Sunday, July 29, 2012

Safety Pilot N Paws

Plane: Cessna 182 RG
Route: MGY-4G1-MGY (Approaches at 4G1, MFD, MGY)
Weather: Scattered clouds, 78 degrees, wind variable at 4 knots

Mike and I had a puppy-filled weekend. Seven little guys flew into Wright Brothers on Friday night from North Carolina. I took four of them, who couldn't have been more than 8-10 weeks old, home with me for the night and Mike fostered the other three. They were cute and cuddly, just as you'd expect puppies to be. See below for proof! :)

When we first got home, they were pretty much inseparable

Getting more cuddly...

These two loved to be close to each other

Contained in the tiled part of the house - as if I need to explain why

No sane person can say no to these adorable little faces, right?

Fast-forward to this morning, when we met at Wright Brothers around 8:00. It was time to fly the pups to Greenville Municipal Airport, just across the OH-PA state line. There we would meet another pilot who was flying them the rest of the way to their new home near Buffalo, NY.

It took a little while to load them into the plane but we were underway around 8:45. The weather was absolutely beautiful on the way up - mostly clear skies and smooth, cool air. The dogs pretty much relaxed in their carriers the entire trip and Mike and I chatted much of the way.

One of the reasons I was tagging along on the trip was to act as a Safety Pilot. For those of you who don't know what that means, it's pretty simple. Mike's working on his Instrument Rating, which will allow him to fly in the clouds. In order to practice (and this would be the same for a pilot who is already Instrument Rated) he has to wear a device that prevents him from seeing outside. Since we're flying in Visual conditions, we are responsible for "Seeing and Avoiding" all other aircraft. Long story short, if one pilot is "under the hood" the FAA requires another pilot on board to watch for traffic and monitor everything. So that's where I came in - I kept my eyes outside and made a couple radio calls whenever Mike put the hood on.

As we approached Greenville, Mike called Youngstown Approach and requested the VOR/GPS Approach into the airport. An instrument approach is basically a series of points and altitudes you fly through in order to safely arrive at an airport in low visibility, clouds, etc. So he flew us down from cruise altitude on instruments until about a mile from the airport, at which point he peeked outside again and made a normal landing.

Puppies and airplanes really do play well together

You can barely see them in there - they slept most of the flight up to PA

Charging at me on the ground at Greenville Municipal Airport

Excitedly meeting the pilot who flew them to their new home

Mike and I attempting to say goodbye to all the energetic puppies

Starting to load the dogs into their second 182 of the day

These guys were quite content just relaxing on the ramp

One final goodbye to this cute little dude

All loaded up and ready for the last leg of their journey

The dogs were all happy to get out of their cages and roam around once we landed, as you can see from the above photos. We chatted with the other pilot for a short while as he met the puppies, then loaded them into his own airplane. It was around 11:00 when we took off and headed back towards Dayton. 

Instead of flying directly home, we first headed towards Mansfield. They are known for having great controllers and quite a few pilots around here seem to practice approaches there. Today it was our airplane taking advantage of their hospitality; Mike flew the ILS Runway 32 Approach. We didn't land - just got down close to the runway then continued on our way home.

One of my favorite sights in the air - clouds reflecting off lakes

Final for Runway 32 during a practice ILS approach at Mansfield

It's always fun passing over Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 

USAF Museum - with their new C-17 parked out on the ramp

Passing downtown Dayton on the RNAV GPS Runway 20 approach into MGY

One more view of the city reflecting off the wing

There's not much else to add. I got to log some time in the right seat, which is good for the pilot side of things. And it's always great to tag along on these Pilots N Paws flights and help out their great organization! If you'd like to learn more about them, volunteer, or make a donation be sure to check out their website.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours (SIC)
Total Time: 224.5 hours

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Windy basics

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 81 degrees, wind 340 degrees at 8-12 knots

I had to cancel last night's planned 150 flight due to thunderstorms in the area. After spending the morning on a bike tour run by the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (highly recommended!) this morning, I called up the airport to inquire about the Cub's availability. To my surprise it was wide-open all day! Taking advantage of that rare weekend availability, I headed down to Stewart for some solo practice.

The winds were directly across the runway so I would be able to get in more great crosswind practice. They were blowing pretty well when I took off at about 8-9 knots out of the north. I flew around the pattern three times - the last one was a simulated engine-out approach - and nailed the landing every time. It was probably the best, most consistent sequence of Cub landings I've ever had.

Pleased with my performance, I left the pattern and picked out a couple east-west roads for practicing S-Turns. They aren't something I practice all that often and I was pleased to see that I can still do a pretty good job with them. The GPS logger certainly helps illustrate that! Similarly, there was a tower alongside OH-73 that I used for some Turns Around a Point. 

Glad to see I can still pull off some decent ground reference maneuvers!

I'm always slightly apprehensive about practicing stalls. Of course, I shouldn't feel that way so I do try and force myself to do them every so often. Today was to be one of those days so I climbed up to 2,800 feet in preparation.

Carb heat on, throttle to idle, stick back, and wait... wait... wait. It's a Cub, remember - this thing can go pretty slow. Eventually I got a very clean break without any roll whatsoever. Nice!

I continued to hold the stick back, allowing the airplane to go into a Falling Leaf. That's where you remain in the stall and use only the rudder to keep the wings level. I held it for probably 15-20 seconds before finally relaxing the stick and bringing the power back in.

Those were probably the two best stall series I've ever done solo. The wings remained level the entire time. Clearly, I was feeling the 'butt in seat coordinated flight indicator' today. Good stuff.

Back in the pattern, I saw the windsock blowing pretty good. I checked the AWOS at Wright Brothers on my handheld radio and it was calling out 12 knots gusting to 15. Hmm, the solo wind limitation for taildraggers at Stewart is 10 knots. What goes up must come down so I obviously was going to have to land the airplane and I felt confident that I wouldn't have any issues.

A solid sideslip on final had me aligned with the runway as I crossed the power lines. Throttle to idle, hold it off, stick all the way back, and the right wheel touched down softly on the grass. Stick to the right for full aileron into the wind as the plane slowed down and I was safely back on the ground. This was a day of really great practice - and I drove home feeling sharper than ever in that awesome yellow cockpit!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 223.7 hours

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cub (on Rob's way) to Oshkosh!

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 84 degrees, wind 120 degrees at 3 knots

Pilot friend Rob (who used to blog about his aerial exploits) emailed me months ago asking if he could stay with us tonight. You see, he's in the midst of a crazy adventure to Oshkosh - riding all 2,015 miles from Philadelphia to Wisconsin and back on his motorcycle! The last time we said hello was when he and Gary flew out to visit nearly two years ago. We said yes to the visit, of course, and have been looking forward to seeing him.

Now if you know anything about me, you know I don't just pass up an opportunity to take a friend up in a J-3. Especially when they're a pilot! So that was the plan for tonight - a little slice of vintage flying in a Cub.

The best part of tonight's flight - getting up close with the Stearman!

The airport was especially active tonight - just the perfect example of grassroots aviation. Lots of taildraggers, a couple pilots camping there overnight in their Aeroncas, and some hot air balloons. We took to the air and Emerson pulled up on our wing shortly after takeoff as we headed east towards the lake. As you can see in the video above, the view was spectacular.

Our airplane of choice, shortly before we climbed in and took off

Has a PT-17 ever not looked stately in the sky? I say no.

After the Stearman broke off, we flew over the lake and then down the valley towards King's Island. Rob was enjoying the view out the open door and took some great photos. Nearly all the photos and video in this post are his handiwork - thanks for capturing the flight so well, Rob!

The lake was rather active tonight - lots of boats down there

We had a great view of King's Island

Turning back towards the airport, we saw that the hot air balloons had launched. I climbed up to about 3,000 feet to get level with them and we passed by at a distance, waving the wings as the folks in the basket waved back. Then I handed Rob the stick and he enjoyed having the controls for a little while.

You fly a Cub for the pure and vintage experience, not necessarily to go somewhere!

Passing by a balloon - there were quite a few out flying tonight

Shortly thereafter I re-entered the pattern and touched down softly on the grass. We parked the venerable J-3 in front of its hangar and hopped out, both having enjoyed a perfect summer evening flight. Good times, for sure.

A rare, front-seat view of the takeoff and landing

In case you're wondering about the title of the post, I'm playing off the name of the mass fly-in of Cubs scheduled to arrive at Oshkosh on Sunday morning. A group of over 100 J-3s are arriving together to celebrate the 75th anniversary of iconic yellow plane. Head on over to Cubs 2 Oshkosh for more info!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 222.8 hours

Friday, July 20, 2012

A new airport and some serious crosswind practice

Plane: Cessna 150 
Route: 40I-HAO-40I
Weather: Overcast, 70 degrees, wind 020 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 16

I originally had the 150 booked tonight to fly up to Wapakoneta for one of my friend Marty's famous BBQs. However, that got postponed and I was left with a few unplanned hours in an airplane. A quick glance at the weather - or trees, for that matter - got the gears churning in my head and it wasn't long before I figured it would be a great evening for some crosswind practice.

Late in the afternoon I glanced over my Sectional and saw that Butler County Regional Airport in Hamilton had a perfect runway alignment, oriented directly perpendicular to the winds. Although I've flown over top of HAO before, I never had landed there. Crosswind practice and a new airport? Sounds good to me!

A good workout under the semi-low ceiling (about 1,000 feet above pattern altitude)

It was a quick flight over from Stewart, especially with a slightly quartering tailwind. I was entering the pattern on a 45 for a left downwind to Runway 11 less than 15 minutes after takeoff. There's a hill just NW of the airport that you sort of fly around during your base-to-final. With the strong winds out of the north, this made for some good bumps and swirling air currents on final.

I ended up making four landings at Butler Co. Three were good - firm, but perfectly acceptable for crosswinds close to the little 150's demonstrated limits - and the fourth (which was actually my third in sequence) was... well, I got the airplane on the ground safely. I enjoy a good crosswind landing so tonight was lots of good practice. It was certainly a night where you couldn't shy off in making the airplane go where you wanted it to go. If any students are reading this, pay attention - instructors aren't kidding around when they teach you that!

Practice complete, I departed straight out for the short flight home. I actually passed through some light rain in two spots while cruising at 2,000 feet. The clouds looked pretty low but I checked the local AWOSs and they were indicating ceilings around 3,000 feet. It's fun to cruise along relatively close to the clouds, though - gives you a nice sense of speed. Nobody else was flying at Stewart so it was a quick entry into the pattern followed by one final crosswind landing.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.2 hours
Total Time: 221.8 hours

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Just me, the Piper, and the pattern

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 89 degrees, wind 250 degrees at 9 knots

Every now and then (or, at least as of late, more often than not) it's fun to just go up for nothing other than practicing the basics. In the case of tonight, just some time in the pattern. We had semi-strong winds blowing at nearly 10 knots right down the runway. Perfect time to get in a little short-field practice and make sure I can still fly a rectangular pattern!

Two landings were power-off, hence the rounded downwind-to-final

I felt quite sharp tonight. After my first landing, which was still respectable, the next four were pretty dang awesome. I even made what was perhaps my best short-field landing ever, and definitely the best one I've made in a Cub. Flying final at about 50 MPH, I used a slip as soon as I passed over the power lines, could literally feel the lack of energy as I rounded out, touched down extremely softly, and was turning off before the second set of cones. That's about 400 feet, for those of you keeping track at home.

Also, I'm not sure why I always seem to log 0.7 when flying solo. The past three times I've flown sans passenger I've knocked precisely seven clicks off the good ol' Hobbs. Maybe that's the point at which I get sick of myself? ;-)

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours
Total Time: 220.6 hours

Friday, July 13, 2012

Crosswind practice

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 79 degrees, wind 140 degrees at 9 knots

I've come across a few nights recently where we had decent crosswinds. Unlike most years, I didn't have many chances to get in that sort of practice this Spring. Tonight my schedule and the weather finally aligned so it was off to Stewart for some solo practice in the 172.

Productive, if not terribly exciting, practice - playback is at 7.5x speed

I got in two landings each at Stewart and Wright Brothers. Hard to believe, but the last time I landed at MGY was all the way back in September. Tonight was also the first time I flew solo since before the wedding - crazy how fast time has been flying by as of late!

The winds were out of the southeast; they averaged about 80 degrees off runway heading between the two airports. I was planning on using Runway 20 at Wright Brothers but another plane barreled into the pattern when I was on a 45 and said he was using Runway 2, so I just elected to cross midfield and follow him in. Due to the trees on the east side of the property, the swirling air made for a bumpier final approach. In the end, all my landings were decent (the first one at MGY was actually super smooth) and it felt nice to get a bit of a workout up there.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours
Total Time: 219.9 hours