Sunday, June 21, 2009

Taking my sister up for her first flight

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Clear, 80 degrees, wind light and variable

My dad and sister came down to visit this weekend for Father's Day and to check out the new house. The three of us and Gina went to the Dayton Dragons (baseball) game last night for our annual Kodak Night there, and otherwise had a pretty relaxing weekend. I'd hoped to take my dad up today being the holiday and all, but he wasn't all that interested in going. Seems he had a bad experience with a bumpy flight in a small plane a long time ago. I'm certainly never going to pressure anyone to go flying so we'll see if he wants to go up again in the future. My sister, on the other hand, was quite gung-ho about getting airborne so we did just that this morning.

Hard at work preflighting my second-favorite 150

Quite the complicated mess of instruments, eh?

It's definitely felt like summer here these past few days so I suppose it was only fitting that today is the first official day of the season. Even at 9:00 in the morning the sun was beating down and it felt plenty muggy - one of those days you can't wait to get in the plane and turn the fan on. After adding a quart of oil and fueling her all the way up, I ran through my last checks and headed down the runway with a departure to the East.

Flying us over Caesar Creek Lake

We took somewhat of my standard sightseeing route, going out over the lake and up North towards where my old apartment was. I flew a circle around The Greene (a giant outdoor mall complex) and Lauren snapped some photos. She was having a good time enjoying all the scenery.

I've also got to note that she had a hell of a good eye for someone in their first trip in a small plane. Usually when I point things out in the distance (airports, water towers, etc.) to new passengers it takes a while for them to figure out how to judge distance and find them. But today Lauren was right there, seeing every airport I pointed out almost immediately. Must run in the family or something... ;-)

Hey there, it's Dayton!

Looking down on the water tower next to The Greene

You don't take photos like this if you hate the experience

I flew us over top of our house at about 3,000 feet - always got to be extra careful in staying clear of the traffic headed in and out of Wright Brothers. Come to find out when we got home that my dad was actually out in the back yard when we flew over. He said that he actually figured that was us when he saw me make the 360 before flying away. Pretty cool. Since the only way to get a close-up of the house is from the traffic pattern, I brought us down for a landing at Wright Brothers. Runway 2 was in use, so on takeoff we flew right over top of the casa at about 400 feet.

Waiting in line for takeoff at Wright Brothers

Between a somewhat small breakfast and the incredible climate control afforded to us by Cessna in the mighty 150, Lauren was starting to feel a tiny bit queasy. She said it wasn't too bad and I told her it's not unusual for your first flight in a small plane, plus it was getting slightly bumpy as the ground warmed beneath us. At this point I was already headed for the pattern at Stewart, so I just continued along. Someone was in the Champ and heading in the wrong direction (pseudo-right-traffic, if you will) so I steered clear and wide as they made a 180 on downwind. I definitely didn't have a clue that they were doing at that point. Once I could see they were turning base and planning on landing, I was extended so far on downwind that I just set up for a short field landing. Touchdown was smooth and it's always neat to come to a stop in a few hundred feet.

If you've read this blog enough, you know I always fly folks over this bridge...

Who says you can't have fun in a 150?

I'd definitely rate today as a successful first flight. The cramped confines of the 150 are enough to make most sane people a little unsettled, and Lauren still managed to have a ton of fun. I was equally warm and sticky by the time we hopped out and were walking across the grass, anyway. Chalk up another passenger for me and another wonderful day of summer flying at a grass strip.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.2 hours
Total Time: 108.6 hours

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sharp as a tack

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Hazy under broken clouds, 78 degrees, wind 200 degrees at 4 knots

I've been feeling like a solid session of takeoff and landing practice was in order, as many of my recent flights have been of the sightseeing and/or $100 Hamburger variety. Not much time spent in the pattern and I could feel myself getting a little rusty. The weather looked decent this afternoon (it was crazy humid, but no storms were popping up on radar) so I called Stewart to reserve a 150 and headed down after work.

Given that the radio in 18J likes to blow out your eardrums every time you key the mic to transmit, along with the convenience of a wherever-you-want-it-to-be taxiway alongside the grass strip, I decided to just stay in the pattern at the home drome tonight. So that's how I spent my 1.4 hours, practicing every sort of takeoff and landing - normal, short field, soft field, no flap, and engine-out.

Look - I flew in circles for 75 miles!

My first two landings (normal and short field) were smooth as silk and I knew this was going to be a pretty good practice session. But then I went on to soft field and, while the landings were very good in the grand scheme of things, touched down too hard three times in a row. Thankfully the fourth time was the charm and I touched down ever so softly and added power to hold the nose off as I decelerated along the grass runway.

Other than the issues with the soft field, everything went great tonight and I felt completely on top of things and ahead of the airplane. I held the extended centerline each time on takeoff (aside from the one time when I followed a Cub out and couldn't tell if they were leaving the pattern so I flew right a little ways to avoid cutting them off if they turned crosswind) and kept hitting pattern altitude spot on. My turns were crisp and I brought in flaps and trim smoothly on a consistent basis, too. On my last two trips around I executed an intentional go-around and followed up with a simulated engine-out, bringing in all 40 degrees of flaps once I had the runway made and stopping that little 150 in no time once I hit the grass.

My dad and sister are coming down to visit this weekend and I'm taking her up on Sunday, so it was good to get in some solo practice before taking another new first-time passenger up in a small plane. The scenery was great too, as there were probably 10 hot air balloons in the skies near the airport so I got to wave my wings at them a couple times on downwind. Overall, it really was one of those days that you walk away feeling good and refreshed about your piloting skills.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.4 hours
Total Time: 107.4 hours

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why GA is so important

I just wanted to share this great article from the Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Georgia. That's the home of Gulfstream, by the way. It's the best, most concise story I've read yet describing the importance of General Aviation in this country.

For companies with executives who must travel to many different cities, flying by corporate jet makes more sense than flying commercial in terms of time, expense and productivity. While some people may harbor images of egocentric fat cats flitting across the skies and wasting money, they are falling for inaccurate stereotypes.

The truth of the matter is that these private aircraft aren't symbols of excess and arrogance. They're business tools.

Full article is here:

Be sure to read some of the great comments below the article as well. And don't forget to visit to learn more about General Aviation in the U.S. what you can do to support it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Running myself through the ringer

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 71 degrees, wind 350 degrees at 7 knots

I've got to be brief here but I just wanted to check in with the world about my last flight. As some of my friends who read this blog know, Gina has been in the hospital since Monday. It's nothing life-threatening but could be serious if not monitored closely. She's been admitted for four days now and won't be able to come home until at least this coming Monday. And then once she's home a nurse will have to come by twice a day for at least another week. No fun for her and I'm certainly hoping she gets better soon. Needless to say I felt guilty about even wanting to fly, but she told me I needed to get up and do something for myself after a mentally draining week.

While I've been getting up on a semi-frequent basis over the past two months, it's been more sightseeing and XC flying than true practice. Sensing a need to get back to the basics I wanted to get up and go through a whole slew of maneuvers in the PTS. My friend Mike, who I've flown for a $100 burger and other practice with, tagged along in the right seat for a free evaluation from his own Student Pilot perspective. He took some photos and I'll add them to this post later if he happens to email me any good shots.

I was pretty exhausted earlier in the day (haven't slept much all week, as you might expect) but I took a short nap and had an energy drink. I really am quite a stickler for the IMSAFE acronym when it comes to my flying and am extra cautious when it comes to the Fatigue factor, so I was constantly gauging my energy level all afternoon. I made one final evaluation at the airport before deciding it would be a good idea to go up. The fact that Mike was along probably added a slight comfort factor as well - while he's still a student, I know he could land if something ever happened to me. My game plan was to make two laps around the pattern to confirm I was alert enough. Once I did that and felt safely engaged, I headed off for some more in-depth practice.

We departed the pattern to the North and I did some S-Turns... it's been a while and although they definitely didn't look as good as when I was practicing them constantly last summer I think they were acceptable. I held altitude pretty much spot on until the last set when all of a sudden I found myself 150 feet higher. Then I climbed up and practiced slow flight before going into a series of power-off and power-on stalls. I haven't done stalls for close to three months so I knew there would be some rust to knock off. None were perfect but Mike noticed I improved as we went on and I never let a wing drop off too drastically when doing the power-on variety. The 150 loves to drop a wing in a heartbeat and I'm still a bit apprehensive about practicing them with the engine roaring, ever since I got a real scare the first time I did them solo in that bird. Good thing we go through spin training at Stewart!

Let's see, what else did we do? Pretty much everything - some forward slips, turns around a point, steep turns (hit my own wake twice - that's success in my book), I simulated an engine-out on our final approach into Stewart, and there was a good crosswind when we first started flying that I neglected to mention earlier. The engine-0ut was fun as I came out of my rounded downwind-to-final way high and dumped in all 40 degrees of flaps once I had the field made, showing Mike just how quickly you can make a 150 fall out of the sky. All in all, a successful flight although I'm at a point where I feel it would be wise to go up with Dave for an hour or two and have him give me hell. Extra training sure is cheap life insurance...

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.6 hours
Total Time: 106.0 hours