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)


  1. Sounds like a terrific day! Congrats on your first Class C (pronounced "classy", because I'm sure it was) landing and the night x/c! AZO taught me everything I needed to know about how larger airports function, I'm grateful it was so clse by during my early days in the cockpit.

    One of the best parts about bogging, I think, is actually meeting some of the cool people we correspond with. I'm glad you got the opportunity.

    1. I like your pronunciation; I'm gonna have to use that.

      You're right about AZO - great controllers, great airport, just an all-around nice place. I've enjoyed my trips there, both GA and commercial.

      You're also right about this whole blogging thing. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I've met over the years essentially just because of the blog. It's always fun to get the chance to say hello in person!