Mooney Summit VII

The Mooney Summit is an annual retreat for 100 Mooney pilots and their spouses/significant others to provide type specific education and safety instruction to “better the breed.” The complete mission statement can be found here. Since learning about the Summit I have wanted to attend but I did not think…

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
8 Dec 2019

The Mooney Summit is an annual retreat for 100 Mooney pilots and their spouses/significant others to provide type specific education and safety instruction to “better the breed.” The complete mission statement can be found here. Since learning about the Summit I have wanted to attend but I did not think it was going to fit my schedule this year and by the time I did sign up I was on the waiting list…

I had about given up hope on attending this year when I got an email from Mike Elliot at the end of August that I had made it off the waiting list and would I still like to attend. I checked my calendar, the prices of flights (I would love to fly my Mooney there but one trip from SoCal across the country a year is about all I can fit in the schedule), as well as clearing the vacation time at work. I emailed Mike back that yes, we were interested in attending, and the wheels were set in motion.

Thursday, Sept 26th (Day 1)

The day started early… When you have an 8:50am flight out of LAX on a weekday, you have to allow enough time to get there with the ridiculous traffic, park at the remote lot, ride the bus to the terminal, and get through security. Traffic was what you would normally expect and security was not terrible, but I was reminded for the first of many times on this trip why I like flying myself more than riding the airlines. We were flying Southwest, and for those of you not familiar with them, they have open seating. That means that instead of an assigned seat, you have an assigned boarding order and when you get on the plane you sit in any available seat that is left.

As we walked down the aisle there was a young family with two very young kids about halfway back so we continued on further to be away from what I thought might be a loud flight, hoping to possibly catch a little nap on the way to Dallas. As luck would have it the about 9 yo kid that ended up behind us talked almost the whole flight and we never heard a single cry from the kids 8-10 rows up that we passed by. We pushed back from the gate on time and I thought we would be in the air quickly, as we were right there at 24L and they had a steady stream of planes departing that runway. Instead we began the longest taxi, down taxiway Delta, a left on Romeo, another left on Bravo, and finally a right on Bravo One, for a departure on 25R, a little over a 3 1/2 mile taxi.

Waiting to ride the aluminum tube

The flight to Dallas Love Field was uneventful (setting aside the kid behind us) and we had enough of a layover to grab some lunch before catching our connecting flight. Interestingly, if you factor in the drive to LAX, extra time getting the shuttle over to the terminal, security, extra time that you have to be there early, etc… Southwest only got us to Dallas about 1 hour quicker than if we had driven to Fullerton and flown ourselves…

It was another short 2 hour flight from Dallas to Panama City, FL where we got our bags off the conveyor belt and made a call to Ron from Sheltair who was kind enough to be providing rides between the airport and Origin at Seahaven, the hotel where most of the attendees were staying. The nearby conference center was where the seminars would be held.

In addition to looking forward to the seminars I was also looking forward to meeting some of the folks I’ve known for the past three years through the Mooneyspace forums. We didn’t have to wait long to start meeting people, we pulled up in front of the hotel and as we were getting out of Ron’s suburban met some Mooneyspace folks, Hank and his wife, as well as Alan and Anthony. They were on their way to Salty Sue’s for some dinner and invited us to join them. We got checked into our room and ordered an Uber.

Dinner was great, and the conversation was better than the food. To cap it off Alan ordered up the peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream for everyone to share, it was amazing.

By the time we got back to the hotel Andrew had arrived from England and checked in so my wife and I headed up to his room to visit. It was great to finally meet after years of conversations on Mooneyspace and we visited for quite awhile. It was a great end to the first day.

Friday , September 27th (Day 2)

Friday was airport day, round table discussions on many of the same topics with the same subject matter experts that would be presenting on Saturday and Sunday. It was a chance for those who could not attend the Summit to still participate and gain some knowledge and information. The hangar was set up with tables and chairs for the discussions as well as a serving table for lunch.

Lunch looked amazing, but I was still full from breakfast. We had gone to The Donut Hole with Hank and his wife for breakfast, and I ate enough that I didn’t need to eat until dinner (if then…)

The best part of airport day was that the Summit had arranged for the FAA’s PROTE (Portable Reduced Oxygen Training Enclosure) to be there for attendees to experience. I did not think I would be able to as the only day Summit attendees could go was Friday at airport day and by the time I knew I was attending all the Friday slots were filled. However, I decided to check the night before to see if anyone had canceled and they had, so I had signed up for a slot.

The PROTE chamber simulates the symptoms of hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) by scrubbing the oxygen out of the air so that you are breathing the same amount of oxygen you would be exposed to at 29,000. Hypoxia is an insidious killer as when you become hypoxic you likely won’t know and will not be able to react to it. The PROTE chamber experience is meant to help you recognize your personal symptoms of the onset of hypoxia so that you hopefully can react before it is too late.

After they checked for a current third class medical they sat the five of us down that would be going in for a briefing. Everyone put on a pulse/ox and we wrote down our baseline numbers. My oxygen saturation was at 99 but my pulse was at an annoyingly high 101, nerves… One of the others asked if there is any allowance for a high pulse because of nervousness and they said that is to be expected. I was glad to hear that as my normal resting pulse rate is right around 60. We were given a clipboard and paper with a simple crossword puzzle, some math problems, a simple maze, a place to record our oxygen saturation and pulse rate at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 minutes, as well as a list of the most common symptoms of hypoxia. The ones listed were Tingling, Air Hunger, Fatigue, Headache, Dizziness, Hot/Cold, Vision, Numbness, Nausea, and then four blank slots to fill in.

We were told that at each minute mark we were to check our pulse/ox, write down our numbers, and check off any symptoms that we were feeling. At any point if our oxygenation dropped to 60 or if we checked off three or more symptoms we were to pick up the oxygen mask in our lap and put it on. They said that if we let our saturation rate drop below 60 that we would not remember any of our symptoms which would defeat the purpose of the whole experience in the PROTE chamber, to learn our personal hypoxia symptoms.

We went in and took our seats. My first observation was that the air smelled/tasted odd, but I think that was just a side effect of the scrubbers that were removing the oxygen. After one minute my saturation rate had dropped to 78 and my heart rate had gone up to 140. I was beginning to feel some tingling in my cheeks. During the second minute I felt like I was still thinking clearly and was working the long addition and multiplication problems. The FAA representative outside the chamber (there was also one inside with us who had a mask strapped on) announced the two minute mark, I checked my numbers and wrote down my saturation which had dropped to 70 and heart rate which had gone up to 159. I also checked off “Dizziness” (I was feeling a little like when you hyperventilate) as well as “Vision.” The vision symptom was an interesting thing. It wasn’t blurry, like trying to read up close without my reading glasses. I could still read what was on the paper on the clipboard in my lap, it was more like I was wearing glasses that someone had rubbed some greasy fingers on, maybe foggy would be a good way to describe it. I remember thinking “this is weird.” I would have liked to keep going without picking up my mask, but I had checked off three symptoms so I picked up my mask and took some deep breaths. (The FAA observer inside was also going around and checking our numbers. After 3-4 deep breaths I was back up at 100 saturation.

We continued on with two of the participants going the full five minutes. At the three and four minute marks the outside observer asked the ones without masks some simple questions, “You are at xxx feet and need to descend to xxx feet, if you are descending 500′ per minute how long will it take”, and “You are burning xx gallons per hour, if you fly xx hours how much fuel will you burn?” They both wrote their answers down on their papers and circled the answers as instructed. Afterward in the debrief they both vaguely remembered the questions they were asked, they both had written down the correct answers, but neither one of them really remembered writing down the answers. It was a great experience and I would love to do it again.

In the evening there was a reception which was another opportunity to meet more folks and enjoy some great appetizers.

Saturday, September 28th (Day 3)

My wife and I walked over to the All American Diner with Andrew to get some breakfast before he and I went back to the conference center and my wife headed off to the beach. After a welcome there were presentations by Bob Kromer on Mooney Stalls and Spins, Jack Waters on the New Age of Aviation, and then the guys from Oasis Aero on Mooney Maintenance. All were very informative and entertaining.

We broke for lunch and quite a few of us walked down to Diego’s and met our wives for some good Mexican food, then it was back to the conference center for the afternoon presentations. Richard Simile gave a great presentation on Aeronautical Decision Making, Alex Gertsen gave an excellent presentation on Airport Advocacy (informative given some of the GA airports that residents have decided they want to shut down, like Santa Monica), and then to finish off the day Major Mari Metzler from the Air Force gave a wonderful presentation on hypoxia. Combined with the PROTE experience from the day before it was a very powerful presentation.

Saturday evening was the dinner, silent auction and raffle benefiting the Bill Gilliland Foundation, and awards. Dinner was great, and we enjoyed visiting with everyone there at our table. We had taken the shuttle down to dinner but made the short walk back to the hotel. Another great day at the Mooney Summit.

Sunday, September 29th (Day 4)

There are a number of people that leave Sunday morning to begin their flights back, but there are enough that stick around that they do presentations Sunday morning as well. Lee Trotter gave a presentation on Thunderstorms, including his experience when he inadvertently flew into an embedded thunderstorm. After that Andrew gave a presentation on Overwater Flight (he frequently flies across the English Channel) which was excellent and gave me a new view on the risks of overwater flight, preparations, and what to do in event of a water landing. His presentation gave me a new outlook on even the flightseeing flights that I frequently make up the coast.

Andrew showing four of us how to link up and swim

After the morning presentations everyone said goodbyes and Hank and his wife were nice enough to give Kathy and I a ride to the airport. We were at the gate across from Andrew so we sat and visited while waiting for our flight. Watching out the window I saw them rolling the trucks and airport security, setting up at the far end of the runway and on a taxiway. Andrew and I walked down to the end of the terminal to try and get a better look at what was happening (which nobody else in the airport seemed to notice). We ran into Dan (who I can thank for the inspiration to add an electronic CO monitor to the plane after his story of taking off, passing out from CO poisoning, and waking up in his plane after it crash landed in a field) and the three of us talked and watched until finally seeing a twin Beech roll onto the taxiway and stop. It would eventually be towed to the FBO, it had lost an engine and made an emergency landing.

Our flight took us from Panama City to St Louis where we had a marginal meal during our layover. Eventually we boarded our flight for the last leg back to LAX where we had to cram onto a shuttle bus back to the remote parking and retrieve our car. Looking at the silver lining, it was so late by the time we were in the car that there was no traffic to deal with on the way home.

It was a fantastic weekend and I highly recommend any Mooney pilots and owners find a way to attend the next Mooney Summit. The camaraderie is wonderful and the information in the presentations is invaluable.

Mooney Summit VIII will be held October 16-18, 2020 at a new venue. It has outgrown the venue in Panama City Beach and will be at the Peter O’Knight Airport in Tampa, allowing the Summit to remove the restriction on the numbers of attendees and anticipates that it will be the largest Mooney gathering in the world.

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