Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rethinking Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!  "Peace on earth, and good will to men".  I just finished a four day trip this Christmas Eve in DC and am going home tomorrow.  We were about to leave Charlotte this evening, with the door closed and pushback clearance received, when the tug driver motioned me to look at the CSA (customer service agent-gate agent) who was waving at us and making the motion 'can you take one more passenger'?  A late passenger was frantic and wiping eyes, desperately wanting to get on this last flight of the night to Washington National airport before Christmas.  Actually we had five minutes before our scheduled departure time, but the flight had been closed.

I'm a softie for late passengers on the last flight of the night, especially on Christmas eve, so I waved my hand all friendly like and she was on the plane soon, after our Flight Attendent opened the door.  It felt good to help a late passenger get to her Christmas desitination, it was a no brainer really.  We pushed back into the night and had a nice flight to DC, where my 1,500 hour, just off of IOE, new reserve pilot First Officer 'Ben' flew a smooth, on glideslope approach into DC's runway 1. 

Everything was looking great until at 100 feet AGL the scene outside showed my eyes that the jet's descent rate virtually stopped, or got reduced to half what it was the moment before, anyway.  The 100' indicated on the radio altitude tape seemed to hover there as the airspeed started dropping a little too fast.  Two seconds had gone by and it was enough for me to say (attempted gently but firmly) "lower the nose a little".  He may have noticed the problem at the same time I said it, but by the time I did, action needed to be taken, to recover or to go around.  He did relax back pressure on the yoke, the nose lowered, the airspeed recovered some and we continued our descent until he reduced thrust to idle at 50 feet AGL and flared the plane a moment later.  We touched down a little firmly, but in my judgement only because Ben didn't flare quite enough for our energy condition, which was a little less than normal at that point.  I told him taxiing in that I thought we had plenty of energy left for him to flare a little more.  He was disappointed, but I told him not to worry about it, he has just over 100 hours in the plane, and at that experience level it's harder to see and sense when the descent has been arrested too high above the runway.

I've seen this situation before, and have no qualms at all about coaching new pilots to a safe landing.  When a pilot takes on landings in a new airplane, everything changes: the view, the speed, the pitch response, and in a jet it can be surprisingly sensitive, especially when the thrust setting is not reduced for landing (in our jet down to about 50 feet AGL).  It takes a few landings rethink how to land a new plane.

Pre-Christmas this season, I've been reading Words of Hope daily devotionals, a great ministry.  One of the writers, Dr. Verlyn Verbrugge, has got me rethinking the Christmas story.  I'd like to share three days of his devotionals about the Christmas story, I hope he doesn't mind.  Verlyn is a retired Pastor who has written a book about the same subject, titled "A Not-So-Silent Night: The Unheard Story of Christmas and Why It Matters".  I haven't yet, but I plan on reading his very interesting, very human take on the traditional Christmas story.   

For background on the most extensive Christmas story (the birth of Jesus Christ), see the gospel of Luke chapters 1-2 at ESV Bible online. 

Verlyn's December 19, 2010 Words of Hope devotional: Mary's shame

More than a million babies are born in the U.S. each year to mothers who are not married. That’s nearly 40 percent of all births. Today there is little social stigma attached to these women.

But that’s not the way it was in Bible times. Ancient culture was an “honor-shame” culture, where certain situations – one of which was getting pregnant out of wedlock – caused a family deep shame. The father of the family was expected to take some drastic action to restore the family honor.

Mary knew that what the angel was announcing to her would cause her deep pain. An unmarried virgin – conceiving a child! How could she explain? Who would believe her story, that her pregnancy involved no sexual immorality?

The nativity passages from Scripture suggest that only two people believed Mary’s pregnancy was divine: Elizabeth and (eventually) Joseph. Since we read nothing in the Bible about Mary’s parents being supportive, is it possible that they insisted that Mary leave their home until she “came clean”? I think that is possible; it would undoubtedly have protected the family’s honor.

In any case, Mary’s submissive statement to Gabriel, “May it be to me as you have said,” must have terrified her. But she vowed to be God’s humble servant, regardless of the cost.



Joseph was engaged to Mary and undoubtedly looked forward to his upcoming wedding. But then a message came to him: “Your fiancee is pregnant.” And Joseph knew he was not the father of Mary’s baby.


Joseph had to take action to retain his own honor; he had to end his relationship with Mary – and quickly. He could either increase Mary’s disgrace by divorcing her publicly or do so quietly; he was planning on the latter.


But then an angel came to him in a dream. He assured Joseph that Mary’s story about her baby being God’s baby was true, and the angel instructed him to take Mary as his wife. Now Joseph would share in Mary’s shame. Regardless of what he might say to anyone, his actions would testify to them: “That baby is mine.”


Oh, the stares that Joseph must have gotten, the whispering behind his back, the snickering of friends. In one short night, Joseph’s entire life was altered. That one dream changed all his other dreams. But he was obedient to God’s will for his life. In spite of the pain that lay ahead, Joseph did what the angel had commanded; he believed Mary, knowing that God had called him to protect her.


Verlyn's December 22, 2010 Words of Hope devotional: Pledged to be married

Joseph is headed to Bethlehem with Mary, but they are not married. And Mary is pregnant! What a story! What a scandal!


In the ancient world, an unmarried man and woman were never to be alone together, not even for a moment. Joseph and Mary spend at least seven days together, traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem – engaged but not married.

And guess what? Mary did not have to go to Bethlehem for the census. Ancient censuses were either for military purposes or for taxation – never for just counting people.  Neither reason applied to Mary. And Mary is nine months pregnant! Imagine her walking (or riding on a donkey) for nearly a hundred miles, up and down dusty roads, about ready to give birth.


Why wasn’t Mary at home, perhaps with her parents? One real possibility is that Mary’s parents had rejected her and her story. Only Joseph believed Mary, and God had charged him with protecting her. God uses this situation of pain and rejection to bring Joseph and Mary together to Bethlehem, in order to fulfill God’s prophecy through Micah (Micah 5:2).  Yes, God can and does use the pain in our lives to fulfill his purposes. Christmas assures us of that.


I hope you have a greater, deeper understanding of Christmas after considering Dr. Verlyn Verbrugge's writings.  The first Christmas was not as joyful and happy as our popular culture makes it seem, even as our 'church culture' makes it seem sometimes. 

I wish you the best for this holiday season, reader.  Merry Christmas and may God Bless you!  In the words of Mac Powell, "Hallelujah, the King is here, given for all men, for today the Holy Son of God is born in Bethlehem!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The "mystery missile"

The “mystery missile” from November 8th last week is still taking off.  In spite of delayed but reasonable explanations from the Department of Defense, the FAA, NORAD, NASA, and other knowledgeable experts and bloggers, rumors are persisting that a missile was launched off the California coast by an unknown party.  Guessers say ‘it’ was launched by an Asian country’s Navy, or accidentally by the US Navy.  And ‘they’ say it’s not an ordinary missile, that it’s a big one, an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile).  The conspiracy theorists explain that it’s reasonable to suspect that the Chinese or North Korean Navy are behind it, taking advantage of the timing of President Obama being out of the country on an Indian and Asian commerce tour. 

When scientific, factual, and circumstantial evidence don’t all together cast doubt on an ‘official government story’, then one should plausibly acknowledge the possible reality of the matter, no matter how temping or beneficial (even politically) the theory may be.  (I’m speaking to you, Barack Hussein Obama ‘born in Kenya and a secret Muslim’ people.) 

The mystery missile is really a UPS McDonnell Douglass MD-11, flying as UPS902 from Honolulu to Ontario, California (a Los Angeles area airport), and I’ll explain why I am completely convinced of it here, with a lot of help from two very good websites, Liem Bahneman's blog 'Time to Think' and Mick West's contrailscience.com. 

The first few times I saw the pictures and video the TV helicopter shot of the ‘mystery missile’ I thought that there was a chance it was a missile.  My wife would say there was a forty-five minute period when I was convinced of it, too.  ("He can't resist a good conspiracy!")  The supposed exhaust trail was fatter at the bottom, it made a vertically arching path, and the ‘glow’ from the rocket plume was visible at the bottom of the perceived missile, high in the sky.   However, all these appearances are explainable, and they will be taken on one by one. 

We all know that the earth is not only curved, it’s a sphere.  Let’s think about what that means for a moment.  A spherical earth (globe) means that when viewing objects from the ground or the sky, optical illusions are possible.  Things that might appear to be straight from different viewpoints (a road, a coastline, a ridge, a contrail) aren’t actually straight at all, they’re curved around the earth.  The UPS MD-11 appears to be moving away from the viewer, when in fact it’s moving toward the helicopter.  In both of these blogs you can view many pictures, some of even the flight in question itself, which show this phenomenon and tracks of the actual flights, based on GPS and radar data.

The contrail appears to be vertical, but it's an optical illusion.  It's a horizontal contrail curved around the earth, produced by a jet flying eastbound at 37,000 feet above sea level.  Contrailscience overflow website has excellent explanations of this.

By experience, I knew that a sun which has already set on the ground could illuminate an object in the sky, because at altitude the earth’s 'dipping' horizon can be seen a farther distance from an object in the sky than it is on the ground.  Investigating this recently, I found out that the horizon actually drops eight inches for every mile travelled on the surface of the earth.   After crunching the numbers googling websites that means that for a jet at 37,000 feet, the horizon (or where the sun will set and not shine) is 235 miles away, compared to only 55 miles away for a helicopter at 2,000 feet above the ground.   Why is the 'glow' an orange reflection instead of white, you might ask.  Even at altitude the sun, low above the horizon, is still orange, so the reflection it makes off an aircraft will be orange to an observer far below as well.

How did the contrail look fatter at the ‘bottom’ where if it was a jet it should be thinner and dissipating?  It spread out and expanded with time, the most recent portions of the contrail were thinner.  I've read elsewhere that the weather conditions that day over the ocean were perfect for contrails to form and linger for a long time, and that the contrails were less likely to form over land.  Contrailscience has great pictures which show that UPS902 stopped forming contrails as it passed closer to land.  A missile would leave an exhaust trail far into the sky vertically.   The picture below is from there.

Many trained observers said the ‘missile’ appeared to be moving slower than normal, so they surmised that it was an ICBM.  It was slower than normal because it was a subsonic jet moving horizontally, as explained before. 

Some have questioned that if it’s a jet, then why aren’t two contrails visible?  The MD-11 has three engines (one in the tail), which produces three contrails spaced closer together than in a jet with two engines, and because of the vast distance from the camera to the jet, three contrails can’t be made out by the camera or the naked eye. 

Finally, our very capable friends have also found satellite images of the contrail made by UPS902 over the Pacific Ocean as it approached the southern California coastline. 

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that this was UPS flight 902, an MD-11 flying from Honolulu to Ontario, California.  However, I can certainly understand how tempting it is to suspect it was a missile, after looking at the pictures and video.  Conspiracy theorists, shift your focus to something more plausible, like whether JFK's murder was a conspiracy and who was responsible.  November 22nd will be the 37th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, and the subject is still worthy of investigating and pondering.

I'd like to send a good round of thanks to Liam Bahneman and Mick West for their very informative and proving blogs on the 'mystery missile'.  Bravo guys!

I love my country.  Thanks for reading my blog, and God Bless you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The 'civil' in civilization

On a recent four day trip I was flying with a fellow Christian, a Baptist from Tennessee.  He’s a good guy and a solid Pilot, with a great work ethic and a sensible attitude.  We didn’t really connect much until we shared our faith stories with each other; there was some difference between us when we talked politics a little before.  He didn’t say so, but seemed surprised that I identified myself as a democrat, was conservative on personal moral issues, and was an evangelical Christian.  Hearing his views on things it was clear he was a politically conservative republican.  Our encounter was a good demonstration, I think, that God is neither a republican nor a democrat.  If Jesus came back tomorrow he would be not be a member of any political party. 

 At 6:25 AM the last morning of the trip we were ready to push back from the gate in a dark, but dawning Greensboro, North Carolina.  My good First Officer was trying to get a word in to ground control, but the frequency was being taken up by an intense back and forth discussion between the ground controller and a Cessna pilot.  The Cessna Pilot was requesting to ‘go fly IFR approaches under VFR’, but the Controller didn’t like his terminology, not at all.  Their banter quickly turned into a pretty heated argument.

It went something along the lines like this (Cessna pilot in bold italics): “We’d like to do some IFR approaches under VFR.”   “You can’t do that unless you have an instrument flight plan, do you have one on file?”  “No, we can do it, I’d like to fly a few local IFR approaches in VFR, I don’t need a flight plan.”  “Now, you’re confusing me here, and don’t go getting an attitude now.”  “I don’t have an attitude; we just want to fly some approaches locally.”  “You can’t fly IFR approaches without an instrument clearance, and I don’t see a flight plan on file for you.  Flying practice instrument approaches under VFR is different than what you’re asking for, is that what you want?”  “Yes, we want to fly practice IFR approaches locally under VFR.”

Shortly after that another controller took over, it seemed the one involved in the argument was taking a break.  The Cessna taxied out with a clearance and so did we, appreciating the glowing horizon that promised an absolutely beautiful sunrise that was to come.  We didn’t stop along the way and rolled onto the runway and ‘Scott’ advanced the thrust levers smoothly for takeoff.  Our jet was light and accelerated quickly on the smooth, new runway 23R.  I glanced at the aircraft moving on the taxiway parallel to the runway, I assumed it was the single engine Cessna that was involved in this early morning dustup.  There was also something else, an airport vehicle, a white sedan with yellow lights flashing, moving at high speed behind the Cessna, trying to catch up to it.  I think it’s a solid assumption that it was the ground controller, wanting to resolve the conflict he had with the pilot.  I see no other reason for an airport vehicle to be doing 50 MPH down a taxiway at the crack of dawn, especially with what we heard go down on the frequency. 

I hope he treated the pilot with respect and vice-versa.  Technically the Cessna Pilot was using the wrong terminology; you can’t be cleared to fly ‘IFR approaches’ without having an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight plan and clearance.  But a pilot can fly PRACTICE instrument approaches under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) without an IFR flight plan; the meat of the matter here is explained in the FAA AIM (Aeronautical Information Manual, section 4-3-21): "Pilots not on IFR flight plans desiring practice instrument approaches should always state `practice' when making requests to ATC."

I feel the slight lack of respect the Pilot showed for the controller, combined with his improper use of terms, tripped the controller over the edge.  Maybe he had a bad day on the night shift and was irritable.  On the other hand, I also believe he knew what the pilot was asking for and once he felt he was getting an attitude of entitlement from the pilot, he wouldn’t play along with what he suspected that he wanted.  In fact, the pilot was entitled to service from the controller, his taxes (and ours) provide his income. 

We’re losing our civility in our civilization, it seems.  It’s sad, and it scares me sometimes.   We’re more connected to other humans online with social networks, to our ‘friends’ on Facebook and to our ‘followers’ on twitter and other networks, but in that process we seem to be losing the ability and will to engage civilly with others we disagree with in conversation and debate.  As we get more friends online we seem to have fewer close, personal friends.  This is happening in conjunction with a further polarization in politics nationally and locally, which the media, especially cable news and talk radio, have seemed to fan the flames with as entertainment has been integrated into the partisan news and opinion experience.  

Shifting to a similar item in the news, I was disappointed with the way the South Fulton, Tennessee ‘Fire Dept.’ responded to Gene Cranick’s 911 call asking them to put out the fire on his rural property recently as well.  It seems he hadn’t paid the $75 annual fee to the fire department for fire services (instead of having a tax there it is an optional service, the phrase ‘pay to spray’ is coined from this).  Gene told the operator on the phone that he forgot to pay it, that he would pay anything, just come and put the fire out.  They said no, and the Fire Chief is on record saying that if they put it out for him then no one would pay the fee.  How’s that for optimism and faith in your fellow man (or fellow Tennesseans)?  I’ve learned that this attitude is a part of the politically oriented right wing of Libertarianism, which I obviously disagree with.  One of the more popular supposed Libertarians is Rand Paul, the newly elected Kentucky senator.

The South Fulton, Tennessee Fire Department did show up at Gene Cranick’s mobile home though, to put out the grass fire on his neighbor’s property, who had also called 911.  He had paid the $75 fee.  His neighbor held out his checkbook in his hand and attempted to pay the Fire Department the fee for Gene, but his gesture was rebuffed by the Fire Chief on site.  It was reported that firemen were shedding tears in the truck as Gene’s home burned to the ground, while four family pets died inside.  They were not allowed to do their job.  I simply ask, how is this policy maintaining the civil in civilization?

I have a few questions also.  Was Mr. Cranick sent a notice in the mail that he would not get a response from the fire department if his property caught fire?  If so, how many notices?  It’s customary for multiple notices to be sent to a resident/customer before the electricity and/or gas is turned off, it’s a matter of ethics for the utility provider, I believe.  On the other hand, playing the other side, did Mr. Cranick really ‘forget’ or was he just trying to save a little money?  Apparently he and his wife both forgot, and they had paid it previously.  What percentage of rural households in this ‘pay to spray’ area have paid the fee?  Why didn’t the fire department have a pre-planned and signed for “billing agreement” with future, possible users of their services who haven’t ‘paid to spray’?  He told them he would pay anything, why didn’t they take him at his word and bill him later?  Why did they choose to have an optional plan instead of a regular $75 tax?  Many questions, but it’s justified.  What if humans were inside the house, would the fire department have sprayed then?  (They said they would)   There are better ways to manage our civilization.  If such a policy is to be enacted, let’s have a little more faith in your fellow man, can we?

Pessimism applied to social policy can get ugly, optimism in human nature and faithfulness in serving others for the common good works better, in spite of a few taking advantage of the system; there can be better oversight for these situations.  Living ‘under grace’ is better than living ‘under the law’.  This doesn’t mean one is exempt from the law, however, it means a measure of grace and mercy should still be applied.  To explain my sentiments a little more, it bugs me that some who call themselves Christians, who should hold ‘New Covenant’ ideals (New Testament teaching from Jesus' death on the cross onwards) don’t wish to apply much of that sort of thinking as philosophy towards how modern government should function.

Let’s carry this ‘pay to spray’ application out to other areas and visualize what it looks like.  Many citizens are upset that the government will be requiring them to have health insurance in the future, in spite of the fact that this policy was also supported by at least one republican presidential candidate in 2008 (Tommy Thompson and Mitt Romney).  Out of principle, they don’t want the government telling them what they have to do, overlooking the fact that most all states have laws requiring you to have auto insurance, and citizens don’t complain about that.  Going without health insurance intentionally, just out of opposition to the ‘government’s oppression’ of you, makes the high cost of healthcare even higher when more uninsured show up at the hospitals and clinics. 

In a Libertarian run, cash strapped society, one who chooses not to purchase health insurance might lawfully and legally be refused care at the doctor or hospital after showing up with a car accident injury, an illness, disease, or other condition.  (Currently there is a federal law which requires everyone to be treated in emergency rooms, regardless of their ability to pay, but this could theoretically change.) “No health insurance?  I’m sorry, by law we can’t treat you here, step outside, you’re bleeding on the carpet”.  Free health clinics would still exist, but they can only do so much good for patients with untreated disease and/or terminal illnesses.  A Libertarian philosophy based health care system would produce self-imposed death panels for some of our citizens who choose not to buy health insurance (even though they have the means), and that’s not the America I want to live in.
God bless you, and thanks for reading my blog. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1st Human powered Ornithopter flight!

I'd like to give a BIG shout out, congratulations, and standing ovation to the University of Toronto Aeronautical Engineering team of students, led by Todd Reichert, for their outstanding achievement recently. 

Leonardo DaVinci dreamed of it, and made famous sketches of it.  Greek myths of it (Icarus and Daedalus) have inspired the imaginations of humans for thousands of years.  Many others, some infamously memorialized in grainy black and white footage, have failed in attempting it.  Even TV commercials have been made depicting it lately.  Countless times, humans have daydreamed of soaring like the birds while gazing at them on a nice summer day.  Not just flying like the birds, really FLYING like the birds: silently flapping wings and defying gravity, like the birds do. 

See this funny video below for some of the more infamous actual attempts long ago.

The study of birds and how they fly is called Ornithology, and wacky but very smart engineers/pilots have been chasing this dream for the last twenty years with a committed zealousness.  A tightly focused and committed group of ornithopter junkies have existed on the Internet, pursuing their cause, while gaining knowledge and community together.  As a result, you can now buy any number of remote controlled ornithopters, or flapping winged remote controlled 'birds'

About four-five years ago I had a period when I was all gaga myself about designing and creating a human powered ornithopter.  In my spare moments while commuting and on overnights, I spent time sketching human powered ornithopters, and thinking and reading about ornithology.  I even told a First Officer or two about my dreams (carefully, it's very easy to be labelled a crackpot in this realm!)  I fantasized about getting a team together and working on it during our spare time, meeting during the summer to build and experiment.  Sketches shown to a pilot when I was commuting in the jumpseat was about as far as it went.  I will say, however, that two features of my design ideas have appeared in form on the aircraft successfully flown recently: a high wing, drooping fuselage design, and a rowing, leg pressing motion by the pilot used to flap the wings.

Another University of Toronto team have previously had a successful flight of a powered manned ornithopter, and now, this team led by Aeronautical Engineering PhD candidate Todd Reichert, achieved successful and sustained human powered ornithopter flight multiple times.  Although the 'Snowbird' was towed into the air by a car each time, it can be seen that once the aircraft starts flapping, it sustains flight, slightly dipping between each downstroke. 

I believe he would have flown longer a longer time and distance, but they were doing it on a grass strip and trees and obstacles were in the way beyond the end of the runway, also on numerous occasions control cables broke and prevented the plane from flapping wings further.

From Canada's National Post: Canadian student pilots first ‘ornithopter’

by Linda Nguyen


A Canadian university student has become the first person ever to pilot a human-powered “wing-flapping” airplane.

Todd Reichert, an engineering graduate student and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, accomplished the feat when he flew the aircraft “Snowbird” for 19.3 seconds on Aug. 2 at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ont.

The 42-kg plane made from carbon fibre, balsa wood and foam, travelled 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour during the flight.

“Our original goal was to complete this sort of, original aeronautical dream, to fly like a bird,” said 28-year-old Reichert on Wednesday. “The idea was to fly under your own power by flapping your wings.”

The flight, which was witnessed by a member of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), was set to be officially confirmed as record-breaking next month by the governing body.

The group stayed quiet about the record for nearly two months in order to get the data finalized, he said.

The four-year project, a brainchild of Reichert and student Cameron Robertson, was worked on by 30 students, including some from France and the Netherlands.

The plane, with a wingspan of 32 metres, was powered by Reichert, who petalled with his legs, pulling down the wings to flap. He had to endure a year-long exercise regime to bulk up on muscle and lose nearly 10-kg so he could fly the aircraft.

“Thousands of people have tried to do this for hundreds of years,” said Reichert. “To be honest, I don’t think it’s really set in yet that I’m the one who has been successful. I was pushing with everything I had. When I finally let go and landed, I was hit with a breadth of excitement. It was pretty wild.”

Reichert went through 65 practice flights, and he said the aircraft will probably never be flown again.

The students are attempting to get it into the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.

The FAI is a non-governmental and non-profit organization which aims to further aeronautical and astronautical activities worldwide.

Congratulations again to Todd Reichert, Cameron Robertson, and the rest of the team at the University of Toronto for your magnificent achievement!  For more information on their Snowbird, including interesting technical data on the engineering behind flapping winged flight, see their ornithopter website.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"Cali-Triplet-cation!"


I’m originally from Oklahoma, but have always been drawn to California. A few weekends ago we had a great time after I let myself be drawn there again with my triplet sister, when we met up in Dallas and flew to LA to visit my triplet brother and his family. Yep, you heard that right, I’m a triplet, there are ‘two others like me’. Well, not a whole lot like me, but all three of us have similarities: we’re all fairly easy going, fun loving, and still have plenty of ‘Okie’ in us.


Before I go on, you might want to know how it happened. Us three, I mean. The way I tell it, the Holy Spirit just made the fertility pills Mom was taking work really well. Regardless of your take on why/how conception times three occurred, it did and rocked Mom and Dad’s world, big time. My parents raised three different kids quite well, at the same time. They had their hands full, more than I know, but Dad says ‘I was easy to work with’, thanks. To me, the fact that all three of us still call Jesus our Lord and Savior shows that Mom and Dad did the Christian faith upbringing thing right.

This was our 41st, and we had two-thirds of us together last year, so to get the last third we came to Chris this year. He and his family live in a Glendale, California suburb, which is a Burbank suburb, which is an LA suburb. It just keeps on going and going in 'SoCal'.

After finishing a trip in Washington on a Friday at noon, I jumpseated on a jet to “big D” instead of towards home. Once at DFW airport I had plenty of time to reminisce while waiting for my sister to join me from Wichita. Together we got seats (separately, unfortunately) and flew on a long, silver “AA” bird
westbound into the night, towards, Burbank, California.

I and my family have spent plenty of time at DFW ‘non-reving’, or flying non-revenue standby, while growing up when my mother worked for American Airlines in the 80’s and 90’s. These were days when I was all gaga (before lady gaga) about flying an MD-80 or something bigger for American, enough to write poetry about it. I remember less crowded flights, meals in coach (apple stuffed and rolled pancakes for breakfast) and smokers lighting up soon after takeoff, cigarette and lighter in hand (and use sitting next to them). It was stressful, but exciting, this non-reving, waiting patiently until all the paying passengers got on, not knowing whether you got a seat till the last minute, then scrambling on the plane in victory or making plans for the next flight in defeat. Looking back it was good training for the two leg commute and drive I endure now!

It was both before and after I started flight training in ‘85 (6.5 hours) and ‘88 (private pilot training). American ruled DFW (and Delta to a lesser extent) than compared to today when it now seems they have fewer flights, it could be that it just seems that way. McDonnell Douglass was still a vaunted and powerful name in airliners, and Airbus got a turned up nose reaction from us, like a snooty French reaction to American tourists. DFW still has that huge but friendly feel to it, with a little boastful attitude thrown in, a lot like the Texas that it is located in.

It was great to see my sister and talk with her hanging out in the aisle during the flight to California. She’s been very busy because her school teaching has started again, and as a special-ed teacher, it‘s a tough position to do well. Add raising three boys and numerous small dogs to the mix and she was ready to take a break. Together with my red haired brother Chris (Kim and I have brown hair) and his family we were going to celebrate our B-Day with a laid back SoCal attitude, in non-Hollywood style.

After we started our descent I settled in for a view out the window. LA’s downtown and Dodger Stadium lights rapidly slid by as the guys up front were trying to make our MD-80 “slow down and go down” on arrival to Burbank. A “marine layer” of low clouds and fog I could see below us from my window was draping over the rest of LA from the far side of downtown towards the coast, covering up the colossal LAX airport. Even with the clouds hiding the rest of the city, you could tell that LA still lives large. It’s still an incredibly huge place in terms of area, urban sprawl, and humanity. I then saw the dimly lit ridges of the Hollywood Hills below and knew a steep descent was to follow into Burbank beyond, with “the boards out” (flight spoilers extended).

After a fine arrival with an expected firm touchdown and aggressive deceleration on the wheel brakes and reverse thrust, we made a short taxi to the ramp at Burbank. There was a “that guy” (a know it all) behind me swearing the pilot was an ‘ex-Navy carrier Pilot‘. I bit my tongue thinking “fella, you see that last few thousand feet of runway lights coming up quickly and let’s see what you do with the landing, brakes and reversers”. Maybe he hadn’t heard of Southwest’s infamous overrun of Burbank’s 5,801 foot long runway 8 (towards the east) on March 5, 2000, where a 737 ‘stopped at a Chevron for gas‘. Fortunately there were no flames and no fatalities.

There were two serious injuries and forty-one minor, the plane had major damage, and the pilots lost their jobs, however. ATC took a little of the blame but most of it was laid on the pilots by the NTSB. Flight 1455 was about 2,300 feet above the runway only four miles from it, where it should have been 1,200 feet above the ground. The NTSB said they made a 7 degree descent, normally it’s a 3 degree descent for final approach. They ignored sink rate warnings from the aircraft and touched down a little long (2,150 feet down the runway, the FAA‘s “touchdown zone" is the first 3,000 feet, perfect touchdown is at the 1,000 foot marker) and very fast at 182 knots, 44 knots faster than it’s final approach ‘target speed’ of 138 knots. They should’ve gone around, and the Captain’s mood concerning this was clear in his post-crash comments on the CVR: “Well there goes my career”.

After a little research about this I learned that this evening we landed on the same runway the Southwest flight had overrun. In MD-80 and airliner speak, any runway less than 7,000 feet is basically a short runway, and a runway less that 6,000 feet is to be avoided if at all possible. We land the CRJ regularly on a 5,000 foot runway, but it has less overall momentum than larger airliners and thusly is easier to stop. Still, we don’t mess around; if we‘re more than a little high or fast crossing the threshold it‘s time to go around (before then preferably). If I had ’that guy’ in the back of my CRJ after landing on Philly’s 5,000 foot long runway 26, he’d be giving his spiel again, cause we’re ’hard on the binders’ there.

As a close to this ‘that guy’ stuff, all kidding aside, I hope to God this never happens to me, that I’m smart enough to operate according to SOP and go around when, not if the conditions warrant. (I’m pretty sure I am, but just in case I’m not.)

My brother met us on the sidewalk of the compact and throwback, but charming Burbank terminal as we quickly got accustomed to the California atmosphere. He drove us though Burbank, then Glendale, then up to their house in a quaint town in a valley where the term "Valley Girl” is from, according to him.

Our Birthday morning brought us to attend my niece Rylie’s soccer game and my nephew Declan’s baseball game, and they both won. The locals were friendly and down to earth it seemed, different from the attitude I’ve received from beach locals in the past. For the rest of the day we hung out by my brother’s pool and caught up on things, having a party time and jamming out to my wonderful oldest niece’s iPod play list (I’ll explain more about her ‘star status’ later). My brother Chris grilled good steaks and asparagus and we had a surprise visit from my cousin Jose, who is stationed with the Coast Guard in San Diego. It was a complete surprise to all three of us and his bald head really took us back for a second! (who is that? Ha ha ) Thanks Kelly, I should have known after the birthday singer last year that you’d be up to something!  (Picture below is me from last year)

After that we rocked the Wii Pop Star game, which I hadn’t played before. What a blast, I’ve got guitar and drum talent, at least on the wii I do. Rebel yell, Band on the Run, and No Sleep Till Brooklyn will never be the same now! Lastly, Kelly broke out the birthday cupcakes, ending a great birthday in SoCal.

It was a great time in Cali, in spite of the fact that we didn’t visit Hollywood. Speaking of which, I’d like to plug my entertainer niece now. Madisen Beaty is a talented young actress who has had memorable roles in films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the Lifetime Movie Network film Pregnancy Pact. She’s also been in numerous commercials and has had a guest starring role in a popular episode of iCarly on Disney channel.

Currently she can be seen this fall as a guest in episodes of the new series No Ordinary Family and NCIS. Watch for her this fall!

She and her family have had many changes on their road from Denver suburbia to TV and film up and comers. My brother and sister-in law set the bar high for Madisen to show that she was really, really willing to commit to acting on the screen small and big, and she showed them she was ready. They visited out here for while in 2006, and she somehow got an agent and a manager (difficult to do, let them tell you). They haven’t looked back and love it out there, in spite of everything involved in ‘the business‘. The acting bug has spread too, even Rylie and Declan have performed in a few acting roles and commercials, click on their names to see.

I should write about my brother Chris. It would be dishonest to leave out the part that I’m inspired by him, and proud of him and how he’s provided for his family. He’s used plenty of courage and wily instincts to get where he is these days, all with a tour behind him in the Navy as a ‘Sonar-tech‘, some college, and an ability to talk to almost anyone and network well. He’s been in his role a Technical Recruiter for contract internet and network programmers for business applications for quite a few years now, and knows the business very well. Kelly know it well too, and they’ve built a successful home based business on it, called Spyglass Staffing.

He and his family aren’t afraid of dreaming big and chasing new opportunities after a glimmer of shining ideas and aspirations are glimpsed. By design, they live in a valley removed from the craziness of Hollywood, and I’m confident and his family can stay grounded in the Christian faith we all share.

Thanks for reading my blog, and God bless you. Jesus still Loves you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

September 11th revisited & reused

I wrote about my personal experiences during the 9/11 attacks last year, and about my opinions of the more unsound technical aspects of the conspiracy theories about the attacks, which are still making the rounds in the Internet ether: http://crossingthesky.blogspot.com/2009/09/when-september-ends.html

This year it's been nine years since it happened, and tomorrow I'll be flying four legs and then commuting home.  I'd like to write about flying but I feel compelled to express myself in regard to recent developments and the 9/11 anniversary. 

Now there is continued controversy at ground zero, or rather, two city blocks full of high rise buildings from it.  Does the WTC 'ground zero' site extend this far? 

I'm not a fan of Islam, but I do have co-workers who are Muslim, have shared a cockpit with them, and I respect the freedom of religion we have in these United States.  We don't live in a Christian based theocracy, and Christianity isn't the official religion of the United States, there isn't an official religion.  The politically safe stance is to support the building of the Mosque, just farther from 'gound zero'.  How far is far enough?  Four blocks, twice as far as two?  How about eight, is that a city mile?  They say it won't be visible from the WTC memorial site.  If you're opposed to it, do you REALLY believe they'll be dancing inside celebrating 'victory'?

If we as Americans really believe in freedom of religion and support the Constitution so many of us feel is a virtually sacred document, shouldn't we look at this issue in that frame of mind, and with our hearts, seek a little forgiveness toward those of another religion of whose extremists have done us harm in the past?

If you live according the Old Testament rules, we have sought and gotten vengeance against those who committed evil against our country on that beautiful, turned ugly day.  We've taken more than an eye for and eye, and more than a tooth for a tooth.

Would President McCain (say he had been elected) have opposed the building of this mosque?  I think this is all just political posturing for effect against Obama and the Democrats.  Remember in the months and years after the 9/11 attacks when President G.W. Bush said repeatedly in speeches that "Islam is a religion of peace"?  Bush walked hand in hand with an Arabian King and friend more than once.  Would President Bush have opposed the building of this Mosque if it had happened during his second term?

Right wingers question NYC Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's affiliation, and want to know if any of the financial backers of the 'ground zero mosque' have links to islamic terrorism.  Well, I don't think so, Bill O'Reilly said tonight that there is no proof of it.  There is proof, however, than an investor in O'Reilly's employer has also invested in the ground zero mosque!

Straight from WorldNetDaily, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns the biggest chunk of the parent company of the Fox News Channel outside of the Murdoch family, and has invested more than $300,000 into the ground zero mosque.  He owns 7% of the same news corporation which constantly derides the construction of this mosque that he has invested more than $300k in.  Now, is this really an ideological opposition or is it being used only for political effect?

Apparently this mosque is a sensitive issue with former President Bush and his advisors: "Ex-Bush advisers urge Republicans to soften criticism of mosque near Ground Zero".

As you might know, however, cutting through the bull in politics can be informative and entertaining, thanks in part to Jon Stewart.  And he didn't fail us this time either: 'Extremist makeover, Homeland edition'.  The video is a little long but well worth it.  Laura Ingram didn't oppose this mosque in December 2009.

I love my country, I support our free Democratic Republic and I support free market Capitalism.  But I've had a little skepticism regarding 9/11, I admit.  Here is a link with which to examine the question marks, the concidences, the puzzlements you may or may not have had in regard to the big picture and events surrounding the 9/11 attacks, both before, during, and after.  If you haven't considered these, you may be suprised.  If you've dismissed the crazier theories, take a look at these circumstances.  Again, as I wrote last year, virtually all of the outlandish, technically based theories have been roundly and scientifically debunked.

I won't say what I believe or don't believe.  I'll leave your opinon of all that up to you.  The implications of anything other that the official government story are worthy of being called "matters of National Security", and as such, I do not wish to endanger my career or reputation.  When something is called "a matter of National Security" the Federal Government is empowered to do whatever it takes to protect the information involved.

God is still sovereign in all this, that I'm assured of in my heart of hearts.  He says so in his book.  God has contantly used people (both 'friends' and 'enemies' of God) with their good and evil deeds to acheive his ends on this earth.  These stories and events are chronicled in the Bible, and there is no reason to assume that this dynamic has not ceased. 

Thanks for reading my blog, and may God bless you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Moon-Shine

It was early enough to 'make the donuts' but the hat I was wearing wasn't that of a bakers'.  An extra few z's didn't come during the twenty-two minute minivan ride to the Jacksonville, North Carolina airport because bad classic rock on the radio kept my ears awake.  It was so early at Albert J. Ellis field that my good FO had to call a 1-800 number to Lockheed Martin (an FAA Flight Service Station contractor) to get a clearance out of this non-towered airport out 'in the sticks'.  Jacksonville, NC is a neat area, namely because there are plenty of proud Marines stationed at nearby Camp Jejune, not because of the very flat and forested geography with guaranteed humidity. 

We actually had to taxi away from the terminal so that 'Paul' could get cell phone reception that wouldn't drop his call.  After performing the "Flaps 8 Before Takeoff" checklist  I taxied the jet onto the runway while we performed the "Takeoff" checklist.  The mist became very noticeable in the bright runway lights and as I set takeoff thrust I wondered if there were any animals on the runway, none were to be encountered.  The mood in my brain seemed to match the scene - foggy a little.  Alertness really can't get too much better than that while hurtling down the runway at 5:25 AM.  As we climbed out over them, the approach lights lit up on the opposite end of the runway (runway 5, we took off runway 23) displayed through the mist gave a flat, two-dimensional appearance, and I was momentarily distracted from concentrating on our pitch attitude by the complete lack of depth perception.

Off into the black and gray, smooth and still night air we climbed, with the airplane symbol on our PFD (primary flight display) fully tucked into the inverted v-bars of the 'flight director'.  Shortly thereafter a quick climb in our light jet to 14,000 feet afforded my Co-Pilot and I a simply incredible view of the 'lesser great light' (above us at our two o'clock position shining brightly).  The full moon's light reflected across an undercast cloud layer 4,000 feet ahead and below us.  Cumulus clouds grew out of the smooth surface in sparse locations like unmoved boulders in a stereotyped Irish pasture.  Two different dark spots on the horizon displayed orange flashes, insistent but for which I'm thankful for pre-dawn warnings from nature to not fly into there, to not fly into there at all.  They were off to our left, by the coast anyway, and I was transfixed in gazing wonder about this suddenly mysterious moon-shine.  The following is a nice picture but an approximation of the scene we beheld.



From John 1:5: "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it".  You might be aware that this is a reference to Jesus, of course, but I thought it has an alternate applicability here.  It's resonant to me in my soul that the spiritual truth of Jesus' light shining through the darkness has a physical counterpart in our moon, reflector of the sun.

Who or what does the moon shine for?  When it's hidden above a cloud layer and can't be seen by humans on terra firma?  When there's no one there at all?  "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalm 19:6  It shines to glorify God, and when I or someone else is there it shines for us, to display His glory to us! 

There are plenty of interesting facts regarding the moon, which lend toward thoughts of it's creation by a creator-God, not by evolution.  This site describes how evolutionary scientists are 'baffled' in explaining it's origin.  The appearance of the moon and it's effects on our planet which help sustain life are just another indicator of the reality behind the beauty we behold: that we may assume that whatever or whomever is behind the creation of the universe is as beautiful and wonderful as it is.

With a 29 1/2 day cycle, the moon is seemingly set in the sky to mark the passage of time, to mark the months. Ancient civilizations the world over have followed the lunar calender God made.  Here is a link to the Hebrew lunar calender and a schedule of Old Testament Israelite religious festivals and observances.  Many Jewish religious events were observed at the new moon, but two annual ones were set to occur at a full moon, or halfway through the month, the Passover Festival and the Feast of Tabernacles.



The new moon is when it shows just a sliver.  Half of the 29 1/2 day cycle is 14 3/4 days, so it is at that point when one would observe a full moon.  From Psalm 81:3 (NLT): "Blow the ram's horn at new moon, and again at full moon to call a festival!"  Numbers 28:16-17 and 29:12 set forth that the Passover Festival and the Feast of Tabernacles will start of the 15th of the month (first month for Passover, seventh month for Tabernacles, Hebrew lunar calender). 

I hope I haven't lost you yet.  I'm glossing over a few details, read the links if you'd like to be better informed concerning them.  The Passover is perhaps the one Jewish holiday Christians are most familiar with and revere as well.  We believe that the Passover sacrifice of the lamb, and the eating of it and the bread is prophetic of Jesus Christ.  Here are two websites (there are many) which teach more about Jesus Christ, The Passover Lamb: menorah.org and a page labeled "The Passover Prophecy and the Crucifixion".

The moon shines (reflects actually) His light for me, it does, and for His light I am grateful. It shines for me in the darkness, and in the daylight. It shines for you too.  I quote from a many played Matthew West song but it's a great one:

"I love you more than the sun
and the stars that I taught how to shine
You are mine, and you shine for me too.
I love you yesterday and today
And tomorrow, I'll say it again and again
I love you more."

I shine for Him too?  Yes, that's one of the many fringe benefits you get in having faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Thanks for reading again, and God Bless you!










Thursday, August 19, 2010

How the Dutch Rolls

There we were in this early summer moment, relaxing in the smooth air at 31,000 feet, headed east in the sunshine toward Philadelphia. We had climbed out of Kansas City, Missouri about an hour before and had about one hour left to reach Philly. Our exact position was 230 miles west of Johnstown, ‘P.A.’ (the one that had THE flood). The 73 knot tailwind was helping to produce our ground speed (GS) of 522, or 8.7 miles a minute, or a mile about every seven seconds. The airspeed tape indicated about 210 knots, but because of the thin air at altitude, our jet’s true airspeed was 439, computed by our ADC’s (air data computers). Our speed relative to the speed of sound was .74, or ‘Mach point .74’. Our total weight at this moment was 48,700 lbs, 1,700 lbs greater than our maximum landing weight of 47,000 lbs. Each of our two engines were burning almost 1,400 lbs per hour. What would our weight be upon landing in Philly in one hour? Do your quick Pilot mental math before proceeding further.


It would be ‘fourty-five nine’ as I like to say, or fourty-five thousand, nine-hundred pounds. Our little CRJ was packed to the gills with people and bags, and some or most of our ’pax’ were sleeping, no doubt. The droning on of our turbofans and the 8,000 feet above sea level equivalent altitude in the cabin had a part in the that. And the natural back and forth slight banking of our ’airship’ probably did too. I took a few moment to observe and appreciate this rhythmic motion of the left wing behind me, smoothly moving up and down against the horizon. Wads of symmetrically oriented cotton ball cumulus floated by far below, and seemed to frame the scene for contemplation on why.


Why do the wings of my CRJ always do this, rock back and forth? It’s always done this from the first day I started flying it, but it always seems to do it with the autopilot engaged. I’ve looked back when hand flying (just for a couple seconds, mind you!) and the wing is as steady as my hand can be. Well, with the autopilot on I took a video with my camera; let’s see how it looks on that. Observe the hazy horizon behind the wing tip, and you can see that it’s lazily rocking in a bank to the left and right, and maybe just yawing forward a back a hair.

video

As near as I can tell, this is the ‘natural frequency’ of a CRJ, like a ship or boat that lists or yaws back and forth naturally. A On a dependents cruise of my brother’s ship, a Destroyer in the US Navy, I observed his ship listing (banking) left and right a few degrees at a time. It’s period (time to complete one cycle) lasted about 20 seconds. I myself am not an aerodynamics expert, but I am a good BS’er. I know a little, of course; you can’t hardly call yourself a jet pilot without knowing a little about the difference between straight wing airplanes and swept wing jets.

I asked my excellent and very capable First Officer, who just happens to have a degree in Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering. He said that it had to do with an imbalance of lift of that between the left and right wings, due to slightly changing relative wind the left and right wings experience.  He explained that a jet has a spanwise airflow, meaning that airflow over and under the wings doesn’t really flow straight across, it flows at an angle across it. Straight wing airplanes don’t have spanwise airflow over their wings, and quite a bit more stable in flight than swept wing planes.

Let’s go dutch! After looking at the video, some other videos online, and reading about it, I think I know what it is. What my jet is experiencing and counteracting is Dutch roll, a classic aerodynamic term and dynamic situation swept wing jets inherently have. Asymmetrical, spanwise airflow imparts a yawing moment, or yawing tendency, to the aircraft. Yaw is a rotational force around an aircrafts’ vertical axis. Yaw makes a jets’ nose rotate to the left or right about the center of gravity (the jet‘s balance point, located next the wing, approximately). When an aircraft yaws in one direction the aforementioned difference in relative wind and imbalance of lift between the wings occurs.

See this video for a good look at authentic undamped dutch roll.

Explained similarly, dutch roll begins with the aircraft yawing one direction, then banking in the same direction. The yaw produces more lift on the wing which has moved ahead of the other. This imbalance of lift then produces the banking tendency. Eventually the dipped wing will produce more lift than the higher wing because of a higher ‘angle of attack’ (another explanation I won’t go into here) than what the higher wing has, and the wings will start to return towards level.

A ‘yaw damper’ is a fancy but necessary piece of flight control equipment on swept wing jets. It will apply the rudder in the opposite direction to counteract yawing, but because of the delayed reaction of banking occurring after yawing and as a result of it, the left and right banks occur. This is my best estimation of what is happening. The jet ends up banking slightly to the left and right as the yaw damper dampens out these oscillations. Rudder applied into the slipstream will produce yaw first, then bank, as the forward wing (in a right yaw the left wing will be forward of the right wing) produces more lift than the other one.

This neat website (HOW IT FLIES) shows what's happening to the wings in tandem aerodynamically during dutch roll. The wingtips actually trace loops against the horizon in opposite directions. If the plane yaws left the left wingtip will yaw aft and bank downward, then yaw forward and bank upward to wings level as the dutch roll is counteracted with rudder applied by the yaw damper. During this period the opposite right wingtip will yaw forward and bank upward, then yaw backward and back downward to wings level. It actually is a motion that is more oval or circular shaped, due to the changing aerodynamic forces involved. If the plane yaws right the opposite wingtip motions will occur (its confusing, so I won’t explain, see the ‘websight’ for more ‘insight’).

This is another British video which shows the circular loops the wingtips trace during dutch roll.

Dutch roll can be a dangerous phenomenon, and it was in the early days of swept wing jet fighters and airliners. In 1956 during a Braniff 707 customer acceptance flight control was lost after exceeding Boeing's maximum dutch roll demonstration bank angle (with the yaw dampers off).  Three of the four engines were shed from the airframe before they performed an emergency landing on a river bed.  Spending time flying with the yaw damper totally disabled (jets have two of them) can be a real eye opener, and it's something we demonstrate in the flight simulator.  Yaw dampers are so critical that my jet isn't allowed to fly passengers if both of our yaw dampers are broken.

As I’m trying to finish this post I’m riding on an ‘advanced’ Airbus A319, the ‘fly by wire’ one. I look at the wingtip against the horizon, and it’s the steadiest one I’ve seen yet. It does move, however; with the aircraft responding quickly, almost immediately, to keep the wings level. The swaying and correcting looks like a matter of inches; it’s impressive to watch on an airliner with a 111 foot foot wingspan. I presume the Airbus is better at damping out unwanted yaw and bank because it has more advanced avionics in the form of the ‘fly by (computerized-digital) wire’ technology.

Readers, I know it's been a while since I've posted, but I've been busy putting the nuts and bolts together for my business selling logbook binders and paper for computer pilot logbooks.  It's been going good, a few have sold on flybystore.com (click here to see it) and I'm about to start my own website.  Summer is passing by as well, and I've had a challenging time of it flying, and am ready for the season to change.  Lastly, God is still good and I still feel led to glorify him and make Him known to others through my job, my writing, and everything else I do.

I can't let you escape without a comparison of dutch roll to our own lives.  Observe your life events and you'll likely see that disturbances in your life balance can cause other parts of your life to 'roll away'.  Control the yaw, or your directional stability, better, and the rolls will cease or be minimized.  Christ is the one true light in the darkness (John 1:4-8) who can and will draw you in his direction.  Keep it pointed toward His light and he'll be your very own 'yaw damper'.  Thanks for reading, and God bless you!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!


Freedom for your checked bags!!

On this July 4th, Happy Independence Day to you!  Thanks for about.com for this informative series of quotes from our Founding Fathers.  From the site, "These Christian quotes of the founding fathers will give you an overview of their strong moral and spiritual convictions which helped form the foundations of our nation and our government."  I haven't read through them all, but I will.  You might or might not be surprised by what Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson wrote.  Franklin had some skepticism regarding Christ and Jefferson famously had his own Bible, 'the Jefferson Bible', wherein he took out sections from the New Testament he didn't believe.  But it can be seen that they both believed in God's deity, power, and blessing. 

Our Country has certainly been greatly blessed, with the structure of our government and economy, and the resulting influence and prosperity we have.  We have all kinds of freedoms that others in our world don't.  One of the most precious ones is that we have the freedom to worship God as we choose, or not at all. 

The following quotes of our Founding Fathers are from the aforementioned about.com site:

George Washington

"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."


--The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343.



John Adams

2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

"Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."

--Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

"The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."

--Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever."

--Adams wrote this in a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776.



Thomas Jefferson

3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event."

--Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.

"I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ."

--The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.



John Hancock

1st Signer of the Declaration of Independence

"Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. ... Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."

--History of the United States of America, Vol. II, p. 229.



Benjamin Franklin

Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Constitution

"Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped.

That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see;

But I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive, that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure."

--Benjamin Franklin wrote this in a letter to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University on March 9, 1790.



Samuel Adams


Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Father of the American Revolution

"And as it is our duty to extend our wishes to the happiness of the great family of man, I conceive that we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world that the rod of tyrants may be broken to pieces, and the oppressed made free again; that wars may cease in all the earth, and that the confusions that are and have been among nations may be overruled by promoting and speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all people everywhere willingly bow to the sceptre of Him who is Prince of Peace."

--As Governor of Massachusetts, Proclamation of a Day of Fast, March 20, 1797.



James Madison

4th U.S. President

"Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ."

--America's Providential History, p. 93.



James Monroe

5th U.S. President

"When we view the blessings with which our country has been favored, those which we now enjoy, and the means which we possess of handing them down unimpaired to our latest posterity, our attention is irresistibly drawn to the source from whence they flow. Let us then, unite in offering our most grateful acknowledgements for these blessings to the Divine Author of All Good."

--Monroe made this statement in his 2nd Annual Message to Congress, November 16, 1818.



John Quincy Adams

6th U.S. President

"The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made 'bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God' (Isaiah 52:10)."

--Life of John Quincy Adams, p. 248.



William Penn

Founder of Pennsylvania

"I do declare to the whole world that we believe the Scriptures to contain a declaration of the mind and will of God in and to those ages in which they were written; being given forth by the Holy Ghost moving in the hearts of holy men of God; that they ought also to be read, believed, and fulfilled in our day; being used for reproof and instruction, that the man of God may be perfect. They are a declaration and testimony of heavenly things themselves, and, as such, we carry a high respect for them. We accept them as the words of God Himself."

--Treatise of the Religion of the Quakers, p. 355.



Roger Sherman

Signer of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution

"I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance equal in power and glory. That the scriptures of the old and new testaments are a revelation from God, and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. That God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, so as thereby he is not the author or approver of sin. That he creates all things, and preserves and governs all creatures and all their actions, in a manner perfectly consistent with the freedom of will in moral agents, and the usefulness of means. That he made man at first perfectly holy, that the first man sinned, and as he was the public head of his posterity, they all became sinners in consequence of his first transgression, are wholly indisposed to that which is good and inclined to evil, and on account of sin are liable to all the miseries of this life, to death, and to the pains of hell forever.

I believe that God having elected some of mankind to eternal life, did send his own Son to become man, die in the room and stead of sinners and thus to lay a foundation for the offer of pardon and salvation to all mankind, so as all may be saved who are willing to accept the gospel offer: also by his special grace and spirit, to regenerate, sanctify and enable to persevere in holiness, all who shall be saved; and to procure in consequence of their repentance and faith in himself their justification by virtue of his atonement as the only meritorious cause.

I believe a visible church to be a congregation of those who make a credible profession of their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, joined by the bond of the covenant.

I believe that the souls of believers are at their death made perfectly holy, and immediately taken to glory: that at the end of this world there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a final judgement of all mankind, when the righteous shall be publicly acquitted by Christ the Judge and admitted to everlasting life and glory, and the wicked be sentenced to everlasting punishment."

--The Life of Roger Sherman, pp. 272-273.



Benjamin Rush

Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations!"

--The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, pp. 165-166.

"Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and that in proportion as mankind adopts its principles and obeys its precepts, they will be wise and happy."

--Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, published in 1798.

"I know there is an objection among many people to teaching children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But let us not be wiser than our Maker.

If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into all the world would have been unnecessary. The perfect morality of the Gospel rests upon the doctrine which, though often controverted has never been refuted: I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God."

--Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, published in 1798.



John Witherspoon

Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Clergyman and President of Princeton University

"While we give praise to God, the Supreme Disposer of all events, for His interposition on our behalf, let us guard against the dangerous error of trusting in, or boasting of, an arm of flesh ... If your cause is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts.

What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind.

Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy of his country."

--Sermon at Princeton University, "The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men," May 17, 1776.



Alexander Hamilton

Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

"I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man."

--Famous American Statesmen, p. 126.



Patrick Henry

Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."

--The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii.

"The Bible ... is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed."

--Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, p. 402.



John Jay

1st Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and President of the American Bible Society

"By conveying the Bible to people thus circumstanced, we certainly do them a most interesting kindness. We thereby enable them to learn that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced.

The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer, in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; that this Redeemer has made atonement "for the sins of the whole world," and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve."

--In God We Trust—The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers, p. 379.

"In forming and settling my belief relative to the doctrines of Christianity, I adopted no articles from creeds but such only as, on careful examination, I found to be confirmed by the Bible."

--American Statesman Series, p. 360.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Piling on the Pres

Starting out writing this, I’m commuting home from a four day trip, both sides un-commutable. Yesterday started relatively early, with a 6:30 AM van ride to the airport in Newberg, New York, near West Point US Army Officer Academy, where President Obama spoke Saturday before we arrived. There were no signs left from the Secret Service personnel, of whom the van driver said had been staying in the hotel all week, and I had a good and needed rest for our long day of Sunday flying.

With a friendly Co-Pilot and Flight Attendant, we made our way through almost eight hours of flying, which entailed six flights and twelve hours to perform it in. Newberg-Philadelphia-Louisville-Philadelphia-Washington-Rochester-Washington was on the agenda, but a low pressure weather system and the forecast east winds and relatively low cloud ceiling in Philly promised to slow us down. My First Officer had plans to meet his wife in Milwaukee, to spend the night there before heading to Charlotte the next morning. With the delays in Philadelphia we were expecting, it was questionable whether he could catch the last flights from Washington to Philadelphia. He commutes from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is a fellow brother in Christ. We had a good conversation about some of the particulars of Protestant Christian theology, and enjoyed flying together.

Our first two flights arrived in Philly and “Loua-Vule” on time. Now we just had to go through Philadelphia one more time, and we wouldn’t expect any delays in and out of Washington. In Philadelphia, when the winds are from the east, the airport runway layout can’t accept the same amount of departure and arrival traffic as it would normally. This can create major ATC delays, especially for traffic inbound to Philadelphia. Our scheduled departure time out of Louisville was 11:35 AM, and Louisville clearance delivery had given us a ‘wheels up’ takeoff time of 1:01 PM. We had time to hang out some, eat lunch, and talk about our commuting plans. I couldn’t make it home even if we arrived in DC on time, our Flight Attendant, a new one but a good one (she had flown for a regional based in Atlanta previously) could still make her commute flight even if we were a couple hours late, and my Co-Pilot was scheming and trying to figure out a plan to catch his last flight available in record time. It seemed we would arrive in DC at about 7:30 PM, and that’s when the last flight to Milwaukee was.

We pushed back without three missing passengers in Louisville, in order to meet the 1:00 PM takeoff time. Just then, ATC surprised us with a new delay, a 2:05 PM takeoff time. No! We had a couple options: taxi out and hope for a shortened delay, or wait to see if our three missing passengers would make it back to the gate. We could board them on our plane, taxi out, and still make the new 2:05 PM takeoff slot. In the interest of providing good customer service (this is a customer service business, despite what some of my Co-Pilot’s seem to feel), we started our engines and taxied the thirty yards back to the gate to board our three lost passengers. In actuality, we lost one passenger, who had said ‘enough’ and got off our jet to travel another day, and we put on four, for a gain of three and a ‘full boat’ back to Philly. The ‘circus music’ had started playing, because whenever a plane returns to the gate, one-third of our pax ask the Flight Attendant the litany of ‘will I still make my connection?’ type questions, and they were doing it now. Dealing with those issues is the Gate Agent’s job, and it’s a tough one in this situation. They generally make an announcement in the cabin (I asked her to this time) that ‘NOW is the time to leave the flight if you want to, that this aircraft will leave the gate again and not come back.’

We got our new passengers on board and just as we were closing up, ATC notified us that the ground delay program had been canceled, along with our 2:05 PM takeoff delay. We were released to Philly, and in quick order we taxied and took off. As we broke ground I wondered if that passenger we lost saw us climbing out into the blue Louisville sky.

Fast forward four days later: I’m commuting again back to work, trying to go through Chicago.  Before my first of two flights to get me to Washington, Chicago had a ground stop issued by ATC for “VIP movement” (President Obama). My Sioux Falls-Chicago flight was now delayed till 7:15 PM instead of 6:30 PM, and with a scheduled 45 minute connection to Washington on a normal day, I knew I'd be running for it. And I literally was, after seeing on the departure monitor that my flight was delayed by five minutes, and that many others were as well. "Can't you do something, Mr. Obama, without displeasing someone?"

I caught my breath in my window seat and our Airbus taxied out for Washington National.  Leaving Chicago, I’m transfixed by what I see. We’ve turned to the east just after breaking ground in smooth air, and the vast, expansive grid of greater Chicago spreads out in the window in that appealing orange halogen color the street lights have. Miles and miles of it are broken up occasionally by the stray winding expressway with white and red lit drivers making their way to where they’re going. The famous Chicago skyline is now ahead and to the right, with the (former) Sears Tower and the Hancock Tower framing the ends of it. Oddly, downtown and Lake Michigan seems to be backlight tonight. After closer observation and some scuddy clouds clear out of the way, it can plainly be seen that a full moon is out tonight, shining it’s white, reflected light on the calm, black surface of Lake Michigan. It casts a white, milky beam across the water, seemingly all the way to Indiana and the Notre Dame ‘capital’ at South Bend.

I am reminded that scenes like this one, which I first enjoyed while flying standby as a passenger on American Airlines as a kid, really make an impact on me. I really enjoy the beauty the skies can have, I guess you could say my eyes behold it. With the distractions and stresses of life, it’s can be easy to overlook the beautiful things, whether it’s in the sky or in your personal or family life. As the sky goes, maybe I’ve been doing some overlooking lately. But it is now thunderstorm season, and I know there will be plenty to appreciate soon! (And to be wary of)

Speaking of which, it’s a convenient time to transition back to the previous trip's Louisville departure to Philadelphia. Soon we’re climbing to our cruising altitude of 29,000 feet (“Flight Level two niner zero”). In blue sky and sunshine, my First Officer turns on the radar, and increases the range to 80 miles, then 160 miles. The tilt is low and the gain is turned up, but the screen barely shows any green returns, and that’s probably from the ground. The white, wispy clouds ahead, with a few curved, more solid looking bumps bulging slightly above them, indicate that we’ll probably have to do some deviating from our course line ahead, in spite of the clean radar returns.

We’re just not close enough to it yet; when we get within about 40-60 miles some good returns start showing up, the worst color they show is yellow. The view out the windscreen compels us to ask ATC for deviations, even if the radar was blank. The cumulonimbus tops are only two to three thousand feet above us, it looks like, but in reality they are probably four to six thousand feet higher. The tops look relatively flat, for thunderstorms, but looks can be deceptive. I see a bolt out into the burning blue sky out of one of them in front of us, confirming that these puppies can still bite. By this time I’ve been trying to ask center for a heading of 15, now 20 degrees left to avoid this buildup in front of us. The center controller I’ve been trying to check in with has been busy handling other airline traffic, and now we’re 15 miles closer to this storm than when we started calling. Another 30 seconds to a minute of this and my FO and I agree that we’re turning left, no matter what.

We could make it through it OK, but it would be constant moderate turbulence at the least, possibly severe occasionally, with icing in the tops of the cumulus formations, and a chance of lightning and wind shear with the turbulence. Not good for the pax or the Flight Attendant, and definitely not good customer service. The controller finally responds and serves us with an approval to “deviate left as required, direct Gordonsville (GVE) when able”.

Overall, it’s a good primer for the now-here thunderstorm season. A broad layer of wispy clouds stretches from left to right. As my Co-Pilot has the autopilot finish the turn to make our first of several heading deviations for buildups, we confer with each other, and agree that our course to the left, mostly in the clear, is better than to the right of the cumulonimbus. On the radar, another yellow spot, the biggest one, is now plainly seen; if we had deviated to the right we would have less room to deal with this cell than if we had turned left. Looking out the window, this largest storm cloud is mostly obscured by this thin layer of clouds previously mentioned. If we were a thousand feet lower, this situation would meet the classic definition of an embedded thunderstorm; the wispy clouds leftover from previous buildups wouldn‘t let us visually see the danger ahead! We later fly through some of these wispy areas, they are generally fairly smooth, with occasional light chop and nothing else.

We made it through the rest fairly unscathed day after arriving in Philadelphia.  Philly to Washington to Rochester to Washington went off without a hitch, minus our standard wait for ramp agents to park our jet in DC, both times.  However, we didn't make up enough time to improve my FO's chances of going to Milwaukee.

With my FO a little dejected, I was walking with him to the crew room when he spied the departure monitor board, and saw that he might have one last chance to make it to Milwaukee, via an American Eagle flight from Washington to Chicago, then the last United Express flight of the night to Milwaukee. He would be running for it, but we both thought he just might make it. He ran off to the gate, just like I would in the future tonight, but I don’t know if he made it or not. If President Obama didn’t get in his way, he was probably fine! I took his flight bag back to the crew room and then myself to Chipotle for a good, needed dose of burrito. I made it home the next morning, starting this post on the way.
 
I'm giving our President Obama a little bit of a hard time.  But I'm just poking fun at everyone else who seems to be.  Lately he's been taking flak from all sides, not just Republicans.  I think his current troubles are more politically partisan based and stem from a lack of PR control rather than lack of performance.  It's true that far left liberals haven't gotten what they've wanted from Obama, but neither have right wing conservatives.  Is not preventing the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and spill, and performing an inadaquate leak stoppage and cleanup, really his fault?  No, the Deepwater Horizon disaster is not Obama's 'Katrina'. 
 
Excuse me for getting too political, perhaps.  I just feel that we should have a minimum amount of respect for our political leaders, no matter how much we disagree with them.  We should pray for them, it's in the Bible too: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (I Timothy 2:1-4).
 
And the Bible teaches that we should pay our appropriate taxes to the government: : "Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God, the things that are God's" are Jesus' words from Matthew 22:21.
 
That's it for now.  Thanks for reading my blog.