Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday night BBQ with the wife

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-I19-AXV-40I
Weather - 40I: Clear, 63 degrees, wind 350 degrees at 7 knots gusting to 17
Weather - AXV: Clear, 70 degrees, wind 340 degrees at 13 knots gusting to 16

It may have been windy this afternoon, but that wasn't going to keep us from another visit to Wapakoneta for some delicious, week-ending (and birthday-celebrating) food on the grill. Besides, I've landed at AXV in 15+ knot crosswinds in a 150 before. It can be done!

I drove straight from work and Gina met me at Stewart around 4:30. We took off about a half-hour later; it took a few extra minutes to get airborne because I had to add air to all the tires. Sometimes low tires go unnoticed on grass but I made sure to check everything on the gear in detail since we'd be landing in strong winds.

We stopped at Greene County Airport (I19) on the way and met Sam, who also flies out of Stewart on occasion. He had rented Beaver Valley's Tecnam to fly to the BBQ with his brother. They took off just before us and then I followed them all the way there. We'd hoped to fly about 1/4 mile apart but that little LSA climbs way better than an old 150! He gained about two miles on us in the initial climb and we remained 1-2 miles apart for the entire trip north.

After a very respectable crosswind landing I shut down and we enjoyed plenty of delicious food and beverages for the next two hours. Well... Gina enjoyed the beverages. I enjoyed my can of Coke and bottle of water. One very minor negative of the whole piloting thing, right?

An unusual day - we arrived/departed on different runways at all three airports

It was nearly 8:30 by the time we took off. Thankfully, the strong northerly winds that held our groundspeed around 75 mph on the outbound trip were now providing a much-needed push on the tail. We quickly cruised back to Stewart at around 125 mph and hit 140 mph on the descent.

Moon rising over Wright-Patterson AFB (still captured from the video)

I touched down pretty softly shortly past sunset, having enjoyed a spectacular view of the moon most of the way home. It rose above the horizon shortly after takeoff and was vivid and absolutely beautiful in cruise above the haze layer. It was still shining bright in the sky as I shut the plane down and we climbed into our cars to drive home.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 2.0 hours
Total Time: 269.1 hours

Monday, May 20, 2013

Five years later

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 82 degrees, wind 210 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 14

I've reached the Wooden anniversary of my first flight at Stewart! I suppose it's fitting that I'm flying a plane that (used to have) a wooden spar, huh? The big Cub actually got new, all-metal wings last summer. Last year's birthday flight was literally the plane's last before it broke. Wasn't my fault, thankfully! Regardless, this is the plane I flew on my first Cub/tailwheel flight in 2008.

Prior Years: 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

Highlights from the past year's aerial tomfoolery:
In hindsight, I really packed in quite a bit. I'm slacking horribly on my IR studies, though!

You'd be hard-pressed to determine if this photo is from 2013 or 1943...

Back to tonight, Gina and I trekked down to Stewart after work for the 2013 edition of my annual birthday flight. It was a bit windy but that wasn't going to keep us on the ground. After a few minutes spent getting the engine turning (the 85 hp Cub can be temperamental; hand-propping is sometimes more art than science!) we took to the humid skies around 7:00.

We flew south and circled around King's Island for a couple minutes. Cathy mentioned on Sunday that Cub would be performing down there tonight and they said I should fly over. Not sure if they saw me - guess I'll find out next time I see them!

88 miles over the ground in 1.5 on the Hobbs - not bad by Cub standards

Once we turned back towards the lake, our groundspeed rapidly increased with the now-tailwind and I climbed up to 5,000 feet. I attempted to fly backwards like I was successful in doing a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, it wasn't windy enough tonight - we only got down to about 20 mph. I did a couple stalls and a brief falling leaf, then we dropped some toilet paper (requisite disclaimer here) and had some fun slicing and dicing with the wings.

I headed west and eventually we flew over a coworker's neighborhood. For the first time in years (I literally fly over his house like every third time I'm up; it's only a couple miles from Stewart) he was actually outside, mowing! I did a couple steep, descending turns and saw him waving up at us. We made one final pass from north to south as I rocked the wings vigorously to return the hello. Air-to-ground communication success!

My first landing attempt resulted in a go-around. It was salvageable but I overcompensated for the wind and tuned base-to-final too soon, coming in a tad fast. Full power, around we went, and the next attempt was just perfect - a nice smooth touchdown even with the crosswind. History suggests I should quit while ahead. So of course I didn't. Landing number two wasn't terrible by any stretch, but where the first was a solid 8 the second was more like a 5. On the Richter scale.

The view as we climbed into my car to head home - never gets old

Final mediocre landing aside, it was still a perfect birthday flight. Flying around with the door open was extremely refreshing on this muggy, almost-summer evening. Stewart's just the kind of place where everything else melts away into pure, vintage aviation goodness.

Here's to the next five years.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 267.1 hours

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fun with formation flight for a flyover

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 76 degrees, wind 120 degrees at 8 knots

I woke up this morning to a text message from Jamie (CFI at Stewart) asking if I could help out this afternoon. They were doing a flyover for a memorial service and were short a pilot. I've done a little formation flight in the past but nothing to this degree, so I jumped at the opportunity!

Joe flew the Champ, Jamie flew the big Cub, and I flew the little one. We figured out the plan on the ground (Jamie would break off on the second pass as the missing man) and climbed into our taildraggers. We took off in quick succession and slowly converged as we flew south. By the time we made the final turn towards the memorial service, I was in tight on Joe's wing.

We got there right on time and made two passes, then headed back to Stewart. Jamie followed in trail and I remained on Joe's wing until he landed. Then I peeled off and quickly circled back to land number three behind Jamie. It was a really fun afternoon, adding another new thing to the aviatin' experiences list. Totally greased the landing, too!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.6 hours
Total Time: 265.6 hours

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Backwards flying, free plane washes, and a taco

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 59 degrees, wind 100 degrees at 8 knots, gusting to 14

Making up for our inability to go Cubbin' on Friday, I drove down to Stewart with Rob and Abby around 10:30 this morning. Gina was working so we obviously said hello once we arrived. It was still a bit windy, but blowing mostly down the runway. I made sure everything checked out and then I hopped in to take Abby on her first flight in the venerable J-3.

Video of Abby's first Cub flight - you can hear me explaining things a bit

We leapt off the ground into the wind and were quickly at pattern altitude. I leveled off and we flew down the valley, past the glider port, and eventually circled around King's Island. My usual sightseeing route, basically.

Rain showers were isolated all over the area - one of those views only a pilot can appreciate. They were easy to avoid as we climbed while heading back towards the lake. We made very slow progress. Due to the headwinds, we were heading east at about 40 MPH.

Eventually we were over the lake and I decided the conditions were perfect for a fun little pilot trick. We were going to try to fly backwards! Not literally, in the air, but across the ground. I slowed the plane, pointed the nose into the wind, and hung there on the edge of a stall (about 35 MPH on the airspeed indicator) while we stared down at the ground. I can't say we could tell from 5,000 feet up, but the GPS track confirmed it... we briefly went backwards!

I do believe the arrow shows where we briefly flew backwards

Such simple things are often such fun. I asked Abby if she wanted to see how a Cub stalls and then pulled the power to idle; we stalled nearly instantaneously and the nose gently dropped through the horizon. Then I went full-power and did a power-on stall. Again, the nose gently dipped and we kept on flying. I think she was surprised by just how tame stalls can be in a Cub.

After some streamer cutting - requisite disclaimer here, I headed back to Stewart and made a less-than-perfect-but-still-acceptable landing. She hopped out (and said she had a blast!) and Rob hopped in. Joe hand-propped the 85 hp Continental and we headed back into the sky.

I took Rob up for about 30 minutes to screw around like we usually do

We did much of the same, sans the sightseeing as Rob's been up with me numerous times. The rain showers had moved closer and we actually flew through one or two on our way out to the lake. A much-needed free plane wash! We leveled off, tried the fly backwards trick (I couldn't quite get it slow enough this time), and then dropped a roll of toilet paper for a little fun.

On our way back to Stewart, I quickly pushed the nose over a couple times for a little weightless flying. As I noted in the caption on the video above, we tend to just screw around and have fun. That's what little airplanes are for sometimes. Especially a Cub.

There was one final item on the to-do list. Gina got off work at 2:00 and I took her for a very quick lap around the pattern. It wasn't just any regular flight, though, as you can see below.

I certainly would've thought my teacher was awesome if she did this when I was in high school

So what the heck was that all about? Long story short, I've been helping her make video lessons to use in her high school cooking classes. It saves a lot of time/money by not having to demo each cooking lab for each class. At the end of one, she took a bite of the wrap she'd made and the students thought it was hilarious. Then she didn't sample the next one and the students were quite disappointed. Apparently they also requested a cameo since I'm always behind the camera.

I told her we might as well have a bit more fun with it. Or maybe I just figured out how to incorporate aviation into something like usual. No comment on that point. Regardless, I thought it would be fun to show her enjoying the taco in flight. Logically illogical enough to a pilot, right?

So that's what we did. It was literally 0.1 on the Hobbs from engine start to shutdown. But we captured the fun on video. Although I'm sure you'd love to learn how to make turkey tacos, I only uploaded the aviatin' to the interwebs. I heard the kids loved it. Hope you get a kick out of it, too.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.7 hours (over 3 flights)
Total Time: 265.0 hours

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gusty crosswinds, a new airport, and tasty food - with friends!

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-I17-AXV-40I
Weather - 40I: Scattered clouds, 73 degrees, wind 140 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 20
Weather - AXV: Clear, 76 degrees, wind 120 degrees at 13 knots gusting to 19

My friend Rob drove down yesterday with his girlfriend, Abby, to spend the weekend in Dayton. This tends to be an annual visit, and it's never complete without some time spent in the air. The plan was to take each of them up in the Cub before flying to dinner.

However, the gusty winds gave much pause to the idea of untying an 800 lb. yellow airplane. So we shelved that plan, loaded up the 172, and flew north with time to spare. Reverse phraseology, anyone? We were going by air with time to spare!

We're gettin' fancy up in here - video recaps, now a multi-angle camera production! ;-)

I figured we might as well do something fun as we had roughly 90 minutes to make a 30-minute flight. There's no need to be that fashionably early to dinner. So we circled over the lake, Abby took some photos, and then I turned towards Piqua. It was finally time to add I17 to my map.

This thing's always tearing up the acrobatic box over Stewart

Caesar Creek Dam

Requisite wing-meets-sky shot

Huffman Dam and Wright-Patterson AFB

Dayton International Airport

Piqua Airport - Hartzell Field

Yeah, it was windy. And blowing directly across the runway!

The pattern was empty and the gusty crosswind kept my arms and feet busy on final. Power to idle over the numbers and the right wheel touched down a second before the left main. Textbook crosswind landing - it was even relatively smooth. Not bad at all given the conditions. It was actually the best one I'd have all day.

We were back in the air a few minutes later, and entering the pattern at Neil Armstrong Airport less than 10 minutes after that. The AWOS was reporting 13G18 about 40 degrees off the nose. It's always windy as all get-out up there in flat farmville and the winds can be funky on short final, so I made a low approach to check them out. Satisfied that they were relatively stable, we circled back around and I managed a decent landing.

One row down, a couple hundred to go...

Abby seemed to be enjoying herself in the back

Rob + airplanes always results in a smile

Back-of-head shot for me... I was busy piloting, after all!

Turning towards Neil Armstrong Airport over the village of New Knoxville

Short final on my low approach - we landed the next time around

I think we spent about an hour and a half on the ground with Marty and friends. The food and company are always great; today was no exception. I enjoyed a tasty burger, brat, and grazed on the potluckish cornucopia of side dishes. Abby was designated official name tag maker. The best jobs always go to the new guests!

Sometime around 19:00, N2814L's wheels left the pavement and we immediately crabbed into the still-howling wind. Our ground speed hovered around 50 screaming knots during the climb to 3,500 feet. Speed demon, we were.

Russ, another pilot who had been at the BBQ, departed right behind us in his Cherokee. I thought he'd pass us by but we remained side-by-side, offset by 1/4 or 1/2 mile, for quite a while.

Our neighbor in the sky for 15-20 miles after we departed AXV

Russ returned the favor and sent me some aerial shots of us on our way home

Somewhere south of Wapakoneta, heading south

The rate of progress towards home picked up once we were in cruise flight. It still took a while to get there, though. I think we has a solid 20 knot headwind all the way.

Traffic was light - practically nonexistent, really. Right around the time we crossed over I-675, the friendly controller cut us loose and I dialed 1200 back into the transponder. It got a little bumpy as we descended down to 1,800 feet but the air was still remarkably smooth considering the surface winds. I flew at least 15 minutes of the return leg completely hands-off, just making the occasional correction with a light jab on the rudder.

Both my office and former apartment are in this photo - I miss that commute...

An absurdly massive house a few miles north of Stewart

Base-to-final for Runway 8

In what can best be described as my own let's-completely-ignore-the-recency-effect fashion, the final landing was the most... interesting. Watch my face on the video if you don't believe me! I ran out of lift about 8-12" above the ground and firmly planted the plane on the grass. Normally I'd probably have added power. But given the gusty winds, I just let gravity win. I actually thought it was a decent outcome - we certainly weren't going to balloon back up!

Rob and Abby both had a blast. She has about 70 hours in her logbook and was quite close to her checkride five years ago. I think today reminded her why she loves to fly and needs to finish that PPL! It was an all-around fun evening in the air for everyone. As for the Cub flying, we'll have to try again in a couple days.

P.S. Thanks to Rob & Abby for the great photos and for bringing an extra video camera!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 2.4 hours
Total Time: 263.3 hours