Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring has sprung!

Plane: Cub, 65 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Partly cloudy, 70 degrees, wind 190 degrees at 11 knots

I made tonight's airplane reservation about three weeks ago so I was quite excited that the weather panned out. It actually more than panned out with a blast of warmth that moved into the area today. Seventy degrees and clear skies - oh yeah, it was finally time to Cub it with the door open again!

Gina was able to meet me down at Stewart right as I was finishing my preflight. I had been watching the winds and they were somewhat shifty but averaged out to a nearly direct crosswind. I elected to use Runway 26 since you take off away from the trees and I thought the winds were ever-so-slightly favoring that direction.

I love back-seat flying

My takeoff roll wasn't the smoothest as I slightly over-corrected with the rudder but quickly had us pointed straight down the runway. Left aileron in and slight forward pressure to raise the tail, then I relaxed the pressure and we gently lifted off. The crosswind was quickly apparent in the climbout from the roughly 20 degree crab angle I was maintaining.

I asked Gina what she wanted to do and she asked if we could fly over Kings Island. It was nearly a year ago when we last flew over the amusement park. Now the winds were almost directly on the nose as we made our way South and the Cub's such a speed demon... it took a little while to get down there. Looking at the GPS track, our ground speed was a blistering 50 mph!

Approaching Kings Island from the Northeast...

...and now as we turn in from the South

One final shot of the park

After circling for some photos I headed back towards Stewart with the help of a nice tailwind, stopping over a church to practice some turns around a point. The strong winds made for great practice and I'd be lying if I didn't say I felt I was doing a pretty crappy job until I looked at the GPS track. They weren't perfect but the ground track is a lot more circular than I would have expected.

Passing over a sand and gravel pit - I just like the colors

Another plane we saw out flying (click to zoom)

A couple minutes and we were in the pattern. I set up for a normal landing and the crosswind made for a less-than-stabilized approach. Add in the great visibility from the backseat of a Cub and the sun glaring directly in my eyes and it wasn't one to write home about. About 50 feet up I was able to see the cones, shift back over centerline, and hold the plane off until we touched firmly on the left main. It was a pretty soft touchdown considering the winds but I know I could have done better.

Final approach into the setting sun

Very short final - I love this photo!

We took off one more time and again felt the plane cock sideways into the wind as soon as the plane started to climb. Turning downwind, I saw the Champ a couple miles behind me and I assumed they were going to follow me in. I didn't see them again (note to self - pay closer attention to opposing traffic when lined up with the runway) until I was on final and then I saw them go around. Seems they had decided to land Runway 8 while I was landing Runway 26. The crosswind was still directly across the runway so neither direction was clearly favored. I'm just glad they saw me in time because I never once caught a glint of an airplane with the sun shining directly in my eyes! Perhaps that shook me slightly (though, interestingly enough, I never got any sort of scared feeling when I noticed them going around) because I had to again kick some serious rudder to straighten out right before we touched down.

Joe and a student had been flying the Champ so we talked for a minute inside the office. They said they had seen me and were keeping an eye out. I told them what I mentioned above, that I thought they were following me in for Runway 26. No harm either way, just a good example of good see-and-avoid procedures, at least on their end of the runway. Pattern fun aside, it was a beautiful day to fly if a bit windy and I'm glad I can finally fly around with the door open again!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 144.5 hours

Monday, March 29, 2010

USAF Museum Series: Part 5

We now enter the third hangar at Wright Field, which houses the Cold War Gallery. I'm going to split this gallery into two posts since I took quite a few photos. First up are the incredible spy planes that provided us with invaluable intelligence and some other favorites.

Wide-angle shot that includes the C-133A, GR1, A-10A, and B-1B

Few aircraft can be labeled more bad-ass than the Spectre Gunship

Also bad-ass: the GAU-8/A Avenger, a well-known component of the A-10

Kodak connection - we developed a new film for the U-2's cameras

The simple, clean underside of the infamous U-2

You really need to hear Brian Shul speak about his time as a SR-71 pilot!

Best airplane ever built, in my opinion

I'll continue with some more modern aircraft (including the Stealth Bomber and Fighter) in the next post

As always, just a reminder that you can access any of the posts in this series by clicking on the USAF Museum tag in the navigation bar to the right or at the bottom of the posts.

Friday, March 19, 2010

First flight sans CFI in 4+ months (yes, really!)

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-I68-40I
Weather: Clear, 62 degrees, wind 230 degrees at 7 knots

Spring has officially arrived and I'm glad I had the chance to go up with Gina (she hadn't flown with me since our trip to Akron in October) this evening after work. While I've been working a ton - and have to work all weekend, ick - I was able to get out early enough to go fly for almost an hour tonight. Last time I flew the 150 was with Emerson back in January so I wanted to go knock off a few landings to maintain some semblance of currency. Winds were steady out of the West so I elected to head over to I68 and get in some crosswind practice.

Another short jaunt - from Stewart to Lebanon-Warren County

My first approach wasn't great and the winds were shifting all over the place on short final. About two feet over the runway I still wasn't tracking the centerline and I elected to go around to avoid touching down with a side load on the gear. I made two more trips around the pattern, taking on the roughly 45-degree right crosswind with mediocre results. Both landings were safe and I touched down with the nose pointed down the runway but they weren't exactly soft and comfy.

The sunlight was already fading so we made the 6 mile hop back to Stewart with a departure over downtown Lebanon. It was a pretty sight with all the lights turning on in the twilight. On final to Runway 26 it was obvious that I was high so I put in all 40 degrees of flaps and made a short field landing. We rolled off the runway about 600 feet after touchdown - nice! There was enough time for one final trip around the pattern; my last landing was the kind you like to end the day on with a gentle touchdown on the soft grass.

I'd love to be doing more than putzing around the local aerodromes right now, but I'm probably lucky to be able to fly enough to maintain my 90-day currency to fly solo at Stewart. Work is insanely busy as we gear up for a product release and major international trade show and that's sucking up plenty of time. Hopefully Gina and I will be able to embark on at least a couple solid cross-country adventures this spring and summer to visit our pilot friends!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 143.6 hours

Monday, March 15, 2010

USAF Museum Series: Part 4

This will be a short post as we continue the series by entering the Modern Flight Gallery. I didn't take too many photos in this hangar during my last visit so I apologize for the sparse selection.

A new addition to the museum is the YMQ-9 Reaper

This specific Reaper was the first to ever fly in Afghanistan

The F-111A Aardvark pioneered variable-sweep wings

This F-4C Phantom II shot down two MiG-17s on my birthday in 1967
More MiG-21s have been produced than any other modern jet aircraft

The next few installments will include aircraft that everyone loves to see, including the SR-71, B-2, and other Cold War staples.

As always, just a reminder that you can access any of the posts in this series by clicking on the USAF Museum tag in the navigation bar to the right or at the bottom of the posts.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Slamming the Cub onto pavement

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Instructor: Joe
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Clear, 44 degrees, wind 310 degrees at 5 knots

The good news is that the snow is almost melted around here. The bad news is that two-plus feet of melting snow result in a very soft, muddy grass runway. I originally had the 150 reserved for a solo cross-country flight this morning but Stewart called yesterday and canceled that plan. It's taildraggers-only right now and, due to the field conditions, you have to go up with an instructor. I reserved a slot with Joe and figured this would be a good opportunity to try the one thing I'd never done in a taildragger - land on a paved runway.

You may be asking how I could fly Cubs and Champs all the time and have never been trained to land on anything other than grass. The simple answer is that Stewart doesn't permit you to land them at any other airport (the only exception being Sport Pilot students on their solo cross-country; they land on the grass runway at Urbana) so I've never had a particularly strong reason to do so. On the other hand, it's good to have done it should I ever be over top of another airport and need to land in an emergency.

It's a short, 7 nm hop from Stewart to Wright Brothers

After starting up and running through my CIGAR checks, I taxied straight onto the runway without stopping and poured in the throttle for a soft field takeoff. We left the pattern and headed direct to Wright Brothers. Remember that we have no radios in the Cub so this was going to be a true see-and-avoid and right-of-way practice session. As I approached the airport for a crosswind-to-downwind pattern entry I saw one plane on base and another on downwind in front of me. The spacing worked out perfectly and I slid in behind the second plane as I turned downwind.

It felt odd to be descending through the pattern at Wright Brothers in a Cub. I've landed there probably 50+ times in the 150 and 172 but it was a whole new sight picture sitting in the back seat of the J-3. The landing was, um, let's call it firm. I kept in the throttle too long and didn't touch down with the stick all the way back; we definitely knew we were on the ground. Joe gave me some tips and we slowly taxied back to the end of the runway. The importance of S-Turns while taxiing is clear when you've got a 50 foot wide taxiway and have to stay on the centerline!

I made three more trips around the pattern - takeoffs were always decent but my last takeoff was really good, lifting the tailwheel off first then smoothly lifting off. The landings, however, were all quite terrible. Every time I brought us down with a notable thud, even when focusing on controlling my descent. One good point is that I did always handle the crosswind correctly so we touched while pointed straight down the centerline. That keeps the little wheel behind the big wheels and is not of small importance. Still, something was throwing me off because I never hit the grass that hard - early training notwithstanding.

There's a chance that the paved runway threw off my altitude perception in the flare. While the runway at Wright Brothers certainly isn't new to me, a fixed width still looks quite different than a seemingly unlimited expanse of grass. At least I now know I can get down safely on a paved surface. On the other hand, I'm not happy with any of the landings and definitely want to go up again with a CFI for more practice. I flew directly back to Stewart and landed long, touching down softly while riding out the splashing mud and water that quickly slowed us down.

It was a great day to fly and I think every aviator must have had the same feeling. In our time at Wright Brothers, there were hot air balloons, a 172, an Arrow, and what I believe was a Piaggio P.180 Avanti - a turboprop with two pusher engines and a canard - in the pattern. Not only was it cool to see so many flavors of aviation together, but it really kept my head on a swivel since we were NORDO in the Cub. I'm so excited to be able to finally say that Spring is near!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 142.8 hours

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

USAF Museum Series: Part 3

Today we continue the series, moving from the Early Years Gallery and the dawn of aviation into World War II and the Air Power Gallery.

You'll notice that the first couple of photos are related to the Doolittle Raid on mainland Japan and I want to mention an important related event. On the weekend of April 16th thru 18th, the USAF Museum will be hosting a Doolittle Raiders Reunion. Many events are planned, including a dinner and an attempt to fly twenty-five B-25s in to the runway behind the museum. I hope that you'll consider making the trip to Dayton to attend this amazing event.

It's quite the honor to be able to see the Doolittle Raiders' Goblets in person

This B-25B is a pristine example of what struck the heart of Japan on April 18, 1942

PT-13D Stearman Kaydet, not too unlike the PT-17 we have at Stewart

Yet another amazing piece of WWII history - a B-17G Flying Fortress, "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby"

As I mentioned when I posted the video last week, I absolutely love the P-51 Mustang!

This very B-29 Superfortress dropped the bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945

A detailed look at the Bockscar's nose art

Replicas of the Fat Man and Little Boy atomic bombs perched under the B-29's mighty wing

Look forward to modern aviation being introduced in Part 4 of the series, including many Vietnam-era aircraft.

As always, just a reminder that you can access any of the posts in this series by clicking on the USAF Museum tag in the navigation bar to the right or at the bottom of the posts.