when conditions are right for convection. Finding a good weather in February can be hard to do. After all, February is the Arctic’s coldest month. After weeks of waiting for a cold air mass to leave northeastern Canada, I finally found a decent window and decided to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

The job was to take a Cessna 210 to northern Europe. However, this was not just any Cessna 210. This was N210EU, also known as Balou, and she was an internet celebrity. N210EU had completed an around the world flight a few months’ prior. After having the ferry fuel tanks removed, the plane was sold and needed to be moved. This T210 was special though – instead of having the standard TIO-520, it had a Continental IO-550 instead. In preparation for the flight I talked to the person who holds the STC for the engine and he bragged of the performance – and the plane itself did not disappoint. With fuel flows lean of peak less than 12gph and rich of peak around 14gph between 155-165 knots, this plane was well equipped for the journey ahead. The plane also featured a nearly all glass panel, autopilot, but the one downside is that it was not equipped with any engine pre-heat system at all. Along on the adventure was Marcus, one of my most experienced ferry pilots who expressed interest in getting some ocean crossing experience for future ferry flights. It was an adventure that neither of us could have predicted.

I prepared for weeks leading up to the flight, shipping many boxes to Tulsa with survival gear and equipment needed for the crossing. The broker, Michael Rourke of Dan Howard Aircraft Sales, couldn’t believe how much gear we had. I then showed him piece by piece of how every item has a purpose. After arriving in Tulsa to pick up the airplane, I completed a test flight of the airplane and found a few minor issues that the mechanics worked tirelessly on nearly all night to fix in preparation for the next day. The boots were fixed as they were a necessary part of the equation as icing conditions are very common in February. The early Cessna T210s were certified for flight into known icing conditions, but I will note that the T210’s icing protection equipment is not nearly as good as those systems of modern aircraft. However, the equipment being operative was important in case icing conditions were to be encountered.

The next morning Marcus and I began our journey to our first stop – Milwaukee. A line of storms delayed our departure until the afternoon and we headed to Milwaukee. On the way, I experimented with different altitudes for performance. I often keep a very detailed journal of exact performance obtained prior to any water legs to get a good understanding of how the plane performs. We donned our oxygen and climbed to 13,000ft. On the back side of the front there were some non-convective cumulonimbus clouds, which at certain temperature ranges are ripe for icing since they generally have a high liquid water content. Although no ice was forecast, before we knew it, ice started accumulating on the airplane. At first it was very light, but then started picking up when getting deeper into the cumuliform clouds. I waited until about an inch of ice accumulation, and then blew the boots for the first time. My heart sunk as I looked over to the wings and saw that the ice was bridging along the left wing, but the right wing had shed all the ice. Further attempt to shed the icing were unsuccessful although the prop and windshield de-ice worked well. I then attempted a climb to get out of it, but the plane wouldn’t climb with the ever-increasing load of ice. The freezing level was at about 8,000ft, after requesting a descent and leveling off at 8000ft, the warm rain took the ice off very quickly. It was relieving to see the airplane start picking up speed again and continuing forging on to our journey north.

Due to the front passing, we had some horizontal wind shifts for about the last hour of the trip up. Winds were rapidly shifting every few seconds from the northwest to the northeast, and the autopilot couldn’t keep up. It was constantly changing heading to keep our course, probably changing heading about once every 10 seconds. Although the wind wasn’t that strong, it did provide a few bumps and constant babysitting. The weather was much nicer in Milwaukee, and I performed a visual approach to landing. We were able to sweet talk the smaller FBO into a hangar for the night so that we could avoid pre-heat the next day, and had a warm bowl of tomato bisque at the local Hilton Garden Inn for dinner, which is one of my favorite dishes in the world. I always said that I always had my “last supper” of the Tomato Bisque at that same Hilton Garden Inn before each crossing. I have developed my own tradition and weird rituals over the years from ferry flying.

The next morning started early. The weather getting up to Iqaluit is more tough than the journey across water. The Hudson Bay is much like the great lakes, wreaking havoc on Quebec and anywhere around it. Although it’s a salt water bay, it still freezes over for most of the winter. In fact, polar bears live on the ice in the winter and walk from iceberg to iceberg in search of food. Our first planned stop in Canada was Sault St Marie to clear customs. Due to the route taking us directly across Lake Michigan, Marcus and I donned our Stearns Immersion suits in the event that we had issues over the water. In the winter, the water is so cold even in the Great Lakes that you have very few breaths without a suit, and the suit provides some protection as well as flotation in the event that you would have to ditch. It buys you time to get into the raft, so as a personal rule anytime I’m outside of gliding distance of land I will wear the suit unless the water is very warm such as in the Caribbean, at which time I’ll wear a life vest. As we came into Sault St Marie, the winds started picking up and the snow started blowing. On final, winds were calling for up to 40 knots. Blizzards were everywhere in Quebec. We did a localizer followed by a circling approach, and I landed with a very stiff crosswind before the snow arrived. After landing and clearing customs, we got fuel and were on our way again.

Our next stop was about 4 hours flying time away to La Grande Riviere, Quebec. The further north you go, the harder it is to find avgas, especially in the winter. La Grande very well may be the farthest airport north that offers avgas out of a pump and not a barrel. Part of my gear included a mobile hand crank fuel pump that would allow me to pump fuel out of a drum of avgas. Luckily, I did not need to use it this trip. La Grande Riviere is on the southeast side of the Hudson Bay, and a blizzard was coming. You could almost think of La Grande as the Canadian equivalent of Buffalo, New York. It gets lake effect snow and blizzards with temperatures colder than Buffalo. The winter also lasts nearly all year. The weather was not expected to arrive until 1 hour after we landed, and a review of satellite imagery and wind charts confirmed what was predicted. I even messaged one of my experienced oceanic ferry pilot mentors, who gladly took a second look at the weather. It’s always good to lean on those who have more experience, and no matter how many times you cross the ocean, you realize how that region is not meant for small planes. I often tell people that ferrying is hardly about stick and rudder skills – it’s all about judgement and planning. A North Atlantic crossing in a limited range airplane is the ultimate test of all of your training, judgement, and planning.

The weather was fairly docile on the way up to La Grande. The visibility was holding steady with high ceilings. When we started onto the first fix of the RNAV approach, flight service notified us that visibility dropped to 2 miles. Not a big deal, we had plenty of visibility for the WAAS approach. As we continued past the final approach fix, we were notified that the weather had arrived and they visibility was dropping rapidly to below a mile. The facility was on the east side of the airport and we were approaching from the west while the snow storm was blowing our direction. We likely wouldn’t have made it in from the opposite direction, but right at minimums we saw the approach lights and continued for a safe landing. The snow had just started so they hadn’t had a chance to plow the runway. I landed on a snow-covered runway and taxied in the snow over to the fuel pumps. We were the last plane to land for the next 24 hours as the visibility stayed below minimums for all future flights over the next day. Although the weather in Iqaluit was decent, we decided to spend the night in La Grande. I also didn’t trust the boots, and it became a priority to avoid icing.

The next difficult task was moving the plane. In the time it took to get fuel and make a weather decision, the engine had cooled off too much and wouldn’t start in the frigid February cold. We then attempted to push the plane about 200 feet back to the parking but we were slipping and falling in the snow trying to push it. After seeking assistance in a local hangar, some very nice men helped us move the plane by creating a makeshift tug and using a truck to move the airplane. This far north, piston airplanes are far and few between so nobody has equipment to handle small planes. We parked it facing into the predicted wind direction the wind was predicted to shift in the night. There was one taxi in town – driven by a large, gentle Canadian Frenchman whose English was not very great. He cracked jokes the entire way into town. Marcus kept laughing, so I just assumed he was understanding the jokes better than I was. He was driving quite fast on the snow-covered roads. Somehow, I still felt more comfortable with the taxi’s driving on the snow because I thought he might not know what to do if there wasn’t snow!

There was only one restaurant in town and it was connected to the motel. I had a nice bowl of French Onion Soup with Marcus and we had a very nice, authentic French dinner. Most of our clothes had gotten wet from being out in the snow for so long, so we laid them out to dry for the night. After debriefing, planning, and preparing for the next day, we went to sleep to be rested for the next adventure.

The next morning started with an early breakfast at the French diner. Our trusty cab driver took us back to the airport. The next order of business was pre-heating the engine. Some mechanics from a local operator brought out a large portable heater and we had to remove the cowling in the high wind and frigid cold in order to get the heat to all the cylinders. The engine had accumulated ice inside, with icicles hanging from the cylinders. It took about 30 minutes to preheat. Marcus held a tarp on the other side of the engine to protect it from more snow while I held a heater into the engine. After getting it warm, we were able to crank it up. We had spent almost 2 hours getting the plane heated and ready in the snow and we knew that if we shut down that we might not get it started again. The snow continued to blow, and after a careful, tactile inspection we determined there were no frozen contaminants and took off for Iqaluit.

As we were coming into Iqaluit, the Aspen PFD suddenly went blank of all information and a message to check pitot heat was displayed. We did have the pitot heat on as we were descending through cold arctic stratiform clouds but could see the ground. Luckily, the weather was good VFR with overcast skies at around 8,000ft in Iqaluit and I continued on a visual approach with no airspeed into the airport. Upon doing some research, it turns out this exact same problem happened to the around the world flight and was captured on video. Ironically, it happened at right about the same point. We did get it inspected and nothing was found to be wrong with the pitot tube or pitot heat system, and we didn’t have a problem with it again.

After landing, I started to taxi over to the fuel farm, which was where the fueler would attach a portable fuel pump to a barrel of avgas and plug it into the 12v adapter of the truck and fuel the plane. In Iqaluit, you have to buy the entire barrel of gas whether or not you use it. On the taxi over, I felt grinding in the nose wheel and thought for a second that a tow bar might be connected although I knew it was impossible because we just flew for 4 hours with the gear up. After shutting down, we saw the problem. It appeared that the bearings failed for the nose wheel and the bearings were grinding on the spacers. Iqaluit is not the place to have issues or get stuck. It’s only slightly better from Greenland because in winter, all flights to Greenland go through Denmark. The operations at the airport are not prepared for small planes, and there isn’t a Cessna part or tug within thousands of miles. After troubleshooting, we determined the best course of action was to have parts shipped up from Cessna in Kansas. Overnight shipping is about 3 days at the earliest if the weather is good enough to get flights into those regions. After talking to the customer, we decided to wait it out until parts arrived. However, our window of good weather for the ocean legs was closing off but it was worth a shot at waiting.

Everything in Iqaluit is expensive. The city runs off of generators and satellites for communication. At one point, I wanted to download the new GPS database for the GTN 650 and it took all night to download 7 MB. At the time, the region was also experiencing solar flares causing periodic communication outages. Even a fast food meal was $50. The town was very small but also very interesting, rich in culture. Everywhere we went, we saw parking lots with rows of plugs for customers to plug their cars in as the engines might not start after being shut down. Some people would leave their cars running all day and night as another alternative. It gets incredibly cold in this region, unlike what anyone could possibly fathom who lives south of the arctic circle. This was truly the edge of the earth, with only small Inuit villages and military bases existing further north.

Marcus and I decided to make the best of our situation. We explored the town and even booked a dog sledding tour. Dog sledding is a large part of the Inuit culture. Upon walking over to the dog team, you could hear huskies howling for miles in excitement to go running. In these regions, the dogs were purebred Canadian huskies who are more than well equipped for the cold. Their fur was often 6-8 inches thick and these dogs live for the most part in the snow. In fact, being above 0 in Fahrenheit this particular day, these dogs were overheating on the run and were trying to cool themselves off with snow along the way. Dog sledding was an incredible adventure, and we went where there were not trails out into the arctic for a true Inuit experience.

When the parts arrived, we got right to work. We pulled the plane over with a truck and had 2 mechanics hold down on the tail while we removed the tire and then rested the fork on a block of wood out in the cold, windy snow. Upon disassembly, the problem became immediately apparent. The nose wheel was missing the axle completely, and somehow we made it 2000 miles into the arctic circle without issues. In the Cessna 210 nose fork assembly, the axle normally goes in the middle through the bearings. 2 spacers are attached from the fork to keep the tire in the center, followed by caps on the ends. It is very possible to have the spacers ride on the bearings and there would be no way to see that there wasn’t an axle. The mechanic in Oklahoma found the axle in his hangar, and we were all grateful that we found it on the ground and didn’t have a bigger issue along the way. After all, there was really nothing holding the wheel on other than pressure from the spacers. We re-assembled the nose wheel assembly and were on our way the next morning.

The next morning involved another painstaking pre-heat and de-ice in the cold. We had ice all over the plane and used the heating vent to try and melt parts of it off the wings and all over the control surfaces. Putting it in the hangar for the night would have cost $1500, so we braved the cold instead. After getting the plane ready, we got our oceanic clearance and headed over to Kangerlussuaq. This time of year, the ocean between Iqaluit and Greenland was almost completely frozen, with ice shelfs miles long below us on the way over. Kangerlussuaq features some of the best weather in all of Greenland and was specially built by the US military so that planes could be ferried to Europe in WW2. In fact, in Kangerlussuaq there is still an old US military hangar with the old WW2 logo that you can often see on vintage warbirds.

After fueling up in Kangerlussuaq, we launch to Iceland. We would be flying about 300 miles over the Icecap and then another 400 over the water to Iceland. From Iqaluit, we move forward 5 time zones, so no matter how early you start from Canada, you end up getting into Iceland quite late. The weather was amazing and there was just about no clouds in the sky on the way over, so we pushed late into the night and arrived just before 11pm in Iceland. There was a full moon which prevented us from seeing the northern lights but we could see the ocean and island in great deal. The arctic moon is very bright and really lights up the sky.

After arriving safely in Iceland, we checked to weather only to see our suspicions confirmed: bad weather. An occluded front and storm system had developed in between Iceland and Scotland, with prognostic charts calling for moderate icing up to 15,000ft along a good section of our route. Considering the plane was not turbocharged, we couldn’t safely climb above the front. After waiting an additional few days for weather, the decision was made to come back 2 weeks later to complete the trip. The FBO in Keflavik, South Air, only charged us around $1-2/per night for leaving the plane on the ramp, which was a great deal in the interest of safety and cost.

About 2 weeks later, I returned solo to pick up the plane. Although the forecast had been rapidly changing up to that point, the morning I launched featured some of the best weather I had ever seen from Iceland to Scotland. In fact, it was nearly clear skies for most of the way and I actually saw the ocean for a good majority of the flight, which is especially rare in winter. After a visual approach into Wick, Scotland, I fueled up at Far North Aviation and launched to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It was a very uneventful flight over, and I once again got to experience clear skies over the English Channel. You could see the windmill farms off the coast of Britain and the offshore oil drilling platforms. The ships were lined up waiting their turn for the ports in the U.K., and dusk began to take over northern Europe as I descended into Rotterdam. Although I started the approach, I ended up making it in visually. The customer was excited to have his plane and everything ended up working out.

Ferrying piston planes across the ocean in the wintertime is a different beast. It’s challenging but also incredibly rewarding. As an oceanic ferry pilot, I have experienced some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, in places most people will never see. I have met some of the nicest people along the way. Something about remoteness and harsh conditions brings people together, and I’ve learned an incredible amount about people, history, and aviation. However, crossing in the winter is a lot of work and I’ve decided to stick to summer crossings in piston aircraft going forward. It’s was the journey of a lifetime, and the memories will last forever.

Sarah Rovner holds an ATP certificate with B-767, B-757, B-737 and CL-65 type ratings and is currently an FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, Master Instructor, and pilot for a major U.S. Airline. Since changing careers after years as a senior network engineer for the oil and gas industry, Sarah obtained her ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown about 5000 hours. As the owner and chief pilot of an international ferry pilot company, FullThrottle Aviation LLC, Sarah has flown over 117 different types of general aviation airplanes in 15 different countries, including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through mentoring and education; volunteering at many different events and presenting original seminars on aviation safety and human factors. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she still enjoys flying her Super Cub on her days off.

 

Overcoming Adversity in Aviation

Overcoming Adversity in Aviation

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

I walked through the door of my apartment that night to see airplanes everywhere. There were pictures on my walls, models on the counters, and all of my aviation gear stacked neatly on the kitchen table. I had aviation magazines everywhere as I was a loyal subscriber to as many aviation publications as I could find. Aviation was more than just a hobby – it was my passion and my destiny. However, it was the last thing I wanted to see after coming home that night. I was tempted to put it all out of sight, but in the back of my mind I feared I would never bring it out again. I decided that that tonight was not the time to make life-changing decisions.

On January 3, 2012, I suffered a catastrophic nighttime engine failure in a Cessna 172. About 8 miles from the CXO airport at 1600ft, I heard a bang and the engine quit suddenly. The NTSB would eventually find that the rear crankshaft gear dowel pin failed causing the sudden stoppage, but at the time the only thing I could think about was finding a way to survive the event. I made a successful emergency landing on a highway after hitting power lines and swerving to avoid traffic, but my feelings about aviation were far from being settled. As a newly licensed private pilot, I had been flying between the Conroe airport (CXO) and West Houston Airport (IWS) every Tuesday for my evening Civil Air Patrol squadron meetings. I often took N54872, a trusty Cessna 172P that belonged to the Conroe CAP squadron. The squadrons were always looking to get the planes flying, and welcomed my weekly ritual of flying back and forth to the meeting. It was like any other Tuesday – except that night, I didn’t make it home. I wanted to quit – after all, all I had invested was the money and time for a private certificate.

The next days went by slowly. It was a trying time for my strength, courage, and sore body from the accident. Initially there was no evidence of mechanical failure with the engine and I was immediately grounded from CAP while the aviation community spread rumors that I had carb icing. I was not allowed to rent planes due to the impending “pilot error investigation”, and my short-lived pilot reputation sunk to its lowest level. However, one person changed it all for me. As I was pondering whether or not to continue in aviation, a CAP colleague of mine, Russell Peck, convinced me to come flying with him in his Cessna 182 that Saturday.

When I walked up to the plane on Saturday, my legs became weak. It felt as though I stepping out of the wrecked 172 a few days prior. My heart was pounding, but I pushed through all of that and stepped inside the plane. Just putting my seatbelt on made my palms sweaty, but I knew this was something I loved and I trusted the pilot I was with. As we left the ground, I could feel my anxiety leaving and I focused on the flying ahead. We went and had some fun up in the practice area, and I fell in love with aviation all over again, knowing that I couldn’t give up. The following weeks showed a shift in the investigation toward the overhaul shop after they found that improper maintenance was performed. My name was vindicated, and I had outpouring support from the Civil Air Patrol. I had to go up with an instructor again for a few months, and eventually was able to rent on my own again. Eventually the anxiety stopped in the plane and I started to grow in my aviation career.

I know many people (and pilots out there) struggle to get back up after getting knocked down. That night on January 3 wasn’t the first, and it sure wasn’t the last. I have been rejected by people I looked up to in the community, was unsuccessful at obtaining dream jobs, and had experiences that made me question my commitment to the profession. I knew I had found the 999 ways how not to invent the lightbulb, but I also knew that I couldn’t give up. For everyone out there struggling to figure out how to move forward after experiencing a setback, I know how it feels. Finding the courage to continue despite the adversity is something that many seek but do not always find. The strength to get back in that plane came from within, and it’s the same strength that has carried me throughout my career and life. Know that most of the people who are successful in life didn’t get there the easy way, or else they would have taken the path everyone traveled and they would be no different than the rest of the community that looks up to them. In Sarah Dessen’s words, “it’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth.” And getting back in that airplane was worth the adventure and experience of a lifetime.

….and if you get the chance, be that person in someone’s life that keeps them moving toward their dreams!

NTSB Report: https://www.ntsb.gov/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief.aspx?ev_id=20120104X92439&key=1

2018 Scholarship Winners Announced!

At FullThrottle Aviation, we believe in investing in the next generation of pilots. For our second year in a row, we have offered scholarships to pilots looking to expand their skillset and continue their journey in aviation. We are proud to announce 4 scholarship recipients this year, two from the Skills Enhancement Scholarship and two from our new Flight Attendant to First Officer scholarship. Click on the pictures below to see the biographies of our winners. Thank you to everyone who applied. We plan to continue to give back in the coming years with more scholarships.

As another way of giving back, we have helped many pilots with their resumes who have sought assistance. If you are looking for your first flying job and need help with your aviation resume, we will be glad to look it over free of charge if you send it to: education@fullthrottleaviationllc.com with the subject line “Resume Review.” This is not to be confused with airline app review services; this is for new pilots seeking their first job in aviation.

Skills Enhancement Scholarship Winners

Matthew May

Manuela Cortes

Flight Attendant to First Officer Scholarship Winners

Sarah Bernal

David Hagen

David Hagen

David Hagen

David is a college graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Aeronautical Studies.  In 1992 he obtained his Single-Engine and Multi-Engine Commercial and Instrument rating. Although his passion was always aviation, it became unattainable due to cost. In order to stay involved in aviation, he became a flight attendant where he has worked for the past 29 years. With the scholarship money from FullThrottle Aviation, he plans to circle back to his original dream of being a pilot and begin training for his CFI and CFII.

Sarah Bernal

sara-bernal.jpg

Sara is a native of Tempe, Arizona. She became a Flight Attendant for Southwest Airlines in February 2015. Sarah began her flight training in August 2017 and is currently working on her Instrument rating and Commercial certificate in Arizona. She is planning to use the scholarship funds to continue toward her Instrument rating and Commercial pilot certificate.

Matthew May

Matthew May

Matthew is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Arkansas. As an overachiever in school, he was named on Chancellor’s List and has been active in the Student Alumni Association, Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity, and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society.  While earning his degree, he has also been working toward his goal of becoming a professional pilot. He currently holds his commercial pilot certificate and is a CFI. He plans to use the scholarship toward continued flight training in pursuit of his dreams of being a professional pilot.

Manuela Cortes

Manuela Cortes

Manuela is a passionate aviator who recently graduated with honors from Florida Institute of Technology. Throughout her time at Florida Tech, Manuela was an active member of the college community, serving as President of the Women in Aviation Club, VP of the UNICEF Club, and as a Resident Assistant to upperclassmen students. She now holds a Commercial Multi-Engine certificate and is working on her CFI. Ultimately, she hopes to become a professional airline pilot in the near future. She plans to use her scholarship toward obtaining her seaplane rating in Alaska. Manuela says that she would not be where she is today if it weren’t for the endless support of scholarship sponsors like the FullThrottle Aviation scholarship committee who believed in her and gave her the opportunity to pursue her dreams.

Air Tractor Ferry Over the Ocean

Air Tractors are great airplanes, but they are working birds that take a lot of stress from their pilots. Most Air Tractor wings are hour-limited, and many of the airplanes require inspection and service at certain time intervals. The Air Tractor 401B is a special breed. Having originally been manufactured with a radial engine, the 401B’s turbine conversion requires special care. I got a call that Buttercup, the Air Tractor 401B that I had ferried times before, needed to go to Texas for service. When I flew the plane down to Belize a few years back, we had installed a hopper fuel system. It is very beneficial to do this, and gave us a few options for getting it back to Texas. It was actually much cheaper to fly it to Lane Aviation in Houston than it was to have mechanics travel and do the work in Belize, and I was more than up for the mission.

After reviewing the options, I decided our most cost efficient solution was to ferry it directly across the Gulf of Mexico to Houston. Realistically, we could get 350-380 gallons of avgas in the hopper, giving me about 10 hours total of fuel with the wing tanks. With headwinds predicted, it looked like a 7-hour flight to Houston, giving me 3 hours of reserve fuel which was plenty acceptable. Finding a good weather window to take a VFR airplane over any body of water can be challenging. As a backup, I carried my Dynon D-1 backup attitude indicator to mount to the windshield as a backup attitude indicator should I lose visual reference. Although the skies may be clear, the ocean can often create a haze layer that blends the sky to the water.

I was up before first light to get ready. Arley and Carol got up early to have an early Belizean breakfast, and Carol also gave me a sandwich for the journey. I took off out of Spanish Lookout and headed over to MZBZ, Goldson airport in Belize City, to clear customs before heading north. Although the skies were completely clear the entire way, a small patch of fog about 3 miles wide was covering the Goldson airport. After holding for about 30 minutes, I decided to divert to the Belize City municipal airport to wait out the weather. About 30 minutes after I landed, the weather cleared and I made the short 5-minute flight to Belize City to clear customs.

If anyone has cleared customs in Belize, they know what it takes to get approval. There are usually about 5 stamps required to be obtained for any entry or exit, even for Belizean airplanes. I was miraculously able do to this in about 15 minutes, a new record for me. After filing my VFR flight plan, I called the fuel truck over and personally filled up the hopper to the highest point I could get it without it spilling over. I then taxied out and took off on my journey north. I brought a bungee cord to use as my autopilot, which actually worked fairly well. However, there is nothing that can really be done to make an Air Tractor a complete hands off airplane in straight and level flight.

It’s about 200 miles over the Yucatan to the Gulf of Mexico, which gave me plenty of time to get a good handle of my fuel burn and ensure that the hopper fuel system was working. After the first uneventful 2 hours, I coasted out over the blue water on my way north. Forecasts and satellite imagery showed mostly clear over the Gulf, although there were some scattered rain clouds dropping water between 100-200 miles off the cost of Texas. I had a Delorme so that Arley could track me and text me, and we stayed in communication. Although it was the gulf, it was horribly cold. The Air Tractor does not have heat, and cold air around 40-45 degrees F was circulating around the plane. After some time, I could barely feel my feet. I did bring gloves and a jacket, but as soon as I was under an overcast layer it got very cold. I made sure to bring a ski parka for the next one!

As I got about 200 miles off the coast of Houston, I started having communication trouble. Even low level, VHF communication is fairly reliable over the Gulf. I was in communication from about 300 miles to 200 miles, but then things got silent. Then I saw the alternator light come on. Over the water with 2 hours to go, this was not a good feeling. I started texting Arley and pulling out paperwork for the airplane to go over the POH and the Walters STC. The Walters STC’s turbine uses an electronic management system called TSLM for many functions, and I went through the POH to determine what I would lose in the event of a complete alternator failure. As I was looking down, I noticed that the TX button was flashing on the radio. I had a stuck mic that was draining the alternator. I then immediately turned off the radio and the alternator came back on. I was relieved, but then realized that I had a problem with communication. Luckily, I had a handheld radio as a backup. I couldn’t get any of the oceanic sectors with it, but was able to maintain radio contact once coming into the Houston area.

I had filed to Hobby Airport in order to clear customs. When I got close, I found out they were landing on Runway 4, which featured a gusty tailwind. Considering I still had a good amount of fuel in the hopper, I didn’t want to land with a gusty tailwind. Also, I only had about 3 Air Tractor landings in the previous 8 months, so I was careful with what conditions I landed in.  Although I had landed with a load before, it’s really not something I want to be doing with a tailwind in an airplane I didn’t have a lot of recent experience in. I held south of the airport in a holding pattern until they were able to give me 13R, and then I landed uneventfully and cleared customs.

It was a short flight over to Lane Aviation. It had been a very long day, nearly 9 hours of flying. From the day I met the exceptional people at Air Tractor, I wanted to impress them. However, as fate would have it, I have yet to get a good landing in front of them as my audience – in both Air Tractors and my Super Cub! My wheel landing-turned 3 point was safe but humbling, but after 9 hours of flying I should have been proud of myself for even being able to land. The moral of the story is, we all have our off days. As a good friend and ag pilot once said, he has had “bounces in the 802 that you could drive a truck under.” I did redeem myself in front of my audience landing back in Belize when I greased it with a strong crosswind, and they got the good one on video!

After Lane took a look at the wiring, it turns out that there was a short in the wire going from the stick that was causing the stuck mic. A few weeks later, the wing AD was complied with and I flew the plane back to Belize uneventfully over the gulf with no issues. It was a different experience for sure flying an ag plane over the ocean, and something I will be doing again in the near future!