Follow us on Twitter Follow us on FaceBook Kitplanes Videos Get RSS Feed
 

Exploring

March 2016 Issue




Editor’s Log

The handshake.

“GC—lock the doors!” This command from the NASA flight director to his ground controller, the man responsible for the Mission Control facility, computers, and ground network, is a chilling phrase heard on the voice channels when things are about to get very serious in human spaceflight operations. It means exactly what it sounds like: The doors to the Mission Control Center are locked, and no one is allowed in or out. The team is isolated so that they can do one thing—concentrate on their mission—with no distractions from below or above. The phrase has been used when critical operations, such as a moon landing, are about to occur. It is also used when things have gone—or are going—very badly. You will hear it on the tapes after the explosion of the shuttle Challenger, or the break-up of Columbia. Locking the doors is one way to fiercely concentrate the team’s senses on the matter at hand.

In a more atmospheric environment, one of the toughest things to do around aviation people is to concentrate on aviation. Oh sure, we can sit around the hangar drinking a favorite beverage and talking airplanes—but that’s not concentration—that’s recreation. I am talking about the times when you have to no-kidding pay attention to what you’re doing; and those around you, while well-intentioned, are under less pressure and might not understand that what you really need is quiet, no-nonsense time to get ready for an important building task, or more importantly, a first flight.

Years in professional aerospace flight testing have given me an ability to focus on the job at hand under almost any condition of distraction—but it is hard to be sociable and friendly when the well-intentioned just want to help, yet don’t know they are being distracting. I have resorted to a number of little tricks in situations like this; the first is to assign someone to act as your “bodyguard” so to speak. Their job is to intercept anyone that is trying to talk or distract you and find them something useful to do. Most folks standing around with their hands in their pockets, just talking, are happy to have a task assigned. Send them to go find some ice for the cooler of post-flight drinks, or have them clean bugs off the wings—anything to keep them involved yet out of the way. Keeping folks busy is a great way to keep them quiet and away from the pilot who is trying to go through their pre-flight routine.

Even designated crewmembers can inadvertently serve as sources of distraction during flight operations. A small group of people dedicated to a particular aircraft or task get to know each other well enough that they joke around and trade insults, play little tricks on one another, and generally use humor to distract themselves from the thoughts of risk and danger. But there comes a time in any operation when you have to concentrate on the risk, you have to stop the horseplay. And for this, I learned a new trick from a fine young airshow performer by the name of Justin Lewis. Justin flies the little FLS Microjet in airshows around the country, and works closely with the crew chief who travels with him and takes care of all the little things that Justin can be distracted with by being the star.

Justin and his crew chief get along very well and trade the usual numbers of jokes and barbs, right up until it is show time—and they shake hands. This formal handshake is a signal, a transition time when the joking is over, and it is time to get down to business. From that point on, they are as formal as a military crew can be. Everything is done by checklist and routine. There are no off-hand comments that don’t mean anything. And the cockpit and airplane environment is sterile. The formality that follows the handshake is so evident that those around—without knowing it—back away and fall silent as the two prepare the little jet for flight.

Before flying the FLS Microjet, Justin Lewis and his crew chief shake hands. The handshake signals that joke time is over, and it’s time to get down to the very serious business of preparing the jet for flight. (Photo: Glenn Watson, Mach Point One Aviation Photography)

The formal, sterile operational environment remains in effect until, at the conclusion of the flight and shutdown, they shake hands once again. This second handshake opens their world back up to include other people, conversation, and a relaxed atmosphere. One handshake to leave the “normal” world—another to return.

That handshake represents a bond between the pilot and the crew chief—a promise that each will do everything they can to make the mission as safe as possible for everyone involved. No outside influence will intrude upon the work required to make that happen, and each will put in a full effort to stay on track and on target. It’s a promise to keep their eye on the ball and allow no deviation to go unnoticed. The bond may appear to be one of friendship, but in truth it is one of professionalism—the bond that says they will do their very best, with all their skill and knowledge—a commitment to excellence.

We can all learn from this example and use that formal handshake to put ourselves into “mission mode.” My wife understands when I am about to fly something new, or fly something old, but in a new way, I put on my “game face.” Every professional in this business has some sort of similar ritual, and the handshake is one of the best I have seen when more than one person is required to make a mission work. It doesn’t have to be confined to just two people. Include the entire team, whatever size that might be. Shake hands, do excellent work—and when your job is complete, shake hands again and let the normal world wash back over you.


Paul Dye retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA's Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the space shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built in 2005, and an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, Paul has logged over 4800 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an EAA tech counselor, flight advisor, and member of the Homebuilder's Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

Download File

Untitled Document Homebuilder's Portal by KITPLANES
Photo by Richard VanderMeulen
I completed Sonex #1072 on August 18, 2014 and made the first flight on August 22, 2014 from Charlie Brown/Fulton County Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. The airplane now has over 150 hours on it and has made several trips from Atlanta to South Florida, the Carolinas, and to Tower, Minnesota which is just south of …
My CubCrafters EX N-96FV was finished July 30, 2016 - last weekend of AirVenture. My 87-year old Dad was the first passenger after my 40-hour fly off. He flew chase in his Cherokee for the maiden flight. It's painted in D-Day colors for my C-130 unit's 70th anniversary. 96th Airlift Squadron Flying Vikings were the …
It started with a visit with the Rutan guru Robert Harris of what was the EZ Hangar in Covington TN, now EZ Jets. I wanted to build a Long Eze but Robert suggested using current information and technology instead of 1977 when the plans came out. From then on, this airplane was not a Long …

Dynon Avionics' latest-generation SkyView integrated avionics called the SkyView HDX has a newly designed bezel and user controls for easier use while flying in turbulence, plus brighter displays and a reworked touch interface. Larry Anglisano takes a product tour of the HDX with Dynon's Michael Schoefield in this video.
At Sun 'n Fun 2016, Dynon continued to push into the world of non-certified avionics with its SkyView SE, a less expensive version of its popular SkyView EFIS system. Paul Bertorelli prepared this video report.
The G5 is a self-contained electronic flight instrument, which can be interfaced with Garmin's G3X/Touch avionics and autopilot for backup and flight instrument redundancy. The GMA245 and remote GMA245R Bluetooth audio panels have advanced entertainment input functions and onscreen programming.
At Sun 'n Fun 2016, Just Aircraft is showing off its new Titan-powered SuperSTOL XL. Harrison Smith took Paul Bertorelli for a half-day demo flight in the new airplane, and here's his video report.
Kit manufacturer Zenith Aircraft Company has released a new 360-degree VR short video to showcase its kit aircraft and to promote the rewarding hobby of kit aircraft building and flying light-sport aircraft.
Whether you are upgrading the audio system in an older LSA or experimental or building a new project, PS Engineering and Garmin have non-certified audio panels equipped with advanced features better suited for smaller cabins.
Video Archive

IMPORTANT CUSTOMER SERVICE NOTICE TO KITPLANES SUBSCRIBERS:


All mailed correspondence, including subscription invoices, renewals, and gift notices, will bear our address:
PO BOX 8535
Big Sandy, TX 75755

Third parties claiming to be selling KITPLANES subscriptions are not legitimate.