One Year

Update: added airplane photo

Wow, has it been a year already? Apparently it has. Next Friday, December 4, marks the one year anniversary of Pens and Planes! I have had a lot of fun doing the blog over the past year and I look forward to what the future holds.

I know things have been quiet the past two months or so, but I haven’t really had a chance to focus on getting a new pen review or aviation post up. I want to do an “Aviation Adventures” type post, but I am still trying to decide whether to focus on one flight at a time, or to talk about some of the places I have been. I am leaning towards the latter, because let’s be honest, we all want to hear about all the cool and fun places we pilots get to go.

Thanks for all the support so far, and if there is an aviation topic you would like to see me cover, let me know. 

It hit after I published, the post that I haven’t actually posted a picture of what I fly. I think it’s time to fix that. Here is my ride, an Embraer Phenom 300

Cursive to the Classroom

Earlier this year I posted about the CursiveLogic Kickstarter campaign, that was successfully funded. If you don’t remember it, CursiveLogic is a new method for teaching cursive that breaks the letters down into groups based on the shapes of the letters that was created by Linda Shrewsbury. Linda Shrewsbury and her team have a new Indiegogo campaign to try to get the CursiveLogic system and workbooks into the hands of teachers and students in schools. By supporting the Indiegogo project you will be sponsoring a workbook (or workbooks depending on your pledge level) but will also receive access to CursiveLogic’s online training seminar. You will have the option to designate a particular school to receive the workbooks you sponsor. If you or someone you know is a teacher and would be interested in requesting workbooks from the campaign, visit this website.

Update to previous post


Update: DOH!!!!


Apparently my common sense is running on the low side today. Previously when using the workflows, any link I included I would omit the whole http:// bit because who types that anymore and it worked fine. Then they stopped working which was the reason for the previous post. Then I got one of those “I wonder…” moments and tried putting the http:// before the link and SquareSpace recognized the link and in my (very short) testing opens the link as it should. I have no idea why the SquareSpace blogging app is behaving this way with regards to not recognizing the links that don’t have http:// included. 


So, the workflows in the original Mobile Blogging Made Easier post still work, but I would recommend including http:// with a link before running the workflows.  


Laugh at me for my brain lapse if you want, I’m just happy I figured out how to still use the workflows.

Issues with my Mobile Blogging post workflows

Update: See this post for an update. Short version is that everything still works. 

I have noticed that some of the workflows that I mentioned in my mobile blogging made easier post have quit working the way they did when I wrote that post. The heart of the issue is how the Workflows app outputs the Rich Text after converting it from Markdown. Versions 1.0 & 1.1 of Workflows output the Rich Text with the syntax in place which basically made it a paste the results into Squarespace and hit publish affair. Since version 1.2, Workflows outputs the formatted Rich Text without the syntax and causes SquareSpace to not recognized imbedded links in the Rich Text. This has pretty much made these workflows useless at this point. I have reached out to the developers of Workflows to see if there is a way the previous output style could be turned into a new action. Once I hear back, I will post another update. Until then I was hoping to be able to hide that post until the issue could be corrected, but I don’t see an option for that so this update will have to do.  

Machine Era Co. Brass Pen Review

Hey, look. I managed to review a pen that hasn’t been reviewed countless times.

I first heard about the Machine Era Co. Brass Pen through the Pen Addict Slack room. At the time it was a preorder only affair but I liked the look of it and the price was right so I ordered it. And then proceeded to totally forget about it. Yep, I ordered it and forgot about it until I got the shipping notification email and went “What is this?, I did’t order anything from these people.” Once I looked at what was shipped I remembered that I had ordered it. After getting the pen though, I haven’t forgotten about it since.

The pen is machined from brass and is of the pocket pen variety and faces some stiff pocket pen competition. There are many well known and loved pocket fountain pens available from different companies but when it comes to non-fountain pocket pens, two pens pretty much dominate the market. These, of course, are the Kaweco Sport series and the Fisher Space Pen Bullet pen. Can the Machine Era Co. Brass pen hold it’s own against the competition? I believe it can and that it does.

Schon DSGN pen, Kaweco Al-Sport, Fisher Bullet, Machine Era Co. Pen
What makes the Machine Era Co. pen unique in comparison to the Kaweco Sport and Fisher Bullet, is the refill that the Machine Era pen is designed for. Instead of using the Fisher refill or a Parker Style ballpoint refill, the Machine Era pen uses the Pilot G2 refill. This is the only pocket pen I’m aware of that uses the Pilot G2 refill and I think it is an excellent idea. While the Pilot G2 may not be able to write upside down, underwater, or in extreme temperatures, how many of us truly write under these circumstances on a regular basis? The reason I feel that using the Pilot G2 refill is a smart move is because of the overwhelming availability of the Pilot G2 and it’s refills in nearly every store you walk into, at least here in the U.S. Whether it is a gas station, pharmacy, grocery store, {insert name here} big box retailer, or an overpriced airport or hospital gift shop, they will more than likely have the Pilot G2 available. Another reason I like the idea of using the Pilot G2 refill is because there are more than just ballpoint and gel refills available in the Pilot G2 size. I swapped a Pilot Juice .5mm Blue Black into mine.

One potential drawback to using the Pilot G2 for a pocket pen is that in comparison to the Parker ballpoint and the Fisher refill, the Pilot G2 is a large refill which means that a pen designed to use it will have to be larger as well. Machine Era Co. tackled this problem by making the pen slightly larger than the Pilot G2 refill which means the pen is very thin. This thinness is what makes the pen so compact and pocketable. How thin is the pen? The Machine Era Co. pen is 9.5mm in diameter while the Fisher Bullet is 9mm in diameter and the Kaweco Lilliput fountain pen is 9.3mm in diameter so they are practically the same size. Lengthwise, the Machine Era pen is a little longer than the other pocket pens but this is simply due to the Pilot G2 refill being longer. This doesn’t detract from the pocketability (is that even a real word) of the pen though because the difference in length is minimal. The cap on the Machine Era pen screws onto the back of the pen so you don’t have to worry about losing the cap. When I first got the pen I thought posting the cap made it slightly top-heavy but I have gotten used to it and actually prefer writing with the pen posted. Because the cap doesn’t go down over the barrel much when posted, the pen is longer than most other pocket pens when posted, but not by much. The barrel of the pen is just long enough that I can write comfortably without posting the cap but find myself posting the cap anyway. 

Comparison of the body and Pilot G2/Juice refill. You can also see the threads where the cap posts
Being made of the brass, the pen does have some heft to it, but the small size keeps the weight down to around 1.3 ounces. Machine Era Co. has just started offering a black anodized aluminum model which according to their website weighs .5 ounces. Since it is machined from raw brass the pen does have the metallically smell common to raw brass pens and it will develop a nice patina over time.

Handwriting the rough draft of this review was the first semi-long writing session I’ve done with the pen and it was very comfortable to use. It also further cemented my belief that this is a really well designed pen and that it can compete with the Kaweco Sport, Fisher Bullet, and other pocket pens. 

Aircraft Training

It has been a couple of months since my last post and I’m sure some of you may have been wondering why. The short story is that I got a job flying for a new company and have been busy training for the new job. (I have had some time off but I have spent it with my family) While two months may seem like a long time for training for a new job, it’s not in aviation as a pilot and that is the purpose of this post.

It’s easy to assume that because we fly airplanes for a living that we can fly any airplane, which if taken at the literal level of manipulating the controls of an airplane is a true statement, though the reality is much different. For those aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds and not being turbojet powered (jet engines), as far as the FAA is concerned, that statement is true because the basic hands-on skills of flying an airplane don’t change. I can hop into a multitude of airplane types I’ve never flown before, do a few takeoff and landings, and take my family flying but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Even though the basics of flying don’t change, each airplane model flies a little differently though the differences in small airplanes are minimal which is why the FAA doesn’t require specific type training for small airplanes. Insurance companies are a different matter and typically require some training for aircraft owners and there is renter’s insurance which covers the pilot, occupants, and the airplane (renter’s insurance is commonly required for aircraft rental). For airplanes weighing over 12,500 pounds or any turbojet powered airplanes (there are some jets that weigh less than 12,500 pounds) the FAA requires what’s called a type-rating, which is aircraft type specific training, to be able to legally fly those airplanes. (Type-ratings can cover multiple models of the same airplane, like the various models of the 737, or even different models which are similar enough that the FAA considers them to be the same, like the 757 & 767). That means if a pilot who is type-rated on the 737 gets a job flying a Learjet, that pilot has to get specific training and get typed on the Learjet. Getting back to topic at hand, my two month absence on the blog, the bulk of the previous two months has been on me getting typed on the new plane I’ll be flying, the Embraer Phenom 300, and the rest was on company specific stuff. The rest of the post will explain the process I’ve been through and what training I have left to do.

When starting a job at a new company, the first bit of training we do is called indoctrination or indoc training is learning that company’s operating policies and procedures and typically lasts one to three weeks. It typically starts with a bunch of standard Human Resources gobblygook (drug policies, what to do if harassed by a fellow employee, etc) and is boring as it sounds, unless you find HR stuff interesting which I don’t. The rest of indoc is related to how that company operates and how they do things. They may have company specific procedures which require higher weather minimums for operating into and out of certain airports, they may have a unique customer service model that needs explaining, etc. Everything they is covered in indoc training is applicable to the company’s entire fleet of aircraft but doesn’t cover how to operate the aircraft, which is done at a later date. Indoc training, like pretty every bit of aviation training, ends in a test and is typically multiple choice. Once indoc training is complete, we move on to aircraft training.

Aircraft training is comprised of two parts, aircraft systems and the simulator.
Aircraft systems training comes first and lasts 1-2 weeks. Aircraft systems training is where we learn everything we need to know about the airplane we are going to be flying. If it has to deal with the operation of the aircraft, we learn about it. From the number of batteries and electrical generators to the number of emergency brake applications we have when we lose hydraulic power, we learn it. We learn how the failure of one component of a system may affect the rest of the system. After we have finished with systems training, there is an oral knowledge exam and possibly a written knowledge exam. (ome companies may not have the written knowledge exam but the FAA requires an oral knowledge exam and the exam may done before or after simulator training.

From systems training we move to simulator training where we learn to fly the airplane, but not in the way you may be thinking of. When the general public thinks of a flight sim, they think Microsoft Flight Simulator but when a professional pilot thinks of a flight simulator, we think of a behemoth of a machine that sits on about 6 large hydraulic legs and where we know we are going to have a lot of systems failures. The outside of these sims look very similar but the inside is basically an exact copy of the airplane cockpit, down to the position of switches. When we are in the simulator, we do very, very little of just flying around to learn how the plane flies, the majority of the time is spent working through systems failures and different scenarios. What little “normal” flying we do is spent doing maneuvers such as steep turns and aerodynamic stall recovery. Steep turns (45° of bank) may sound simple but require a lot of coordination and a lot of division of attention to heading, altitude, and airspeed (we have to maintain altitude within 100ft, airspeed within 10kts, and roll out of the turn within 10 degrees of our assigned heading) and they are supposed to demonstrate a high degree of aircraft control. Aerodynamic still recovery procedures vary from plane to plane but at the basic level the procedure is lower the nose and add power and we practice these in various aircraft configurations simulating a departure (takeoff and climb out) stall, clean or cruise stall, and an approach to landing stall. We practice these to learn and recognize the indications that the airplane is about to stall. (I’m referring to an aerodynamic stall where the wing stops producing enough lift, not an engine stall). The rest of our time in the sim is spent getting emergency after emergency and failure after failure thrown at us. We practice what we call V1 cuts, which is where we lose an engine just during takeoff, typically just as we are raising the nose to liftoff, which is the worst point for an engine to quit because that’s when we are the heaviest, slowest, and have the least amount of energy (airspeed) and we do multiple of these. V1 is our takeoff decision speed or the speed by which we have to make the decision to reject or abort the takeoff. In other words, if something happens below V1 we will reject the takeoff and at or above V1 we’re going flying, even if an engine were to explode and catch on fire, because once we reach V1 we may not have enough runway left to stop the airplane and it is safer to continue the takeoff and handle the situation in the air. Also, don’t worry about the airplane not being able to climb on one engine because all jet aircraft have to demonstrate single engine climb capability before they are certified, which means that they will climb on one engine. We also practice a multitude of other scenarios from hydraulic failures, to loss of pressurization, to an inflight fire, to responding to conflicting traffic, to landing gear malfunctions, to flight control malfunctions, to flight instrument malfunctions. Basically if it can happen in flight, we practice it over and over and over. The purpose is to learn how to respond to a scenario in our airplane, how to work through a checklist, down to the call outs we need to make. We practice so this stuff becomes second nature so that if something happens in the real world, we can respond to situation calmly and efficiently and without over reacting. If and when something happens in the real world, pretty much the first universal pilot response is something along the lines of “Oh, crap” in a calm, cool, and collected voice, of course, and then we work through the situation. For the best example of this calm response, listen to the ATC tapes of U.S. Airways flight 1549 (the Miracle on the Hudson flight), and you will hear no overacting or freaking out in the voice of Captain Sullenberger. Surprising to many we do not practice dual engine failures, though sometimes if we finish a training session early or have extra time we may have some fun and the sim instructor will fail both engines. The reason we don’t practice dual engine failures is because it is impossible to realistically train for because beyond a checklist, you cannot develop a standard response to a dual engine failure like you can a single engine failure. What I mean is that the actions we would take would be predicated on a multitude of factors, where we’re departing from, what the weather conditions are, where we’re at over the ground, how high we are, what other airports are close by, are there any large fields nearby, etc. and changing just one of those factors will change the response to the situation. (If the weather would have been bad, or if the plane would have been higher or lower, the outcome of U.S. Airways 1549 would have been a lot different.) I assure you though that if, and it is a really, really, big IF, you’re on a flight and both engines quit that the pilots will quickly come up with a plan of action. Getting back on topic, once we complete our sim training, anybody want to guess what comes next? That’s right a test, or a checkride as it’s commonly referred to. During the checkride, we demonstrate proficiency on the aircraft, V1 cuts, stall recovery, handling an emergency, instrument approach procedures, basically demonstrating we can fly the airplane both normally and during an emergency. Like all test, checkrides are pass or fail but a failure on a checkride stays on our record permanently. Once this is complete, we move onto our initial operating experience or IOE.

The easiest way I can explain IOE is to say that is basically on-the-job training. IOE is designed to help transition us from the training environment to the real world, day-to-day environment. IOE cover pretty much everything we do from our preflight inspection to how to handle day-to-day operational challenges. IOE is also where we learn to fly the airplane under normal circumstances, because typically up to this point we may not have even seen the airplane up close. IOE is done with a training or instructor pilot, commonly known as a check airman and typically lasts for at least 25 hours. Once we complete IOE, we are signed off and can start flying with any captain or first officer. (Newly trained captains go through the same process.)

Even though it may seem that training would be over at this point, training for pilots is never truly complete. At least once a year we have a recurrent ground school where we re-cover important or new or changed company policies or procedures, etc. and lasts 1-3 days. Also, twice a year we go back to the simulator and we typically alternate between a proficiency check (checkride) and a LOFT (line-oriented flight training) which represents a normal flight from A-B with an abnormality of some sort which can be as simple as a generator failure or as serious as an engine fire. LOFTs are non-jeopardy events which mean there is no pass or fail aspect, but a recurrent checkride, like our initial checkride is a pass or fail event. We attend these recurrent ground schools and sim sessions every year, unti we retire. And if we upgrade to captain or get assigned a new aircraft type, we go through whole systems & sims, and IOE training.

Hopefully this post gives you an idea of the training process we go through as pilots and I also hope this assures you that your pilots are well-trained to handle any situation that may arise. As far as where I am at in the training process, I am scheduled to start my IOE today (June 24, 2015).

Karas Kustoms INK Review

I know things have been very quiet here the past few weeks and that has been due to me getting a new job. There was a lot of pre-employment stuff I had to get done and didn’t have a chance to focus on a review. I’m going to try get another post out before things get real hectic at my new job but I can’t promise anything. 

When I fist saw some teaser pictures of the INK, I thought it looked really nice but didn’t see myself getting one. The reason? Because all the pictures I was seeing were of a fountain pen and at the time I wasn’t a fan or user of fountain pens. However, I did visit the Kickstarter page when it launched and discovered that it was available as a rollerball and that it took my favorite rollerball refill. SOLD!!!!! On a side note, if you haven’t watched the Kickstarter video, do yourself a favor and watch it. It’s the bee’s knees. Here’s a link to the Kickstarter page because I couldn’t find the the video by itself.

The body and cap of the INK are machined out of aluminum, and unlike Karas Kustoms’ other pens, the body and cap are not available in brass and copper. Given the size of the INK, I think a brass or copper INK would be way too heavy, especially for a fountain pen. Fear not though, because both the rollerball and fountain grip sections are available in brass and copper, as well as aluminum. By swapping the sections you can change the balance and weight of the pen, but not enough to make it unwieldy to use. Combined with the anodized bodies, some beautiful combinations can be made. Like the Iron Man combo below. And yes, I can see Tony Stark using this combo. 

The clip on the INK is different than the one on Karas Kustoms’ other pens. I want to say the clip is machined from steel but don’t quote me on that. Instead of attaching to the front of the pen, the clip sits in a groove machined into the top of the cap and is help in place with two hex head screws. There are some slight variations in how closely the clip is to the cap on my INKs, so some of mine clip better than others because of the difference in gap size. The INK still has the industrial yet classy look that the other Karas Kustoms pens have, though the INK is more classy than industrial. (I used the industrial yet classy phrase in my Render K review but I  think somebody used it before I did but it fits Karas Kustoms’ pens so well I borrowed it.)

The INK is a wide pen but is very comfortable to write with. The fountain pen uses standard international cartridges and converters and ships with a Schmidt #5 nib and feed with F, M, and B nib sizes available. The stock F nib is smooth to write with and I have really been enjoying it. The rollerball version is designed around the Schmidt P8126/8127 refill and also accepts Parker ballpoint style refills. (If you happen to lose the white spacer that comes with the rollerball section, simply use the plastic cap that comes on the P8126/8127 refill.) One of the nicest things about the INK is that converting from a fountain pen to a rollerball or from a  rollerball to a fountain pen is as simple as swapping the grip sections. This helps sets the INK apart from other pens that are available as a fountain pen and a rollerball because the INK is the only one that has the different grip sections available separately. 

If you are looking for a new fountain pen or rollerball pen, or even one of each, I can’t recommend the Karas Kustoms INK enough. You are getting a well designed and made pen that can satisfy different preferences in types of pens. 

Pen Hacks Update

I added some new hacks to my Pen Hacks post and also turned the information in that post into a dedicated page on the site. I thought this would make the information more readily available and easier to find for new and old visitors alike. I will update both the blog post and dedicated page with new hacks as I discover them or as they are submitted to me so the information in both places should be the same. If you are aware of any hacks that aren’t listed or discover any, please feel free to let me know and I will update the list.

Ateleia Brass Pen Review

I first heard about and became interested in the Ateleia Craft brass pen when I read a review of it by Mike Dudek of The Clicky Post. The pen Mike reviewed didn’t have a name at the time so he called it the Chris Williams after the creator who designed the pen to fit a custom leather notebook cover he made. When Chris launched the pen on Kickstarter, I was an instant backer.

The pen is made of brass, (BIG surprise I know!) but isn’t overly heavy. It is lighter than other brass machines pens that I have used. The diameter is smaller than I was expecting but this helps reduce the overall weight and after using the pen, I think Chris got the diameter right. The pen is really well balanced and is really comfortable to write with, even for extended periods of time.

Chris originally designed the pen around the Pilot Hi-Tec-C but with the help of a spring and a spacer the pen will also accept any Pilot G2 size refill as well as the Fisher Space Pen refill. Chris designed a different tip insert that accepts the Pentel EnerGel and Uni-Ball Signo DX and the Signo 207 refills. By swapping the inserts, the refill possibilities of the pen are practically endless and this is what makes the design of the pen really shine. I’m using a Pentel EnerGel .5mm Blue and am really liking the combination.

As much as I love the pen, there are some things about it that could be a deal breaker for some people. The cap on the pen is small and doesn’t post, which can make it easy to misplace. There isn’t a clip on the pen, and while I don’t find it an issue, I know some may. The biggest issue with the pen, and is a result of the design, is that a wrench or a pair of pliers is required to change the refill. There are flat sides on the inserts so you can grip the insert without damaging the threads but to prevent marring the brass you should also use a cloth, rag, piece of leather, or something to help protect the brass.  This doesn’t bother me because unless you’re doing a lot of writing every day it shouldn’t have to be done that often. Another reason it doesn’t bother me is because in order to make it easier to change the refill, Chris would have to had changed the design of the pen, which I think would take away from the asthetics of the pen. I don’t consider any of these issues to be oversights on Chris’ part but simply results of the design Even though they are not issues for me, I know that others may find them to be and wanted to point them out.

Chris also hand-makes a leather sleeve for the pen that compliments the pen really well. After more than a month in my pocket, the sleeve is holding up and is getting that worn look that we all like about leather products.

The pen and sleeve have become something that I carry with me everywhere I go.  Even with the fact that a wrench is needed to change the refill, which again isn’t something that’s going to be done often I still highly recommend the pen. If you do decide to pick one up, I recommend getting both inserts to open up your refill options. 

Ti2 Design TechLiner Review

When I first saw the TechLiner, I wasn’t sure about the look of the refill sticking out of a blunt end on the pen. I also let my previous thoughts on the Uni-Ball Signo 207 cloud my judgement. These thoughts were from long ago when I wasn’t a fan of gel pens and wasn’t impressed with the Uni-ball Signo 207. Like the old saying on not judging a book by it’s cover, I shouldn’t have judged this pen solely on it’s looks or by old thoughts on the refill it was designed around.

One of the things I liked about the TechLiner from the beginning was the fact that it was made out of titanium. I have always liked pens made out of titanium, partially because it’s an interesting material and something different than aluminum but also because of it’s extensive use in aviation and turbine engines. Having a pen made out of the same material that my aircraft’s engines are made out of is an interesting way for me to bring two of my biggest passions together.

The build quality of the TechLiner is very solid, there’s no rattling parts or loose threads to be found. The tips of the pen have a machined grip that is comfortable to hold but does it’s job well. Probably the coolest, and definitely the most fun, feature of the TechLiner is the use of magnets to hold the cap in place. The magnets are strong enough to keep the cap in place, even if you try to shake the cap off, but aren’t so strong as to make it hard to remove the cap. The magnets do their job well and also make a cool sound when attracting the cap.

The shorty model of the TechLiner is very well balanced and makes the TechLiner comfortable to write with. There is a longer version available and while I haven’t used one of the longer models other reviews suggest it may be a little top-heavier than the shorty version, though not enough to make it uncomfortable. One of my concerns initially ,as mentioned earlier, was how the refill seemed to just stick out of the pen with nothing but a magnet to hold it in place. I didn’t like the look of it at first and also had concerns about how secure the tip would be when writing and whether the tip would bend any or worse break off given how much of it was exposed. After looking at many pictures and reading many reviews the look has grown on me and I really like it as it is something different. The magnet does an excellent job of keeping the tip secure when writing and after filling out duplicate forms at work and triplicate forms registering my daughter for kindergarten earlier this week, my fears of the tip bending or breaking were unfounded.

There is a tumbled finish that looks nice but is a very plain finish when compared to some of the other finishes that are available. The most well known of these other finishes is the gonzodized or gonzo finish which gives the TechLiner a unique blue and gold patina finish and looks awesome. An interesting take on the gonzo finish is the new Gonzoflage model which has a digital camouflage pattern lasered into the gonzo finish. The polished finish looks very nice and isn’t a fingerprint magnet like some polished finishes. The Urban Camo has a unique texture to it which gives the finish a little more grip than the other finishes I’ve used. I think this results from the top layer of the finish being lasered off to create the camo pattern. There are additional finishes and some brass and copper models available on Ti2 Design’s website.

Simply put, my initial thoughts on the TechLiner were about as wrong as they could get, the TechLiner is an excellent pen and one that I recommend picking up.