Tuesday, September 29, 2009

AOPA Summit, seminars, and the like

In lieu of actual flying tales, this is a quick post with some information I've been meaning to share for a while. As I've mentioned many times before on here, one of the greatest things about the blog is all the people and pilots it's enabled me to meet from across the world. Sometimes our only correspondence is via email or Facebook but I've also been fortunate to meet some of you in person - from as far away as Australia! So it should be without any surprise that I wanted to share some upcoming plans and extend my hand in hopes I'll be able to say hello to a few more of you over the next couple of months.

AOPA Summit (Tampa, FL)

What used to be known as the annual AOPA Expo has been badged the AOPA Summit this year. This will be a first-time trip for me; in fact, it will be my first trip to any large-scale aviation gathering not counting airshows. Yes, I know I really need to get to Oshkosh still - planning on next summer, but I digress.

Anyway, I'll be in town from November 4th all the way through the end of the Summit on November 7th. Personally, it's all the seminars that I'm looking forward to - they're honestly the main reason I'm headed down to Tampa. There's quite a few folks from the AOPA Forums that I know are attending and I'm really excited not only to meet them, but also for all the things the Summit has to offer.

Operation Rain Check (ARTCC Tours)

What appears to be a nationwide education program hosted by our Air Route Traffic Control Centers is, at the very least, up and running around this area. I'm planning on attending events at both Indianapolis Center (ZID) and Cleveland Center (ZOB) in October and November. The events in Cleveland include a tour, simulation lab, and live monitoring session. Indy's is a different approach, more of a town-hall (not at the actual ARTCC facility) discussion with controllers and experts.

One of the things I've wanted to do since I first started ground school back in 2007 was visit an Air Traffic Control facility. Needless to say, I'm really excited about the opportunity to tour Cleveland. Similarly, any time you can learn from controllers helps build confidence in radio use and procedures so I expect the Indy event to be just as educational. I'll be in Cleveland on November 19th and over at Indy on October 22nd. By clicking the links in that last sentence, you can access the registration pages for each event.

ASF "What Went Wrong?" Seminar

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation hosts countless seminars throughout the country every year. Looking at my events page on the FAASafety site, there's probably five of these seminars in various locations between now and December. They're all set up to discuss accidents with investigators so that we can all learn from past mistakes. Sure sounds like a smart thing to learn more about to me. The closest event from my house is in Columbus on October 7th so that's where you'll find me. If you'd like more information (no registration is required) click either here or here.

Update 10/7 - I'm not going to be able to make it this evening. Thankfully the ASF schedules these fairly regularly, so I hope to make it to another one nearby soon.

If you'd like any more information on the WINGS Program, check out the end of my last blog entry. There's a bunch of useful links if you want to join or learn more about it. Both the ARTCC events and the ASF seminar are eligible for WINGS credit so be sure you are enrolled in the program if you'll be attending.

As far as actual flying goes, a few things are in the pipeline. This coming Thursday I'm planning on making the short hop up to Wapakoneta to visit Marty, who I happen to know from the aforementioned AOPA Forums, and enjoy a BBQ dinner. Then there's a decent chance Gina and I will fly up to the Akron area to visit family and/or to Kalamazoo for some WMU football (Go Broncos!) during what I hope to be beautiful October weekends. It's a wonderful time of year to be flying!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

This is what it's all about

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 74 degrees, wind 040 degrees at 5 knots

Honestly, I think that this is one of those flights where I'll let the video speak for itself. Watch and enjoy...

A fun way to view spins - the orange/red indicates a -2,500 fpm descent

Well, I wish I could be that brief but a couple disclaimers are in order. I must add that, in practicing spins and "wingovers," both were of the non-aerobatic variety and that's why they are permissible maneuvers per FARs 91.303 and 91.307. Spin training is required for the CFI rating and that's something I hope to achieve in the future, and the "wingovers" were really just a demonstration of the effect of engine torque in a power-on stall configuration.

I also want to note that most of today's flight involved me practicing maneuvers with Dave as set forth by the FAA Wings Program. Specifically, I needed credit in two flight areas today (FCA and FEA) to complete my Advanced Phase. For those who aren't familiar, it's a program designed to improve safety by providing opportunities for pilots to attend seminars, take knowledge courses, and build skills in the air. I would strongly encourage every pilot to visit the website and sign up if you have not already. There are many online courses available through the FAA as well as the great online courses provided by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation - and all can count towards your Wings credits. Again, I think it's a great program and, especially for the flight areas, it provides a nice incentive to work on specific maneuvers and tasks whenever you fly with a CFI.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 131.5 hours

Friday, September 18, 2009

Low and slow with the door hanging open

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 76 degrees, wind variable at 6 knots

I hadn't planned on flying today but I found myself already tempted to head to Stewart before I even arrived at the office this morning. By the time 4:00 rolled around and it was still one of those "why am I on the ground?" days, I packed up, called the airport to snag the plane, and headed down for some time in the Cub.

It was also a great excuse to try out the RAM Mount that I just purchased, which screws into the tripod threads on a camera. The mount then attaches to the yoke adapter that came with my Lowrance 600c GPS and I'm able secure it to the Cub's metal tube frame. A picture would probably make a lot more sense than what I just wrote - I'll work on that.

A short clip with highlights from this evening's flight

Since I didn't have tons of time (we play volleyball with some friends on Fridays and I had to be home by 6:30 or so) I elected to remain in the pattern. It's never a bad thing to spend time practicing takeoffs and landings, after all. The winds were quite shifty, generally almost straight out of the North but occasionally coming out of the Northeast. However, traffic at Stewart was using Runway 26 the whole time so that's what I used. That meant there was occasionally a slight tailwind component on landings, which isn't a big deal when you're flying a Cub that stalls at 35 mph and you have 3,000 feet of grass in front of you. Nonetheless, it resulted in a slightly higher groundspeed than I'm used to and I think that may have thrown me off on a couple landings.

I discovered that Stewart had installed a new airspeed indicator in the plane. Again, it's a Cub, so most of the time I'm flying by feel anyway and therefore was surprised when I looked up and saw 60 mph on climbout. The wings were in the right place in relation to the horizon and everything felt right, but that was too fast. I quickly realized it was a new instrument and it must be accurate, as the old one always read 10 mph slow. Once I made that mental note everything else fell into place as far as making sense of what the airspeed indicator was - uh, well - indicating.

After one takeoff I flew a couple miles to the North and descended to about 500 feet above the ground while overflying some empty fields and a riverbed. You can't beat low and slow in a Cub with the door hanging wide open - good times. Aside from that, it was just basic pattern work for the evening. I made one really good landing and the rest were so-so. My main issue was in the flare; things just weren't as smooth and fluent as I aim for. They also need to tighten a piece on the tailwheel assembly as it's a tad loose and that resulted in a good deal of shimmy upon landing. What I'm really looking forward to is going up with Dave tomorrow... the plan is to knock out a bunch of maneuvers for practice along with some good old-fashioned fun in the J-3.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 130.0 hours

Saturday, September 12, 2009

MERFI 2009 x 2

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-EDJ-I74-40I / 40I-I74-40I
Weather: Few clouds, 73 degrees, wind 050 degrees at 4 knots

These are the kind of days where you simply must fly. Fortunately, I'd already been planning on it since I've been looking forward to landing in Urbana for the annual Mid-East Regional Fly-In for a couple months now. Between the weather and all the great stuff going on, I see a bunch of other pilots felt the same, as the place was packed.

I elected to make two trips up to Grimes today, one in the morning and then a return in the afternoon. Gina had a meet (she coaches cross-country for the high school where she teaches) in the morning so I went up with my friend Mike to attend a seminar. Then, after flying back to drop him off since he had a lesson at 4:00 with Dave, I went back with Gina for dinner and a guest speaker. It worked out perfectly and I was able to log plenty of time in the clear blue skies.

Videos and a slideshow of photos from today

Mike and I took to the air around 9:15 after I was satisfied the morning fog was starting to burn off. While it was clear down our way, the AWOS up at Urbana was reporting 1/2 mile visibility when I was driving down to Stewart. By the time I called back before departing, it was already up to 5 miles so I knew things would be clear when we arrived. I first flew us to Bellefontaine (EDJ) since it's about 54 miles from Waynesville (and about 10 miles North of Urbana) and would allow me to log the entire trip as cross-country time.

Departing with the morning haze still covering the ground in spots

A few scattered clouds enroute

Holy crap that's a big house down below!

The flight was perfect... clear skies, the sun rising higher and higher, and incredibly smooth air. I've never landed up at Bellefontaine before but the visibility made it easy to spot a good 15 miles out. No traffic was in the pattern except some ultralights we spotted a couple miles away, so I made a midfield crosswind entry for Runway 7. The landing was smooth and I glanced around enough to notice it looked like a real nice airport as we taxied back and took off again with a right turn on course to the South.

I was at about 2,500 feet and didn't spot Grimes until we were about 5 miles away. Hard to say why I didn't see it sooner since I've been there plenty of times, but that's why I remained high. There was a boatload of traffic (I was listening to the CTAF since shortly after we departed Bellefontaine) and I remained about 500 above pattern altitude to be safe. Once I spotted the airport, I turned West to descend and enter on a 45 per the instructions posted on the MERFI website.

At this point, it started to feel like we were landing at JFK. Turning downwind, we suddenly spotted a T-6 off our right wing about 1/4 mile away with a Cessna about another 1/4 mile in trail. One aircraft was landing and another was on base. Although the MERFI website said no air boss would be present, it appeared the traffic had prompted them to re-think as some folks were on the radio 'clearing' aircraft to land and depart. I knew the T-6 would be moving at a respectable clip so I turned base as soon as possible and kept my speed up. I was turning final as the plane in front of me touched down and descending quickly, and dropped in the last 10 degrees of flaps about 10 feet off the ground to bring us down softly but quickly. Then I kept my speed up in the taxi so I could get off the runway at the first turnoff. By far the most traffic I've ever had to deal with but it was a ton of fun and definitely a great experience-builder! Folks on the ground then directed us to parking and once we'd shut down, a golf cart whisked us away to the pilot registration tent.

There's the T-6 off our right wing

Turning off the runway with all the parked planes in front of us

You don't see many Long EZs around - neat little airplane

Lots and lots of planes on the ground

Mike and I spent some time wandering around the field, looking at all the gorgeous airplanes that had flown in. I'd estimate that there were easily 100 different aircraft on the ground when we landed. We walked over to where the B-17, Yankee Lady, from the Yankee Air Museum up in Michigan was parked and enjoyed the sight of the beautiful bird. Then we were able to listen to Corky Furnhof talk about all his experience flying. He flew to Urbana in the LoPresti Fury, which sure looks like an incredible plane. We spent a short time looking inside it since it was parked just outside the hangar where he spoke. For those who don't know him by name, he has flown for a ton of movies - including the well-known opening sequence in Jame Bond flick Octopussy, where he flew a BD-5J through a hangar. It was an incredibly interesting seminar to hear him talk about his experiences filming and flying throughout the world. And yes, he did fly through the hangar for that famous shot. Six times.

Corky's LoPresti Fury on the ground in Urbana

The Grimes Flying Laboratory at home in its' hangar

We grabbed a bite to eat and then spent some more time strolling around the grass to look at all the planes. Walking back to towards the grass 'ramp' I spotted John, another member of EAA 284 that I know from Stewart. He's got a very nice Luscombe and flew up with a friend. Turns out he needed a prop, so I was able to hand-prop him and set them on their way back to Waynesville. After they departed, while we were looking at the line of gorgeous RVs parked alongside the taxiway, we ran into Lenny - if you recall, that's who I met up with when Gina and I flew to Put-In-Bay last month. I spent a few minutes talking with him and his friends. That's one of the things I love about aviation... you meet so many great people and it's nice to see them from time to time at events like this.

John's Luscombe - affectionately named 'Buster'

Before we knew it, the clock was nearing 2:00 and it was time to head back. A quick preflight ensured all systems were go and I started up the engine. Once again, the folks on the ground directed us back to the taxiway where I was number three in line for takeoff. There was still a pseudo air boss directing traffic, and we launched as soon as he gave us the go. I made a climbing right turn once we had gained some altitude and pointed the nose back towards Stewart. I spotted a reflection way off in the distance and, knowing it was almost exactly the heading we needed to fly, followed it all the way home. Turns out it was the oil storage facility just West of the field. I was able to fly straight to it over 40 miles from takeoff to touchdown - talk about great visibility!

After about an hour on the ground, Gina and I launched back into the air so we could attend the lasagna dinner. They had David Scheff as guest speaker - he used to be in charge of maintenance for the VC-25s in the USAF, known to most of us as Air Force Once. The flight was again smooth and beautiful and we quickly made it up to Grimes and quickly taxied off the runway and shut down. Nearly all the planes were gone at this point and we were the only plane in the pattern - quite a difference from earlier in the day. Dinner was delicious and it was a privledge to hear David speak about his experience working with the Presidential Airlift Group along with some fun stories thrown in for good measure.

By the time we'd finished eating and David had finished speaking, it was already after 7:00. While I'd hoped to fly to Marysville on the way home to also be able to log this flight as cross-country time, sunset was fast approaching and I elected to head straight back to Stewart. We launched into the air after a quick preflight and were on our way home as the sun was getting lower on the horizon. The sky was now completely clear and as I leveled off at 4,500 feet the view was again spectacular. Gina wanted to get in some time at the controls so I let her try some gentle turns to get a feel for coordinated flying. I'm no instructor so I know my teaching technique can use much improvement, but she definitely got better as I had her try some Dutch Rolls and other turns.

Gina doing her best to hold us straight and level

With a slight tailwind and a short distance to cover, it wasn't long before I had Stewart in sight. I pushed the nose over and made a quick descent at cruise power so we were zooming right along with a groundspeed of around 130 mph. We flew over Waynesville at about 1,800 feet and that resulted in a nice sense of our speed as the buildings quickly zoomed past underneath the wings. As I entered the pattern, the sun was just reaching the horizon. Gina asked me to talk her through what I do when landing, so I did just that as we moved from downwind to base to final. On short final, I wanted to land long to shorten our taxi so if you watch the video above you'll notice me kind of hang in the air for a while. No worries, it was intentional - although I didn't set us down as smoothly as I would have liked.

Sun setting just as we're about to enter the pattern at Stewart

Hopefully you all enjoy some of the photos and video from my trip to MERFI this weekend. If you want to see even more photos, click here to see a slideshow from the local newspaper. All told, I logged 3.4 hours on the day and 2.0 of them go in the logbook as cross-country time. I'm quickly becoming addicted to fly-ins for a multitude of reasons. Meeting fellow pilots, listening to great speakers, and gaining experience flying in a busy environment, to name just a few of the things I love. Needless to say, I'm on track to start spending way too much money renting airplanes!

Flight Tracks: Morning Flight / Afternoon Flight
Today's Flights: 2.0 hours / 1.4 hours
Total Time:
129.1 hours

Friday, September 11, 2009

Around the pattern in the Cub

Plane: Cub, 65 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 70 degrees, wind 050 degrees at 8 knots

After a week filled with clouds, wind, and thunderstorms the weather gods rewarded us with a weekend full of beautiful skies. I also spent much of the week working very long hours at the office so I was glad to take off around 4:30 and head down to Stewart. I called this morning and reserved a Cub at 5:30 but was hoping it would be finished early. Sure enough, I was in luck and found it ready and waiting for me when I arrived around 5:00. I do have to note that I was hoping luck remained on my side, as things felt slightly ominous considering it's 9/11 and the Hobbs meter read 66.6 hours when I entered the start time in the book.

Someone else was on the fuel pad for a while (like 20 minutes...) so I waited around patiently and watched my friend Mike practice his takeoffs and landings with Dave in the other Cub. He's nearly ready to solo so I was closely watching after each landing to see if anyone hopped out of the plane. It wasn't his day apparently, although I caught a glimpse of some takeoffs and landings that looked real smooth from my vantage point. Once the guy in the 150 finally pulled away from the fuel pumps, I quickly filled my tank and got someone out to give me a prop.

Going in circles around Stewart

Since I had waited nearly a half-hour and had to be home by 7:00 or so, I elected to just stay in the pattern. There was a crosswind from the left that varied in direction and intensity throughout my short time at the controls. Takeoffs were smooth and, even with the smaller 65 hp engine, I climbed quickly to pattern altitude. A few other planes were in the pattern so I ended up extending my downwind a couple times and got to practice some forward slips to quickly lose altitude on final. Two of my landings were total greasers and the other three were respectable, if not with a slight bounce here or there.

Tomorrow is the Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In up at Urbana-Grimes so I intend to spend much of the day up there. I've got the 150 reserved all day and am planning on making two flights there and back. First I'm going to go up with Mike for the morning and then I'll hopefully fly up with Gina later in the afternoon. There's some interesting seminars I want to check out in the afternoon and then there's a dinner with a guest speaker who used to work on Air Force One in the USAF. Hopefully it's a great day of flying and I have the chance to meet up with some other pilot friends!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours
Total Time: 125.7 hours

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Red Stewart Airshow & EAA Fly-In+

Update #2 - There is a new post on the blog with a video from the Fly-In.

Update - I've posted a video below that someone who attended the airshow put together.

What are you doing this coming Labor Day weekend? If you're free, you should fly or drive to Waynesville for the annual airshow at Stewart on Saturday and/or pancake breakfast and fly-in on Sunday!

Yup, there's no way around the fact that I love the place and would enjoy the chance to meet any of you fine folks that read the blog. I'll be at the airport both days helping out EAA Chapter 284 with the pancake breakfast and fly-in so be sure to let me know if you're coming.

Don't forget to send me a message or leave a comment on here if you're coming so we can meet up!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Solo in the re-engined Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 67 degrees, wind 040 degrees at 6 knots

My friend Mike sent me a text message on Saturday morning that said he and Dave had been flying in the 85 hp Cub and the engine went out on them. In the days since, he's told me the story which essentially is that they were just turning downwind in the pattern, the plane started to shake as the engine lost power, there was a little smoke coming from leaking oil hitting the exhaust pipes, and Dave took the controls and dropped a lot of altitude very quickly and landed the plane safely. I saw the old engine in the hangar at Stewart last night before we went up in the 172 and you could clearly see where some of the bolts on a cylinder had sheared off. Parts wear out, even in airplane engines, and this simply appeared to be one that had reached the end of its life.

Obviously the most important thing is that they landed safely and even managed to bring the plane back to Earth in perfect flying condition. But another thing that resulted from the whole event was a new engine going into the Cub. It already had very respectable climb performance, especially when flying solo, but let me tell you that with the new motor up front that plane wants to climb, climb, climb. I was literally turning crosswind before I hit US-42, which is right at the end of the runway. Take a look at the GPS track if you don't believe me!

Another slow jaunt around the immediate local area - I love the Cub

Given what I said last night about the spectacular weather we're having, I want to be up as much as I can to take advantage of it. I didn't leave the office until about 6:30 tonight so I headed straight to Stewart. The wind was somewhat variable but, on average, was indicating a left crosswind of about five knots for Runway 8. After taxiing down the grass to the end and waiting for a landing plane to clear the runway, I pushed the throttle in and was off the turf in about 200 feet. No matter which way I looked - front, back, or to either side - it was clear I was climbing very quickly to pattern altitude. I'll be honest, on all but one trip around the pattern I ended up high by the time I turned downwind because the climb was so fast.

Going back to the first takeoff, I climbed out to the East and up to 3,000 feet for some steep turns. One to the left followed by one to the right, and I hit my wake as I transitioned from one to the other. Then I pulled the carb heat and pressed down for full right rudder as I held the stick to the left for a speedy descent in a forward slip. I switched to the other direction partway down. Looking at the GPS track (which isn't the most accurate thing ever, so these numbers are only ballpark) I registered a descent of around 2,600 feet per minute. Throwing those flat sides of the Cub against the air is a sure-fire way to drop like a rock.

Now down at 2,000 feet I flew around for a few minutes, enjoying the crystal-clear skies. Visibility was superb although the lowering sun did provide plenty of glare so I couldn't see all that well to the West. After a few minutes I flew back into the pattern and set up for a normal landing. It was good, just a slight bounce as I touched down in a three-point configuration. Back at the end of the runway, I held the brakes while applying full power for a short field takeoff. This time I think I was off the ground in 100 feet and after a speedy climb I was on downwind - and way too high.

I decided it would be a good time to practice an engine-out landing (my tribute to Mike and Dave) so I pulled the carb heat and then brought the throttle to idle about 5 seconds before I was abeam the numbers. As I banked the plane into a left turn towards the runway I simultaneously applied right rudder and additional left aileron to go into a left-turning forward slip. This brought me down very quickly while holding my speed low enough that I was able to transition out of the slip on short final. All that fun flying was rewarded with a perfect three-point greaser onto the soft grass.

One final lap around the pattern resulted in a decent landing, but it wasn't the best of the night. I intentionally added a little power as I crossed the threshold so I could land further down the runway to shorten my taxi. As I was flaring the plane started to sink too fast and I added in about 100 rpm. Just enough to lessen the descent and allow the plane to touch down with only a gentle thump on to the grass. The sun was already below the horizon when I landed so that's all the flying I was able to get in tonight. If this weather keeps it up, though, I'll likely be down in Waynesville at least one more time this week.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 125.0 hours