Friday, February 5, 2016

A squishy first flight of the year

Plane: Cessna 172 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 40 degrees, wind 200 degrees at 10 knots

Thus far the new year is much like 2015 in that I've been quite busy with work and travel. We've also had some rather windy days that kept me on the ground. So today, after a few long nights at work earlier in the week, I left work early to take advantage of a nice afternoon and climb back into the cockpit.

I had hoped to fly a Cub but both were booked solid; we pilots do think alike sometimes. The 172 was wide open, however. After a thorough preflight (I hadn't flown 2814L in a while!) I started the engine and prepared myself for some soft field work. It's certainly not unusual to find the field soggy early in the year but even I was surprised how much muck I encountered upon arrival.

I can still carve nice rectangles into the sky!

The turf was muddy enough that I knew this would be one of those constant-movement days; from the time I taxiied off the tiedown until I returned and shut down the engine the tires never stopped rolling. Surprisingly, all my takeoffs and landings were pretty damn good today. I held the yoke back against my chest to get the plane off the ground as quick as possible and accelerate in ground effect. I kept in a little power during the roundout and flare and the mains touched lightly on all three landings.

Where I could spot the rust was in my actions around the pattern. Not flying the rectangle itself but in how I went through the flow of everything from takeoff to landing. I wasn't behind the plane yet I certainly wasn't very ahead of the plane, either. Everything - leveling off, trimming, lowering the flaps, reducing power - just felt a bit jerky, not smooth like it is when humming along in full, comfortable currency.

Things improved by the third lap and I finished with a very soft and relatively short landing. All things considered it was a great, brief afternoon in the sky. Knocked off a little rust and kept my soft field skills sharp. With the days getting longer I hope to spend more time flying and less time simply hanging onto currency by a thin string in the coming months!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.6 hours
Total Time: 348.1 hours

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

I enter 2016 slightly disappointed with last year's total hours once again. The past 12 months have been quite hectic for me, to say the least. But I also find myself rather satisfied by the fact that I somehow (barely) exceeded 2014's total time in the sky despite the craziness.

Prior Recaps: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

While I didn't fly much myself, I did do more than my fair share of flying - 220 hours commercially. I set foot in 9 different countries (Australia, China, French Polynesia, New Zealand, and Switzerland were new additions) and 16 states. I flew 86,330 miles (3 1/2 times around the planet, with 4 crossings each of the Atlantic and Pacific) on 72 individual flights on 11 different airlines. Add to that the trips by car and I spent a total of 114 nights away from home. So I suppose my relative lack of stick time doesn't seem so bad.

On the somewhat rare occasions I did get to fly, we still had some fun. I was able to take quite a few people for their first flights and that's always a special treat. We flew up to Kalamazoo for a WMU football weekend with friends. I still dedicated flights solely to practice - just over 25% of my hours were spent solo working on basic maneuvers to try and keep the rust at bay. As usual, there was also a bit of sightseeing and simply enjoying the view from above.

Total Hours: 24.1 | Solo: 5.8 | XC: 6.3 | Dual: 1.0 | Night: 0.6 | Landings: 55

Aircraft Flown: C150, C172, Cub

New Airports: None (again! yikes!)

New States: None

First Flights: 7 (Chad, Lorraine + Joe, Jeff + Cassie, Tyler, and Austin)

People Flown: 13 (above, plus Abby, Rob, Lauren, Gary, Mike, and Gina)

$100 Burgers: 2 (New Year's Day breakfast in Middletown and breakfast at Hangar 5 in September)

Fly-Ins: None

What I'll Remember: Getting to fly in the Wright B Flyer. Logging my 100th tailwheel hour in the Cub. Hang gliding over some of the most breathtaking scenery I've ever encountered in New Zealand. Taking an aerial tour over our beloved college campus for the first time in three years. Continuing on my never-ending quest to gain experience and improve my ADM. Completing a non-WINGS BFR for the first time.

2015 Goals: I'm out of excuses on the glider front. Although the rating's still a ways off, I absolutely need to go for at least one ride this year. Hold me to it! I would like to travel by airplane on at least one or two overnight trips with Gina. It would be fun to take a few more friends and coworkers up for their first flights. I need to fly some Young Eagles again, too.

^ Nobody held me to it! ;-) Also, I didn't technically fly any Young Eagles but an old coworker contacted me in December about taking his grandkids flying; we're still coordinating schedules.

2015 Goals: I'm still out of excuses on the glider front. Pilot friend Tommy even offered me a free glider ride for my birthday - I need to set that up ASAP! A few of us pilot bloggers have discussed a meet-up and I hope we can coordinate that later this year.

After a complete false start three years ago, I again hope to start and finish my Instrument rating this year. That plan ran into a couple walls, financial and otherwise, but Gina graduated with her Master's in December (which we're done paying for!) so it seems doable this time around. Of course, that may change if I fall back into last year's travel patterns - time will tell.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lunchtime Cubbin' with Mike

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Broken clouds, 38 degrees, wind 300 degrees at 10 knots

Our friend Mike is in town for a few days from San Francisco. We used to fly together all the time on Pilots N Paws trips and elsewhere. He hasn't done much Cubbin' since moving away so the goal was to get some stick time in this week. Thankfully the weather cooperated today; I drove down to Stewart from the office at lunchtime and we spent an hour in the sky.

Mike recalling the Cub's cozy fit prior to propping the engine

We wandered out to the hangar, I did a complete preflight and we pulled the plane out onto the grass. Mike wedged himself in front, I propped the engine to life, and we were on our way out to the runway. Winds were moderate from the west so we departed on Runway 26 and were soon level at 2,000 feet flying north towards the city.

A rather not-small house we passed over after takeoff

Approaching downtown Dayton from the south

The University of Dayton's main campus

The Great Miami River

Relocation and reconstruction of I-75 downtown

Downtown Dayton from the north

Downtown Dayton from the east

View from the back seat approaching downtown from the south

I circled around downtown Dayton, enjoying the great visibility. Yes, it was overcast, but you could see for miles and miles beneath the clouds. We took note of the construction down below and spotted Runway 36 at Dayton International when we were perfectly lined up for a straight-in about 10 miles south.

Mike took the controls and circled over his and a friends' house in Oakwood as I snapped some more photos. We looked down upon the Deeds Carillon, which briefly held a rather spectacular Christmas tree of lights until an unfortunate encounter with the wind a few days ago. Then we flew southwest, passing directly over my office before turning south towards Caesar Creek Lake.

Possibly the best view of one's office during their lunch hour

Glad not to be shopping at The Greene so close to Christmas!

(Mike was flying here)

You may recall my photos of the lake earlier this year when it was significantly drained for construction. Those concrete footings now support much of the new marina that looks to be almost complete. A quick search indicates it's supposed to open at the start of next year's boating season.

The new marina at Caesar Creek State Park

Caesar Creek Lake

Caesar Creek Lake and dam

Mike handed the controls back near the airport and I made a quick pattern entry to a downwind for Runway 26. My landing was not without a minor bounce and thud - it's been a month since I last flew and the landing looked like it. We tied the plane down near the fuel pump, took care of things inside, and I headed back to work for a few hours.

Considering the amount of travel I've been doing all year (I actually just returned from a rather last-minute trip to China yesterday) I'm happy to have somehow exceeded my total hours from 2014. Still, my flights of the non-commercial variety have been fewer and further between than intended. Hopefully I'm able to get in one more flight this year myself.

In the meantime, here's wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 347.5 hours

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