Monday, April 21, 2014

Door open, low and slow

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: High overcast, 73 degrees, wind 240 degrees at 3 knots

Summer is here. Or, if we want to be technical, it's certainly right around the corner. To me, it's summer anytime I can fly the J-3 with the door hanging open!

I put out a request on Facebook this afternoon after I booked the plane, hoping that someone would want to occupy the front seat. My friend Mike called dibs and met me down at Stewart. It's been a while since we last flew together - August 2010 in the Cub, in fact.

Low and slow with the door open - how a Cub is meant to be flown!

He's taken lots of lessons and soloed but life's gotten in the way so he hasn't finished his Private yet. I did my part this evening - he said he had the itch back by the time we landed! Hopefully he can finish up and pass his checkride just as soon as he's able to start taking lessons again.

Since he's well-versed in Cub operations, I had him on the controls in the cockpit while I hand-propped the 85 hp Continental. After a couple blades "off and closed" the engine roared to life on the second blade after I yelled, "contact!" I walked around the wing and strapped myself into the back seat.

We flew a leisurely, scenic route... north of the airport, then east over Caesar Creek Lake. I think I spotted a few folks in boats down below waving to us; I rocked the wings to return the hello. Then I made a low approach at the gliderport, enjoying the always-gorgeous view of the rolling landscape dropping out below us as we climbed out west.

I re-entered the pattern at Stewart about 20 minutes after we took off. Throttle at 1500 RPM, I backed it off slowly as we crossed the power lines and touched down extremely softly on the grass, just past the displaced threshold. Total greaser, which Mike confirmed. I really felt like one with the airplane tonight and, to top it off, I was able to get a friend back in the sky.

Felt like a summer evening, indeed.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.5 hours
Total Time: 305.5 hours

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Night flight and an FAA seminar

Plane: Cessna 172
Instructor: Jamie
Weather: Broken clouds, 55 degrees, wind 330 degrees at 6 knots

I'm not sure why but there were a few different FAA Safety Team seminars in the area tonight. Jamie sent me a message a few days ago asking if I wanted to go to one in Piqua and I mentioned that I was planning on driving down to one in Cincinnati. We bounced our schedules back and forth until deciding we'd fly down to Lunken in the 172 this evening.

Safety seminar (including WINGS credit) plus regaining night currency? Sign me up!

The flight line at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport

We met at Wright Brothers around 6:15. The runway's still quite soft at Stewart so 2814L's been tied down at MGY this week. We'd have to return there anyway after dark (no lights) so it worked out quite well. Jamie was just completing his preflight as I walked up to the airplane so I hopped into the left seat and got situated; I had the propeller turning a few minutes later.

I turned onto Runway 2 at 6:30 and we were quickly off the ground and on our way to Lunken. It's only 35 miles (about 20 minutes) by air down to Cincinnati. I tuned in the ATIS and didn't bother calling approach; I called Lunken Tower 10-15 miles north and was told to report a two-mile final for Runway 21R.

Hour drive or twenty minute flight? I'll go by air, thank you very much.

Kings Island from a couple miles away

The image stabilizer on my new lens does a pretty good job, eh?

There was a jet off our left landing 21L, which I spotted and reported. Once I had him in sight, tower cleared us to land when we were still about five miles out. I landed long and turned right onto Taxiway C, then taxiied to the old terminal at the southwest end of the field.

We arrived just in time as the seminar started roughly the second we walked into the Greater Cincinnati Airmen Club on the second floor of the terminal building. It was a great seminar - controllers from Cincinnati Approach gave a really nice overview of the local airspace and procedures, followed by a Q&A with a bunch of folks who work for the Cincinnati FSDO.

It's always nice to meet the local controllers/feds and tonight was no exception. Everyone was enthusiastic about aviation and lots of helpful information was exchanged. It was also a nice reminder that I need to fly down to CVG and log some Class B takeoffs and landings while I can since they're not too busy down there these days!

There was a trio of Blackhawks parked on the ramp at Lunken

The seminar wrapped up around 9:00 and we headed back down to the dark tarmac to preflight the airplane. I was back in the left seat but Jamie taxied to the runway and made the takeoff, flying us back to Wright Brothers while I handled the radio comms. Tower cleared us onto 3L for takeoff but didn't turn the lights on. A quick, "tower, 2814L on 3L, can you please turn the lights on for us?" call over the radio took care of the black hole! :)

Visibility wasn't great on the way home, though it was still thoroughly VFR. I'd estimate it at 10-15 miles based on when I finally saw the antenna farm southwest of Dayton come into view. Jamie flew an approach to Runway 2 and landed, with two airplanes in the pattern behind us.

We took turns at this point, alternating each time around the pattern until we got in our three takeoffs and landings to extend our night currency for another 90 days. I never really nailed one (last July's solo night flight was much better) but all were acceptable. The winds were squirrely on final and I was quite active on the controls all the way down. Jamie certainly won this round!

Still, I'm night current again and I have a feeling that might come in handy at some point over these next three months. At this point, I think I've been night current more in the past year than in the previous five years since I passed my checkride. Not too shabby, huh?

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.9 hours
Total Time: 305.0 hours

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's finally not winter

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 47 degrees, wind 100 degrees at 10 knots

I was going to title this post "spring has sprung" but a) I've done that before and b) the lack of winter seems more noteworthy following past few frigid months. Semantics aside, it was a great day to hop in the Cub. Gina was working this morning so I went up solo to get my air legs back.

The field was quite soft following a bunch of rain so the western 500' or so at the top of the hill were unusable. The grass was mushy and you have to watch while turning onto the runway to keep moving and not cut it too tight and dig in. Typical spring procedures at Stewart!

Standing water in the fields along the Little Miami River

My first order of business was to fly north of town. Friends of ours live up that way and they had texted me earlier this morning asking if I was up flying - they saw a Cub overhead. I replied that I would be shortly. So I circled over their house, took a couple photos, then did a steep spiral down to pattern altitude and headed back to the airport.

Fields along US-42 just east of downtown Waynesville

You can certainly tell we got a few inches of rain this week

The winds were a solid 10 knots and slightly gusty and variable all the way down to the ground. I think there may have been slight wind shear a few hundred feet up as well - you could feel the winds shift a little on final and I got kicked around a bit. Definitely good weather to get back in shape and keep me on my toes - literally... it's a taildragger, after all!

I spent quite a bit of time in the pattern today

Another guy was flying the other Cub and we followed each other around the pattern for a while. Every takeoff and landing was of the soft field variety (per the conditions I mentioned earlier) but I did change things up here and there. I made a couple with extra power in, at least one simulated engine-out, and two power-off 180s.

Turning base-to-final for Runway 8

Lined up for landing on Runway 8 at Stewart

All told, I'd rate it as a good day of flying with a thoroughly average performance on the landings. I had one with a good bounce, a few just-decent ones, and two or three total greasers. Pretty much the whole gamut to go along with the winds and field conditions. Great workout!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 303.1 hours

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bob Hoover + GoPros? 'Nuff Said!

Forever and always the pilot's pilot.

...and while I'm on the topic of really cool aviation videos, here's an impressive visualization:

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ending the week with a hop back into the saddle

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 34 degrees, wind 150 degrees at 7 knots

We've been luckier than many of our northern friends down here in Ohio; nearly all our snow has melted away. That still hasn't led directly to much flying. In fact, it's prevented it! The warmth resulted in mushy ground and puddles on the runway last weekend, closing the airport.

But today turned out to be perfect.

It's been hovering around freezing so the ground is solid again. The sky was clear and a 7 knot crosswind provided great conditions for hopping back behind the stick. I drove down after work, pulled the Cub out of the hangar, topped off the tanks, and taxied down to the end of Runway 8.

Doing my runup just before takeoff

With only my (lighter) self in the back seat, the 85 hp Continental had me quickly climbing into the evening sky. I was at 1,500 feet before I crossed the opposite end of the runway. I made three initial trips around the pattern to test out my stick and rudder skills.

Since the crosswind was off to my right I held in a bit of right aileron on final every time, touching down on the right main. The ground's a bit bumpy this time of year but every landing was good, if not completely smooth. I felt great after the third - gradually pulling back on the stick back, I ran out of elevator just as the mains touched down. Total greaser.

Only a few patches of snow are still visible

Everything felt in order so I headed off towards the lake. It turned out to be an awesome sight. For perhaps the first time in the nearly six years I've been flying at Stewart, it's almost completely frozen. That's what an extremely cold winter will do for you!

Approaching Caesar Creek Lake

Totally frozen around the dam

Looking east over the west end of the lake

Some ice was starting to break up along the shoreline

One more eastward view from this beautiful, CAVU day

You could probably walk to all the islands this winter!

More ice near the campground on the east side of the state park

Anyone familiar with my flying probably knows I tend to prefer more practice than what you get in the traffic pattern. Especially after a prolonged break. So I climbed up to 3,500 or 4,000 feet after my sightseeing run around the lake and got to work on it.

I only spent a few minutes but I ran through a bunch of maneuvers - Dutch Rolls, steep turns, power-on and power-off stalls. All felt good, other than gaining altitude on my steep turns to the right. I think I did those three times until I was satisfied. Normally I'd end with a steep spiral down to lose altitude but it was quite chilly up there! So I just screwed around for a couple more minutes to descend without shock cooling the engine.

Yankin' and bankin' is often best done solo. Gina's always a fun (and willing!) passenger but it's not something I do with most people. But today, up there all by myself, I enjoyed a few minutes of fun. Just me and the airplane, one with the controls, you know... pilot stuff.

Looking east towards Waynesville (and a little more remaining snow)

The sun was getting lower in the sky - and dragging the temperature down with it - so I turned back towards the airport after flying west of Waynesville. I entered the pattern and reduced the power to idle, setting up for a simulated engine-out landing. As I tend to do, I planned to land long to avoid a long taxi.

I rolled over to the right and put in left rudder to the stop. Holding the control inputs, I turned from downwind to final while in a healthy forward slip, rolling out just above the runway. I planted the wheels back on the turf, taxied between the hangars, shut down that Continental, and pushed N98286 back where I found her.

Truly the perfect way to start the weekend!

Daylight Savings Time starts next week, so you all know what that means...

Prime flying season is almost here again! :)

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 302.0 hours