Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope you and your families are having a wonderful holiday season. Gina and I have been enjoying a good, if hectic, month and are thankful for finally having a few days to settle down with our own family. Here's to a great Christmas and New Year for all of you.

And now, a little aviation-themed holiday tale...
T'was the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp,
Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.
The aircraft were fastened to tie downs with care,
In hopes that -- come morning -- they all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots,
With gusts from two-forty at 39 knots.
I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up,
And settled down comfortably, resting my butt.

When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter,
I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow,
Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick,
I'd have sworn that the call sign he used was "St. Nick."
I ran to the panel to turn up the lights,
The better to welcome this magical flight.

He called his position, no room for denial,
"St. Nicholas One, turnin' left onto final."
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer!

With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came,
As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:
"Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun!
On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he takin'?

While controllers were sittin', and scratchin' their heads,
They phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread,
The message they left was both urgent and dour:
"When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower."

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking,
Then I heard, "Left at Charlie," and "Taxi to parking."
He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh,
And stopped on the ramp with a "Ho, ho-ho-ho..."

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk,
I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks.
His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost,
And his beard was all blackened from Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale,
And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn't inhale.
His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly,
His boots were as black as a cropduster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red,
And he asked me to "fill it, with hundred low-lead."
He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump,
I knew he was anxious for drainin' the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief,
Then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log,
These reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog.
He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear,
Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, "Clear!"

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk,
He called up the tower for clearance and squawk.
"Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction,
Turn right three-two-zero at pilot's discretion"

He sped down the runway, the best of the best,
"Your traffic's a Grumman, inbound from the west."
Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed through the night,
"Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight."

- Author Unknown
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Crossing the quarter-century mark in fitting fashion

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 48 degrees, wind 190 degrees at 6 knots

I really had no plans to fly today. Not that one ever needs to have planned to fly in advance! But the great weather and unfortunate, absolutely horrible news dominating every website and television program made for an easy decision to drive down to Stewart after work. There's nothing like a little time behind the stick in a J-3 to clear one's head.

I don't care how many times I take a version of this photo - it never gets old

Knowing the 250-hour mark was close, I had originally planned to cross it on a flight somewhere (probably a $100 hamburger/pancake run) with Gina. That obviously didn't occur today. Still, the end result was even more fitting in a way. My first flight - at Stewart, at least - was in a Cub just over 4 1/2 years ago. So it was nice to be up in the pattern, flying solo in a J-3, when I crossed that symbolic quarter-century mark.

There wasn't much time, so a few laps were all I squeezed in

I made four trips around the pattern and finished the first three with a mostly-normal landing. I came in slightly high and hot and landed too far down the runway but the touchdowns themselves were all extremely smooth. Perhaps the luxury of 3,000 feet of grass combined with a Cub made for a lax performance in that aspect. Regardless, I landed intentionally long on the fourth and final trip, touching down about halfway down the runway and rolling to a stop right in front of the hangar. I pushed the yellow bird back inside myself and wandered back down towards the office.

Mind cleared.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.5 hours
Total Time: 250.3 hours

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Experience the 787 in 360 interactive degrees - in flight!

Boeing has put together a very cool interactive experience on their website. We've all seen neat 360-degree panoramas of cockpits before, but this one-ups everything out there. Now you can actually "ride along" on an actual flight with the ability to look around the entire flight deck!

Click the image above or visit newairplane.com/787/dreampass to check it out.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Awesome cockpit footage from Matt Younkin's Beech 18 routine

This man is a pilot's pilot. Nothing like an aerobatic performance in twin-engine transport. The whole interview and video is great, but if you're in a hurry go straight to the 12:45 mark.

Not bad, eh?

Friday, November 30, 2012

A little more night from the right

Plane: Cessna 182 RG 
Route: MGY, Local (Approaches at I66)
Weather: High overcast, 47 degrees, wind 200 degrees at 6 knots

Mike sent me an IM this afternoon and said he wanted to brush up his skills under the hood. He hadn't flown since we went up three weeks ago. There was a high overcast but otherwise it was a perfect night with great visibility. We met at Wright Brothers around 5:30 and were in the air about 20 minutes later.

The indoor view, shortly after we climbed in

The approach lights were OTS at ILN, which is where Mike had planned to go practice. With that option off the table, he elected instead to fly a couple approaches at nearby I66. We came in once from each direction; the second approach was definitely more stable than the first. It really can be a bit disconcerting at night to see just how low you are when the approach levels you off to look for the airport!

Approaching the Dayton Mall

Dayton Mall again - that's I-675 on the left

Final approach for Runway 20 at MGY

Walmart and the Dayton Mall

 Passing over out neighborhood - my Christmas lights are quite bright! :)

We headed back to MGY after those two approaches and Mike shot the GPS into Runway 20 there. You can see from my not-great-but-still-neat photos above that we passed over some well-lit local areas on the way in. That and the fact that my Christmas lights at our house are wonderfully visible from above! Night flight sure does produce some awesome views.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours (SIC)
Total Time: 249.8 hours

Monday, November 19, 2012

An anniversary surprise

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 55 degrees, wind calm

Gina and I spent last night celebrating the eve of our first anniversary about 35 miles south of home at a thoroughly fancy and delicious restaurant. When we woke up this morning, she said she had a surprise for me. Leaving the hotel, we made a quick stop at Micro Center and grabbed lunch before she told me to set the GPS for Stewart. To be completely honest, I wasn't sure if she had something crazy up her sleeve until we arrived.

Turns out it was just some time in our favorite Cub... which was a great treat. It's always fun, not to mention the "fittingness" of it all since that yellow airplane graced our Save the Date cards. We chatted in the office for a little while, then climbed on board NC98286 and took to the cool skies.

Passing over the Dayton Mall and the I-675 / I-75 interchange

Flying just north of Wright Brothers Airport

Since this was a completely unanticipated flight, I had even less of a plan in mind than usual. Not that one needs a plan. Flying a Cub is about as pure as flying gets. It's the perfect place to simply enjoy the view and revel in the glory of flying above this beautiful planet.

So that's what we did. I flew west, towards the school where Gina's currently working a long-term sub position. We circled overhead and then I headed back towards home. We passed over our neighborhood as I ascended above pattern altitude at Wright Brothers. Closing in on Stewart, a steep spiral made for a fun descent back down to 1,800 feet.

That's our neighborhood down below - our street's in the middle

Gina's always a good front-seat passenger!

The pattern was clear so I made one low pass over the runway before circling back around to land. We touched down softly on Runway 08, rolling past the cones, right up in between the hangars. Not a bad way to spend part of our day off together. She certainly knows me well.

Here's to many more wonderful years shared in the cockpit, babe!

Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 249.0 hours

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sitting on the right at night

Plane: Cessna 182 RG
Route: MGY, Local (Approaches at DAY)
Weather: Clear, 42 degrees, wind calm

Mike wanted to knock out a little hood time tonight. It was completely clear and the crisp fall air sure makes for some of the smoothest flying. Best of all, it was a chance to see the local area from above at night. It's been far too long since I last flew at night - 1197 days, to be precise.

We shot two ILS approaches to Runway 24L at Dayton International. Other than another Cessna (that appeared to belong to OSU's aviation program) also practicing an approach and two jets landing on Runway 18, the radios were all but silent. Following the second approach, we turned south and passed over downtown Dayton before landing back at Wright Brothers.

Our first approach into DAY

Long final on the second approach

Crossing over the Great Miami River and downtown Dayton

Looking back towards the city; Miami Valley Hospital is in the bottom-left

You'll have to forget the cameraphone quality of the photos. Still... it's a view that's hard to beat!

Today's Flight: 0.3 hours (SIC)
Total Time: 248.2 hours

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sucky steep turns

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Broken clouds, 43 degrees, wind 330 degrees at 7 knots

It's been a few weeks since I had a chance to fly. So long, in fact, that I'm extremely glad Gina and I took the opportunity to go up and photograph the foliage in mid-October. All the colorful leaves are long gone at this point. Between cruddy fall weather and living in The Only State That Matters this election cycle (i.e. we've got TFRs all over the place!) the opportunities for aviating have been quite limited as of late.

Gina was working this afternoon (she works part-time in the office at Stewart these days - not sure if I've mentioned that on here yet) so I took the little Cub up solo. I figured it would be nice to get in some practice. With a moderate wind out of the north, I'd also be able to get in some crosswind takeoffs and landings.

Cold temperatures and flying solo made for some quick climbs today

I headed out over the lake to knock off a few steep turns. At least that was the plan. Usually I can polish off a couple with good precision in no time flat. I have no clue what was up today; I was all over the place. Not rolling out on heading, altitude fluctuating ± 200 feet, airspeed increasing... it was a mess. Determined to get it right, I probably did 15 or 20 before I got everything in check and hit my wake on the roll-out  Normally I make sure to do it one more time to confirm it's not a fluke but that one success was good enough for me this afternoon!

After pulling the carb heat for a power-off stall / falling leaf series, a steep spiral brought me down to 1,800 feet and I re-entered the pattern. The local skydive outfit was doing their thing so it was a typical day at Stewart - avoiding the human missiles plus seeing and avoiding a few other NORDO taildraggers. In the end, I did five circuits; three regular takeoffs and landings followed by two power-off 180 approaches. I flared about six inches too high on nearly every landing but, all in all, it was a decent afternoon behind the stick.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 247.9 hours

Monday, October 22, 2012

Aerial footage of Endeavour's flight over Los Angeles

This is too awesome not to share. Any aviation or space enthusiast should appreciate the unique perspective. One of two F-18s escorting the SCA captured some incredible footage of the Pacific coast, Los Angeles, and LAX prior to landing last week.

It's sad that the Shuttle program is over, but at least NASA has done an incredible job delivering the spacecraft to their new homes!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Foliage in the autumn twilight

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 59 degrees, wind 160 degrees at 6 knots

After last Thursday's flight, I made sure to reserve the Cub again - soon. It was obvious that we were quite close to peak colors and I didn't want to miss out. I haven't timed our fall sightseeing flights very well the past couple of years; I've been determined to do better in 2012!

Gina and I took off into the crisp evening air, leveling off a little more than 500 feet above the sparse farmland and rolling hills. She handled the camera and took all the great shots you can see below. I flew a random, meandering path... pointing the nose towards whichever bright colors caught my eye.

Eventually, I entered the pattern at Wright Brothers. Not to land but simply because Gina wanted to see some foliage near the airport and it was the safest way to fly over the area. I made a low approach and then we climbed up to around 3,000 feet while flying back to Stewart.

I did a couple steep turns for a little practice and then, after allowing a 182 in the pattern below us to land, steep spiraled down for the landing. Unfortunately, I tightened up my spiral a bit too much. Combined with the strong southerly winds (at pattern altitude) it left me in too tight on short final. In went the throttle for a go-around as I set up in a wider pattern. The second approach was much more stabilized and resulted in a decent landing.

Normally I'd land in the other direction with a direct crosswind; a headwind on base helps reduce the tendency to overshoot. However, the 182 was landing Runway 26 and I followed suit. So, mental note for next time... widen up that spiral or even offset it slightly south of the airport in a similar wind situation.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 246.8 hours

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back in the big Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 55 degrees, wind 200 degrees at 3 knots

My favorite Cub returned to service a few weeks ago but I didn't have a chance to take her up until tonight. She has two brand-new metal wings, topped with yellow fabric done in Cathy's impeccable-as-usual handiwork. Gina and I headed down to Stewart after work for a short sightseeing flight. You've got to enjoy our short fall color season when Mother Nature allows!

 The leaves, basking in the dwindling twilight, were beautiful from above...

This red tree stood alone in a vast, open field

We didn't have time to take advantage of the extra 20 hp to climb up for any fun with streamer cutting. Instead, we circled over the area for a few minutes before heading back towards the airport. I made a low pass and saw Tommy standing on the fuel pad, topping off the Fly Baby's small fuel tank. He quickly launched into the air and joined up with us, just long enough for Gina to take the awesome photos you can see below.

Turning in behind us as the sun nears the horizon

Pulling up on our right wing

A great close-up shot before breaking off to land

It was chilly and the sun was crossing the horizon as I circled on the north side of the airport. With a clear pattern and a now nearly-calm wind, I elected to land on Runway 8. No sense in landing directly into the sun if you don't have to. We touched down softly on the slightly damp grass, rolling off between the cones and shutting down next to the hangar.

Just another fun day in Waynesville...

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.4 hours
Total Time: 245.9 hours

Monday, October 8, 2012

A little 1940s-era flying

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Partly cloudy, 51 degrees, wind light and variable

Mike sent me a message this afternoon and said he was going up in the big Cub after work. He said to see if another aeroplane was available so I could tag along. I'm not current in the Champ (it's all that was available when I called Stewart) so I was planning on a quick re-checkout with Emerson. However, the little Cub opened up when I got there so I grabbed the J-3's keys instead.

I propped Mike (which took a while - nothing like a slightly flooded C-85 to make hand-propping a fun process...) and he took off, heading south along the valley. Tommy had just pulled into the airport and decided to join along in the T-Craft. He propped me and then the two of us took off together in loose formation about fifteen minutes after Mike had launched.

Vintage aviating - thanks to Elizabeth for the great photo!

Tommy turned east out of the pattern and I flew off his right wing as we headed towards the lake. We traded positions and he slid in off my left wing as I slowly turned back towards the airport. I spotted Mike in the other Cub at that point and the two of us joined up on him. You can see how that turned out above.

We followed Mike into the pattern, flew an extended downwind while he landed, and then made a pass over the runway together. A couple solo passes later, the sun was sitting just below the horizon. I slipped over the power lines for a near-greaser and Tommy followed behind me.

The air was about as smooth as you'll ever find tonight. Just a perfect evening for this kind of flying. The fall colors are getting good around here, too - though I didn't get to spend too much time looking at them today. All in all, it was definitely an awesome night for any pilot!

Today's Flight: 0.5 hours
Total Time: 245.5 hours

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Breakfast and some time in the right seat

Plane: Cessna 182 RG
Route: MGY-I74-MGY 
Weather: Clear, 64 degrees, wind calm

Mike's quite close to his Instrument checkride at this point (passed his written last week - good job man!) and wanted to get in some hood time on this smooth fall morning. We met at Wright Brothers around 9:00 and took off towards Springfield. Columbus Approach vectored us out past the airport and then turned us back west to shoot the VOR 24 Approach.

Final approach into Springfield

Once he pulled the hood off (the minimums are interesting - you're pretty dang high and right over the airport at the missed approach point) we climbed back up and pointed the nose towards Urbana. We spent about an hour on the ground recharging our internal fuel tanks with the Airport Cafe's usual tasty breakfast fare. As to this next point... yes, I realize I'm slightly biased. Anyway, their famous pies are good but Gina's (she's been selling them at Stewart for the past few months) really are better; completely from scratch with fresh - not canned - fruit!

This morning's breakfast destination

Back in the air, Mike thought about shooting an approach at DAY but the winds had them using Runways 06 and 18. That would've resulted in a loooong vector past the airport. So instead he elected to head back to Wright Brothers and threw the hood back on for the GPS 20 into MGY.

Passing by downtown Dayton on our way home

It was a fun morning. The weather was perfect and breakfast was tasty. I headed down to Stewart afterwards to help out with a private airshow they were hosting. It was an extremely long day but time flies (and is too much fun) when said day is spent surrounded by airplanes!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours (SIC)
Total Time: 245.0 hours

Friday, September 28, 2012

Simple Cub Fun

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 66 degrees, wind 120 degrees at 4 knots

I spent nearly all day today helping out at Stewart. They're hosting a private airshow tomorrow and there was a lot of work to be done. We set up tables and chairs, moved benches, put up over 1,000 feet of fence, and plenty more I'm probably forgetting.

After all that was done, I was sitting at the airport on a nice evening to fly. Like any sane pilot, I decided to hop into whatever was available for a little fun behind the controls! I ran into Jamie when he came out to prop me and told him to hop in if he wanted to go up. We flew out over the lake, cut some toilet paper, did a couple spins, and landed back on the grass just before sunset.

Fun, indeed.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours
Total Time: 244.3 hours

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fly-ins, pancakes, balloons, and lasers

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-BTL-2H4-OEB-40I
Weather - 40I: Clear, 50-65 degrees, wind calm
Weather - BTL: Clear, 64-72 degrees, wind light and variable

Today was, quite simply, a perfect day for a pilot. We've been planning to fly to Kalamazoo for the day to attend the Triple H Fly-In for a while. My friend Rob has been telling me how great it is and I've been trying to get up there for it. Today, the weather and calendar finally cooperated.

It also turned out to be the day Western Michigan University's College of Aviation was holding their annual Pancake Breakfast Fly-In. Both Gina and I are WMU alumni and I'd never landed at W.K. Kellogg Airport before (home to the College of Aviation) so those were more than enough reasons for a last-minute change in plans. I decided that we would stop at BTL for breakfast, then continue on to 2H4 for the fly-in. We arrived at Stewart around 7:30, just after sunrise.

There were some visitors at the airport before we took off

As we were preparing to leave, a hot air balloon began descending over the airport. I assumed they were going to land and asked (yeah, you can easily talk to people in balloons - they're neat, and quiet, aerial contraptions) if I should move the plane. They said nope, just passing by for "in-flight beverage service." One of the ground crew members proceeded to toss bottled water to the people in the basket. Ha! Gotta love the good folks at Bella... :-)

One thing about early morning, cool-weather departures in parked-outside airplanes is that the windows love to fog up. I wiped them clear during preflight but knew it would take a minute in the air to rid them of all the moisture. Forward visibility was sufficient as I pushed in the throttle and the Skyhawk took to the crisp, fall-like air. As anticipated, the view fully cleared in seconds.

Highlights from all of today's flying - BTL, 2H4, OEB, and more!

I contacted Columbus Approach and got a squawk code for flight following all the way to Battle Creek. An Air Force KC-10 was up early practicing approaches at DAY; the controller called the traffic as they passed about 1,500 feet beneath us. We made our way northward, eventually receiving a handoff to Fort Wayne Approach.

Some early-morning clouds were lingering near Eastwood Lake

Thousands of cars were parked at the USAF Museum for the Air Force Marathon

Windmills stretch for miles in the Blue Creek Wind Farm near Van Wert, OH

Crossing into Michigan while flying parallel to I-69

Somewhere near the Michigan-Indiana state line we were told to contact Kalamazoo Approach. They called out one airplane (which we never spotted) and told us to contact Battle Creek Tower about eight miles from the airport. The controller told me to enter a left base for Runway 23R but traffic was so light that he cleared us to land well before we reached that point.

Downtown Battle Creek lies ahead

I made a pretty good landing - until the nose wheel started to shake like mad. Back pressure on the stick, a little dance on the brakes... ahh, all better. Mental note to tell them to check the shimmy damper when we get back to Stewart.

We parked on WMU's ramp and hopped out, hungry for some pancakes. They were delicious and lived up to their "flying" reputation - the cook tosses them into the air and you have to catch your meal with your plate. I'm happy to report that Gina and I went five-for-five on the morning.

After the blood sugar boost, we wandered around for a little while. I ran into another WMU grad who now flies for United and we talked for a few minutes about his recent 787 upgrade training (jealous!) and aviation in general. Then it was time to head to Triple H, so we climbed back in the 172 and contacted Ground. We were airborne off Runway 23R a few minutes later.

It's a very short flight from BTL to 2H4 - when I checked on the video back at home, it was only 13 minutes from takeoff to touchdown. However, those were a relatively busy 13 minutes. Being a grass strip nestled amongst trees on all sides, it took a few minutes to find the place. Thankfully I was able to spot other airplanes in the pattern and entered on the 45 from a few miles out.

My landing was less than graceful but it got the job done. I set up for a short field approach using all 40 degrees of flaps and a 70 MPH approach speed. It worked out perfectly until the flare when, due to the limited remaining energy, I flared a bit too much... right when we hit ground effect, which caused me to balloon up more than expected. I recovered, though, relaxing the back pressure and touching down rather softly. We turned off the grass runway about halfway down its 2,400 foot length.

This one photo pretty much sums up the fly-in

A pristine 1959 Imperial and a Studebaker Champion

A beautiful first generation Chevy Impala

You're not going to find many better-looking Cessna 140s 

I love Cessna 195s - this guy made an awesome pass on departure, too

Piper J-5 Cub Cruiser with a hard-to-miss paint job

It's not a proper grass strip without a yellow Cub on the ground!

This polished Ercoupe is a thing of beauty; we ran into the pilot at OEB later, too

Gina and I wandered around with Rob and his girlfriend Abby for a while. As you can see from the photos above, it was a pilot's kind of place and a perfect example of a grassroots fly-in. Old airplanes, old cars, (some) old people. Not to mention free food! We brought one of Gina's famous strawberry pies (the crowd must have agreed - it was gone long before we made our way up the food line) as our dish to pass.

You can't beat this vantage point for watching T-6s depart up close!

Eventually, we all climbed into Rob's SUV and headed into Kalamazoo. It's a city that both Gina and I love so we appreciate any opportunity to visit, even if it's only for a couple hours. We ended up at Olde Peninsula for some snacks and drinks - a Coke in my case, since I had to fly. Not that I didn't figure out a way to enjoy some of their famous beer. We bought a growler of their seasonal Pumpkin Ale to enjoy back in Ohio!

We said our goodbyes and prepared to depart around 5:30. It's handy having friends who are awesome aviation photographers. Rob took a bunch of great shots of us leaving Triple H! I've included a few of them below for a different perspective of our departure...

Lifting off in a combination short/soft-field takeoff

About to wave the wings to say goodbye

Making a low approach before departing towards Kalamazoo

The only other time I've flown over Kalamazoo was way back in 2002 on the third flight ever recorded in my logbook, before I even was thinking about attending WMU. Since I don't know when we may fly overhead again I figured we shouldn't pass up the opportunity to fly over campus for some photos. Kalamazoo Tower gave us permission (it's at the edge of their airspace) and Gina manned (womanned?) the camera while I flew a wide circle overhead.

WMU's Goldsworth Valley - where Gina and I lived freshman year

Zimmerman Hall - our sophomore year home in Kalamazoo

Looking northeast down West Michigan Avenue

WMU's West (Main) Campus

West Campus and the recently-completed "New" Sangren Hall

Waldo Stadium - Go Broncos!

College of Health and Human Services on East Campus

The famous water tower at Kalamazoo State Hospital

It was a ton of fun to see so many familiar buildings and sights from above. Admittedly, I was concentrating on flying at the time and didn't get to fully appreciate the view until I got home and looked at the photos. Gina and I really do love WMU, Kalamazoo and West Michigan in general (have I said that enough yet?) and we both had a blast circling over campus.

Anyway, I pointed the nose towards Coldwater and Kalamazoo Tower handed us back off to Approach. There were no clouds in the sky and the sun was at that just-right angle where everything below was lit up in beautiful, vivid color. I enjoyed the view while Gina read a book during our short hop to Branch Co. Memorial Airport.

We landed on Runway 04 and taxied to the fuel pump. It took a minute... guess I should've Google Earthed the airport before we left home to figure out where the pump was located! The airplane took 25 gallons of 100LL, which calculated out to a fuel burn of about 8.0 gal/hr. That's precisely in line with the numbers I've seen on previous long trips in 14L. It's nice when things work out like that.

Shortly thereafter we were back in the air, climbing to 7,500 feet and talking with ATC. I heard what was one of the best radio calls I've ever witnessed while we were under the control of Fort Wayne Approach. The controller asked a helicopter pilot where he was headed; he replied that, oh, he was just dropping a bride off at her wedding. Love it.

Descending over Dayton, we experienced something I honestly never thought I'd encounter in the air. Someone was shining a laser into the sky and, as far as I could tell at the time, was aiming at our airplane. Thankfully it was still light out and we were relatively high so it wasn't anything more than a brief distraction. Not-so-thankfully (for the idiot shining lasers at airplanes) I happened to have the camera recording at the time. It's all captured on the video below. The investigation's in the FAA's hands now so that's all I currently have to say about it.

The camera was recording when we were hit with a green laser over Dayton

The sunset was beautiful tonight. Gina took some photos as we passed over downtown. The lights of the city twinkled below in the dwindling daylight. It truly was a beautiful view during our final descent down to pattern altitude.

Passing over top of downtown Dayton just past sunset

It's blurry, but the colors are too good not to include it!

I crossed over the airport midfield and made a smooth landing on Runway 26. We were safely back home after a really fun flying adventure! Although it was still plenty bright to see, my video camera doesn't have the best low-light performance. That's why the video at the top of the post ends while we're passing over downtown Dayton.

There's not too much else to add about today. We flew a lot, saw a lot, ate a lot, and expended a lot... of energy. Both of us were pooped by the time we got home. That said, we'd do it again in a heartbeat. You just can't beat a good day trip made possible by general aviation!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 4.8 hours
Total Time: 243.6 hours