Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lee Bottom Wood, Fabric, and Tailwheels Fly-In

I received an email late Monday night from a pilot that's a fellow member of EAA Chapter 284 and owns a Luscombe 8A that he hangars at Stewart. He was looking for another pilot to fly with him to Lee Bottom Flying Field's annual "Wood, Fabric, and Tailwheels" Fly-In this morning. Gina has cross-country meets on Saturday mornings and I've always wanted to fly to Lee Bottom so it was an easy yes!

Video of our time in the sky along with some of the action at Lee Bottom

We met at the airport about 8:45 and John already had the airplane ready to go. The weather was nothing short of perfect - clear and CAVU with the wind out of the west at about 6 knots. John climbed in and I hand-propped the engine to get the 65 hp Continental moving, then climbed in myself. It was around 9:05 when we lifted off Stewart's dry grass (we are in serious need of some rain here!) and climbed into the gorgeous blue sky.

The air was smooth as glass the entire way down as we cruised at 2,500 feet. We went direct Cincinnati West (I67) and then direct Lee Bottom to stay under the shelves of Cincinnati's Class Bravo airspace. The Luscombe doesn't have an electrical system so that means no transponder and no entry into the Bravo. I never realized how many radio control clubs there were down this way - we passed almost directly over top of two of them and I could see people out flying their model airplanes.

The Miami Valley Radio Control Club's runway, near Lebanon

Passing over the Lebanon Correctional Institution

Trader's World, the giant flea market next to the charred remains of Touchdown Jesus

Hamilton Area Wireless Kontrol Society - notice the planes flying up top!

The rolling hills of southern Ohio begin to appear as we approach the Ohio River

Miami Fort Power Station - the 36th dirtiest coal-fired plant in the country!

Looking out the front while cruising at 2,500 feet on this CAVU morning

We were passed by this RV that was also enroute to Lee Bottom

More rolling hills as we passed by Friendship, IN

Clifty Creek Power Plant - the 49th dirtiest coal-fired plant in the country!

The recommended pattern entry was to fly west of town, aim for a white water tower, and then fly to the old power plant to enter an upwind leg. I spotted traffic as we approached the area but we successfully sequenced ourselves into the flow. The only crazy thing was one guy that appeared to be going directly towards the old power plant. He was pointed almost head-on at us and John had to make a right turn for spacing. Both of us thought this guy would turn at some point but he didn't seem to me moving!

Due to the tall (I'm guessing about 400 feet) hills on the west side of the field, the downwind leg is always flown over the river. We were number three by the time we were over the Ohio and John flew a great pattern and spaced things out perfectly. He used a healthy forward slip (the Luscombe's got great rudder authority!) on short final to drop us in over the trees and we touched down gently on the smooth grass.

Lee Bottom Flying Field and the Ohio River while flying the upwind leg of the pattern

Turning downwind with the beautiful grass field off to our right

Aeronca Champ landing on the grass - this is what I flew on my first solo

"Buster" - the Luscombe 8A that flew us safely to and from Lee Bottom

This was an interesting plane to see up close, a Republic RC-3 Seabee

Winner of the "worst paint job on the field" award

Row after row of airplanes - nearly 300 were on the field!

The Questair Venture has a crazy short fuselage, 280 hp, and weighs 1200 lbs empty!

Watching a Robinson R44 depart after spending some time on the ground

They even landed a DC-3 at Lee Bottom!

This long line is why I skipped lunch and we flew home in time to beat the traffic

As you can see from all the photos, we walked around looking at airplanes for a couple hours. There were 150+ on the ground when we arrived and the arrival flow didn't slow down much until just before we left. So many beautiful airplanes on a perfect flying day on a great grass strip - talk about vintage aviation exemplified.

The line for lunch was extremely long so I elected to skip that so we could get out and beat the rush. It was around 1:00 when I hand-propped the airplane, climbed in, and we taxiied all the way down to the end of Runway 36. Takeoff was short and we got a great view of all those airplanes still on the ground as we climbed out. The return flight was much bumpier than the flight down. We had to stay below 3,000 feet due to the Bravo airspace so climbing to smoother air wasn't an option.

Crossing the Ohio River on our way home

The Great Miami River and downtown Hamilton, OH

With the prevailing winds from the west, the return trip was about 10 minutes quicker than our flight down. The bumps continued all the way to the pattern at Stewart but they didn't phase either of us. You do tend to get used to these things as a pilot. He set Buster down nicely at the home field and we got everything shut down and pushed the plane into the hangar. It was a great day of flying and airplanes and I'm really glad I was asked to tag along as an extra set of eyes. It's kind of fun to be a passenger once in a while and just enjoy the view. Thanks again, John!

Monday, September 13, 2010

High winds + light airplane = short field fun

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Scattered clouds, 86 degrees, wind 270 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 20

This afternoon I skipped out of work around 4:30 so I could head down to Stewart. Fellow pilot blogger Ben was spending a few hours in Waynesville going up in a Cub with CFI Joe before continuing down to Hamilton to pick up some friends for dinner. We hadn't yet met in person so it was a great chance for me to meet up with him and say hello.

It was quite windy all afternoon and it was still howling across the open field when I pulled into the airport. Ben had just finished his lesson so we sat down outside and talked for about a half hour. Nothing like talking airplanes and flying while sitting outside Stewart in their comfy Adirondack chairs.

Time passed by quickly and soon it was time for Ben to head back to the 182 he rented for the flight over from Eagle Creek in Indianapolis. I walked over and took a look inside - lots of nice glass in the G1000-equipped Skylane. We said goodbye and I headed back to the office. Since I was already at the airport, I had to at least go up for a few minutes!

Landing within one set of cones in a 150 is way too much fun!

Given the strong winds that were essentially right down the runway (we don't see days like this too often) I wanted to take the opportunity to get in some seriously short field landings. I checked the fuel in the 150 and there were about 9 gallons as measured by the stick. From experience, I know that it always measures about 5-7 gallons lower than are actually in the tank but even without that knowledge I knew I had more than enough fuel for three quick laps around the pattern.

I started up the engine, ran through my checks, and taxied all the way to the end of the runway for a short field takeoff. Full throttle, release the brakes, and I kept the nose wheel on the ground until pulling free at around 45-50 knots. It was somewhat bumpy as I expected but I sure was climbing quickly relative to the movement across the ground. I flew an extended downwind to set up for a longer final. Due to the strong and somewhat gusty winds I only used 30 degrees of flaps and approached at about 55 knots, whereas 40 degrees and 50 knots are the short field configuration.

My first and third landings were the best. I touched down just past the first set of cones lining the runway and was turning off by the second set both times. The distance between sets is about 200 feet so those were some real short landings! My second landing was still good, but I figure I went closer to 300 feet. All were still great, especially when you consider that the book landing distance over a 50 foot obstacle (there are trees and power lines at the end of the runway) is just over 1000 feet!

The major negative of the day was realized after I parked the plane and went back to the office to pay my bill. Ben was walking back over and I figured that wasn't good since he was supposed to be enroute to meet his friends. Turns out the starter on the 182 gave out and I spent a little while helping them unscrew the cowling to check things over. Check his blog out for further details in the future - he told me he'd write about it once he returns from a business trip.

It's always fun to fly on days like this. I'm glad I had the chance to quickly go up and knock out three trips around the pattern. Plus, the lack of traffic and convenience of the "wherever you want it to be" grass taxiway meant I only logged 0.3 on the Hobbs - a new personal shortest flight record.

Today's Flight: 0.3 hours
Total Time: 176.1 hours

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Young Eagles Rally, a.k.a. why being a pilot is so special

Plane: Cessna 172 / Piper Cub, 65 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 66 degrees, wind variable at 4 knots

Today was a day I have been looking forward to for a variety of reasons. EAA Chapter 284, of which I am a member, always puts on a great pancake breakfast and fly-in the morning following Stewart's annual airshow. That alone makes for a great time but our Young Eagles Rally is what I was really excited about.

You may recall that I flew my boss' daughter back in May, my first official Young Eagle. For those who don't know, the Young Eagles program is something that the Experimental Aircraft Association set up in 1992 to provide free airplane rides for kids ages 8-17. I challenge you to find a better way to get young people involved in aviation!

Having the opportunity to introduce multiple kids to small airplane flight in one morning is about as good a thing I can think of doing as a pilot. Every kid I met today was smiling and excited as soon as I walked over and introduced myself. Each and every one of them said they'd like to go up again sometime. Most importantly, they got to see the world from a new perspective and left with a new paradigm for their imaginations to work wonders in.

This is what it's all about - if you don't have much time, start at the 6:05 mark!

I started off in the Cessna 172 and finished in the Piper Cub. My original plan had been to fly the 150 all morning (while the Cub is the most fun, I thought the kids might prefer to have an intercom and headset so we could actually talk up there) but it was down for maintenance. So the plan was for me to fly multiple kids together in the 172 at first and then switch over to the Cub.

My first flight was a brother and sister who were just about the happiest, most excited two people you'll ever strap into a 172. They were talking much of the flight, taking pictures, and just completely enjoying themselves. We flew out of the pattern and over Caesar Creek Lake, passing by the Ohio Renaissance Festival that they got a kick out of seeing from the air. I completed the circle of the lake and then entered the busy pattern and made a pretty good landing with the stall horn chirping.

I'm kicking myself over and over because I didn't have the intercom plugged into the camera until after we landed (note to self - add to the checklist!) so nearly all their great commentary was only recorded to my brain. You absolutely must watch the video above to hear what they had to say at the end of the flight. The other that thing cracked me up was when, about halfway through the flight, the little girl said, "This is awesome! When I grow up, first I'm going to buy a German Shepherd and then I'm going to learn how to fly airplanes!" Man, you couldn't come up with something more adorable if you tried.

After I shut the plane down, I helped the kids out and walked over to the registration table. There I filled out their logbooks and signed their official Young Eagle certificates. We said goodbye and they thanked me again (though, as with all the kids, I should have been thanking them!) and I was introduced to my next passenger. This was the procedure after every flight so I'll keep it brief from here on out.

My second and third flights in the 172 were single-passenger, as there didn't appear to be any other kids that wanted to ride together. I took up a little boy on flight number two and then a girl after that. Both of them were pretty quiet as I explained things during the flight but that didn't mean they weren't having a good time. Whenever I looked over in the right seat I was greeted with a giant smile!

After the three laps around the sightseeing circuit in the Cessna, I put the plane away and went over to preflight the 65 hp Cub. There's no sense in paying more money for extra seats when we weren't using them anyway. I didn't have time to hook up the video camera in the Cub so there's no multimedia from those two flights.

I took up two young boys in the Cub, at least one of which (my last Young Eagle of the day) that had never flown before in any way, shape, or form. That was the slightest bit ironic, as his father had worked for the FAA and Flight Service for something approaching 30 years if I'm recalling correctly. While we couldn't talk very easily, they both clearly were loving the view as we flew around with the door open on the gorgeous late summer morning.

On that last flight I could tell the little boy was extremely excited and interested, so we flew a slightly amended course. He lived in Waynesville and was pointing out some things he recognized like the football stadium and soccer fields. Since he apparently lives very close to those, I turned away from the airport and flew right over top of where he was pointing. Although he never did spot his house I know he came back with a new perspective on the neighborhood. After landing (which was nothing to write home about - let's just say I dissipated enough energy in the thunk on to the ground that it was quite the short field landing) he was all smiles when his parents came up to the plane and said he'd love to go flying again.

So that, in a nutshell, is my experience flying six kids this morning. It was a rousing success and I only had to use one Sic Sac - which was given away as a souvenir to the little girl from the first flight! I've heard pilots say many times before that they probably get more out of the experience than the kids do and I completely understand that sentiment now. Giving the gift of flight to a bunch of kids can't adequately be described by my own words. Listening to their comments, seeing the smiles, and hearing them say they want to do it again is the best testament to the value of the Young Eagles program.

I apologize for taking so long to get this posted. Video editing always takes me a little while and I unfortunately had a hard drive fail on me last week that contained the footage from these flights. Thankfully I hadn't deleted it from the camera so I was still able to edit it and share everything with all of you!

Today's Flights: 1.2 hours / 0.8 hours
Total Time: 175.8 hours

Saturday, September 4, 2010

2010 Red Stewart Airshow

Labor Day weekend might mark the end of summer but it also means that it's time for my home field's annual airshow. What could be better than a grass strip and some old-fashioned barnstorming action? The fact that it's free just proves without a doubt what a great, aviation-to-the-core family the Stewarts are. As if the airport wasn't already awesome enough! Seriously, how many places can you rent a Piper Cub from these days?

Gina and I got there around 4:15 and the show was just underway. After finding a place for our chairs, got in line for dinner. They always serve up some tasty food (donations are accepted!) and this was no exception - we each had pulled barbecue turkey sandwiches, green beans, potato salad, corn on the cob, and a brownie. We ran into a co-worker of mine, John, who I had invited while in line for food. We all pitched our chairs together along the runway and spent the evening enjoying the airshow and chatting.

It was a great show as always - the pilots all certainly know how to please a crowd. I took quite a few photos (as expected, if you know me) during the show - I think I ended up with something like 330 when I downloaded them to my computer. By the time I finished sorting through them I was down to about 40 and I pared those down further to the ones included in this post. Enjoy!

Walt Pierce bringing his 450 hp Stearman in for landing after his solo performance

Cliff Robinson in the middle of his act in the Super Decathlon

Bill Leff arrives in style in his T-6 Texan

Flaring over the grass just before touching down on Runway 26

John Black has a rather unique smoke system in his Super Decathlon

I love the way the ribs are visible when light reflects off the fabric

Jenny Forsythe getting in position before her wing walking act with Walt Pierce

I saw Jenny's helmet-cam video during their practice last week at Stewart - craziness!

Emerson was living up to his grandpa's reputation - yes, that's a J-3 Cub looping!

More fun in the Cub, courtesy of Emerson Stewart III

Finishing up with a one-wheel landing (no, I can't fly the Cub like this!)

Brett Hunter, who lives on the field, going crazy in his Pitts like usual
Returning to the grass after another successful performance

Brett's Magnum Pitts was sitting there silently as the sun began to set

Watching Walt disassemble the wing walking supports on top of his Stearman

A perfect ending to the evening - two Stearmans together in the twilight