Saturday, May 29, 2010

Two up, two down

Plane: Cessna 172
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Haze, 81 degrees, wind 040 degrees at 4 knots

Originally I had two hours booked tonight for a checkout in the 172 since I hadn't flown it in over 90 days. Currency requirement for Stewart and not a bad idea regardless. I'm not sure what's harder to believe - that it's been over 7 months since I last flew the 172 or that it's been almost 9 months since I last flew with Dave! Anyway, I ended up at the airport early this morning because of the Young Eagle flight and didn't really want to drive back again later. Luckily there was a little space in Dave's schedule and he told me to hang around the airport for a bit so we could go fly after he finished with a student.

He said that going up with me for a re-checkout is too easy (quite the compliment) and it shouldn't take long. I preflighted the plane while he was with his student so we were able to climb in and taxi out as soon as he finished. I've got enough time in the Skyhawk now to know to expect the heavier control forces but he still had to remind me to pull back harder on my first takeoff to get the nosewheel up. We climbed straight out over the lake to about 3,000 feet and then he had me give him a power-off and power-on stall. Both were very smooth without either wing dropping more than 10 degrees and he said I did a great job with the rudder work.

Satisfied that I knew what I was doing, he said to head back to the airport. My first landing was smooth and I held the plane off right until the stall - probably one of my best landings I've had in the 172. Per my usual attitude, I told him I had to do more than one to make sure it wasn't just luck. This next time I pulled the power to idle abeam the threshold for a simulated engine-out approach. Turning base-to-final I slowly brought in the flaps until I was sure I had the runway made and then dumped out all 40 degrees on short final, rounded out, and touched down softly near the hump on the runway. As you can see below it was a very short 'lesson' but I'm current again and can start using the bigger Cessna for some longer trips I have planned in the near future!

Today's Flight: 0.5 hours
Total Time: 151.4 hours

First Young Eagle!

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Haze, 75 degrees, wind 060 degrees at 7 knots

Today I had the opportunity to mark another goal off my list from the beginning of this year by taking my first Young Eagle flying. My boss' daughter, Emily, is 11 and absolutely loves airplanes. We've been trying to figure out a time for me to take her flying for months and today is when it finally worked out. So instead of just taking her flying I thought we might as well make it an official Young Eagle flight.

We flew over the lake and over their house before returning to Stewart

I arrived at the airport about 20 minutes before them so that I could do a thorough preflight and fuel the airplane. We were flying in the 150 since both Cubs were already reserved for nearly the entire day. Plus, this way we could wear headsets so communication would be easier. They arrived just as I was ready to taxi over to the fuel pump.

I already knew that Emily wanted me to show her the airplane before we climbed in so I basically went through a preflight again, explaining what things were and what they did. It took about five minutes and then she and her dad walked over to the parking lot so I could safely taxi to the pump. They watched to see how I fueled the airplane and then I helped her inside after making sure she could work the door latch.

Drying the morning dew off the windshield

Our airplane for the day - I've got nearly 100 hours in 338 now

Showing her the cockpit

Once she was secure I explained how we use checklists as I went through mine and started the engine. I then taxied away from the pump towards the end of Runway 8 as we waved goodbye to her dad. While taxiing (to the opposite end of the airport from the fuel pump, so it took a couple minutes) I explained a few more things about flying like how we sometimes talk on the radio but not to air traffic controllers. At the end of the runway I went through the entire pre-takeoff checklist and explained what I was looking for. Her enthusiastic "yes!" when I asked if she was ready to go flying was indication enough that it was time to get airborne.

You could see the haze over the valley on climbout

It was a bit hazy and humid and you could see the mist down in the valley as we lifted off and gained altitude. I waved the wings as we passed by the parking lot on climb out. Since it was still early (around 10 am) the air was relatively smooth as I leveled at 2,500 feet. I flew us to the end of Caesar Creek Lake and then followed it down. Emily seemed to like watching the boats down below us and thought it was really neat to see the dam at the end of the lake from the air.

The boaters were already out on the lake

But the beach was still pretty much empty

Nearing the dam at the end of the lake

Their house is conveniently only a few miles away from Stewart so I headed that direction while passing over downtown Waynesville. As we got close I could see that someone (turns out it was her mom and brother) was standing out in the yard. I made one circle around the house as she took some photos - Emily took all the photos included in this post - and then descended to 2,000 feet while coming around a second time. I rocked the wings back and forth as we passed by to say hello. She couldn't believe how different their neighborhood looked from above and obviously enjoyed taking some photos.

Passing by downtown Waynesville

Their neighborhood from about 1,000 feet up

The air was a little bumpier down at 2,000 feet but she said it wasn't bothering her at all. Nonetheless, I wanted to keep this first flight short so I turned back towards the airport. We had briefly talked about how planes fly around the airport before landing and I made a couple more comments as we entered the traffic pattern. Touchdown was intentionally long to shorten the taxi and very smooth on the still-wet grass. Most importantly, I asked if she wanted to go up again and she said "definitely, yes!" without any hesitation and with a big grin on her face.

Base leg on approach to Stewart

Although it wasn't necessarily an average Young Eagle flight (with me flying kids I've never met before) it was a great experience for all. She got to go up in a GA airplane for the first time and I had a blast showing her a little bit about flying. Hopefully I do get a chance to fly with her again; we might go up with her dad and Gina on a $100 burger run in the 172 at some point. Regardless, everything cooperated this morning and we both enjoyed our short time in the 150. I really do see why so many people say the pilots get even more out of this than the kids do!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.6 hours
Total Time: 150.9 hours

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Solo takeoff and landing practice

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees, wind 170 degrees at 6 knots

As I looked at my logbook when entering tonight's flight I realized that it had been over six months since I last flew solo. While I love taking people flying, I think I was a bit overdue for some old-school practice sans passengers! After my flight with Gina on Sunday I had decided I needed to knock out a series of takeoffs and landings and that's what I set out to do.

Lots of time in the pattern with a short diversion for steep turns and stalls

The wind was relatively calm but picked up at times for a right crosswind of around six or eight knots. It's always good to practice forward slips with the right wing low since that's a slightly more unusual configuration and the crosswind made it a necessity today. I made the first four landings normally and felt a general improvement each time. The next couple I intentionally maintained pattern altitude until the base-to-final turn and then used a massive forward slip to quickly drop down and land just past the threshold.

With the wind pointing down the runway for many of the takeoffs I was able to achieve some remarkably short ground rolls. When I tried for a short/soft field takeoff (holding the brakes while going to full throttle) I was off the ground in the distance between one set of cones marking the runway - about 200 feet. Even on 'normal' takeoffs I doubt it ever took more than 400 feet to get airborne. Nothing like 85 hp with one person aboard in an airplane that weighs under 800 lbs empty!

My final three approaches were made power-off to simulate an engine out. I really enjoy landing the Cub this way since you can have some fun with forward slips in managing airspeed and descent rate while turning back to the runway. For my final landing I went for a power-off 180 accuracy approach and pulled the power when I was abeam the hump in the runway - about 500 feet past the threshold. I put the airplane into a turning left forward slip and had about a 30 degree bank angle in the slip until roughly 20 feet off the ground when I leveled off and touched just past my aiming point.

One great thing about the grass at Stewart is that you can turn off the runway practically anywhere. In just 1.1 hours on the Hobbs I managed nine takeoffs and landings along with leaving the pattern for ten or fifteen minutes to practice steep turns and stalls. Being a simple day of flying I'll keep this post simple as well - it was a great day to go up solo and work on the basics!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 150.3 hours

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Two years later

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Few clouds, 82 degrees, wind 140 degrees at 3 knots

Technically it's two years plus three days later since events conspired to prevent me from flying on my actual birthday this past Thursday. The forecast of sunny skies quickly proved itself wrong as it started drizzling by the time I got off work. I was also quite exhausted (jet lag, as I had returned from the UK less then 24 hours prior) and, in hindsight, calling it no-go based on the F in the IMSAFE checklist was a wise decision.

Continuing the spirit of last year's post, in the past 365 368 days I have:
It's always amazing how everything adds up when you take a look at the big picture.

Even though I was quite pissed off about having to cancel my annual birthday flight (I try and fly in the 85 hp Cub every May 20th since my first lesson at Stewart was in that exact plane on my birthday in 2008) I was happy to be able to take to the air a couple days late. With weather that unmistakeably screamed "summer's here!" there was no better place to be than in the Cub with the door wide open. Gina rode along and we had our usual great time watching everything underneath the bright yellow wings.

Enjoying ourselves in the timeless Cub

The wind was almost totally calm but the warm, rising air made for a slightly bumpy ride at 2,000 feet. I departed the pattern with my standard right turn to the north. Gina wanted some photos of a church she had found online - we're still deciding where to have the wedding - so I circled around while looking for it. There was some confusion about which road it was on as I made some gentle turns north of Waynesville. Once I realized she meant it was in town I headed back that direction and made a large circle so she could take the pictures.

Waynesville United Methodist Church

Another shot of the church from a different angle

I wanted to enjoy some low and slow time so I turned out towards the north end of Caesar Creek Lake. It took about five minutes to get there and then I turned back south and lazily followed the curving lake, knowing the air would be nice and smooth over the water. We passed over a ton of boats out enjoying the warm afternoon and flew over the beach where everyone appeared to be working on their tans.

Turning out over Caesar Creek Lake

Just a perfect day for flying - and boating!

Plenty of people were sprawled out on the beach at the State Park

As we crossed over the dam at the end of the lake, I headed out over some empty farmland and descended slightly as we watched the trees and fields pass underneath us. I hate to be repetitive but there's just something magical about a Cub on a warm summer day with the door wide open. After a minute of that I climbed up to 3,000 feet and made two steep turns - neither of which were perfect but I think they were within PTS limits. At this point we had been lazily cruising along for over 45 minutes and I turned back towards Stewart in order to get in a few takeoffs and landings. I always like to get in at least three when flying a taildragger to ensure my passenger-carrying currency is extended.

Open to the air while skimming over the trees

Quite a few gliders were up this afternoon

Crossing the Little Miami River Valley on our way back to Stewart

The first landing was pretty good but I came in slightly fast and touched down longer than I would have liked. On our second approach things got interesting as the Stearman and Champ were in the pattern ahead of me (all of us landing Runway 26 - it's the preferred calm/light wind runway) when I saw the Pawnee (that had been towing gliders) circle in and land on Runway 8. Things can always be a bit unconventional at Stewart (gliders and tow planes generally land on the taxiway north of the runway) but this seemed to confuse everyone as the Champ broke off from short final in a right-hand turn and the Stearman also turned away. I was on base and decided to hang a right and get the heck out of the pattern until they all sorted things out.

Looking at Stewart over top of Holly Hills Golf Club

Turning base for Runway 26

Once it appeared the Champ and Stearman were going to stick with Runway 26 I made a mid-field crosswind entry and proceeded to land behind both of them. Again, it was serviceable and perfectly safe but I also know I can do much better. My third and final takeoff was great but the landing was roughly on par with number two - turns out my first was the best of the afternoon. Needless to say, I've already scheduled the Cub for a couple hours on Tuesday after work to go knock the rest of the rust off in the pattern.

Taxiing past the Stearman - they'd been practicing wing walking

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.4 hours
Total Time: 149.2 hours

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

USAF Museum Series: Part 9

One of my favorite places at the USAF Museum is the Presidential Gallery. Not for the sheer quantity of aircraft as every other hangar has far more, but instead for the history held inside the aluminum (a.k.a. al-ooh-min-ee-um, as I'm writing this from the UK) by millions of rivets. Now that is not to discount the incredible history of all the other aircraft on display. However, it's always a special experience walk where Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy once stood.

You can see much of the gallery here, especially the VC-54C and VC-140B

VC-54C "Sacred Cow" that transported FDR only once before his death

The VC-118 "Independence" entered service in 1947

The airplane was a military version of the Douglas DC-6

The interior is still authentic to the era, including a likeness of Truman himself

A historic aircraft in many ways, this plane carried JFK's body back from Dallas

Being bit crammed into the hangar, it's hard to get a photo of the whole plane

Eight presidents rode aboard SAM 26000, officially designated a VC-137C

From this cockpit our leaders were flown across the globe for over three decades

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. I'll post some more photos from the other galleries in the museum the next time I'm unable to fly for a couple weeks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

USAF Museum Series: Part 8

As I mentioned in a post last month, I was able to spend a couple more days at the museum in mid-April. I finally made it to the Presidential and R&D Galleries that are situated on an active part of the Air Force base. In addition, I took some new shots in the other galleries that I'll add to the series in the future. This post has photos from the R&D Gallery and the next one will contain Presidential Gallery aircraft - including SAM 26000, the airplane that carried JFK back from Dallas in 1963.

The XB-70 Valkyrie just barely fits inside the hangar at WPAFB Area B

This F-16 (AFTI) was used to test hundreds of new ideas from 1978 to 2000

The Fisher P-75A was unique in having twin counter-rotating propellers

Northrop's X-4 was used to study flight characteristics at near-supersonic speeds

The YF-23A was the losing design in the program that produced the F-22 Raptor

Tacit Blue was used to test stealth technology during the development of the B-2

The Boeing YQM-94A was a remotely piloted recon prototype built in the 1970s

The Boeing X-40A was part of a USAF space vehicle program in the 1990s

One of the most recognizable experimental aircraft ever built, the Ryan X-13 Vertijet

The North American F-107A was designed as a fighter-bomber

The Douglas X-3 Stilletto tested new materials like titanium

Republic XF-91, an interceptor that incorporated both jet and rocket engines

The Lockheed YF-12A was developed into the SR-71

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.