Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Waving at balloons and other fun with Rob

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Partly cloudy, 59 degrees, wind 300 degrees at 3 knots

My best friend Rob made another journey down from Kalamazoo this week and - as always - we planned on some fun in the Cub. We also spent a lot of time watching and photographing the twenty B-25s in town for the 70th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. I'll have a post with photos and videos from that incredible event up sometime soon.

Tonight the weather was pretty decent - a tad cloudy but otherwise a nice evening to fly with good visibility. We took off and flew up towards the USAF Museum in hopes of seeing all the B-25s lined up on the runway. Unfortunately they had already moved them to the east end of the field in preparation for tomorrow's departure and flyover, which made them harder to see due to the airspace surrounding the field. It's inside Wright Patterson AFB's Class D that we had to remain clear of since the Cub has no radio.

On our way up there (right after takeoff, actually) we spotted a hot air balloon flying up around 2,500 or 3,000 feet. I always enjoy seeing them close by so I pointed the nose in that direction. One of the pilots from the local balloon companies has actually told me before that their passengers get a kick out of seeing us up close. We flew up level with them, remaining safely away, while I rocked the wings and Rob waved out the window. Everyone in the basket waved back at us and then we continued on our way. Sometimes the simple things are the most fun.

Watch us say hello while flying past a hot air balloon - yes, they waved back :-)

Once we had realized the photo opportunities near the USAF Museum would be lacking, we decided to head back down towards Stewart for some fun. I climbed up to around 5,000 feet then we tossed a roll of toilet paper out the side and sliced through it about five times as it slowly fell towards the ground. It really is too much fun... so we climbed back up and went after a second roll. Rob made a couple good passes at the controls and hit the streaming paper - very good work for his first time! On my final pass, I came in high so I pulled the throttle to idle and used a massive forward slip to catch it with our left wing. Not going to lie, I was quite impressed with my work on that one. As always, we took the proper precautions to ensure safety during all of this.

Rob wanted to do a little more fun stuff so I made a few steep turns (hit my wake on the first one, which is always a treat!) and made a steep spiral down to get to pattern altitude before heading back to the airport. I made three landings in order to help extend my tailwheel currency. The last two were power-off 180 landings; I landed too long on the first but the second was great with a touchdown about 50 feet past my aiming point. All in all, another fun day of aviating in a Piper Cub!

Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 213.0 hours

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Crossing off Hawaii by flying Kauai

Plane: Cessna 172
Instructor: Bruce
Route: LIH, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 77 degrees, wind 170 degrees at 7 knots

Whether it is a conscious thought or not, I believe that flying in all 50 states is a bucket list item for many pilots. So you can imagine what thoughts popped into my head when Gina and I decided to spend a week in Hawaii over her spring break. I researched and found out that there weren't too many options on the small island of Kauai. In fact, I only found one outfit where I could rent a fixed-wing aircraft from - Wings Over Kauai, located at Lihue Airport. We exchanged emails over a couple-week span and ultimately scheduled an afternoon flight in their 172. My thinking was simple... why pay to ride along on a sightseeing flight when I could fly the plane myself?

The video is long, but it's worth it - this place is beautiful!

They allowed me one passenger so Gina came along and took all the amazing photos you'll see in this post. Click on any of them to open up a slideshow view, by the way. We arrived a few minutes early and met the owners - Ellen, who runs the office, and Bruce, the pilot and CFI who would be in the right seat. He was an excellent tour guide, too! After the FBO fueled the plane we all climbed in and Bruce handled the radio work while I taxied out to the runway.

Lihue's smooth 6,500 foot runway was far longer than we needed in the small Skyhawk; we were off the ground quickly and I climbed to about 500 feet before a left turnout over the Pacific to head north along the shoreline. The plane is a newer 172S model (it's a former ERAU airplane, actually) so it has a bit more get-up-and-go than the older one I usually rent at Stewart. Nice panel, too. We flew along the coast for a bit then turned to the NW to cross over a ridge and head towards the North Shore.

Takeoff on Runway 17 at Lihue Airport

Kilauea Lighthouse on the North Shore

Shoreline and the Makai Golf Club in Princeville

I don't have a ton to say about the flying because - let's be honest here - it's really all about the scenery. There is a reason Kauai is known as the Garden Isle; it is lush, rugged, and just downright beautiful. Words can't even begin to describe how incredible a sight the Nā Pali Coast is. It's a sight you can only see from the air (or water) because it's so rugged there are no roads. I will note, however, that we seriously lucked out in flying on a day with such light winds that the usual turbulence off the mountains was nonexistent.

Princeville and Hanalei Bay

Hanalei - certainly not the worst place in the world to live

The beginning of the Nā Pali Coast - just stare at all the photos, it's beautiful!

Tracking equipment on the cliffs at the Pacific Missile Range Facility

Yeah... those views are amazing, aren't they? We did of course have to continue our journey and skirted the airspace around the Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility while turning southeast towards Waimea Canyon. Although you would be hard-pressed to ever top the views along the Nā Pali Coast, the scenery was still spectacular as we passed over peaks and valleys and saw more waterfalls.

Next stop - Japan! (Well, technically Midway or something, but I digress...)

Passing over Waimea Canyon, a.k.a. the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"

You might recognize this waterfall from the opening sequence of Jurassic Park

The terrain fell away as we turned back out towards the ocean. I descended down to 1,500 feet and we flew just offshore, passing by the town of Poipu and our hotel. The lighting here was just spectacular, lighting up the shoreline and flatland in vivid color against the mountain backdrop. We also saw at least one whale spout off under the right wing. I followed the coast northeast as we made our way back towards Lihue.

Turning east along the coast on the south side of the island

Our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Kauai, is the one with the green roof

I think she was having a good time!

Unfortunately, all good things eventually come to an end. We crossed over the final ridge and descended into a right downwind for Runway 21. I was in a little close to the airport so our downwind-to-final was a continuous turn, but I rolled out right on centerline. Perhaps inspired by all the amazing views of the past hour, I made a very smooth landing in the left crosswind and taxied over to the hangar. We thanked Bruce for the great tour (he shared tons of interesting information as we flew around the island) and headed back to the hotel.

Passing over Lihue, the second-largest town on the island, shortly before landing

Short final - and proof that I have indeed flown in Hawaii!

Well, time to color in my ninth state on the "where I've flown" map. I may still have a long way to go but I have made it to what is arguably the hardest one to reach! Although I've included tons of photos in this post, it still doesn't really do the island justice. So if you have the opportunity to visit (and fly!) don't pass it up - you certainly won't regret the journey.

Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 211.5 hours

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Plane: Cub, 65 hp
Instructor: Joe 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 72 degrees, wind 130 degrees at 5 knots

I am happy to report I have finally broken a long streak - that of having gone 144 days since I last logged time in the cockpit. We got married, then the holidays came, and then there has been a bit of unemployment uncertainty. But I couldn't stay on the ground forever, especially if I want to continue my annual tradition of flying the Cub on my birthday next month! I renewed my renter's insurance yesterday and made it down to Stewart this evening to finally get current once again.

Joe and I chatted on the ground for a bit before filling the J-3's tank with 100LL and taking off into the warm evening sky. We flew north towards Dayton and pretty much just spent the first 20-30 minutes doing nothing but flying low and slow and staring out the windows. Gotta love a Cub.

After 3+ years, it's still fun to stare at the GPS tracks of my flights!

Eventually we made it back to the pattern and he asked for three landings. I was quite high on the first one and landed long although the touchdown itself was quite smooth. There was certainly some rust to knock off after such an extended period away from flying. The next two were better; I had a tad too much speed on both but slipped the plane down and made perfectly safe landings. Obviously that's something I'll try and polish up now that I'm able to fly solo again.

It was just an altogether enjoyable night at the airport. One of those evenings that always remind me why I enjoy Stewart so much - it's just vintage aviation in the best possible form. I still doubt that I'll be able to go crazy this year when it comes to flying time but it's always nice to get back into the air.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 210.4 hours