Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Zing Flight into Santa Rosa

This was one of my favourite and most thrilling single engine flight I had taken during my training days through the San Joaquin Valley in the middle of California. An entire night of foggy weather flying in the Californian winters, only to be greeted by a beautiful sunrise almost instantly and magically dispersing the mist that lay ominously beneath us, barring our view of the green dewy ground!

We took off from Castle Airforce Base, Atwater, CA with barely any fuel in our tanks. Cessna 172s are 4 seater, single airplanes capable of flying for about 4 hours exluding the reserve time and can do 500 km at a stretch without breakin' sweat. Taking off from Atwater at 0430 local time, we took a short hop south of Atwater for fuel in the city of Merced, CA to top up our tanks and prepare a flight plan to Santa Rosa, approximately 335 kms North of Merced.
Winds favoured us that morning, with a graceful breeze of about 12 kms/hr from the Northwest. So the the flight plan was made, and it was gonna be a smooth ride to Santa Rosa in about about 2.5 hours. This picture to the left was taken on our way from Merced to Modesto as we climbed to 4,500 feet over Castle Airforce Base with our barracks literally invisible between the criss cross of roads and blocks of houses near it. Outside air temperature grew colder as we climbed to 8,500 feet to make the optimum use of the already dense cold air of the California Valley. The denser the air, the better is the performance, however, to save fuel and increase range, we climbed higher to maintain a lean air and fuel mixture. The climb to 8,500 would not have been necessary had it been summers. For a summer flight to Santa Rosa, a cruise level 4,500 would suffice. The cabin temperature was maintained at about 14*C while the outside was not reported to us yet.

It was pretty chilly in the cabin and it was getting harder to move fingers to cross check instruments and make the fuel calculations every 30 mins into the flight. It was about 0425 hrs in the morning and everything seemed alright except that our airspeed had been continously decreasing while trying to maintain level altitude of 8,500 feet at the trim settings. We had our carb-heat on just in case we didnt have a dead carb at 8,5. The airspeed kept falling further below 80KIAS as we tried to troubleshoot. I made a quick glance at my left wing to check for ICE and there I found the root. The leading edge of my plain was quickly building ice disrupting the airflow above and beneath the wings leading to decrease in airspeed and lift.

We took to manual brain override and decided to enrichen the mixture, gave in full carb heat and began to make a shallow dive on idle engine and keeping the airpseed constant at 90KIAS and began to use deep rudder movements to create turbulent relative wind in and around the wing area and the empennage. We had flown higher then the freezing levels of Californian winters, and the lack of freezing level information led to this error. My friend and I were in sweats at 14*C in the cold cabin! Hearts pounding, adrenaline rushing through our systems, greasing our head connections, so that we could think clearly.

We dived to an altitude way below the freezing level and reached 2,500 feet. The air outside here was relative warmer than up there, and this difference could be felt
even by skin. After this, we decided to remain at this altitude for the rest of the flight. We obviously burnt a whole lot of fuel for this trip, but as Pilots, the safety of our flights is priority one and we maintained that rule until we landed at Santa Rosa early in the morning at about 0715 hrs. The first thing after getting off the plane at KSTS was to get a fuel check and another $300 top up, and a total de-icing of the plane. And what could have been better than brilliant warm sun of the Golden California!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Battered Battery

MOST of us use our laptops plugged into the wall outlet without ever realizing the effects of the same on the battery being used. Most lappies use the Li-Ion batteries, and for most efficient use, its highly recommended to use the wall outlet only for the purpose of charging the battery. I will explain as to why this is neccessary...

When a battery is connected to an AC source, the electrodes erode as the electric current is passed through the contacts and through the battery in a process called as 'electroplating'. The deposits on the anode and cathode in turn gradually but certainly, increase the internal resistance of the unit. This causes a voltage drop
across the polar caps of the cells as the amperage drawn by our computers remain the same. As this happens continuously over time, the run-time of the battery lowers from 88,000 mh useable (3 hrs) to about 14,000 (35 mins) over a period of 2-3 years.
Li-Ion batteries usually have an efficient age limit of 2-3 years depending on the usage. To best avoid this run-away electro-erosion, I would highly recommend to use your laptop batteries in a constant charging and discharging cycles per use. Li-ion batteries should be charged typically to 100% and discharged to utpo, if not less than 12-15%.

Lot of other tips are available online, but I found most of them redundant and producing negligible results. However, this method has been tried and tested by me over a period of over 6 years. Using this method of charging and discharging, my battery backup time remained in the efficient bracket of upto 3 hrs when new, to 1:10 mins after 3 years.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Bigger Picture

2nd December 2009, 0215 hrs

NATIONS rise and fall under great leaders. The great names that we know today, did deeds that no normal human could have done in their lifetime. They were super-human people who changed the world, generated massive movements and changed minds at the very individual level. Yet, today, those names have been eroded away by the timeless winds. They were born just like you and I, did things like you and I, and passed into the history silently. They have left traces, but they are only traces. They are impermanent and ephemeral and very easily forgotten by those who live-on in the times which were brought to them through their ultimate sacrifices. The real life Hero’s of their times have evanesced, met the dust. Their presence, their charismatic personalities will never be felt nor perceived again. They are lost in time, and as we wade through our lifetime, those feelings will be long lost, those thoughts would cease to exist in our minds. And before long, each trace of the Great Men who once lived among us, will be lost forever.

Great Men live, become popular, become great leaders, become rich and famous, and are extremely influential people who live a complacent life. But eventually, all perish. Death overcomes all greatness. Death is the ultimate truth. It is a transition from one abode to another. The mere lifetime of a mortal on Earth is miniscule as compared to the vastness and agelessness of the Universe. Death is just a transition of the ‘energy’, the ‘essence’, the ‘life force’ to traverse from place to place in the Cosmos, where an individual life lives on for a small period of time before moving into another realm elsewhere. Earth, the planet we live on, is just one of the billion realms, where life of an individual will exist for a short while. It is a possibility that man neither knows of, nor can hope to know of. It is beyond his scope, and hence beyond any argument.

We’re travelers, and this is the road. Death is a checkpoint which you pass, to find your next destination. Our current destination is here, the Earth. The next destination will be known when we pass the ‘checkpoint’. The luckiest, or perhaps the cursed among us will live for anywhere around 100 years and this period is a
negligible cosmos time. There has to be something beyond the little window period of the ‘life’ that we live here, on the Earth. If divinity was to look at us from up above, it’d see our lives pass away in one mili-second. We were born, finished our lifetime and died in what was just a mili-second for it. Such is the vastness of time and distance of the universe, that it makes a lifetime on Earth a cipher. And hence, we should perceive the concept of Death at a totally different level altogether. Life is so important, that it cannot have a significance of a mere 100 years in the entire cosmos. There is more to Life after Death and this is certain.

We came into the world alone and we’re going to go alone. This journey from checkpoints to checkpoints will also be taken alone. It’s a truth of life that we know, but still dismiss it and keep it at bay. If everyone could think about their lives this way, why would we fight and kill each other after all? Why fight over religion, property, love, wealth at all? Greatness is greed. The Greatness of the Great Men will eventually disappear and all that will remain of them will be nothing! All the violence, wars, battles, deaths, sins, crimes is ‘Maya’-the sinful force that drives every sinner. And Maya is the result of a Mans inability to realize the truth about his true destiny.

All life is sacred. And life is magic. Science itself cannot describe what ‘consciousness’, ‘memory’ and ‘pain’ exactly are! No science can ever create consciousness. And life is that consciousness, without which, it is just physical matter. And it is at this point, that Science cannot question the ‘Magic of Life’. At one point of time in his life time, every man thinks about his own existence. He realizes that Death is the truth and absolutely certain. Before such realization,
thoughts of his demise don’t bother him. He takes life for granted, and convinces himself there is enough time to live and he could die another day. But dismissing such thoughts is also Maya. However, it is extremely difficult for a man to thwart Maya and keep it at the fringes of his actions. Those few people who are known to have done so are not mundane. They know the truth, and they are the few who are not the slaves of their senses. They are different people. They are not like you and me. They know much more than we do, and they will not waste their time educating people like us, whose minds are fogged by ignorance and incognizance. The more we disregards the truth, the longer we shall remain away from peace, truth and the significance of life on the true scale, -the scale which includes our own present life.

If the destruction of any form of life is a sin, then why is birth not a sin? Every power in the Universe attains equilibrium through balancing all forces, physical and spiritual. Similarly, there has to be a cosmic balance between life and death. If the power of giving life is in the hands of mortals made by the divinity, then why is the authority to extinguish life not with us? Why is it a sin to terminate any life? It is a sin to end life, because the lifetime of every life force in the universe has its finite time, and every living thing has the right to live through that lifetime, and undertake its journey in solitude, trying to seek the ultimate truth of the “Bigger Picture”.