Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dogs and brats at Sporty's

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-MGY-I69-40I
Weather: Clear, 67 degrees, wind 160 degrees at 9 knots

After last night's fun in the Cub, a second day of awesome weather aligned itself perfectly with my plan for a short $100 burger run. I've tried once or twice before to fly down to Clermont County Airport (I69) in Batavia, home of Sporty's, but weather or mechanical issues have interfered. Nothing was blocking us today so I took advantage of the opportunity to fly down for their free weekly cookout.

A great flying destination for free food on Saturdays!

Due to the rain and field conditions (even with good drainage, 10" of rain in a month results in soggy grass!) I elected to pick Gina and Rob up at Wright Brothers. So I got everything hooked up in the 172 and made the very short hop from Stewart to pick them up. While I got out of there safely I'm pretty sure I would not have been anywhere near as comfortable with my takeoff performance with two more adults on board. I'd say it was a very good decision. My landing was a bit ugly thanks to a big gust on very short final - I straightened the airplane out but the extra lift caused some ballooning and a somewhat firm touchdown.

They were flight testing the new model of the Wright B Flyer when I arrived at MGY. Not true flight tests, just flying above the runway then touching down on the other end. I visited their museum a couple weeks ago and it was very cool to see the aircraft actually flying today. Not exactly sure how far along they now are in the certification program but it's clear they're making progress. Once complete, this new model of the flyer will be used at airshows around the world - it's specially designed to break down into a standard shipping container for easier transportation.

We all got situated in the airplane and then I taxied down, did a runup, and took off on Runway 20. I climbed to 3,500 feet and we all enjoyed the sight of the very green landscape passing below us. It's only 30 miles from Wright Brothers to Clermont Co. so the flight went by rather quickly. We enjoyed seeing King's Island and downtown Cincinnati on the beautiful spring morning.

Free food is clearly a draw and the CTAF was abuzz with pilots inbound from every direction. There was another plane a couple miles behind us also coming from the north and I intended to follow him since he was clearly moving faster. Then another plane called in from the south and I saw them about a mile ahead. I had been intending to fly abeam the airport then join the pattern for Runway 22 via a midfield crosswind entry. However, the Cessna in front of us was flying a B-52 pattern and I turned to follow them (we'd be number three) on an "upwind" leg before turning crosswind. No harm, no foul - just another day working into the traffic flow at an uncontrolled airport.

That Cessna flew an extended downwind, forcing me into an even more extended downwind. I held altitude until turning base since I was so far out from the airport. Once turning final, I pulled the throttle way out and ended up using all 40 degrees of flaps in order to land about 800 feet down the 3,500 foot runway. I rolled out to the end and we taxied to parking. You've got to love Eastern Cincinnati Aviation's line service - they attached a tow bar and pushed us into position before we even had a chance to get out of the airplane!

It was a slightly unconventional approach into Clermont Co. Airport

We all enjoyed the free brats, dogs, and metts. Plenty of people were there and lots of beautiful airplanes were out on the tarmac. The airport also seemed to be busy as usual with students and transient traffic - I saw people taking lessons and a guy in one of Ohio University's planes, presumably a flight student on a cross-country. Wandering around outside amongst airplanes an pilots... is there anything better to do on a sunny Saturday in the Midwest?

My good friend Mike drove down to meet us with his son and we all chatted for a while while eating. He also was kind enough to drive us next door (it's across the runway) to the Tri-State Warbird Museum. We didn't have much time so we didn't pay admission to get in but it's a neat little museum with a P-51, B-25, T-6 and other airplanes that are maintained in flying condition.

Citabria parked on the ramp in front of Sporty's

Looking across the airport towards Sporty's from the Warbird Museum

The plane was only reserved until 3:00, so I did my preflight while Gina talked with Mike and Rob took some photos (some are in this post) around the field. We all buckled in and I took off a little past 2:30. I wasn't worried about landing on the grass with all three of us on board so we headed straight back to Stewart. The air was still mostly smooth and the visibility great, just an overall enjoyable day to be flying.

Baron departing Runway 22 at Clermont Co. Airport

Since the winds were only slightly favoring Runway 8, I wasn't completely sure what direction they were landing. I elected to just stay level at our cruise altitude of 3,000 feet MSL and overfly the field. Turns out they were using Runway 8 as expected so I continued north for a couple miles before descending. I then banked left into a steep spiral and lost the 1,200 feet in (I think) 2.5 turns. Sure, you can descend gradually... but we were all in a fun mood today!

Steep spiraling down to pattern altitude just north of Stewart

From there I was in position for a 45 degree entry into the pattern and then continued smoothly onto the downwind leg. Carb heat on, pull back the throttle to about 1,500 RPM, descending from downwind to base to final while lowering the flaps. There was a right crosswind and the headwind component was a little less than I had anticipated so we were a tad high. Flaps down to the full 40 degrees and aim over the hump (to avoid the soggiest and muddiest spot on the runway) while sideslipping down final. I touched down very smoothly, right main first, holding the nose off the grass with the yoke all the way back. Another successful burger run in the books!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 187.5 hours

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring fun in a vintage Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 58 degrees, wind 300 degrees at 7 knots

This would have been a great spring to get my Seaplane rating. I could be landing something on floats in my yard at this point! Seriously, it's been historically rainy around here for the past month. However, the aviation gods smiled upon me at a great time. My best friend Rob headed down from Michigan to visit for the weekend last night and we have two straight days of nice flying weather. You know what that means... time for fun in the Cub!

We spent most of the day at the USAF Museum. Seems like we always spend some time there when Rob's in town and for good reason - the place is incredible. Today we were able to finally visit their Restoration Hangar, a new experience for both of us. Seeing the Memphis Belle and other planes up close and under restoration was an amazing experience. I'll share my photos here as part of my USAF Museum Series in the coming months.

A fun evening of flying - in 3D!

Rob and I arrived at Stewart around 5:30 and I got the plane pre-flighted and ready to go. Taxiing onto the soft grass (one benefit of the Seattle-like weather) and pushing in the throttle, I pushed forward to quickly raise the tail and we were flying within seconds. You can't argue with the performance of an 85 hp Continental in a Cub on a semi-cool spring evening. We climbed up to 5,500 feet while heading out over Caesar Creek Lake.

After a few steep turns and the requisite clearing turns to check for traffic, it was time for some true old-fashioned fun. I tossed a roll of toilet paper out the window and we chased it down. My accuracy is improving compared to when Gina went up in the Cub in October and November. I sliced through the streaming paper four or five times before we hit 1,500 feet AGL - my hard limit for stopping such activity. Words can't describe how much fun it is and it's a good exercise in throttle, speed, and management! Needless to say, Rob had a complete blast as well. Please note my comments in earlier blog posts about the legality of such activities if you're concerned, by the way.

Streamer cutting as seen through Rob's GoPro

It's hard to top that for the fun factor but we then cruised low along Caesar Creek Lake and the valley for a while. All the recent rain has the water behind the dam at the highest levels I've ever observed and you could see flooding all over the area. The view from 500-1000 AGL was great and the visibility was unreal; the rain sure has washed everything out of the air! I made a low pass at the glider port and then continued south along the valley towards I-71. Then I climbed up and we went around cranking and banking a little more - steep turns, steep spirals, and a short push on the stick here and there for that floating feeling.

Cruising around in the Cub with Rob

Rob took the controls for a few minutes and did a really good job. I could tell he was flying more coordinated than the last time we took the Cub up and I enjoyed having a brief reprieve to let my hand thaw out. It was a nice sunny day on the ground but the J-3's back seat wasn't particularly warm in the air! He flew us around south of the airport before I decided we should head back and land.

My first landing was the kind that every pilot dreams of - we touched down so softly in a perfect three-point attitude that you barely felt anything other than the bumps in the turf. After I briefed him on the procedure to ensure he exited behind the wing strut and headed directly backwards, Rob hopped out of the airplane to take some photos from the ground. I then headed back to the runway for some solo takeoff and landing practice.

Man did that Cub ever leap off the runway with only me and a half tank of gas! I held the brakes for a short field takeoff and was flying in the distance between two sets of cones, roughly 200 feet. I had to delay turning crosswind before I hit the end of the runway and was already at pattern altitude before turning downwind. Good times, my friends.

A solo, short field takeoff in the J-3

I ended up making four trips around the pattern - two normal landings and two simulated engine-out landings. All were at least a 3/5 in my book but the final landing was another 5/5 beauty, touching down softly after a monster slip to lose altitude with the engine at idle. Landing a Cub is just plain fun, and there's not much else to say about that.

Coming in for my final landing, a simulated engine-out

Rob took a bunch of photos, some of which are included in this post. He was also wearing a helmet-cam that captured the great video of our fun in the air. Thanks for all the great multimedia, Rob!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 186.0 hours

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

USAF Museum Series: Part 10

This has been making its way around the aviation forums and blogs recently. I'm not sure when it went online, but the USAF Museum has a virtual tour of the entire museum on the web. By my own rough count, there are 90 different locations on the museum grounds where you can view, rotate, and zoom in 360 degrees.

I've posted many of my own museum photos on the blog in the past (and will continue to do so in the future) but this site is incredible - especially for those of you who can't visit the museum in person. Just click here or on the photo below to access the virtual tour. Hope you enjoy it!

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, April 15, 2011

Currency and chow with the CFI

Plane: Cessna 172
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I-LUK-40I
Weather: Overcast, 68 degrees, wind 150 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 16

This was a particularly earthbound winter for me. Along with the usual weather that makes flying difficult, I have been traveling - a lot. Two weeks in Japan and South Korea back in January. Weekend trips to Michigan to take care of wedding stuff. Then I spent nearly four of the past five weeks on the road - Iowa and Wisconsin in March, then Spain and the UK the past two weeks. I love to travel and see the world so I'm not complaining, but it does make doing just about anything else difficult after a while.

The good news is the brunt of all that travel now appears to be behind me. That means I'm in catch-up mode back here at home, but at least I'll be around to take advantage of good flying days. Daylight is stretching back into the evenings and leaves are starting to grow on the trees. It finally feels like flying season again!

Since we hope to take at least one or two trips in an airplane this summer, I needed to get current in the 172. It's hard to believe but exactly six months have passed since I last flew the airplane! Instead of simply going up to knock out a few maneuvers, I thought I would add to today's mission. We'd still do the maneuvers but I also wanted to fly down to Lunken Field in Cincinnati for lunch at the Sky Galley... and CFI Dave (who had never been to the restaurant before) certainly didn't object to that proposal.

Video from today - I'm still figuring how to best use my new fisheye lens adapter

A low pressure system is barreling down on the region this weekend but I saw on the TAFs that the weather was forecast to remain clear until about 4 pm. That worked out nicely since I had booked the airplane from 11-2. I got a standard briefing about 10 am and decided all was well for the planned flight. It was going to be quite windy but the ceilings and visibility were good VFR.

We departed Runway 8 at Stewart and I climbed up to 3,000. Dave had me do a steep turn in each direction. I hit my wake on the first one to the left - it's always nice when I managed to do that. Then I configured the Skyhawk for slow flight and putzed along at about 60 mph indicated while making a descending, 360 degree turn. It struck me just how stable the airplane is (compared to smaller aircraft) while I was practicing the maneuvers. Students who learn to fly only in 172s don't know how easy they have it compared to those of us who flew 150s, Champs, and Cubs!

Even though it was a bit hazy on the horizon I spotted Lunken a good 15 miles out. After checking the ATIS, I called the Tower and they cleared us for a right downwind entry for landing Runway 3R. We were essentially already on a long, extended downwind so I continued straight ahead. In about 10 miles we reached the airport and I called Tower again and was cleared to land. My touchdown was pretty smooth but I left a little power in and, coupled with the gusty winds, that caused me to float before finally settling down for good.

Today's flight path overlaid on the Terminal Area Chart

Lunch was delicious - I had a barbeque burger and Dave had a club sandwich. This was my second meal at the Sky Galley and it's still high on my 'highly recommended' list of $100 burger destinations. You may recall that I took Joe, a coworker of mine, down there for dinner last June. The view from the restaurant/terminal is great and it's just an all-around neat airport to visit.

After a quick preflight, I started up and contacted Ground for taxi clearance. The wind shifted while we were eating and they were now taking off to the south. I was cleared to taxi to Runway 21R and called Tower for takeoff clearance after checking the engine on the runup pad. I was cleared for takeoff with a right turnout - possibly the best departure from Lunken. The view of downtown Cincinnati is incredible as you make the turn.

We had some help from the wind on the way home and I was entering the pattern at Stewart within 15-20 minutes. Nobody else was around as I crossed midfield and entered the downwind for Runway 8. The wind had picked up and was nearly a direct crosswind. My feet were dancing on the rudder pedals in coordination with my hand on the yoke to keep the nose pointed down the runway on short final. I didn't pull the yoke back as far as I should have and touched down in slightly too flat of an attitude, but I otherwise managed an acceptable landing. All that fresh, green, spring grass probably helped me out a little!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.2 hours
Total Time: 184.5 hours

Friday, April 8, 2011

A dream for many GA pilots: flying an L-39

Todd over at My Flight Blog recently had an incredible opportunity. He was able to go flying with Gauntlet Warbirds in an Aero L-39 Albatros, the Czech trainer that has become somewhat of a regular on the airshow circuit. In his 45 minutes in the air, they burned over 100 gallons of Jet A and I don't think I need to even say that it was worth every penny.

You can read his full post about the flight here. I hate roller coasters, but still... color me jealous!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Visiting the EAA AirVenture Museum

What do you when you're an aviation nut on a business trip to Wisconsin with some time to spare? You head up to Oshkosh, of course! I lucked out and finished my work at a customer site early last week so I had a little time to make a short pilgrimage.

You may recall that Gina and I landed at OSH last summer on our giant flying trip. However, we didn't have enough time to visit the museum that day due to weather. We landed for fuel and I had to figure out a flight plan that would put us closer to home while keeping us clear of thunderstorms. In the end, we flew to Kalamazoo to spend the night with my sister and flew home to Dayton the following day.

Anyway, I'm glad I was able to return to Oshkosh (no, I still haven't made it there for AirVenture - working on that...) and visit the EAA AirVenture Museum. It's certainly not as massive as the incredible USAF Museum that's in my backyard here at home, but it's a very nice museum. And it's free for me to visit as an EAA member!

Here are some photos I took during my visit - enjoy!

EAA Headquarters

Welcome to the EAA AirVenture Museum

Wider angle of the Pitcairn PCA-2

Rutan Voyager cockpit - it holds two...

...can you imagine being in there for 9 days straight?

XP-51 Mustang prototype, the oldest P-51 left in the world

Messerschmitt Bf 109 cockpit

Piper Cub - yes, an airplane I fly regularly is also in museums!

Spirit of St. Louis replica over a model of the city of Paris

EAA's Pioneer Airport at OSH

EAA's B-25 and P-51 sitting out on the ramp

I've been traveling a ton but have some flights planned in the near future, so hang around... I'll be back to regularly aviating soon!