Saturday, March 30, 2013

The danger of the the skidding base-to-final turn

This is perhaps the best explanation I've ever seen of what every pilot should permanently file under the What Not To Do category in their skills cabinet. Well worth your ten minutes!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Safety pilot time with Jamie

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I,-MGY-40I
Weather: Overcast, 34 degrees, wind calm

Jamie, who I flew with last fall and recently completed his CFI - he's now an instructor at Stewart, needed a safety pilot this morning. We took trusty old 2814L out for a couple approaches to MGY under the hood. I kept my eyes open and didn't see much, if any, traffic on this cold spring morning.

Looks like the RNAV RWY 2 approach chart - funny how that works, huh?

After the second approach, Jamie landed (we went missed the first time) and we switched seats. He had me fly back to Stewart and I set up for a short field landing. In a well-timed moment of skill, I totally nailed it with an instructor in the right seat. I slowed to about 60 knots and brought in all 40 degrees of flaps on final, chopped the power as soon as we crossed the power lines, and made an extremely soft landing. Touchdown was less than 100 feet past the threshold and I turned off about 900 feet down the runway. Maybe I'm weird, but that never gets old.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours (0.6 SIC / 0.3 PIC)
Total Time: 258.7 hours

Friday, March 22, 2013

Brushing up on the basics in the 150

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-MGY-40I
Weather: Clear, 41 degrees, wind 210 degrees at 5 knots

Some solo flights call for nothing but a bunch of practice. Especially when you're trying to stay current in an airplane. I actually enjoy such things (not sure if all pilots feel this way?) so tonight was a bunch of fun.

Video of nearly everything I practiced tonight - my first edit in Premiere Elements 11

I took the 150 up and practiced most of the Private Pilot maneuvers, leaving Stewart's slightly squishy turf behind with a soft field takeoff. Then it was direct Wright Brothers for three trips around the pattern. I made two normal landings, a normal takeoff, a touch and go, short field takeoff, and did a simulated engine-out. Pretty much the whole gamut in about 15 minutes!

After a climb to 3,500 feet I ran through the rest of the maneuvers - steep turns, slow flight with the stall horn blaring, and a power-off stall. Then I quickly descended the 1,700 feet to Stewart's pattern altitude with a steep spiral. I made one low pass over the runway to confirm all the airplanes were away - we'd been using Runway 26 but I prefer landing on Runway 8 at sunset so the sun isn't directly in my eyes - and saw the Cubs and Champ were tied down. Pattern clear, I made one final soft(ish) field landing and shut down.

Patterns, turns, climbs, and descents...

Overall, every maneuver was certainly up to Private Pilot Practical Test Standards. My steep turns were held within 100 feet (I try and keep them tighter) of my starting altitude; I was satisfied though, especially having not flown the 150 in a while. It was definitely a good, thorough workout in only 0.9 on the Hobbs.

When's the last time you went up for a similar practice session?

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 257.8 hours

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Another "why we fly" video

Because, really, why not? You just can't top seeing the joy of someone the first time they take the controls of an airplane!

h/t - Victoria (via Facebook)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why we fly

No further description required! ;)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Android App Review: Avare

Although I've used a variety of aviation apps on my phone over the past couple years, I haven't reviewed one until now. I suppose the reason is two-fold. First, it honestly didn't really cross my mind. Second, and more accurately, I haven't used anything that so useful it made me say, "I need to tell people about this!" until now.

Avare (pronounced "Av-Air") is a free, feature-rich app on the Android platform. It offers moving map functionality with free downloads of Terminal Area, Sectional, IFR Low Level, and World Aeronautical charts plus Airport/Facility Directory information and more.

I first installed Avare a couple months ago and was immediately taken by just how much functionality was available in a free app. Fast-forward to last month and I finally was able to use the app extensively in-flight. That trip forms the basis for this review.

Avare in use on our trip to Evansville last month

  • Motorola Droid 2 Global smartphone (Verizon)
  • OS: Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

  • Charts stored locally; no data connection required to use the app
  • Airport/Facility Directory information available for all airports
  • Charts available - Sectionals, Terminal Area, IFR Low Enroute, WAC, Terminal Procedures, and Airport Diagrams
  • GPS track line to destination, bearing, ground speed, time enroute, and altitude readout
  • GPS position overlay on Airport Diagrams when taxiing
  • Track or North Up, Landscape or Portrait
  • METAR/TAF information displayed over airports on charts (with a data connection)
  • TFRs displayed graphically and in text form
  • Press for quick distance/bearing/direction from any point on the map relative to your current position
  • Nearest airport list

Installation/Data Download

Since it's free, just go to the Google Play Store and install. That's it! Then, download whatever data/charts you will be using. I love that Avare allows you to specify exactly which content you want - down to individual charts. This saves storage space but also makes it easy to determine if you have the necessary coverage for a given trip. The flip side of that, and my only gripe, is that the download process can take a while since the files are large; you'll want to do this over Wi-Fi.

Personally, I install the Cincinnati/Detroit/St. Louis/Chicago Sectionals and the IFR Low Enroute charts covering the same region. Dayton is smack-dab at the corner where those meet up, so I can fly a good distance in any direction and remain covered. I should also note that everyone must download the primary database (which includes the A/FD data) in order to use the app.

Airport/Facility Directory information for EVV 


There are very few buttons on-screen; everything is accomplished within a few small menus or press-hold actions. This is a very good thing. Avare is not a distraction in the cockpit.

Getting started is very simple. Click the Menu button (bottom-left of the screen) and select Destination, enter your airport identifier, click on the airport name, and you're navigating direct-to. It really is that simple. Beyond that, all recently used airports pop up immediately when you go to the Destination screen. I found this exceedingly helpful on our trip; I entered EVV, IMS - our fuel stop, and 40I before takeoff. That meant no typing in flight; all the airports I needed were waiting for me whenever I went to the Destination screen.

Once you're flying, your current bearing, ground speed, distance to destination, and ground track to destination are all displayed at the top of the screen. At times, I wished the green font was slightly more legible (or there was an option to pick your own text color) but the data is presented in a clear, concise manner.

If you have extended runway centerlines turned on, they appear with runway numbers once your destination is on-screen. This proved very valuable on approach to EVV when I initially lined up with Runway 22 after being cleared to land on Runway 18. I knew something didn't look right and confirmed the error with the plane's compass. However, a quick cross-check with Avare was a helpful confirmation of our position.

Approaching EVV with extended runway centerlines enabled

Once on the ground, one of Avare's best features rivals that of its infinitely more expensive competitors - GPS position overlay on the Airport Diagram! This was handy at EVV and could be a godsend at an airport with a complicated maze of taxiways. Obviously you shouldn't count on it as your only source of data, but there's no denying it greatly enhances your situational awareness. Did I mention this is free yet?

Airport Diagram (GPS position overlay works on the ground!)

Note that the terminal procedures and approach charts are not geo-referenced in any way; your current position cannot be overlaid on them. I assume this is for legal/liability reasons but it's certainly not an issue for me as a VFR pilot. Regardless, it's worth noting.

There are some other handy features, including color-coded METAR/TAF overlays on the map screen when a data connection is available. Another favorite is what I'll call the "current position" cheat. Basically, press-hold on any object/point on the chart, and your current distance, bearing, and direction to that point are displayed at the top of the screen.

This is very helpful for radio calls. Instead of an educated guess when calling ATC, imagine a simple press-hold on the nearest airport and being able to say, "Cincinnati Approach, Skyhawk 2814L is 8 miles NE of Madison County Airport, two-thousand climbing five-thousand five-hundred..." Although I haven't really put it to use myself yet, I think this is a great function.

Final Thoughts

Beyond the existing functionality, I'd be remiss if I didn't note how responsive the developers are. There are frequent updates - more than once per week. Requested features are added on a regular basis and bugs are quickly fixed. Software development can be a thankless job but these guys deserve all the praise sent their way. I'm sure they'd appreciate your donations, too.

Normally I may have deducted a star for my minor gripes, but I also realize I'm using the app on a small phone screen. If I owned - and was using this on - a tablet, I think those minor annoyances would disappear. So when you factor in the price and functionality I really can't say Avare has any serious faults. Put simply, it's not perfect, but it's darn close.

For more information, check out the official website.

Rating: 5/5 Cubs