Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Doolittle Raider, Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, passes away

Maj. Griffin, the navigator on Crew 9 during the infamous Doolittle Tokyo Raid, sadly passed away last night at age 96. Following the raid, he served in North Africa and was later captured by the Germans and remained a POW for nearly two years. Four living Doolittle Raiders remain.

Although we never met in person, I feel lucky to have seen him at the USAF Museum's Doolittle Raiders Reunion events in 2010 and 2012. Godspeed and tailwinds, sir.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chili cook-offs and Cubs

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 39 degrees, wind 280 degrees at 8 knots

Today was Stewart's (annual?) chili cook-off. I made a pot and we headed down around noon, stuffing ourselves with plenty of tasty food in short order. Gina called before I woke up and reserved the Cub at 3:00 - you can't pass up this kind of a day in February. And we'd already be at the airport, so I think not flying in that situation is technically illegal, right?

It's easy to keep a tight pattern in a Cub, solo, on a cold afternoon!

We scooted off the soft runway and headed out over the lake for a little streamer-cutting fun. Then I did a couple steep turns, some Dutch Rolls, slow flight, and a power-off stall before heading back to the airport. Gina hopped out (and then immediately went for a ride in a Decathlon - not fair!) while I made a few more laps around the pattern.

I was quickly airborne in less than the 200-foot between-cone span, turning crosswind over the departure end of the runway at 600 feet AGL. A couple power-off 180s later, I touched down softly for the fourth time. Nothing like a little pattern practice to sharpen one's piloting skills.

The chili won second place, by the way... good for a free Stewart hoodie!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 256.9 hours

Friday, February 15, 2013

Can a sim pilot fly a perfect pattern on their first try?

I had to share this. An airline pilot and fellow blogger (and author of two of the greatest aviation threads in internet history, on Two Plus Two and FlyerTalk) recently took part in an interesting experiment. Long story short, he met a guy with a ton of flight simulator experience who wanted to see if that experience would translate to success in a real airplane. On his first attempt. Ever.

So Tyler (sim pilot) went flying with Steve (airline pilot, not me - he's also a CFI) out in Las Vegas this past November. I won't spoil their experiment here. However, I will say that it's a cool little tale - and lots of fun! Click through to read the introductory Part One on Steve's blog, and then follow up with the flight itself in Part Two.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A day trip to Evansville

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-EVV-IMS-40I
Weather - 40I: Clear, 30 degrees, wind 100 degrees at 4 knots
Weather - EVV: Clear, 44 degrees, wind 160 degrees at 8 knots

One of Gina's college friends lives in Evansville, IN. It's not the shortest drive at over 250 miles and four-plus hours, one-way. Wait - you can hop into a 172 and fly straight there in under two? Why yes we will, thank you very much.

Thanks to some very un-winter-like weather cooperation, we had no trouble making today's trip. In the middle of February. That we planned over a month ago! Crazy when things work out, huh?

An efficient mode of travel: 8+ hours by car, under 4 by air!

Departure from Stewart was uneventful... mostly. This warm spell, coupled with recent rain, has turned the turf into the textbook example of a soft field. Most of it's actually still firm but - as we found out, a bit unintentionally - there are some mushy spots up on top of the hill. It took full throttle and a little elevator trickery to get unstuck. Once in motion again, I kept rolling onto the runway and away we flew. Using soft field technique, of course.

My first video edited on my new desktop with Adobe Premier Pro - hope you like it!

Cincinnati Approach was in a friendly mood today, dialing everything in for flight following to EVV and clearing me into the Bravo without any vectors around CVG via Anchorage or Denver. They actually let us putz along direct Evansville at 4,500 feet. Nice group of controllers, those folks.

Further along, we were handed off to Indy Center and eventually Louisville Approach. Traffic was sparse, save for a Cirrus at our altitude somewhere around North Vernon, IN. I spotted him three or four miles out (the controller had called him) as he crossed in front of us, headed north.

This ski area stood out against the winding Ohio River in the background

Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg, IN

Passing over Pakota Lake, the second-largest reservoir in Indiana

Roughly an hour and a half after takeoff, I was talking to Evansville Approach. It took a while to spot the airport; visibility was good but there was a little haze down low. Somewhere around ten miles out I finally saw the field and they sent me over to tower. My new phone app with extended runway centerlines was handy in helping me play airport detective!

Tracking our flight with Avare on my phone (full review coming soon!)

Brief visions of Comair Flight 5191 popped into my head as I initially lined up with Runway 22. You see, tower had cleared me to land on Runway 18! Something didn't feel right as I checked my heading indicator shortly after leveling the wings. Sure enough, it most definitely was not pointing at the large S. I immediately turned right, back onto a proper right base for Runway 18 (as cleared) and all was well.

Unlike that infamous airline incident, we would have been physically ok had we ended up in the wrong place. The same likely cannot be said for my certificate. At the very least, I bet there would have been an uncomfortable phone call. As I say in the video, this is why you always double-check your runway!

Initially lined up with wrong runway

We were a couple miles out on base and already slowing down, so the landing itself was normal and uneventful. I intentionally touched down about 1,500 feet down the runway for a short taxi to Tri-State Aero. Avionics off and mixture to cutoff, 14L's engine quickly came to a stop.

Reid met us inside the FBO and we hopped into his car. He treated us to lunch at Turoni's Pizzery & Brewery, which I hear is a local institution. The pizza and garlic bread were delicious and I found myself almost wishing we hadn't flown, as their beer sounded great! We may have to return for an overnight trip...

Following lunch, he took us on a brief tour of the city and then we hung out for about an hour. It was great to catch up and spend time with a friend we don't get to see on a regular basis. But we soon had to return to the airport - we were an hour behind and it gets dark out sooner than you think this time of year!

It took a couple minutes to raise Clearance and get our departure instructions. Readback correct and taxi instructions received, we were sitting at the end of Runway 18 around 3:30, or 4:30 EST, ready for takeoff. Within a minute, we were talking to Departure, climbing to 5,500 feet.

Paralleling the Ohio River to the south after departing Evansville

My view from the left seat - visibility was quite good!

 Flying past Pakota Lake again - this time from the south side

Downtown Louisville from about 30 miles away

We landed at Madison Municipal Airport on the way home to top off the tanks with some cheap 100LL. In hindsight, I should've just had the guys at Tri-State fill us with their five gallon minimum; that would've been more than enough to get us home without a fuel stop. But I opted to save $1.50/gal (responsible renter!) with the self-serve pump at IMS.

Back in the air, I realized it was getting dark a little quicker than I had hoped. Remember that comment I just made about a non-stop return flight? Oops. Hindsight bites again. Anyway, I knew we'd make it to Stewart about twenty minutes past sunset. It wouldn't be bright out, but there would be more than enough light to land. Worst-case, we'd just have to land at Wright Brothers and fly the plane back in the morning.

Gazing off towards Cincinnati's skyline just past sunset

Passing north of Cincinnati about 15 minutes before landing

I spotted the airport at least ten miles out, even in the dwindling twilight. Columbus Approach canceled flight following and I lined up for a straight-in approach. It's not traditional, but I knew nobody else would be in the pattern at Stewart. They don't have any lights, after all.

Turning final about four miles out, I gradually slowed and lowered the flaps. It turned out to be one of the most stabilized approaches I've made in forever - check out the GPS track if you don't believe me! We touched down over the squishy hump in the runway, yoke fully back against my stomach, keeping as much weight off the nose as possible. I rolled into perfect position on the concrete pads less than a minute later.

Chalk up another successful this-is-why-we-fly day trip. Had we driven, and left at the same time, we would have had all of fifteen or twenty minutes in Evansville before it was time to drive home. Pilots always regret passing up weekend days with this kind of weather in the winter. I'm glad we were able to take advantage today!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 4.3 hours
Total Time: 256.1 hours

Thursday, February 7, 2013

And so it begins...

Looks like I've got a bit of studying to do!

Needless to say, it's about time I get started on this year's goals.