Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Every pilot's dream toy

Sorry for the lack of recent posts - not much free time or cooperation from the weather. I'm hoping to get back in the sky sometime over the next couple of weeks. Until then, enjoy this awesome video of the Historic Flight Foundation's recent test flight of their MiG-29. Upon completion of these flight tests it became the first FAA certified MiG-29!

h/t - EAA News

Friday, February 4, 2011

Riding along on a Pilots N Paws rescue flight

Plane: Cessna 172
Weather: Clear, 31 degrees, wind 200 degrees at 6 knots

My pilot friend Mike sent me a text yesterday afternoon asking if I would be interested in flying with him right seat today. He was scheduled to complete one leg of a Pilots N Paws rescue flight from Wapakoneta, OH to Morgantown, WV. Though I have been aware of Pilots N Paws for some time now and hope to fly dogs for them myself, I have not yet been able to make that happen. Needless to say, this was a perfect opportunity and I jumped at the chance to take a day off work to ride along with Mike!

We would be transporting Tawny, a Yellow Lab / Beagle mix, about halfway on her journey to a new family in Potomac, MD. She had been at the shelter in Wapakoneta for over a year, having arrived there pregnant. All eight of her puppies were adopted out and she was adopted herself - only to return after having been hit by a car! Thankfully, she wasn't injured badly and made a full recovery. She found new owners on the East Coast and it was up to us to get her to West Virginia, where another pilot was waiting to fly her the rest of the way to her new family.

Video from today's Pilots N Paws flight

I met Mike at Wright Brothers about 8:45 and we got everything loaded into the plane in the bitter cold. Things warmed up quickly in the sun (inside the cockpit, at least) but the wind outside left your fingers numb in no time flat. Mike got the plane started and we departed MGY around 9:15 for the short flight up to Neil Armstrong Airport. Dayton Approach had us climb to 5,500 feet and we passed directly over Dayton Int'l Airport while enroute. Plow trucks were busy clearing the taxiways in Wapakoneta but Mike brought the plane down smoothly on the runway, which was clear of snow but covered in patchy ice.

Passing over downtown Dayton on our way north

Wright-Patterson AFB and the US Air Force Museum

There's lots more snow in Wapakoneta than we have in Dayton!

Now THAT'S a snowblower!

They were definitely in full snow-removal mode

We parked on the tarmac in front of the small terminal and walked inside to meet the folks from the Auglaize County Humane Society who had been fostering Tawny. As you would expect, they were sad to see her go but happy she was on her way to a loving family. Tawny was completely adorable and a turbocharged fur machine - Mike and I would be wearing reminders of her for the rest of the day.

Everyone headed outside to the airplane to say final goodbyes and load Tawny into the airplane. She didn't hesitate to get inside and get comfortable. Mike harnessed her into the rear seat belts and I clicked the buckle in place. That way she wouldn't be able to explore the airplane too much in flight! Due to the snow and plowing operations, we back-taxied down the runway and departed after a short ground run. The cold temperatures certainly helped as we climbed out at close to 1,000 fpm.

Walking out to the airplane in Wapakoneta

She certainly seemed eager to get on board (or she didn't like the cold either!)

Tawny saying goodbye to her foster family

All strapped in and ready to fly

Passing north of Columbus - you can see the skyline through the haze

Tailwinds were definitely our friend on the leg from Wapakoneta to Morgantown. Mike climbed up to 5,500 feet and we enjoyed about 20-25 knots of wind on our back. Ground speed averaged about 145 knots for the 210 mile trip. The air was smooth as glass the whole way, making for a really comfortable flight. We had flight following and were handed off from Dayton Approach to Columbus Approach to Indy Center to Cleveland Center and finally to Clarksburg Approach.

There were plenty of good sights along the way, especially as we got further east, crossed the Ohio River, and passed over the hillier terrain. Tawny was a happy passenger the whole way, moving about the cabin rather constantly but enjoying the view out the windows. Mike and I discovered that she's a licker, though he (and his headset) caught a bit more of that than I did. She really seemed to enjoy standing on our shoulders and looking out the front window. We even caught her staring out the back window at the tail!

Looking out over the snowy fields near Hanover, OH

Crossing the Muskingum River, which was full of flowing ice

Tawny was a very capable Flight Engineer in the 172

In her usual position between the seats

A split second after one of the aforementioned headset-licking episodes

Watching the airspeed indicator, it appears

Sparsely populated terrain near Clarington, OH

The rolling hills of Southeast Ohio

Crossing the Ohio River just north of Clarington, OH

It's cool to see how the Ohio River has carved a path through the rolling hills

Mitchell Power Plant on the Ohio River

I took the controls for about 20 minutes somewhere near the West Virginia border. We were quickly approaching Morganstown thanks to the tailwinds and I announced starting our descent to Clarksburg Approach when we were 10-15 miles from the airport. It took a little while to spot due to some low haze but we both had MGW in sight partway through the descent. We were given instructions to enter on a right base for Runway 18 and I brought the plane all the way down to that point, where I called Morganstown Tower and accepted our landing clearance. Mike took the controls back, set us down softly, and parked the 172 at the base of the tower.

We met Gary, the pilot who was flying Tawny the rest of the way to her new home, in front of the terminal building. After a brief chat to let him know how she did on the flight and filling out some paperwork, I handed him the leash and they loaded her into their 172. She looked happy to continue on in another airplane as we headed inside to grab lunch before heading back home.

Back in her usual supervisory position

Must've been something interesting to look at out back

A few more hills near Burton, WV

Tawny looked ready for her second 172 ride of the day

Who knew you could find good Middle Eastern food in Morgantown, WV? I can't say it would have been on my most-likely-to-find-it-here list either but I can now say it does exist there. Mike and I enjoyed a delicious lunch at Ali Baba Restaurant inside the terminal. We both had the lunch buffet, which had a great combination of foods - salad, soup, hummus, gyro meat, vegetables, rice, and more. I'm a sucker for good Lebanese and Middle Eastern food and have to give Ali Baba two solid thumbs up!

The plane had been topped off while we were eating and I checked the oil and sumped the tanks while Mike settled the fuel bill inside the FBO. Mike brought back some damp towels to wipe the dog hair out of the back seat (a hearty challenge, indeed!) and it cleaned up nicely. We then took back off into the winter afternoon and I was afforded a great view of Morgantown and WVU as we turned on course.

Our bird on the ground in West Virginia

Leaving Morgantown behind as we depart for home

Morgantown and the Monongahela River

You can see the airport in the top-right corner of the photo

Level at about 1,500 feet above the West Virginia hills

The winds aloft were still howling out of the west so we settled in at a much lower cruise altitude than the flight out. Level at 2,700 feet we had about 10-15 knots on the nose for most of the flight. You sure can't beat the view of the rolling terrain only about 1,500 feet below the wings! We averaged between 110 and 115 knots across the ground on the way home.

Heading west at 2,700 feet and a ground speed of 108 knots

Passing over the small village of Littleton, WV

Crossing over the Ohio River again - this time near Proctor, WV

It was neat to see the wavy air currents with the help of this smokestack

I think we found a glacial boundary near Lancaster, OH

Ice-covered snow near Columbus, remnants of this week's winter storm

It was an uneventful trip back to Dayton and it clocked in right at the predicted two hours. We enjoyed the scenery and kept our eyes out for traffic, as we were below radar altitude for portions of the flight. There was an airplane on a practice approach into Wright Brothers so we had to extend our downwind about two miles and follow him in. It worked well for me since we flew directly over my house and I was able to snap some new aerial photos of the home! Mike again brought us down softly and we packed everything up, tied the airplane down, and closed the books on a successful rescue mission.

Tawny made it to her new owners in just under 4 hours today!

Flying is always fun but I must say that having another reason - rescuing a dog, in this case - somehow makes it even better. Even forgetting about the charity aspect, it's just nice to do something different and useful with an airplane. The best thing of all was getting the photo (above) at the end of the day of Tawny happily standing there with her new owners at Tipton Airport in Ft. Meade, MD! If you'd like to learn more about volunteering for Pilots N Paws or to make a donation, check out their website.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File (partial)