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Takeoffs

rstark
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My dad used to say takeoff was the easiest part of flying: "Go fast. Pull up." After doing several thousand of them, I agree. The plane's configuration doesn't change (except for retracting the landing gear, which are useless during flight) until it's well away from the ground. Newer, more powerful engines, make the acceleration quicker, and that makes the whole process safer. The faster you get to flying speed, the faster you get airborne. Faster acceleration also means that, in the event the Pilot wants to stop (abort) the takeoff, more runway is left on which to stop. Those powerful engines allow us to climb out of the low-level bumps brought on by summer heat, and it lets the plane quickly climb above most of the weather ahead. Power is a good thing. You can't have "too much." The only surprise might be wake turbulence from a jet departing ahead. It can be startling, but it is no threat at all to your plane. Until someone figures out how to see air, wakes will always be out there to surprise us. Takeoff pitch angle startles some, but the Pilots rotate the aircraft to a very precise climb angle. (We have to rotate to about 20 degrees to avoid placing too much stress on the flaps.)  If you look outside and it seems the plane is slowing down, you have been duped. The perceived slowing of the plane is due to the fact that it is getting farther away from the ground--the only reference you have.  In fact, the plane is speeding up throughout the process. Another reason people think the pitch angle is so steep is because the Otolith organs in your inner ear lie to you under hard acceleration and make you feel like you are going uphill. Upon landing with all the braking that goes on, you feel like you are going downhill. Watch the front of the cabin during takeoff and landing and see if you can catch your balance system fibbing to you. More about takeoffs: I don't like the feeling of leaving ground especially when the plane shakes. Some take off's are better than others, why is that? The plane will shake. Some runways are rough. After takeoff ,the plane shudders and shakes if it is in any wake turbulence from the plane ahead (almost a given at today's busy airports). Your first clue of wake turbulence is when one wing drops sharply and seems to hang there a couple of heartbeats. Nothing to worry about--it's just rough air emanating from each wingtip. Since air can't be seen, Pilots can only guess where the rough air is. Even if you are in smooth air, you can feel the landing gear turbulence hit the tail as the gear retracts into the fuselage. This turbulence shakes the back of the plane and then disappears as the gear settles into the well located in the wing and belly. Gear turbulence is worse if the Pilot climbs the aircraft steeply, as one often does trying to avoid the wake from the preceding plane. I don't try to force the rotation of the aircraft, I simply let her fly off by herself. She'll go when she is good and ready. No need to rush her. A slow rotation makes the takeoff very gentle, and other than the forward acceleration, which can be rather brisk, the airplane accelerates away from the ground very gently. Initial climb rates are as high as 6,000 feet per minute. That's over 60mph! If I accelerate the plane and then pitch up steeply, I have accelerated your body to 150 mph across the ground and then started an upward acceleration up of 60 mph. If you aren't gentle, you can make the initial climb after takeoff an unnecessarily rough maneuver, but sometimes, you have no choice, as in trying to avoid wake from the plane that departed right in front of you. However, smoothly rotating lets the plane fly away from the ground genty and with a little extra energy because the speed builds rapidly after liftoff. Power is a good thing as it gets you away from the ground quickly. No Pilot has ever had a problem hitting air. It is the ground that always wins. A landing is just a tie.
83 Comments
Jim13
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I was so excited while writing my last post, I didn't check the spelling (Firefox Version 2.0 and above has it built in, this might be my first ever typo one the SWA blog) I got to thinking about the El Paso and Atlanta runways not being flat, then I realized Francisco's runways. Not only are they not flat (they wobble like the bobble head dolls), but they don't even stay in the same place! Runway 26/8 at ELP hasn't moved even an inch since it was built. Francisco's moves around at about 30 knots per hour! http://www.nimitz.navy.mil/ - some killer photos in the photo gallery. Look at the fourth one on the "Ship Gallery" page, the photo with the giant flag laid out on the deck - WOW!
blusk
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Jim, the one advantage to Francisco's floating runway is that it is always pointed into the wind, so at least Navy pilots don't have to worry about crosswinds. Of course, that short runway is another matter altogether. By the way, other airlines have some unique call signs. British Airways, for example, uses "Speedbird," which referes to the logo that originated with BOAC. When they flew Concorde, they added that to their callsign, so their Flight #1 would identify itself on the radio as "Speedbird Concorde 1." Pan Am used "Clipper" as its call sign. Speaking of the Nimitz, take a look at our "Link LUV" section on the right side of the page. We added the Nimitz web site and made it the official ship of Nuts About Southwest in honor of USS Blog Boy. Blog Boy
rstark
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Wow! I never thought ELP would be so popular! The west departure out of ELP point you at the mountains. Off 22, you graze the southern end to the mountain if you fly straight out. Off 26, you are going right at the mountain. A light 300/500 or any 700 can out climb the hills. The shock value to the passengers might be high, especially if winds cause a bumpy ride over the ridge, so we generally fly across the southern tip of the mountain. On initial departure, ELP TOWER gives us a southerly heading to avoid the mountain (something like 190 degrees). Occasionally, we will ask for the "straight out" where we assume separation from the high terrain (which we always do except when in the weather). If TOWER has declined our straight out departure, seconds after liftoff, TOWER will send us to DEPARTURE and we'll request the visual climbout with the "high terrain in sight." Once cleared, we gently roll a tad left and then hug the mountain range with good safe separation, and an eye toward not making too much noise for those who live below. I flew into ELP yesterday but we departed east to DAL. I have not done the west departure in awhile. There may be a new noise ablatement procedure which limits how close you can get to the south end of the range. Not sure about that. For turns, the slower the airpseed, the tighter the turn radius. The SR-71 at MACH 3 had a turn radius of 90 miles in a 30 degree bank. A 737 in a 30 degree bank might turn a three mile radius at 210 knots and a six mile radius at 250 kts (the speed limit below 10,000 feet). If you really have to turn after departure, you can turn with takeoff flaps (somewhere around 150 kts depending on weight) and crank it around with a 1 to 1.5 mile radius -all still at 30 degrees. We never try to exceed 30 degrees for passenger comfort. At 60 degrees of bank, passengers feel two G's. Not fun. At 30 degrees, the additional G onset is minimal, something like 1.2 Gs. In turbulence, this can be a little more. If you like tech stuff, you might like my book. I tried to get most of the good stuff in there. Ray
Francisco_Delga1
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THANKS BRIAN.. WHAT AN HONOR.... WE DO HAVE SOME OF THE BEST PILOTS IN THE WORLD. THEY SURE KNOW HOW TO LAND A BIRD. WELL FRIENDS I WILL BE IN ABQ FOR THE NEXT TEN DAYS.. I HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU ON THE FLIP SIDE. I WILL BE SURE TO EAT GREEN AND RED..... ON OUR WEBSITE OUR PICTURES WILL BE UPDATED THROUGHOUT OUR DEPLOYMENT... USS BLOG BOY
FriendofBlogBoy
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Jim, Thanks for the great link to USS Blog Boy's workplace! You're right; the flag on the deck picture is very impressive. I do wish that whoever had designed their webpage would have allowed you to click on a picture to enlarge it, though. There was one other thing missing. One the "Crew Gallery" page, I don't see any pictures of Francisco faithfully blogging on his laptop! LOL :) Ray, Yes, it does seem that good ole ELP is getting a fair share of attention recently. (By the way, I always thought it ironic that a place so far from the ocean and with such incredibly low humidity would have a designator that spells "KELP") Flying in and out of El Paso for the last twenty-five years gave me lots of opportunities to get nice close views of the Franklin Mountains and a bird's eye view of Juarez on those southwesterly take-offs you've mentioned. One of the most interesting take-offs was one that I watched from the ground there one day during a sales trip. Unbeknowest to me ahead of time, my visit to our furthest west city coincided with a refueling stopover for NASA's 747 that was enroute to Florida with the Space Shuttle riding piggyback. (I've also happened to be in the 'right place at the right time' to see it in Austin and Ft. Worth) The NASA flight only stayed on the ground for an hour, so I sat and watched it land and waited for it to take off. Due to the westerly winds that day, the 747 was going to use runway 22, which I see has a length of 12,020 feet. One of the local radio stations had a live reporter on the scene broadcasting details of the visit, and he told us listeners that the plane would taxi to the northeast end of the runway, where it would then be backed up by a pushtug so that the main gear was at the absolute edge of the concrete with the tail sticking out over the sand. The pilot and co-pilot reportedly were both almost literally standing on the brakes as the throttles were advanced and the engines spooled up mightily. They released the brakes and began their take-off run in that higher altitude and thinner air. I was parked at an observation site at the southwest end of the airport along, appropriately, Airport Road, and watched as that huge 747 with its giant passenger lumbered down the runway. From my vantage point, it looked as if it took almost every inch of that 12,020 feet before he got airborne. I'm sure that the pilot was growing anxious to hear his co-pilot call out "rotate" long before he actually did! All of us sitting on the bumpers and hoods of our cars finally took a breath when he managed to clear the Franklin Mountains with what did not look like a lot of room to spare. That day, the NASA flight crew really earned their pay! Kim 🙂
blusk
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Ray, while we are on the topic of ELP, when you do fly over Juarez, do you have to transition to Mexican ATC, or do you remain under ELP Approach/Departure Control? The reason I ask is that Juarez has a commercial airport too, and I am wondering how ATC coordinates the traffic flow with the two airports. Are there any other SWA cities where a landing and takeoff can take you over a foreign country. I am wondering about Detroit and Buffalo? Blog Boy
Francisco_Delga1
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I have noticed that when we fly into SAN we are ever so close to the border and then we suddenly veer right..... you can see TIJUANA... Do you guys think you will ever serve a city in Mexico? USS BLOG BOY
Kris_S
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Ray, You seem to know your stuff!! Any chance you are flying to Reno next Thursday?? I am terrified of flying but I guess you have to do it if you want to see the US in a timely manner. In your experience Is the flight to and from Reno relatively smooth? I've flown to Vegas before and it seems like the last hour is always bumpy. Not a fan of turbulence!!! Thanks! Kris
blusk
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Hi Kris, I am pretty sure Ray is out flying right now, but he will get back to you. In the meantime, I wanted to make sure you had seen his post on Turbulence. Here's the link: http://www.blogsouthwest.com/2006/06/08/turbulence/ . If you want to read more of Ray's posts, just click on his name above under the title. Also you may want to visit the Taking Flight site, and there is a link above on the right under the LUV Link section. Brian
Kris_S
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Thanks Brian. i appreciate it. I dont know why but I am just so freaked by flying. I will review the articles you suggested. Have a great afternoon!
FriendofBlogBoy
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Kris, It may be too close to next Thursday for you, but if you have the chance to get Captain Ray Stark's excellent book, "This is Your Captain Speaking" ( http://www.amazon.com/This-Your-Captain-Speaking-Stark/dp/0970562101/ref=sr_1_1/002-0204780-4130436?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174000538&sr=8-1 ), I think you would find it helpful and informative. I've been flying for years, and I found the book to be written on a level that both newbies and seasoned veterans would enjoy. You may also find that it would calm your nerves before flying to try some of Blog Boy's patented Pre-Flight Jitters Candy Corn. He seems to be pretty mellow most of the time. Kim 🙂
joe-mdw-plane-d
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Brian, We were going to be routed over Canada on our way to mdw one year. Someone changed their mind at dispatch and sent us wayyy south around the thunderstorms and while airborne we got shifted further south. The flight to mdw before ours was still at the gate when we boarded. We pushed at the same time, then we got put in the penalty box over by the Northworst terminal. Our daughter was 2 and she was rocking in her seat trying to wiggle the plane forward. She was ready to depart. Once the captain announced the delay there was a ton of beeps from cell phones powering up. So, I guess your answer would be yes. Remove infant before folding stroller. Ding! boy Joe Friedmann
FriendofBlogBoy
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Brian, In response to your question about foreign country flyovers, I'm pretty sure that on my last landing into HRL, we 'violated' Mexican airspace temporarily. But, the bigger answer to your query should recognize that all flights past the Sabine River to the east, the Red River to the north and uhhh, Muleshoe to the west enter foreign countries as well. After all, Texas IS still a sovereign Republic, isn't it? Hook 'em, Kim 🙂
pcerda
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"Remove infant before folding stroller. Ding! boy Joe Friedmann" OHHHHH!!!!!! Is THAT the trick? Thank God I don't have kids!!! I would have failed that test miserably (along with having a ticked off wife and kid!).
Kris_S
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Kim, I did order Ray's book yesterday and I wrote the seller/sender of the book stating that I am flying next Thursday and hoped to take the book with me on the plane for comfort so hopefully I will get it in time. I love candy corn but it does not like me!! Thanks for your post 🙂 Kris
Captain_Ray_Sta
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I can't keep up! I am in Portland where the weather is GORGEOUS and the cherry blossoms are pink and white all around. Wow. As for cutting into foreign airspace, in ELP, they keep us on US ATC, probably by agreement with the Mexican ATC folks. I am sure our ATC can pick up the phone and call their ATC if need be. Usually, we stay in the US except when weather gets in our way. Northern tier is the same. Great Shuttle story Kim. They probably kept it on until the last minute to get extra energy -just in case! Cool! Capt. Ray Always ships PRIORITY! (I am in the habit of giving the customer more than their moneys worth. It comes from working at SWA for 20 years!) Mexico? I hope so! (Hey -we have flags on our tail for a reason.:) Ray
FriendofBlogBoy
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Kris, I hope you get the book in time! If you do, you will find that Ray put the really technical stuff in italics, so try reading those parts and see if they put you to sleep so you don't notice the turbulence! LOL Seriously, the men and women who sit in the front office of Southwest's 737s are the most professional and proficient folks I've ever flown with, and their flight attendants are great at putting people at ease if you let them know that you're a bit nervous. A simple comment upon boarding is preferable to grabbing their arm in a death grip when they come by to take your drink order. I think one reason that turbulence unsettles people so much is that you get a temporary sensation that you are falling or even dropping out of the sky. Bear in mind that at 30,000 feet, a drop of a few hundred feet is significantly insignificant in the grand scheme of things and far less troublesome that allowing your automobile tire to drop off the edge of the highway at 70 mph. There really is NO chance that you'll "fall" or drop very far, and unlike the freeways in Dallas, the skies are not so crowded that you'll hit something, either. As far as your previous flights and the turbulence you experienced, I will let you in on a highly-guarded secret if you promise to keep this to yourself. That turbulence on the way into La$ Vega$ is NOT accidental or due to weather issues. The airlines have worked out an agreement with the casinos and the manufacturers of the slot machines to begin shaking loose the quarters in your pocket so it won't be so hard to separate you from your money after you land. You can retaliate by stuffing candy corn into their slot machines. Have a great trip and keep smiling, Kim 🙂
joe-mdw-plane-d
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Kim, if they do that Brian will never leave the casinos. He will be too bloated from all the candy corn. Happy second birthday to flightaware! Ding! boy Joe Friedmann
BOB11
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Is it true that if you sit in the back if a airplane you can feel more of the turblance?
blusk
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Kim and Ding Boy, Those casinos play for keeps. Don't go getting me in trouble. Blog Boy
rstark
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Bob, The back of the plane steers the front end. The gyro package for the autopilot is right under the front entry door. When the plane drops a foot in turbulence, the back end has to drop a little further to steer the front end back to level. Approaching level, the back end has to rise a little higher to get the front end leveled off. Hold your right hand like a plane flying level. Your right arm should be out at 90 degrees to your body. Take your left hand and grab your right index finger (yes THAT one!) Your left hand is the turbulence leading he nose of the plane up and down an inch or two. As your left hand raises the plane an inch, raise the rear end of the plane a little higher to steer the plane back down to where it was. And vice versa for potholes. See how the front end of your plane moves a little less than the wrist (back) part of your plane? Do you worry about someone seeing you doing this right now? Me too! ;) Ray
Kris_S
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So Ray, so what I see you are saying is that the less turbulence you will feel the closer to the front of the plane you find a seat? I've sat in the back before and close to the wing and felt turbulence in both spots. I am nervous as all get out and scared to even get on the plane but I am hoping that fear will dissapate and our flight on Thursday to Reno will be smooth and from Reno on Sunday will be smooth as well. I am already having panic attacks!! Kris
rstark
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Kris, If I get to choose, I like it up front. The ride is only one of the reasons that First Class is up front. It's not the end of the world though if you get seated farther aft. Just remind yourself how many planes fell out of the sky due to turbulence last week. Last month. This decade. None. Keep your seatbelt on at all times while seated and enjoy the ride! Did you check out www.takingflight.us yet? The book is in the mail but you might find some real comfort in the forums there in the meantime. Lots of people like you with the same concerns you have -and they fly all the time now. You can do this. Ray
Kris_S
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Thanks again Ray. You are a very kind person to devote your time to our fears which to you are common place. I have looked at the takingflightus site and am going to devote my evening to looking through it and trying to overcome this awful fear I have that is gripping me so hard.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Kris, Just a note to let you know that I'm thinking about you. It is Tuesday, and I know you're leaving in two days. Hopefully, Captain Ray's book has made it to you by now and you'll have a chance to read through it. Although we've all tried to find ways to give you confidence, I know that sometimes people are just so badly scared of something that it doesn't matter what anyone says. However, I will be praying that God would comfort you and reassure you on Thursday. Please don't forget my suggestion to mention to your Flight Attendant at the front door of the plane when you get on that you are really scared. You might even talk with the Gate Agent and request the option to pre-board to get a seat way up front based on Ray's suggestion. Try telling 'em that Captain Stark said it would help you have a smoother flight and that you'd really appreciate it. These folks are pros at handling nervous passengers and if I know Southwest Employees like I think I do, they will go out of their way to make you feel better. Although you haven't said what city you're originating from, you have given your full name, and the readers of the blog who work at Southwest know you're heading to Reno on March 22nd; maybe they'll surprise you and do something special for you! Regardless, every flight on Southwest is special! Try to have a great trip and please let us know how your flights were! Best wishes, Kim 🙂
Kris_S
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Kim, Thanks for all the reassurances. I am flying out of Chicago Midway Airport at 2:15 p.m. I am flying with my boyfriend who has no fear at all and 4 others. They are going to bowl the ABC Tournament in Reno. We have thunderstorms this morning but they say we are to get clearer skies by this afternoon which is good news to me. FYI - I got Captain Ray's book in the mail when I got home from work last night so I am going to read it on the plane. He is such a kind hearted person. In his own handwriting he wrote "I had my wife hold dinner for me so I could mail this out, REALLY!" Again I say what a kind hearted man. We are leaving for the airport early since its spring break and its likely to be crowded. I will write when I get back on all the details. Thanks again for all your support. Kris
FriendofBlogBoy
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Everybody think good thoughts for Kris today...she's heading back home, and I'm hoping that she has a great trip and returns to give us a glowing report of how helpful Captain Stark's book was for her! Safe travels, Kris! Kim 🙂
Kris_S
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I AM BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just got back into the office today so I am just getting this to this now. First let me tell you how grateful I am to you Brian Lusk and Kim Searle for all the support you have given me. Also, Thanks to Captain Ray for his support and for sending me out the book and to his wife for holding dinner so he could get the book to me. Brian sent emails to the flight attendants at Southwest. WOW!! I will never be able to tell you how you helped me. I printed out the TF letter for the outbound and return and went to the agent and asked to pre-board since I was a little more than nervous. Our flight was delayed in Chicago due to weather which made me even more uneasy. I preboarded with my fiancÃ
FriendofBlogBoy
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Kris, I'm so glad to hear that things went so well for you! Just another shining example of what the folks at Southwest call "POS" -- Positively Outrageous Service! As i said before you went, I cannot think of another airline that would have treated you so specially and made you an honorary VIP in the way that our friends at SW did. Now, I have to explain that all of this attention does come with strings attached. You cannot simply accept their awesome hospitality and then merrily go about your life silently from this point on. I hereby deputize you as a fellow Southwest Fanatic. It shall be your solemn and sacred duty to henceforth be an ambassador for the uniquely superlative service that is available to everyone who flies aboard a Southwest plane. You must defend the honor of Southwest when anyone besmirches our favorite airline and you must willingly share your dry roasted or honey roasted peanuts with others in their time of need. But, just as Dorothy taught the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, Lojuanna, David, Lisa, Captain Ray, Brian and me are not the reason your flight was successful. The real source of the courage that got you through this trip was Kris! Now you know that you CAN do it, and we are all proud of you!! Congratulations on your engagement, and make sure that your future hubby books your honeymoon trip on Southwest Airlines! Kris, with the crippling fear that you couldn't make this trip behind you now, the commercial is even more true for you: "You're now free to move about the country!" Hugs, Kim 🙂
Kris_S
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Kim, I will take my new duties seriously and anyone that has a negative thing to say about my wonderful friends at Southwest and on this blog shall be referred to me and they will be "getting the belt" as we say here in the office!!!! I will gladly share or hand over my peanuts to anyone in need or not in need!!! Thanks again for your support and well wishes. God Bless you. Kris
kayeliegh
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so if u want to decrease in elevation what do you do?
kayeliegh
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And ive alway been facinated in the way the balloons are made and how people are not afraid to fly in them! Im doing a report on the extravagance of hot air balloon flying and this cite helps alot!
Dale_Demary_SEL
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Check this out.... on Google Earth, so cool! Take yourself down to the threshold of runway 17C @ DFW in Dallas/Fort Worth. Now, note the shadow of the laqnding plane. The shadow of the plane which is (apparently) awaiting clearance for take-off on 17R gives you an idea where the sun is and where you might find the plane casting the shadow on 17C- NO plane! Rod Serling would love it! I love it! If anybody can explain this to me please email landmarkk@charter.net