2020-01-13

Flying United

This weekend was a big one/good one for me.  It was the last two trips (four flights) of my line training with United.  I flew with a fantastic LCA (line check airman) and learned much more than I would've imagine in out and backs to Dulles and Reagan.

A shot from the airport before the trip began.

The jet that finished the training.  This is an 800.  I've also flown a 900 and 900ER.
I look forward to the day to fly a 700 and maybe even a MAX.

Like pilot training, my United training has had its ups and downs, but overall it was a fantastic experience and nothing short of a blessing.  Why?  My recency in jets was far from what airlines typically want.  I was days from taking an offer from a regional airline, but then United called me out of nowhere.  Asked me to take their Hogan test, then invited me out for an interview.  The rest is history (recent history).  The short version - and reality - is no other airline was going to offer me a job with my gap in jet time.  I'll just say it...as I completed the line training with United, I hadn't flown a jet for 7 years and 11 months.  As it appears to me (and to United's credit), they honored the fact that I was instructing with a flight school.  I am hundred percent confident no other airline would do that.  I was very current in flying, but not in jets.  Like I said, nothing short of a blessing.  If God's hand wasn't involved in this, then I'm making it up, and not really flying with United.

- mm -

2019-12-31

CC2019 | Bridge Life | 2019-12


BRIDGE LIFE, 2019
Watercolor on paper, 12 x 9 inches (30 cm x 23 cm)

Written in the card...
I have been rather nomadic the last few months of my life and to keep it short, tell people I live under a bridge. So far, the bridges have looked a lot like hotels, but who knows what the next one will look like. Currently I'm trying to fly with United - which is quite an adventure. While being a nomad has its issues, in some ways it is quite liberating. It reminds me I need a lot less than I think I need.

My comments:
The commentary in the card says it well.  However, I will comment on the process.  Below are three other bridges I painted prior to the final.  One is very United, one is rather Golden Gate-ish and the last rather 'in your face'.  It was the 'in your face' which I though best emphasized the bridge.  However it was kind of dark.  So I capitalized on the dominance of the bridge but wanted to go with a much happier sky (outlook).  And so we have the result.  Yes, it was a chance to practice watercolor clouds (which are a challenge for me), but also made a much more positive image.  The colors are much better in the final.  That sky/grass combination lets you image a day that is absolutely perfect for you.  For me, it's about 58-62 degrees and a bit windy.  But still perfect.

The fun of painting without explanation is viewers can imagine anything they'd like.  I purposely keep my descriptions vague and, funny enough, I had a dream about this painting.  A young girl was explaining the purpose of the spikes extending from the pillars.  I 'corrected' her and told her why they are there (in my mind).  It was actually more of a nightmare because it was exactly the wrong response.  I wanted her to believe why those spikes were there, and in two sentences I crushed her imagination.  Luckily, it was just a dream.  God was reminding me of graciousness.

Left:  this was the first sketch which tried to show the architecture of the
United training center.  Epic failure.  Right, this was a random bridge.
I liked it, but it didn't really convey any of my emotions.

This was another fabricated bridge trying to emphasize the bridge more than it's surroundings.  I liked it and it was pretty close to being the final card.  But then I asked myself, "has the bridge life been so dark?"  Far from it, which is why I brightened up the entire scene but still made the bridge strong. The only thing I'd probably change is to move the bridge closer to the viewer (i.e., make it bigger).

This is the United Training Center and I initially wanted to incorporated it into some kind of bridge.  I love the architecture and the blue sky looked great.  It's part of the old Stapleton Airport.

Return to the Cards or the Galleries

- mm -

2019-12-29

United - What Now

While there is happiness in successfully completing a checkride at United and becoming type rated in a Boeing 737, you quickly realize you're no longer in training and basically have no idea what is going on.  What's my schedule?  Where am I going to live?  How do I commute?  I had to chose between many options and since I was essentially homeless, I definitely had options.  Live in San Francisco (my hub), live in Denver (close to the airport), or live elsewhere?  Surprisingly, I went with 'elsewhere'.  The biggest factors where other friends and proximity to a general aviation airport. I think I could have established friends and airport access in any location, but I went with 'familiar'.  It really feels like being a lieutenant all over again.  I was casual status at the Academy after graduation and found an apartment.  Slept on the floor until my hips hurt.  I actually can't remember if I bought a bed, but I think it might be the bed which is in my guest room.  Not sure.  
So, I did the same again.  Found an apartment, living sparse, and trying to figure out how to be in the right place and the right time for United's requirements.  It's kind of a lonely/obscure feeling.  There are things about it that I hate and love at the same time.
This is the relatively (completely) empty I currently occupy.  I think it's funny because it might be the last thing one would imagine a United pilot has as a life structure.  But I don't mind.  It's just a box and part of the adventure.  I fully trust God will show me the way.

The living room (L) and the Master Bedroom.  Air mattress and 'all'. 

There is a pool with a good view of the mountains!

- mm -

2019-12-27

United - The Beginning

I don't know about you, but when you show up to an event which requires x, y and z, I always wonder how I'll be received.  Fortunately, United received everything they asked for and a name tag was waiting for me.  It's amazing how good a name tag can make you feel.  It's like they were waiting for you and you did all the administration correctly!

First things first...this was on the desk when we walked in.  It's a great feeling to see your name assigned to a seat.  It meant all the admin I had to do prior was apparently sufficient.


This was a sheet we filled out during indoctrination.  It placed us on the DiSC assessment.  It's not DISC because of copyright rules...so it's DiSC.  I was squarely in the "D" with an offshoot in the "I". That could be read that I am dominant with the ability to influence people.  We had to list three things about us and what we bring to the team.  The "from Nebraska" was because I was struggling for ideas but the first one, "There was no event to wanting to fly" makes me proud.  It's a bad sentence, but it was meant to convey I've wanted to fly inherently - with no external input.  If I'm honest, it was God and his clouds.  The "Mark H" was for Mark Hartney.  At the end of the course we had to add a name of someone who was a major influence.  Normally I use my brother, but in the flying world, Mark H is pretty amazing.  His B-52 exploded on takeoff, he's in a wheelchair, and he still instructs pilots to this day!  That's pretty impressive.

This was a certificate after our basic indoctrination.  They had a "Winging" ceremony, gave us wings, took our pictures and allowed us to invite guests.  United is top-notch professional and leaves me wanting nothing, but this was a bit strange to me.  They winged us before we conducted any training in the simulators.  In the end, I retracted the "bit strange" comment because it became very clear that United was going to make us succeed.  They hired us, they believed in us, and they would train us so we are ready.  That winging ceremony was basically a public announcement that they were committed to our success.  That's pretty awesome.

I wasn't going to go home for Christmas under the notion that I wouldn't be studying enough, but I am very happy I went home.  It was great to see my family and I had to trust the training prepared me for my checkride.  I had a cool vision when returning to Denver.  It was a sun setting below a layer of clouds peeled themselves just back from the horizon.  A sky is never predicable.

Mom always makes incredible food (and soups) for Christmas.  This was a shot of her bean soup which, while delicious, suffers a #3 standing below her chili and chicken soup.  It's just the way it is.

I played Clue with a classmate and her husband two days before my checkride and I'm glad I did.  It reminded me that one can only study so much - you're either ready or you're not.  And God has the outcome.  I drew this on the hotel napkin as we played.  It helped me 'let go' of the anxiety.

Now it got real...

After about two months of training (ups and downs), I took my first checkride with United.  It was the culmination of our training, a no-kidding real event (FAA certified and approved), and the determination of whether or not you'd get a type rating in a Boeing 737.  I.e., if you don't pass, you have a black mark on your FAA record...forever.  You can survive, but it's ALWAYS there.  The pic above is the temp certificate you get.  I circled two things...the B-737 comment and the time.  11:18 PM.  The United Training Center is a machine!  Non stop.  And I didn't care one iota that it was almost midnight - because I passed!  Interestingly, it superseded my last rating almost a year to the day.  I took my ATP in December of 2018 and in 2019 was 737 type rated.  The funny thing about an ATP is it is "the highest level of aircraft pilot certificate".  That may be true, but it is hard to quantify a person and his/her skills.

This is the certificate (from a year ago in Texas) that I had to surrender.  The red arrow shows the hologram violated by a hole punch.  It's a bit sad to surrender a certificate and have it destroyed, but when you're on receiving end of an positive checkride and/or an upgrade, you quickly surrender.

I thank God and my family for the undying support in both the endeavor and the training.  It was a great dose of humility and character-building.

- mm -

2019-10-23

Nebraska | 2019-10

When I visit home (and the weather permits) I love to ride my old 10-speed around. I had some great weather this most recent visit and took some pictures which I think well-captured "Nebraska".

We have a cemetery on the west end of town which I visit almost every time I'm home. It's peaceful and there are some great trees. The older part is Mount Calvary and shown above left. I thought the sunlight was a great reminder of hope while standing among graves. On the right is essentially opposite the graveyard (facing east) and I thought it was a perfect "painters" sky.

This is also Mount Calvary but in panoramic. The picture terminates at the same fence line.

And this was a classic Nebraska shot. Flat, big sky, crops, and that's about it.
The ends of this shot are on the same road.

As an aside, my parents always make great meals.

- mm -

2019-10-16

Virginia to Colorado | 2019-10

I finally departed Virginia for the trek west.  Left about 1300 on 13 October 2019 for the final destination of Denver, CO. I hate driving for hours so I departed a day early to cut the travel time in half.
DAY 1, Yorktown to Lewisburg:  The first actual target was the National Museum of the United States Air Force, but I stopped about four hours short - in Lewisburg WV - which allowed me to hit a couple of events before I left.


DAY 2, Lewisburg to Dayton:  A convenient thing about stopping in Lewisburg was "The Lost World Caverns" were right next to it. Since I wanted a full day at the Air Force Museum, I could afford to take a visit since I only had a five-six hour drive in front of me.

The sign marking the turn...which looked like a road to a house.  And then I came across the GIFT SHOP which was a real surprise. I've never been to a gift shop in a tree...it was like Narnia. Average gifts for sale but excellent location.

As the road continued to begin to wonder if there's anything actually there. The "Lost World" caverns felt about right, but then as you crest the last hill, this cool little cabin (and actual residence) is waiting for you...waterwheel and all!  And to my surprise, this was also where the actual gift shop was located. You enter the cave (cavern) through a tunnel that is IN this building.  Cool idea.

There is no specific commentary to these and the following pics...just shots of the amazing formations created over so many years.  I did learn that it's stalagmites and stalactites.  For my entire life I thought it was a "g" in both. It's not.  But lest you forget...when the "mites" go up, the "tights" come down. Or funny enough, while in the cavern, I heard a grandma describe it as the "mites" are like mountains and the "tights" hold tight to the ceiling.  I guess that's more G-rated.

I don't show it here, but there was a "look up" spot. It's a shot straight up to daylight. In fact, it's how the found the cavern. It's where the farmer (the land owner) used to dump dead cows and sheep. It's since been protected and covered with a grate. Another cool thing is it's still how bats get in and out.

Aside from the amazing formations and dramatic lighting found in caves, one of my favorite things is they're always the same temperature. Always! This particular cavern is always 52 degrees. You can see your breath with the right lighting. If you get a chance, I recommend visiting. It's only about 12 dollars. I wouldn't necessarily drive to it but if you're in the area and/or on I-64, I'd stop.

Nothing really of note upon the arrival to Dayton.  If you want lodging, it's Area A.  I had pick A or B as I was on the interstate.  Chose A and was lucky.  I do have to show the room, however, as it was  a bit "cramped".

Living room on the left, the hallway on the right and TWO separate
sleeping rooms down the hall to the left.

DAY 2, Dayton to Crawfordsville:
Again, I had only about a four-hour drive to Crawfordsville which gave me time to see the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base / Dayton, OH.  As mentioned, this museum is the only reason I went "up" then "over" towards Denver.  So get ready for some pics!  In roughly the order I viewed them and with limited commentary to keep the post from running on...

Welcome to the Museum!

Nieuport 28 and Fokker Dr.1 

Curtiss P-6E Hawk and Boeing P-26A Peashooter
The paint jobs on both of these is amazing and the Hawk kind of looked like a Hawk to me.

A personal favorite (and always will be), the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. This is an E model.  I love its lines, its intake, and how it looks like it's literally chewing up the air.  Also, I always go the feeling it plays second fiddle to the Mustang, and I'm all about supporting an underdog.

It's hard to argue with a bomber called "Strawberry Bitch" as is this Consolidated B-24D Liberator. This North American A-36A Mustang is the first version of the Mustang for the Army Air Forces and you can see its resemblance to the P-51.  I snapped its pic because it's a good looking airplane and I wasn't tracking the P-51's predecessor.  It's also nicknamed "Apache" or "Invader".

German Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10 and  Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed.
Had to put these two together as they're both incredibly iconic as "the bad guy".

Two excellent paintings by Wilson Hurley. On the left, "Working a Pair of "TACOs" North of Checkpoint Pecker" and on the right, "Close Support, Troops in Contact". Hurley became a very renown landscape artist and painted these from his actual experiences.  He flew over 150 close air support missions in the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog (shown below).  Impressive.


 Two more close air support birds; the Douglas A-1E Skyraider and the North American F-100 Super Sabre.  The "Hun" has always been a favorite of mine, and the Skyraider not only has a cool name, it's a piston engine that flew a lot of combat in a jet age.

In the "Thud" vs "Rhino" debate, I have to go with the Thud. Probably because it's a single-engine, single-tail legend. I didn't take a picture of the Thud because I couldn't get an angle I liked.  This particular F-4 was certainly worthy of a pic...it's "SCAT XXVII" which was the last one flown by Robin Olds.  I'd just been to a gala a week earlier and heard his daughter speak. She does an excellent job keeping his story alive and sharing history. For the record, Thud and Rhino are street names. Their given names are Thunderchief and Phantom II.  Both legends in their own right.

A long-time favorite of mine, the North American F-86 Sabre.  Kind of a love-at-first-sight thing for me. When I took the picture of the one on the left, I couldn't place it exactly, but something was off.  Then I looked at the sign - it is an F-86A.  I'm not sure I could list the differences, but you can tell it's not a later model. The right picture is an F-86D and I don't particularly like their noses, but I took the picture because it had a great logo/mascot down it's sides. It was the logo of the 97th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, which is now the 97th Flying Training Squadron - the Devil Cats.

Two Twin-Mustangs! The North American F-82 Twin Mustang. I posted these for a few reasons.  They're pretty rare, these two are beautiful and earlier this year, I saw the one operational XP-82 (44-83887) at Oshkosh. There are only five left in the world, the two above, one on static display at Lackland, one being restored, and the one at Oshkosh.

These two aircraft have always had my attention because they simply scream "speed". On the left is the Convair B-58 Hustler and the North American XB-70 Valkyrie. Neither were very successful (2 Valkyries and 116 Hustlers were built), but they both look so cool.

Two more Hun shots - just cause.  This one painted as a Thunderbird

The Blackbird - the legend.  The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird or Habu. An interesting note...the story exists that President Johnson misspoke the designation (was RS-71) in a press conference.  In reality, CSAF LeMay asked the President to change it prior to the speech.

I like X-Planes.  One of these technically isn't an X-Plane but still a concept plane. From left to right, the North American X-15 (mach 6.70 and to the edge of space), the Douglas X-3 Stiletto (only one built), and the North American F-107A (based on the Super Sabre with intakes on top). If nothing else, you have to respect the things we've tried in order to improve aviation.

Go to this museum if you can!  It's free!

DAY 3, Crawfordsville to Nebraska:
As you might guess...pretty uneventful. Just lots of driving. I even looked around once I got there to see if I missed anything. Saw corn and that's about it.

Pretty good and effective trip.

- mm -