Saturday, August 15, 2009

Put In Bay and fun with flaps

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: Y47-3W2-PCW-16G-40I
Weather: Partly cloudy, 84 degrees, wind 060 degrees at 5 knots

This post is about the second leg of our overnight journey. To read about Friday's trip from Stewart to Michigan, click here.

After a nice evening spent with some of Gina's old friends, we rested up and headed to the airport around 9:30 this morning. We loaded up our stuff and she helped by removing the tiedowns while I went thru my preflight. Then I started the plane up and taxied over to the fuel pump to fill the tanks. Let's just say I'm still a novice with self-serve fuel pumps since 98% of my fueling experience is with the very familiar pump at Stewart. Note to any other inexperienced renters out there - not all fuel pumps automatically shut off when the tank is full. Anyway, other than a slight overflow of 100LL that quickly evaporated off the left wing, the plane was ready to go and we said our goodbyes.

Gina and her parents on the ground in New Hudson with 60338

We buckled in and taxied down to the runup area at the end of Runway 26. I didn't get a drop as expected when I switched mags so I leaned out the mixture and went to full throttle to try and clean off the plugs in case they were fouled. That seemed to do the trick, as the RPM drop was normal when I re-checked both mags. As I pointed out last night, the runway at Oakland Southwest is hemmed in by trees on all sides. Accordingly, a short field takeoff was the only option in my book. I positioned on the end of the runway, went to full throttle, and released the brakes. Once we were at about 50 knots, I yanked back and pulled us sharply off the ground. Climbing away at about 55 knots it still took a couple seconds until I was getting enough of a climb rate that I felt better about the approaching trees.

Video highlights from all today's flying

Given that we were experiencing the famously anemic climb rate of a 150, I made a gentle climbing right turn and crossed over top of the airport at 2,500 feet before proceeding on course towards Ann Arbor. Gina spotted about three different planes within a minute of crossing over top of Y47 so I wasted no time in contacting Detroit Approach for Flight Following. I've heard before from some pilots that Detroit can be a bit cranky and isn't very keen about letting us VFR folks stray near the Bravo. So I was quite surprised when a controller came on, asked how I was going to proceed to Put In Bay (I said we were going to go to Toledo and then follow the coastline), and cleared me into the Bravo to cut a few minutes off the flight. It was also my first time ever in Class Bravo airspace, so that was kind of neat. All without me even asking!

Our route from the Detroit area to Put In Bay

Downtown Toledo and the Maumee River

Looking out the back while flying over the edge of Lake Erie

Houses on the lake near Toledo

A large oil refinery on the lake just outside the city

I turned about 10 degrees left to fly direct to where Lake Erie meets Toledo, which was barely visible in the distance through the haze. Approach called out one aircraft at 12 o'clock about 700 feet above us and 3 miles that we never saw. There were honestly lots of aircraft all the way and I was more than glad to have ATC watching over us with an extra set of eyeballs. We were handed off to Toledo Approach around Monroe and they kept up with the advisories all the way until we were told to Squawk VFR with Put In Bay in sight. Since I'm on a 'say nice things about ATC' kick today, let me just say that the folks at Toledo are top-notch. They're always friendly and super helpful in pointing out things like the big tower farm and even a NOTAM for balloon activity (which I did read when flight planning!) on the way up yesterday. Sure, I've only talked to them like four times now, but it's still worth noting.

Passing over the campground at Maumee Bay State Park

Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station

Back to the flying, I followed the coastline from Toledo just inland to avoid some hot Restricted areas. Something about live artillery goes on in there so I'm pretty sure that's best worth staying clear of. We also passed by the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant on the way... sooo I did my darndest to hold the plane straight and level for a few miles there. Sure I was talking to ATC but I'd rather not do anything to upset the TSA or USAF or whoever keeps suspiscous planes away from such objects "in the interest of national security" as it says on the Sectional. Once clear of all the Restricted airspace and with a couple nearby planes in sight, I proceeded over the lake towards South Bass Island. It's only about four or five miles across at the narrowest point, but it's still interesting to look down and see nothing but water.

Traffic landing Put In Bay was using Runway 3 per the radio calls, so I flew East and then made a smooth turn to align myself on a 45 degree entry into a right downwind. I spotted one plane in front of me on downwind so I just followed them in. As I turned final I lowered the flaps all the way to 40 degrees to set up a short field landing. The runway here isn't as short as it was up in Michigan but there are still trees on both ends and displaced thresholds. I set us down pretty softly with plenty of room to spare.

I flipped the switch to raise the flaps as I always do when we were rolling out. As I turned off the runway, however, I looked over and saw that the flaps were still partially down. "Hmm, did I bump the switch accidentally?" I pushed it back down and they lowered all the way and then flipped it back up. Nothing. "Well this isn't good." I parked and shut the plane down and then took a closer look. The switch was still running the motor when you flipped it to down and the fuse looked good, so my only guess was that we had a bad switch. Thinking back on it after the fact, it's a good thing I didn't have to go around on my approach... hmm, yeah that would not have been good.

Of course there's no FBO on the island (there's not even any fuel available) so there wasn't much we could do about it right then. I thought maybe the electric flap motor could have overheated or something and decided to leave it while we went into town to grab a bite to eat since we were starving. Lenny from Great Lakes Pilots and his friend Andrew pulled up in a golf cart and we all headed into town together.

Looking out over the harbor towards Perry's Monument

Old fish hatchery - there's actually some interesting info. in there

We had lunch at the Chicken Patio. I've eaten there every time I've been to the island. You get 1/2 a grilled bbq chicken, an ear of corn on the cob, potato salad, and a roll for about $11. They've got an outdoor grill that's like 6 feet wide by 20 feet long where they're grilling all day. It's certainly not gourmet but it's still tasty and I was keeping up tradition if nothing else.

After filling up, we just drove around the island for a few on the golf cart. We stopped in at the old fish hatchery where they have some displays talking about the history of the island with commercial fishing on Lake Erie. Then we went to the South end of the island to visit the lighthouse as well as stopping at a cafe for some cool drinks and ice cream. It wasn't unbearably hot out but the humidity was up and even with a breeze off the lake I needed plenty of water to stay hydrated. We also spent a little time in the visitor center at Perry's Monument. Officially, it's Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial and it was built in 1912 to commemorate the greatest naval victory during the War of 1812 on Lake Erie. We didn't go to the top since it's not as cool when you fly in over top of the thing - the view was definitely a better attraction when coming to the island by boat.

No trip to the island is complete without a photo of the monument

There's a neat (tho very small) vintage car museum

Requisiste photos of us on Put In Bay (like my new sunglasses?)

All told, we spent a little time on the island eating and relaxing before heading back to the airport. Gina had an alright time although she was somewhat dissapointed overall. I think too many people have hyped it up for her when, in reality, it's essentially a giant spring break sort of party island most of the time. Not that you can do any of that when you've got a plane to fly home. Still, it was a great excuse to fly to a new place and meet up with another pilot friend.

It was around 4:30 when we got back to the airport to sort out the flap situation. Unfortunately, the problem was exactly the same as when I tried the switch after landing. Lenny looked things over and called a few pilot friends of his to try and help out while I put a call into Stewart and they got someone to call me back. There's no manual retract for the electric Cessna flaps so we were going to have to find some way reverse the motor and raise them. After talking with the friendly folks at Stewart (specifically, an A&P-IA there) they had me remove a couple access panels (the Leatherman I keep in my flight bag sure saved the day...) and try and twist the motor coupling to bring the flaps up. I tried for about five minutes but only succeeded at covering my right hand and arm in lots of airplane grease. My fingers were on the coupling and I could spin it, but it wasn't moving anything in the linkage to the flaps.

Coming to the conclusion that this wasn't going anywhere, we discussed over the phone trying to reverse the polarity of the wires so we could use the working 'down' position on the switch to spin the motor and raise the flaps. The wires leading to the flap motor, along with a quick connector, were hanging from the same access panel I had pulled off so it would be easy. Lenny quickly helped me switch the two wires and reverse the polarity. We'd reached the moment of truth as I flipped the Master on and pushed down on the flap switch... and the motor started turning as the flaps retracted completely! I definitely didn't expect to become a temporary airplane mechanic over the weekend, but man was I glad we figured out a way to solve the problem.

I dug up some electrical tape in a hangar down by the office and covered the connection just to be safe. Then I pulled the fuse for the flaps from the panel and stored it in the glove box. That would make sure there was no chance any electricity could accidentally flow through the connector and short out against the skin of the plane. I called Stewart back and informed them we were able to raise the flaps (they were happy - and relieved - that it worked) and thanked Lenny again for hanging around to help me out. As I told everyone while I was screwing the access panels back in place, that's officially the most thorough preflight I've ever done!

Gina and I secured everything, made a quick stop in the restroom, and then hopped in to get on our way. It was now about 6:00 and I wanted to get going so we would be home before sunset. Should we get behind schedule I planned to stop somewhere while it was still light out, but obviously that's not the first choice if it can be avoided. I performed a short field takeoff, making a right turn at about 200' agl to steer well clear of the monument since it's straight off the extended centerline.

Put In Bay to Port Clinton with my teardrop entry

My planned fuel stop was Port Clinton, just about 10 miles across the lake. I had looked in advance and AirNav said they were open until 6pm but my A/FD said they were open until 2300 Zulu - which is 7pm local this time of year. Nobody answered on Unicom so I flew 500' over pattern altitude and made a teardrop entry to a 45 to downwind for Runway 27. This was a no flap landing, so I approached at 70 knots and held the plane off to bleed airspeed before touching down. Turns out AirNav was right as nobody was around and there was no self-service fuel pump. In hindsight, I should have just continued on to an alternate fuel stop instead of losing 10-15 minutes on the ground when you factor in taxi time and such. But chalk that up as a lesson learned. I pulled out my A/FD again and saw the next airport along our route with 24-hr fuel was Seneca County Airport, only 30 miles South. We departed Port Clinton behind a Champ on Runway 9 and turned on course.

Passing over a Service Plaza on the Ohio Turnpike

A helicopter flying under us (it's over the highway - click to zoom)

The runway at Seneca County Airport was perfectly aligned for a quick fuel stop. I could see the pumps were on the East end of the field as we got close, so I entered a left downwind for Runway 6. I was too fast on short final without flaps so I used a mild forward slip to knock about 10 knots off and set the plane down softly as we rolled out to the opposite end. A quick refueling (you can bet I didn't expect the pump to shut itself off when full this time...) and I was back in the plane ready to depart. Since the winds were calm, I departed on Runway 6 and turned left shortly after takeoff to resume on course while climbing up to 4,500. We were able to get Flight Following from Toledo Approach as well, a huge help since the haze was pretty bad at this point (at least when looking West) with the sun lowering in the sky.

On the other hand, there was barely any traffic still flying if you can base it on what I heard over the very quiet radio. I think we got maybe one call for traffic all the way home, whereas we got at least ten on the way to Put In Bay earlier in the day. The route home took us over top of Elliots Landing (O74), a grass strip that supposedly has an awesome restaurant (the Plaza Inn) on the field. It's on my list of airports I need to check out still. Continuing towards home, we passed directly over top of Urbana Grimes - a favorite destination of mine, as any regular reader of the blog knows. From this point, I felt pretty comfortable since I am very familiar with the route and area.

Our route home took us right past Urbana Grimes
The sun was nearing the horizon and the haze wasn't making it too easy to see. Don't get me wrong, it was still VFR and I knew where I was but had I been headed to a new destination I would likely have landed at that point. But we were now only 10 miles from Stewart as I began descending from 4,500 to 2,000. Dayton Approach also canceled our Flight Following at this point. I could see Waynesville off in the distance - there was a baseball game going on at the local park and the lights made it easy to spot. My head was on a swivel as we approached Stewart but I didn't see any traffic as I entered the pattern to land on Runway 8.

Again, this would be without any flaps so I kept my speed up around 70 as I turned base to final and found myself in a slight crab to counter a light crosswind. About 50 feet up I transitioned from the crab to a sideslip and held the plane off until I set down softly on the upwind wheel. I've got to tell you, I was quite proud of that last landing. You can see it all on the video - right up to the point where my camera mount came loose and you get a nice shot of me reaching up to grab it!

So there you have my first-ever overnight trip in an airplane as well as my longest cross-country flight to date. And then there's the whole flap situation. Clearly it was a learning experience in more way than one and I'm quite thankful for that, as crazy as some of it probably sounds. We flew over 500 miles in a little over 24 hours and returned home safely so what else can you ask for? The only negative (for my bank account, at least) is that more travel like this will REALLY get me thinking about ownership/partnership in the future...

And if you actually read this whole entry, well wow and congrats and thanks! :)

Flight Track: Detroit to Put In Bay / Put in Bay to Stewart
Today's Flight: 3.6 hours
Total Time: 121.6 hours


  1. Sounds good! Nice job with the flap repair, too!

  2. Good thinking on the flap problem - I'll have to get a Leatherman for my flight bag. It was a great description of the flying...with pictures!

  3. I knew you'd appreciate all the photos, Paul!

  4. I did read the whole thing...both days. A little technical for me, but very impressive. If you ever fly up to Kent State you will have to take us for a ride. Tell Gina I wasn't impressed with Put In Bay either...could be I was sick the one time we went and couldn't enjoy it to the fullest. Rich on the other hand spend a summer working at the Crews Nest on the island and probably doesn't remember much. Hope to see you guys soon.

  5. Well thanks for taking the time to read it all! :)

    I'm planning on heading up for the day and landing at KSU sometime over the next few months. Don't worry, I'll let everyone know so we can visit and go flying.

  6. Another great write up! I need to get a better camera, your pics look so clear.

    Sometimes half the fun is the journey or at least that's what Mary and I have found out. Every now and then you'll find a destination that is a nice place for a stop but not that vacation type place, if what I just typed and read back makes any sense.

    Keep up the cross country work and you and Gina will soon list the favorite get away places and cross off more on the overnighters and long weekend excursions list.

  7. Thanks, Gary. I use a Canon S3 IS right now for both the video (it records stereo audio - although the drone of the engine doesn't exactly need hi-fi audio) and photos.

    I'm strongly thinking about getting one of our new Kodak Zi8 pocket video cams, though. It's got a line-in audio jack so I could tie it into the intercom and it records HD video up to 1080p. Compared to the S3 it's far lighter weight too so I would expect it to be less affected by vibration from the engine. With the employee discount it's a downright bargain so I'm really considering it.

    We had a decent time, but I think it might be more fun to make it an overnight and also to meet up with more folks. The plan was for a larger fly-in but we only ended up seeing the other two guys on the island. One guy from the AOPA Forums lives right on the runway at Put In Bay so I'd like to stop in and see him next time we're up there - didn't have a chance this time.

    I'm really trying to expand my flying horizons now. Been spending a lot of time on and the like, marking stuff on my calendar. Hopefully between that and joining the EAA chapter at Stewart and doing some Young Eagles flights, I'll have many new and fun excuses to go places!

  8. Great write up. But I think you mean "slip" when you wrote "...I used a mild forward flip..."

    Personally, any kind of flip in an aircraft would be anything but mild.

  9. Thanks James - good catch. Fixed it.

    No flips for me yet, although I've got to say spins are fun! ;-)

  10. That was some nice flying. I was a little on edge watching the no flap landings, though. Good work getting them retracted!

    Have you checked out any flying clubs? Seems a lot of them have partners that seldom fly so you end up having almost full access to the plane.

    Also, that Zi8 looks pretty darn cool...

  11. Why thank you, Pilot Keith!

    It definitely does feel weird coming in so fast (even if it's only 15 knots extra, although compared to the short field landing I made earlier in the day it was an extra 25 knots) without the flaps. On the other hand, it was some useful practice by necessity.

    There's only one flying club around here really (Dayton Pilots Club) and they have a couple Warriors that rent for about $90-95 per Tach hour wet. Monthly dues are like $80 and the buy-in is $700 or so. Considering that I rent the 150 for $64/hr Hobbs and it's $87/hr for the 172 the only real savings would be if I took it for multiple days where I wasn't being hit with a 3-hr daily minimum. It's still something I'm debating but it's darn near impossible to beat how affordable it is at Stewart.

  12. You're right, that flying club doesn't offer much of an advantage. I rent for $110 wet on the Warriors I fly - but the price you pay for the 150 is pretty good. You should ask for a couple of free hours if they let you paint that poor upper cowling!

  13. Funny you mention the cowling... I was looking at it while watching a video of mine today and realized how distinctive it is, since it's on most of my videos now. It would almost be like losing a friend if I painted it!

    (Of course, I'm also pretty sure that a new paint job and re-rigging of 338 would buy me another 5 knots at cruise. It's definitely a trainer.)

  14. Steve, great site! I really like the format and all of the easy navigation tools you've got here. :)

  15. Thanks, Brian! Funny how I started this 14 months ago and since then have accumulated all sorts of links and whatnot, along with 115 posts and counting. Aside from being a record of all the flying, the best thing really is all the other pilots I've met just because the blog exists. I'm sure you'll find the same to be true with yours - keep it up.

  16. Steve, I've blatantly stolen your "Fellow Aviators" title for a column of links to other aviation blogs. I think it's a great idea to let folks know that there are other blogs out there. Since I stole the idea from you, I'll keep yours at the top of the list. :-)


  17. No worries - I don't charge royalties.

    I agree, it's great to link to each other. Probably half of the blogs I read I first came across as a link on other blogs/sites. Also, as you alluded to, for any student pilots who happen to come across my site it's great for them to have an easy way to find more people who love aviation.

  18. Put-in-Bay has only gotten worse over the years. Kelly's Island is much more laid back, perhaps too relaxed.

    My advice? Take Gina to French Lick, IN. I have a couple of posts about it at my blog.

  19. Yeah I still like it as a quick stop but it's got a very unique vibe. I've never been to Kelly's so that's a good suggestion for next time. I'll look into French Lick, too. Thanks Dave! :)