Sunday, October 27, 2013

Frosty wings and a slice of pie

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-I74-40I
Weather: Clear, 46 degrees, wind calm

Yesterday, I asked around (i.e. posted on Facebook) if anyone wanted to fly to breakfast this morning. A group (also on Facebook - common theme today) of Ohio pilots made plans to converge on Urbana. There would be a couple guys I know from the Columbus area, Lenny and Dave, along with plenty of other nice folks in airplanes. Anyway, Gary - who I met in Newark a couple months ago - responded that he wanted to tag along, so he drove down and met me at Stewart this morning.

Guess I can add 'Manual Deicer' to my resume

I soon ran into a wrench thrown into my plans to make it to Urbana by 9:30 - there was a ton of frost and ice on the airplane. We eventually came to the conclusion that there must have been a bit of freezing rain or mist that fell overnight, as there was a thick layer on the entire plane. The only solution was sunlight, scrubbing with the Official Deicing Brooms™ and plenty of patience. It was nearly 9:45 before the plane was ready to go and the cold engine was warmed up and running in the green.

I'm not sure why the altitude didn't record correctly on the way home

Still, there was no reason to scrub the flight. It was a beautiful morning so we'd absolutely be flying, even if our breakfast plans didn't work out. So we flew north direct Urbana as I pointed out many of the sights in the area to Gary - downtown Dayton, WPAFB, the Air Force Museum, even downtown Columbus, which we spotted rising on the horizon from over 50 miles away.

I touched down quite softly on Runway 20 and we were parked on the ramp before 10:30. There was no time for a full breakfast but we chatted with Dave and Lenny for a few. Dave brought his just-painted RV-12, which is even more gorgeous in person than in all the photos. Gary was kind enough to buy us each a slice of black raspberry pie from the Airport Cafe so at least we got a little nourishment in Urbana!

Soon after, we were back in the 150, ready to fly back to Stewart. Someone had the airplane at 11:00 so we couldn't dawdle; we did get back a few minutes late but it didn't interfere with their lesson, thankfully. Gary and I chatted on the way home about locating airports and other flying stuff. His flight training's still on hold but I'm pretty sure he'll finish and get his license one of these days. You can just tell when flying's in someone's blood and they'll do anything to make the dream come true. Gary's one of those guys.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 294.0 hours

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Up in the tower

This morning I had an opportunity to go on a tour of the control tower at Dayton International Airport. I certainly did not pass it up! A local group of pilots organized it and, through the magic of email and Facebook, I found myself on the visitor list when I arrived at the airport.

Dayton's new control tower opened in 2011

Dayton used to house a TRACON in addition to the tower, however approach was moved to Columbus when the new tower opened a couple years ago. It's still weird to call Columbus Approach for flight following over downtown Dayton but I'm slowly getting used to it. That meant no tour of a radar room this morning. Thankfully, I saw an impressive one before when I visited Cleveland Center in 2009.

We met with Sean, one of the supervisors, and he started the morning with a Powerpoint presentation. It had a great animation of the progression of an example flight. Once the pilots contact clearance, ground, and then tower for takeoff there are a series of handoffs to get into "the system" and out of the local area. The presentation illustrated how all flights leaving Dayton's airspace (which is a roughly 60-mile radius around DAY up to 10,000 feet) have to leave out of a series of gates - basically, three or four sections on the radar scope - to get passed onto Cleveland or Indianapolis Center.

It's 255 feet tall and covered in over 1,000 glass panels

After a really nice Q&A down in the main building, we hopped the elevator up to the top of the tower in two groups. First stop was two stories below the cab; they have a nice little break room for when the controllers don't want to come all the way back down. That's where I snapped the photo below - above that level, no phones are allowed.

They've got quite the view of the airfield up there!

Next up was the equipment room. Really just a bunch of switches, electrical panels, and computers. I also noticed a bank of CD-R drives where they record all the ATC communications. Sean mentioned all the backup systems in place. There are three generators in total (along with batteries) at the airport ready to take over if power is ever lost - one for the tower, another for the approach lighting, and one for the airport itself. The FAA manages the first two while the city of Dayton manages the latter.

Finally, we climbed one final set of stairs and found ourselves in the tower cab. It's quite expansive and the view is awesome, as you would probably expect. There are computer stations all the way around, each with a specific purpose, plus two displays showing the local approach radar. Usually there are two controllers - one handles clearance and ground, and the other handles local (i.e. tower / the runways) operations.

The airport wasn't super busy but a number of flights arrived and departed while we were up there. One of the controllers also recorded an updated ATIS broadcast. Right before we left, the visibility improved and the airport went VFR; I heard the other controller call Columbus Approach and let them know. Both Sean and the controllers on duty answered questions and pointed things out to everyone in the group.

Eventually we had to come back downstairs and we finished with a final Q&A and a couple entertaining ATC stories from Sean. It was really interesting to look out on the airport from the controller's perspective. It was also quite interesting to see all the technology they have in place - radar, windshear detection, even a link into the national NEXRAD system that can track dust particles in the air to report winds aloft anywhere they desire. Pretty cool stuff.

If you ever have a chance to take a tower tour yourself, I highly recommend it!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sunrise over the Little Miami

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: MGY-40I-MGY
Weather: Clear, 47 degrees, wind calm

Last night's fun flight to Dayton International resulted in the flip side of flying and renting from Stewart - the airplane was still at Wright Brothers. No runway lights means no night landings. Since I live just a couple minutes from MGY, I told Jamie I could fly the plane back this morning. So I got there around 7:30, preflighted the 172, warmed up the oil, and turned onto Runway 20 just as the sun started rising into the sky.

Turning onto Runway 20 for takeoff

Watching the sun rise above the horizon on this beautiful morning

Now, I'm not much of a morning person. Never have been, never will be. Accordingly, I rarely fly in the early morning hours. This might have actually been the first time I've ever flown at sunrise, to be honest. My logbook doesn't appear to dispute that statement.

But that doesn't mean it's not a spectacular time to fly. The air was smooth and the warm orange glow of the sun rising over the farms and valley fog was downright beautiful. I don't know that I'll ever be a frequent morning flyer but it was absolutely worth getting up early this morning!

Morning fog in the Little Miami River Valley 

Passing over the valley on downwind for Runway 26

Red Stewart Airfield in the early morning sunlight

The logistics at hand were a bit convoluted. I landed at Stewart and picked Jamie up. Sidenote here that there's simply nothing like landing on grass in the morning, kicking up a spray of dew as the wheels roll over the turf. Certainly one of the pleasures of flying. Anyway, I stopped and let Jamie climb on board - then took back off on Runway 26.

Flying down the Little Miami River Valley

Given the perfect weather and views, I decided to take the scenic route down the valley back to Wright Brothers. Jamie and I both snapped a few photos as I flew south, then I turned northwest back towards MGY, making a pass at Stewart since we were flying directly overhead anyway. I landed back on Runway 20 and hopped out of the plane on the ramp; Jamie flew the plane back to Stewart so he could start his day of flight instructing.

Not a bad morning. Not bad at all.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.5 hours
Total Time: 292.5 hours

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full

Plane: Cessna 172
Instructor: Jamie
Weather: Clear, 60 degrees, wind calm

As with many flights this year, tonight's was multi-purpose. Jamie wanted to go up and fly a few approaches under the hood. I wanted to maintain my night currency, which was due to expire this coming weekend. We also had an opportunity to go up in the tower at Dayton International Airport - as it so happens, Jamie's neighbor is a controller there.

We met at Wright Brothers after dark (remember, no lights at Stewart) and took off close to 21:00. Jamie took off and then I steered us towards DAY as he dialed in the ATIS. Columbus Approach soon had us on radar and handed us off to the tower, which Sean (the neighborly controller) was manning. He cleared us straight in on Runway 36 from around 6 miles out.

I held three whites and one red on the PAPI, transitioning to two and two on short final. We were cleared for the option so I opted for a stop-and-go. Simplest way to hit the full-stop requirement for night currency, especially on an 8500 foot runway! Seconds later we were climbing out, then turning right downwind while a regional jet landed on our recently-vacated runway.

So that's what I look like on a radar scope!

Sean informed us while we were in the pattern that the tower was short staffed this evening. Unfortunately, meant no tour; he couldn't take a break and bring us up. We were disappointed but still appreciated the good service. The airport was almost completely dead and we made two more trips around the pattern.

After our final takeoff, we said our goodbyes. Jamie asked permission for a flyby. In true form, Sean came back over the radio with, "negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full." He also told us this may have been the first time he's ever cleared a plane for takeoff with a left turnout direct MGY. I guess those airline pilots don't like to fly to the regional airport 19 miles away.

Downtown Dayton, OH

Since we were also having intermittent issues with the Mode C on the transponder (not again!) Jamie decided to skip the practice approaches. So he left the hood off and we simply treated the entire flight as instructional. He pointed out a few things while in the pattern at DAY and I always enjoy having a CFI onboard. The flight also marked my second Class C airport in under two months. Not bad, considering I hadn't ever even landed at one prior to August!

Long final for Runway 20 at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport

Short final at MGY

As we approached Wright Brothers, we could see a long line of cars on I-75. Getting closer, I noticed the traffic was stopped. Looked like a semi had overturned or spilled something. We were certainly glad to be zooming past overhead rather than in a dead stop on the highway.

I crossed midfield, entering a left downwind for Runway 20. Jamie took the controls at that point so he could log another night landing for his own currency. Total greaser, if I might add. We tied the plane down and said our goodbyes. Since I live around the corner, I'll be heading back in the morning to ferry the 172 back to Stewart.

And for the record, the pattern at DAY wasn't full. Just sayin'.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.9 hours
Total Time: 292.0 hours

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Adjusting my Weight & Balance - Month 6

I've gained an hour of flight time! What the heck am I talking about? Well, I'm down nearly 30 lbs since April - and just over 35 lbs from last summer, my all-time high - and most planes I fly burn around 6 gallons (36 lbs) of 100LL per hour. That also means I'm quite close to my original target weight, which was 150 lbs.

Since my last update in August, I've maintained a decent workout schedule. I've also spent a ton of time in the backyard landscaping and moving stone; that burns plenty of calories, too! Since I've been making steady progress I have allowed myself a few unhealthy meals here and there. Overall, I'm still monitoring my calories daily and sticking to an intake that should result in losing about one pound per week.

Biking is still my exercise of choice. I've ridden 422 miles in 2013 - most recently, 82 in August, 77 in September, and 32 so far in October. Gina and I sometimes ride down to a little ice cream shop in Springboro (about 10 miles roundtrip) and I do plenty of high-intensity riding on my own for pure calorie-burning.

The results certainly speak for themselves - since April, I've:
  • Lost 11.4% body fat
  • Gained 6.5% muscle mass
  • Lost 4.75" around my waist
  • Lost 3" around my hips
  • Lost 1.25" around my neck
Now, I'm certainly not complaining about any of that. In fact, I'm quite happy with it as you can probably imagine. But it does bear noting the one major drag of all this - essentially none of my clothes fit. I already had to buy a few new pairs of pants a few months ago and now those are definitely too big! Since I still hope to lose another 5-10 lbs (though I expect to gain some back as I build more muscle) I'm hoping I can hold off on any major purchases until everything stabilizes.

So that's where things stand today. Lots of great progress that I'm definitely proud of. Hitch is installed on the car but I still haven't purchased the bike rack - might wait until spring at this point. Feeling much healthier and less lethargic. And in serious need of going clothes shopping!