Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meeting a friend of the blog from Down Under

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-SGH-40I
Weather: Hazy, 75 degrees, wind calm

Update - I've posted a photo from our flight here.

I'm always amazed by the people I meet and emails I receive completely as a result of this blog. While it all began as a way to chronicle my flying lessons and share the experience with friends and other students, it's become a wonderful window into the camaraderie and general goodness that define the pilot community worldwide. I truly appreciate all the emails you readers send me, questions you ask me, thoughts and experiences you share with me, and comments you contribute to every discussion and post. Keep it up!

So on that note, I had a wonderful opportunity today to meet a friend I came to know through this blog. His name is Shaun and he's a certificated pilot from Australia. The short story is that he's read the blog for a while, was coming to the U.S. this summer, and wanted to do some flying since it's ridiculously more affordable than back home. Apparently my words about Stewart were a solid recommendation, as he decided to come here for his tailwheel endorsement and other additional training. Over the past couple months, we've talked via email and I actually mailed him training manuals and aeronautical charts to help him prepare. That the internet made such a thing possible is just plain awesome to me and I'm so glad we were able to meet up today.

After returning from my short flight in the Cub, I was hand-propping the same Cub for a student when Shaun walked over. We ended up talking with CFI Joe about the usual random flying nonsense for about a half hour. Differences between some things here compared to Australia, as well as some more general non-flying stuff. He's amazed at the plethora of Wal-Marts over here, by the way. Apparently they don't exist down there in the Southern Hemisphere. Who knew? Anyway, Shaun has been training and flying his tail off over the past week - heck, he even went up in the Stearman and did some wing-overs. I've still gotta get up in that gorgeous plane...

Great discussion aside, we decided to hop in the 150 and take a short flight together. He's been bouncing around many of the local airports so I wanted to go somewhere new. Turns out he'd driven over to Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport this afternoon to watch planes and take some photos. They've got an Air National Guard base there with F-16s so it's definitely a good choice when it comes to airplane-watching. But what's the fun of driving to an airport when you can land a plane at that airport? Plus, I'd never actually landed there yet myself so we'd both get to add it to our airport list.

The air was smooth as glass, one of those nights where you can just about fly without ever touching the yoke. I took us up to 3,000 and we headed straight there without ever seeing any other traffic aside from a C-5 that was in the pattern over at Wright Patterson AFB. Our heading allowed for a very smooth entry into the pattern for Runway 24 on a 45 degree entry to downwind. Seeing as they have military fighters based there, the runway is quite long - the longest I've ever landed on, in fact, at 9,000 feet.

With more than enough runway and no traffic, I simply stopped after landing to reconfigure and then pushed in the throttle and rotated back off the concrete. Shaun was up for a little fun so I made CFI Dave's famous F-150 takeoff by holding us about 20 feet off the runway as we accelerated to 90 knots then pulled up sharply. Of course, it's still a 150 so we only gained about 200 feet before I pushed over to continue the climb at 65 knots.

On the way home, we saw some more traffic. A plane called 10 miles South of Greene County when we were about 3 miles South headed in the opposite direction so I asked their altitude over the radio to check for a conflict. Shaun spotted them when they were a couple miles away and below us to the right. Another plane came closer and appeared pretty quickly off to my side of the plane, about a half mile away and a couple hundred feet below us. Neither was too close, but they were still close enough to warrant extra attention.

Approaching the pattern at Stewart, I saw the Stearman a few thousand feet above us. Not where you usually expect to see it, especially with the sun quickly setting. Let's just say I had a feeling they were about to do something fun. Sure enough, the next thing I knew they were in a spin directly above the field and I was about to turn downwind. I had no idea if they spotted me so I started to make a 360 as Shaun looked for them and spotted the plane level and still above us. I quickly turned across the field onto downwind as he helped keep the Stearman in sight. I dumped in all 40 degrees of flaps to get on the ground quickly just to clear the airspace and managed a decently smooth landing on the grass.

Back at the tiedown and safely shut down, we hopped out and watched the Stearman put on a bit more of a show. Loops, rolls, and generally cool aerobatic fun for about five minutes before they turned final and touched down. Then it was time to pack 60338 up as Shaun had scheduled a night flight with Joe. Over in Australia, you don't receive a night certification with your Private - it's separate training.

It really was great to go fly with another pilot, let alone one from halfway around the world. He took some photos and video tonight as well - I'll update the post when he can send them to me. We had a great discussion while enroute from Stewart to Springfield and back in addition to all the airplane talk on the ground. He's headed up to Oshkosh on Friday (yes, I'm jealous) but the plan is to fly over to Bolton Field in Columbus for some yummy BBQ on Thursday evening. At least for now, the weather looks like it will cooperate so hopefully we're able to make the trip. Even if we have to cancel, I'll definitely go down to Stewart to wish Shaun safe travels before he leaves Dayton and heads back home.

One last completely random thing that caught my attention tonight... this flight gives me exactly 111 total hours and the bill for the day (Cub + 150) was $111.03. Interesting, eh?

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 111.0 hours


  1. That's what it's all about!!! Mary and I have met some of the nicest people through flying. How cool is that to meet someone through the blog, correspond and then meet up in person. GA serves each and every pilot, there are no barriers when we share this passion. Great job guys!

  2. Indeed, the pilot community is a wonderful group of folks. We were actually able to meet up again last night and watch some C-5s over at WPAFB and then went out to dinner and chatted for a while. He left this morning for Chicago and then he's headed up to Oshkosh.