Monday, May 11, 2009

One hundred hours

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 63 degrees, wind 340 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 17

Between working hours that are borderline insane, moving into a new house, and trying to have a vague semblance of a life the list of things keeping me out of the sky these past few weeks is long. Add to that the fact that I wanted to have Gina with me when I hit a major (if purely sentimental) milestone in my piloting experience and the associated mismatching of schedules. But three weeks is far too long for me to stay grounded and we were able to sneak away to the airport to hit the skies on a beautiful spring evening. And we took lots of pictures for Paul, too.

One hundred knots for one hundred hours - yea, yea I'm being all symbolic

It was windy all day and the forecast that called for the gusty conditions to die down by 6pm seemingly jumped the gun by a few hours. I called Wright Brothers' AWOS on my cell while driving to the airport and, while windy, the conditions seemed good even considering my recent lack of flight time. The windsock at Stewart was flailing around here and there, roughly indicating a solid 60 to 90 degree crosswind. Nothing like good practice to get yourself back in the game, eh?

Seeing the cloud shadows from above never gets old for me

As it had been 24 days since my last flight, I elected to make two trips around the pattern to figure out how much rust needed to be knocked off my flying skills. Turns out I felt pretty much at home and sharp, and I actually credit the crosswinds for that to a degree. I had no choice but to be sharp both on the ground (watch those controls when taxiing!) and in the air. Many a pilot has suffered a less than delightful fate when they chose otherwise on a windy day.

I'm pleased to say that, while not perfect, those first two landings were pretty darn smooth and I held the plane right on centerline as I transitioned from a crab to a sideslip on short final. My feet had to dance all over the rudder pedals just before touchdown because the winds were swirling and trying to yaw me one way or the other. Great practice any day of the week, but especially great for me today.

Gina took this one and is quite proud of it - I concur, nice photo

Satisfied that I was fresh enough to go have some fun, we flew off and pretty much putzed around the sky to enjoy the usual sights. Caesar Creek Lake, the farmland, the river valley - you know the drill by now. I was absolutely amazed by just how much things have greened up since I last flew, though. What was budding trees that looked mostly brown from the air is now a lush green landscape... it feels like summer is here. Add to that all the rain we've had of late that has turned the grass strip into a gorgeous patch of turf and I couldn't be happier.

The colors were stunning, especially since it was still brown last time I flew

We climbed up and did a steep turn and I showed her the "turn the 150 by opening the doors" trick. That always puts a smile on people's faces... well, unless of course they're not so inclined to open the door in flight with 2,000 feet of air below them. But that's part of the fun! I also dived a few hundred feet to build up speed (how else do you think I got the 100 knot picture above in a 150?) and I pulled up quickly to shove us into the seats. Then I pushed over for that slight floating feeling and got Gina to laugh and squeal next to me. Scared me at first actually thinking I scared her but turns out that's what she does on roller coasters too... or so she tells me. I hate those damn things. Funny that I like spins but hate coasters, but that's the way it is.

Rockin her shades (she forgot to grab mine from home - sheesh!)

I wanted to fly her over the house, but it's not quite as simple as you think since we lie directly under the traffic pattern at Wright Brothers. (Yes, I love standing in the yard and watching planes fly directly overhead - as if you even needed to ask). Our house is literally about a mile North of the airport, right on the extended centerline of the runway. Anyway, avoiding traffic means I have to fly over at about 3,000 feet to sufficiently clear the prop and jet pattern altitudes so it's a little harder to take a good photo. But as you can see below, Gina was able to snap one and I did my best to point out our nice new casa.

The new house from 3,000 feet (gotta avoid the pattern at Wright Brothers)

I then flew us West and descended to make a 45 entry into the pattern for a landing at Wright Brothers. Landing on Runway 2 there gave me a left crosswind instead of the right crosswind I'd had when departing Runway 26 at Stewart. The landing here might have been the best crosswind landing I've ever made in the 150. Held it off, kept her straight with the rudder, and the left wheel touched right as the stall horn started to blare loudly. I think I actually clapped my hands I was so happy with it. We departed straight out before turning to the East so I'm sure I buzzed our new neighbors from about 500 feet on climbout.

Doing her best to fly straight and level (she kept climbing)

I let Gina hold the controls for a minute and I think she was trying to fly straight and level but we kept climbing - not sure what was going on there. ;-) But I kept my eye out for traffic and took a couple photos of the lake while she was doing her best pilot impression. Then I flew to the South and brought us around while descending for a 45 into a left downwind to Runway 26 back at Stewart. She snapped a few photos of the surrounding river valley (below) while I was in the pattern. I got lined up with the crosswind still pushing me into a pretty sizeable crab all the way down final and set us down softly once again. More swirly, gusty winds right before touchdown and I think I kicked in almost full left rudder to straighten the nose out right before the wheels touched.

I've flown over this like 300 times and never noticed that covered bridge before

Looking up the valley carved out by the Little Miami River

So there you have it - I can still fly, it's spring and the scenery is beautiful, and I crossed one hundred hours in the left seat. Hopefully I can fly a bit more regularly now but we'll see how that pans out. I do have the 85 hp Cub scheduled for next week on my birthday (holy cow, how's it already mid-May?) which will be the one-year anniversary of my first flight at Stewart. Same plane, same date... I hope the weather cooperates!

Today's Flight: 1.3 hours
Total Time: 100.9 hours


  1. Congratulations on hitting 100 hours! Great write-up, made even better with pictures. Now you'll have to get Gina to record your landings on video...yeah, I'm never satisfied :) It sounds like you did some great flying, though I'm surprised your new house isn't on a runway!

    I'm lazy...the crab-to-sideslip sounds like a lot of work. I just sideslip all the way in. It's more simple for my brain to comprehend. Hands to steer left or right, feet to keep the plain aligned with the runway.

    By the way, those tortoise shell shades are you...I think you should keep them :)

  2. Thanks, Paul. Kind of hard to believe it's been just about a year since I first flew at Stewart and that I'll have flown 100 hours in that span. I've still got to get the videos from when Rob and I went flying - we've got steep turns, takeoffs, landings, a go-around... so I hope I can get a hold of them and post on here.

    We were taught the crab-to-sideslip way so it's all I've ever really known. But I will sometimes try to fly a slightly longer final to give myself a little more time to transition and figure out exactly what the wind is doing. Although as I said about yesterday, it was so variable I had to be all over the controls anyway.

    No worries, I'll go and place an order for 3 pairs - one for the car, one for the plane, and one for the house... ;)

  3. Awsome Steve! Congrats on the Milestone. I'm hoping to hit that mark this year too if I can.

    As far as her flying and pitching up, next time you fly, check her seat position in relationship to yours or her length of reach. When my wife flys with me, she tends to be back a notch or two, especially when we flew in the 152, as she was more comfortable there. Being back though, she may not realize the slight backpressure she could have on the yoke for what feels natural to her.

    Congrats on the House too!

  4. Thanks, Rob. That's a great point about seat position I never would have thought about that. I'll definitely pay attention next time we go up.

  5. Steve,

    Congrats on the 100 hour milestone....there will be many more.

    Sounded like a fun flight and your passenger made it all the better. I love when my Bride is flying with me....great to see you both enjoying the air time together.

    Happy Birtday!!


  6. Steve, glad to see you back up in the air. I still need to get there, but it's looking less likely this spring as I'm trying to buy a farm - one very close to there, actually. That covered bridge is about a mile W/NW of the place I'm buying, and as a matter of fact it's closed, so to get to the new place, I have to go up to 73 and down to get there. It sure is beautiful this time of year!

  7. I'll tell ya - the things I've come to know from this blog...

    Interesting about the bridge, Sean, Now that I think about it I drive past the road off Rt-42 on the way to Stewart and I've seen that 'Bridge Out in X miles' sign who knows how many times. Kinda neat to finally put two and two together.

    We still need to fly around somewhere now that the weather's good, ya know.

  8. Oh, I know. Been too busy lately, but we gotta do that for sure. I'd never even seen that bridge before, but I knew exactly which one it was when I saw your picture.

  9. Steve, I have to admit, it's been quite some time since I've been an avid reader of your content, but I did have the pleasure of reading your latest and quite satisfying post.

    I'm sure I'm not the first to say it, but congratulations on hitting such a milestone! I know the day I passed over such a border was a great day indeed. It's remarkable to read a fellow pilot's tales and I look forward to your future endeavors.

    Kyle A. Bilby