Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Less than ninety days until the big day

Things have been extremely hectic and busy lately, to say the least. Our wedding is less than three months away and working on all the final details - in addition to work, the usual household chores, and traveling out of state what seems like every weekend - is consuming just about every last free moment I have. For those of you who are newer to the blog, you may have never read the story of our engagement last spring. So while I continue to figure out when I'm going to have a chance to fly again, why don't you take a trip back in time 14 months to read all about my surprise engagement trip and proposal?

As I usually ask and post about on here when I'm not doing much flying, please comment or send me an email if there's anything specific you'd like to see on the site. I have a couple things planned but just haven't had an opportunity to write them yet. One reader requested details on my video equipment setup. I am also dreadfully behind on finishing reviews of two checkride prep books. Hopefully I finish both before the wedding, but no guarantees. So again, let me know if there's anything you'd like to see... and safe flying!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Buzzing around with the boss and family

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Clear, 78 degrees, wind 160 degrees at 3 knots

One flight that I've been trying to schedule for a couple years now is a sightseeing jaunt with Russ, my boss, and his kids. After checking the forecast yesterday and realizing tonight's weather would be near-perfect, I asked Russ if they were available. They were, so we finally were going to get to go flying.

I'd hoped to fly us all down to Cincy Lunken for dinner at the Sky Galley but the 172 wasn't available until 7:00 pm. No worries, we'd just do the usual sightseeing tour instead. Russ and Jake are avid golfers, so they requested that I fly over some nearby courses. After that, I figured I'd just point the nose at whatever they wanted to see. One of those little joys about flying airplanes.

Since it was still kind of warm out, I elected to fly over to Wright Brothers and meet them. Better to have 5,000 feet of concrete in front of me than 2,900 feet of grass... at least that's how my mind works, regardless of what the book says. Plus, they live right around the corner from MGY (as do I) so it was just a short drive from their house to meet me there.

It was just about 7:15 pm when I landed and taxied to the ramp and they walked out of the building just after I hopped out of the airplane. Talk about great timing. Everyone climbed aboard, I explained the seatbelts and door operation, and started her back up. Jon was quite interested in all the flying stuff so I explained the dual ignition system as I went through the runup. Nobody was in the pattern and I departed on Runway 20 via short field technique.

Jake sure was ready to go flying

Explaining the magneto check to Jon during the runup

Our shadow just after takeoff from Wright Brothers

China Cottage in Springboro, just south of MGY

After takeoff, we flew south and passed over Springboro High school. Lots of hot air balloons were flying and they enjoyed seeing those from the air as I slowly turned west and then north. We crossed over Moraine Airpark (I73) and then turned east, circling around NCR Country Club a couple times so Russ could take a bunch of photos.

That's near where Dayton's airspace starts and not too far from WPAFB so I held altitude at 2,200 to 2,300 feet to remain in the clear. I flew us further east, pointing out the USAF Museum and WPAFB before we passed over Kettering and the Research Park where our office is located. That was about two minutes from NCR by air - sure beats the 15 minutes it takes by car!

NCR Country Club

Research Park - our office is in the foreground

Kodak office - this be where I work!

The Greene - one of my common sightseeing points of interest

Looking west along Dorothy Lane in Kettering

Hot air balloon just south of Greene County Airport

Once we were east of town and clear of all the airspace, I climbed up to 2,500 feet and let Jon take the controls. He had a blast flying the plane and did a really good job coordinating rudder with ailerons once I explained why we do that and what all the controls do. He flew us over Centerville High School where the marching band was practicing and then over towards their house. I took the controls back and flew a couple semi-steep turn around their house.

Jon took to the controls like a natural

Centerville High School - the marching band was busy practicing

I think everyone enjoys seeing their house from the air!

You sure couldn't beat the scenery tonight

Jon took the controls back and I had him fly a couple headings to get us over Caesar Creek Lake. He was asking some questions about learning to fly and (after I explained it's the hardest part for most students) landing. After explaining how the controls get mushier at slower speeds I figured what the heck and put us into flow flight to show him what I meant. I slowed down, added flaps, and eventually had to add quite a bit of power to maintain 60 mph and stay level. Nothing like a quick illustration of the backside of the power curve.

Describing slow flight, if I recall correctly

Looking for traffic like a good pilot should :-)

Close to entering the pattern as the sun started to set

The sun was close to the horizon at this point, so it was time to head back and land. They all said they like roller coasters so I put us into a steep spiral to lose 1,000 feet and get down to pattern altitude. That elicited three grins (four if you count mine) and a bunch of good comments. Phew, my not-having-to-clean-up-the-airplane streak is still intact.

Winds were basically calm and the traffic in the pattern was using Runway 8. I hate landing into the sun (it basically points straight down the runway at Stewart) so that was much appreciated. I set the plane down pretty softly but we hit a couple good divots just as we touched. As I said to them, "that's the difference between concrete and grass!"

Turning from downwind to base at Stewart

Turning final for Runway 8 at Stewart

Short final - I really like this shot (thanks for the photos, Russ!)

Even shorter final, this time focused inside the cockpit

Attaching the tiedown ropes while explaining something

Jake seemed to enjoy the left seat

Glad to see both brothers enjoyed the flight

Another photo to add to my wall of folks I've flown

We were treated to a beautiful sunset

I hate to repeat myself and I know I just said this a month ago, but sharing general aviation with new people is one of the best things about being a pilot. They all had a great time and we couldn't have ordered up better weather. Jon sure seems to want to learn to fly and hopefully I can take him up in the Cub soon so he can see that side of things. Of course, then he'll probably be completely hooked. I should start getting a commission... ;-)

(Thanks to Russ for taking all the photos that I've included in this post!) 

Today's Flight: 1.3 hours
Total Time: 206.4 hours

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hood work, yadda, yadda, yadda... Stearman!!!

Plane: Cessna 150 / Stearman / Cub, 85 hp
Instructor: Dave
40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 76 degrees, wind 110 degrees at 3 knots

Today was all sorts of fun - but we'll get to that. When we were at the airport last Saturday I booked time with Dave for this evening. I last completed a phase of WINGS in September 2009, so I either had to complete another or complete a full-on BFR by the end of next month. Since I already completed two out of of three of my required flight activities back in March, it made the most sense to go up with him and finish off this phase to extend my BFR currency by two more years.

Flight Tracks - Cessna 150 (red) / Stearman (green) / Cub (blue)

I had reserved the Cub but realized this afternoon that part of what I needed to do included hood work. Luckily the 150 was open, so I swapped rides and we hopped into the tiny Cessna. Hard to believe, but I haven't flown a 150 in nearly a year - that's what I used to always fly, nearly half my hours (98+) are in 150s! Anyway, after reacquainting myself with that tiny cockpit we took off and flew up to 2,500 feet over the lake.

Dave had me put the airplane into slow flight with 30 degrees of flaps, level at about 2,700 feet and hanging on the prop at 35 to 40 knots. I held the ailerons level and used the rudder pedals to turn us in a few circles. Then I pushed in the power and raised the nose until we had a nice break into a power-on stall. That went pretty well, so power to idle and two power-off stalls followed. The last one was one of the best I've ever done - a couple taps of the rudder and the nose dropped and the remained wings perfectly level at the break.

After all that, it was time to strap on the hood and do a little instrument work. The last time I went under my hood was my checkride in 2008, so needless to say I was overdue for some practice whether or not it was part of my WINGS activity. I won't say I did great, considering the lack of training and practice, but I did manage some decent turns and climbs. Obviously I've got a loooong way to go towards my IR. Dave then had me lower my head, tossed the airplane around, then had me recover for unusual attitude practice - always fun. I think he had me in a nose-low attitude once and an extremely nose-high attitude twice.

He asked for a landing just past a specific point on the runway, so I set up for a short field approach. Extended downwind, then all 40 degrees of flaps and 50 knots on final. Manage airspeed with pitch and descent with throttle. I was hanging on the prop as we crossed over the edge of the runway but we hit a tiny bit of lift and I touched probably 50-100 feet past my intended point. Still good, but I enjoy the challenge of a spot landing and would've liked to really nail that one!

Stearman + Grass = Perfection

Back in the office, Dave said he had to put the Stearman away. For those not familiar with the fine folks at Red Stewart Airfield, putting the Stearman away equates to a trip around the pattern and a free ride if you happen to be there at the right time. After over three years flying there, I was finally at the airport at the right time!

He explained how to climb in and I have to say it was easier than I expected - the cockpit was more spacious than you might think, too. The radial engine coughed to life and the smell was oh-so-vintage-airplane-good. Dave handed me the controls and had me taxi down to the other end of the runway. Needless to say, compared to a Cub, you really need to do S-Turns to see out of this thing on the ground!

I think I looked the part...

I did all the preflight checks and run-up, then taxied onto the runway. Dave was also on the controls but I managed to get us off the ground and climbed slowly at about 85 mph as we made our way around the pattern. Abeam the numbers, throttle back to about 1500 RPM and a descent at around 85 mph again. Dave said to give her a little forward slip on short final to really see where we're going, so left stick and right rudder and we lost some altitude and airspeed and I could see the grass strip out in front. With some more help on the controls, I brought the stick back all the way and we touched down somewhat softly. They really don't lie when they say it flies just like a big Cub.

So yeah, that was fun and awesome. The view was incredible - nothing like the air whipping past the wires and being able to see in every direction. No way I could come close to flying it without a CFI onboard anytime soon, but I did get to fly a Stearman this evening. 'Nuff said.

Gotta love the view from downwind - the runway's under the bottom wing

After all that fun, I still had the J-3 booked because that's what I originally was going to fly in with Dave. It really was too beautiful an evening not to fly some more. I figured I might as well take it around the patch three times for currency purposes.

A hot air balloon was launching on the field right when I took off, so I immediately side-stepped to the right of the runway to give them some room. If you watch the video below, you'll see me wave the wings to say hello a few different times as I fly past the balloon. Every landing was a monster slip power-off approach, partially because I thought they'd look cool with the fisheye lens and partially because they're just so much fun. The final landing was intentionally long to save some taxi time.

A little video fun - only at Stewart can you fit in 3 takeoffs and landings in 0.3 hours!

Between the finally-nice, fall-like flying weather and getting to fly three different airplanes there's not much else I need to say about today. Just one of those glad-to-be-a-pilot evenings. And, to be a little more specific, glad-to-be-a-taildragger-pilot. Sorry, but you'll never convince me you can have fun any cheaper or better than a Cub with the door open. Well, maybe in a Stearman - but then I'm not so sure that cheaper part applies.

Flight Tracks: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours / (not logged) / 0.3 hours
Total Time: 205.1 hours

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Grimes with the girls

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-I74-40I
Weather: Extremely hazy, 84 degrees, wind 220 degrees at 8 knots

Sarah, one of our great friends from college, came down to visit this weekend. I actually took her and another college friend flying a couple years ago in the 150. This time, considering I was seriously overdue for a $100 pancake run, we headed up to Urbana in the Skyhawk.

Here's video from the flight home - Urbana to Stewart

I had been thinking about Columbus, IN or Mt. Victory, OH as possible breakfast destinations but the less-than-desirable weather nixed those options. Instead, we'd head to the always-good Airport Cafe at Grimes Field. I've made that flight plenty of times and know the terrain and landmarks like the back of my hand... so I don't mind making the short 41-mile hop in MVFR conditions. The clouds were plenty high this morning but it was extremely hazy and forward visibility was definitely in the 3-5 mile range on the flight up.

One of the neighborhoods near Stewart, shortly after takeoff

Sarah riding comfortably in the 172's back seat

Gina sitting up front... I think I was adjusting the intercom squelch?

I departed straight out, then turned on course towards Urbana. We eventually leveled off at 3,700 feet so I was clear of WPAFB and Springfield's airspace. Along the way we passed by Adventure Acres, which I have learned while writing this is the largest corn maze in Ohio. The haze was very thick but I could see all the familiar landmarks and we were abeam downtown Springfield when I first spotted Urbana and the airport. Lots of planes were headed there (as is usually the case on a weekend morning) and I entered on a 45 for Runway 20 behind a Cherokee.

Adventure Acres near Bellbrook, OH

I always love seeing corn mazes from the air

Breakfast was thoroughly delicious as usual. I had a couple eggs over easy with home fries, bacon, and toast. Gina has sausage biscuits and gravy and Sarah had two of the largest pancakes I've ever seen - they were at least 1/2" thick each. The only bad thing is they were out of peach pie so we couldn't bring any home with us. Gina's got bad luck with that... next time I want pie from the Airport Cafe, she's gonna have to stay home and let me fly up there solo!

Visibility improved as we flew home and was a solid 10 miles by the time we were close to Xenia. We were level at 2,500 feet and the ride was very smooth punctuated by only the occasional light bump when we passed under a forming cloud. Entering the pattern I first didn't see the Champ, so my midfield crosswind entry turned into more of a midfield S-Turn entry that let me follow him onto downwind. I ended up with an extended final but it was helpful since the winds had really kicked up. I slipped down final and touched the left main softly with the stick all the way back into my chest - easily one of my best crosswind landings in a long time.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.4 hours
Total Time: 204.1 hours

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thunder Over Michigan 2011

Thunder is one of those airshows I've wanted to attend for years and yet my schedule always seemed to get in the way. This summer, the stars finally aligned. We were already up in Michigan for a surprise party for Gina's mom on Saturday, so I made plans to head down to Ypsi on Sunday to see the airshow with my best friend Rob.

Video of the Blue Angels' performance at the airshow

We got in as soon as the gates opened and spent a while walking through all the static displays. The usual assortment of aircraft were there along with an increased Navy presence, as is the case at most shows this year due to 2011 being the Centennial of Naval Aviation. Rob and I wandered around taking photos, talking with some crews of the aircraft on display, and enjoying that "airshow atmosphere" that both of us love.

1911 Ely-Curtiss Pusher replica

Grumman C-2A Greyhound
Grumman C-1 Trader

Boeing E-6 Mercury

Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon

Goodyear FG-1D Corsair

The Corsair's wings were still wet with morning dew

Lockheed P-3C Orion

Sonobuoy launch tubes on the belly of the P-3C

North American SNJ-5C Texan

The pilot was busy preflighting his Texan prior to the airshow

Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero

Douglas A-4B Skyhawk

Fat Albert and the Blue Angels' F/A-18s

Precisely parked on the ramp, just as you'd expect from the Blues

Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless - note the dive flaps

The paint job on this Dauntless is absolutely beautiful!

Dive flaps on the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

One neat thing that they do at Thunder that isn't so common at other airshows are full-on battle reenactments. First is a WWII European Theater battle, complete with ground troops and P-51s. Later on in the afternoon is a WWII Pacific Theater reenactment, which had Corsairs, Zeros, and ground troops. While we couldn't see much of the ground action from where we were standing the flying was awesome - one of the Zero pilots was definitely giving his Mitsubishi all it could handle.

Due to the aforementioned centennial, they had a very cool sequence in the middle of the show called the Legacy Parade. It lasted quite a while as a ton of Navy aircraft made passes along the crowd line - Corsairs, Texas, a Bearcat, Dauntless, Helldiver, Avenger, Catalina, and more. We were also treated to a mock dogfight between an A-4 and MiG-17.

Man O War - one of the Commemorative Air Force's P-51s

Gentleman Jim - a P-51 owned by Jack Roush

Another P-51 (blurred in the background) dives in for a simulated bomb run

Cutting it low and fast in front of the crowd

Low pass during the WWII European Theater battle reenactment

There's no better sound than a screaming Merlin engine

After the Mustangs flew, this Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey departed

Transitioning from vertical to horizontal flight

This is the only airworthy Helldiver in the world!

Grumman FM-2 Wildcat

Corsairs fly past the crowd in close formation

Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina

Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat in the Blue Angels paint scheme

Grumman TBM-3E Avenger

Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless

Grumman C-1 Trader

The modern side of the show had three acts - a couple passes from a B-1, a full F-16 demo from Viper East, and the US Navy Blue Angels. I'm always a fan of the noisy B-1 so it was nice to see and the Viper pilot did a great job tearing up the humid sky. The Blues never disappoint and today was no exception - they put on a great show and turned plenty of jet fuel into beautiful noise.

Viper East put on a great F-16 demo

Zooming past during the high speed pass

Flying along the crowd line at close to 600 mph

Knife edge with some great vapor on the F-16's delta wing

The humid air really helped the show out in terms of vapor

I'm definitely glad to have finally made it to Thunder Over Michigan. There was a little too much downtime during the show, but otherwise I really enjoyed the variety of aircraft and the flying. Rob and I always take in at least one airshow together every year so I'm glad we were able to keep that streak alive.