Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Waiting Game

As most of my friends and family know, I'm in process to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATC).

So tomorrow, I'm faxing in my application to the FAA. They've appointed me to a tower somewhere in Florida, but I have no idea where. Mary and I have been discussing worst-case-scenarios, but most of them don't actually sound that "worst case".

Before I get into it, all FAA-operated towers, approach facilities, and en route centers have an ATC number that indicates how much traffic that facility has. This number directly correlates to the facility's complexity, how long it takes to get trained there, and how much the staff there gets paid. For instance, a little 1-runway airport in the middle of nowhere might be an ATC-5, whereas a big airport with lots of heavy airliner traffic might be an ATC-12.

As far as Florida options, most don't sound horrible...

Pensacola: Low cost of living, right on the the Gulf Coast, ATC-9 level facility, plenty of military traffic to keep it fun. The downside is it borders Alabama and is in the Western-most tip of the Florida panhandle. Driving down to visit our families would be an 8 (or more) hour ordeal, so quick weekend trips up-and-back are out of the question.

Miami: The "big mama" of the state, she's an ATC-12 and comes fully loaded with both a complex tower cab and a 14-radar station TRACON. Going from zero to ATC-12 is not advised, but I think I'm up to the challenge. It could take forever to check out, though; there's a lot to learn, a lot to absorb, and a lot of responsibility to take on.

Fort Lauderdale: I like this airport. It's an ATC-9, close to where I live now (15 minutes away) and is quite busy for its size. While they're extending their south runway, they currently only have a single runway capable of handling airliners. When I was at Miami En Route Center (the facility which feeds all the traffic into Florida) the traffic going into FLL looked like a conga line.

West Palm Beach: Not really familiar with this one, aside from driving past it on occasion. ATC-8 I believe. Pretty serious driving distance, but at least it's within 1 hour of our families.

Tampa Area: There's two major airports in the area - Tampa Int'l and St. Petersburg - plus an associated radar facility attached to TPA. Cost of living is pretty high, but it's a good city with a lot to do. We've been up there twice in the past year and enjoyed ourselves.

Jacksonville: Ugh. I've been up in that area. Just...ugh. Boring. Muggy. Resembles the Deep South more than Florida. I just don't really like it at all. Saint Augustine on the coast is beautiful and quaint, but Jax just didn't rub me the right way.

Orlando Area: Lots of airports in this area, but the king is Orlando International. Orlando's a great place to visit, but I really wouldn't want to live there. Once you get past the Disney / Universal schlock, there's some pretty nasty areas there. Too much "touristyness" (yay - new word) results in a city that feels like plastic - cheap and recycled. Then again, cost of living in the suburbs is pretty decent.

So... those are the major places. There's a few other scattered airports around - Florida Southwest Regional (Fort Myers), Sarasota, Tallahassee, and more.

It's not up to us at all, so we'll see what happens. I'm hoping for Fort Lauderdale, maybe even Miami Tower. I want to stay close to home, to our families, to our businesses. While change is good, the next few years will most likely bring us a little one, and for that you need stability and family.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Most Dangerous Person in the World is...

...a new pilot! (i.e. me).

So far I've taken up 5 people, and it's been fascinating seeing everyone's reactions to their first adventure in a small aircraft. Let's do a rundown:
  • My dad: Well, not a "passenger" - more of a safety pilot. :) I just wanted him to be my first passenger, since he was the main reason I went into pilot training in the first place. I got a little embarrassed on my first landing attempt - the local controller gave me a hard time after I went around, even thoughthe ass. It was just a real special moment for me, having him by my side the first time I took to the air as a pilot-in-command.
  • Adriano (Friend): My first non-pilot passenger, he was a bit...err...anxious. While I was doing my pre-flight, he photographed every dent, rust spot, and crack in the airplane. Keep in mind, most 1970's era Cessnas are pretty beat up on the outside - it's what inside (i.e. engine and structure) that counts. Of all the people I took up, he was definitely the most nervous.
  • Mike (Friend): Mr. Calm - he was relaxed but alert.
  • Ed (Friend): Like a kid in a candy store, he was constantly taking photos, looking around. He was thrilled when I let him fly a bit. After we got back, he was looking all over at the flight training brochures.
  • Annemaria (Actress): A beautiful young actress from Finland, Annemaria was playing the role of a Cessna search and rescue pilot in a local Miami play. She was very calm on the outside, but she told me afterwards that she was feeling a little nauseous - probably nerves, she said.
Future victims:
  • Mary, my wife: I don't know what it's going to take to get her in an airplane with me.

Brave New World

After reading so much and posting so much on so many different forums throughout the wide, wide Internet, I decided it was high time I snagged a little space of my own. What you'll find here will be various subjects such as aviation, web design, some politics, and some entertainment.

So anyways... here we go!