May 25, 2004

David Montoya, CFII

David Montoya at the Alameda Aero Club, 1999People often ask how my original instructor Dave Montoya is, and sometimes even ask for a referral. Unfortunately, David died suddenly and very unexpectedly a couple of years ago, leaving a wife and small child -- and a lot of mourners -- behind. I didn't believe the news when I first heard it and it took a few weeks to confirm that it had actually happened. I make no mention of his death on my original flying site because I don't want to spoil the effect there.

Dave was an excellent instructor, very good at judging the often very different needs of each student, and varying his teaching methods accordingly. He suited my own way of learning very well indeed and I enjoyed the time I spent flying with him or having coffee at Javarama, etc. I think I most miss his sense of humour and optimism about his students, and the way he absolutely enjoyed teaching. He held an ATP and had flown in the regionals, but returned to teaching because it suited his lifestyle and temperament better. He was teaching at Palo Alto at the time of his death; he'd just returned from a stint in Vermont, where he'd quickly got sick of shovelling snow and flying with taciturn Northeasterners.

Amongst those who knew him well, he's still missed a lot.

May 20, 2004

Another One Down

Another light plane down in the Bay Area, this time a 172 that landed intact on Interstate 580 near Livermore (KLVK). Amazingly, given the usually completely-packed-with-traffic state of 580 at that time of day, it didn't kill or maim anyone on the ground. The incident caused a huge traffic backup for morning commuters.

Ironically, the plane was carrying a traffic reporter covering the morning commute. Less ironically, the initial news reports suggest that the plane ran out of fuel.

May 05, 2004

On Top.

I use ASA's "On Top" simulator at home. It's not bad, but it's no Elite, at least not as set up on my PC. I bought it a week or two after deciding to do the instrument rating, and it's been a real help for internalising approaches, procedures, and instrument scanning, and generally just seeing what happens when I push this or try that.

Why not use MS FS 2004 or X-Plane? Frankly, because those programs have both too many and too few features. An IFR trainer really doesn't need fanatically-detailed ground texture rendering, but it needs to be able to display and understand every VOR, NDB, ILS, LOC, fix, IAF, FAF, GPS waypoint, etc., in the area you're interested in. It needs to support an interesting variety of programmable instrument failure modes, and a decent repertoire of weather conditions (especially changeable conditions of the sort we simply never see in real life out here on the Left Coast). And it needs to be relatively accurate in flying characteristics, and cope with a yoke rather than a joystick (that's a given for IFR training).

Yes, both X-Plane and MSFS can more-or-less do all this too, but since I run On Top on a slow old laptop that doesn't do much else anymore, I need the stripped-down app. The biggest issue I currently have with On Top is the unrealistic roll and pitch sensitivity -- it's even harder to fly than the Elite, and flying it takes nearly all my concentration at the moment. But so far it's been worth the effort...