Friday, July 4, 2014

Formation with the Fly Baby (and fireworks!) on the Fourth

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 71 degrees, wind 330 degrees at 4 knots

June sure turned out to be a busy month; I was out of town for eighteen of its thirty days! Mostly work, some fun. In the end, there wasn't any time to fly.

July is beginning on a better note as I had this entire week off. My sister came down to visit yesterday and - after some coordination with friends - we all decided to head to the airport this evening. Tommy would be there and already had plans to take the Fly Baby up for a spin. Well, not literally. As far as I know.

We arrived around 8pm and I checked the plane over. All was well like usual so I topped off the gigantic 12 gallon tank and Tommy gave me a prop. Lauren (mi hermana) was up front with my camera. Thanks to her for all the photos that follow.

Soon after, we were rolling down the very green grass. Tommy was closing on our right wing before we had cleared the departure end of the runway. The air was nearly calm and smooth as butter, visibility unlimited, and the lighting perfect.

I'll just let you enjoy the series of photos without any additional comments...

With me as lead, we flew a gentle arc north of the airport and then turned back towards Stewart. I spotted what looked like balloons off to the west. Looking at the photos on my computer after the fact, it seems I actually saw skydivers over MWO. I'd venture a guess that they were the start of Middletown's fireworks show since one appears to have a large flag attached.

Crossing midfield, I turned downwind then base to final. Tommy held his position and we zoomed over the runway to say hello to our significant others and other friends on the ground. I pulled up and broke off, heading towards the lake for a little sightseeing with the little sister.

A large group of skydivers near Middletown

I love this shot of the Cub's strut against the setting sun

Tommy in trail as we made a low pass over Stewart

It truly was a perfect evening to fly

Caesar Creek Lake - I seriously love the lighting in this shot

One final glance at the orange orb before it crossed the horizon

I climbed to 3,000 feet as we flew over the lake. Level, I made a few steep turns in each direction then did a bit more crankin' and bankin' for good measure. I pulled the power to idle, did a couple power-off stalls, then banked into a steep spiral and quickly descended back to pattern altitude. Lauren's a willing sport and she was having a blast, though I probably should've given more warning before the stalls. I thought we had done those before. Whoops.

[insert mean big brother comment here]

The sun was hovering just above the horizon as I entered the pattern from the south and came around to land on Runway 8. I held in a little power and landed intentionally long, the wheels touching back down on the grass in one of those oh-so-soft, perfect three-pointers. Really! I've had some good luck in the landing department with the Cub this year.

Everything packed up, we drove across the field towards where the pond used to be. Beer and pizza and many fireworks ensued with friends. I'd say we knocked this year's celebration of freedom out of the park. Happy Fourth!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.6 hours
Total Time: 309.5 hours

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The real risk of general aviation

A certain USA Today article has been making the rounds of the aviation corners of the interwebs this week. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't read it myself. However, the consensus seems to be that the author made many false accusations and misuses statistics in an impressive manner.

Thus, I was pleased to read a very different take on the matter this afternoon. Jeff Schweitzer put together a superb - if not slightly wordy - piece that dissects the USA Today article piece by piece. Whether you're a pilot or not (especially if you're not and/or you believed that other article, actually!) I'd highly recommend taking the time to read it. He nailed it.
Unfit for Publication: How USA Today Got Everything Wrong
USA Today splashed across its June 18, 2014, front page the breathless headline, "Unfit for Flight" to dramatize the deadly enterprise of flying general aviation aircraft (small airplanes). We learn in bold print there have been 45,000 deaths attributed to small aircraft and dozens of multimillion-dollar verdicts that reveal lies and coverups.
There is only one problem: Nearly every inference about aviation in the article is wrong. Let's put this in perspective statistically. If a private pilot flew 10 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, for 30 years, it would take over five lifetimes to be involved in a fatal accident.
Continue reading the full article here:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Flying home from a great BBQ

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: AXV-40I 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 71 degrees, wind calm

After a very fun evening with friends we woke up and headed back to the airport. It was actually a pretty relaxing morning; I woke up around 8:45 and we were taking off about an hour later. Marty was up with a student in the Tomahawk so we said goodbye over the CTAF before taking the runway and heading south.

The hangar really does add an air of class to the mighty 150

Piqua and the Great Miami River

It was a seriously gorgeous morning to fly

The new ProLogis distribution center next to the Dayton Int'l Airport

Unlike the slightly bumpy ride up last night, the air was very smooth this morning. That's definitely one advantage of flying earlier in the day. I was getting flight following from Columbus Approach and they vectored us a couple miles west of a direct course to avoid departure traffic at DAY.

Downtown Dayton and the seemingly never-ending construction on I-75

Looking past downtown, that's the USAF Museum and then WPAFB up top

University of Dayton Arena and UD's main campus

Even after flying over countless times, I still can't believe how massive this house is

With winds varying between calm and light out of the east, I wasn't 100% sure which runway would be in use at Stewart. I flew  in from the north preparing to enter on a 45 for the downwind to Runway 8 but saw someone in the pattern for Runway 26. The jump plane wasn't flying so I made a midfield entry to a left downwind for 26. Putting all 40 degrees of flaps in on final, we landed nice and short, and had a quick taxi back to the tiedowns.

We're certainly sad to see Marty and his awesome BBQ's go. However, we've enjoyed quite a few of them (mainly through flying, though we've driven up once or twice as well) over the years. Thanks again to Marty and Suzie for letting us crash at their place last night... and here's to many blue skies and tailwinds for them in their next adventure!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 308.9 hours

Saturday, May 24, 2014

One final BBQ at Neil Armstrong

Plane: Cessna 150 
Route: 40I-AXV
Weather: Broken clouds, 76 degrees, wind light and variable

Good pilot friend Marty is moving back to the west coast and his birthday's tomorrow. I've flown up there quite a few times - both with friends and solo - to enjoy tasty grub outside his hangar. Today we decided to stay the night so I could finally enjoy a few adult beverages with dinner.

Gina and I headed down to the airport after a busy morning/afternoon spent buying plants and supplies for the yard and garden. We intended to be up there by 5:00 but that ended up being the time our wheels left the grass at Stewart. It wasn't too warm but the air was slightly bumpy most of the way up.

Landing on Runway 26, I taxied over to the large assembly of cars and people and shut down. It seemed like the entire small town showed up! A bunch of Marty's friends - and quite a few of his students - were there to wish him a happy birthday and safe move.

He pointed out a couple kids (the son and daughter of one of his students) who were eager to go for an airplane ride. Having just arrived, I was probably one of the few people legally allowed to fly! He asked if I would mind taking them up for a quick spin around the pattern and I happily obliged. It's always fun to take kids flying.

The little boy was first. He was rather quiet but definitely enjoyed the view. We flew around the pattern, landed, and I walked over to get his sister. She was a few years older and much more talkative. We briefly left the pattern, flying out to the edge of Grand Lake before turning back towards the airport. I let her "fly" a little bit and we made a couple shallow turns, followed by a couple steeper ones. She said she loved roller coasters and I'm not surprised - she was giggling all the way through those last two turns.

I felt like my little trainer didn't deserve to spend the night in such luxury!

This plane almost certainly hasn't seen a hangar this clean in decades

I landed and we pushed the plane into Marty's now-empty hangar. He flew his beautiful Bonanza out to California a couple weeks ago. Needless to say, the 150 looked highly out of place.

Everything secure for the evening, I wandered back over to next row the T-Hangars and grabbed a cold beer. I proceeded to stuff my face full of far too much food and chatted with a bunch of fellow pilots. Pretty much the ideal summer evening at any small, local airport.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.6 hours
Total Time: 307.9 hours

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Six years later

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 77 degrees, wind 250 degrees at 8 knots

My annual tradition lives to fly another year. Today made it six out of seven Cub flights on my actual birthday; I've only had to delay once for weather. Not bad for springtime!

Prior Years: 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Some of my favorite bullet points from the past 12 months:
It's a nice mix of things that extends well beyond my time behind the stick. There's no doubt that I was stressed and busy at times (I tend to want to do too many things) but the past year was certainly a good one. I completed a couple Python programming classes. Work has even been rather enjoyable; I've gotten involved in some interesting new projects and activities.

We had a bunch of fun - as usual - during our relatively short flight this evening

Today turned out to be slightly less than totally beautiful (the original forecast) but was still great Cubbin' weather, especially with the door open down low and slow. Gina and I drove down to Stewart after work. She sat in the cockpit at the controls and I hand-propped the plane. Propeller spinning, I walked around, climbed into the back seat, and taxied out to the runway.

I flew east over the lake and climbed up to 5,000 feet. Things actually got a tad chilly (rough pilot calculations say 77 degrees on the ground equates to about 63 degrees up there) with the door open. I did a few steep turns then cranked and banked to have a little fun.

Insert vintage-looking photo of the Cub on the grass at Stewart here

With that out of my system, I throttled back and tossed a fresh roll of toilet paper (for you, Gary!) out the open door. My dogfighting skills are a little rusty (requisite disclaimer here) and I only managed to cut it on about half my passes. Still, we chopped through the white streamer at least three or four times on the way down. Leveling off, I flew the length of the lake and then headed down the valley to see the progress on the replacement spans of the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge.

We re-entered the pattern from the southwest after a brief detour over Lebanon. I left the throttle resting comfortably at 1500 RPM, carb heat on, as I turned from downwind to base to final. Pulling it idle as I rounded out in ground effect, I held the wheels off until all three softly started rolling across the green blades.

Freshly-mowed grass is a beautiful thing in a taildragger, that's for sure.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 306.3 hours