Saturday, March 26, 2011

Currency plus some new stuff in the Cub

Plane: Cub, 65 hp
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 33 degrees, wind 040 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 17

I know, I know - this is a flying blog and I haven't had much to say about flying in what feels like forever. For that I apologize. Work and wedding planning and weather have either been taking up a lot of my time or preventing me from going up. And while I always want to fly, it's hard to justify going up for no reason when I'm trying to save money (can you say honeymoon?) and there's a chance I'll drop out of currency before I can fly again.

However, spring has mostly sprung around here. It was very cold this morning (below freezing, in fact) but the grass is rather green and it's that time of year again where there are some places I'd like to fly and people I'd like to take flying. So with that in mind - even though I was technically still current thanks to my last flight with CFI Dave in January - I decided it was a good day to go up with an instructor again.

Video from today using my new fisheye lens for my Zi8

We knocked off a couple things all at once today. I managed to get current in some slightly challenging conditions (it was quite windy, at least for a 65 hp Cub) and satisfied two different flight requirements for the FAA WINGS phase I'm currently working on. If you aren't familiar, WINGS is a pilot safety program that encourages additional, "more than required by the regulations" training. By completing a phase, you basically satisfy the FAA's flight review requirement. That means you can fly for another two calendar years before you are required to complete a Biennial Flight Review with a CFI.

I've had my Private certificate since November 2008 which means I would have needed to complete a BFR by November 30, 2010 had I not participated in the WINGS program. However, I last passed a phase in September 2009 and therefore I am legal to act as Pilot in Command until September 30, 2011. Once I complete a third flight activity - which I plan on doing with Dave in the 150 later next month - I'll have completed another phase in the program. So that will delay my BFR until mid-2013, though I expect to complete more WINGS phases before I ever reach that point.

Back to today, we ran through some usual tasks and I also had Dave teach me something new as I usually try to do when flying with an instructor. My takeoffs were all quite good (normal, short field, soft field) but the landings weren't great at first. The gusty crosswind made it more challenging but I had a slight mental lapse and set up incorrectly at first for a short field landing - forgetting I should be making the approach with power added. Once I sorted that out, my second and third short field landings were much better. I floated too much on the second landing but plopped the plane down just past my aiming point on the third and final landing.

We also ran through some maneuvers that are good practice for any pilot - steep turns, turns around a point, and s-turns. I held altitude reasonably well on the steep turns although I know I have done better in the past. That's something I'll work on solo in the near future. The strong and gusty winds made it a great day to practice ground reference maneuvers so the turns around a point (two water towers just outside Waynesville) and s-turns over a road were how we chose to tackle that portion of the flight. Considering I don't practice either nearly as frequently as I did when I was a student, I was quite satisfied with my performance on both tasks.

The new maneuver I wanted to learn with Dave today was the steep spiral. It's a requirement for the Commercial certificate, not something generally taught in Private training. However, since it's one of the primary ways to get an airplane on the ground in case of emergency like an in-flight fire, I wanted some practice!

Steep spirals are quite simple - you basically bring the throttle to idle, roll the airplane over into a 60 degree bank, and control your airspeed with back pressure on the stick/yoke. You're pulling 2 Gs at 60 degrees so you certainly feel the extra weight but that also means you're descending very quickly, about 15 or 20 seconds to lose 1,000 feet. Dave first demonstrated and then I gave it a whirl. I did reasonably well for a first-time student but, as you would expect, he was much smoother. It's definitely another maneuver we'll work on again soon, both in the Cub and the Cessna.

So there you go, I finally flew again! It's a clear start to getting back in flying shape for the year. Gina and I hope to take some smaller trips this summer, not on the scale of last summer's giant adventure around Lake Michigan but still overnight with a purpose. We'd like to fly up to Syracuse in June for a family graduation party - flying would thoroughly beat the 11-hour drive we made there last summer! My best friend Rob is also going to come down and visit soon and we'll go up and have some fun in the Cub like we usually do. I still have a crazy travel schedule for work in the upcoming weeks but hopefully I'm back to flying with more regularity!

Today's Flight: 1.2 hours
Total Time: 183.1 hours

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bronco Hockey at the Joe

Although I spent yet another weekend on terra firma, it was an awesome weekend to be a Bronco. The last time Western Michigan University's hockey team made it to the CCHA Championship game was in 1986 - I was one year old and nobody on our team was even born yet! Gina and I headed up to Detroit and took in two games at Joe Louis Arena cheering on our beloved Broncos.

Friday's game against the University of Michigan was probably the best game in any of our sports that I have ever attended in person - either as a student or now as a proud alumnus. We came out strong and annihilated the #4 ranked team in the country, winning 5-2. Not only was the game great but I have to mention what a great job our fans did. The students (a.k.a. Lawson Lunatics - I still have my shirt...) showed up in force and could be heard loud and clear throughout the arena. Along with all the other Bronco fans, we had plenty to cheer about in the huge win. That was our first CCHA game at the Joe since 1994!

Saturday was also a great evening in Detroit, even if we came up short in the end and lost 2-5 to Miami University. We battled back and tied the score 2-2 early in the 3rd period before allowing goals on the power play and with a delayed man advantage. While we all wanted to win, no sensible Bronco fan can be disappointed in the way our conference season came to a close. We were picked to finished 10th our of 11 teams in preseason polls and made it to the championship game. First-year head coach Jeff Blashill has done a remarkable job turning our team around in under 12 months... keep it up, coach!

Now we're waiting for our Regional game against Denver in the NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Tournament in Green Bay this weekend - Western received an at-large bid to the 16-team tournament for the national championship. It's an amazing accomplishment and we're all proud of the team. However, the real reason I'm writing this post is to share an absolutely heartwarming story about our team and a little boy that I came across this afternoon. Read his family's words and then watch the video below.
This has been the most difficult year of our lives since our youngest was diagnosed with cancer, but the WMU hockey team gave us bursts of joy and happiness along the way. We are thankful to them all, and we are CRAZY impressed with the season our Broncos have had this year. It's not OVER! Best of luck to you all, WMU Broncos. We love you.

THAT'S what it means to be a Bronco. Way to go, boys!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Adjusting My Weight & Balance - Month 1

In stark contrast to my recent infrequency at updating this blog, I've actually been working my tail off on the ground. Somewhat literally! That is, I've worked some of me off... though I've always been tail-less.

Going back about 5 1/2 years, I was interning and living in Texas for the summer. That's pretty much the only time in my life I worked out regularly and I was in great shape by the end of those 3 months. I weighed around 145 lbs when I moved back to Michigan to start my Junior year at Western Michigan University.

Fast-forward to a month ago and, after close to 4 years of employment and semi-frequent business travel, I was up to about 190 lbs. I've said for years that I should start working out again but always pushed it off - until I finally decided enough was enough. I can't deny that having a wedding in November to look good at was extra motivation but I truly want to get back into shape for the health reasons.

So about a month ago I started a schedule of working out regularly and attempted to better monitor and moderate my diet. I'm fortunate that we have a gym at the office, so it's helpful that I can tell myself I'm not going home until I've worked out. The first couple weeks took some extra mental motivation to get into the groove but I'm now operating in a routine.

What do I do? It's pretty simple, actually. Every day I warm up with 5 minutes on the elliptical and then I stretch for 5-10 minutes. Then I hop back on the elliptical for 45 minutes of cardio on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I only do 30 minutes of cardio on Tuesday and Thursday, but I follow that with about 45 minutes of weights. At some point every day I get in a bunch of reps focusing on my abs - incline situps, Captain's Chair lifts, etc. I've also tried to pack a healthy lunch every day with a turkey or ham sandwich, carrots, apple or oranges, yogurt and a granola bar.

The results have been pretty good to date. I weigh myself daily and measure my waist weekly to track my progress. In the past four weeks, I've already lost about 6-7 lbs and 1 inch. My goal is to end up around 150 lbs but I'll be happy if the weight is slightly higher from increased muscle mass. However, I absolutely want to get down below 160 lbs in the next 6 months.

You may be wondering why I'm posting this on the blog. I suppose there are three main reasons. One is that sharing progress in public with these kinds of things helps keep you on track - and I fully want and expect to hear crap from people if I start slacking off! There's also the fact that I occasionally share random thoughts on here even if they're not aviation-related. Finally, as any pilot who regularly flies a 150 can attest, shedding a few pounds can significant help aircraft performance!