Friday, December 11, 2015

Morning's Glories, Evening's Worries by Bob Tilden

Stories from a Night Express Caravan Cargo Pilot

Morning's Glories, Evening's Worries
By Bob Tilden

Each morning as I climb away from Newark, I wonder what sort of glory will be provided by the coming dawn. By the time that the sun actually rises I will be 150 miles away, but still I look at the day's first light in the northeast to see if the sky offers a hint. I watch, wait, and anticipate while daybreak moves into dawn.

As the sky brightened last Wednesday morning, I could see a cloud bank in the distant right. It was unusual in that it was a fairly regular deck of tightly grouped puffy clouds with a jagged ...almost saw-toothed... ridge of clouds at its far edge. The ridge contained small clouds that were profoundly vertical in nature; almost like miniature thunderheads. It became apparent that I was gradually converging with these clouds as I traveled northwest.

The sun makes a bright spot on the horizon as I cruise above puffy clouds at 8000ft.

I took several pictures as I flew along in the brightening sky, and by the time that I was crossing Canandaigua Lake, the cloud deck had melted into a thick haze below my altitude. The vertical clouds had crumbled too, but their remnants cast long shadows into the golden sunlight that had set the haze aglow. It was a fascinating sight, like pillared ruins standing in desert sands.

I knew that I was looking at the pretty side of bad news, but that was OK. There was talk of thunderstorms for that evening, and the sight of small clouds able to blow straight up at dawn is a confirmation that the atmosphere was becoming unstable. Wednesday was hazy, hot, and humid, and it was no surprise to see thunderstorms erupt in the late afternoon.

I had an uneventful 8 PM trip from Elmira to Rochester, but my 10 PM departure from Rochester was made in rain that was flanking a thunderstorm. I paralleled the easterly track of the storm until I could cut in front of it, and thought that my worries were over. The controller called to say that "the computer" had re-routed my flight over the Catskills rather than the Poconos, but that the storms in that area were dissipating rapidly. I flew on happily, with the assurance given by the controller.

As I crossed Hancock, I passed into the next control sector, and things were different. This was a more easterly sector, closer to the action around the City. It was apparent that this sector was the twilight zone, where the Computer's projections were met by the facts of the weather. Some poor guy in a business turboprop wanted to turn right, around a storm, but the controller couldn't let him. Other planes were being given holding instructions.

I realized that the rest of this flight would be busy, because once planes start to hold, there is no guarantee of anything. Arrival could be delayed minutes or hours, and the hold could last so long that the plane would have to go someplace else for fuel before resuming the trip. Once you are given a hold, you have to know what sort of weather is around, what airports are available for refueling, and how long you can stay in the hold before you must break away.

I was just entering the sector, and as soon as the controller got the other planes settled into holds, he told me to return to Hancock and hold there. For the next half hour I flew race- track ovals ten miles on a side while I figured my options and listened to what was going on ahead of me. When I was released from the hold I was told that there would be no further delays, but shortly I was put into a stack of other company Caravans in a holding pattern near Port Jervis.

After fifteen minutes we were sent on our way one by one, a caravan of Caravans in a line heading for Newark's short runway. We landed, and the first guys helped the later arrivals tie their planes down, so that we could make the long walk to the freight terminal together. We laughed about the evening, exchanged the last 24 hours of Company gossip, and told the usual sorts of jokes on the way in.

We walked in long purposeful strides, anxious to close out the flights and sit down for a quick nap. After all, it was only three hours before time to take off and wonder what sort of glories will be provided by the coming dawn.

*The author Bob Tilden flew a Caravan for a Night Express cargo company for 10 years and has also written a book, Gone Flyin'. To order it, visit or search Gone Flyin' on

Update: Wasaya Airways Grand Caravan cargo airplane was found

*Update - Wasaya Airways has issued this statement: Wasaya Airways has learned Search And Rescue (SARs) ground crews have reached the aircraft site of Wasaya flight 127.
Upon arrival, crews found the lone occupant of the aircraft, our Captain Nick Little, not responsive and he could not be resuscitated. Rescue crews are on site now and will remain on site through the night awaiting additional resources to airlift our fallen crew member home.
Rescue efforts were hindered by poor weather conditions in the area. A helicopter dispatched was unable to reach the site due to heavy icing. The Ontario Provincial Police, together with SARs technicians, launched a ground rescue initiative at approximately 3:51 PM when it was clear the helicopter was unable to reach the site. The SARs Techs arrived at the aircraft site on foot at approximately 10:50 PM.
Michael Rodyniuk, President and CEO of Wasaya Airways said, “We are devastated by the loss of Captain Little. We have lost a dear friend and valued colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with Nick’s family.”
More information will be released as soon as it becomes available.

December 11, 2015

Wasaya Airways has issued a statement at 9:21 am. that it has received information that Flight 127 was "overdue and no longer in radio contact."
The airplane of concern is a Cessna Grand Caravan. It was carrying cargo from Pickle Lake, ON Canada (CYPL) to Wapekeka First Nation, ON. (CKB6).
The flight distance of 166.5mi (268km) should have taken about an hour.
It is believed that there is only one person on-board, the pilot.
Search and Rescue personnel are actively searching along the flight path.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Caravan Flying for MAF by Jim Vanderburg

Caravan Flying for MAF
by Jim Vanderburg

MAF Caravan 9Q-CAU in Zaire (DR Congo) photo by Jim Vanderburg

In the early 90’s I had the pleasure of flying a Cessna Caravan around the country of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). I was there to support the many humanitarian, medical and missionary efforts in the eastern region of the country. The Caravan I flew was 9Q-CAU, serial number 10.

Our home base was the village of Nyankude, located about 1000nm from the country's capital, Kinshasa and around 400nm from Nairobi Kenya. Nyankude was a prime location, with a fully equipped hospital and two hangers to service and repair the aircraft based there. We had a fleet of around three 206’s and the one Cessna Caravan.

MAF C206s in Zaire (DR Congo) photo by Jim Vanderburg

Around once a week I would make the trip to Nairobi in the Caravan to pick up the mail for everyone in our village. We worked over there before either telephones or the Internet were accessible. Mail usually took about four weeks for it to be delivered or received. If there was ever and emergency we had the option of using an HF radio in the Caravan to patch a call to the United States via Switzerland.

Many hours were spent flying over the Ituri rain forest, where the upper canopies would reach heights of 200ft. In the event an airplane did go down out in the rain forest; there would be little to no chance of it ever being found. Although I avoided thinking about it too much, looking back I realize how much my life and the lives of everyone I flew depended on the reliability and safety of the Caravan and PT-6.

MAF Caravan 9Q-CAU serial number 10 photo by Jim Vanderburg

Occasionally I would make the trip to the country's capital of Kinshasa. I could usually make the trip to Kinshasa non-stop due to the winds being out of the east; but on the return trip I would have to stop for fuel. The fuel stop would depend on the route taken, it would sometimes be a city like Kisangani, or at a remote out-station we had set up with stockpiles of fuel barrels.

I recall a particular incident on this route when I was to deliver a family with all of their belongings from Kinshasa to a remote village on the eastern side of the country. The trip would require a fuel stop at an outstation that was carved out of the forest. We arrived at the outstation without incident, and I started the tedious task of refueling the Caravan at the fuel stockpile. It required filling 5 gallon jerry cans from barrels using a hand pump, I then had to stand on the wing while someone passed me the can and I would poor it into the fuel tank with a funnel.

After successfully refueling the plane, seating the family back in the plane and preforming the pre-flight, I went to crank the PT-6. To my dismay there was no light off. I realized that the familiar ticking of the igniter, that we take for granted, wasn’t there. After checking and re-checking, sure enough the igniter box had failed, and in the worst place. I succeeded in contacting our base in Nyankunde on the HF radio, and unfortunately we didn’t have another box in stock. The closest one they could locate was at Wilson Field in Nairobi.

We then made ourselves comfortable in a couple of vacant homes in a nearby village, while waiting for help. I have memories of eating lots of bananas during those days, as well as taking tour on the river in a dug-out canoe. Two days later, one of our 206’s arrived with a new igniter box and I proceeded with the simple installation of bolting the new one in place. Since that time, I believe that Cessna has added a second igniter box for just that type of circumstance.

MAF Caravan in Zaire photo by Jim Vanderburg

The Caravan was an amazing plane to be able to, not only work on as an A&P but also, fly as a pilot. I am grateful for the opportunities that I had at that time to use it to its full potential serving the people in Congo.

For more information about MAF, please visit their site


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fly the Whale is back in South Florida

N208JP at Volo Aviation

Fly the Whale is back in South Florida for the 2015/2016 season. Flying to beautiful destinations that are only accessible by boat or floatplane. 

Their Grand Caravan Amphibian (Whale Force One) is getting their passengers from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini in only 20 minutes and Eleuthera Island or Harbour Island (Bahamas) in only 1 hour 15 minutes. They also fly to Nassau, Cat Island, Marsh Harbor, Key West, Spanish Cay and many other destinations.

For more information about this company and their land and sea based charter flights, visit their site


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Featured Caravan Operator - Air Juan

This featured Caravan operator is Air Juan, a charter airline based in the Philippines. They fly to 11 destinations from 3 bases, with plans to add 10 more destinations soon.

Grand Caravan Amphibian owned by Air Juan

The company was founded in 2012, "with a commitment to Philippine progress by making business and leisure destinations easily accessible by air". 

Along with its fleet of Cessna Grand Caravans and Grand Caravan Amphibians, it also operates a couple of Bell Helicopters and a Citation jet.

A couple Grand Caravan Amphibians at Manila Bay

Air Juan, with its private docks, is the best answer to avoid the country's over congested and poorly managed airports. Their Sea planes fly to the most beautiful island destinations that the Philippines have to offer. Check them out at


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Barter - Your transition from Piston to Turbine Aircraft

Below is my answer to an email that I received from a Jump Pilot that is looking to transition from a piston to a turbine powered aircraft. After writing it, I felt that I should post it because I thought that it might help other pilots. It is an answer to a question that I get frequently.

Hi David,

Thank you for the compliment. I had people help me while I was learning to fly, so I'm just trying to pay it forward.

As far as your situation, keep in mind that all pilots get caught in that dilemma of: How to get hired into a turbine or twin when I don't have any turbine or twin time and yet ALL of the companies are asking for at least "25hrs in type" (a number dictated by the insurance companies).

For me personally, when I was looking to transition to the Caravan and was getting frustrated with the above mentioned dilemma, an idea came to me. 

I had recently read an ad for a drop zone that was looking to hire a Caravan pilot. That particular DZ also owned a Cessna 206, a model that I had a few hundred hours of experience flying skydivers in. So I called the owner of the DZ and ran my idea by him hoping that he would agree. I asked him if he would agree to train me to fly his Caravan in exchange for me flying his C206 for his skydiving company for 1 month. 

He agreed, trained me and actually only made me fly 3 weeks instead of 4. Also, that company smartly maximizes the use of their Caravan via scheduling so I ended up only having to fly the C206 about twenty or so loads.

I have friends that have been hired by DZs that own a piston and a turbine and they received paid training in their turbines. Obviously, that is the best type of situation to get into, but it is not always practical for all of us. 

I am still very happy with my bartering idea to get trained in a larger aircraft and I always recommend it to Jump Pilots that are looking to transition. Although it is a proposition that is more easily accomplished in the Jump Pilot world, I have heard of pilots in other industries using that method. 

As far as the Flight Safety route, I would not encourage a Jump Pilot that is looking to transition from a piston to a Caravan to pay that $4000 fee. Most of the pilots that utilize those programs are not paying for it with their own money. The companies that hired them are paying for it. Flight Safety is a first class company with great programs but their fees are usually too steep for the average piston Jump Pilot.

I hope that I answered your questions but if you have any more, please feel free to ask! I love helping my fellow pilots.

~Chris Rosenfelt

Friday, October 16, 2015

New Long Sleeve T-Shirts available!

We have new long sleeve t-shirts available from our site,

The logo is on the back and on the front upper left chest. These shirts are 100% cotton and come in all sizes. To order your t-shirt, visit 

Thank you for all of your continued support!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A FedEx Cargomaster aircraft crashed into the waters near a Caribbean Island

A FedEx Super Cargomaster operated by Mountain Air Cargo crashed into the waters Southwest of Saba Netherlands Antilles after experiencing engine failure.

The cargo aircraft was enroute from San Juan Luis Munoz Marin Airport Puerto Rico to Saint Kitts Golden Rock Airport at 10,000ft when it lost engine power on Wednesday August 12.

According to Flightaware flight tracker the aircraft started a 600-800ft per minute descent starting at 11:39 local time and continued until it struck the water about 1/2 mile off the shore of Saba.

Luckily the pilot was the only person onboard and is in stable condition at a local hospital.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Drone almost collides with Seair Caravan near Vancouver Canada

According to a Transport Canada report a quadcopter style drone flew within 10 feet of a Seair Caravan Seaplane (C-FJOE) near Vancouver BC. 

C-FJOE at Vancouver Water Aerodrome

At the time of the incident the aircraft was approaching Vancouver Water Aerodrome (CYVR) in VFR conditions. According to the pilot, when he was 40 feet from touch down a black drone came within 10 feet of his windshield. It was last seen heading northbound, away from the Aerodrome.

This latest near midair collision with a drone and an aircraft occurred on August 3 and is only the latest in a long list that have happened recently.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Iceman Cometh by Bob Tilden

Stories from a Night Express Caravan Cargo Pilot

The Iceman Cometh
By Bob Tilden

It was a morning after a clear night had brought the first frost to many areas, but Syracuse laid under a blanket of lake- effect clouds and rain showers. The usual cruising altitude of 6000 feet was just above the cloud tops, in air that was well below freezing. The white expanse of clouds below me was not as flat as usual, and northeast of Ithaca, I had to tunnel through a ridge that crossed my path. As the clouds swallowed the airplane and blotted out the sun, I looked out to the leading edges of the wings and saw the season's first ice forming on the plane.

Near Ithaca the lake- effect clouds start to break up below and around me.

Continuing southwest towards Elmira, the lake- effect undercast disappeared, and I gazed at lush green grasses and green leafy hills. Islands of white frost floated among this landscape, filling the low areas that are sheltered from the breezes and accumulate cold air on clear autumn nights. Descending for landing, I passed two thousand feet over Odessa, and couldn't help but marvel how vibrant and vivid the world seemed in the early morning sun.

Part of this transformation is the result of cooler temperatures and increased rainfall, but every year there seems to be a sharp change in nature's world after the first frost. It is as though the trees and plants embrace their fates and make one last and glorious show before their souls are lifted to heaven. I see this from the plane, but it is an observation that I have made year after year with my feet on the ground.

As I descended lower and passed over the high ground south of Odessa, the iceman gave me a steely flash of his eye. I looked to my right just in time to see my shadow pass into a deep green alfalfa field. With the airplane directly between the sun and the dew covered leaves, the field filled with a shimmering silvery light, a cold metallic brilliance that was devoid of both color and life.

A cross section of our typical winter sky; a layer of clouds resides between 4000 - 6000 ft. whenever the wind is out of the northwest.

Gone for now are the scorching summer days when we could say with assurance "at least it won't snow today", and gone are the evenings when I can look at a forecast of bad visibility with low ceilings and say "that's OK, at least there won't be any ice." Whether we like winter or not, for the next six months we will be working to keep the iceman at bay.

*The author Bob Tilden flew a Caravan for a Night Express cargo company for 10 years and has also written a book, Gone Flyin'. To order it, visit or search Gone Flyin' on


Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Caravan owned by Skydive Dubai makes emergency landing

A Grand Caravan owned by Skydive Dubai with 14 Skydivers on-board crash landed at about 8am local time on Tuesday morning. The aircraft had just departed Skydive Dubai's Desert Campus when it was forced to land off runway on the side of a sand dune.

According to a statement released by Skydive Dubai, the airplane experienced a "technical problem shortly after it had taken off". Soon after the airplane crash landed, it became fully engulfed in flames and was a complete loss. Luckily none of the 14 Skydivers, nor the Pilot was injured during the accident.

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has started its investigation as to the cause of the accident and will release a report when complete. We will post that report when it becomes available.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Review - Engine Failure Immediately After Takeoff - C208B (675 SHP)

Engine Failure Immediately After Takeoff
C208B (675 SHP)

The Caravan photographed above experienced an engine failure. It can happen to any airplane at anytime. I thought that today would be as good a day as any to review the Emergency Procedures for Engine Failure Immediately After Takeoff  for Cessna Model 208B (675 SHP). 

Us as pilots know, the worst time to experience an engine failure is during the takeoff phase of flight. This situation is also when pilots can have the least amount of time to react and usually seem to make the worst decisions. Including making the ill-advised decision to turn back towards the airport when they are too low to the ground. Forgetting simple Private Pilot 101 lessons of Aerodynamic Forces in Flight Maneuvers. Their fear induced large bank angle, to get them back to the airport, results in a large reduction in airspeed further resulting in a stall and crash.

Another reason that I would like to review this emergency procedure is because as a Skydive Pilot I realize that at this time of year there are a lot of new Caravan Pilots. Skydivers jump year round in most parts of the world, however a considerably larger amount of skydiving is done during the Spring and Summer months. A new season usually equals new Caravan pilots. As you might have read in some of my past articles, most of the Jump Pilot hiring is done during the month of April (in the Northern Hemisphere) and that is done to get them ready for the busy Summer months.

Please remember that these Emergency Procedures found below are for the Cessna Model 208B (675 SHP) and no others. If you are flying a different model Caravan, please review your aircraft's FAA approved Abbreviated Checklist or Airplane Flight Manual for that specific model.

As stated in the Pilots' Abbreviated Checklist published by Cessna, here are the procedures for:  

Engine Failure Immediately After Takeoff 
  1.  Airspeed - 85 KIAS with 20 DEGREES FLAPS
  2.  Propeller - FEATHER
  3.  Wing Flaps - FULL DOWN
  4.  Fuel Condition Lever - CUTOFF
  5.  Fuel Shutoff - OFF (pull out)
  6.  Fuel Tank Selectors - OFF (warning horn will sound)
  7.  Battery - OFF    

If you have finished the above procedures and have double checked them all and you still have altitude (time) you should proceed with the Emergency Landing Without Engine Power procedures found in your aircraft's FAA approved Abbreviated Checklist or Airplane Flight Manual.

My fellow Caravan Pilots, please remember to Review Often and Fly Safe so that you can continue to Have Fun!

~ Chris Rosenfelt

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Glorious Springtime by Bob Tilden

Stories from a Night Express Caravan Cargo Pilot

Glorious Springtime
by Bob Tilden

Just as I have done for the last ten years, I have been pushing the calendar since January, trying to move winter out of the way. I have pushed the hands of the clock forward each afternoon and held them back each morning, and gradually seen the day lengths creep longer and longer as the weather has warmed. It is June now, and if only I could stop the calendar I would be delighted.

Our late spring daylight lasts almost 16 hours, a span that was unimaginable just six months ago. Winter's air can smell crisp and fresh at best, and a winter evening can be splendid in its silence, but today the air is alive. The scents of a billion blossoms waft through the air, and our songbirds have returned to fill it with their songs. Life is good; I no longer find myself scanning the lead- gray winter sky at sunset, wondering of the stealthy ice- demon will visit upon my airplane as it flies through the gloomy night.

Airframe icing is predictable in that any flight through clouds at typical winter temperatures will cause ice to form on the plane. Some clouds are almost dry, some are quite juicy, and often there is an altitude that will be above, below, or in between the cloud layers. A thousand feet or a few miles can be the difference between severe ice and a "free pass", but you never know what awaits you. Whether to climb, descend, or change course is usually no more than an informed guess, which is why it is called "fishing". Ice, especially at night when clouds cannot be seen, is stealthy.

Thunderstorms, especially at night, are not stealthy. You can see where they are and where they aren't, and the airplane's radar can usually pick out trouble spots farther ahead Sometimes the storms sweep along in lines, usually driven by a cold front, or sometimes they will be triggered by localized heating of warm humid air and float along as cells, clusters, or short lines. Last week we had examples of all these different storms.
Much to my delight, I missed all of them, partially out of luck, but mostly because the locally generated storms start to die off as the sun drops towards the horizon. Without the sun's heat, the temperatures of the earth start to even out, and the strong updrafts that seed these storms diminish. Additionally, thunderstorms which are caused by colliding air masses, such as fronts, are always weaker and less volatile when the heat of the sun is not a factor.

Volatility, or the propensity for thunderstorms to form abruptly, is the scariest part of thunderstorm flying. Last Friday I watched the Weather Channel radar as the entire Tug Hill Plateau area lit up with thunderstorms well ahead of a line that was still well to the west. The whole area went from zero to red in twenty minutes; a pilot leaving Syracuse for the north country could have been very rudely surprised. One morning last year I watched the airplane's radar as my clear path around a cluster rapidly become a box canyon as storms developed on the outside flank and far ahead as well. There was no gracious way to avoid the weather, and I had to parallel the path upwind of the storms for quite a ways before I could get past safely.

The airplane's radar is more than a tool, it is a machine; its operation and interpretation must be learned and practiced. Sometimes it exaggerates the extent of the problem, sometimes it understates the problem, and sometimes it can actually lead you into the worst part of a storm. In any case, it only shows a narrow pie slice of the sky directly ahead of the plane, and once the rain really starts, our smaller radar units become useless. Properly used, it helps the pilot guess.

My choice between summer weather and winter weather? No doubt it is the same as yours. Thunderstorms might inconvenience us for a few hours or maybe not at all. Winter weather is a full time problem, from frozen plumbing, to balky cars, stinging wind, slippery roads, bottomless mud... and old bones that are no longer invigorated by the challenge.

Last week I was leisurely spreading a pile of driveway gravel. The still air was hazy, hot, and humid... but as I am now inclined to say, "at least it wasn't snowing". The air was filled with the fragrances of several flowering bushes, and the Oriole's song floated over the sparse midday conversations of the woodland birds. I thought of the last few weeks, getting on hands and knees to smell the first dandelions and daffodils, and later embracing the apple trees and lilacs. I delighted in the first robin's song, and waited patiently to hear the first arrivals of tohees, catbirds, and wood thrushes.

Time has marched its grand circle and brought us back to this wonderful place, but unfortunately it will continue its trek. For now though, like an old gray woodchuck, I am happy to look around, feel the sun, smell the breezes and say "I've made it through another winter!"

This picture doesn't really relate to the glory of springtime, but it shows what I was looking at as I skirted the storms that I mentioned. The picture is of the radio stack which is located in the center of the airplane's instrument panel. The left stack, from top down is the audio switching panel, the number 1 comm/ nav radio, the number 2 comm/ nav, and the radar display. The right stack is the GPS receiver, the ADF, the number 1 transponder, and the number 2 transponder.

The GPS is set to the pictoral display mode, where the current direction of flight is "straight up". There is a line that leans on a diagonal to the left; that is the straight line course from COATE intersection in northern New Jersey to the Lake Henry VOR northeast of Wilkes- Barre PA, my normal course. I have already turned about 10 degrees left of that course to avoid the storms

Looking at the radar display, the left- most thunderstorm cell (the red area) is right about where the diagonal line... my original course... would have taken me. I have already turned left to avoid it, but the yellow areas have erupted ahead of me on the new heading. Soon after this picture, I turned further left and watched the yellow areas fill with red centers. I flew west for thirty miles before turning north to regain my original northwest course.

The author Bob Tilden flew a Caravan for a Night Express cargo company for 10 years and has also written a book, Gone Flyin', to order it, visit or search Gone Flyin' on


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Meet our Featured Pilot - Jason with SeaPort Airlines

Meet our Featured Caravan Pilot Jason, a Captain with SeaPort Airlines. An airline that is headquartered in Portland Oregon and operates out of its bases in Memphis, TN and San Diego, CA. They also operate out of Juneau Alaska as Wings of Alaska. They fly 16 different Grand Caravans (including the new EX model) to 22 different destinations in 10 states and Mexico and use the cool Callsign "Sasquatch".

I met Jason online in our Caravan group on Facebook. He started out flying skydivers as I did. I can tell from our conversations that he is a super friendly guy and very passionate about aviation.

Name: Jason
Age: 33
From: Winter Haven, FL.
Total Time: 1600
Company: SeaPort Airlines, Inc.
Location: Memphis, TN
Years flying Caravans: 1

What do you like most about flying the Caravan? 

I have not flown a lot of airplanes, but the Caravan is by far the most versatile of them all. When given a clearance to "maintain max forward speed" on final approach, I can give them 155 KIAS all the way to short final and still set it on the thousand foot marks. I'm also able to fly nine passengers, luggage and enough fuel to fly from destination to destination. The Caravan is a workhorse and I absolutely love flying it!

What are your career goals?

I've wanted to be an airline pilot since I was about eight years old. No one in my family is a pilot, so I figured that I would be the first. I've actually just accepted a job at a regional airline flying regional jets. 

What is your advice for younger pilots?

Hang out at the airports and meet people! The more people you can connect with the better you will be. I've only been flying for a little less than three years and when I started my connections were very few... I actually only knew one pilot. The more people that I met the better things got. That's how I landed my first paying gig, flying sky divers in a 182. I met some more people, and now I'm flying Part 135 in four different variations of Caravans. Meet people and ask questions. There's always a way to accomplish your goals and the more people involved, the better!

For more information about SeaPort Airlines visit their site


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Too Cold for Ice by Bob Tilden

A Night Express Caravan being de-iced with heated propylene glycol.

Too Cold for Ice 
by Bob Tilden

"I would enjoy this kind of weather from now until April" was a common expression during the last two winters. We had many mild spells, and few snow storms. Expressing a sentiment towards the sort of winter that meets your own personal preferences is probably a selfish thought, but since we have no control over the weather, its probably forgivable too. Us normal folks should respect the fact that some people spend their summers hoping for a cold and snowy winter.

The last few weeks seem to show a trend for a cold winter in the northeast, and it suits me just fine. In fact, I'd enjoy this kind of weather until April. If the temperature is going to be cold, I'd prefer it to be very cold, because colder temperatures mean less trouble with icing.

Icing, the accumulation of ice on the airplane during flight, is a bigger problem than thunderstorms are. Thunderstorms are not as frequent in summer as icing is in winter, and thunderstorms are loud and boisterous, not stealthy like icing is. It is never a mystery where thunderstorms are, but icing problems can exist in a wide range of winter clouds. Most winter flight planning must consider altitude and routing which minimizes exposure to icing conditions.

Ice will form on the forward face of every part of the airplane's exterior almost any time that it flies through a cloud that is below 32 degrees. It collects on the leading edges of the wings and tail, on the propeller blades and around the engine air intake, and on the antennas, the landing gear, the windshield, and every little doo-dad that is protrudes from the plane. It cuts the efficiency of the wings, engine, and propeller while at the same time, adding weight and aerodynamic drag. It is 100% bad news because the aircraft requires more power when it is crusted with ice, but the ice reduces the power that the engine and propeller can deliver.

The good news is that all clouds are not created equal, and the sky is seldom filled with clouds at all levels. Clouds with a strong moisture feed, such as the ocean, the great lakes, or a strong south wind ahead of a cold front that stretches to the Gulf of Mexico can be a problem. Weather arriving directly from the west such as we have had for the last few weeks is little threat because it is colder and dryer than storms which swing up from the southwest.

Ice that remained on the wing of the Caravan after climbing through a layer of lake- effect clouds.

The problem of aircraft icing lays in the fact that the water within a cloud does not automatically freeze when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. It needs a bit of a nudge. Clouds at a temperature of 30 degrees will typically be composed of tiny drops of water, which are not inclined to freeze unless something like an airplane bumps into them. At this temperature, the water in a particularly moist cloud will strike the airplane and stream backwards on the wings and tail before it finally freezes. Ice such as this will build quickly, and will overwhelm the airplane's de-icing devices.

The atmosphere's ability to hold moisture decreases with temperature. As the temperature decreases, the cloud's moisture content drops, and the water droplets begin to freeze spontaneously. As more of the cloud's moisture freezes it becomes less of a threat. Any remaining water droplets freeze on contact with the plane and remain on the very leading edge of the wings and tail, where the accumulation can be managed with the deice systems. Somewhere between 15 and 5 degrees, the clouds become so dry, and the moisture so frozen that they can almost be ignored, just as though they were above 32 degrees.

The Cessna Caravan that I fly has been called an "ice magnet" because it is simple, boxy, and utilitarian rather than sleek and fast. It has landing gear, wing struts, and a large external baggage pod which are exposed to the slipstream and provide so many "extra" places for ice to collect. Adding insult to injury, the airplane is under powered compared to the multi-engine planes that are more typical of commercial service.

The plane had a full complement of deice devices however. There is a "hot plate" over part of the windshield which maintains a small area of ice- free viewing, there are heating pads at the roots of each propeller blade, and there are inflatable deice boots on the leading edges of the wings, tail, struts, and parts of the landing gear.

The windshield and propeller anti- ice systems are electrical resistance heaters, but the rubber deice boots are pneumatic. Air is bled from the engine compressor section and sent to chambers within the boots, causing them to puff up rapidly, and break the ice that has stuck to them.

Too cold for ice? Yes, there is such a thing. Once you are aware that clouds do not freeze until 10 degrees or so, and that cooler air can hold less moisture than warmer air, the concept is not hard to understand. It is closely related to the more familiar concept that it is "too cold for much snow to fall".

The author Bob Tilden flew a Caravan for a Night Express cargo company for 10 years and has also written a book, Gone Flyin', to order it, visit or search Gone Flyin' on


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Across the Atlantic in a Caravan!

To some, 5 days and 51 hours of flying across half of the globe in a single engine aircraft seemed like a silly idea. But it was an exciting journey flying across the Atlantic Ocean, diverse land forms and even more diverse countries.
By Raunaq Singh Panwar
Ferrying a new aircraft is one thing which most pilots would love to do, but when you tell them that you are crossing the Atlantic in a single engine aircraft , then they start asking, “Are you okay? How will you manage to fly a Caravan for 12 hours?” But, we are talking about a brand new aircraft, the latest addition to Auric Air’s fleet, here in Mwanza, Tanzania. I was fortunate to get this chance of ferrying a new aircraft from Wichita to Nairobi, Kenya, and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity.

So here we were in Wichita, Kansas, in the United States, the ‘Air Capital’ of the World. Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, Learjet, you name it and Wichita has it. I could see new, shiny planes, all over at Mid-Continent Airport. Our journey to Nairobi would take us through Cincinnati and Bangor in USA, Santa Maria Island and Azores in Portugal, Luqa, Malta, and Luxor, Egypt. That sounded exciting!

Let me first familiarize you with our aircraft, which was a Cessna Caravan, model C208B. It is a single engine turboprop airplane, which can fly non-stop for six-and a-half hours and can cover 1,800 kms. It is the most successful single engine turboprop ever made. It can land and take off from short airstrips, especially in the bush.
Well, I was at Wichita with Alex Haynes, my fellow ferry pilot, who would accompany me till Nairobi. We departed at 0900 hrs for Cincinnati, Kentucky, which would take us 4 hours. We over flew a lot of cities and small towns and each one of them had an airport or at least an airstrip. No wonder aviation is way ahead in the USA than India. While overflying St Louis, Missouri, I could see the Gateway Arch, and it looked beautiful from above. A couple of hours later we landed at Northern Kentucky International Airport. We had a quick bite and then after an hour we took off for Bangor, Maine, our final destination in the US. 

This leg takes about 5 1/2 hours. Some bad weather was forecast enroute, so it was going to be interesting. Downtown Cincinnati was amazing and I saw a couple of stadiums that were quite big. Instead of flying straight to Bangor, we diverted a bit towards Washington DC and then north towards Maine. We were about 150 km away from New York City and I was amazed to see the city lights so far at night. I knew New York was a huge city, but truly felt it at that moment. The day was coming to an end and finally we landed at Bangor, a small town with a population of about 35,000, but an important refueling stop for planes flying across the Atlantic. 

The next two days we stayed in Bangor to get our ferry tanks installed inside the aircraft, with them we could fly for 14-1/2 hours nonstop. The D-Day came and Alex briefed me about our trip across the Atlantic, and showed me our survival kit and the raft, “in case we need it!” He told me that once he was ferrying a C172, and had to ditch in the Atlantic due to engine trouble. He was obviously preparing me for such a situation. We departed before sunset so as to reach the middle of North Atlantic Ocean – Santa Maria Island our next stop in the Azores, Portugal, in the morning. This leg would take us 11 hours. Maine is a beautiful state during Fall. After take-off we saw the beautiful fall colours all around. 

Ferry tanks installed in the Grand Caravan.

An hour later, we crossed into Canada and then a few islands later we were over the Atlantic Ocean. I was ecstatic, after all I was flying over the Atlantic. I saw a sunset over the Atlantic and that was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever witnessed. We flew over the middle of the ocean at night. There was no one around, just me and the other pilot, and I was enjoying every bit of it. Once in a while, we heard an airliner talking to New York Control over the radio; other than that, it was quiet. We got into the clouds and now and then through the break in the cloud cover we saw a ship or two. As we were cruising at 13,000 feet, which is not very high, we could make out the ships. It was a long flight but exciting. 

The excitement mounted when we were about to reach Santa Maria Island in the Azores, 1,500 km west of Lisbon and 3,900 km from the east coast of North America. And then we saw it in the horizon, breaking the vast expanse of water all around. It was a welcome sight as it meant landing after a long trip and getting to refuel! Ours was the only plane at this tiny airport, which usually sees private jets of various businessmen and aircraft of heads of states, flying between Europe and North America. We got the plane refueled and decided to sleep for five hours to get enough rest for our next leg of 12 hours of flying. We headed out to Vila do Porto town to take the much-needed nap. The island was extremely scenic with a population of around 6,000 people. Their main occupation is fishing and agriculture. 

Santa Maria Island, Azores.

After the much needed rest we were back at the airport for another evening departure to Malta. The flight plan we had filed from Santa Maria to Malta was routed through Lisbon, Madrid, Valencia, Palma, Cagliari, and Palermo to Malta. Instead of what Brussels gave us – via South Portugal, Seville, Malaga, Algiers, and Tunis to Malta. This route was shorter but would have meant flying over Algeria. Any country you overfly in Africa, you have to get prior permission. Alex was not too comfortable with this route as we didn’t have the permit. One of his friends who did the same route without the permit was intercepted by Algerian fighter jets and had to stay 2 days in jail in Algiers. But he said, “Let’s try it as it is shorter and if the control asks us, we say we didn’t ask for this route but was given to us by Brussels.” Already this leg of our trip was becoming interesting for me. 

Finally, we took-off from Santa Maria after a lot of debate. The island was so beautiful that I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Soon it got dark and I was communicating with Lisbon Control. After around 5 hours we successfully crossed the Atlantic. Alex shook my hand and said: “Buddy, we made it across!” I was excited and could see lights all over south Portugal. We continued and entered Spain and first flew over Seville and then Malaga, a big city with lights all over. The name Malaga had always sounded exotic to me, and then I heard an Iberia plane communicating on the radio with Malaga Control. I just loved the pilot’s Spanish accent. After an hour we were over the Algerian Sea and were with Algiers Control. Before entering their airspace they asked us a few questions but cleared us to enter Algeria. “That was smooth” said Alex. Algiers was another huge city and looked pretty at night. 

Crossing the Atlantic in a Grand Caravan.

After Algiers, it was quiet and by the time we were over Tunis it was almost dawn. Tunis was looking extremely beautiful and one thing you can clearly see while flying are the stadiums. I was excited to see the El Menzah stadium of Tunis. Soon it was time to descend into Malta. We flew a bit over Valetta, the capital city, and took some pictures. The landing at Malta International Airport ended our longest leg of 12 hours of flying. After 2 hours, we were back in the air for our next leg of 8 hours to Luxor, Egypt. Just after takeoff I saw the Rotunda of Mosta. It is the third largest unsupported dome in the world. 

Raunaq in Malta.

Over the Mediterranean Sea now, we saw a lot of ships and could make out how busy the Suez Canal route was. On this leg, I heard all of the major airlines of the world communicating. Emirates, Qatar, Turkish, Lufthansa, Scandinavian, Continental and Saudi Arabian. But the best was American Airlines; their call sign is ‘Cowboy’, which sounded refreshing on the radio! There were not many small aircraft on this route and once even the controller made fun of us: “Traffic, Lufthansa Airbus 340, 25,000 feet above you.” I replied, “Will look out for the traffic, as if we can see 25,000 ft above us.” We all were laughing on the radio. High humour indeed! 

Now we entered Africa via Egypt. As soon as we were over land there was sand, sand and more sand! I had never flown over sand before. Some may find it boring, but I found the sight very beautiful. At Asyut, we crossed the Nile and this was my first look at the river that had given rise to an ancient civilization. We landed at Luxor after sunset and during our descent, Alex showed me the Valley of the Kings. We planned to go there the next day, surely another high point in my journey.

Entering Egypt
The next morning we visited the Valley of the Kings and the Karnak Temple. I was awed by the immensity of the monuments that gave me a true sense of the ability and power of the Egyptian civilization. At night we started the final leg of our journey to Nairobi which would take us about 11 hours. We flew over Aswan and Abu Simbel and I wished it was a day flight. Soon we entered Sudan and it was pretty quiet there, other than the odd Kenya Airways or Egypt Air flight on the radio. Over Sudan, Alex switched off all navigation lights. “I don’t want a new plane to be the target of a teenager’s rocket launcher,” he said. We chatted about the situation in Sudan and how the people are going to vote for the referendum. Surprisingly – maybe because of our threat perception – Sudan seemed like a never-ending country! 

We entered Kenya at dawn over the highlands. The towns of Eldoret and Nakuru seemed like flying over Indian hill stations of Mussourie or Ooty. Soon after, we got in touch with the Nairobi control. I didn’t want this flight to end, but then as they say, all good things must come to an end! While descending into Nairobi Wilson Airport, I saw the giraffes in Nairobi National Park. I was back in Swahili-land after 5 days and 51 hours of flying!