Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Insane crop dusting

Wow, just... wow. Those are some awesome stick and rudder skills!

h/t - Matthew at Gulf Hotel Whiskey

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I would like to once again wish all the readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas and best wishes during this holiday season. It's worth mentioning that this is my 200th post - all of you help push me to continue writing. Your comments and readership are much appreciated.

This has been a tough holiday for me personally due to unexpectedly losing my stepfather just last week. Friends and family are what make it possible to keep smiling during hard times. I'm thankful for the many friends I have met via both this blog and my love of aviation.

On a much more lighthearted note, I recently came across a video that brought a smile to my face. You may know of my ire for the TSA and this touches on that topic. Hopefully you will enjoy this aviation-related holiday humor as well!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Paths of Flight

Found this video while browsing online this afternoon. Such an incredible job was done editing the individual captures into a continuous composite! It's interesting to see just how precise airliners fly their approaches. Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Skywriting with a GPS logger

Lynol Amero posted this on EAA's Oshkosh365 Forums yesterday. He planned and flew a route in his Ercoupe to spell out "Merry Christmas" and captured the result with his GPS logger. I just think this is incredibly cool and wanted to share it with you all. The amount of time spent planning and precise flying required to do this in one pass is remarkable!

Per his post on the forum:
I didn't know how I would accomplish it at first, so I penned it out as frilly and loopy as I thought I thought could fly it. It had to be big enough so I could make some pretty quick turns, but doable at lower speeds in the Ercoupe. I had to figure out how big to make it. So, I just started out creating a flight plan adding way points in the AvMap GPS, spelling out the letters. I kept the spacing far enough apart that I thought it would work.
Click here to access an interactive version of the GPS track.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside

This always tends to be the time of year where my flying takes a nosedive. Figuratively, of course - nosedives in the air are generally a bad thing. It's all of about 10 degrees out right now and the highs have been in the low 20s. Downright balmy, eh?

If you're a frequent visitor you have probably noticed that I've been on a product review kick lately. It's a good way to keep fresh content on the blog when I'm unable to actually take to the sky. Hopefully you have enjoyed some of those posts and, as always, any constructive criticism is appreciated.

Another reason for my lack of flying (and posting, over the past two weeks) is that I've been swamped both at work and home. I was supposed to go to Japan yesterday but that trip was canceled literally 12 hours before I was to board a Delta flight to Atlanta; I'm now going in January. I have been working my tail off at home to get a lot of holiday tasks complete before the trip - Christmas decorations, cards, shopping, wrapping, and the other usual stuff. Gina and I have also been super busy wedding planning, designing our Save the Date cards, building a website, and the like. In sum, lots going on and little time to fly even when it was really nice out and I wanted to!

It's worth it in the end, but 14 hours spent hanging lights is a long time

Given the fact that things are calming down and I suddenly have a little more free time - at least until I'm in Japan for two weeks next month - I'm hoping to go flying again soon. I would also really like to fly three more Young Eagles by the end of the month to hit 10 for the year. It's getting tight but I still have about three weeks to make that happen.

You may also recall that I asked for reader requests last year - the main request I received was for photos of the USAF Museum. I ended up posting a series of nine photo sets from throughout the museum last winter. It was a great way to keep posting content when the weather kept me on the ground.

So I'm going to ask the question again... is there anything that you, much-appreciated reader, would like to see me write about on here? I love to try and incorporate content that you fine folks are particularly interested in. Comment on this post or send me an email if you have any thoughts or suggestions!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful for many things this year - my ability to fly, my family, great times with friends, my engagement to Gina and us having finally set a wedding date. Even when times get tough there are bright spots in our lives and around the world. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your families and friends.

To all my readers - I'm thankful for each and every one of you taking a few minutes out of your day whenever you read the blog and for the friendships I have made with many of you. I sincerely hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pilot Toys: Serengeti Velocity Aviator Sunglasses

Everyone knows that you're not a cool pilot without awesome pilot sunglasses, right? Ok so that might be a bit of a stretch but it is important to have a good pair when flying high in the sky. My eyes have always been sensitive to sunlight and I consider a good pair of sunglasses absolutely essential both on the road and in the air.

I have a knack for losing two things - sunglasses and winter gloves. Seriously, I've been through more black leather gloves in my life than the suspects in the OJ Simpson murder investigation. Accordingly, I was quite apprehensive about buying an expensive pair of sunglasses even though I knew it was a very worthwhile investment as a pilot. Logic won out and I bought myself a pair of Serengeti Velocity Titanium aviator sunglasses with Drivers Gradient lenses for about $100 in August 2009.

Compared to the sunglasses most folks are used to, which come with polycarbonate lenses, these sit a bit heavier as the lenses are all-glass. It's not a problem for me personally but it is something worth noting; I'd recommend you try them on for at least 10-15 minutes before deciding if they are for you. I think the glass lenses provide more clarity than any other pair of sunglasses I've ever owned.

The Drivers Gradient lenses provide an astoundingly clear picture. They are a brown/amber tint that gets darker as you move from bottom to top. This is great both in the car and in an airplane because it allows you to see the dashboard or instrument panel on cloudy days or other times when it's not as bright out. I think the lenses cut through haze incredibly well and I'll often leave mine on until the sun has gone below the horizon. This is a great example of when the gradient tint allows me to see everything on the instrument panel while still providing that haze-cutting view outside.

The one knock I have against them is durability. I have been extremely careful with my pair (note my initial comment about losing sunglasses - this is quite an achievement!) and the left lens still managed to pop out last week. I went to push it back into place and realized one of the screws holding the frame together had fallen out. Whether it simply came loose or the threads became stripped I do not know. I contacted Serengeti (through their parent company, Bushnell) to ask for a replacement screw and the told me I would have to mail in my sunglasses. That seems a bit silly and expensive to me - just sending me a tiny screw (I'd happily pay postage!) has to be easier. Thankfully, the guy working at our local Sunglass Hut this evening understood great customer service and repaired my aviators for free!

I am quite pleased with these sunglasses after over a year of ownership. Without question, they increase my ability to spot landmarks on the ground and other airplanes in the sky. I love the color of the lenses and their ability to cut through haze and improve visibility. The durability issue is the reason I'm not going to give these a perfect rating but I still recommend them - just be sure to handle and store yours carefully!

Rating: 4/5 Cubs

If you decide to purchase these sunglasses based upon my review, I would appreciate if you do so by clicking on an Amazon link in this post. It really helps support the blog. Thanks! -Steve

Saturday, November 13, 2010

VFR Communications from Sporty's

Last week I received a free review copy of Sporty's newest instructional DVD in their "What You Should Know™ Series, VFR Communications. The DVD was completely updated in September 2010. It is available from Sporty's and costs $34.95. The program is also available as a video download, also priced at $34.95.

I'm glad to have the opportunity to review this DVD, as I purchased the previous version of their VFR Communications program last year. That older version was not something I would have highly recommended. Content was somewhat limited in my opinion; it consisted mainly of short in-flight video segments of a pilot in various airspace classes without very detailed explanations. Consequently, I loaded the new DVD into my player with tempered expectations but hoping for a much-improved product.

Menu navigation is well thought-out. The main menu presents eight sections - Introduction, Non-Tower Field, En Route, Non-Standard Communications, Class D, Class C, Class B, and Communication Failures. When you click on a section, a sub-menu opens up with a short description of what content is inside and a button to play the video. As with most Sporty's instructional videos, narration is done by popular airshow announcer and pilot Rob Reider.

The video begins with an introductory chapter that does a great job of covering the basics needed for content in later chapters. Both the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) and Pilot/Controller Glossary are referenced as important places to find proper phraseology. The phonetic alphabet is explained and that leads into numerous examples of pronunciation - altitudes, call signs, magnetic headings, speeds, etc. I think this is critical information that reduces confusion for someone new to the language of aviation and am glad Sporty's chose to dedicate the introduction to it.

Screenshot from Chapter 1 - Introduction / General Information

Following the introduction, the video moves right into non-towered fields. I particularly liked how they have a recorded AWOS broadcast and supplemented the audio with a text transcription on screen. It seems like it would be very useful for a new student to hear both the sound and pace of an automated weather station before climbing into an airplane. The video also makes use of many helpful graphics and visualizations of the aircraft's location during various radio calls - especially in the pattern.

Communications with Flight Service (regarding VFR flight plans) and Flight Watch (regarding in-flight weather) are each given a couple minutes of good explanation in the En Route portion of the program. The simulated radar animations of an airplane's track superimposed on a VFR Sectional chart do a very nice job illustrating the usefulness of VFR Advisories, also known as Flight Following. I also thought the short segment pointing out locations where a pilot can find the proper radio frequency to call ATC for Flight Following was very well done.

The sections on airspace (Class B, C, and D) are all structured similarly. The airspace itself is first given a brief explanation and then a flight into and out of the airspace is simulated along with all requisite communication. All the radio calls appear to be simulated and the rate of speech is noticeably slowed compared to what you'll usually hear when talking with ATC. This is good for student pilots trying to learn proper communication but I do feel that it lends a slightly unrealistic tone the video.

Graphics overlaid on top of VFR Sectional charts are again used heavily and to good effect. However, I do take issue with the lack of in-flight video. The previous version of VFR Communications was chock full of in-flight video at the expense of graphics and explanations. This version tilts heavily the other direction - too far in my opinion. I think Sporty's needs to strike a better balance between in-flight video with actual radio calls and animations and graphics used to illustrate the process.

Screenshot from Chapter 7 - Class B Airspace

Even though the video covers proper radio phraseology, I really appreciate the fact they it also spend a few minutes covering non-standard communications. Lord knows every pilot has heard all sorts of gibberish over the radio before; I think it's important to expose new pilots to both the good and the bad! Similarly, a bit of explanation of Instrument procedures helps clarify what the folks out practicing approaches are talking about. While on this topic I should mention that I found it somewhat peculiar that every example in which ATC calls out traffic and the airplane does not have it in sight has the pilot saying "looking for the traffic" whereas the proper response is "negative contact" according to the Pilot/Controller Glossary.

On a small personal note I have to mention that it's kind of nice to have Sporty's in your backyard. My home drome is only about 25 miles from Clermont County Airport in Batavia where Sporty's is located. So it's neat and useful to see all the example radio calls in the video to Dayton and Cincinnati Approach plus flights to LUK and DAY - all facilities I talk to frequently! I also have to commend Sporty's for admonishing the often-heard but thoroughly unprofessional and annoying "any traffic in the area, please advise" radio call in this video.

An additional benefit of this video is the fact it qualifies for credit in the FAA Safety Team's WINGS program. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is a safety program that encourages pilots to attain additional training beyond the basic requirements spelled out in the FARs. All you have to do is go to the Activities search section on the WINGS page and search for 'VFR Communications' and you'll see the link for the Sporty's video. Click the button to Enroll in Course and you can then take a short exam to receive WINGS knowledge credit. You may also qualify for a discount from your aviation insurance provider by watching this video.

Overall, I was satisfied with this video and have to say that Sporty's had definitely improved over the prior version. They have posted a short video clip from VFR Communications online that you may view by clicking here. I think the program does a good job explaining the variety of radio communications a VFR pilot will experience and is easy enough for a new student to understand. As mentioned above, I do take issue with the total lack of in-flight video in some segments. While the animations and illustrations are excellent, I believe actual footage of operations at Class B, C, and D airports with real radio communications would be even more beneficial. with this release. In the end, I recommend VFR Communications and consider it a fair value at the list price of $34.95 when you factor in the WINGS credit and possible insurance savings.

Rating: 4/5 Cubs

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Streamers and a J-3

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 65 degrees, wind 200 degrees at 3 knots

The weather this week has been decidedly un-fall-like with clear skies and temperatures in the upper 60s. Perfect flying weather except for the fact that the end of Daylight Savings Time means it's dark when I leave work. Fortunately I was able to use one of my banked "you've worked a ton of extra hours this week, so take off early and go flying some day" days and I headed out about 3:30.

Gina met me at Stewart and I made sure the Cub was fit to fly. After our experience doing so last week, the two of us were hooked on a new way to have far too much fun in a J-3... streamer cutting! I departed the pattern and climbed to about 4,500 feet over the lake and dropped out a roll of toilet paper. Carb heat on and the throttle back, we descended with some moderately banked turns and managed to hit the descending streamer two times before hitting my hard stop of 2,500 feet - which is 1,500 feet AGL. I climbed back up again and tossed out a second roll and this time managed to hit it once on the way down.

Here's the cockpit view from this evening's fun

Words don't do the activity justice but trust me when I say it's far too much fun. Gina had a blast as evidenced by the giant grin on her face most of the time. Please note my earlier comments about the legality of such activities if you're concerned, by the way.

The sun was setting and it was surprisingly hazy out below about 4,000 feet so I flew a slightly zig-zag course back towards Stewart so I could spot traffic better. We crossed midfield from the North side and entered a left downwind for Runway 26. It's always a treat to land that direction with the setting sun scorching your retinas but I brought us down for a very good, smooth three-point landing.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.6 hours
Total Time: 180.9 hours

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pilot Toys: BrightLine Bag, two years later

In what I have to consider a testament to the BrightLine Bag's quality, my two year update is going to be quite short. My bag is still going strong and regularly carries my ever-increasing gear collection. I've used it on long trips and short trips - from a quick jaunt to Lunken for dinner to an overnight trip with a stop in Put-In-Bay to our giant, eight day circumnavigation of Lake Michigan this past summer.

The bag still carries everything I listed in the original review along with some new gear:
Needless to say, this bag holds a ridiculous amount of stuff yet still manages to keep it organized and easily accessible. The zippers and fabric have held up very well against what I would consider average use. I definitely toss the bag in my car and in the luggage area of the 150 and 172 without any concern about damaging either the bag or its contents.

The only issue I have had with my bag is that the business card holder disintegrated. I actually spoke with Ross Bishop, the owner and creator of the BrightLine Bag, at the AOPA Summit in Tampa, Florida in 2009 about this very issue. He told me that they had a manufacturing problem with some of the earlier bags; the plastic used to secure the business card holder to the fabric was too brittle. Indeed, the black plastic around the protective clear cover on my bag slowly flaked off beginning about six to nine months after purchase. Today there is no black plastic remaining (only some thread that used to secure the plastic remains) and the business card holder has completely fallen off.

Note the missing business card holder in the middle of the bag

Even with the aforementioned problem, I can't knock the bag's quality. Ross actually offered to send me a new holder without the brittle plastic that I could sew on to the bag; I just never took him up on the offer. More importantly, the bag has held up perfectly in every area that counts - the zippers and fabric look as good as new and it has kept all my stuff safe and secure for nearly two years now. I can't recommend the BrightLine Bag enough for any pilot that's looking for a well-organized bag to carry their flight gear.

If you're interested in purchasing a bag of your own, click here!

Updated Rating: 5/5 Cubs

When I received my BrightLine Bag for Christmas in 2008, I was a newly minted Private Pilot. Nearly all my cross-country flying had been during my training and I didn't have much to carry with me most of the time. I have since acquired more gadgets (in other words, I'm your average pilot) and tend to keep a few more things with me whenever I go flying.

What I never expected was for my original review of my BrightLine Bag to become so popular. If you search for 'BrightLine Bag' on Google, that blog post is in the Top 5 results listed. In fact, since that post went live nearly two years ago, I have written 108 posts on here but over 6% of the blog's entire traffic count comes directly from my review.

So it should come as no major surprise that I was contacted by the guys at BrightLine Bags a few months ago. It's pretty easy to track statistics on the web (as I just did in the previous paragraph) and they've noticed that a significant amount of traffic comes from my blog. I'll cut right to the chase - I am now an affiliate with them and will receive a small commission if you purchase a bag through a link on this site.

It is clear that my review has had - and is still having - an influence on people who are considering purchasing a BrightLine Bag. I'm glad to help out fellow pilots and am actively working on increasing the number of reviews on this blog. While I do try to keep advertisements on here to a minimum, I realize there is a great opportunity here to work with BrightLine. Neither the original review nor this updated version have been in any way influenced by my affiliation. All the thoughts and opinions on this blog are strictly mine.

All I'm asking of you is this - if you decide to purchase a BrightLine Bag based upon my reviews, I would greatly appreciate it if you do so through one of the links in the posts or on the navigation bar on the right-hand side of the blog. Thanks!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Review: Jet Age by Sam Howe Verhovek

I recently was given the opportunity to review a new book, Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World by Sam Howe Verhovek. It was released on October 14, 2010 and is available for about $15. Grade school book reports aside, I have not ever formally reviewed a book before so I'll do my best and happily accept your criticism.

My bookshelves are full of great aviation books that I have purchased over the past few years and fully intend to read. I never seem to have enough free time and am ashamed to admit that I probably have 30+ books whose pages have never seen the light of day. So I must note that having a timeline to read Jet Age and write a review was a nice motivating factor... I might need to try this more often!

Verhovek has done a marvelous job weaving together the fabric of the players and engineering feats that produced what he refers to as the Jet Age. He successfully takes you on a journey from the tragic crashes of the de Havilland Comet in 1954 to the post-war race towards turbojets in commercial aviation and back to the Comet's triumphant return, operating the first commercial service across the Atlantic. Along that journey are exceptional personal accounts and bits of history that bring a wonderful human element to the story.

I was taken aback by some of the knowledge contained in the book. While my aviation history knowledge is reasonable, it quickly became clear just how well Verhovek can highlight the nuances that allow the reader to envision the full picture. I never realized how much parallel development of the turbojet engine was underway on both sides during World War II, for example. The scientific knowledge was there but the British government simply didn't see the potential and slowed progress through a lack of funding. We all know that the Germans felt differently and the result was the Messerschmitt Me 262.

One particularly interesting passage of the book is in regards to Bill Boeing's avant-garde way of promoting aviation prior to World War I. He once, "flew over downtown Seattle and began dropping hundreds of red cardboard propaganda leaflets shaped like artillery shells ... a few weeks later, he did it again, this time over a packed stadium of fans watching a football game..." Is it compelling to read how he helped convince citizens and the US Government of the importance of aviation in those early days. However, it is even more amazing to consider that such a stunt today would likely end with F-15s off your wingtip and a less-than-desirable run-in with the TSA, FBI, and/or FAA later on the ground!

The sudden post-war race (in some eyes) towards commercializing turbojet airplanes is where the bulk of the book is spent, and for good reason. It truly is fascinating to understand the pressure the British were under with the Comet and see how that completely transformed the feelings about jet aircraft in the United States. Boeing capitalized on this movement away from propeller-driven airliners with a particularly interesting driving force - tax breaks. Government tax rules after WWII essentially gave Boeing a reason to invest heavily in R&D and that led directly to the Dash-80 (707) program.

I loved the in-depth analysis of what really occurred on the drawing boards at de Havilland, Boeing, Douglas, and other manufacturers during this period of aviation history. Their engineers were brilliant, their leaders visionary, and their salesmen smart and adaptive. Nothing better exemplifies the era than Alvin "Tex" Johnson's famous August 7, 1955 barrel roll in a 707 over Lake Washington. The book contains a wonderful exchange Tex had with Eddie Rickenbacker following that vintage barnstorming stunt, a stunt that also helped Boeing sell a lot of airplanes.

Verhovek's branching out throughout the book is what brings such depth to the story. It's not just what happened, but who was behind it and who they were. Bill Allen, an unassuming lawyer from Montana who might now be best described as a visionary, led Boeing out of a post-war funk and transformed them into possibly the most successful aircraft manufacturer in history. From the airlines and their famous leaders like Rickenbacker (Eastern) and Juan Trippe (Pan Am) to the shifting culture, you see how much this era changed the course of not just aviation but our entire worldview.

It's sometimes hard to believe how much progress was made in such a short time. The Wright Brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and by 1958, only 55 years later, you could fly from New York to Paris under nine hours. In Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World, Sam Howe Verhovek tells the riveting tale of what transpired to make this possible.

Rating: 5/5 Cubs

Full disclosure - I was contacted by the publisher in early October and asked if I would like a free review copy of the book in exchange for writing a short review. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

If you decide to purchase this book based upon my review, I would appreciate if you do so by clicking on one of the Amazon links in this post. It really helps support the blog. Thanks! -Steve

Friday, October 22, 2010

Crankin' and bankin'

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 61 degrees, wind 250 degrees at 5 knots

This was a short, simple flight - sometimes the kind that's the most fun. I was staring out the window all day at work at yet another October afternoon of wonderful CAVU conditions. That means I have to go flying if a plane's available, of course. The big Cub was open so Gina and I headed to Stewart at about 5:15 and CFI Dave hand-propped the 85 horse Continental to send us on our way.

I love the cool fall air - we were already at 1,500 feet by the end of the runway and I departed to the south. The climb up to about 4,000 feet was rather quick and we enjoyed the view even though most of the colorful leaves have already fallen to the ground. Gina's never done a wingover (I did them with Dave last year) so I asked if she'd like to do a few. Apprehensive until I explained them, she agreed and I did a couple after the requisite clearing turns.

I must note here that what I call wingovers aren't aerobatic maneuvers. Instead, it's a gentle pitch down to build airspeed followed by a pull up to an attitude less than what you'd usually see during power-on stall practice. The engine torque rotates the wing over so that the plane banks and descends without any additional control input. So, in summary, it's a non-aerobatic maneuver that does not require a parachute per FAR 91.307.

Next up was something I've long heard about but haven't ever done on my own - streamer cutting. I climbed back up to over 4,000 feet, cleared the area of traffic, flew over the lake and tossed about a quarter roll of toilet paper out the window. It quickly unfurled and I spotted it as I flew past and made a 180 to head back. I got close on the first pass but the streamer was still about 50 feet to the left of the airplane. After another pass to get in better position I pointed the nose at the streamer and split it into two pieces with the left wing... success!

Again, a note about the legality of such things since I am posting this publicly. FAR 91.15 states that the regulation "does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property." We were over a large lake, toilet paper is lightweight and highly biodegradable, and I stopped when we were above 1,500 feet AGL. Based on this, all precautions were taken and the streamer cutting shown in this video was completely safe and legal.

That was a whole bunch of fun and I've got to recommend it as long as you take all precautions, follow all regulations, and fly the airplane safely within its envelope. Sorry for all the legal rambling above but I don't want anything I post here to be misconstrued since I am posting it online. I had Gina take the controls briefly and she flew us into the pattern, then I took back over and brought us around to land. The setting sun was directly in my eyes on final but I still managed a perfect three-point landing, touching down just as I pulled the stick all the way back. Maybe a little luck was involved, but I'm not complaining!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.5 hours
Total Time: 180.3 hours

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More fall colors and two $100 omelets

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-I19-I74-EDJ-40I
Weather: Clear, 58 degrees, wind 220 degrees at 5 knots

Today's flight was a last-minute concoction that turned out great. Originally I had planned to take my boss' boss' kids up for a pseudo Young Eagles flight. Those plans changed Friday afternoon so I asked a bunch of friends if they wanted to fly out to grab breakfast this morning. Somewhat surprisingly, I only got one yes out of about ten different people! Not that I begrudge anyone for being busy since it was such a spur-of-the-moment offer.

Ahmed, a coworker of mine, texted me back around 11pm last night and said he'd love to go up. I thought about the roughly four hours I had the plane reserved and decided Urbana was the perfect choice. It would be his first flight in a small plane so I didn't want to go too far - especially after filling our stomachs. This would allow us to keep a leisurely pace and venture off for some sightseeing on the way home if we were so inclined. Plus, the food's always great at the Airport Cafe!

There are more flying highlights than fall colors in this video from today

Ahmed wasn't familiar with driving down to Waynesville so I had him meet me at Greene County Airport (I19) in Xenia. I loaded up the plane (after clearing a decent amount of frost off the wings and control surfaces - it was cold this morning!) and topped off the tanks, then launched solo from Stewart for the very short hop to pick up my passenger. The pond near the approach end of Runway 25 was covered in fog, which had not yet burned off in the sunlight. It was a very cool sight as I descended on final and touched down smoothly on the asphalt.

I shut down the plane, met Ahmed at his car, and then got him situated in the 172. After explaining the door and seatbelt operation, I climbed into the left seat and started up the engine. There was no traffic in the pattern and the wind was calm so I departed the opposite direction on Runway 7. We lifted off quickly in the cool air and that fog that covered the pond only fifteen minutes earlier had completely disappeared.

Springfield-Beckley Tower was open (not common on a Saturday but I saw it when I checked NOTAMs) so I contacted them for clearance through the top of their Class D airspace. Visibility was unreal; we could see downtown Columbus from over 45 miles away as we approached downtown Springfield. Urbana was reporting calm winds so I elected to land Runway 20 since I was in a better position to enter that pattern.

Following my initial call over the CTAF I heard a voice come over the radio saying, "you wouldn't happen to be from Waynesville, would you?" Turns out one of our local aviation legends, John Lane, was just departing Urbana after breakfast with his wife. He's been a pilot forever, owned the land and first opened what is now Warren County Airport, and is a Designated Pilot Examiner so it's no surprise he recognized our N-number.

By the time I was turning downwind the pattern had come alive. I believe there were four airplanes inbound, including us. Everyone sequenced in perfectly and we were the first to land - a nice, soft touchdown and I used the brakes to hit the first turnoff to keep the traffic flowing.

Urbana's infamous Airport Cafe

This DC-3 was parked on the grass at Grimes Field

Champaign Aviation Museum's B-25 Mitchell

Our breakfast was completely delicious like every meal I've ever enjoyed at the Airport Cafe. I had the Airport Omelet (ham, bacon, sausage, hash browns, onions, peppers, and cheese) and a glass of orange juice. I also picked up a peach crisp pie to take back to Stewart. They always bug me about bringing some pie back with me (it's another thing the Airport Cafe's famous for) so I figured I was more than due to return home with some fresh-baked dessert!

I called Stewart to see if anyone had the 172 immediately after me and there was an open slot, so I had them extend my time by an hour. This let us have a little more time for sightseeing on the way home. I departed via a short field takeoff (Ahmed thought that was quite fun) and headed north to show him the Transportation Research Center's giant auto test track from 3,500 feet.

During this stretch of the flight we passed over some amazing fall foliage. I can't believe how much better the colors are only 50 or so miles away from home. Everywhere you looked between Marysville and Bellefontaine there were vivid reds, yellows, oranges, browns, and greens. I snapped a ton of photos - most of which are posted below.

Since we were less than 10 miles away, I decided to land at Bellefontaine Regional Airport (EDJ) so I would be able to log the trip as cross-country time. For those of you who aren't pilots, cross-country time (at least the time required for your Instrument Rating, which is what I'm concerned with) is defined as any flight during which you land at a point 50 miles or more from your point of departure. Urbana's only 41 miles away from Stewart so I can't log that as cross-country on its own. Bellefontaine, however, is 54 miles away so my touch-and-go there allowed me to log all of today's 2.1 hours as cross-country. This flight actually put me at the magic mark - I now have exactly 50.0 hours cross-country PIC, which fulfills a major requirement for the Instrument Rating!

After the touch-and-go, I climbed up to 4,500 feet for a straight shot back to Waynesville. I contacted Dayton Approach for flight following and we enjoyed the view and a mostly smooth flight. With the sun heating the ground and increasing winds, there were a few bumps as compared to the smooth-as-glass flight to Urbana. As we approached Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (FFO) we had a C-5 that was practicing ILS approaches at Dayton International Airport (DAY) pass about five miles off our right wing.

The C-5 that flew past us on our way home

Nearing the Dayton area, I pointed out some familiar landmarks to Ahmed. He loved flying right over top of WPAFB and seeing The Greene from above. I told Dayton Approach that we had Stewart in sight about 10 miles out and they cut us loose. Ahmed was still having a blast so I asked if he wanted to see what a steep turn was like. Other than enjoying watching him grab the handle when I began my clearing turn (should've warned him about doing those first - haha) he quickly realized they're a pretty tame maneuver.

I had also been explaining adverse yaw and coordinated flight earlier, so I did my best to illustrate how the nose swings out if you don't properly use rudder in turns. It was a little hard because the air was bumpy but he saw what I was talking about. Then I used a forward slip to lose altitude and get down to 1,800 feet to enter the pattern.

My landing back on Stewart's grass was probably the smoothest, best landing I've ever made in the 172. Ahmed didn't even realize we had touched down! He said he had an absolutely great time and I'm happy to have had yet another opportunity to introduce someone to general aviation.

Taxiing off the runway and back to the tiedown I heard a familiar voice over the radio again asking, "how was everything at Urbana?" Sure enough, John (who had said hello over the radio a couple hours earlier) had landed at Stewart on his way home and was preparing to fly back home. I sure hope I have half that man's stamina and still can fly if I ever make it to his octogenarian age!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 2.1 hours
Total Time: 179.8 hours

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall foliage from the Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: High overcast, 74 degrees, wind 010 degrees at 5 knots

We were out of town last weekend for yet another wedding (that makes six or seven in the past year for us!) so I was stuck on the ground during some of the best October weather you'll ever see in Ohio. Even though some high clouds had moved in I wanted to get up ASAP to see the fall colors, as the leaves have already started to fall. This afternoon worked out for both Gina and me so I reserved the big Cub and we headed down to Stewart after work.

Takeoff was smooth and I headed south, roughly following the Little Miami River at about 1,000 feet AGL. Gina had the camera and took a bunch of photos (posted below) of the colorful foliage as we lazily flew over top with the Cub's door hanging wide open. I took us past I-71 to about 12 miles south of the airport before turning around and following the valley back home.

I entered the pattern at the Caesar Creek Gliderport (2OH9) and brought us in for a low pass over top of their grass runway, flying about 50-100 feet off the turf. Fun and a great way to get a close-up look at the trees before pulling back and zooming back into the sky after we were about 2/3 of the way down the runway. Shortly after climbing back up to 1,800 feet, I made a midfield crosswind entry into the pattern at Stewart.

Little Miami River Valley and Caesar's Creek Lake in the distance

Gard Road, about a mile south of the Caesar Creek Soaring Club

Jeremiah Morrow Bridge - construction just began to replace it with two new spans

State Route 350 near Fort Ancient State Memorial

Murphy Pond and Middleboro Road

Flying along the valley near Morrow

Small valley along the Little Miami River, just south of Oregonia

Crossing Elbon Road and leaving the Caesar Creek Gliderport behind

Looking across US-42 after takeoff at Holly Hills Golf Club

Another shot of the golf course across the street from Stewart

I first tried to make a power-off 180 approach but touched down quite firmly about 200 feet past my aiming point. The second landing (also a power-off 180 attempt) wasn't much better - I ran out of airspeed about a foot too soon and slammed down on to the turf. I opted for a regular landing on the third try but things got hairy and I was a little sideways as the wheels touched so I poured on the throttle and went around.

Just to have a little fun, I made a low pass over the runway before a climbing turn back to the downwind leg to set up the final landing. I was on the ball this time and my approach was much more stable. I landed long intentionally and the wheels all touched for a nice three-point, full-stall landing just as I brought the stick all the way back into my stomach. With the leaves quickly dropping, I'm hoping to go up again on Saturday for one more look at all the great fall colors!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 177.7 hours