Friday, August 30, 2013

Where flying beats driving

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-OXD-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 87 degrees, wind 250 degrees at 5 knots

Ok, so flying always beats driving in the eyes of most pilots, but it truly was a time-saver today! My cousin (who I've mentioned in recent posts) needed a ride to Oxford this afternoon to spend the weekend at Miami University. It's a 2:30+ round trip by car, or a 20-25 minute flight each way. I was busy at the airport all day helping get ready for the airshow so, love of flight aside, there was only one way to go - and that's in the 172.

Although the driving route is relatively straight, it's all via back roads

Gina picked RosaLia up in Dayton and they met me at Stewart around 1:30. We all climbed aboard and took off on Runway 8, then turned west and flew towards OXD, deviating slightly south around Middletown to avoid the skydivers. It was warm but not too bumpy - and our backseat passenger certainly enjoyed the view.

We landed around 2:15 and caught a ride to the university with Scott, the FBO manager, since their courtesy car was temporarily out of commission. I'm kind of glad we weren't able to drive since he knew exactly where he was going and probably got us there and back faster than I would have! Back at the airport, we chatted with a charter pilot from Michigan who was waiting to pick up his passenger in a Cessna 310. Really nice guy, like most people in aviation.

It was just after 3:10 when we departed for Stewart. With a slight tailwind at 3,500 feet it only took about 20 minutes to fly home; we hit 117 knots groundspeed on our descent. We touched down on Runway 26 just after 3:30. Just a quick afternoon trip, but a fun one.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 287.9 hours

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hot and bumpy approaches

Plane: Cessna 182 RG
Route: MGY, Local (Approaches at ILN, I66, MGY)
Weather: Clear, 83 degrees, wind 090 degrees at 4 knots

Mike needed to knock out five more approaches to maintain his instrument currency so he decided to knock them all out this afternoon. We met at Wright Brothers around 2:00 and headed east towards Wilmington. It just kind of works out that the missed approach off Runway 4L at ILN puts you in position for the initial approach fix for Runway 21 at I66 - and vice versa. So that was the plan - two of each, followed by an approach at MGY.

It was hot, sticky, and bumpy this afternoon. Needless to say, Mike wasn't overjoyed to be under the hood for most of it. Neither of us have ever gotten airsick (and certainly didn't today) but we both felt a tad nauseous mid-flight. It was just downright unpleasant up there. I flew for a few minutes while Mike stared out the windows between the last approach at I66 and initial approach fix for our return to MGY.

We flew the approach for Runway 2, breaking off about a mile short of the runway to enter the pattern and circle to land on Runway 20 behind a departing twin. As much as I love to fly, it felt great to be on the ground again. Both of us popped open our windows and enjoyed the hearty breeze!

Today's Flight: 1.0 hours (SIC)
Total Time: 286.8 hours

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A mostly-solo day of flying full of firsts and milestones

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-I74-VTA-CMH-MGY
Weather - I74: Partly cloudy, 83 degrees, wind 100 degrees at 5 knots
Weather - VTA: Scattered clouds, 80 degrees, wind calm
Weather - CMH: Clear, 74 degrees, wind 090 degrees at 4 knots
Weather - MGY: Clear, 70 degrees, wind 100 degrees at 6 knots

Over the course of the past week, a bunch of random flying ideas became an extremely loosely-tied-together plan. The annual Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In (MERFI) was going on up in Urbana and pilot friend Lenny had told me about an evening fundraiser for Youth Aviation Adventure in Columbus. To top that off, another pilot friend sent me a couple Facebook messages in the afternoon that led to a third stop.

Gina was working today and I asked if anyone wanted to tag along - but there were no takers. Crazy, I know. Either way, that meant I'd be doing a bunch of solo flying. Nothing wrong with that. It's nice to get up in the air, just you and the airplane, from time to time.

The first half of today's flying, ending with my first-ever Class C landing!

I took off from Stewart a little bit after 14:00 and flew up to Grimes Field in Urbana. Over the years I've come to realize pilots must be morning people, as fly-ins always fill up early. I'm most definitely a night owl, so I've resigned myself to always moving opposite the mass flow of traffic. Even though the field was clearing out when I arrived, I still spent a couple hours at MERFI and saw some neat planes on the ground. I also dropped off some flyers for Stewart's annual airshow (Labor Day weekend!) with Chris and Sarah, who were up there for the day.

On the ground in Urbana - I do like my Nexus' panorama mode

I do believe everyone would love to own a nice Glasair

You'd think this flew straight out of the movie Planes

I'd sure love to own this gorgeous clipped wing Cub!

Might be the nicest Cub interior I've ever seen

Love this perfectly restored Travel Air 4000

Gary's a blog reader and student pilot who I had never met in person, despite chatting online for years. He was finishing up work and would be near Newark-Heath Airport by 17:00 - and I had a couple hours to kill before I needed to fly to Columbus - so I decided to fly over and say hello! I departed Urbana and turned east; another 172 departed behind me and he flew just off and under my wing for a while as we headed east until he landed at OSU.

The controller along that stretch was quite busy but at the same time was super friendly. He rattled off instructions to a bunch of airplanes and vectored me north of a direct course to Newark to avoid CMH's arrival/departure corridor. Eventually I was cleared direct and had the pattern to myself as I landed on Runway 9 at VTA. Gary was standing next to the FBO as I taxied up, shut down, and we finally got to shake hands and say hello in person.

New electrical substation under construction near Columbus

Since he's on a break from his training, I decided to take Gary up for a quick spin around the area. He was very thankful and I enjoyed having him onboard to point out the local landmarks. We'd been talking about how he was still learning some maneuvers so I offered to demonstrate a few. I climbed up and did some steep turns, a power-off stall, and a steep spiral. We flew over his house, past the Longaberger basket building, and returned to the ground by way of a short field landing on Runway 27.

I finally flew past the ridiculously recognizable Longaberger HQ

Goes without saying that it's a darn good visual checkpoint for pilots!

After some fun with the fuel pump (it's full-serve only, courtesy of a lightning strike a few years back) I added 18 gallons of 100LL to top off the tanks. I hadn't planned on refueling but the extra stop made it necessary. Thankfully Harold, the FBO manager, was still around and glad to pump the Avgas. Gary and I said adios and I took off on Runway 27, heading due west towards CMH.

Although I've had my pilot's certificate for nearly five years, this would be my first landing at a Class C airport. Kalamazoo was the closest (they're a Class D with a TRSA) I had come prior to today. The aforementioned YAA fundraiser was being hosted by Spirit Avionics at Port Columbus International Airport. Yup, the one with 150+ daily airline flights and all the big jets!

Like usual, the CMH controllers were great. I called Columbus Approach just off Newark as soon as I'd listened to the ATIS, about 15 miles out. They vectored me onto a right downwind for Runway 10R. Note that controllers at such large airports are clearly used to jet traffic - they had me a bit over two miles away from the runway on downwind!

I gradually moved closer as I approached and was cleared to land Runway 10R abeam the tower. Seeing as it's a 10,000 foot runway and my destination was at the very end, I intentionally landed long - though I still ended up having to taxi about a mile. The airport wasn't super busy but there was an airliner on approach to 10L as I turned final for 10R, which was a cool sight.

Eventually I arrived at Spirit, shut down, and spent a couple hours there nibbling on hors d'oeuvres - which seriously hit the spot after a day in the sun. My rental 172 didn't exactly class up a ramp that held a beautiful P-51 and other nice airplanes, but it was cool to fly in. I also got to meet Brent Owens, fellow pilot/blogger at iFLYblog, who was there with his family.

My night flight home from Port Columbus International to Dayton-Wright Brothers

Around 21:00, I decided I should start preparing to fly home. Night current for the first time in forever as of last month, I was really looking forward to another new milestone - my first solo night cross-country flight. Ever. Why another long, five-year wait? That's just the way it works out sometimes when you fly out of an unlit grass strip!

I called Clearance Delivery, told them I was VFR to Dayton-Wright Brothers, and they gave me a squawk that would keep me on ATC's radar scopes all the way home. One final check of all the gauges (and my flashlights!) and I called Ground; they cleared me to taxi to Runway 10R. I was offered an intersection departure and accepted. Although it's not something I usually would do, it left me with nearly 5,000 feet of runway - which is still longer than most runways I ever use. So it seemed like a sensible decision.

Runup and checklist complete, I called Tower and was cleared for takeoff on Runway 10R at the B4 intersection. The runway is brand new - it literally just opened on Thursday. Way to test it right away, huh? :) Being new, it's got fancy LED lights built right into the pavement that look downright beautiful at night. It was quite the sight as they zipped past faster and faster as I rotated and lifted off into the smooth sky.

Downtown Columbus, OH after departing CMH

Night flying is so different from daytime flying...

 ...generally calm, smooth, and extremely beautiful

Tower immediately handed me off to Departure, who instructed me to turn on course direct Wright Brothers once I reached 2,000 feet. I flew past downtown Columbus and enjoyed the view of the sparkling city through the crystal-clear night air. Soon I was out of the area, with far fewer lights below, flying over the farmland that stretches between Columbus and Dayton. Somewhere in that general area I crossed 100 hours of total cross-country time.

The controller warned me about skydiving operations and turned me 10 degrees off course to deviate. Surely they were just responding to a NOTAM someone forgot to cancel, no? How wrong I was. A few minutes later I heard the jump plane call "jumpers away" near Greene County Airport. In the middle of a moonless night. That's a level of crazy I'm still shaking my head at! :)

Before long, the lights of increasing civilization around Dayton came into view. I spotted Wright Brothers 15 or 20 miles out - this was absolutely aided in part by my recent flight with Mike where we landed after sunset. It's extremely hard to spot MGY's airport beacon when you approach from the east because it's nestled in between a bunch of very bright ramp lights. But tonight I knew what I was looking for and spotted it much sooner than last week.

The pattern was empty and I clicked the lights up to full intensity on base, clicking them back down to low as I turned final. Sliding smoothly down the glideslope, I flew over our neighborhood, crossed the fence, and touched down extremely softly on Runway 20. A perfect 10/10, total greaser of a landing. Always seems to happen on solo flights, right?

Instead of writing a separate post, I'll just note here that Gina dropped me off at MGY and I flew the 172 back to Stewart on Sunday morning. That added another 0.3 to the Hobbs for a grand total of 4.3 hours in the air, 3.8 of which were solo. It was an extremely fun trip, full of firsts, milestones, and a bunch of great piloting experience!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 4.0 hours + 0.3 hours on 8/25
Total Time: 285.8 hours (100.8 hours XC)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cubbin' with my aunt and cousin

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 72 degrees, wind 070 degrees at 7 knots

One of my younger cousins just started her freshman year at the University of Dayton so some of my relatives were also in town. They were actually also down last weekend for move-in but the calendar was too busy to squeeze in a flight. Today wasn't much better, but at least we managed to briefly take to the air!

Aunt Angela was nervously anticipating her first Cub experience

It was just past 11:00 when we arrived at Stewart and I only had the plane until noon - so we had no choice but to make it a very quick First Cub Experience. Aunt Angela was up first and she climbed into the front seat while I explained the very few things that there are to explain about a simple J-3. It wasn't long before we were rolling down the grass, lifting off, and heading east towards the lake. An abbreviated version of my usual sightseeing route, for those of you who've heard the spiel before.

Once in the air, she definitely enjoyed the view...

Every passenger gets a kick out of seeing our shadow on the ground!

Back in the pattern at Stewart - note the skydivers :)

We flew for 15-20 minutes before returning to Stewart. She told me after the fact that she was somewhat nervous until we landed but really enjoyed the flight. Maybe we'll be able to go up again when there's less of a time-crunch, or fly in something more modern (said tongue in cheek, since the 172's a 1967 model, but I digress). I think she'd like actually flying somewhere now that she has experienced little airplanes in person and enjoyed it.

John climbed aboard after we all chatted for a couple minutes on the ground. He actually flew with us in the 172 last fall (along with his sister, RosaLia, the aforementioned new UD student) when we were up in Michigan for the weekend. Anyway, he wanted to see what Cubbin' was all about as well so I was happy to do my part.

Passenger change - Leo, John, and Gina and me with NC98286

Doing the "Cub Dance" to climb into the cockpit

About to start the engine (hand-propping's the only way)

Mandatory, very brief Cub safety briefing

Strapped in and ready to give John a taste of the Cub

Just as with the first flight, John and I didn't fly for very long. I think we were in the air just shy of 15 minutes. Instead of the lake route, I flew north and pointed out downtown Waynesville, where we all had lunch last weekend. Then I headed back to the airport and made a power-off landing with a healthy forward slip from base to final.

So there you go - a simple but fun weekend morning jaunt in a J-3. I think their photos (which I stole from my aunt's Facebook album) make it quite clear how much they enjoyed the experience. As a pilot, not much beats being able to give folks their first small airplane ride. Doing so in a Cub is just all that much sweeter!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours
Total Time: 281.5 hours

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Flying an aerial hitchhiker to West Virginia

Plane: Cessna 182 RG
Weather - MGY: Broken clouds, 67 degrees, wind 030 degrees at 6 knots
Weather - MGW: Clear, 63 degrees, wind calm

Mike sent me an IM this afternoon and asked if I wanted to fly to WV on an interesting mission. I forget the exact connection but Matthew Karsten, a.k.a. The Expert Vagabond, is a friend of a friend. He's in the midst of one heck of an adventure, hitchhiking his way across the country and writing about it on his impressive travel website. Matthew was in Columbus looking for a ride east today and Mike offered to do his part to help out.

So we met at Wright Brothers around 5:00 and were soon climbing out over the clouds, heading east towards Ohio State University Airport. There was a bit of a dual mission, as Mike needs to log some approaches under the hood to stay instrument current - hence me tagging along. We were on flight following with Columbus Approach and got cleared to fly the RNAV 9R into OSU.

Xenia, OH - which has been hit by three tornados since 1974!

London, OH and the Madison Correctional Institution

Crossing the Scioto River with downtown Columbus in the distance

Final for Runway 9R at KOSU

Bonus points to any airport with a public observation tower!

We met Matthew in the terminal and chatted for about 15 minutes while the line folks added 40 gallons of Avgas to the 182's fuel tanks. He had traveled to Columbus from Colorado by way of a big rig - roughly 1200 miles in one shot! This would be his second time in a small plane, and I think his very first in a four-seater.

He was really looking forward to the trip and asked a bunch of great questions about flight training and general aviation. Mike and I enjoyed the chat and continued answering questions and explaining things as we loaded into the airplane. After we were settled, Mike started the engine and got clearance to taxi back to Runway 9R for takeoff.

Hitchhiker and pilot prior to climbing into the airplane to fly to WV

OSU's campus is in between us and downtown Columbus in this shot

Mike pointing something out while climbing to 7,500 feet

Matthew seemed to be enjoying the view!

There were some scattered clouds that thinned out as we flew east

Passing directly over top of Zanesville, OH

Fracking = lots of chopped-off hilltops in the region

The winds aloft were light and we were making good time to Morgantown. Mike and I pointed out some of the neat things you can see from above in this part of the country - hills with flattened tops where they're drilling for natural gas, coal mines, all the coal-fired power plants along the Ohio River, and the rolling terrain. We also chatted about how much time you can save by flying in areas like this where there simply aren't many roads that cut straight across the landscape.

Maxing out at 213 MPH groundspeed on descent into MGW

Morgantown, WV

Matthew was still enjoying the heck out of the flight shortly before landing

Final for Runway 36 at Morgantown Municipal Airport

On the ground, we probably talked for another 30 minutes about Matthew's plans as he continues on his journey. He was going to stay the night in Morgantown and then continue east - first towards Washington, DC and ultimately up the east coast to Boston. He has a flight from Boston to Mexico in a few weeks and then he's going to spend three months living down there. It's certainly not a lifestyle for everyone but you can't deny it's one heck of a journey!

Mike and I actually flew to Morgantown a couple years ago on a Pilots N Paws flight. The FBO still has a great pilot lounge but we were sad to see the new management has apparently started charging a $15 landing fee for the privilege of using their chocks. Ouch! Although we enjoyed our meal at Ali Baba back in 2011 (it's still open) I don't think MGW is going to be such an easy sell as a $100 hamburger destination anymore.

The sun was getting low in the sky as we taxied for takeoff

Flying over West Virginia University's campus on our way home

The flight home was uneventful as the sun slowly got lower in the sky and eventually dipped below the horizon. Winds were still relatively calm and we maintained about 150 knots across the ground. The pattern at Wright Brothers was clear and the radio silent as we turned final for Runway 20. Mike touched down gently and we quickly washed the bugs off the plane and locked N757YG up in her hangar.

It was a fun little evening trip to WV and back. I enjoy tagging along like this sometimes since it affords me the opportunity to use my good camera in the air. Best of luck to Matthew as he continues his trek across the country - and beyond!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.2 hours (SIC)
Total Time: 280.8 hours

2013 Red Stewart Airshow + EAA Fly-In (Labor Day Weekend)

If you're anywhere near the Dayton/Cincinnati area, you should head on down to Waynesville for Red Stewart Airfield's annual FREE airshow on Saturday, August 31st. Heck, even if you're not close by, it's worth flying in for!

There are always tons of cool old airplanes (Stewart's taildragger heaven, after all) on the field and the airshow's great. Make sure you arrive early enough for dinner and hang around overnight (camp out on the field, if you'd like!) for a great pancake breakfast Sunday morning. The on-field EAA chapter will even be giving free airplane rides to kids as part of the Young Eagles program after breakfast, too.

I'll be at the airport most of the weekend - likely all day Friday and Saturday, and part of the day Sunday - so be sure to let me know if you'll be around... I'd love to say hello! :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

One approach + two more years' currency

Plane: Cessna 150
Instructor: Jamie
Route: 40I-SGH-40I
Weather: Scattered clouds, 82 degrees, wind light and variable

Two of my aunts were down in Dayton this morning helping my cousin move into her dorm at the University of Dayton. We went out to lunch in Waynesville (at the Cobblestone Cafe, which I'd never been to before, but highly recommend - great food!) before they drove home to Akron. Anyway, it's not like I'm going to pass up an opportunity to fly when I'm less than five minutes away from Stewart... so I drove down to the airport after saying goodbye to the family.

Jamie had time to tag along so we could complete the final flight activities for my WINGS phase. If you're not familiar with the FAA's WINGS program, I explained it in a post a couple years ago. For the current phase, I've had the knowledge activities completed for a while. Jamie and I crossed off most of the flight activities back in June during my checkout in the T-Craft; we just had to finish the simulated instrument work in a properly-equipped airplane.

We departed on Runway 26 and I had the hood on before we'd left the pattern. Side note - I bought a Francis Hood in anticipation of working on my instrument rating (yes, still slacking on that!) and today's the first time I tried it in the air. Thus far, I'm a fan. It does a very good job blocking everything but the panel. Not ridiculously uncomfortable, either.

I looked like this, shirt and tie aside (Stewart's not nearly that formal!)

Under the hood, we started with the basic stuff - straight and level flight, then climbs, turns, descents, and combinations of everything. I did a relatively decent job keeping up my scan and not wandering too far from where I was supposed to be - especially considering I last flew under the hood two years ago. I really liked how Jamie was explaining things and feeding me tips and reminders as I went along... it was extremely helpful.

Next up were unusual attitudes. The idea is to be able to recover if you find yourself in a bad spot, solely by reference to the instruments. I closed my eyes, put my chin on my chest, and Jamie flung the airplane all over the sky - turns, climbs, descents, floating out of my seat, pushed into my seat. Once he was satisfied I was disoriented he called out, "your airplane!" and I had to recover. There are two basic tenets - you always look at your artificial horizon / attitude indicator and if you're nose-high, immediately add full power, lower the nose, and level the wings. You simply do the reverse (retard the throttle, level the wings, and raise the nose) if you're nose-low. We did it four times, the first being quite gentle and the last starting from a roughly 60 degree left-turning nosedive. Fun, fun. All my recoveries went well, too.

I had asked him about the graveyard spiral, which has killed more than a couple pilots. The gist of it is that you lose visual reference to the horizon (in clouds, in fog, at night, etc.) and think you're level when you're actually turning. So I closed my eyes for a while and he got us into position. I could tell we were turning slightly (I could feel the sun moving across my face) but was still all screwed up. I would've bet $100 we were turning left - and would have turned right to recover. But when I opened my eyes we were in a 30+ degree bank to the right! Just another reminder why you always have to trust your instruments - the human body is not designed for flight and trusting your senses is about the most dangerous thing you can do when flying IFR.

Finally, he asked if I wanted to fly an approach - something I'd never done before (other than monitoring as a safety pilot). He pulled up the SGH VOR 33 Approach plate on his iPhone and we dialed in the SGH VOR on the Nav radio. Jamie talked me through the altitudes and explained a few important things as we got closer to the airport. When he told me to look up, sure enough, there was a runway right in front of me!

Not too bad for the first approach I've ever flown, right?

We did a short field landing at SGH and a power-off 180. On the latter, I pulled the power abeam the numbers, slowly brought in the flaps while making a continuous turn from downwind to final, eventually dumping in all 40 degrees of flaps maybe 100 feet up. We touched down just past the numbers. Had I put in full flaps about five seconds sooner, I would've nailed it perfectly. Still... it was a darn good landing!

Neither of us had checked our watches and soon realized we were due back at Stewart, so I pointed the nose straight at the airport and put in Full Rental Power. It took 10-15 minutes to fly there from SGH and I crossed midfield to enter a left downwind for Runway 26. Full flaps on final, 50-55 knots, I drug 60338 in over the trees for a final short field landing. We were turning off abeam the end of the row of hangars so we landed in roughly 500 feet.

With that, I'm 100% good to fly for another two years. I renewed my medical last month (which is good for another 5 years) and this checks off the flight review requirement for 24 more calendar months. Not that I don't hope/expect to spend plenty of hours in training during that time period - but it's always nice to know all my I's are dotted and T's are crossed in the FAA's eyes.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 280.6 hours

Friday, August 2, 2013

Adjusting My Weight & Balance - Month 4*

Since I last checked in, I've managed to lose another 6-8 lbs. We've taken a couple trips (camping, Napa) where I've allowed myself the luxury of not following a strict diet. Not that I've fallen off the horse or anything - but I think I've earned a few days' pause here and there.

I've been flirting with crossing the 160 lb threshold for about a week now. The aforementioned trip to Napa certainly didn't help. Hopefully I'll cross it - for good - in the next week or so. All the travel has also kept me from exercising as much as I'd like - sometimes there are simply things you have to do around the house when you're home!

I'm less than 10 lbs from my target weight, though I'm not unhappy where I'm at. At this point I need to start more strength exercises (though I will certainly continue the cardio on my bike!) to help gain more muscle mass. I think that'll be the final step towards reaching the ultimate goal.

I've been making relatively steady progress all year long!

Beyond counting the pounds, there has been some other measurable progress. My waist is about 3" less than April - which is quite obvious. I already had to buy new pants and now the new pants are getting too loose. Not complaining but, as you can imagine, I've been holding off on buying too many clothes until things stabilize! I'm also down 8-10% body fat in the same time period.

The hitch for the car should be delivered soon as well. With that in hand - and the bike rack I still need to buy - it'll be much easier to ride the other trails in the region. I'm looking forward to it!

*If we're counting from when I restarted this whole process, it's been about 4 months, so that's going to be the datum point from here on out.