Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday morning breakfast run

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-I74-MRT-40I
Weather: Clear and some haze, 77 degrees, wind light and variable

It definitely feels like summer, with the humidity and temperatures increasing. Even in the early morning the skies were hazy and I was far too warm after finishing up my long preflight. We were in the other 150 and I saw in the logbook she hadn't flown much at all lately - only a couple times in the last two months. I had to add a quart of oil and there was a tiny bit of water in the fuel tanks that I drained clear, but everything else checked out.

Gina and I haven't yet actually gone on a $100 burger/barbeque/pancake run and she's been bugging me about that fact. Not for a lack of trying, mind you. Our schedules just haven't matched up and weather has canceled some other planned trips. Anyway, today was great other than the toasty and sticky temps down on the ground. It felt great once I turned the fan on and started to taxi... and quite comfy above 3,000, that's for sure

Passing by Greene County Airport on the way to Urbana

After we took off climbing away at a blistering 400 feet per minute, I turned us towards my favorite breakfast destination. I don't know what it is about the Airport Cafe at Urbana that's so great. Kind of like Stewart is such an awesome embodiment of everything classic aviation stands for, there's just a great atmosphere there. Good, cheap food doesn't hurt either.

Looks like everyone had the same idea...

You just can't beat places like the Airport Cafe

Safely on the ground in Urbana

Even in the haze, I spotted the airport from 15 miles out and followed some traffic in for a nice landing. I had some great French Toast and Gina had herself some eggs and bacon. Simple and filling enough, without leaving me stuffed. Not that I can't eat way too much but I do try and avoid doing so when flying. Best to not wind up half-awake halfway home.

Looking things over before heading back to Stewart

This was one of those days where I can't help but love everything about flying

If you recall my trip to Urbana with my friend Rob last month, we made a stop at Union County Airport in Marysville to qualify the trip for XC time. Today was no different except I opted to stop there on the return trip. Just a simple stop, taxi back, and takeoff with a departure direct to Stewart.

Look - our shadow!

The city of Springfield off in the distance

Um, that's a lot of cars down there...

Happily cruising along in the cooler air at 4,500 feet

Flying-wise, there wasn't anything too special that bears reporting. All my landings were pretty decent and the navigation was plenty easy. I was a little surprised at how smooth the air was with the heat and sunshine - we only hit a couple bumps on the way home. A few planes passed by enroute and there were plenty on the ground at Urbana, but the haze made it hard to spot anything more than a few miles away. Chalk up another two hours of cross-country time and another tasty meal at the Airport Cafe.

Today's Flight: 2.0 hours
Total Time: 104.4 hours

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One year later

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 78 degrees, wind 170 degrees at 8 knots

Hard to believe, but it was exactly one year ago today that I first flew at Stewart. Joe and I went up in the Cub for my first taste of grass strip aviation and I was hooked the second we left the ground. So today is what I hope to be the beginning of an annual birthday tradition of taking to the skies in the very airplane that got me back into flying.

Let's see, in these last 365 days I have:
Not too a bad list in my book.

Today was, weather-wise, the reason aviation is so spectacular. Deep blue skies, light winds, warm temperatures... what more can you ask for than to be able to look out on the world below? It was the perfect day to get comfy in the Cub and we enjoyed it the only proper way, by flying around for an hour and a half with the door off. Engine noise, wind noise, and nothing but the clear air in sight. True grass roots, vintage aviation as far as I'm concerned.

Look, no door!

Soaring through the spectacularly clear sky

Gina and I took the fun Cub (those extra 20 hp make all the difference, let me tell you) up and didn't do much of anything other than a few fun maneuvers and sightseeing. There was a decent almost-direct crosswind at takeoff but it had mostly subsided by the time we returned. I flew us down over top of Kings Island for a new sightseeing experience before returning up the valley at 1,000 feet agl. We flew over top of the lake and the beach at the State Park and I made sure to wave with the wings at all the folks down below soaking up the sun.

Is there anything better than a Cub on a clear Spring day?

Flying over top of Kings Island

I had a little fun again too, pulling the carb heat before executing a steep descent and then pulling back to level off while shoving us into the seats. I also pushed over real quickly at the top to really give us that diving feeling as we started to head towards the ground. Good fun as always in the Cub. I made some steep turns during the course of the flight, and had an awesome one on our way back to Stewart where I completely hit my own wake as I leveled out while exiting the turn. Haven't done that in a while.

Mmmmmm, Ohioey farms below...

We flew over the house again to attempt some photos and just generally tooled around up there for the whole hour and a half. I did manage to get in a couple S-Turns for the first time since my checkride I think... I did alright. Looking at the GPS track, I obviously didn't produce an even half-circle on both sides of the road so I suppose it's something I should go up and practice one of these days.

Can you find our house in there?

You can see Gina's car in the driveway...

I flew over top of Stewart at 2,800 feet on the way back to check the winds, since they were already becoming rather variable when we departed. Sure enough, they were slightly favoring Runway 8 now so I flew out past the airport and then set brought us into a nice, quick forward slip to bleed off the altitude before entering the 45. I felt a bit high in the pattern but kicked over into a mild forward slip on short final once clear of the trees and managed to bring us in for a smooth, near-greaser of a landing.

Work's slightly calmer now and the weather forecast is consistently awesome (low to mid 80s and clear skies) thru the rest of the holiday weekend so I'm hoping to take advantage. At a minimum, Gina and I are planning on a $100 pancake run on Saturday up to Urbana. And if I'm able to escape from work tomorrow or Friday, I might have to wander down to Stewart and head up again just to get in some more practice.

A final word of thanks again to all the readers, commenters, and friends I've connected with thanks to this blog. It's hard to believe it's only been a year since I started it all up when I think about all the emails and other communication we've had. I really appreciate the helpfulness of the pilot community at large and the folks I've met on here have done nothing but reinforce that sentiment. Oh yeah, as my birthday comes to a close there's one last thing I got for myself...

I couldn't resist! ;-)

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 102.4 hours

Monday, May 11, 2009

One hundred hours

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 63 degrees, wind 340 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 17

Between working hours that are borderline insane, moving into a new house, and trying to have a vague semblance of a life the list of things keeping me out of the sky these past few weeks is long. Add to that the fact that I wanted to have Gina with me when I hit a major (if purely sentimental) milestone in my piloting experience and the associated mismatching of schedules. But three weeks is far too long for me to stay grounded and we were able to sneak away to the airport to hit the skies on a beautiful spring evening. And we took lots of pictures for Paul, too.

One hundred knots for one hundred hours - yea, yea I'm being all symbolic

It was windy all day and the forecast that called for the gusty conditions to die down by 6pm seemingly jumped the gun by a few hours. I called Wright Brothers' AWOS on my cell while driving to the airport and, while windy, the conditions seemed good even considering my recent lack of flight time. The windsock at Stewart was flailing around here and there, roughly indicating a solid 60 to 90 degree crosswind. Nothing like good practice to get yourself back in the game, eh?

Seeing the cloud shadows from above never gets old for me

As it had been 24 days since my last flight, I elected to make two trips around the pattern to figure out how much rust needed to be knocked off my flying skills. Turns out I felt pretty much at home and sharp, and I actually credit the crosswinds for that to a degree. I had no choice but to be sharp both on the ground (watch those controls when taxiing!) and in the air. Many a pilot has suffered a less than delightful fate when they chose otherwise on a windy day.

I'm pleased to say that, while not perfect, those first two landings were pretty darn smooth and I held the plane right on centerline as I transitioned from a crab to a sideslip on short final. My feet had to dance all over the rudder pedals just before touchdown because the winds were swirling and trying to yaw me one way or the other. Great practice any day of the week, but especially great for me today.

Gina took this one and is quite proud of it - I concur, nice photo

Satisfied that I was fresh enough to go have some fun, we flew off and pretty much putzed around the sky to enjoy the usual sights. Caesar Creek Lake, the farmland, the river valley - you know the drill by now. I was absolutely amazed by just how much things have greened up since I last flew, though. What was budding trees that looked mostly brown from the air is now a lush green landscape... it feels like summer is here. Add to that all the rain we've had of late that has turned the grass strip into a gorgeous patch of turf and I couldn't be happier.

The colors were stunning, especially since it was still brown last time I flew

We climbed up and did a steep turn and I showed her the "turn the 150 by opening the doors" trick. That always puts a smile on people's faces... well, unless of course they're not so inclined to open the door in flight with 2,000 feet of air below them. But that's part of the fun! I also dived a few hundred feet to build up speed (how else do you think I got the 100 knot picture above in a 150?) and I pulled up quickly to shove us into the seats. Then I pushed over for that slight floating feeling and got Gina to laugh and squeal next to me. Scared me at first actually thinking I scared her but turns out that's what she does on roller coasters too... or so she tells me. I hate those damn things. Funny that I like spins but hate coasters, but that's the way it is.

Rockin her shades (she forgot to grab mine from home - sheesh!)

I wanted to fly her over the house, but it's not quite as simple as you think since we lie directly under the traffic pattern at Wright Brothers. (Yes, I love standing in the yard and watching planes fly directly overhead - as if you even needed to ask). Our house is literally about a mile North of the airport, right on the extended centerline of the runway. Anyway, avoiding traffic means I have to fly over at about 3,000 feet to sufficiently clear the prop and jet pattern altitudes so it's a little harder to take a good photo. But as you can see below, Gina was able to snap one and I did my best to point out our nice new casa.

The new house from 3,000 feet (gotta avoid the pattern at Wright Brothers)

I then flew us West and descended to make a 45 entry into the pattern for a landing at Wright Brothers. Landing on Runway 2 there gave me a left crosswind instead of the right crosswind I'd had when departing Runway 26 at Stewart. The landing here might have been the best crosswind landing I've ever made in the 150. Held it off, kept her straight with the rudder, and the left wheel touched right as the stall horn started to blare loudly. I think I actually clapped my hands I was so happy with it. We departed straight out before turning to the East so I'm sure I buzzed our new neighbors from about 500 feet on climbout.

Doing her best to fly straight and level (she kept climbing)

I let Gina hold the controls for a minute and I think she was trying to fly straight and level but we kept climbing - not sure what was going on there. ;-) But I kept my eye out for traffic and took a couple photos of the lake while she was doing her best pilot impression. Then I flew to the South and brought us around while descending for a 45 into a left downwind to Runway 26 back at Stewart. She snapped a few photos of the surrounding river valley (below) while I was in the pattern. I got lined up with the crosswind still pushing me into a pretty sizeable crab all the way down final and set us down softly once again. More swirly, gusty winds right before touchdown and I think I kicked in almost full left rudder to straighten the nose out right before the wheels touched.

I've flown over this like 300 times and never noticed that covered bridge before

Looking up the valley carved out by the Little Miami River

So there you have it - I can still fly, it's spring and the scenery is beautiful, and I crossed one hundred hours in the left seat. Hopefully I can fly a bit more regularly now but we'll see how that pans out. I do have the 85 hp Cub scheduled for next week on my birthday (holy cow, how's it already mid-May?) which will be the one-year anniversary of my first flight at Stewart. Same plane, same date... I hope the weather cooperates!

Today's Flight: 1.3 hours
Total Time: 100.9 hours