Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sporty's, Stalls, and a Sunny Saturday

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-ISZ-I69-40I 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 86 degrees, wind 190 degrees at 3 knots

Freshly checked out in the Cessnas again, I decided to waste no time in hopping in one and going somewhere. Originally I had planned on flying down for a glider course that Sporty's was offering for WINGS credit, but I realized it was an all-day (9 to 5) course... and I simply didn't have time to be gone that long. Still, the weekly free cookout is always reason enough to stop into Sporty's and I decided that would be today's mission. I texted Jon (who I first flew last fall) to see if he was free yesterday night; he was, and thus I had a passenger for today's adventure.

Highlights of the flight, including the infamous wooded taxiway at Blue Ash

We left Stewart shortly after 11 and first headed towards King's Island. I figured Jon would enjoy the view of the theme park from above and he did. As he said, "it's like RollerCoaster Tycoon!"

After passing over the park, I pointed the nose towards Blue Ash Airport. Although it's very close to Stewart - only 20 nm - I had never landed there before. Unfortunately, due to ongoing squabbles between the cities of Cincinnati and Blue Ash, there is a good chance the airport will soon be closed. While I certainly hope that outcome can be avoided, I also wanted to be sure to land there before I no longer had the opportunity.

A twin was departing Blue Ash as we approached, so I entered the pattern in an upwind over Runway 24 then flew right traffic for a smooth landing. I enjoyed the long journey back to the runway down their well-known, very wooded taxiway before we continued on our way. If you're interested in helping to preserve this great local airport, visit

It was another short hop from Blue Ash to Clermont Co. Airport, home of Sporty's. Traffic was light; we were the only plane in the pattern. I touched down just past the numbers and taxied to parking, where a lineboy was waiting to push our little 150 into a parking spot. Gotta love that kind of service!

We definitely flew all over the general Dayton/Cincinnati vicinity today

We spent 45 minutes or so on the ground, filling our stomachs with the always-delicious free hot dogs and brats and re-hydrating with something from the vending machines. I got the fan turning as quick as possible to stay cool in the heat and soon we were taking off on Runway 22. We continued out of the pattern from the downwind, headed north, while climbing to 3,500 feet.

Jon is quite interested in flying and I think he'll eventually get his pilot's license after he graduates from college. He flew the 172 for a while when we went up last fall and did a great job. After we left Sporty's he asked about doing some maneuvers so I handed over the controls for a bit. Then I asked if he wanted me to demonstrate and explain a couple things. He was all for it, so I showed him some power-off stalls and a forward slip - you can see both in the video below. I'm certainly no CFI but I think I did a decent job!

I demonstrated power-off stalls and forward slips to Jon on the way back to Stewart

Once the educational part of our flight was over, we made a scenic detour on the way back. Jon's a student at the University of Dayton so he wanted to fly over campus. I obliged - we flew up towards downtown Dayton, circling over campus. He really enjoyed the view and I'm glad I was able to play tour guide.

As a final way of showing him something new and different, I set up for a short field landing upon our return to Stewart. I explained the differences - slower airspeed, using more power, etc. - and managed to touch down a couple hundred feet past my aiming point. Darn thermals on short final for Runway 26! Regardless, it was a great day of flying... I always get the most enjoyment out of showing other people the many cool things aviation has to offer!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.8 hours
Total Time: 218.2 hours

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cessna current once again

Plane: Cessna 172
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I-I68-40I
Weather: Haze, 85 degrees, wind 220 degrees at 7 knots

A quick evening in the air with CFI Dave was a nice end to the work week and a great way to begin the long holiday weekend. Our awesome flight in Hawaii notwithstanding, I hadn't flown a Cessna since last fall so I was long-past Stewart's 90-day currency period. I want to be able to actually go someplace in an airplane again so a quick re-checkout was in order.

We mostly remained in the patterns at Stewart and Warren Co.

We departed on Runway 26 and headed straight for the pattern at Lebanon-Warren Co. Skydivers were jumping so I stayed out of their way while making two landings - a standard one and a short field approach. I smacked a bit hard but touched right on the numbers on the second one, which is the important thing. Then we did a couple stalls on the way back home, with a steep spiral facilitating a quick descent back to pattern altitude. One final short field landing on the grass and I was finally current in the 150 and 172 again!

On a sad note, my favorite airplane is out of service for a while. Apparently someone had a landing mishap this week and she's going to be in the shop for some serious repairs. I actually looked at the Hobbs meter and it's only about 0.4 hours beyond where we shut her down on Sunday, so I suspect it was literally her next flight that ended in unfortunate fashion. Looks like it's going to be harder to schedule Cub time for at least part of the summer...

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours
Total Time: 216.4 hours

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Four years later

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 81 degrees, wind 110 degrees at 3 knots

Another year has come and gone as I sit here writing about my annual birthday flight. It's hard to believe that I've already been flying at Stewart for four years; it's still as great as it was the first time I set foot there in 2008. Today there was a new twist to the annual fun - my friend Mike went flying in the other Cub at the same time.

Prior Years: 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011

Before we get to that, however, this past year included:
Even though my logbook only totaled 28 hours, it wasn't a bad year at all!

Unlike last year, we've already had a ton of good weather. In fact, I've flown in a Cub four times in the past ten days! Still, I really enjoy this little tradition and was glad the weather cooperated this morning. Gina and I went to breakfast near our house (free meal on your birthday, wahoo!) and then headed down to the airport. Mike and Elizabeth were already pushing their Cub over to get fuel when we got out of the car.

We both took off on Runway 8; I trailed Mike by about 30 seconds. I had chatted with him before we started the engines to come up with a plan for flying in loose formation. That's definitely not something you want to do on a whim while in the air without a radio. Gina and I were in the bigger Cub so we slowly gained on them and I eventually settled into position a few hundred feet behind him and to the right.

That's us as seen from Mike's J-3

Mike and Elizabeth in their J-3 (yes, the lens was zoomed in a bit!)

For the next few minutes, we snapped some photos of each other while climbing up over the lake. I broke off and re-joined as they got close to leveling off. I wanted to slide into position because I knew he would soon be dropping a roll of toilet paper out the window and we wanted to capture that on video. Gina did a great job with the camera but the memory card unfortunately was nearly full. Still, you can check out the very brief clip below.

After breaking off, we flew further east to give them plenty of room in the sky to have fun. I had our own roll of toilet paper (usual disclaimer here) and launched it out the side at about 5,500 feet. We sliced through it a few times on the way down. Interestingly, it bunched up in a very neat-looking pattern after I sliced part off of the main roll. It actually formed into a shape that looked almost like a model airplane at one point.

The airflow forced this streaming piece of toilet paper into a neat formation

I stopped the streamer cutting higher than usual so we had some extra altitude to play with. After a couple steep turns and sightseeing, I used a steep spiral over the center of the lake to lose those 1,500 feet in a matter of seconds. It might be an important commercial maneuver for emergencies but it's also a lot of fun!

Another successful birthday flight for the two of us

We entered the pattern on a 45 to the downwind and I added a touch of power to remain in ground effect for an intentional long landing. The wheels touched ever-so-gently in a perfect three-pointer. That's two-for-two in my last two flights. A fitting birthday present, for sure! :)

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 215.7 hours

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fun with a tire and a brand-new flier

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 68 degrees, wind 070 degrees at 5 knots

I've been meaning to take Jessica, a friend and former coworker of mine, flying for a while now. The weather was so gorgeous this evening (and has been all week!) that I simply couldn't stay on the ground. I called Stewart to see if any Cubs were available and sent her a text message to see if she was free. Both were and she was, so we had a post-dinner plan.

We hopped into the first Cub (Why am I saying first, you ask? Read on...) and strapped in, CFI Joe propped her to life, and I started taxiing. Very quickly I realized something didn't feel right; at first I thought Jessica may have had her heels on the brakes. But no, that wasn't the problem and I needed way too many RPMs to move. I looked at the tires and - sure enough - discovered the culprit. I pulled back towards the hangar and shut down. Out came CFI Joe with some air and we filled the left tire back up.

It didn't appear as though any air was leaking, so we gave it a second go. Engine propped, off we went. I taxied to the end of Runway 8 (about a half mile) and the tire looked good as I stopped for my pre-takeoff checks. Once those were finished, I added in some power to check for traffic and... we weren't going anywhere. Obviously this was a serious leak. I shut down again and saw a golf cart heading across the grass in our direction. We caught a ride back to the hangar with Joe and, thankfully, the second Cub was available.

After a quick pre-flight, we once again got situated and Joe brought the engine to life. I taxied back down the end of the runway, past the large yellow lawn ornament we just left as a decoration. Everything checked out (even the tires!) so off we flew into the wonderful evening air. Third time's the charm, right?

Our not-so-trusty steed

Needless to say, it needed more than an air compressor

Jessica and her husband Adam recently bought some property near the airport; I circled overhead so she could snap a few aerial photos of their lot. We then took a bit of a scenic tour of the area. I flew out over Caesar Creek Lake and we saw a few boats out in the water. Then I followed the Little Miami River and valley down to I-71.

She was up for a little fun so I climbed up to 4,500 feet to give us some room to maneuver. I let her take the controls for a couple minutes and she flew straight and level and made a couple shallow turns. Then I showed her a steep turn, which she said was fun. Even hit our wake while rolling out - always a nice confirmation of holding altitude.

I asked and she said she wanted to try some streamer cutting so I obliged. We made a couple passes before she decided it wasn't her favorite thing in the world. I immediately leveled out and flew back towards Stewart.

Very colorful evening light and shadows casting over a neighborhood

Public beach at Caesar Creek State Park

A boat made a 180 degree turn, causing this cool wake vortex

To help keep things smooth and stable, I made a very gradual descent to pattern altitude. I added in a couple hundred extra RPMs on short final so we could intentionally land long. The wheels all touched together in what was one of my smoothest three-point landings in a long time. 

The sun was close to setting when we entered the pattern

Short final for Runway 8 at Red Stewart Airfield

Even though she streamer cutting got to her a little bit, she said she had a great time. She really enjoyed the steep turns; we'll stick to those in the future if she wants more excitement than straight and level. I notched my first "first flight" of the year; I always enjoy introducing people to general aviation. Hopefully I have many more opportunities to do so in the coming months!

Our roughly 40-minute flight, color-coded according to altitude

It's always fun to see flights through the eye of your passengers - thanks to Jessica for taking all the great photos in this post.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 214.9 hours

Friday, May 11, 2012

Skirting past the skyline

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 67 degrees, wind 150 degrees at 3 knots

Hard to believe, but Gina and I have already been married for almost six months! Ignoring our awesome sightseeing flight around Kauai with an instructor last month, we had not yet flown together as husband and wife. Perfect weather and the end of another workweek made for a great chance to finally go up together in a Cub again.

We took off and spotted a hot air balloon up ahead - I passed nearby and waved the wings to say hello just as I did with Rob last month. Then we turned and headed north towards downtown Dayton. Although I've flown over it many times in the Cessnas, I never had circled around in a J-3 until tonight. With the door open, Gina was able to snap some great photos of the city.

The Great Miami River and I-75 in downtown Dayton

The US-35 and I-75 interchange (currently under construction)

Looking directly down Main Street (OH-48)

The Oregon District's foliage stands out against the rest of downtown

The closed runway and hangars at the USAF Museum

Having enjoyed the scenic portion of the flight, we both wanted to have a little fun. I climbed up nearly a mile as we flew towards Caesar Creek Lake. Out went a roll of toilet paper and... well, you know how this goes by now. It's always a blast and I sliced through it four or five times as we turned and descended over the lake. Insert usual disclaimer here.

You can see our route away from Stewart and back on the GPS track

Back in the pattern, I planned my usual three landings to extend my tailwheel currency another 90 days. None of the landings were great; the ground was a but bumpy and uneven but some of it was certainly me knocking the rust off. The second time around I caught a rut and was rewarded with a hearty bounce. I immediately added full power and went around - there's no reason to try and save that situation, especially in a taildragger. The final landing was intentionally long to aid in a short taxi back to the hangar.

Gotta love this time of the year... it's what Cub flying is all about.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 214.1 hours