Author Archives: Caleb

2015 started the storm chasing and lightning photography season off rather slow with above seasonal temps across most of the plains but the lack of storms has taken it’s toll on all the weather chasers.  I ended up chasing a very marginal setup near Wichita, KS on 3/23/2015 just so I could see some lightning in the sky.  Chasing partner and lightning photography expert, Shane Kirk (www.lightning-chaser.com), accompanied me on this trip.  We had an absolute blast!

We forecast an area just to the north of Wichita, KS and got to the target area a little early, which gave us time to grab some coffee and a bite to eat!  Food ingested and coffee coursing through our veins and the first signs of initiation were taking place to our north near McPherson, KS.  We decided that we would drive up north and investigate since our storms had not yet fired.  Seeing a few flickers of lightning to our north got our spirits up and the excitement took over!

Then the storms to our north stopped flashing so we headed back to Wichita in anticipation storms we forecast there.  Without fail, they developed and put on a great lightning show and we got in position.

You can’t win if you don’t play.  We played and it paid off in spades!  A few nice lightning bolts started of our storm chasing season and resulted in a few nice lightning bolts being added to our photography collections.

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Storm Chasing:  2015 Storm Season Arrives…..BUT

There is still an unseasonable and unreasonable plume of frigid air pushing south across the U.S!  Temperatures across tornado alley should start to become a little more seasonal towards this weekend, although, if this year is anything like last year we may have a late season frost or snow in May!  Ugh!

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Oklahoma Lightning. May 2013 Purchase this Print!

It won’t be too much longer until the plains become alive with sound of rolling thunder as the lightning electrifies the air.  In fact, my town just sounded the tornado sirens during the annual statewide tornado drill!  Needless to say, chills momentarily ran down my spine as the excitement grew.  (If you want to learn how I shoot lightning, then visit this link and learn my method!!!)

West Point, Ne Supercell. - Buy this Print

West Point, Ne Supercell. 6/14/2014. – Buy this Print

I have been extremely busy with airline interview preparation and actual interviews with maybe two or three more interviews to go before the wait for a start date begins.  Storm season will be tricky for me this year as I may end up being in training during the peak of this years stormy weather.  That’s perfectly fine by me as I would rather be up in the air than pinned down by gravity.

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Splendid Mayhem. 2012 Purchase this Print!

TransAsia Crash: Flight 235.

TransAsia Crash: Flight 235.

The TransAsia crash of flight GE235 happened fairly recently but details about how and why it occurred are starting to emerge after the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) and FDR (Flight Data Recorder a.k.a “The Black Box”) were reviewed.  One of the most critical areas of training a pilot receives during his/her multi-engine training is Single Engine Operations.  This is where a pilot must prove his/her ability to maintain control of an aircraft with a disabled engine.  Usually, the disabled engine is the critical engine.  It is not always easy for pilots to identify the correct failed engine and the CVR / FDR seem to confirm this, at least for this flight crew.   Check out how this crew handled the failed engine on this ATR72-600 aircraft:

  1. 10:51:13Z: Takeoff
    TransAsia crew receive take-off clearance.
  2. 10:52:34Z: Departure
    TransAsia told to contact Taipei Departure
  3. 10:52:38Z: Master Warning
    #2 Engine Failure Master Warning sounds for 3 seconds.  This warning was for the RIGHT engine (37 seconds after takeoff at approximately 1200 feet MSL).  This 
  4. 10:53:04Z: Left Engine Power Reduction
    The #1 engine (left engine) power was reduced.
  5. 10:53:12Z: Stall Warning Sounds.
    The crew receive a stall warning alert in the aircraft.
  6. 10:53:24Z: Crew Cuts Power to #1 Engine
    The crew shut down the #1 engine.  The LEFT ENGINE!.
  7. 10:53:34Z: “Mayday”
    The crew declares emergency by saying “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, Engine Flame-out”!
  8. 10:54:09Z: #1 Engine Restart Attempt
    The crew calls for restarting the #1 (LEFT) engine several times.  
  9. 10:54:20Z: Restart of #1
    Left engine is restarted.
  10. 10:54:34Z: Master Warnin!
    The crew receives another Master Warning.
  11. 10:54:3Z: Crash
    An unidentified sound is heard and 0.4 seconds later, both recorders stopped recording.

 

What is a critical engine?  A critical engine on a multi-engine propeller aircraft is the engine that would have the most adverse affect on aircraft handling and performance.  In short, when one engine quits there is a thrust imbalance between the inoperative engine and the operative engine resulting in asymmetrical thrust, reduced take-off/climb performance, reduced propulsive lift over the wing of the inop engine, and more.
(To read more on critical engines on propeller aircraft, click the image below)

Critical Engine Diagram of multi-engine propeller aircraft.

Critical Engine Diagram of multi-engine propeller aircraft.

It is easy to pass judgement on these pilots because we weren’t in their cockpit while this stuff was going on.  However, it is still far too early to cast judgement.

The deadly TransAsia crash does seem to demonstrates a breakdown of crew resource management and an inability to identify and verify the correct failed engine.

What are your thoughts?  Discuss below.

ERJ145-airplane-tail-with-sunset

ERJ145 on the ramp in Houston.

This is not an easy story.  It never has been.

I am still not sure I understand exactly how it happened but all I do know is that it did happen.  On a beautiful day back in March of 2008, a day that seems like an eternity ago, I was on my last flight as an airline pilot.  I saw the writing on the wall.  Terrified about what was to come, yet, there was nothing I could do about it as it was beyond my control.  Circumstances, as some would say.

The trip went from KIAH (Houston, TX) to KBHM (Birmingham, AL).  Our altitude was below the RVSM airspace so I hand flew the Embraer ERJ-145LR.  Sure, I was backed up by the autopilot but I had mastered this aircraft and loved to fly it.  The feeling you would get as you accelerate down the runway towards the takeoff decision speed (V1).  Hearing the Captain call out “Positive Rate”, I responded by saying “Gear Up”.  The after takeoff checklist was completed but the flight was just getting underway.

ERJ-145 in flight through clouds

ERJ-145 in flight through clouds

The air was smooth even though there were scattered towering cumulus clouds all around us.  I leveled the jet off at FL240 (24,000ft) and began the slow increase in speed to 320KTS(Vmo).  The view was amazing as always.  Off in the distance to my south I could just barely make out the gulf coast waters.  No sooner that we leveled off and enjoyed the view it was time to prepare for the approach.  ATC was issuing vectors for traffic separation and we began our approach.
Just as quickly as that flight went by, my time at the airline had temporarily come to an end.  Something that every airline pilot could potentially face.  Furloughs were coming.

The crashing economy had the most to do with it and trying to keep me and my family of five to stay afloat with increasing gas costs and a weakening dollar value was intimidating.  My wife and I discussed our options in great detail and came to the only conclusion that seemed to do our family any good.  Resignation.

Regretfully, I handed in my resignation with much sadness.  I knew I didn’t want to leave my “dream job” but I could see what was coming down the line.

ERJ-145 sunset from cockpit

A shot of the setting sun in Houston, TX after landing.

I landed a busy cargo flying gig out of KMKC (Kansas City Downtown Airport) for  a hole in the wall FAA part 135 company that used the Aero Commander 500 series.  This old bird quickly became one of my favorite airplanes to fly with it’s twin Lycoming IO-540 piston engines.  There was no autopilot on this aircraft so everything was hand flown.  Even the most turbulent of weather.  VFR conditions were always fun but IFR was always an exciting challenge.  Flying this aircraft was like driving a “sporty” Ford Festiva after being trained to drive a Ferrari.  It was bittersweet, in all honesty.  I was happy to still be flying but so disappointed that I was not longer flying for the airlines.

To this day, I wish I would have stayed with the airline and rode the furlough out.  I would be upgrading to Captain sometime this year.  Hind-sight is 20/20, at best, though.   Sometimes your best decisions do not always work out the way you expect them to.  I learned this in the hardest way possible even though  I make decisions that I only hoped would have positive effects in my life.

The Aero Commander company experienced an accident that led to a massive reduction in their contracted runs and, in turn, a massive pilot furlough that I thought I had avoided.

Aero-Commander-500-airplane-propellor-in-flight

The Aero Commander 500 prop in flight.

The economy has finally recovered enough and FAA regulated mandatory pilot retirement age has the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction now.  Instead of facing furlough’s, a mass influx of pilots is needed to fulfill the aircraft that were once vacant.  So many pilots will be retiring over the next decade that American Airlines estimates roughly one pilot will retire every 18 hours!  That is 487 pilot’s per year for just American Airlines!

This is great news for pilots!

I feel the winds have changed my course.  Storm chasing will always be a hobby for me.  I love the people I meet, the storms I see, and the experiences I have had.  However, I have always loved flying.  There really is nothing better than being on top of the clouds!

My resume has been polished up.  I have gotten into the best shape of my life, which you can read about that here, and new suit that screams professional.  It’s time to strap back in, file the flight plan, and prepare for take off!

I am not sure what the future holds but I am extremely excited!

 

ERJ-145 First Officer Pilot

ERJ-145 First Officer Pilot

 

Measure your body fat percentage calipers

I want to “GET FIT.  LOOK SHARP”.

man in suit get fit look sharp

This is me around the middle of January 2015. 193lbs and 14-15% body fat.

So I have finally made up my mind to start the arduous journey of shedding my fat.  This journey began in September of 2014 when I jumped on a set of scales.

overweight storm chaser and pilot

I’m in the grey sweat shirt and weighed roughly 225lbs. Photo taken by Dilloren Killoren.

For the last 10 years I thought that my body weight and muscle mass had pretty much stayed the same.  Compared to what I saw, my arms were still pretty muscular and my pants weren’t overly snug.  The bigger question:  Who was I comparing myself to?  As it turns out, when I only looked at myself in the mirror I only compared my physical appearance to none other than…MYSELF!

 

The problem with this comparative analysis is that I was comparing myself to myself.  This method of comparison just does not work and when I finally opened my eyes (thanks to a trip down memory lane via a scrap book that had pictures of me from 2004), I realized that I had gotten fat!

My wife and I decided it was time to do something about it and get back in shape.  Time to fight the fat and get fit!

woman doing deadlift exercise

My wife getting fit with a barbell deadlift exercise.

So how do you know where to start?  How can you commit to a diet and avoid all the gimmicks?  The answer was simple.  Science and experience.

I was scrolling through my GooGle+ page and happened across this article from a guy named Michael Mathews.  The title reading “The Absolute Best and Worst Ways to Build Muscle“.

At first, I was skeptical because of how many “Lose weight fast” diet schemes there are out there.  Paleo diet.  Weight Watchers.  Cardio fitness.  Meal replacements.  Blah, blah, blah…the list goes on and on.

However, after reading this article I noticed that this guy has done his homework.  Lots of well written material with loads of scientific research studies that have been conducted throughout the years are linked throughout his website.  He does offer his own line of protein shakes and a few books that I highly recommend.

So, the journey began.  I weighed 224lbs in September of 2014 when I started off by doing stretches, a 20 min walk, and some light exercise that involved only using body weight.  For the longest time, this was how I thought things were done.  It wasn’t until about mid-October that I came across “Best and Worst Ways to Build Muscle” and that is when the results really started to happen.  We invested in nothing more than a weight bench and 300 pounds of olympic weights to perform our exercises with.

Then we started tracking our diet and calorie intake.  The method that we use is called Flexible Macro Dieting.  With this diet, you basically figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate  and use a BMR Calculator to figure out how many calories your body burns every day.  Then adjust that according to the linked Mike Mathews article.  Figure out if you are wanting to bulk for muscle building or cut for fat loss or do both at the same time.

I recommend getting his book “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger” as this goes further in depth than I will and it even outlines some of the basic compound exercises and even has links and diagrams to demonstrate proper form when executing these exercises.

The main exercises that my wife and I have been doing now for over 3 months are:  Bench Press, Barbell Deadlift, Barbell Back Squat, Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions, and this Ab Routine.

man doing barbell back squats exercise

Getting fit with the Barbell Back Squat

Back to the diet.

I will also recommend that when it comes to counting your calories or tracking your macros…Do yourself a favor and be flexible with it.  What I mean is DO NOT put too much emphasis on every little gram of every piece of food you eat.  You WILL drive yourself crazy!  Find a good meal plan that fits your macros and try your best every day to eat those numbers!

We also use calipers for measuring our body fat percentage.  We bought these calipers on amazon but read about them here: “How to Accurately Measure Body Fat Percentage

Measure your body fat percentage calipers

Measure your body fat percentage with these calipers

One method of a good diet comes from this awesome Personal Trainer, that happens to be my sister.  She recommends for women: 4oz of meat, 1/4 of carbs/ 1/4 of fruit, and 1 cup of vegetables up to six times a day.  For men, the same applies except we get 60z of meat.  This really helps out when you are traveling and still wanting stay “within your numbers”.

Just carry a set of food scales with you and don’t try to eyeball it.  Measure your food intake so you know exactly what you are eating and track your diet and food plan with something like MyFitnessPal.com.  It gets pretty easy to eat on the go.

So far, I am loving the results.  So far, I have lost 34lbs.  So far, my body fat percentage has gone from 26-28% down to 12.7%.

I love working out now.  I love how my wife looks at me.  I love the food that we eat.  I am bench-pressing 185lbs (the most I have ever pushed up), squatting 225lbs, deadlifting 205lbs, and curling 95lbs on the barbell.

I want to “GET FIT.  LOOK SHARP”.

Follow my progress on MyFitnessPal

Have any ideas?  Want to share your thoughts?  Leave a comment.

The Cyclone Ranger

A man from Kansas with an obsession for supercell storms and tornadoes tells his tales in the Cyclone Ranger web series episodes. From blown radiators and shady western Kansas hotels to the splendor of supercell timelapse cinematography, Mr. Locke combines his expertise and passion to bring you one of the most original and outstanding portrayals of storm chasing.

In episode 1, the Cyclone Ranger, appropriately titled “Hot and Bothered Across Kansas”, opens up with the daunting task of storm chasing with a blown radiator and the obsessive drive that it takes in order to push on towards his storm.

Hot and Bothered in Kansas

In episode 2, we are rejoined with the Cyclone Ranger as his trek leads us through north central Nebraska. Dubbed “The Kraken”, Stephen captures some of the most amazing time lapse video I have ever seen of the Coleridge, NE tornado, Laurel, NE tornado, and Hartington, NE supercell storm that took place on June 17, 2014.

The Kraken

With the release of episode 3, “Siren’s Storm”, the Cyclone Ranger introduces you Erickson, NE supercell storm and the Pilger, NE tornadoes. Episode 3 focuses on June 16, 2014.

Siren's Song

Make sure you follow Stephen Locke and his alter-ego, The Cyclone Ranger, as there are more episodes yet to be released.

Wx-Pilot’s Top 10 Stunning Storm Chasing Photos

The last several years have offered some amazing weather phenomenon that I was blessed enough to witness along with meeting and chasing with some of the most interesting and awesome people, chasers, and photographers! In between the random chance meet& greets along Kansas back roads, I learned a valuable life lesson. You never give up. Ever! Not even when the road is lonesome and tiring. There is so much in this world to be seen.

So without delay, I present to you the Wx-Pilot Top 10 Storm Chasing Photos!

aerial storm chasing

La Crosse, KS 5/25/2012 – Buy this Print

aerial storm chasing

Russell, KS 5/25/2012 – Buy this Print

Wakita 2011 – Buy this Print

Pilger, NE Deadly Twin Tornadoes - 6/16/14

Pilger, NE Deadly Twin Tornadoes – 6/16/14

Guthrie, Oklahoma – 5.30.2013 – Buy this Print

Titan – Buy this Print

aerial storm chasing

Russell, KS 5/25/2012 – Buy this Print

The Pilger Tornado. 6/16/14

Pilger, NE Tornado – 6/16/2014 Buy this Print

 

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Amazing Aerial Footage of the Pilger Nebraska Tornado Damage

widespread damage devastation Pilger Nebraska Tornado

An amazing aerial view of the devastating tornado damage path from the twin tornadoes that ripped through Pilger on 6/16/2014. These deadly twin tornadoes were rated EF4 by the National Weather Service.

Amazing Aerial view of Pilger Tornado Damage

I was storm chasing this day and you can see the twin tornadoes from my perspective in the video below. I have never seen anything like this in my life and because of how rare this weather scenario is, two violent EF4 tornadoes on the ground at the same time, I doubt I will ever witness such an amazing, yet, terrifying tornado weather event in like this in my life

6/16/2014 - Twin Tornadoes Pilger Nebraska

October is #BreastCancerAwareness month.  Want to show your support? For the rest of October any purchase of this Cumulus #Mammatus cloud print will have a portion of the proceeds donated to the American Cancer Society.