Sunday, June 30, 2013

Flight Report: US Airways (Air Wisconsin) CRJ-200 RIC to PHL

The day started early for us, waking up at 3:30 am for our 5:50am flight from Richmond International Airport (RIC) to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL).  We were headed down to New Orleans MSY for a family reunion in Gulf Shores, AL. In addition to being my shortest commercial flight to date, at only 34 minutes, this was the first time I had ever flown into PHL! I ended up liking the Philadelphia airport a lot more than most of the airports I've been to; it was clean and had nice restaurants and story. It also has a Washington-Dulles style bus transfer system to move people between terminals. 

US Airways (Air Wisconsin) Flight 3926 Information
  • Flight: Richmond International Airport (RIC) to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
  • Flight Time: 34 minutes
  • Aircraft: US Airways (Air Wisconsin) CRJ-200 N413AW
  • Seat: 11F (window)

After checking the night before, I noticed that the latter half of the aircraft was to be empty except for us, or so we thought. Due to storms the day before, people had their flights cancelled and were re-booked to our early-morning flight. 

The US Airways CRJ-200 is honestly one of my least favorite planes to fly on. Honestly, I've never had a "bad" experience on any plane because I love to fly so much! But still... they are definitely aging both on the interior and exterior. 

US Airways (Air Wisconsin) CRJ-200 N413AW

Our plane at the gate in RIC

Here is the video of our takeoff from RIC which can be found on my youtube channel: MartinsAviation1

Here is an image from flightaware of route from RIC to PHL. Below is a graph showing our altitude and speed throughout the flight: as you can see, the flight stayed at a low altitude of 13,100ft: 

The flight went well overall. It was bumpy because of a front moving through the area, which made the scenery that much more interesting! There were at least 5 different layers of clouds at different altitudes. We didn't get to see too much of the sunrise, but at least we had the clouds. At our very low maximum altitude of 13,100ft, we were flying through, not over, the weather. 

Here are three photos of our flight through clouds en-route to PHL:

As I said earlier, the interior of these old CRJ's is definitely aging and not all that comfortable. Here is a photo of the last few rows (from 

The 34 minute long flight went by very quickly. Landing into PHL was surprisingly scenic. I had no idea that the over-river approach was as nice as it was. Landing into PHL, you could see downtown Philadelphia in the distance not too far away. 

As you can see from our landing video, the river approach was pretty nice! In addition, one can see the wingtip vortices being produced by the CRJ's wing: 

Thanks for reading and watching!,
Swayne Martin 
Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot

Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1 

Parked at the gate in PHL

Thursday, June 27, 2013

First Solo Cross Country Flight (KOFP to KFVX)

Yesterday morning, I took the biggest step in flight training since my first solo flight. With 15.9 total flight training hours, 44 landings and takeoffs, and 2.7 hours of solo flight time, I set out on my first solo cross country flight from Hanover, VA KOFP to Farmville, VA KFVX.

After having had my first opportunity for a solo cross country cancelled due to weather, I was excited to see if everything would work out for Thursday morning. In addition, the day before I was scheduled to fly, there had been a slight mechanical problem with the plane. I wasn't sure if everything would work out. Arriving at the airport, I was happy to find light winds and a fixed plane!

Swayne Martin in front of Tecnam P92 Eaglet 16HV

When I called 1-800-WX-BRIEF to file a VFR Flight Plan and get a Standard Weather Briefing, I found the winds to be pretty good. There were clear skies for the whole flight, 10 miles of visibility, and it wasn't too hot! Interpolating between 3,000 and 6,000 feet, the winds were about 15kts. At Farmville FVX, the surface winds were shooting straight down runway 21 at only 6kts. I called my instructor to get the go ahead for the flight.

My flight plan was to take me over the Flat Rock (FAK) VOR station, and straight on to Farmville. Coming back, I planned to fly Northeast, hit the James River, and follow it back to the Richmond/Hanover area. Here are some images from an online flight plan that I created. (*note, I did not use these plans for the actual flight, I used a Sectional Map):

Flying from Hanover to Farmville 

Returning to Hanover from Farmville

Here is the video of the first solo cross country from my Youtube Channel: MartinsAviation1. In the video, I use a combination of head-strap and suction cup mounts: 

Taking off from runway 34 at Hanover KOFP, I was excited for my first chance to really start "going places" by myself. The first solo cross country flight for any student is a big deal. It's the first time that you're not restricted to a 25nm bubble around your home airport. With the ability to fly cross country flights, I can now, in theory, fly myself anywhere in and out of the state non-stop.

Arriving into Farmville, I made a courtesy radio call at 10nm and 3nm out from the airport. I only really made one mistake during the whole flight, I almost set myself up to land on runway 3 at Farmville FVX vs. Runway 21 (which had more favorable winds). I quickly discovered that error, and corrected my entry point into the airport's pattern. The landing in Farmville went well. There was a slight crosswind, but nothing too bad. It was good practice! 

One interesting part about the Farmville Airport is that there are no true taxiways. One has to use the taxi "loops" paved on the sides of the runway. After landing on runway 21, I proceded down the runway, made a loop, and back-tracked (on the runway) to the run-up area. I did one more pattern at Farmville for practice. I thought it'd be fun to go for another round. You can see much of this in the video above. 

Returning to Hanover was pretty fun. I got to fly at a lower altitude, so I could see a little bit more below me. As planned, I flew towards the James River, and once hitting it, followed it back into the Richmond Area. By now, there was a layer of "few" clouds at 3,000ft... that made things pretty fun! 

Landing and taxiing to the ramp area at Hanover I had some time to reflect on all that I had just done. It went by so fast, almost feeling like a blur! When you're on your first solo cross country, you don't have too much time to think about anything other than flying the plane to your destination. That's one of my favorite parts of flying: you have the chance to forget about everything that's going on back home or on the ground. 

I can't wait to see what airport I'll be flying into next on more cross countries! Saturday morning, I fly through Philadelphia (PHL) to New Orleans (MSY) for a family reunion in Gulf Shores, AL. I'm starting to do this thing where I take a flight lesson wherever I travel. I'll be taking a lesson in Gulf Shores, Lake Tahoe, and in the Outer Banks (First Flight, Kitty Hawk) over this summer. 

Look out for more posts coming soon! Thanks for reading!,
Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Share Your Story: Justin Campbell, Army Veteran, Training Pilot

Welcome to the 16th "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show future aviators the diverse range of careers available to them. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved

A small town country kid who believed in the American Dream is where it all began for me. They said you could do anything and be whatever  you want to be as you worked hard and put your mind to it. For me however that all seemed far fetched.  All I knew was the small town of Ettrick, located in the southern most part of Chesterfield County, Virginia. The population back in the earlier days of my childhood was right around 1200, most of which was comprised of college students at Virginia State University, so contact with the outside world was limited. Home computers and the Internet weren't apart of my home until years later. I was raised by my Mother, the very best mother anyone could've asked for. We may not have had a lot of money, but what I did have was love and a supporting family which would take me a very long way.

My mother noticed I took to things that move, more so than most children. I'll admit trains were the first thing that peeked my interest since I use to walk to the train tracks about a quarter mile away from my house and watch the long CSX trains go by, and the AMTRAK Superliner from New York blaze through on the way to Florida. So for Christmas one year I received a model train set which quickly became my favorite new toy. At least until I took a field trip to the Science Museum on Broad Street in Richmond, VA. There I saw what looked like a weird but fascinating model of a person in an all white suit with boots and a bubble helmet.  We were in the part of the museum dedicated to Space Flight, and here is where my curiosity for things that flew began to peek.  

I'd always gazed up into the sky and watch low flying airplanes on their way into what was called Byrd Field, which is now known as Richmond International Airport, with the same fascination that I had for watching the trains. That day I made up my mind that I would either be an Astronaut or I would fly. And my mother, being the great mom that she is, didn't laugh or tell me I couldn't do it. She did just the opposite and told me that I could. I remember it as if it was yesterday. The next day after school we went to the library and she checked out a video about spaceflight (it told the story of the shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope with Astronaut Story Musgrave) and some books about airplanes. It was the best week ever, as I re-watched the film over and over. The next week got better as I received a book titled "Aircraft of the World" with cutouts of different type of aircraft which can be seen in the post titled "Standing Tall and Looking Good" on my blog. (  Eventually I received my own library card and began to dive into anything that was related to flying. At the time I was only probably in the 3rd or 4th grade.  That's when we knew I was going to grow up and be a little different. I studied hard and made good grades all the way up until high school.

Richmond International Airport

Fast Forward to the end of high school. I still loved aviation, and still wanted to fly more than anything. I had a decent GPA, and had some options for colleges.  However I chose the military. You're probably thinking Air Force right?  Well not quite. The Air Force had a waiting list at the time and I wanted to get out and live and experience things on my own and have my college paid for so that my Mom would not have that burden. So at only 17 years old I enlisted in the United States Army on an initial contract that obligated me to 4 years of service doing network communications . In hindsight it's one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I've been to many different parts of the world that I thought I would have never seen. My first duty station was in Seoul, South Korea, where I would live for one year. At the ripe age of 18 it was a magnificent experience that I will never forget.  I then went on to live in Seattle for some years, and now in Killeen, TX. Amsterdam, Portugal, Kuwait, Qatar, Germany and some other places have been visited throughout my travels in this career as well. One of the more interesting things I did get to see was the inside of Saddam Hussein's Al Faw Palace. He was a sick man but I must admit he had a beautiful home.

 Saddam Hussein's Al Faw Palace

However, like most things in life, it hasn't been all fun and games.  I've given 24 months of my life in support of the war on terrorism.  12 months in Iraq and another 12 months in Afghanistan all within a three year time period.  People come and go for various reasons in the military, but the one that hurts the most is when you know they are never coming back.  I've lost friends to combat injuries as well as suicides.  The impact on the families is immense and I've seen it first hand.  I will never forget those people that we have lost.  To me you will always be more than a number displayed briefly on CNN with the death toll.

Mountain Patrol in Afghanistan 

Keep in mind I said I do network communications.  It's a job I can say that I enjoy but it isn't flying.  Throughout the years the urge to take to the skies just wouldn't go away.  Near the end of my first enlistment I was all set to get out of the Army and pursue my dream of becoming a pilot.  My paperwork was all signed and ready to go and I was going to head off to what was then known as the "Delta Connection Academy", but I let the nay-sayers in the Army convince me that the economy was too bad and I ended up staying in.  Shame on me and my mother let it be known that I didn't make the choice to stay in for the right reasons.  It was a year after that decision where I found myself on a camp along the mountain tops in Afghanistan wishing I never signed up for more time.

Which lead me to where I am today.  Today I'm back home in Texas safe and in one piece with just over 15 months remaining on my contract.  I am currently enrolled in the Aviation Science program at Central Texas College pursuing my dream which is ironically enough being paid for due to my service in the Army by way of the VA.  I will be going from my PPL to Commercial Pilots License at CTC, and then transferring to Texas A&M University to complete my bachelors degree and Multi-Engine License as well as CFI, CFI-I, and MEI certifications without spending a dime out of my own pocket.  Another reason joining was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I took the controls of an airplane for the first time on the 30th of May 2013, and haven't looked back since.  My instructor is great, the fellow students at the school are great as well, and through the Internet I've met many helpful and genuine people.  My mother and family are still very supportive as is my beautiful Fiancee.  This time there's nothing anybody can say to be to stand in my way.I'm definitely going to enjoy this ride and it's only just beginning.  My name is Justin Campbell and this has been "My Story"


First of all Justin, I'd like to thank you for your service. I appreciate what you've done abroad to keep us safe at home. 

Secondly, very cool that you're going to be around the Richmond area again pretty soon! I can relate to you as a kid going to the Science Museum on Broad Street. I was too in your shoes, looking at the space exhibits and imagining myself flying or being an astronaut. We never knew each other, but we have been following similar paths. 

I can't wait to see what you'll be doing in just a few short years. I know for a fact that you will make it far due to your attitude, motivation, and willingness to work hard. 

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin 
Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Weather Delay: Postponing My First Solo Cross Country Flight

Waking up this morning, I wasn't quite sure what the day would be like. Originally, I had my first solo cross country flight to Farmville KFVX scheduled from 10am-1pm earlier today. After checking the weather before heading towards the airport, my instructor and I decided we'd better postpone it until late in the day. Luckily, the plane was available after 3pm, so we went ahead and scheduled from 4pm-7pm as a general time frame.

Bad weather from another day at Hanover KOFP

I still wasn't so sure if the flight would work out, the weather was marginal, or right on the edge. When we had to make the decision around 3:30 pm as to if I would head out to the airport, but things didn't look so good. At the time, the visibility and winds were fine, but there was a broken layer of clouds at both 3,500ft and 4,100ft. In addition, there was a dissipating storm moving towards Richmond from Charlottesville (we weren't 100% sure when/where it would completely dissipate). Because of this, we ended up making the decision to cancel the flight today. 

Here is a photo of the forecast from today: as you can see, the weather was improving, but was on the edge of being un-flyable for me: 

So sadly I didn't end up getting to fly today for my first solo cross country. The weather ended up being better than we expected and things improved by 5pm. With few clouds at 4,500ft and light winds, if we had made the decision later, it probably would have been a "go-ahead." Oh well, not much we can do about that now. 

Here is what the weather ended up being like

Aviation and flying, especially as a new pilot, requires a lot of judgment and decision making. Although I'm disappointed I couldn't fly today, I know it was the right decision to back off and wait for a better day. It's all about safety and measured risks. The risk today just wasn't worth taking. 


"Better to be on the ground wishing you were in the sky, than in the sky wishing you were on the ground."


I'm crossing my fingers that things will work out for later this week. Tomorrow morning, I'm heading to the airport to get my endorsement for this flight. As of now, I'm scheduled for either 9am-12am Wednesday or 8am-11am Friday. Maybe one of those days will work out, let's hope so!

Thanks for reading,
Swayne Martin

Saturday, June 22, 2013

First Off-Airport Solo Flight

In preparation for my first solo cross country (which will hopefully be in a few days), I flew my first solo flight out of the pattern on Friday to practice flying into and out of airports.

My flight took me Northwest of Hanover KOFP towards Lake Anna and it's airport (7W4). The flight went really well and it was nice to have the freedom to fly where I wanted around the area. This was the first time I'd ever really experienced that "free" feeling people get when flying. Before, I had either been with an instructor, or had been instructed to stay in the pattern (which isn't really all that fun).

The flight went smoothly as a whole except for my GoPro Camera locking up. It froze shortly after I exited the pattern at Hanover; luckily, it recorded my takeoff. I purchased a cable and adapter so that my camera could pick up the aircraft's audio and radio interfaces. The cable I purchased came from The Crazed Pilot, it worked really well! You can hear me speak at the beginning and end of this video:

I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be able to do my first solo cross country before I leave for Alabama next Saturday, which is also about when my instructor is heading off for Air Force training. After he's gone, I'll have to start looking more for a new instructor.

Let hope things work out, thanks for reading,
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Share Your Story: Jeff Ashburn, Boeing 777-200/300 Pilot

Welcome to the 15th "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show future aviators the diverse range of careers available to them. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved

I am happy to welcome Jeff Ashburn to the "Share Your Story" section of the blog. Jeff is currently an international pilot onboard the 777-200 and 777-300 with a major airline in the United States. After having flown in the Air Force and onboard DC10's, 757's, and 767's, he has now achieved something that many can only dream of. Jeff has the opportunity to fly Boeing 777 class aircraft around the world for a career. In this post Jeff describes how he got to where he is today and what it's like flying around the world for a major airline.


Putting American Airlines Back on Top

I have been asked to describe my journey into aviation.  Something I've never put to paper, or even given much thought.  I think that it was Woody Allen who said "eighty percent of success is in just showing up."  I can certainly relate to that.  Showing up for those first flying lessons.  Showing up at Air Force Officer Training School, at Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training and, eventually, showing up for my new hire class at American Airlines were all important milestones along the journey.  But perhaps it is the remaining twenty percent of the story that would be more interesting.

My father was a fighter pilot during the "Big War," flying Corsairs for the Navy in the Pacific.  My mother was a stewardess for Delta, in the late 1950's.  I grew up as the beneficiary of great stories from both sides.  Harrowing and colorful tales of pilotage from Dad and stories of the glamorous age of air travel from my mother.  It all sounded good to me!

I began flying in 1979, when I was 19 and about halfway through college.  I'll never forget that first 'orientation' flight, in a Beechcraft Sport:  N5193M

I ended up soloing in that very same aircraft, and had my private license by the time I graduated from college in 1981.  I had no plan.  After wandering around trying to 'find' myself, for a year or so, I 'found' myself standing in an Air Force recruiter's office.  And, thanks to the Reagan military buildup, they were willing to take a theater major from a small liberal arts college and send him to pilot training.  A year of flying the T-37 and T-38 training aircraft was a hoot.  Plus, they paid me!

I gave the Air Force the next 6 or so years.  About half of that flying the KC-135A (the original steam jet) out of Grissom AFB, near Kokomo, IN.

...and about half of it teaching cadets to fly at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

We used the T-41 'Fighting Mescalero' for this training.  Might have been the best job that I ever had, as I truly loved instructing.

In April of 1990 I was offered my long-sought dream job: a position with a major airline.  One year as an engineer on the DC-10, nine years as a First Officer the 757 and 767 and twelve years on the 777 later...and here I am, still living the dream.  

Our fleet of 46 777-200IGW (Increased Gross Weight) aircraft began flying about 14 years ago.  And, out of New York, they have kept me busy going back and forth to the likes of London, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and São Paulo.  With a smattering of Montevideo, Rio and the Caribbean.  Powered by their reliable Rolls Royce, Trent 892 engines, this airplane has proven to be a reliable workhorse.  As a point of explanation, these are RR, Trent model, 800 series engines, rated at 92,000lbs of thrust, trimmed back to 90,000lbs for warranty considerations.  180,000lbs of total thrust.  More, I've been told, than was needed to put Alan Sheppard into sub-orbit.

American began taking delivery of their new 777-300ER (Extra Range) aircraft this year, and I've had the pleasure of flying it about five times thus far.  It is quite an airplane.  Accurately described by our chief pilot as "the way that the Triple Seven was always meant to be."

The 777-300ER Jeff recently began flying

Jeff's "Office" 

Thirty three feet longer and with a greater wingspan than the -200, this beauty comes in at a maximum gross ramp weight of 777,000lbs.  A number that, for some reason, I find easy to remember.  The -200, by comparison, has a MRW of 650,000.  The airplane carries up to 315 passengers in a 4-class configuration.

2 GE90-135Bs power these new jets.  Up to 270,000lbs of thrust, in the palm of your hand, can be pretty cool!  This airplane is not power limited in the least.  However, its different wing design focuses on speed (.89 Mach max vs. .87 Mach max for the -200), and that does lead to a wing limiting inability to climb as high - generally speaking - as the 772.

To aid in taxiing an aircraft of this length, cameras are mounted on each end of the horizontal stabilizer as well as under the fuselage, to give the pilots a real-time look at the positions of the main and nose wheels.  And, believe me, seeing the actual positions of these, while in a turn, can be quite eye-opening.

Other enhancements, from a pilot's viewpoint, would be the MUCH more user-friendly Honeywell radar, enhancements to the information provided on the pilot's Primary Flight Displays (PFDs) and an improved crew rest area in the 'attic': two seats and two bunks above the First Class cabin.

Amenities for the passengers include a vastly improved entertainment system with much larger viewing screens, worldwide satellite-based Wifi, lie-flat seats in First and Business, and a walk-up snack and drink bar for the premium cabins.

Skip to 1:35 in the video for the AA777-300ER

She's one heck of an airplane, and a joy to fly! ...but aren't they all?  ;)

I can't wait to fly on the "New American!"

I certainly cannot complain.  The last eleven or twelve years have been fairly dark times for the U.S. airline industry, as a whole, but there is newfound optimism out there now.  This is likely a great time for young men and women to get involved in the industry, and take it to new heights!

Thanks for reading,
Jeff Ashburn 


Thank you Jeff for writing that piece for the blog. What a great story from the blog's first "widebody" (Boeing 777) pilot! It's amazing to read a little more about one of aviation's most sought-after jobs: flying international on the Boeing "Triple-7." I'd love to be in the same position as you one day!

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin 
Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Happy father's day to the greatest dad in the world who's supported me from the beginning. From the time I was a little guy, I was fortunate to be surrounded by supporting parents who always encouraged me to do what I love. I'm happy to say that because of him, I'm comfortable with who I am and what I want to be. 

Just a few short months ago, I was emailing him about how I'd decided I really wanted to be a pilot. From the time I was a little kid, flying and airplanes had been a passion for me. That passion died out for a few years up until about last November (2012). Since then, I've accomplished so much with his help including  my first solo flight (before I could drive!), my first cross country, and later this week, my first solo cross-country. 

My First Solo Flight

Here is an excerpt from my first email to my dad: 

"Hey I just wanted to let you know something I have had on my mind for a really long time...

This sounds silly I'm sure, but I have recently been really interested in becoming a pilot (I know, sounds dumb). But I have know for my whole life that I have a passion for travel, but really flying in particular...

****** once told me the best way to come up with a job or career for yourself is to find 3 things you're really passionate about and try to find a median between them. I took that to heart and couldn't agree more. Its something that gets me emotional (in a good way of course... which is kinda strange but could be a good thing). I have a real passion for travel and flying, I know in my heart I have that and always will. There are downsides to every career, and there sure are a lot with being a pilot, but I cant think of any of them stopping me. I look up in the sky everyday now at school and then and see planes flying around, it makes me so jealous haha and I keep saying "god, I have got to do THAT, I know thats what I want to do." 

Its something that I know I would regret for the rest of my life if I don't at least give it a shot. 
I know I am only 15, and it seems trivial to be talking about a career and stuff like that, but this is something I feel strongly about. There are a few other things I would like to talk about you in relation to this, but I think this is enough to throw out there for now..." 

Enjoying flying from the beginning

Can't wait for you to be in the plane with me soon, dad! I'll always remember what you've taught me about following my passion. Hope your father's day has been going well. 

Love you dad,
Twitter: @MartinsAviation