Sunday, November 15, 2015

Solo pattern work on a very un-Novemberey day

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 64 degrees, wind 250 degrees at 6 knots

When I last went up in the Cub a few weeks ago it was to sight-see, plus Gina tends to tire of me flying laps around the pattern. Point being I didn't get in my usual three takeoffs and landings for tailwheel currency purposes. But today was a highly unusual late fall 30+ degrees above freezing day. Gina was busy working on some Master's assignments so I headed down to Stewart for some solo practice.

I did not venture very far today

Unlike many recent practice flights, I felt every gram of rust on the stick this afternoon. My takeoffs were all quite fine but the landings... oh, the landings. I forget if it was my first or second but I think I technically could have logged four for one of my attempts. I was looking to the side, using my peripheral vision as one does during the flare, but misjudged something that led to me being off just enough for the plane to stop flying about a foot above the grass. Bounce, bounce, bounce... save it with some brisk throttle application... landing. Sort of.

I later texted a few friends and CFIs who were at the airport to inquire as to whether they witnessed my beautiful quadruple landing. By my own calculations, it should've been worth at least 9 points. Oof.

Things didn't immediately improve as I had another solid clunker, albeit one that ended in the wheels remaining firmly on the turf after only two or three bounces. I threw in some short and soft field variants for good measure as well, greasing one of them. On the final approach, I went full power-off abeam the numbers and used an aggressive slip to quickly turn from downwind to base to final, culminating in a power-off 180 with a rather short rollout.

Turns out it was probably a day best suited for solo flight. While the weather and views were superb, my flying was certainly in need of a little fine-tuning. I'm glad I took advantage of the chance to do just that.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours
Total Time: 346.5 hours

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall foliage before the sun sets too soon

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 60 degrees, wind 080 degrees at 10 knots

The weather was perfect, if slightly windy, for our annual fall foliage flight this evening. We always try our best to take to the sky for one final evening adventure in the Cub before Daylight Savings Time comes to an end and I'm relegated to mostly weekend-only flying. Gina met me down at the airport after work, Tommy propped the old Continental to life, and we were taxiing across the grass shortly after 5:30.

With a half-tank of gas and about 60 minutes before sunset, we quickly set off to enjoy the scenic views. I first flew east towards the lake, then down the valley, passing over the gliderport. I spotted a combine harvesting a field but it had stopped by the time I circled around for a photo.

Next I flew north, passing along the south and west edges of downtown Waynesville. I alternated between opening and closing the door, balancing warmth against the optimal photo-taking configuration. We spotted some driveways lined with vivid red trees and Gina snapped a photo of one of them; she (wo)manned the camera for most of the flight. The sun was getting lower, enhancing the shadows and washing everything in that beautiful yellow that only twilight brings.

Unfortunately we didn't have enough fuel or time to fly all the way to downtown Dayton. I'd hoped to do just that since we spotted some awesome colors there driving home from Michigan yesterday evening. However, I did spot some very vibrant pockets near Kettering so we crossed I-675 and circled around for a few more photos in the increasingly golden evening light.

Upon our return to Stewart the pattern was ours alone. I pulled the carb heat on downwind, brought the throttle to idle, and executed a pseudo-power-off 180 landing, touching down surprisingly softly in the moderate wind blowing almost directly down the runway. We taxied over to the hangar, pushd the J-3 inside, and shut the doors. Walking to my car, I spotted a large moon rising over the horizon and couldn't resist the urge to snap just one more photo.

With all my travel this month (20/31 nights away from home!) I'm very happy I was still able to fit in the annual foliage flight with the wife. We didn't just keep the tradition alive; we were treated to peak colors on an exceptionally beautiful evening. Fall has definitely arrived.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 345.8 hours

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Austin's first small airplane flight

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 57 degrees, wind 080 degrees at 10 knots

Gina and one of her former coworkers, Tammy, used to chat about flying and the fact that I flew. At some point it came up that her son, Austin, is rather into airplanes. Fast-forward a few years and even though Gina no longer work in that school district, they have been chatting about getting him up in the air. He just turned 18 and is considering going to college to become a pilot.

As I've said before and I'll say again, there are few things more enjoyable as a pilot than introducing others to the joy of general aviation and small airplanes. So it goes without saying that I was happy to take Austin up in the Cub this morning. Apparently his family kept it a complete secret from him until they were on their way to Stewart - well done! He seemed pretty excited about it when I met everyone at the field around 9am.

We walked to the hangar and I pulled the Cub out on to the still-dew-covered grass, explaining a bunch of things and answering questions along the way. There were a couple drops of water in the fuel, so I took the opportunity to cover the reasoning for checking the fuel. I pointed out the (very few) instruments on the panel and they took some photos while I completed the preflight. Everything and everyone ready, I told Austin how to climb in the front and I hopped in the back seat. Another pilot who was about to fly the Champ kindly gave us a prop and the cool engine coughed to life on the third blade.

Describing something before climbing into the pilot's seat

I taxied to the west end of the field, ran through the complete pre-takeoff CIGAR checklist, and explained exactly what all I was doing back there. Austin gave me the thumbs-up when I asked if he was ready, so I rolled onto Runway 8; there was a rather healthy wind from the east. Throttle forward and we were rolling, then airborne, within a few hundred feet. I rocked the wings at everyone below as we climbed away.

Visibility was incredible this morning. At less than 1,000 feet AGL you could clearly spot all the buildings of downtown Cincinnati close to 40 miles south. He couldn't believe how far we could see. I flew over Caesar Creek Lake and pointed out both Warren County and Wright Brothers airports as we cruised between them.

I gave Austin a very brief demonstration on adverse yaw, banking right with the stick without touching the pedals; the nose swung wide left. Cubs teach the point quite well! Then we flew west towards Germantown, where he lives. As we circled over the small town, he spotted his house and I circled overhead before turning back towards Stewart.

Since he's looking to become a pilot, I offered him the controls. He did a great job making a few gentle turns and commented how easy it was to fly. People always seem surprised by that fact. It's true, we're (usually) not wrestling the controls to stay aloft! Then I asked if he was interested in having me demonstrate a couple other Private Pilot maneuvers. He was, so I showed him a steep turn, power-off stall, and a full forward slip.

We were just northwest of Waynesville so I entered the pattern on a 45 for a left downwind back to Runway 8. The wind was still a little gusty but almost right down the runway as I touched down on the right main just before the other two wheels returned to the turf. He said he didn't think the landing would be so gentle. Needless to say, I don't think most pilots could ask for more than that.

As we were saying goodbye, I offered to take Austin up again in the future. I suggested maybe trying out a Cessna so he can see what radio work and flying to other airports are all about. Hopefully he takes me up on the offer at some point!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 345.0 hours

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Night current under a supermoon

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-MGY / MGY-40I
Weather: Clear, 70 degrees, wind 080 degrees at 9 knots

We're quickly approaching that time of the year when the sun falls below the horizon too early so tonight seemed like a great time to get night current again. I somehow managed to remain current nearly all of last year but this was the first time I flew past sunset in 2015; my last night flight was almost exactly one year ago. Factor in some potential trips over the next couple months and I figured it would be smart to be current - just in case.

The supermoon, quite the nice flashlight shining upon the ground below, was purely coincidental. I've been so busy lately that I honestly hadn't seen anything in the news about it until late this afternoon. Taking off from Stewart in the dwindling twilight I pointed the nose west and spotted the large lunar light rising in the east behind me.

Sunset at Stewart just prior to firing up the 172

Waiting on the ground at MGY with the supermoon rising in the east

I landed at Wright Brothers in a surprisingly stiff and direct crosswind, taxied over to the ramp, and shut down the engine. While I waited for the clock to tick towards the magical one hour past sunset mark (to appease the FAA's landing requirements for night currency purposes) I kept a close watch on the rising supermoon. Close to 8:30 pm I fired the engine back up, taxied to Runway 20, and proceeded to make three laps around the pattern.

This was probably the windiest conditions I've ever flown in at night. That's not to say it was very windy in the grand scheme of things, but winds tend to calm down quickly after sunset. It was good practice and I made three rather successful landings when all was said and done. Less than 30 minutes after I began, I had the plane parked, tied down, and was walking across the tarmac.

The supermoon eclipse from our front yard about 1.5 hours after landing

Gina drove me home (living about a mile from MGY sure is handy) and we had dinner, then wandered out into our front yard to view the moon. A few of our neighbors were outside and we all chatted while taking in the celestial spectacle. I grabbed my DSLR and snapped a few photos with the help of my tripod.

In the morning, Gina dropped me back off at the airport on her way to work. The temperature and dewpoint conspired to prevent an immediate departure; I ended up waiting about 45 minutes while the reported visibility bounced between 1 and 3 miles. Eventually it reached 4 miles and I departed - still technically MVFR but it was mainly due to some fog on the north side of the field that was finally burning off. After takeoff and level at 1,800 feet for the very short flight back to Stewart, the usual morning fog snaking through the valleys made for quite a sight.

Waiting for the fog to burn off before departing from Wright Brothers

One last look at the supermoon as it set on the western horizon

Condensation sliding across the windshield with morning fog to the east

Within minutes, I was over top of Stewart and descending to land on Runway 26. Wisps of fog were scattered around and I was glad to be landing directly away from the rising sun. I landed softly on the grass and taxied back to the tiedown, hopped into my car, and drove to work.

I was about 90% of the way there when my tire pressure warning light came on.

Pulling over into a parking lot, I hopped out and spotted a giant screw through the sidewall of my left rear tire. Ugh - jack out, busted tire removed, spare installed, and packed back up, I was again on my way to work about 15 minutes later... and soon-to-be $800 poorer thanks to the new set of tires being installed on Wednesday.

That aside, it was still a great morning. Flying makes so many things better!

Today's Flight: 0.9 hours (night) / 0.5 hours (morning)
Total Time: 344.0 hours

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Finally taking Tyler up for some photos in the Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 77 degrees, wind 080 degrees at 4 knots

Such. Nice. Weather.

I really can't overstate how immensely beautiful the weather has been over the past week. And the current forecast shows roughly the same perfection for the next week. I always love September and October flying but this current spell has been downright amazing.

Long story short, I posted a message on Facebook a few days ago calling attention to this meteorological fact and asked anyone if they wanted to aviate this week. The first friend to take me up on the offer was Tyler; we've talked about going flying for what feels like forever but tonight was the first opportunity. Both he and I travel quite a bit for work and out schedules finally aligned.

I picked him up at home after work and we got to Stewart around 6:00. He snapped some photos as I did my preflight and pulled the airplane out of the hangar. Once everything was set, he climbed into the front seat, I into the back, and I taxied down to the west end of the field.

She's a good old bird - I have 56 hours (and counting!) in the 85 hp Cub

Checking the oil...

Out of the hangar and ready to take to the sky

We took off on Runway 8 and I pointed the nose towards the lake. Visibility was as good as it's been lately; at less than 1,000 feet AGL both downtown Dayton and Cincinnati were easy to see on the horizon. We flew to the middle of the lake, then turned west towards Wright Brothers.

It was quite the night to fly over Caesar Creek Lake


Tyler's clearly got a great eye - love this one

Tyler and his wife live near Wright Brothers; I checked for traffic then carefully circled overhead just east of the airport traffic pattern as he snapped some photos of their house. Aerial photo run complete, I headed towards downtown.

As we made our way north over the Great Miami River we were treated to an awesome sight. It seems the USAF pilots were also taking advantage of the nice weather to shoot some practice approaches at WPAFB. While circling around the city both a C-17 and a KC-135 flew directly over us, probably 500 to 1,000 feet above, on straight-in approaches to Runway 5L at KFFO. Another advantage of a Cub - the big skylight in roof that let us see both jets pass overhead.

Requisite flight over the front passenger's house

Downtown Dayton

Although we could have kept flying around taking photos for hours, the dwindling sunlight meant it was time to land. Tyler was up for a little fun, however, so I climbed up and did a couple steep turns and a power-off stall. Having enjoyed both, I finished with a steep spiral back down to pattern altitude. He was still grinning so it's clear we need to spend a little more time in the sky doing maneuvers - I may manage to convince someone else to start taking flying lessons before all's said and done here!

Cruising back to Stewart at about 2,500 feet

The very advanced Cub Tug™

Returning to the hangar after another great autumn evening flight

We came in to land behind one of the Champs, which took its sweet time to taxi off the runway. I could have easily landed safely but there's nothing wrong with a go around, so around we went as he cleared the runway. Within a couple minutes we were back on short final and I touched down rather softly and taxied back to the hangar.

Tyler had a blast. I'm glad we finally got in the air together and certainly hope to fly together again soon. Thanks to him for all the great photos in this post, too - it certainly never hurts to take a friendly professional photojournalist flying! :)

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 342.6 hours