Friday, June 29, 2018

Heading up to Traverse City with the family

Plane: Cessna 182 RG 
Route: MGY-TVC
Weather - MGY: Clear, 90 degrees, wind 170 degrees at 6 knots
Weather - TVC: Few clouds, 93 degrees, wind 200 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 28

We're taking a short family vacation between now and the 4th of July; the first stop is Traverse City for two nights. It's hard to believe but it's already been eight years since we last flew there! Our friends Rob, Abby and their daughter Charlotte are joining me, Gina, and Mariella up there.

As it was disgustingly hot and humid in Dayton this afternoon, I went down a few hours before we departed to get the plane mostly packed up. That way, I was able to cool off, shower, and spend less time sweating before takeoff. After finishing things up at home, we headed over to Wright Brothers about 4:30.

I had already given the plane a look-over but still did a full preflight while Gina got Mariella loaded in the back. All looked good so we pulled the plane out of the hangar, parked the car inside, and closed everything back up. Then I fired up the engine and, after a short taxi and the final pre-takeoff checks, we were airborne off Runway 20 by 4:55.

After circling back around the airport to head north, I contacted Columbus Approach for flight following as we climbed. They turned me east to stay clear of their departures but within a couple minutes they'd cleared me back on course to TVC. I trimmed everything out, dialed the prop back to about 2150 RPM, leaned the mixture, and engaged the autopilot.

Passing by Wright-Patterson AFB on our way out of town

Winds aloft were forecast to be an increasingly strong headwind as we climbed across our entire route so, despite the heat, I elected to level at 4,500 feet. We ended up averaging just over 150 knots across the ground for the entire cruise portion of flight. It was pretty hazy at times given the extreme heat and humidity but the temperature in the cabin actually wasn't too bad.

Once in the sky, it was a beautiful day to fly

The majority of the flight really wasn't noteworthy. The haze obscured some of the beautiful longer-range views you sometimes see of Detroit and the Great Lakes in the middle of Michigan. We were handed off from Columbus Approach to Toledo to Kalamazoo to Lansing to Grand Rapids and then finally to Minneapolis Center.

Well, there was one thing enroute. Northeast of Grand Rapids I spotted traffic on Foreflight that was effectively at our altitude, opposite direction. Closing but still at least 5 miles away I was monitoring when the controller came over the radio and called out the same traffic. I absolutely could not spot it and told the controller I was turning right for avoidance. It wasn't until they were less than 1/2 mile away that I spotted them, at exactly the same altitude. That's one thing I don't love about VFR cruising altitudes - on certain headings (we were heading about 358 and I bet they were headed about 185) you can technically both be at the correct altitude and still on a near-collision course. Anyway, once clear, we turned back direct TVC.

Mariella had some good moments to go with the cranky ones

Mariella didn't do as well on this flight as she has in the past. She really doesn't enjoy being restrained (she's always on the move now that she's walking super well) so being cramped in the plane isn't ideal. And then she loves to rip her earplugs out so the constant battle to keep them in certainly doesn't improve her mood. Gina gets all the credit for sitting in back and taking care of her whenever we're airborne!

All of us and all our stuff (in the back)

As we got within 75 miles of Traverse City the local weather reports (I'd been tuning in AWOS as we flew) were indicating some pretty serious winds. ADS-B confirmed the same, noting winds out of the south gusting over 20 knots at TVC. Normally that'd be no issue; we'd just land on Runway 18. But I already knew that wasn't an option - it was NOTAMed closed due to the Blue Angels being there for the airshow, though they weren't using it and there was nothing on it, so not quite sure why.

Approaching Traverse City from the south

By the time we were close enough to tune in the ATIS nothing had changed. Winds were basically a direct crosswind at 10 knots gusting to 28, with 10 knots of windshear reported by a CRJ on short final for added fun. At this point, I was honestly thinking we very well may have to land somewhere else.

Minneapolis Center cut us loose and I called the tower around 10 miles out. They immediately cleared us to land entering on a left base for Runway 28 and again noted the winds and windshear report. I guess not too many folks were up flying today just for the fun of it!

My plan was this - only use 10 degrees of flaps, fly about 10 knots faster than normal, and fly a slightly longer final to see if I could hold the plane on the extended runway centerline. Runway 28 is 7,000 feet so I plenty of concrete to work with. If I could do all that, then we'd attempt to land. Otherwise we'd be going around and possibly diverting.

I wonder if Gina took this in case it was the last photo of me ;-p

I was totally focused on landing but I guess there's a great view of the bay on final

Well, long story short, we made it in. I sort of wish I had video of me on the controls because this was perhaps the best example I've yet encountered in all my flying of "you fly the plane, you don't let it fly you." I'm sure I had the yoke and rudder dancing all over the place but in the end I managed a respectable crosswind landing, touching the left main first and preventing the nose from coming down too hard in the seriously gusty winds. We did encounter the same shear on final - I saw the airspeed instantly drop from about 75 to 65 and then come back up again - so I let the tower know.

Taxiing past some of the military planes in for the airshow

A "follow me" golf cart pulled out as we taxied onto AvFlight's ramp and guided us to a tiedown. Then the line guy tied the plane down and brought our rental car over. That sort of service is truly one of the joys of small airplane flying! It took a little while to haul all our gear out of the plane. When that was finished and I made sure the airplane was totally secured, we headed into the FBO for a short cooldown and some tasty free ice cream.

The best part - tied down with the rental car parked behind

Now we're up here for a couple days with the kids and to see the airshow. It's beautiful in this part of Michigan; I really think most folks who didn't grow up nearby have no idea about the region's natural beauty. If the weather holds, we'll be heading across the state on Sunday to continue the summer getaway.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 2.5 hours
Total Time: 403.6 hours

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day four hundred

Plane: Cessna 182 RG 
Weather - MGY: Clear, 81 degrees, wind light and variable
Weather - LBE: Scattered clouds, 80 degrees, wind 260 degrees at 8 knots
Weather - MGY: Scattered clouds, 91 degrees, wind light and variable

Today was Father's Day, which meant I had more sway than usual in deciding what to do. What better way to spend some time with the family than a $100 hamburger run? Even better, the increased speed and range of the new plane meant we had many more options to choose from.

Pilot friend Chris and I were talking last week and me a superb recommendation - DeNunzio's in Latrobe, PA. They have an absolutely great spread for brunch every Sunday and today was no exception. It would have taken ~10 hours round trip had we driven all the way there from home. But by plane it's only about 1.5 hours each way.

We arrived at Wright Brothers about 8:55 and got the plane ready. The propeller was providing much-needed airflow in the humid morning air around 9:10. After completing the pre-takeoff checks, I taxied onto Runway 20 and by 9:20 we were pointed eastward, climbing to 7,500 feet.

On our way to Pennsylvania for brunch

Once we leveled off, we let Mariella enjoy the view a bit

Remnants of yesterday's weather moving away to the south 

She was quite happy as usual this morning

The air was cool and smooth and traffic was light so I decided to not call ATC for flight following this morning. Instead, we just cruised along, enjoying the view and relative peace and quiet. Mariella does ok with the earplugs and headset but she does still rip them off from time to time. Thankfully Gina was in the back to tend to her and put them back on.

We skirted the south edge of Pittsburgh's Class B airspace

Crossing the Ohio River near Wheeling

Mariella appears to be fascinated by the view from above

I'd been checking the weather near Latrobe since before takeoff. It was originally IFR/MVFR but forecast to rapidly improve. As we got closer, there were still broken clouds in the area per both nearby AWOS and METARs from ADS-B. I had Gina put Mariella back in her car seat before we started descending.

By the time we were ~30 miles away I really wasn't sure where the clouds has broken up but there were fewer holes below us. I knew we would have clearance under them (and the skies were slowly clearing - we wouldn't be trapped under them later) so I made two 360 degree turns while descending to get through a large open area near Rostraver Airport (FWQ).

We were also near the edge of Pittsburgh's Class Bravo airspace until we descended below 4,000 feet so I made sure to remain just south as we circled down. I saw a few planes in the pattern at Rostraver but we were well above pattern altitude. Once below the clouds, it got more hazy and humid as expected but the ride was good.

Clouds beginning to form as we crossed into Pennsylvania

Below the scattered clouds about 10-15 miles from Latrobe

I turned back east toward Latrobe and within a minute or two it was clear the clouds were much more scattered in that direction. In hindsight, I could have easily flown another 5-10 miles and descended right through the large gaps between them. So it goes sometimes.

Having already listened to the ATIS, I called Palmer Tower about 12 miles out and was cleared to enter a right downwind for Runway 24. I lowered the flaps to 10 degrees (the approach setting in the 182 RG) and reduced power to slow to about 120 knots. It took a while to spot the airport as it was behind a low hill as we approached from the west.

Passing just south of Greenburg, PA

Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, PA

As the airport came into sight, I slowed a bit more and made sure everything was secure. Turning right downwind, I called the tower and was cleared to land. Midfield, gear down, three green. Abeam the numbers, carb heat on, reduce to 1500 RPM, trim for 80.

Turning base I looked over my shoulder I thought I'd overshot final. Continuing the turn, I quickly realized I'd inadvertently looked back at the now-closed Runway 21 that sits just off of Runway 24. That reminded me of when I initially lined up for the wrong runway in Columbus, IN years ago. I immediately corrected by aligning myself back for Runway 24. Over the numbers, I reduced power to idle and landed on both mains then bounced slightly before settling down for the "real" landing. Not my best, but not terrible.

Tower cleared us to taxi to the ramp, where a golf cart was waiting to lead us to parking. I shut down, we all climbed out, and then the line guy asked where we were going. "Brunch," I said. "Do you have a reservation? They're usually sold out." Hmmm. Uh oh?

We had some good daddy-daughter time at DeNunzio's

Thankfully, despite the tables indeed being completely full and 100% reserved, they have some seating in the bar area. A high top isn't ideal for a toddler but we made it work. And the spread was indeed delicious - bacon, eggs, waffles, french toast, breakfast pizza, biscuits and gravy, shrimp scampi, pork chops, stuffed chicken, polenta with sausage, pierogies, and a whole pile of desserts. Plus numerous other things I didn't even mention!

Mariella absolutely downed the shrimp (she's a big fan these days) and we all stuffed our stomachs. Gina and I took turns getting up with Mariella to walk around the airport terminal since she understandably doesn't like to sit still now that she knows how to walk. In total, we were there about two hours by the time I paid the bill.

There were two Blackhawk helicopters on the ramp; their crews were also in the restaurant enjoying brunch. One of the pilots came over and said hi when they were leaving and asked where we were from. Turns out they were out of the ANG unit in Wilmington, DE. In my opinion, Latrobe has to be one of their more delicious training destinations!

I had the FBO add 5 gallons of 100LL while we were eating. We didn't need fuel (we had only consumed ~20 gallons of the 88 on board) but any fuel purchase waived the $10 landing fee. Well, in that case, go right ahead and add a little Avgas.

The sky had been clearing as we ate and the clouds were scattered by the time we departed. We were cleared for takeoff and rolling down Runway 24 at 1:33. As I turned on course as cleared, I found a nice large gap between the clouds and used it to climb direct to 8,500 feet.

Climbing through the scattered clouds after takeoff

Mariella was asleep within minutes

Gina was also pretty tired - she didn't last much longer ;-)

Level at 8,500 feet I could see a couple storm cells far, far ahead. Checking the animated radar via ADS-B I could see they were moving slowly southeast. There was a large gap between both of them so I debated flying slightly south to get ahead of them, then turning west northwest to go between. But I've never really liked the idea of flying in the direction where the weather is headed. Instead, I decided to fly northwest and come around behind the cells.

Storms east of Columbus from about 75 miles away

Checking the radar about 15 minutes after takeoff

Now about 50 miles away from the storm cells

As we got closer, I noticed some of the scattered clouds were continuing to develop vertically in the warm, humid air. I climbed to 10,500 feet to prevent having to fly between them and to maintain better forward visibility. The storm cells continued to grow in intensity, though they remained distinct cells. I started picking up some lightning strikes on the Stormscope, too.

Watching the radar as we flew north around the storms

One big advantage of having ADS-B onboard presented itself this afternoon - being able to see what's behind what you see out the windows. I certainly didn't need radar on my iPad to tell me there were a couple large storms out there to avoid. They're hard to miss. But what it did show were the additional cells developing behind the ones I could see. That let me plan ahead. I knew in advance we'd continue west after we passed the big cell before turning back on course.

A closer view of both cells we were avoiding

About 15 miles away from the largest cell

Passing north of the thunderstorm

The air was completely clear behind the large storm cell

We remained far enough away from the storm that the air remained calm. It was really cool to see how it had cleared out everything in its path - as soon as we passed behind the storm, all the clouds disappeared below. Looking ahead, I could see that additional, smaller cell that we needed to clear before turning back on course to Wright Brothers. I also spotted more scattered clouds rising up to our altitude.

It was hard to tell how far the clouds extended along our route and the METARs ahead were mixed (some said broken clouds) so I figured, once again, it was probably best to descend below them. That meant the final leg of the flight would be much warmer, but I knew we'd have no issues making it home. I initially descended to 6,500 feet but there were still a few clouds and I ended up descending all the way down to 4,500 feet.

Passing north of the smaller storm cell

Passing Ohio State University Airport northwest of Columbus

Mariella remained asleep almost the entire flight home

Other than dealing with more traffic (it's always a fun exercise to try and spot the traffic you see on ADS-B; it always points out more than you ever seem to notice with your own eyes!) and the increased humidity, the rest of the flight was uneventful. Gina was asleep until about when I made my initial radio call as we approached Wright Brothers. At that point, I was descending to 2,000 feet and we were about 5 miles away.

Greene County Airport - they just extended the runway 

I entered the pattern on a 45 for a left downwind to Runway 20. We had the airport to ourselves as I configured for landing and touched down softly (no bounce this time!) just past 3:20. Gina said Mariella woke up just before landing. I was sort of hoping I'd manage to land softly enough that she was still asleep when shut down in front of the hangar... maybe someday!

She wanted to help pack up after we landed

Even with the diversions around the weather the flight home was only about 1:45. We had a wonderful brunch and really took advantage of the 182's speed and range. As Chris mentioned, I'm thinking DeNunzio's may be the perfect meetup location for him, us, and Gary in his beautiful new bird. We're long-overdue for one.

I also hit yet another milestone today. On the way home, I logged my 400th hour. While I clearly haven't always maintained a steady pace filling up the logbook, I'm very happy to be continuing to fill it. Here's to the next 400 - hopefully I get there in under a decade this time!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 4.0 hours
Total Time: 401.1 hours

Thursday, June 14, 2018

One thousand and one

Plane: Cessna 182 RG 
Route: MGY, Local 
Weather: Clear, 80 degrees, wind 340 degrees at 5 knots

Time moves quickly. After a couple busy weeks that included my little sister's wedding and a work trip to San Antonio, I was itching to get back in the air. We're planning a nice little day trip for Father's Day this coming weekend but I wanted to get in a little air time first. Especially so I could have an opportunity to give the new avionics a trial run.

The club just installed a nice Appareo ESG transponder so the plane meets the ADS-B mandate. It includes a hard-wired Stratus 2i so we now have ADS-B In on aircraft power. For the non-pilots, that basically means we have a little device permanently mounted in the plane that allows me to see real-time traffic, weather, NOTAMs, and such on my iPad in the cockpit... so I don't have to worry about bringing my own when flying 7YG anymore. Quite convenient.

It was too nice a night not to fly

I got to the airport about 7:45 and had the propeller spinning just before 8:00. I taxied down to the end of Runway 2, completed did my run-up, and taxied onto the runway. With quarter-full fuel tanks (which is still 1.5+ hours of flight time in this plane) and only myself on board, the plane leapt into the air in no time.

In the pattern at Wright Brothers

The air was remarkably clear for a reasonably warm summer evening. Visibility was truly unrestricted. Had I climbed up to 3,500 or 4,000 feet I have no doubt I'd have seen the Columbus skyline 65-70 miles away. Instead I stayed in the pattern and brought the plane in for a smooth landing in the nearly still evening air. I taxied back and launched into the sky again, this time really trying to let the plane fly itself off the runway when it was ready to cheat gravity.

Looking south towards MGY over I-675 and Yankee St

Dayton Mall and the I-675 / I-75 interchange

My next landing was a bit of an aviation milestone - my 1000th, if I've managed to log them all correctly over the years. Thankfully it was very smooth. Wouldn't want to ruin the moment.

I taxied back one more time but, after takeoff, turned east and climbed up out of the pattern for a very short scenic flight around the area. Even with the power reduced to 15" of MP my ground speed was over 120 knots; I do continue to enjoy this plane's ability to go places. I flew a gentle circle east of Wright Brothers then flew west along I-675 while descending, gently turning again west of the field over Miamisburg to re-enter the pattern.

My final approach and landing (which, full disclosure, I thought was my 1000th) were the best of the night. I didn't need to touch the power from the time I reduced it abeam the numbers and everything was stabilized all the way through to the flare, where I reduced the power to idle and gently touched the mains with the stall horn blaring. A fitting end to a fine evening flight.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.6 hours
Total Time: 397.1 hours

Monday, May 28, 2018

Taking a new coworker Cubbin'

Plane: Cub, 65 hp
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Few clouds, 87 degrees, wind 040 degrees at 5 knots

I've known Roberto for a little while now; through a nice little small-world coincidence, his wife took Gina's amazing maternity and newborn photos and then I realized he worked at the same company I joined back in December. Unsurprisingly, it didn't take much chatting to realize he's a fellow aviation nut. So much so he's even started his own flying lessons at Stewart!

It's not often I end up with a photo of myself fueling a Cub

Even without his student pilot status, we've been talking flying together for a while. Having finally gotten Cub current again, I asked if he wanted to up with me this morning. I know he's so busy learning as a student that he probably doesn't have much time to just enjoy the view from above. The goal today was to give him that opportunity!

I'd say he enjoyed the front seat nearly as much as the pilot's perch

We left the pattern and flew south along the valley towards I-71 at about 2,000 feet. I pointed out the bridges over the interstate then turned southwest towards Mason. As I often do with passengers, we circled King's Island - it never disappoints. Then I turned north towards Dayton.

It's always fun to see an amusement park from the air

Originally I planned to fly around downtown Dayton but I didn't want to have to hurry to get back. Instead, we flew over Wright Brothers and Roberto's house at about 3,000 feet to remain clear of the traffic pattern. Then, seeing some widely scattered, puffy clouds in between us and Stewart, I climbed up to 5,000 feet so he could enjoy that always-amazing pilot's-eye view.

Passing just west of Wright Brothers Airport

Always enjoyable - seeing your house from the sky

It was much cooler a few thousand feet up, which was most appreciated on this very muggy morning. I handed the controls over for a few minutes after we leveled off; Roberto did an expert job making noticeably coordinated turns around the blue sky. You'd never know he's only had a few lessons!

Relaxing in back while Roberto navigates through the morning sky

It was a very beautiful morning over southwest Ohio

Widely scattered clouds made for a perfect Cub experience

Flying around the puffy white clouds

I did a couple steep turns then showed him a semi-steep spiral to quickly lose altitude and return to the airport. As we descended the few thousand feet, it almost instantly warmed back up. Before long, we were on our way back into the traffic pattern.

Approaching Stewart on a 45 to a left downwind for Runway 8

As I did throughout the flight, I talked through what I was doing. I reduced the throttle abeam the numbers on downwind and set up for a normal landing. He was apparently interested enough in my approach that he filmed the entire thing - which I've posted below. It's really neat to see one of my landings from a (pilot) passenger's perspective!

Landing on Runway 8 from Roberto's perspective

I touched down reasonably softly and we taxied back to the hangar. Roberto was all grins; I'm really glad we finally got to fly together and especially happy he enjoyed it so much. As he continues with his training, I very much hope to do my part to keep him motivated and be as helpful as possible - including more flights together.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.2 hours
Total Time: 396.5 hours