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

Friday, September 14, 2012

A little more safety piloting

Plane: Cessna 182 RG
Route: MGY, Local (Approaches at RID, DAY)
Weather: Overcast, 62 degrees, wind 010 degrees at 8 knots

Mike grabbed me again for a little hood work this evening. A weak front moved through earlier in the afternoon and took with it the low ceilings and rain. By the time we met at Wright Brothers around 6:00 the weather was great for flying. Mike took off on Runway 02 at MGY and we were soon heading towards Richmond, IN.

Short final for Runway 06L at Dayton Int'l Airport

Looking down on the control tower and terminals at DAY

Final for Runway 24 at Richmond Municipal Airport

He practiced a hold at RID and then shot three approaches; the VOR 33 into RID, the ILS 06L over at DAY, and finally the ILS 24 back at RID. It was a little bumpy at times since we were right at the edge of the front but visibility was great. Mike did a good job with the flying - riding along as Safety Pilot is definitely helping me learn this instrument stuff bit by bit!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.2 hours (SIC)
Total Time: 238.8 hours

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shooting approaches with Mike

Plane: Cessna 182 RG
Route: MGY, Local (Approaches at ILN)
Weather: Clear, 73 degrees, wind calm

It was a gorgeous night out and my friend Mike, who's finishing up his Instrument training, wanted to shoot some approaches. We decided to meet at Wright Brothers around 6:30 - I beat him there by a few minutes and opened up the hangar. After a quick preflight, we launched into the sky. That plane's got some nice get up and go with half-full tanks, two people, and cool air!

Looking back at Wright Brothers Airport after takeoff

Flying past by a bunch of hot air balloons

Final approach for Runway 4L at Wilmington Air Park

He ended up shooting two approaches at Wilmington Air Park; an NDB and a GPS for Runway 4L. It's interesting to see just how non-precise a non-precision NDB approach really is! I kept my eyes peeled for traffic but the sky was ours, save for a CareFlight helicopter that passed through at one point. We flew over Stewart on our way home then landed just past sunset.

Today's Flight: 0.7 hours (SIC)
Total Time: 237.6 hours

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Stalls, slips, and spirals while solo

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Broken clouds, 70 degrees, wind 260 degrees at 10 knots

Since yesterday's Cub flight was cut short by incoming storms, I decided to head up again tonight for a bunch more practice. I've really been trying to push myself to do maneuvers that I'm slightly apprehensive about doing solo - namely, stalls. I want to get my CFI (I'd love to instruct part-time) eventually and there's no way I'm ever going to be comfortable doing things with students if I'm not 100% comfortable doing them over and over on my own. Might as well start now.

I don't follow NASCAR but I bet Dale Earnhardt, Jr would like my steep turns...

I took off and climbed up to about 3,500 feet and did a bunch of steep turns. If you look at the GPS track above, it's really cool to see how my left-360-into-right-360 turns formed near-perfect figure-eights. I hit my wake on the second turn; I was really feeling it tonight.

After all the turns, I pulled the carb heat on and throttled back to idle. I did a series of power-off stalls and held the stick back into my stomach while doing some falling leafs. Then it was time for power-on stalls, which I'm slightly more apprehensive about. I think I ended up doing three or five, and they were all pretty good. Not much roll at the break even though the nose was pointed way, way, way up. Cubs stall at around 35 MPH with one pilot and a half-empty fuel tank, so you end up with quite a bit of pitch before you get that slow. Definitely a good practice session.

I eventually steep-spiraled back down to pattern altitude and made five laps around the airport. The winds were blowing straight down the runway so it made for a ton of short-field fun. Every time, I was off the ground (or touchdown to turnoff) in the length of one set of cones, which is about 300 feet. Like I always say, you just can't beat a Piper Cub for simple flying fun!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 236.9 hours

Friday, September 7, 2012

Squeezing in some flying before the storm

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees, wind calm

I'd originally had the Cub scheduled for 5:00 tonight but it was nice out, weather was moving in, and I decided to move it up a little bit. As I was checking the radar before leaving the house, I suddenly wasn't sure if I'd even make it into the sky. Still, I figured it was worth a shot and quickly hopped in the car and drove down to Stewart.

The radar about an hour before I took off...

You could certainly see the storms moving in from the West but I knew they were at least a half-hour away. That's plenty of time to make a couple laps around the pattern! I figured that I could quickly get the airplane parked and pushed into the hangar if the weather seemed imminent after any of my landings. Still, my goal was three to reset my tailwheel currency another 90 days.

I was the only plane in the pattern (not surprising) so I was able to make quick work of those landings. Rain was visible in the distance, falling from the clouds, but I had plenty of room. Takeoff, crosswind, downwind, base, final, landing... each sequence only took a couple minutes. The air was actually smooth and the landings were even pretty good!

...and right when I landed - zoom in to see the marker over the airport

It was just a simple few minutes of flying. Three quick laps around the pattern and I had the J-3 pushed back into the hangar with time to spare. Ten minutes later, however, there was seriously impressive cloud-to-ground lightning all over the place. The clouds soon opened up - extremely heavy rain, some small hail, and 40-knot gusts. It was quite the show! And I enjoyed it the best way - inside the office, watching out the windows. Good times.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.4 hours
Total Time: 236.1 hours