Just one pilot's attempt at taking an interesting picture every trip, often with a story to go with it. Come along for the ride.

For more recent posts, go to my site www.kentwien.com

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cockpit Chronicles: Domestic Duties

It looked horrible on paper. The first day took us from Boston to Chicago and then on to Miami. The next day had an early morning departure from Miami to San Francisco. After lunch and some daytime sleeping, we left that night for Boston. Arrived in Boston around 7 in the morning on the third day.

But the truth is, it wasn't as bad as I expected. Maybe Roland had something to do with that, but we really didn't feel tired.

Read all about the trip, including some nice pictures from the Miami to San Francisco flight here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Plane Answers: How close are airliners allowed to fly?

Every Friday Gadling I try to answer a Plane Answers query. The questions coming in have been great, and I've noticed that some of you have submitted a few. The most often asked question has been about my path to this job, and I plan on writing that up soon, but it's probably going to take a bit more time than, say, this weeks question regarding how close airliners are allowed to fly.

I'm sure passengers are a little uncomfortable when they see another airplane outside the window so close. But keep in mind, for that airplane to be there, we usually know about it up front. I'll probably write about how TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) has really improved air travle safety in a future Cockpit Chronicles.

I have just two more of the Cockpit Chronicles posts to catch up with and then I'm off to join the family in Germany where they're visiting my mother-in-law. Believe it or not, I really like her! Both Linda and I have been very lucky in the in-law department.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cockpit Chronicles: Caracas and New York


There were plenty of opportunities on this three-day trip for some good pictures. We had a quiet Caracas layover followed by a good day out in Manhattan, where we caught a play, November, with Nathan Lane. I came really close to losing my Sigg water bottle, but thanks to a very kind-hearted agent, I managed to get it back! You should have seen it. If only I had a camera. Wait a minute, I did!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Plane Answers: "When did first class become the crew lounge?"


Just in the nick of time, I managed to post another Plane Answers over at Gadling. This one deals with a miffed passenger who wonders why crew members are allowed to sit in first class when there are plenty of open seats in coach available for them. I try my best to politely answer his query.

I'm just finishing up a post about Caracas and New York City, but I've been called out on another three day trip that doesn't have much time available for blogging.

I managed to get a line for next month. I'm hoping to trade around for some of the Paris trips that happen to start on May 1st.

Monday, April 14, 2008

R.I.P. Luscombe N71808 1946-2008



When I was 19 years old during my sophomore year at Washington State University, I was in a quandary. I had been building flight time by sharing rental expenses with friends and even strangers by putting up flyers all over the school offering "night flights over Pullman--$5." I would rent the 172 and split the costs 4-ways, making the ride just $5. I had 170 passengers by the time I realized that my insurance company wouldn't cover this 'operation.' So I came up with the idea of borrowing some money and buying a vintage two-seater to fly around Pullman while I went to school. I needed to get from the 90 hour point to about 215 hours so I could start working on my commercial, multi, and instrument ratings, followed by my CFI.


My dad did not want me to fly while at school. He thought I should only concentrate on getting my degree and nothing else. His fear was that I would find a flying job before finishing up, which was a well founded concern, it turned out. So I borrowed $3000 from my boss at a hobby shop and $2500 from my grandparents to pay for the $5500 airplane. So while in school, I had a bicycle that I borrowed from my sister and an airplane. I figured I could get a ride to the airport from my passengers.

A few days later, I found a Luscombe that was in fair shape. I rented a 152 and flew my brother down to Baker, Oregon to buy it. Kurt flew the Luscombe back and we arrived in Pullman with a 35 knot crosswind. Since we had no radio communication between us, I had him follow me to a grass strip that was more into the wind where he could land. I then went on to Pullman and landed the 152, which handled the crosswind much better than the Luscombe would have.

I went on to fly that Luscombe for hundreds of hours. I landed on top of a hill north of Pullman, I gave rides to my girlfriend, friends and strangers. I even took my mom up in the airplane and realized that she wasn't exactly comfortable with the experience of her youngest kid flying her in a 40 year old antique.

I flew it down to the San Francisco area in California for the 1989 Luscombe fly-in. I was the first of 110 Luscombes to show up. I had a blast flying in formation with a cub and 6 other Luscombes throughout the event. I won the youngest participant award and the "hard luck story" award because of my experience getting to the event--a story that I wrote about here.

I slapped a "Wien Air Alaska" sticker on the side of the airplane, simply because I couldn't think of where else to put it.

I had to sell the Luscombe to my brother 5 years after I bought it just to pay off some of what I owed him for the flight training and fuel he provided me. I should have taken out a loan to keep the airplane.

So where is that little airplane now?

My dad was having dinner last week with a friend who mentioned he was looking for a Luscombe. The next day, the gentleman found a project advertised and noticed it had a Wien sign on the side. So he called my dad and asked him if he or the airline ever had a Luscombe (don't laugh, Wien had a J-3 Cub and a Cessna 140 at one point). My dad couldn't think of how a Wien sign got on a Luscombe, and it wasn't until my step-mom told him that it had to have been my old airplane that the puzzle came together.

It seems after we sold the airplane that it was flipped over on it's back. Someone else bought the airplane and stored it for the next 15 years. So when it came up for sale, the friend of my dad's went and took pictures of it. I'm glad he shared them with me, but I actually shed a tear when I saw the airplane. Here's what I'm talking about:




Note the condition of the prop. I bought that Sensenich prop brand new in '89. The thought had occurred to me to buy the basket case and someday restore the airplane. But just about everything would need to be replaced, leaving you with a $25,000 airplane that you'll have $35,000 into. Not to mention the logistics of where to keep it and how to convince the wife that we needed to buy this airplane. I'm still not ruling it out, but it's a longshot.

Someday maybe ol "Shamrock" will fly again. I hope so. Whoever buys it, let me know when you're ready to sell it. I might be ready as well.

(Update: The airplane was sold to Garwin Burroughs in Oregon, I believe. We talked last year and his plan is to restore the airplane eventually.)



Kent's 15 minutes of fame. from Kent Wien on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Plane Answers: How to become a pilot at 40 years old

Plane Answers is in full swing now, and we plan to post it every Friday.  Since I was flying this week, I had to wait until Saturday to post the latest question where I talked about the various flight schools a pilot could use if they wanted to get their training done as soon as possible. I'd love to hear from the regulars here. Just use this form and if it's interesting enough to the general public, I'll use it.


I had a great trip this weekend, as those of you who read my twitter updates know.  I'll post the trip report for this Caracas and New York trip shortly.

The picture on the right is my good friend Russ and his Cessna 180 that he recently sold. I figured it matched the Plane Answers question enough to use it. But more and more pilots are selling their larger airplanes (like my brother) because of the higher fuel prices and the state of the economy.  It's all about efficiency now--in cars and especially airplanes.

Monday, April 7, 2008

You wouldn't think I'd fool you, would I?


Cessna 207
Originally uploaded by Fly For Fun
The April 1st edition of Gadling.com was entirely made up stories from the staff. All except one story, that is. Yep, you guessed it, my "Airline mistakenly carries passenger on the outside of plane" story turned out to be true.

Read this post to see the Anchorage Times article from 1992 that tells the story. I know the former manager of the airline who recently gave me some more details about the incident. It turns out the pilot thought that the kid had damaged the horizontal stabilizer since the airplane was flying erratically. He turned around and landed and was shocked to see the kid where he landed. He couldn't understand how the kid got there so quickly at first. As the story says, he was let go from MarkAir Express.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Plane Answers: How do pilots move up to Captain?


Captain Mike
Originally uploaded by Fly For Fun
I've been asking myself this one for years, it seems. Well, the truth is somewhere in this first post from a feature we're calling Plane Answers over at Gadling. Please contribute any good questions and comments! It's not going to work very well if I don't get some good questions--so fire away!

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Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
Grew up in Alaska, went to high school and college in Washington State. Commercial pilot since 1990.

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