-Tchaikovsky & Chad

Chad Hoopes

Chad Hoopes

Last Saturday I attended a spectacular concert. My wife, Sue, has been playing Fourth Horn in the Middletown (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra for the past 25 plus years, and I have dutifully attended those concerts when I can. I’ll let you in on a secret. The Middletown Symphony is good! Last Saturday was one of those quality concerts.

All Tchaikovsky.

The first half was Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (Pathetique). Composed by the mature Tchaikovsky, it was debuted (and conducted by the composer) in St Petersburg on October 28, 1893. Pyotr Ilyich was a master in orchestration, and in bringing the full power the orchestra into reality. I love the “Romantic” period of Classical Music, largely because of what Tchaikovsky created. There were other great composers at the time, but you have to love Tchaikovsky. How did he do it? Where did the music come from? I am in wonder. Amazing.

The tragic part of all this is that Tchaikovsky died 9 days later on November 6, 1893. Although his official cause of death was listed as “cholera”, he most likely committed suicide. What a loss. He was only 53. I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

A good short biography of Tchaikovsky is found at the following link. Of note is the volume of what he created. Really phenomenal music.



18th Century, meets 19th Century, meets 21st Century.

The second half of the program was Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, played by 18 year old Chad Hoopes. Tchaikovsky composed this in 1878 when he was 38 years old. It is very difficult for me to convey what I witnessed. Chad is (arguably) the BEST YOUNG VIOLINIST IN THE WORLD. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you will. I really shouldn’t use the word young, because he plays with maturity most concertizing soloists will never achieve. With Chad playing on a 1713 Antonio Stadivari violin, I heard perfection in instrument, composer, and virtuoso. Stradivari, Tchaikovsky, & Hoopes; each contributing their part. 18th Century, meets 19th Century, meets 21st Century. It was all there, and I was lucky enough to participate as a listener. As a watcher. It spoke to me as only music can. To my heart.

I invite you to click on Chad’s web site to learn more about this amazing artist.


Also, here is a link to a very good video that shows what Chad accomplished last year as the “Artist in Residence” at Minnesota Public Radio.


What would I like to impart to you? Participate in the ARTS. If you are not on the creative side (artist, composer, playwright, actor, musician…), be on the consumer side. Attend a showing, a play, or a concert. By participating… every once in a while, you’ll be rewarded by something truly great! You have to “play” to win, so to speak. Participate.

Post Script: I was privileged to be able to sing “The Legend”, by Tchaikovsky the next morning in church. Privileged to participate. Blessed by music. And blessed down through these years by Tchaikovsky. Saddened by what could have been, if he had lived longer.


-V1 and Life’s Decisions

V Speeds

V Speeds

“Are you ready?”

I release the brakes and smoothly push the power levers forward to the takeoff power setting for the day. My right hand stays on the power levers, guarding them, and to be immediately able to pull the power to idle if something major goes wrong, and the takeoff needs to be aborted. My left hand is guarding the steering ‘tiller’ on the left side of the cockpit, and is standing by if any major emergency steering inputs are needed. We are, however, going straight down the centerline of the runway by using my feet on the rudder pedals that are connected to the nose-wheel steering. My co-pilot holds the yoke in her right hand and applies the appropriate crosswind correction through the ailerons.

“Power Set.”
“80 Knots Cross Checked.”

Upon hearing “80 knots”, my left hand moves from the area of the tiller to the yoke. We have now gathered enough speed that the aerodynamic rudder at the back of the airplane has sufficient air flowing over it to provide enough ‘rudder authority’ to keep the airplane straight.

“My Yoke”, I call as my co-pilot releases her grip.
We continue the takeoff, gathering speed, until I next hear…

“V1” (Vee One)

Hearing “V1” from my co-pilot, I now take my right hand off of the power levers and firmly grip the yoke with both hands.


The airplane yaws to the left… I instinctively add right rudder to keep the airplane tracking straight down the runway.

What to do???

We are still on the ground, but going very fast!

  • Maybe we should try to stop on the runway remaining in front of us. Can we stop on the runway remaining in front of us?
  • Maybe we should try to get the airplane to try to fly on the one engine that is still producing thrust? Will it fly? Will it climb?
  • Maybe we should just throw our hands up in the air. It is inevitable we are going to crash.
  • Maybe we should turn to each other and discuss the pros and cons of our options.

Oh that’s right. We don’t have TIME to discuss things. We’re a little busy.


What to do?

What to do?

What to do?

The answer my friend, is in the first two sentences of this essay. “Are you ready?” “Ready.” The decision(s) have already been made.

Let me explain.

V1 is the takeoff decision speed. Better defined as the ‘first action’ speed. If the pilot has not started to abort the takeoff (by pulling the power levers back, and/or applying the brakes, and/or deploying the flight spoilers, and/or deploying the thrust reversers), by default he (or she) is now going to continue the takeoff with the remaining thrust available. Remember my moving my right hand from the power levers to the yoke? My hand is no longer poised to pull the power levers back. It is a commitment to fly. We are not going to try to stop.



Also part of the equation is the concept of ‘accelerate stop distance’ and ‘accelerate go distance’.

Prior to achieving V1 speed, if an engine fails, or something else bad happens (such as hitting a deer), the crew has enough runway remaining in front of them to stop the airplane. Accelerate stop.

Conversely, after achieving V1 speed, if an engine fails, or something else bad happens (like a blown tire), the aircraft is still capable of accelerating to rotation speed (Vr), and reaching an altitude of at least 35 feet by the end of the runway. Accelerate go.

The concept of V1 is just one small part of the safety net when you fly in a transport category airplane. All of these performance considerations are taken into account as part of the preflight planning, in the pilot training, and in the aircraft certification. Decisions of what to do, when confronted with an event that requires immediate action, I refer to as ‘pre-decisions’. If this – then that.

These concepts cannot always be 100% correct, but by thoroughly considering potential situations in advance, we can help to load things in our favor, and increase safety. This is a way for us to expand time.  Pre-decisions are a way for us to manage time to our advantage.

So, here is the question! What does the concept of V1, and pre-decisions have to do with the way we live our lives?

It could be as simple as the decision to not answer your cell phone while you are driving. A pre-decision… you have weighed your options in advance. If it rings, the potential cost of answering it is unacceptable. Similarly, and even more importantly, absolutely – NO TEXTING while driving.

It is possible for the idea of pre-decisions to be as broad as fighting fatigue. If I am scheduled to fly across an ocean tomorrow, it is imperative that I get a proper night’s sleep tonight. If this – then that.

It might be as important as marriage vows, when both partners pledge they will love each other “for rich or for poor”, “in sickness or in health”. They cannot foresee the future, but the answer remains constant. When faced with questions and threats, their pre-decision will provide direction and answers. I will love you… no matter what.

How can you, yes you, use the jet pilot’s concept of V1, and of pre-decisions to better your life and the lives you come in contact with?  Are there answers that you can come up with now, that will be good solutions to the problems you might be faced with in the future while on life’s journey?

Here’s to coming up with some answers before you need them. Good luck with life’s questions.

“Are you Ready?”

Epilogue; Oh, and the Engine Failure After V1? We continued the takeoff, reached rotation speed, rotated the airplane, raised the gear and climbed to 1500 feet above the ground. It was determined that we should not attempt to restart the failed engine. We returned to a successful single engine approach and landing to the runway we had just taken off from. We were in a simulator. The instructor was able to check a few more boxes on his form. Just another day at the office…

Training Simulator

Training Simulator

-A Late December Paraglider Flight

Flying a Powered Paraglider

Flying a Powered Paraglider

Sunset at 5:24. I had to hurry up! Left the house at 3:00, arrived at the Waynesville airport at 4:00. I ask permission to fly, they always say yes. I fly as a guest at a grass field made for airplanes. I always donate to the airport’s scholarship fund as a way to say thank you. Lay-out the glider, fuel the motor. Warm up the 2-cycle engine, fuss with adjustments. MAKE SURE everything is hooked up correctly! Check, Re-check.

The wind is calm. The skies are blue. I can’t waste this weather. It is 4:40 PM. Lean forward. Push. Pull. The wing rises and comes to life behind me. Add a little gas. Trot. One last check. Everything looks and feels good. More gas… a little brake pressure. Run! Go! Go! Go!… Fly!

Sometimes it is called “running into the sky”. The moment is busy but magical. There is a lot going on. You have to feel and sense what the wing is doing. You have a 50 pound motor on your back plus another 9 pounds of gas. Add a helmet and long johns. Oh… and a 4 foot diameter propeller turning fast. Try not to trip!

Climbing to about a thousand feet I cruise south to a friend’s house. No one home. Then over to the gliderport where I am a member. It is all quiet too. No flight operations here. I have the gliderport to myself and skim the length of the runway.

I look at my watch. It is time… Climbing to about 1500′ AGL (above ground level) I head back to where I started. It is colder up here and I can feel my muscles tighten as they try to generate a shiver. I have a 20 mph wind right in my face. Brrr! It is warmer lower and I start an easy descent.

There is a Stearman in the pattern shooting takeoffs and landing. It is majestic with its 220 horsepower. I am a gnat. I wait doing some 360′s and figure 8′s until it is clear.

Gliding down I fly a small pattern and gauge my touchdown spot. Kill the engine, flair! I’m standing and smiling. The wing collapes into a heap of inert fabric. It is 5:20. Four minutes to spare. One takeoff … One landing.

Pulling out the cell phone… time to call home. “Just wanted you to know I’m down… Great Flight!”

-The Newbie Rides with the Peloton

I wrote this when I was first learning to really ride my bike… December 2006. I have a little more experience since then but still have a lot to learn on the bike. Enjoy the ride!


on the Tri-Bike

Around each turn was new experience. “Am I going too fast?” “Am I going too slow?” “Can I make that turn at this speed?” “Should I ride with him, or just stay out of the way?” “Shift? Or Hold On?” My thoughts were all new, but I was in the moment. I had few answers except to be a little conservative and try not to embarrass my sponsor.

My cell phone rang with an invitation to go for a bike ride. I had just run four & a half miles and that was to be it for the day. But the weather was great and not to be wasted. It was the end of December and forecast to go into the mid 50’s! We’d meet at 12:30.

When I showed up, the grape vine had produced a group of eight. These were biking veterans. Some have ridden coast to coast across the US. One had ridden Paris-Brest-Paris. One had put 35,000 miles on one bike. My bike odometer said 300 miles. I was definitely the newbie.

Before we started I confessed my lack of experience to the group. “Please watch out for me”, I said. They did and I felt accepted. Their experience as riders meant they could ride shoulder-to-shoulder, or wheel-to-wheel. Their awareness of their surroundings was constant. I rode with blinders. “Ride a straight line.” “Don’t swerve”, I told myself. They were true “Roadies” and knew how to handle their bikes. I, on the other hand, had little experience and had a tri-bike. A tri-bike has a different geometry, aerobars, and twitchy steering. My sponsor came along side and said, “Make sure you stay hydrated.” “Yeah, right!” I thought. As I watched them steer with one hand and take a swig from their water bottles with the other, I didn’t dare let go! I had read… “whatever you do, STAY OUT OF THE AEROBARS when riding with roadies.” I did.

But take care of me they did. Pointing to road hazards; loose gravel, potholes, & sticks. “Car Back!” “Car Up!” “Slowing!” I heard them calling to the peloton. OK… It wasn’t really a peloton, a swarm of a hundred or more riders racing in the Tour de France, but it SEEMED like a peloton to me. Riding close, changing positions, & drafting. I tried to stay at the back, out of the way where I wouldn’t make the others nervous, but to keep up. My running had given me the legs and aerobic engine. Thankfully, I could keep up. The bike handling needs work though. Just going out and spending time on the bike should help. Every once in a while I’d find myself in the middle. It was like a business jet flying in formation with the Blue Angels. I was OK when they flew straight and level, but don’t you guys do any of that fancy stuff!

We rode fast. We rode slowly. The pace constantly changed. The terrain was sometimes hilly, sometimes flat. We rode 40 miles in all. Toward the end the pace picked up, like horses going to the barn.

When I got off the bike I had a drunken swagger. Boy! Were my legs tired! They capped off the ride with a trip to the coffee shop. My second for the day… but what the heck. “This is why we do the ride”, one said. I had a white chocolate raspberry scone and a white chocolate hot chocolate. I had earned the calories. The scone tasted like heaven.

Thank you for taking me along. It was a terrific new experience for me. I don’t think I embarrassed my sponsor or myself. Maybe I’ll even get invited back. Even if I do have… a Tri-bike.

-Flying on Skis

Flying on Skis

Ring, Ring.
“Stewart’s Aircraft Service.”

“Hi Cathy… Dave Conrad. Are you flying on skis yet?”
“We put them on this morning!”
“I’ve never flown on skis.”
“Is there any way you could get me on the schedule?”
“How about today at four? You’ll be with Emerson.”

“I’ll be there!”

And so it began. Something I have always wanted to do, but somehow never had done. With global warming and all, the ski flying days have been limited for the last several years. Stewart’s, in Waynesville, Ohio, is a family run grass strip airport. “Grass-roots” aviation at its finest. ‘Cub’ and Cathy run the maintenance shop, daughter Sara does the books, and their son Emerson heads up the flight instruction. Emerson, now thirty something, grew up on the airport. He is soft-spoken, and unassuming, but knows a thing or two about flying (that is an understatement). Emerson particularly knows about aerobatics, taildraggers, and Piper Cub’s. I am excited to have the opportunity to fly with him in a Cub, on skis.

It snowed overnight. The heavy wet stuff. Six inches! More snow flurries are forecast and the sky is a gray overcast with diffused light. When I arrive at the airport around three o’clock, it looks like an arctic tundra. Expansive and white. The only color is white. The yellow cones which normally define the runway are covered in snow. White on white.

White on White

White on White

I walk out toward the runway and meet Penny who has just finished flying with Emerson in the Cub on skis. There are not really any strangers at airports like this, just friends you haven’t met yet.

Emerson is flying with his next student while Penny and I chat and take some pictures. I finally succumb. “I’m cold!” With this I head to the warmth of the airport office.

After some hangar talk with those in the office; “How you been?” “Wind is still down the runway.” “Did you see the radar?”, that sort of thing, Emerson comes in with his student. All smiles from their mini adventure.

“Is the weather good enough?”, I ask.

“Sure, let’s go.”, Emerson says.

Outwardly, I’m trying to be cool. Inwardly, I’m excited! Just like a little kid. But it is a good thing.

As we walk out to the airplane, Emerson starts giving me the brief about flying on skis.

“I’ll fly the first pattern and then it will be your turn. Don’t touch the brakes, they aren’t connected to anything. On takeoff, you need to hold the tailwheel just above the snow. Too low, and the tailwheel causes drag. Too high, and the weight of the plane is all on the skis, and they’ll sink into the snow, again too much drag.”

So, about starting. I climb into the back seat (the command seat in the Cub) and Emerson prepares to prop the plane. Normally the pilot in the plane would hold the brakes, but there are no brakes. I envision my running Emerson over after he props the engine to life. Here’s the deal. As the skis slide along on the snow, the friction heats them up, and when you stop for very long at all, the skis melt the snow, and then it refreezes. So, I learn that the Cub is frozen in place and not to worry. Emerson props the plane, I gently catch the engine with the throttle as it sputters, and I remain stationary. Whew!

As Emerson walks around he grabs the wingtip and rocks the plane to loosen the grip of the snow. He gets in and closes the bi-fold door, and we are ready to go.

With a goose of the throttle, a lift of the tailwheel, and a yaw of the rudder, Emerson breaks us completely free from our moorings and we are rolling, ah… sliding toward the runway. The turns are all done through the aerodynamics of the rudder. Without differential braking the radii of the turns are large, so it takes some planning to get where you want to go. We check for traffic and pull out on the runway. Reality is, we are the only plane with skis, and the only plane to use this airport all day, but we check for traffic anyway. Emerson adds power and sets the attitude of the plane, tailwheel just clear of the snow. We slide down the runway with slowly gathering speed plowing through the six inches of snow. The sixty-five ponies up front are straining at the bit. Nothing happens very fast in a Cub, but as we ‘slip the surly bonds’ and the skis come off the snow, I feel a push in my back as the airplane lurches forward… now free from the drag of the skis on the snow. I inwardly smile.

Emerson flys the pattern, and as we roll out on final, I exclaim out loud, “Where’d the runway go?!” It is just a sea of white, and with the flat light nothing stands out. At about 200 feet, with concentration, I can start to pick out the runway cones, and a little bit of the tracks in the snow from previous landings. We fly down and as we get close Emerson stops the descent with pitch and then adds a little bit of power and waits. The airplane slowly settles, and when the backs of the skis touch the snow he pulls the rest of the power out and the plane slides on. Quickly the snow and drag are back and we slow, now needing power to steer and exit the runway for the taxi back.

Now it’s my turn! I check for traffic and taxi out. “You ready?”. I see a nod. I add power and start to play with the pitch. Too high… Too low… Just right! And wait. I’m keeping track of the white cones out the left side of the airplane. There isn’t much else for reference and I need the cones for alignment. Being in the backseat, I’m not seeing much over the nose and around Emerson. Once we liftoff I immediately know why Cubs are so dear to so many. This is simple unadulterated flying. No distractions, just flying. The only thing missing is the open door on the right side, but I am wanting to keep it closed today.

Around the pattern we go. It is smooth, and as we roll out on final I visually grab hold of anything I can see. Emerson’s house is off to the side of the runway threshold and I start with that landmark. Finally some things start to subtlety appear. The cones… the texture of the runway. I fly down, arrest the descent, add power, and wait to touch. There it is. Power out and we settle on. The impression I have is that flying on skis is a lot like flying on floats. When landing, set the attitude, add power and wait. Big wide taxi turns. And no brakes.

Two more circuits and we are done.

In the warmth of the office, Emerson writes four words in the comments section of my logbook. “Takeoffs Landings on Skis”. Thank you s are expressed and Emerson is off with his last student of the day. I always enjoy time spent at Stewart’s. They are a kind family sharing their love and knowledge of aviation with others.

I call home to Sue, a habit when and wherever I land. “I’ll be home in an hour”.

Final thoughts from a fun and memorable day; I can only imagine the difficulty of landing on virgin snow, off airport, on skis. Of judging height, etc. There is plenty of potential for really messing up. Be careful out there.


The Year Ahead

The Year Ahead

“Hello Friend!”

There is a song from the Musical RENT, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure… Measure a year?” That is what 2013 will hold for me, and for you. No more, no less. How will we use it, invest it, spend it?

Life is a balance. It seems if we want to do one thing, something else has to be left behind. So, we must choose. There are givens in my life. I fit in what I can around those givens, those nonnegotiables. If I am asked to fly for work, I fly. It is an irregular schedule, but it (the flying schedule) is a nonnegotiable. Some weeks I don’t fly at all, and sometimes I am gone for over a week straight. If I am in town, I attend church and sing in choirs for two services on Sunday mornings. If I am in town, I attend Thursday night choir rehearsal. If I am in town, I take a piano lesson on Thursday afternoon. I get to choose what to fit into the time that is left over.

Unlike a person who works 8:00 to 4:30, five days a week, every day is different for me. I like the variety! But, with that variety and freedom comes the responsibility to not waste time. I need to fill the voids constructively. There are times when the schedule just gets jam-packed. It sometimes feels like one activity segues into the next, and I don’t have a chance to come up for air. I tend to have many different interests, and want to do it all. Now! I need to be more cognizant of choosing well, and doing what is important in the long run. The important things involve others. Am I making a difference? Are you making a difference?

Resolutions at this time of year often involve losing weight, or trying to improve one’s health. But the resolutions fall by the wayside, and after a few weeks are forgotten. Let me try to put this concept into perspective.

If you lose your health, everything stops. Period. There are people who spend their whole life earning money, but at the expense of their health. They then spend all their money trying to regain what they have lost. Wouldn’t it be better to not lose it in the first place?

So, invest in yourself. Do it for yourself. Do it for the ones you love. Do it for those who love you. But do it. You know what it means. You’ve heard it all before, but do it. Do it now. Eat the good stuff, skip the bad stuff. Eat less of it, and eat the smaller portions more often throughout the day. Exercise regularly. For me this should be running three times, swimming at least once, and biking at least once each week. Find an exercise buddy or group. It makes it so much easier, and you can hold each other accountable.

And get proper sleep. Sleep is when the body repairs itself and gets stronger, both physically and mentally. Sleep is a basic human need. Just like food and water, you need sleep. Shoot for eight hours. That means if you need to get up at 0600, you need to go to bed at 2200. Plan accordingly. Try to make it so you wake up when you are ready to wake up. If you need to, set an alarm as a backup, but try to make it so you really don’t need the alarm.

I get to choose. You get to choose. We could be unhealthy but rich, or be healthy and not rich. Given those choices, I would choose healthy every time. Make it a lifestyle. Make health one of the nonnegotiables. I believe health is the second best investment you can make. (Faith would be the first, but we’ll save that discussion for another time). With health all the other doors and possibilities open. Without health your options become limited.

Wishing you health in the New Year! But it is your choice. No one can do it for you. You are responsible for you. Invest in yourself. Choose well!