Saturday, August 25, 2012

MERFI 2012, a precautionary landing, and carb ice

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-I74-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 80-90 degrees, wind variable at 5 knots

Unable to attend for the past two years, I marked MERFI 2012 on my calendar many months ago. Somehow time has flown by and it was already three years ago that I last landed in Urbana during the regional EAA fly-in. Gina made the trip with me this year. We took off from Stewart around 9:30 in the morning and were in the pattern at Grimes Field just over 30 minutes later. The place was hopping, the pattern full, and the CTAF clogged, but we sequenced in nicely and I made a safe landing.

2012 or 1942? Just your average summer morning in Waynesville... 

First on the agenda was breakfast. It's not a proper fly-in without pancakes and sausage, now is it? Both of us scarfed down everything on our plates and then wandered around for a while.

The entrance, a nice homage to the infamous Brown Arch

Quite the tasty spread, especially for five bucks!

I went to an FAA Safety Team seminar at 11:00 about runway incursions that counted towards my WINGS credit. Gina wasn't very interested in the merits of proper phraseology on our taxiways so she continued to roam around the airport. After the seminar, which was pretty good, I had the chance to meet up with Samuel. He's another pilot who flies at Stewart who I'd only spoken with electronically up to this point. It's always enjoyable to meet folks who fly there and read the blog!

Gina wandered back over and I said goodbye to Samuel. My bride and I then headed over to the Champaign Aviation Museum for a few minutes to escape the heat and look at their B-25 and B-17. Eventually it was time to head home so we walked back over to the 150 around 1:00.

Here's where the day got interesting...

We took off and I noticed a weird sound shortly after leaving the ground, but beyond the point when I would have landed back on the runway. It quickly became an extremely loud banging noise. At first, I thought it might be an engine problem but all the gauges were in the green and I didn't see anything odd outside. Then I figured it was probably something hanging out the door, but we both checked our seatbelts and headsets and it felt like everything was inside the airplane.

Still, something wasn't right and the noise was really loud. I immediately decided it was best to sort this out on the ground and made a quick lap around the pattern, returning to land on Runway 20. In the end, it was my seatbelt; the very end of it, only an inch or so, had gotten stuck in the door when I pulled it closed. It was so small that I couldn't tell it was caught when I tugged on the belt to check it. But it was certainly big enough to make a heck of a racket banging against the airplane in the wind.

Unedited (other than some added commentary) video of the takeoff and precautionary landing

Problem solved, I started the airplane back up and we again taxied down to the end of the runway for departure. There were about four planes in front of us so we were sitting there at idle for a few minutes before it was our turn. Onto the runway, full power, and...

Well, just watch the video below.

Our second attempt to leave resulted in an aborted takeoff - here's the unedited footage

My best guess, as narrated in the video, is that we were in that magical temperature/humidity range and carburetor ice formed while we were waiting in line for takeoff. I had done a run-up and checked the carb heat; everything performed normally. However, it was a few minutes later that we finally rolled onto the runway for takeoff. Thankfully, it happened within seconds of pushing the throttle in and we were still on the ground.

You may be wondering if I felt we were doomed at this point. Honestly, I wasn't. Although at the time I was thought it was an issue with the carburetor accelerator pump (the carb ice idea didn't cross my mind until discussing it with other pilots later) everything else appeared normal. I did two extended, full-power run-ups and had no issues so I felt confident that everything checked out mechanically. We took off and - finally - headed home on an uneventful, 30-minute flight. Third time's the charm, eh?

More of Stewart's unique normalcy - all these planes were preparing for a stadium flyover

As you can imagine, this was a great learning experience. I feel as though I did the right thing in both instances. Diagnosing a problem on the ground and flying the airplane first (aviate, navigate, communicate!) is always the best option. I'm also a bit surprised that carb ice didn't cross my mind when the engine lost power and ultimately died. Still, I checked everything I could check prior to deciding to fly home and it all checked out. I also know that I'll likely never forget to consider carb ice in the future if I experience anything similar.

And lest I forget, the fly-in was a lot of fun too! :)

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.7 hours
Total Time: 235.7 hours

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Watching the Super Guppy land at the USAF Museum

Today was a rather interesting day for those of us in the Dayton, Ohio area. Although the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force was not selected to receive an actual Space Shuttle - still a rather sore subject around here - we were selected to receive another piece of Shuttle history, the Crew Compartment Trainer (CCT). For most of the life of the Shuttle program, the CCT was housed at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Once the trainer was ready for transport it was time to move it to Ohio. It's not a tiny piece of equipment, weighing in at around 11 tons. So that meant it would have to make the trip on a rather unique aircraft - NASA's B-377-SGT Super Guppy.

It's not every day that you get to see airplanes land at the USAF Museum. The museum sits on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base's Area B. A closed runway is adjacent to the museum's hangars; it was a hotbed for military flying for years but today is only used for special events and deliveries to the museum. I took a half-day vacation and headed over this afternoon in time to grab a spot as close to the runway as I could.

I caught the very end of the Super Guppy's approach and landing on video

The airplane made one pass overhead and then set up a wide pattern for landing. It crossed low over Harshman Road, located at the end of the runway, and touched town less then 1,000 feet down the 7,000 foot runway. Quite an impressive short-field approach! It was a very cool sight to see and I'm glad I had the chance to witness it in person. Hope you enjoy some of the photos I was able to capture below...


Be sure to check out the CCT the next time you visit the museum. It's already on display and the full, permanent display is scheduled for completion later next year! As always, just a reminder that you can access any of my posts about the museum by clicking on the USAF Museum tag in the navigation bar to the right or at the bottom of the posts.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cruising past Detroit via water and sky

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: Y47-DET-40I
Weather - DET: Clear, 74 degrees, wind 220 degrees at 6 knots
Weather - MGY: Scattered clouds, 75 degrees, wind 350 degrees at 9 knots

Today was the day where traveling by airplane was truly advantageous over driving. We wouldn't be leaving Detroit until around 6:00 pm and wanted to get home at a decent hour. An under two hour flight versus a drive that approaches four hours? That's some real time-savings right there.

We had spent the night with Gina's parents and did breakfast with them at a local restaurant. They drove us the short distance to New Hudson / Oakland Southwest Airport, where we had moved the airplane last night. It took a few minutes to load everything into the plane and do the preflight but we took off around 1:30.

Our short repositioning flight from New Hudson to Detroit

This was another short hop - just over 25 miles to move the plane to Detroit City Airport, where it would be conveniently waiting for our return later in the afternoon. On the way we passed directly over Novi and took some aerial shots of the in-laws' house. Then we followed the grid-like streets of Metro Detroit all the way to a successful landing at DET.

Grand River Avenue takes you straight into Detroit from many, miles away

Southfield Town Center, including the well-known "Champagne Glass" tower

Detroit skyline from about 10 miles north of downtown

Another view of the city

Palmer Park Golf Course

Detroit City Airport from a two-mile right base; Lake St. Clair's in the distance

Short final for Runway 15 at Detroit City Airport

We spent about three hours with my family, most of it on the Detroit Princess riverboat. The food was tasty and the views of the U.S. and Canadian shoreline along the Detroit River were great. It was actually a little chilly on the deck of the boat - a nice change after all the hot weather we've had this summer.

On the river - a sight we'd soon be enjoying from above!

Back at the airport, we said our goodbyes and I did a thorough preflight. AvFlight had fueled the plane while we were enjoying our afternoon in the D so we had full tanks for the trip home. Great service from them, by the way - I highly recommend DET!

I noticed a familiar face as I was finishing up outside; Price Fielder strolled out of the FBO and climbed into the Citation X parked next to us on the ramp. Based on the FlightAware track, it looks like he was heading to his home in Orlando after the Tigers game this afternoon. Didn't get a chance to say hello but that's certainly an experience you wouldn't have in your average automobile....

The flight from Detroit back to Dayton - including lots of ATC/FSS chatter and my first PIREP

We took off around 6:20 pm after I called Flight Service on the ground to activate our VFR Flight Plan. I don't usually file them but I did today for an important reason - you can't cross the US/Canadian border without a flight plan on file. Although I planned on remaining in US airspace, it seemed like simple and cheap insurance in case we were turned in that direction!

Prince Fielder's jet on the runway in Detroit before us, ready for takeoff

Unfortunately, transponder issues reared their ugly head again. It was working fine earlier in the day but City Tower couldn't pick our squawk up immediately after takeoff. Continuing towards Canada would be a problem without the transponder so I offered up a suggestion - we would level off at 2,000 feet to remain below Detroit's Class Bravo airspace and would hug the shoreline as to not cross the border. That worked out well for everyone; ATC was able to pick us up on radar a few minutes later.

As we flew over the Detroit River at 2,000 feet we were treated to a spectacular view of downtown Detroit.  All the familiar landmarks - the Renaissance Center, Comerica Park, Ford Field - passed under the right wing as I made sure to stay to the right of the imaginary line in the water. Flying VFR down the river reminded me of when we took a similar route past Chicago a couple years ago. It was around the time we passed over the Ambassador Bridge that City Tower handed us off to Detroit Approach.

Looking towards downtown just after takeoff

Lake St. Clair

Belle Isle - that's Canada beyond the river!

Passing over downtown at 2,000 feet

Ford Field and Comerica Park are in the center of the photo

That's the church we were married in near the bottom of the photo

One final shot of the city

Passing over the Ambassador Bridge; the ground you see is Canadian soil

Heading south with the city, river, and Canada all visible behind us

Wyandotte Municipal Power Plant

The new controller was extremely friendly and helpful, just as they were when I spoke to them back in 2009. Once again, he cleared us (without request) into their Class Bravo airspace up to our desired cruise altitude of 4,500 feet. Visibility was unreal and we enjoyed watching the Lake Erie shoreline pass under the left wing as we made our way towards Toledo. As you can see, power plants dot the landscape with some regularity in this part of the state.

Gross Ile Municipal Airport, originally a WWII-era Naval Air Station

Trenton Channel Power Plant

Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant (don't worry, we didn't get too close)

 Monroe Power Plant, the second-largest coal plant in the US

Toledo Approach was friendly as always. We probably spent a half hour in their airspace before they canceled our flight following. I then took the opportunity to file a Pilot Report (PIREP) with Indianapolis Flight Watch, something I never had done (public shaming time...) in my four years of flying. I gave our altitude, outside temperature, clouds, and visibility to the friendly briefer. He pointed out some weather along our route but it was clear from our vantage point that it was pushing out of the area to the east of our route. If you'd like to listen to the whole interaction, it starts at the 11:55 mark in the video above.

Nice way to finish the trip - a rainbow upon landing at Stewart

Before long we were nearing home. Our groundspeed steadily increased as we flew past the weather system and was in the range of 135 to 140 MPH by the time we reached Dayton. Gina noticed one airplane in the pattern at Stewart as I crossed midfield to enter a left downwind for Runway 26. The isolated cell the Flight Watch briefer had mentioned earlier was now clearly visible; you could see the rain falling about five miles southeast of the airport.

I touched down softly and taxied over to the tiedown. Total time in the air was about 1:45, certainly an improvement over the driving option. All in all, this was an incredibly fun weekend flying trip filled with great weather, crazy visibility, and awesome views!

One final note regarding the transponder... I obviously brought the altitude encoding issue to their attention at Stewart. They shipped it to their local avionics guru and it turns out the vacuum tube (there's another name for it that escapes me right now - but that's basically what it is) inside was bad and had to be replaced. Everything's working properly in 2814L again.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 2.5 hours
Total Time: 234.0 hours

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cousins, a tiny runway, and a short repositioning hop

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: OZW-45G-Y47
Weather: Clear, 72 degrees, wind 270 degrees at 3 knots

After a fun day with the family at the Henry Ford Museum (the location of our airplane-themed wedding reception nine months ago) it was time to move the airplane. Tonight we're staying with Gina's parents so it made sense to move the plane closer. It's only about 20 miles but hey, part of the fun of flying is the convenience of all the small airports in this great country!

There was one fun thing to do before making that move, though... take my two cousins for their first small airplane ride. I didn't have an opportunity to take them up when we flew to Akron a few years ago; we had to head straight home after visiting my grandma to land before dark. We didn't have a ton of time tonight but with over an hour of daylight remaining there was time enough to take to the sky.

I explained a couple basic things, went over a safety briefing, got them strapped in, and we taxied out to the runway. They gave me the "we're ready" thumbs-up and I smoothly advanced the throttle. Before long we were flying about 1,000 or 1,500 feet above the beautiful Michigan lakes and trees.

The entire flight with the cousins, most playing at 5x actual speed

It's a bit weird for me to take people on a "first flight" somewhere other than Stewart. I've developed somewhat of a standard sightseeing route at home, filled with interesting places to see from the air. Here I was as much of a newbie to the scenery passing below the wings as my passengers. We all enjoyed the view, which was great thanks to the lowering sun that added a wonderful dimension to the shadows and terrain below.

My cousin RosaLia snapped this during our short sightseeing flight

After about 20 minutes enjoying the sights I re-entered the pattern and prepared to land. We touched down relatively smoothly and I taxied back to the small terminal where my dad, sister, and two aunts were waiting. Both of my cousins, RosaLia and John, said they really enjoyed the flight. Regular readers know how much I love introducing people to general aviation so that's always my favorite outcome. If I'm keeping track correctly, that makes 25 people now that I've been fortunate enough to take up for the first time.

Sightseeing, passing through, and our final destination - Google Earth style

Gina and I said our goodbyes and hopped back into the 172. The destination was New Hudson, an airport I first landed at back in 2009 when we visited the area overnight before continuing on to Put-In-Bay. However, in yesterday's spirit of checking childhood airports off my "flown-to" list, I decided we had to stop at Brighton Airport on the way. We would be passing almost directly overhead and it's another place I used to sit with friends, watching airplanes for hours on end.

Taxiing out to depart on our very short repositioning flight

I do believe this is me waving the wings just after takeoff

It's only about 10 miles from OZW to 45G so I was halfway there by the time we leveled off at pattern altitude. I called that we would be crossing midfield to enter a left downwind for Runway 22. Due to the relatively short and narrow runway, I set up for a semi-short field landing. I was a tad high on short final but idle power, combined with all 40 degrees of flaps in the old 172, would drop us in quickly.

The sink was a little much but I was slightly distracted by the very narrow runway. It wasn't a dangerous situation at all but I should've arrested the sink with about 50-100 more RPM in the flare. I remember it being a cozy place, but man... it sure didn't look like I'd be able to land more than a foot off either side of the centerline! We touched down firmly and I could finally relax and enjoy the fact that I'd landed at my other childhood airport. With tall trees at the end of the runway, followed by a water tower not much further along, I was quite glad I didn't even consider a touch-and-go. But that runway... did I mention it was narrow? Seriously - 24 feet! That beats out the narrowest one I'd landed on before (at 15G) by 13 feet, or about 50%. Whew, good times. :)

We taxied up the narrow taxiway, passing all the houses with attached hangars. Man, I'd forgotten what an awesome place it must be to live. Another plane was inbound a few miles away as I held the brakes, applied full throttle, and shortly thereafter leapt off the runway with a short field takeoff. Such a fun and challenging little airport. I'll definitely return again some day!

Our very brief but enjoyable visit to Brighton Airport's tiny runway

The next hop was about as quick as the first. We followed I-96 east for a couple miles, then I turned south to enter a left downwind for Runway 26 at New Hudson. The airport's surrounded by tall trees on all sides so the threshold is seriously displaced - about 850 feet for us and 1,250 feet in the other direction. I opted for another short field landing, bringing in all 40 degrees of flaps for a power-on approach at about 70 knots. We touched down just past the threshold and turned off onto the taxiway about 1,000 feet down the runway. By the time we were tied down and unloaded, Gina's parents had pulled up to drive us home for the night.

Our little Michigan adventure continues...

Flight Tracks: Sightseeing | Repositioning
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 231.5 hours