A Reflection

I don’t usually post about politics. But yesterday’s events recall a personal story that I’d like to pass along, not to argue or advocate, but simply to reflect.

In his speech last night, President-Elect Obama reminded us of the changes that have occurred in the 106-year life span of one woman who voted yesterday.

My mother was born and raised in a small town in Mississippi (my father was from upstate NY—they met when she was a librarian at an Air Force base; he was a pilot in training). I spent many summers in my youth visiting her side of the family. She was an only child, so I had only great aunts and uncles, all of whom had been born before or close to the turn of the 20th century. (If I’d taken better notes, I might have taken a run at Faulkner or O’Conner—the stories they could tell!). I provide that information as background, given that I’m about as white-bread and WASPish as they come.

About 10 years ago, when I was working on the first WWII version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Combat Flight Simulator, I helped bring several Tuskegee Airmen on board as consultants. At the product launch event, some of the famous fighter pilots joined the team for a dinner, and I sat next to an elegant man who still epitomized “officer and a gentlemen” long after he had retired from the Air Force.

As the evening went on, our conversation wandered to the South, and he told me a remarkable story about one of his visits home during (or maybe it was shortly after) the war. He was in his USAAF uniform, a captain, or perhaps a major, distinguished by the wings of a military pilot.

On the bus trip home to Alabama, he had to ride in the back. At the depot, he needed to call his family. But the clerk wouldn’t let him use the “whites-only” phone, and the one set aside for blacks was, of course, out of order. Now, he told me about those humiliations almost as matters of fact.

Then, as we spoke about the integration of schools, he said something astonishing. Recalling how in the 1950s and 1960s young men and women across the South had walked gauntlets of cursing, jeering, spitting segregationists on their way up schoolhouse steps, this man who had faced the Luftwaffe in the skies over Europe paused, and, in a quiet, firm voice, confided, “I don’t think I could have just walked past those people. I don’t think I could have looked straight ahead and just taken that.”

How far we’ve come.

Update: See this story from the Dec. 10, 2008 edition of the NY Times: Tuskegee Airmen Invited to Obama Inauguration.

Garmin 696/695 and Sporty’s Checkout DVD

image Garmin recently announced the 695/696 handheld GPS, and it’s showing the unit this week at AOPA Expo. Sporty’s has already produced a DVD, Garmin 695/696 Checkout ($29.95), which I’ll review here.

First, a few words about the 696 series. It’s clearly a cousin of the G1000 system that I’ve flown with and taught for several years. In fact, it looks like a compact version of the MFD in the G1000, and it shares many controls that duplicate or resemble those on the MFD bezel of the G1000, including softkeys, a joystick, and several dedicated keys (RNG, FPL, D, NRST, ENT, etc.). The 696 also shares many features with the 393/496 units also available from Garmin. For more details about the 695/696, download the user guides (free PDFs) from Garmin.

If you’re not a manual reader, Sporty’s is the first out of the blocks with an overview/training DVD to help you get your bearings and put the $3600 (696) unit to work quickly.

I noted in a recent review of a similar Sporty’s DVD, Flying Glass Cockpits, that Sporty’s often doesn’t take advantage of the menu/chapter features available with a DVD, forcing you watch the programs linearly. Garmin 695/696 Checkout addresses that deficiency by dividing the 51-minute program into eight chapters, which makes it much easier to review specific features:

  • imageIntroduction
  • Controlling the 696
  • Understanding the Pages
  • Basic Navigation
  • VFR Flight Planning
  • Utilities

The program itself is a straightforward, Sgt.-Joe-Friday tour of this snazzy new box from Garmin. The host notes that it’s not a substitute for the complete user guide, but watching the program a couple of times should provide most folks with a briefing sufficient for a VFR flight, provided a safety pilot rides along to look out the window while the proud new owner admires the map, charts, and other features on the 696.

The DVD focuses on the unit itself, not the host. The high-resolution video shows the screens and controls clearly, and it’s easy to follow the sequences of knob twists and button presses through scenarios that show you how to use the 696 on typical VFR and IFR flights (n.b. that, being a portable unit, the 696 isn’t approved for IFR operations). You won’t master the box in one viewing, but as noted above, reviewing specific sections of the DVD is straightforward, provided you’re checked out on your DVD player’s remote.

At $29.95, the DVD may seem pricey, but it’s a lot cheaper than an hour of a CFI’s time, especially since you can watch it as often as you like. In fact, I’m now ready to get my hands on a 696 and try it in the air.

New Aerobatic Videos

BruceAir-Video-Still I’ve put together several videos from some practice flights last week at the Extra 300L’s winter home at Boulder City, NV (61B) near Las Vegas (for a view of the area where the flights took place, follow this link. Nothing too exotic; just some basic maneuvers (plus a takeoff and landing) to get back in the groove after more than month away from the Extra. You can learn more about the various maneuvers on my Aerobatics page.

The videos run 1-2 minutes each. They’re all in Windows Media Player format.

The following links take you to the individual videos, which are stored in one of my SkyDrive folders.