Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Not Selected for NASA

I contacted my astronaut friend today to get any word about how the NASA selection process is going.  He said they'd made the first cut and that if my references weren't contacted, then I've been passed over, which means I didn't make it to the "Highly Qualified" pile.  So this one's over.  At least I know now.  

I wonder who looked at my application and what they thought...I'll try again if they open up the application again three years from now (they usually open it every 4 years - since 2000 anyways).  But by then I'll be 42 and my friend said once I'm over 40, it gets a lot harder to get selected.  If I made it past the first cut this time, I'd think there might be a chance next time.  As it stands now, it all seems very unlikely.  18,000 other applicants were too hard to beat.  

So the dream is disappearing, but still maybe one last chance, though an unlikely one.  For now, it means some good things...I can keep teaching at Berkshire School, keep flying Freddy, keep sailing Daphne, keep driving Bessie.  Perhaps a future sail across the Atlantic will be better than a flight in space.  I can keep playing the guitar and bass and I don't have to move to Houston.  

I didn't expect to get selected, but it's still disappointing. For now I'll just have to be an astronaut on planet Earth.  I'll just have to make that do for now and maybe forever.  Generally it is awesome being an astronaut on Earth, but I wanted a taste of space.  Maybe someday.  I'll keep training, as the training might be almost as good as the real thing.  

Thanks to all who've supported and encouraged me in this pursuit.  One of the best part of being an astronaut would have been how many people I could have shared the experience with, and also riding a rocket into space would have been pretty cool too. 

Back to Earth adventures!  To infinity and beyond!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Almost Home

Almost a thousand miles today. I got out of the cockpit and after more than eight hours of flying today and thought, I need to sit down!  So after a pee break, and put fuel in the wing tanks, I climbed back in the cockpit. I woke up just outside of Houston this morning. Part of me wanted to see if I could make it all the way home with some awesome tailwinds created by a high and a low boundary. But I stopped to see some friends (Davey and Fox!) and almost saw some more (Peske and Ben!) and now find myself in a quiet airport in PA. 

Although I would have liked to have crossed the one thousand nautical mile mark today, I'd rather be right here.  I'm not quite ready to be home, not quite ready to land and immediately unpack.  I woke up at 0500 this morning and while I feel that I'm exhausted I also feel the life in me.  They do a strange thing in PA where they lock the airports, even the pilots out after a certain time. (All other states seem to trust pilots.) And while I can't go inside right now, I'm perfectly content sitting in my vessel, my ship, my craft.  We clean up, debrief the day, record the facts of the day. A sweet dinner of apples, arugula, triscuits and cheese.  

I sat watching the last light disappear and felt like I was on a boat in a peaceful anchorage. So happy to sit and look at the sky, look at the dials, contemplate flying more than 900 miles.  Free miles from the wind push no me along. After many months of many hours of computer time, it is so nice to have the eyes open and to be looking across miles and miles. One mile straight down and tens of miles in all directions. 

Life is good.  I love being a pilot, I love my ship. I love that pilots don't usually sleep in their planes or have skateboard in their planes.  If I never get to be an astronaut in space, at least I'm getting to be one on planet Earth. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

By Sky to Houston

Repairs in progress.
It's time for some "By Sky" to Houston, TX to have a meeting with an astronaut.  Being a teacher now, I have a long spring break, and so instead of flying commercially when my astro contact said to come down to visit, I am flying Freddy (N7202G) a 1970 Cessna 172K Skyhawk that's been in the family for at least 30 years.  The details of the story have to be saved now for a potential story for Popular Mechanics, but here are some of the memorable bits so far...

Crossing Delaware Bay
The test flight to VT to see Chad play a show proved the carburetor heat cable needed replacing when it came off in my flight.  I landed safely but had to work a fix to get back to my local airport and mechanic that involved a nearby ACE hardware store and a few hours of trial and error.  In Delaware I was told to keep clear of the restricted airspace where aerial gunnery practice was happening.  Then saw two fighter jets dead ahead about to practice their gunnery on me...then I realized they were sea gulls.  In North Carolina, I stopped for some surfing with two of the other three Crazy Horse guys.   In Mississippi, I landed at an airport that was staffed from the prison across the street.  (It seems to be a very strange prison, but the hospitality from Terry (serving 10 years on a crack cocaine dealing charge - he's served 8 years, 2 months so far) was outstanding.  And then there is landing at Ellington Field in Houston which did not disappoint.  Vectored in for landing traffic, I was told I was number two to land, following the F-16.  I love this airport, and am now in one of their pilot sleeping rooms.  No charge for pilots.  Amazing.  Freddy is parked near a T-38.  The same jet trainer that the astronauts use to keep up their proficiency.

Three days, 16.3 hours of air time.  Over 1500 miles flown.  One weather delay, two surf sessions.  Flying is unreal.  It is amazing that I can throw some switches, turn some dials, press some buttons, pull and push some levers and end up in Houston!

Tomorrow to be a NASA tourist and Monday to have a meeting that may (or may not) impact my future...Very happy to be in Houston!

Sunset as I arrived in Houston.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Spacewalk T-shirts!

I'm making shirts for my tree service!  See below for info if you're interested in having one sent to you.  $20/shirt.

If any of you don't know, I've been a certified arborist since 2006 and made my business a real thing this past fall.  Since '06, it's been something that I did in between other contract work but this year, I've been doing it as my main work.  I named the business Spacewalk Tree Service because when I'm in the trees I often feel similar to what I imagine what an astronaut feels like on a spacewalk.  Hopefully someday I'll have a chance to compare them myself.

The shirts are being printed by friends of mine at Fox Island Printworks on North Haven Island in Maine.
American Apparel Track T: XS-2XL…
(They're very soft, good shirts.  State Radio uses the same kind.)
If you want one, email me ( the following:
Color (best on black or navy - AA calls them "tri-black" or "tri-indigo")
The cost is $20/shirt and you can pay once the shirts are made at the end of the month. I'll send the shirt to you.
 The actual shirt will have the typed SPACEWALK TREE SERVICE below it as shown in the mock up below.

Yeah, springtime! My best to you and your trees.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Day 4E: Washington, Iowa to New Castle, Pennsylvania

Highlights of today:
1. A dawn discussion with a young South African crop duster.  They fly the hell out of their machines.  No airport pattern, they head straight for the middle of the runway 30 feet up, kick it high into the air to lose their airspeed, kick it hard over and land.  Remarkable flying that I won’t try in Freddy.  Twenty flights a day.  Fly, load, fly, load…until the conveyer belt loader broke and I had to leave. 

2. Flying above the clouds, which is always a highlight. 

3. Stopping after my second flight at Neil Armstong Airport in Wapokoneta, Ohio, Neil’s hometown.  I met a family that included a grandfather, a father and his two young daughters.  They had flown over from elsewhere in Ohio in their Cessna 170.  They invited me to join them in the courtesy car so we drove to the museum discussing space and flying and the like.  The museum was fun, we practiced landing the shuttle simulator, watched a film on the first lunar landing and poked around at the displays. 

4. Most air traffic controllers are male.  Every now and then there is a female controller and it is nice to hear a change in tone.  But today, there was this amazing voice on the other end of the airwaves.  There was something about her voice.  I could have listened to it all day as I tried to picture who was behind the voice issuing appropriately strong, instructions and communications to her aviators.  When I had the airport in sight and were bidding each other the customary “Good day” or “Good night,” I couldn’t resist telling her that she had a beautiful voice.  She responded that I did too, but she was just being polite.  I’ll keep a listen out for that one again. 

5. The double sunset I saw when the sun set on the cloud layer I was flying above, and then again on the ground as I was descending. 

6. Playing my travel bass guitar with a headphone amp and The Black Crowes on my ipod also playing on my headphones through the amp, playing and dancing around in the dark, under the stars as the space station flew overhead. 

I should make it home tomorrow!  Returning is always a bitter-sweet experience.  How I love sitting in Freddy’s cockpit.  It’s been a fantastic voyage so far.  A few more flights to go!

Friday, September 12, 2014

DAY 3: Ogallala, Nebraska to Washington, Iowa

Eastward!  I left Ogallala late morning today.  The clouds lifted just enough to warrant a try, knowing full well I might just take a loop around the pattern.  The clouds were low, only a few thousand off the deck, but it was enough.  I paid careful attention to the antennas on the chart and made sure I stayed far away from them, even knowing I was above them all.  I don't usually like to fly only a few thousand feet up but with I-80 below me and an endless grid of fields and N-S/E-W criss crossing roads, I knew if I had an engine failure, I had quick options.  Thankfully, I did not need such options. 
I landed in Maryville, Missouri and hoped to beat my record of 45 minutes before I start the engine again, but was delayed due to a long weather briefing.  IFR conditions prevailed but at last we came to a solution of heading northeast to make a little bit of progress and set me up for tomorrow.  

I passed two beautiful cranes up high today.  So beautiful to see them in their element, up high soaring along.  Otherwise, the most interesting thing I flew over today was a huge abandoned ammunition cache.  Bunker after bunker for miles and miles.  

Ammunition bunkers.

A coal plant.  To think, some people think a wind turbine is an eye soar.

I hope there were some people enjoying this sunshine on the ground.  They must have done something right!
So off I went back into the sky and eventually made it to Washington, Iowa.  I passed the airport in hopes the briefer had been wrong or that conditions had changed, and I found a huge opening in the sky, but beyond it was solid and low overcast.  I hit my personal minimums and turned around but first climbed a few thousand feet in the huge hole just to see a bit of the sun that I hadn't seen in a few days.  So beautiful on the white clouds from above.  

So beautiful above the clouds.
Back down I went and back to Washington for a smooth landing, the cheapest gas yet at $5.05/gallon and a few crop dusters on the tarmac.  

I fueled up, organized and then tied Freddy down for the night.  The legs were eager so I ran the runway as I did this morning in Ogallala.  For how much I like the mountains and the sea, there's something to be said about the plains at dusk on a cool night.  The sunset reminds me of the sunset pictures from space, the open views satisfy my aviator's want to look at the sky in all directions.   

It is remarkably colder today and I've put on pants and shoes for the first time in what seems like months.  I'm now about 900 nautical miles from home.  Within striking distance but rain will probably preclude me from arriving home.  Maybe that will mean a stop at Neil Armstong airport in Wapakoneta, Ohio - Neil's hometown...

My bed for the last two nights.
How I keep busy when I'm organized and exercised.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

DAY 2 EASTBOUND: Ogallala, Nebraska

Homeward bound I am, or was...and hope to be again soon.  I managed to leave Lander before the storm, only to make it to Nebraska for the storm.  One bumpy flight with lots of clouds; not quite the beautiful puffy ones, but the ones that have rain under them, the ones that take concentration to avoid.  The mild turbulence stems the usual relaxation I feel in the cockpit and a few tosses of Freddy made me laugh after bringing the wings level again.  Toward evening things settled out a bit and the ride happily got smoother.  Ten miles out from the airport, I had to duck under an overcast layer of clouds at about 2,000 feet.  So clear above the clouds and so dark below.  It was such a distinct layer, I wanted to try to land the plane on top of the clouds and spend the night there.  

I headed below, over flew one airport then decided to divert 10 miles to the North to an airport with a second runway and automated transmitted weather broadcast.  (I like having the weather info both when I'm in the air and on the ground and the second runway give me better options for taking off into the wind.)  I landed in Ogallala, Nebraska (named after the Ogallala Sioux Indians), fueled up Freddy, found the pilot's lounge, had dinner in the plane as I logged my flight and tidied up the place and checked the next morning's weather, and then called it a night on the comfortable couch in the lounge.  

Today's weather was rain and overcast skies all day long with low ceilings.  By flight rules, the area was marginal VFR or marginal visual flight rules, so technically I could have taken off.  However, the number one cause of accidents is pilots flying from VFR into IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions.  So I did my best to exercise good judgement, and stayed on the ground.  

Around mid-day, I went into town and climbed the hill known as "Boot Hill" where all the cowboys were buried.  Apparently I'm in the cowboy capital of Nebraska.  Then went to a petrified wood museum, and had lunch at the local grill.  I asked two men in their sixties if I could sit down with them and they said yes.  There was not much conversation after that, despite their conversation before I got there.  I asked many questions about the town and about their work, one half-seemed to roll his eyes with each of my questions, but was very polite when I said goodbye.  They were certainly not the chatterbox that I ran into at the petrified wood museum.  Otherwise I had very friendly interactions as I got a new watch battery and at the music store.

I'm hoping to continue east tomorrow, at least by the afternoon.  More rain on the way with a chance of snow tonight!  Freddy's tied down facing east, very patiently, eye on the prize.  Now out to the plane to scrounge up some dinner.