Posts tagged ‘Writing’

Updated POH uses waterproof paper

The new panel brought about new procedures and a few changes to the aircraft systems as well as its weight and balance. I took the opportunity to update and print a new POH (pilot operations handbook).

The first POH was printed of half sheets of paper and inserted into heavy plastic sleeves. It was bulky and the plastic was yellowing.

I wanted a light weight, easy to read, and yet still resilient solution. The answer is waterproof paper.

I decided some real test data was required / and I was looking forward to it :-)

Using a color laser printer, I started by printing one of the pages – front and back – which was a mix of text and a colored chart.

I took the page outside to see how legible it was in direct sun light. Silly me forgot that it was drizzle and freezing rain. I carelessly dropped the page and it blew across the lawn before landing in puddle. When I leaned over to pick it up, I lost my balance and pressed the page under water and into some debris. I brought the page back inside to let it dry off. Somehow it made its way to the dirty laundry pile and was tossed in the washing machine where is tumbled and was washed with laundry detergent for 59 minutes. It stayed hidden in the pile of wet clothes and was loaded into the dryer where it was heated and rolled for another 20 minutes.

The results of my ever so cavalier handling were some wrinkles (like all of my work clothes) and a few small specks of missing color.

While humorous, the truth is the page was still completely readable and good for service. I was more than surprised.

The new Pilot Operations Handbook (POH)

I still fly with a kneeboard. It is the most convenient solution for writing down clearances, frequency changes, squawk codes, and various data.

I’ve been using a small US Navy issued unit for most of the past decade.

What I am not as good about is using my checklists. They are part of the POH – pilot operations handbook.

With all the changes to the airplane it was time to update the POH. The original POH was a bit bulky and was stored in the side pocket next to the pilot seat.

The new POH is now part of the kneeboard. This means the checklists are right in front of me at all times.

There is one thing wrong with the new kneeboard – it really should be made of HDPE plastic for better safety. I’ll be looking for this material to replace the front and back covers of the POH.

When good writers go wrong

My inbox had a link to an aviation magazine article titled “Fly VFR like IFR”. I thought “gee, that sounds like it could have some useful information.” I was pretty much wrong. What’s worse, the author ignores the opportunity to help educate and instead, chooses to belittle the VFR pilot.

The writer takes 50% of the article talking about the benefits of flying IFR flight plans even when the weather is good. Then makes a couple demeaning statements …

For those pilots who choose not to file an IFR flight plan for whatever reason, including the possibility that they are not IFR rated …

… and …

With flight following the level of service is substantially less than it is when you’re on an IFR flight plan. The controller can, in fact, cancel flight following at any time.

I should point out that I am an Instrument rated pilot but the planes I fly are not properly equipped so I could not file an IFR flight plan.

After bemoaning it’s weakness, there are two sentences that recommend the use of “flight following”. I’m a big fan of the service. It adds a small amount of work load (radio calls) but it also gets the pilot more comfortable on the radios Smile

If the author wanted to be helpful, he could have made a number of suggests that would have directly matched the article’s title …

  • use flight following
  • establish and maintain altitudes and heading to flight standards
  • know the minimum altitudes for a flight plan (both for obstacles and for nav-aids)
  • pick an alternate destination if weather changes

If you want to read the magazine article online, you can Google the title and you’ll find it. Here’s hoping the author won’t throw away another good opportunity to help the community.

The rare case of the right tool for the job – creating a sequence diagram

SequenceDiagram This is geek-dom. All geek-a-phobes, anti-geeks, geek-aholics, …. move along, there’s nothing to see here. Still with me ? Sorry to hear.

Today was a day of writing technical documentation. Not the most fun I get to have at my job but it needed to be done and everyone else took a giant step back when I wasn’t looking. Most of the text came along pretty well but then I hit the need for a UML Sequence Diagram. First, I should say that "U-M-L"  must be missing a letter because it clearly is a four letter word. Second, I didn’t know I needed a sequence diagram when I started out.

I needed to find a drawing tool that could create these obscure but very specific pictures. It had to be simple. Really simple. BRAIN DEAD SIMPLE! Did I mention it needed to be simple? I found the answer at websequencediagrams and it could hardly be simpler. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let me tell you a story. It starts in a man cave, starkly lit by the light of a large window. In the distance you can hear a dog snoring … (wait, let’s try that again) … In a dark corner, you can hear the most horrific sound; so loud it would wake the dead ! … (there, that’s better) …

… for geeks only, the story continues in the sequence diagram included :-)

Installing hydraulics with [one of] the worst installation manuals

I?ve read documentation that was originally written in another language and then translated to English. You know the kind ? I?m sure of it.

So this weekend I had to install the hydraulic system for the hydro-lift door at the farmhouse. I know nearly zip about hydraulics other than ?they push? or ?they push the other way?. (Hydraulics don?t pull.) I started reading the installation manual a couple weeks ago and it didn?t make any sense. Today I went down to the job site and laid out all the parts. The instructions still didn?t make any sense. Here is the awful diagram that made this such a bad day ?

bad-diagram

Here is the description of what you are meant to do ?

Refer to Figure 10  [the awful diagram] for hose and metal piping routing. All hoses and metal piping must be in the interior of building.  Assemble metal piping together as shown in Figure 10.  Use clamps provided to attach metal piping to Unistrut.  See Figure 10 for next steps.  Connect 1/2? diameter hose (long) to hydraulic pump manifold ?A? and elbow fitting on metal tubing.  Connect 3/8? diameter hose (long) to hydraulic pump manifold ?B? and elbow fitting on metal fitting.  Use short hoses to connect from remaining elbow fittings on metal tubing to cylinders  (3 to 3, 2 to 2).

I won?t get into what a ?unistrut? is because they didn?t bother explaining it either. (I did finally figure them out.) I?ll also mention that all of the lines were the same diameter. As for the rest, let?s start with the fact that the diagram shows 12 pieces ? presumable the steel hydraulic lines. However, there were only 10 lines. The really messed up part is that they show all 12 pieces of similar length. The reality is there were 6 lines 20? long and 4 lines 2? long. I finally figured things out. They made one mistake for which I will need a special tool to cut off 2 lines and flare the ends again. Anyway, here is a diagram that explains how to actually install the hydraulics ?

better-diagram

I don?t think it would have been so difficult to make a decent diagram. As a matter of fact, I drew my version using nothing but cut/paste (with a little rotate and stretch) from their diagram.

Wilson Door: If you read this and decide to copy my diagram, please be kind enough to leave a comment or email me.

Q: desktop software or web applications ? A: both !

There has been a lot of news and internet traffic on the topic of traditional “office suite” software installed on your PC vs on-line web applications. Put another way – Microsoft Office vs Google Apps. How about having your cake and eating it too !

If you subscribe to the 80/20 rule where 80% of what you need a wordprocessor, spreadsheet, or presentation application to do is handled my only 20% of the available features, then web applications are *good enough*. It will be a while before Google Docs has every bell, whistle, and wizbang that Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.org Word Processor.

When I moved to Linux I switched to OpenOffice.org software for my “office suite”. Recently, I signed up for Google Apps as part of a not-for-profit initiative. Today I learned I can use them both together with OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs extension (which has the odd but usable short name of OOO2GD which I pronounce “OH Too Good” <grin>.

I’m looking forward to using with the rest of the team. It will let me write my drafts locally and then quickly export them to the website for review and group editing. This will be great as a few of the group are new to having their own computer and are using the simple gOS on their computers (a combination of one Walmart purchase and few recycled old machines.

One word or caution – the OOO extension is officially still “beta” so there may be some issue and need for polish before all is happy with the world.