Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dave Fay Memorial Hockey Game

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in my second charity hockey game. It was hosted by the guys who run Put Cancer On Ice, a local group that has been organizing hockey games to raise money to donate to Hockey Fights Cancer in memory of Dave Fay. Dave Fay was a local Washington Times beat reporter covering the Washington Capitals hockey team. I didn't move to the DC area until after he passed away, but by all accounts he was a well liked and well respected journalist, having been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a journalist as a recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award.

The game is a chance for a bunch of players of different levels and abilities to get together and have some fun for a great cause. My first loss to cancer was my high school swim coach, a guy who swam division I for the University of Michigan and appeared to be the picture of health. My most recent loss was my final grandparent, my mother's mom. I'd be willing to bet that everyone on the ice and the stands has been affected by that evil disease. So we play hockey to raise money to help fight cancer.

Speaking of great fun, it's really cool hearing the same guy [Wes Johnson] who does the in game announcements at the Verizon Center for the Caps games announcing your name during the introductions. It's another rush when you're introduced after two Washington Capitals alumni. Of course, it's pretty cool when you turn around for the national anthem to find the flag in Kettler Capitals Iceplex only to be greeted by four huge banners of some of the greatest Caps players and realize that you're standing next to one of them.

Yep, I'm standing on the blueline next to Yvon Labre listening to the national anthem and staring at that huge banner of his on the wall, right next to the flags. I was skating for team Virginia, because that's where I've been living for the last four years of my life now. Yvon joined Paul Mulvey as our two Washington Capitals alumni. The Maryland team ringered up with three alumni; Alan Hangsleben, Gary Rissling and Gord (Gordon) Lane.

This is the second year I've had the pleasure of skating on the same team with Yvon Labre. unfortunately for me, I didn't get to skate on the same line with him at all this time around. But it looks like he managed to have fun anyway, as seen above. As a matter of fact, it was tough to tell who was having a better time, the alumni or us mere mortals.

Alan Hangsleben, seen above, managed to get himself a Gordie Howe hat trick in a charity game. Don't worry, he and Virginia's Player/Coach Sterling Wright ended up playing rock, paper, scissors to see who got to fall on the ice first. Sterling won the right to cool off first.

Gary Rissling, seen above, had a huge smile on his face pretty much the entire game. Again, it was difficult telling who had more fun sometimes. Most of the time these guys were just toying with us, but not hurting out feelings too bad, which was awful nice of them. All five guys were class acts for the entire game, gently hooking and bumping guys off the pucks while making these breath-taking set-up passes and taking a few nice shots to remind the crowd who were the pros.

A great big thanks goes out to Gavin Toner and Robert Keaton who organized this game for the fourth time. I'm already looking forward to my next opportunity to help fight cancer while skating with some living legends!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

File on Time to Save Time

It’s getting to be that time of the year again. We’re heading into Spring across the country, which means that large scale convective weather will be making a return. Due to the wonderful convective weather, we will see the return of Traffic Management Initiatives (TMIs), such as the Airspace Flow Program (AFP) and more of the always present Ground Delay Program (GDP). Each of these TMIs assigns an Expected Departure Clearance Time (EDCT) for your trip. The EDCT, of course, is where the fun starts.


First things first - recently the FAA has improved their system to allow flights, filed through Flight Service Stations, to enter the system up to 17 hours prior to scheduled departure. This is in addition to all the major flight plan service providers, along with, being able to put your flight plan into the system up to 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure. This is a huge step forward since it now allows the traffic managers to “see” GA traffic along with the planned commercial traffic, as long as we file in advance. The importance of this is that it allows for better TMI planning and should result in fewer program revisions due to pop-up trips. However, this all depends on operators and crews filing flight plans as soon as practical and even more importantly, as accurately as possible.

Why is an accurate departure time important? It all boils down to time. Many crews have a tendency to file 30 minutes in advance in order to get their clearance ahead of time. The only problem with this is that, once you have filed that time, the computer thinks that is when you want to leave. If you are assigned an EDCT for a GDP or an AFP, the computer is going to assign you the best possible time. So there are a number of ways in which filing ahead of time can hurt you.

First, if you happen to be early in a program there may be little or no delay, possibly resulting in your EDCT being assigned prior to the time you actually want to depart. Second, when there are cancellations in the program, the computer will try to move flights up to fill in those spaces. It will move you all the way up to your original proposed time, not knowing that you filed 30 minutes early. If you miss that earlier EDCT it can result in substantial delays as you will now be assigned a new delay, usually based on the program’s average delay.

So again, it benefits you in several ways to file an accurate departure time. First, you’re giving the traffic managers a better idea of when you are scheduled to arrive either at the GDP airport or the AFP’s constrained area. Second, when your EDCT is assigned, it will be one that you can use. Keep this in mind this season as you’re dodging those thunderstorms.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2010 issue of NBAA’s Business Aviation Insider, available to members of the NBAA.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Intro to John Part I

Hello everyone. This will most likely be the first of many different snippets about me. So I guess I'll start at the beginning. At least the beginning of my attraction to weather.

I moved to Traverse City, Michigan (KTVC) in the fall of 1990 in order to go to school at Northwestern Michigan College. My course of study was aviation. This was my second attempt at college, the first one had ended poorly, but that's a story for another day.

I quickly took to all things aviation and weather was a very large part of that. My first flight was a windy day with overcast skies. My instructor warned me that it might be a bumpy ride but there was no waiting, I wanted to start flying now. We took off into a light rain and the ride was bumpy as promised but neither of those things bothered me. The first thing that really startled me was the realization that I was in an environment that had three dimensions. I was no longer in a car that went left or right and forward or backward. I had now added up and down. As we flew away from the airport I looked around and the first question I asked my instructor was, "how do we get back?" He smiled and told me to look back over my shoulder where I could see the airport nestled at the bottom of the two bays of Traverse City.

After that initial flight I dove into the books and ended up on the correct Dean's list. I would spend hours at the airport in the general aviation terminal because they had a computer where you could get the basic weather information like METARs, TAFs and the maps. It was just black and white but I would watch the weather and print the new map every hour watching it move from Wisconsin across Lake Michigan and into the Traverse City area. The windows faced to the west-northwest over the field so I could see the weather from miles away. I took a class in weather and we actually hand plotted on Skew-T charts. Boy does that take some patience! Operating an aircraft that only weighs about 1600 pounds you quickly develop a healthy respect for mother nature.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Private Jet for the President, but not business?

N755NA, originally uploaded by dfndr13.

Why was a private jet, a Boeing 757 at that, good enough for the current president's campaign, but not good enough for businesses?

Let me tell you why he used the private jet. Outside of the obvious security concerns, there is no way he or his rival John McCain could have run successful campaigns without one.

First, they could not have used the airline's hub and spoke system because it only serves about 500 airports throughout the US, and they do it through only a few main hubs for the carriers that serve the most cities. Imagine some of the connections they would have had to make to get to some of the smaller cities they visited. Can you see them trying to decide who to leave behind when the connecting aircraft was a Beech 1900 with only 19 seats? Do they draw straws? I'm sure they wouldn't have minded leaving the press behind.

Speaking of commercial travel, can you imagine being the poor booking agent? You want how many seats? And you want them in a group? Who can't sit on the aisle? I doubt they would be buying tickets two weeks in advance, so can you imagine how much it would cost?

So maybe they booked everyone on the same flight. Can you imagine the cabin with all the people trying to talk to each other? Of course they couldn't have any private conversations regarding planning or strategy, so maybe the cabin wouldn't be that loud after all.

OK, so they had their own aircraft for all the same reasons business have them:
- Security of the "C" level positions.
- Ability to transport groups of people in a timely fashion.
- Ability for those groups to work and plan en route.
- Ability to be proactive for their customers and shareholders.

I think that last point is fairly important. As these bank and other businesses take the bail-out or rescue money, don't we as taxpayers become shareholders? Wasn't that the idea? Well, then if I'm a shareholder I want my CEO and the rest of the company to have the right tools for the job. This means a business jet for most companies. Sometimes more than one. Taking away a business jet or even access to a business jet is as bad as taking away any other tool your company might use such as a computer or a blackberry.

My problem in this mess is not with the business jet, it is the fact that there is no incentive for the CEO to make an effort to succeed. When they receive "golden parachutes" no matter whether they succeed or drive the company into bankruptcy, where is the incentive? Folks, I can help you out here, I'm willing to take a salary of $1 million dollars per year or until I bankrupt your company, whichever comes first. I bet that's a lot less than what you're paying the top executives right now. Seriously though, why would you want to hire someone who wants guaranteed contract up front? Don't get me wrong, there should be something in the contract that spells out what the requirements are going to be for success or failure.

So let's get to the real root of the problem which I believe is bad management. We can start by ditching the CEOs who couldn't explain to the politicians and the media why the business jet is a viable and necessary business tool. Let's find some CEOs who can explain convincingly to the American public how they are going to use their jet to make money for the taxpaying shareholders.

So what do you think? Do you believe that a business jet is a necessary tool? Why or why not?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Successful Companies Use Aircraft

Falcon 2000, originally uploaded by dfndr13.

The use of business jets is not the problem at the big 3. Proof of that is how quickly they all caved in and closed flight departments, putting over a hundred people on the unemployment line when they did. How is having your CEO spend 10 hours in a car to drive from Detroit to DC and then another 10 hours to drive back a good use of the time of the person who is supposed to be working on stearing the company away from the abyss? It's not. Successful companies make use of business aircraft every day to move employees at all levels around the world to do business effeciently. The big 3 just demonstrated their complete lack of intelligent decision making. That is the problem.