Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Flying a few friends in the Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Overcast, 37 degrees, wind 290 degrees at 8 knots

Two of our friends, Stephanie and Stuart, drove down to visit today. Gina was one of Stephanie's bridesmaids and the converse was true for our wedding three years ago. We don't get to see them very often, since they live in Texas now (though we actually flew down to visit over Labor Day weekend).

I had to work but managed to leave a little early and met them all down at Stewart. We had been hoping to all fly together but the 172 was booked, so we decided Cub rides were the next best thing. By the way, in this pilot's opinion, Cub rides are the best thing, but I digress.

Stuart elected to go first (or maybe Stephanie just told him that's what was going down, I'm not sure - marriage and all that) so he hopped in front after I explained the contortions required to board a Cub. The engine was totally cold and it took a while to get it turning - thanks to Ed for having more patience than I do when it comes to hand-propping. Once the oil temperature reached a happy place on the gauge (which took a few minutes) we took off on Runway 26.

Gina was on the ground and captured rare videos of me flying from outside the cockpit!

I meandered south towards I-71 and pointed out a few things along the way. He made a few comments about the views and enjoyed the new perspective. As I was making my way back towards the airport he asked if there was a dam (spoiler alert - there is, as is the case with most large bodies of water in Ohio) near the lake over to the right. So, as is conveniently doable when flying a small plane, I turned towards Caesar Creek Lake to give him a better view.

Daylight was fading and I still had one more passenger in the queue so I again turned towards the airport. I touched down reasonably softly on Runway 26 and was reminded that winter is nearly here at the end of my rollout; the engine began to sputter. A quick advance of the throttle kept everything purring and I taxied back over to where Gina and Stephanie were waiting.

Taxiing to the runway after Stephanie climbed on board

I turned the engine off and Stuart hopped out - or, more accurately, Stephanie manhandled him out of the front seat. She's a registered nurse and, well, sometimes it shows. :-) He was instantly where he needed to be (safely out of the plane) and she quickly traded places after doing her own version of the Cub dance to climb aboard.

Everything was now warmed up so I taxied back down to the end of the runway. Wanting to try something slightly different, I held the brakes and used a short field takeoff technique. We were off the ground in roughly the span of a set of cones - you can see yourself in the video above.

Stephanie was up for a little more in the air; I slowly eased her into the sensations of light airplane flying with progressively steeper turns. We ended up doing a 45 degree bank, give or take, before I turned out over the lake for some more sightseeing. A few minutes later, with daylight fading and needing to head back to land, I did a pseudo-steep spiral to lose 500 feet to get to pattern altitude. She got a kick out of it.

I crossed midfield and turned downwind, the only plane in the pattern. The wind had shifted since the first takeoff, no longer directly down the runway but now a slight right crosswind. So I used a right forward slip on final to lose some extra altitude and speed, rolling out 50 feet or so above the ground. It sure felt like all three wheels grazed the grass at the same time, a total greaser.

My two rookie Cub passengers for the day

Stephanie and Gina after we landed and tied the airplane down

Both Stephanie and Stuart said they really enjoyed their short flights. I wish we'd had more time to fly but I'm glad we managed to squeeze in a few minutes. We sometimes only see them every couple years and it was nice to show them a little bit of what we love here in Southwest Ohio.

After the flying ceased, we continued on down US-42 to Mason where we all enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Wildflower CafĂ©. If you live nearby or are ever in the area, I highly recommend the place. Awesome local food, daily specials, and a great beer and wine list. What's not to love?

Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 323.4 hours

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Aviation: The Invisible Highway

This looks spectacular.

I absolutely love One Six Right, which was also produced by Brian J. Terwilliger. It certainly looks like he's created another epic aviation film.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Colors and currency in the Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 54 degrees, wind 250 degrees at 8 knots

We were blessed with a gorgeous fall afternoon. Gina was working at the airport in the morning and I drove down to meet her near the end of her shift. With a Cub open and peak colors all around, the only logical way thing to do was to take it all in from above!

First, however, I took the venerable taildragger around the pattern solo. I originally planned to make two trips but Gina was still finishing up in the office and two became four. With a strong wind almost directly down the runway, I was off and climbing quickly every takeoff. Due to the skydivers sharing the pattern, I climbed straight out and leveled off at pattern altitude just past the end of the runway before turning crosswind and downwind.

It didn't take long to run through the full gamut - normal, short, and soft field takeoffs and landings, plus a couple power-off 180s for good measure. I was really feeling it this afternoon; the first landing was a perfect greaser and the next three were nearly as good. Holding the brakes on takeoff, I was off the ground in less than the distance between two sets of cones. Flying solo in a Cub with a healthy wind down the runway never gets old.

Gina wandered over and climbed in the front after my fourth landing. Once she was buckled, I handed her the camera and rolled back onto Runway 26. I climbed west before turning north, slowly making our way past Waynesville before turning towards Caesar Creek Lake. I opened the window (a chilly proposition!) so she could get some unobstructed shots of the great scenery.

OH-73 heading east towards Waynesville

Not a foliage shot - I just like Cub strut photos!

US-42 winds south past Waynesville towards Lebanon

We flew low and slow, making our way south with a detour east around Harveysburg to peek at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. It seems like the trees surrounding the lake are full of color every fall and this year was no exception. Numerous boaters were out enjoying the CAVU day, too.

The southwest end of Caesar Creek Lake and the dam that created it

The colors on these trees next to Caesar Creek Lake were spectacular

We flew past the Ohio Renaissance Festival in Harveysburg - it was packed!

Crossing I-71 we spotted some vivid patches of color a few miles further south; I pointed the nose in that direction and Gina snapped more photos. Before long, it was quarter of three and I had to head towards Stewart to return the plane in time for the next lesson. We flew up the Little Miami River valley - another wonderfully scenic area, year after year.

I-71 just east of the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge between Cincinnati and Columbus

I've come to the conclusion that I land the Cub better solo. Every landing before Gina climbed on board was great. Feeling good, I elected to make one more power-off 180 upon our return. Rolling out of a full forward slip about 50 feet up, I flared a tad too high. The mains touched and we bounced off the grass. Not very high, but it just didn't feel right, so I immediately firewalled the throttle and went around. We came back around, power off again, and this time touched down safely... but still with far less finesse than my first four of the day.

A friend was doing spin training in the Champ - he landed just after we tied down

Still, it was a perfect day for an aerial color tour. Gina and I both enjoyed the view; the near-constant bumps didn't ruin it one bit. Given how much I've been traveling lately, I'm quite glad we managed to squeeze in our annual foliage flight before the trees went bare!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.2 hours
Total Time: 322.6 hours

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cruising home and crossing 100 hours in the Skyhawk

Plane: Cessna 172 
Route: OZW-40I 
Weather - OZW: Broken clouds, 63 degrees, wind 180 degrees at 11 knots
Weather - 40I: Clear, 63 degrees, wind calm

After a couple more days in Michigan tending to some family business, it was time to head home. I originally thought we might be able to head home yesterday but low clouds hung around longer than originally forecast. But things finally improved today and by lunchtime the forecasts made it clear we could safely fly home mid-afternoon.

My dad's neighbor very kindly drove us to the airport. She's never flown in a small airplane and was curious; I showed her around and answered her questions while doing my preflight. I owe her a flight! I settled the fuel bill at the FBO (making a phone call to have your tanks topped off with 100LL never gets old!) and we said goodbye. We had to back-taxi down the runway due to some paving activity on the taxiway. A few minutes later, we were airborne off Runway 13 and I waved the wings to say goodbye as we climbed straight out before turning south on course.

Proof that, while clearly rusty, I still know how to call FSS and give a PIREP!

A final pre-takeoff check of the METARs and TAFs enroute indicated broken clouds remained near home. So I leveled off at 2,500 feet and contacted Detroit Approach for flight following. About a half hour in, after a handoff to Toledo Approach, it became clear the weather was quickly changing. I pulled up the METARs again on my phone and, low and behold, everything ahead was in the clear. I told Toledo we were climbing and went on up to 6,500 feet. Once I leveled off, we'd gained 10-15 knots thanks to a slight tailwind. I even did my pilot's civic duty and called Cleveland Radio with a PIREP confirming the sudden clear skies near Findlay.

Everything smoothed out above the (former) cloud tops and we had a very comfortable remainder of the trip. We were making 115-125 knots across the ground and quickly ticked off the remaining miles. Columbus Approach stepped me down as we neared Dayton and I essentially maintained a constant descent all the way to pattern altitude. After a very minor deviation over Kettering so Gina could take a photo of the high school where she teaches, I entered the pattern at Stewart. We touched down softly on Runway 26 under clear blue skies.

Our full trip up and back, which consumed just under two calendar days

The trip home today also included a new logbook milestone. I crossed 100 hours in a single airframe for the first time! As of today, I have in 101.9 hours N2814L. We came quite close on the way up; when I shut down Monday night the Hobbs had me sitting at 99.9 hours. It used to seem certain that I'd first cross the milestone in N60338, but I just don't fly the 150 that often anymore. I'll likely check it off before too long, however, since I'm only 5.1 hours away in her.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 2.0 hours
Total Time: 321.4 hours

Monday, September 29, 2014

Back up to Michigan - at night!

Plane: Cessna 172 
Route: 40I-OZW
Weather - 40I: Clear, 80 degrees, wind 290 degrees at 5 knots
Weather - OZW: Clear, 67 degrees, wind calm

It's getting to the point that 40I-OZW is a route I can traverse without a map. We had to head back up to Howell again to tend to my dad. Gina and I both worked all day so we planned a (partial) night flight. Good thing I've managed to maintain my currency most of this year!

There are reason one does the preflight inspection. Today I realized the landing light wasn't working. While not absolutely required, it seemed prudent to have one at my disposal for my first night landing at OZW. So our departure was delayed by a few minutes while Emerson grabbed a new bulb from the hangar and kindly installed it in the port wing.

Night flights don't produce much to see until short final... but the sunset sure was spectacular!

We were in the air by 6:30 and I quickly turned on course. The skies were CAVU near home, though a cold front was slowly moving southeast across Michigan. I knew from the forecasts that we'd make it up there with no issues. But I wasn't 100% sure if any clouds would necessitate an early descent from our 5,500 foot cruise altitude.

You could easily see 50 miles - away from the sun, at least

The evening haze was more apparent looking west at downtown Dayton

It was certainly a beautiful evening to fly. Night flying is wonderful - not just due to the sparkling view of towns and cities below, nor the ease of spotting traffic, but especially because of the smooth air. Trimmed out, I was able to fly mostly hands-off and enjoy the view of sun dipping below the horizon as we cruised northward.

That view and she's on her Nexus?! The pilot in me shakes his head... :)

By the time we crossed the Michigan-Ohio border, it was quite dark outside. I saw some clouds to the northwest accented against the last gasps of daylight; they were still safely above our altitude. Before long, however, it was time to begin our scheduled descent. I slowly let down to 2,000 feet at around 300 fpm.

I spotted Livingston County's rotating beacon 20-25 miles out and notified Detroit Approach. They cut me loose with a friendly "squawk VFR"  about 10 miles later. The pattern was empty and - at least at a somewhat unfamiliar airport - I prefer a slightly longer final at night, so I flew towards the final approach fix on the approach plate for Runway 31. That put me on a roughly two mile left base. I turned final, maintained the glideslope with the PAPI, and touched down really, really softly with nary a squeak precisely two hours after takeoff.

Since my sister was still on her way to pick us up and - admittedly, my primary reason - I try and take advantage of any opportunity to extend my night currency, we made three more circuits around the pattern. None of those landings were quite as good as the first one (quit while you're ahead and whatnot...) but all went well and, within minutes, I was  legal to carry passengers at night for another 90 days. Heavy rain moved in a few hours later as promised, but by then we were comfortably relaxing indoors. 

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 2.6 hours
Total Time: 319.4 hours