Blog Archive 2007

Blog Archive
['10, '09, '08, '07, '06, '05]

[December 25, 2007]
Happy Holidays

'Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp, Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.
The aircraft were fastened to tiedowns with care, In hopes that come morning, they all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots, With gusts from two-forty at 39 knots.
I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up, And settled down comfortably, resting my butt.

When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter, I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow, Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick, I'd have sworn that the call sign he used was "St. Nick"; I ran to the panel to turn up the lights, The better to welcome this magical flight.

He called his position, no room for denial, "St. Nicholas One, turnin' left onto final."
And what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer!

With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came, As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:
"Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun! On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he takin'?

While controllers were sittin', and scratchin' their head, They phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread, The message they left was both urgent and dour:
"When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower."

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking, Then I heard "Left at Charlie,"and "Taxi to parking."
He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh And stopped on the ramp with a "Ho, ho-ho- ho..."

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk, I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks.
His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost And his beard was all blackened from Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale, And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn't inhale.
His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly, His boots were as black as a crop duster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red, And he asked me to "fill it, with hundred low- lead."
He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump, I knew he was anxious for drainin' the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work, And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief, Then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log, These reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog.
He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear, Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, "Clear!"

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk, He called up the tower for clearance and squawk.
"Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction, Turn right three-two-zero at pilot's discretion."

He sped down the runway, the best of the best, "Your traffic's a Grumman, inbound from the west."
Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed through the night, "Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight."

[December 10, 2007]
Learning the Glass                                                                V3.0

Flew the Eaglesoft Cirrus SR22 G2 getting familiar with the Avidyne Entegra glass cockpit as well as twin Garmin GNS 430s and the STEC 55X autopilot.  The avionics documentation that comes with the Eaglesoft Cirrus is pretty good, but I found myself downloading the actual Avidyne/Garmin/STEC manuals for extra insight.  Flew a short hop from Frederick, MD to Martin State airport just north of Baltimore in actual IFR conditions.  Uncoupled the autopilot at the IAF and hand flew a precision approach to r/w 33.  On another approach to Newport News I let the autopilot fly the entire ILS approach.  The Cirrus touched down about 5 feet beyond the threshold!  So much for riding the ILS beam.  I still have a lot to learn on how the Entegra, the GPS, and the autopilot all interact to fly the plane.

[December 6-9, 2007]
Flying in Iraq

Took a real flight in a C-23 Sherpa today as a passenger in what amounted to 1/4 mile visibility due to blowing dust and winds gusting to 25 kts.  It was so bad that the Air Force stopped flying, but not the Army!  I breathed a sigh of relief after we leveled off at altitude.  The ride was pretty uneventful after that.  Photos of aircraft working in Iraq during my recent trip can be found here.

[November 18, 2007]
Boeing 737-700 / Baron 58 Twin                                            V2.5         _____________________________________________________________________________________________

Spent some time flying the Baron 58 (Flight 1) from Dillingham field on the island of Oahu to the main island.  Afterwards I jumped into my Boeing 737-700 (PMDG) for a familiarization flight from Syracuse, NY (KSYR) to Portland, Maine (KPWM).  Spent the time working with the CDU/FMC and MCP.  Hand flew the landing and greased it!

[November 16, 2007]
My New Cockpit         _____________________________________________________________________________________________


[November 15, 2007]
Living in Iraq                                          

I may not be home flying but I live 1000 meters from an active runway in the middle of Iraq, how cool is that?  When I bicycle to work each day I get to enjoy the sight of a C-130 or Russian made cargo plane discharging its cargo on the ramp area with engines running.  Pretty neat, love that exhaust smell!  I have almost got my PC set up for virtual flights with Microsoft Flight Simulator so I will soon be boring you with write up's on my virtual flights to exotic locations around the world as well as logging the virtual time in the left column of this web site.  I think you will be pretty amazed at the set-up I have been able to cobble together out here.  I'll post pictures as soon as I have it all up and running.  Until then enjoy this photo from the flight line!


[September 24, 2007]
The Final Flight                                                          3.0
View GPS Track For This Flight _____________________________________________________________________

The intent of tonight’s trip was to gain more night flying experience as well as log a 100 mile night cross country which might be useful for meeting commercial pilot requirements later on down the road.  This was my final flight before my deployment to Iraq for the next 15 months.  The weather was perfect for this flight.  Calm winds, no clouds, and a full moon.  I took a direct route to Culpeper,VA climbing to 6500 feet.  FSS did not have my flight plan on file so I resubmitted via radio once I had leveled off.  Luckily I keep a copy of a flight plan form in my flight bag for just such occasions. 

 As I droned on towards Culpeper I peered out the window and looked for likely emergency landing locations, even with a full moon that was next to impossible.  About the only thing you could be certain of was the water, and who would want to land in water at night?  During my preflight planning I identified all airfields along my route of travel but even then I had multiple stretches of 30 miles or more with no airport within gliding distance. At 6500 feet the 172 can glide 10 miles under the best circumstances.  I have thought through the emergency night landing dilemma before and the best idea’s I could come up with were:  1) Plan route and altitude so that you are always within glide distance of an airport (the downside here is the additional time enroute due to course alterations and probably flying at 10,500 or higher which may not be possible due to weather).  2)  Recon the route during the day and identify potential emergency landing sites by creating GPS waypoints.  Using a program like Google Earth you can take the waypoints and create virtual runways that can be loaded back into the GPS and use the VNAV function to assist in your approach to landing on an unlit field (the downside to this option is that you have to fly the route twice, works great for common trips but not so economical for one time flights).  Needless to say I did not have an emergency on this night that required an off airport landing.

 I tuned into Richmond tower to listen in on operations as I passed the Class C airspace to the northeast.  It sounded fairly busy for 8 at night.  A pilot reported being “painted” by a green laser from the ground while on final approach.  The controller gave the pilot a number to call when he landed to report the incident.  Fifteen minutes later another pilot reported the same.  I don’t know how this type of situation is handled but it is a very serious safety of flight issue.  I would hope the local police would go out and investigate, but it is probable like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  It’s sad that someone finds entertainment in putting the lives of others at risk.

 Arriving at Culpeper I entered a left downwind for runway 22 since winds were calm and 22 provided the most convenient arrival.  No one was in the pattern.  A couple clicks on the radio and the pilot controlled airport lights came on to reveal the airport runway, taxiways, and approach.  Turning final I overshot the centerline and had to work my way back, once established I had a pretty descent crab to the left to stay lined up.  This did not make a whole lot of sense for “calm” winds.  I came in high and had to cut the throttle to get down, this led to a high sink rate and a few bounces on landing.  The landing was a C-/D, not a very good start.  I taxied back for takeoff and tried again.  The next attempt I was high again and I decided to go around instead of trying to salvage.  The third attempt was better with the VASI showing me on the glideslope.  The landing was another small bounce which surprised me since the airspeed was under control and I felt the flare was sufficient.  I’d give it a C.  I parked the plane on the dark ramp and called FSS to close my flight plan.  It was now about 9PM.

 Launching out of Culpeper I headed back to LFI at 5,500 feet.  Flight time was a little over an hour.  I let the autopilot fly the plane while I practiced determining my position using two VORs.  Arriving over Williamsburg I turned off the autopilot and hand flew the rest of the way.  Langley cleared me for runway 8 and I was determined to finish off with a spectacular landing but it was not to be.  It ended up being another C.  Now I have that not so stellar final landing to think about for the next 15 months.

 I stepped out of the cockpit for the last time and put the plane to bed.  Probably the last time I will fly 428FF or any other plane at the Aero Club.  The club is having serious financial issues and will probably close its doors forever within the next few months.  I have enjoyed my time with them and really enjoyed flying the late model 172Rs.  They are so much nicer than the beat up mid 1970 Cessna’s at the local FBO.  Not sure what the future will hold with regards to flying when I return from deployment.  I’ll probably be moving from the area to someplace that may or may not have a local airport.  Regardless I feel I have taken full advantage of my time here.  Virginia is a great place to fly.  They have wonderful airports and lots of them.  Newport News Airport is a fantastic Class D airport and living only a few miles from the airport was perfect.  I started my flight lessons as soon as I arrived in the area back in June 2005 and received my private pilot certificate in January 2006.  Since then I have been to so many interesting places.  I’ve flown as far south as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and as far north as Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  I’ve flown in the mountains, at sunset, at night, in marginal VFR, in rain, and worked my way around thunderstorms during hot summer days.  I’ve landed at 35 different airports, each one unique, two on islands, several near the beach, some small, some large.  It has been a real experience and if it ends with this flight I am content but no one can see into what the future holds so we will just have to wait and see……………………j

 Thanks for reading and sharing in my journey. 

 Happy Flying - Tim


[September 8, 2007]
NAS Oceana Air Show

This is my last air show for the next 15 months.  Closed out with the Blue Angels.  j


[September 6, 2007]
FAA Instrument Written Exam

Took the FAA Instrument written exam today and managed to get a perfect score, 100%.  Feeling pretty good right now.  I used the King DVD Instrument Course and the Gleim study guide to prep for the test and have been studying off and on for the last 8 months.  The test is definitely tougher than the Private Pilot written which I took almost two years ago and scored 98% on.  I spent the better part of the 2.5 hours allotted for the test, checking and rechecking my answers.  I now have two years to complete the training requirements and practical exam for the instrument rating.  Yesterday I renewed my Third Class medical without a hitch, so I am good for another three years.  Hopefully by the time I need to renew my medical I will need a Second Class for commercial pilot!  j

[September 4, 2007]
Celebrating the reduction of the Washington DC ADIZ                           3.2
Video__View GPS Track For This Flight ___Photos____________________________________________________

In celebration of the ADIZ shrinking I took a flight up to Bay Bridge airport (W29) located on the eastern bank of the Chesapeake Bay in Stevensville, MD.  I was able to fly an almost direct route from the south flying through airspace that only five days early had been part of the Washington DC Air Defense Identification Zone.  But instead of having to file a DVFR flight plan, squawking discrete transponder codes, and talking to ATC the whole way, I flew VFR-1200 without talking to anyone.  On the way up I stopped at St Mary's County Regional Airport (2W6) in Leonardtown, MD for some stop-and-go landing practice.  2W6 sits on the western edge of Patuxent restricted airspace.  My Dad came out to the airport to meet me for lunch and captured my landing on video (see compilation video link above).  We had lunch at Annie's which is only a few miles from the airport and serves an excellent Angus beef hamburger, highly recommend you check this establishment out if you visit W29.  Returned home to find that Steve Fossett, aviation record holder and famed adventurer, has gone missing in a single engine airplane.  It just does not make any sense. j

[August 18, 2007]
The 600 Mile Cross Country                           7.2
Video__View GPS Track For This Flight ______Photos___________________________________________________________

Holy cow where do I begin?  You don't fly for 7 hours in one day and not learn a few things and encounter new experiences.  Today had it all.  My daughter was up in the Philadelphia area and needed to be picked up so I thought it was a great opportunity to knock out the future commercial pilot requirement for the 300 mile cross-country.  The requirement calls for a x-country trip of at least 300 miles with full stop landings at three airports, one of which must be at least 250 miles from you original point of departure.  I found Williamsport, PA to be exactly 251 miles from Langley and about 100 miles northwest of Philly.  I found out today that apparently Williamsport is the home of the Little League World Series which just happened to be going on at the time of my visit.  The weather was severe clear VFR forecast for the entire day but there was one catch, wind.  Winds were forecast to gust up to 20 knots in PA for most of the morning and into the afternoon, finally calming down in the late afternoon.  Winds aloft were 30+ knots from the north and moderate turbulence was forecast for under 8000 feet.  The winds were a little out of my comfort level and I have never been a fan of getting bounced around but it was about time I expanded my horizons so I did my pre-flight planning and launched out at 0820.  The air was smooth and the headwinds marginal as I worked my way up the Virginia/Maryland peninsula.  I picked up flight following as I worked my way north.  The only event of note was a Cessna 182 that passed over me at about 500 feet from one o'clock.  Dover Approach called out the target about 30 seconds before we would have hit, thanks for the heads up ATC!  Lessons learned, even with traffic advisories one must remain ever vigilant.   It amazes me that as big as the sky is there is always a plane or two that passes within a few thousand feet of you on almost every trip.

When I started my turn to the northwest north of Dover,DE the headwinds started to kick in and my ground speed slowed to about 85 knots.  The 2:30 hr trip to Williamsport, PA was about to turn into 3 hours and 15 minutes.  I pressed on.  As I approached Lancaster, PA the turbulence started to kick in.  I turned off the autopilot and started hand flying the plane at 4500 feet.  Central PA has some interesting terrain with small mountain ridge lines running from east to west and spread 5-10 miles apart.  I would experience strong updrafts as I crossed the ridges at a 90 degree angle.  A few times I had to reduce power and point the nose down just to keep from being pushed to 5000 feet.  I slowed the plane down to about 100 knts IAS to ride out the turbulence.  Things would calm down and I would increase speed only to get tossed around moments later.  This went on all the way to Williamsport.  I approached Williamsport from the east and was given a straight in approach to runway 30 with winds at 350 at 12 knots.  The descent down was bumpy but about a mile out things started to calm down and the landing was uneventful.  You can view the landing here.  I closed out my flight plan and had the tanks topped off at the FBO and found my fuel burn to be spot on with my pre-flight calculations.  I had used 27.4 gallons for 3:10 hours for an hourly burn of 8.6 gallons.  I pulled out the tablet computer and tethered it to my Blackberry for Internet connectivity, making the front seat of the Cessna into a pilot lounge.  I pulled up the NOAA Aviation Weather Center web page and started looking at METARs and TAFs from airports in Philly.  Things did not look promising with winds gusting to 20kts from the north/northwest just as forecast.  The airport I wanted to fly to, Wings (LOM) along with most non-towered fields in the northern Philly area are oriented northeast to southwest making today's wind almost a 90 degree crosswind, not good.  I decided on a three option plan.  I would first try to land at Doylestown, if that did not work I would attempt Wings, if that did not work my fail safe was NE Philadelphia Airport, a Class D airport with wide runways and a runway that favored the northwest winds.  I pulled down a weather brief from DUATS and filed my flight plan on-line.  Williamsport tower gave me runway 9 for takeoff and I headed back into the turbulence but this time with a nice tailwind giving me a ground speed of 130 knots.  I passed within a 1000 feet of a thermaling glider enroute, I guess the wind was good for somebody.  Within a mile of entering Philadelphia's Class B Mode C veil I glanced at my transponder to ensure it was in Mode C.  The knob was turned to ALT but to my surprise the display read SBY.  For a minute I was in a panic, had the transponder malfunctioned?  If so I was not going to be able to reach any airport in the Philly area.  I cycled the transponder off and on and to my relief it came up into Mode C just as I breeched the veil airspace.  I arrived over Doylestown (KDYL) at 2:12 with winds gusting across the field.  My first approach was a wild ride, with the bottom dropping out about 100 feet from the ground.  I had to firewall the throttle to keep from landing short and decided on the go around.  The next approach was not much better with the plane being tossed about by gust all the way down, wind shear had the airspeed needle bouncing with intermittent barks from the stall horn, hardly a stabilized approach.  I decided Doylestown was not going to work and headed to Wings, staying below the Philadelphia Class B shelf at 3000 feet.  (By the way Doylestown Airport has a controllable web cam that you can access here.)  I came into Wings with another 90 degree crosswind but the trees must have shielded the runway because the ride smoothed out once I got within 50 feet of the runway.  I had made it!  Two down and one to go.

My sister Lorna and Madison came to pick me up at the airport and we headed to my brother Doug's house for a few hours to see his new born son Aden before returning and loading up Madison's luggage in the Cessna for the flight home.  The winds had died down considerably and it was looking like a smooth ride home with a light tailwind.  A medical chopper took off from the parking area about 100 feet away while I was pre-flighting the plane and looked as if it would flip the plane over from the rotor downwash.  I had already removed the tie-downs and luckily had not removed the control wheel lock.  The rudder and elevator took a beating but there was no damage of note upon inspection.  Something to be aware of when parking near helicopters.  We took off just after 6PM and headed west out of the Class B airspace before heading south.  We made one landing at Georgetown, DE to complete the third airport requirement.  On the taxi back to the departure runway I noticed several military jets circa 1950s wasting away beside the tarmac.  It's amazing some of the things you find at small country airports.  We continued our journey south passing over Salisbury and crossing the Chesapeake Bay just as the sun set in the west.  We landed back at Langley with calm winds as night settled in.  We landed at 8:18 almost exactly 12 hours from when I took off.  It was a long day to say the least, but one filled with a multitude of flying experiences that will not soon be forgotten.  j

END NOTE:  I have since been reminded that the commercial x-country requirement is a solo requirement per the FAR.  Having taken Madison for the return leg of the flight may have made this flight ineligible to meet the requirement.

[August 1, 2007]
Tour Guide                                                        .9

Took my Dad and Carson for a flight around the local area.  The original plan called for takeoff at 7:30PM and landing at sunset around 8:15PM.  We fell a little behind and ended up taking runway 8 just as the sun went down.  We blasted off to the east in 429FF and skirted the east end of Newport News Class D airspace before flying over the Gloucester Bridge and heading north over the York River.  While the sky was cloudless and winds were light the summer haze was thick which limited horizon visibility.  By the time we over flew Williamsburg it was getting dark.  We passed over the James River and started heading back south along the west bank of the river.  Langley cleared us for r/w 8 and I had a nice greaser of a landing.  Check out the night landing video here.  My Dad seemed pleased with the flight and I'm happy he had the confidence in me to go along for the flight.  I have flown five passengers to this point and no one has complained yet about the pilot's flying or the whole small plane experience.  My intent is to keep it that way! j

[July 26, 2007]
Night X-Country                                               1.7

Flying X-Country at night all by my lonesome.  Another first!  Lifted off from KLFI five minutes prior to EENT and headed over to KPTB for three stop and go's.  Nights are nice because there is little GA traffic out and about.  The air was smooth and I arrived over KPTB precisely one hour after sunset.  While night is defined by the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) as the time between End of evening nautical twilight and the start of  beginning of morning nautical twilight, for currency purposes takeoff and landings must be done between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise when it is good and dark.  Some folks get confused with the FAR currency requirement and think that all night logged hours must be one hour after sunset, but that is simply not the case, just the takeoffs and landings.  KPTB's automated weather reported winds calm so I landed on r/w 23 only to taxi by a windsock clearly favoring r/w 5.  I taxied to the end and took off from r/w 5 to complete two more landings and start back to KLFI.  I have been reading an aviation classic "Weather Flying" by Robert Buck as I get more into trying to better understand weather.  j

[July 22, 2007]
Night Checkout                                               1.5

I am once again night current! j

[June 30-July 1, 2007]
Scud Running                                                  2.5

After delaying my return to Salisbury (SBY) to pick up my son, Carson, for two days I decided the weather was fair enough to make a go at it.  The cold front that had been forecasted to move through the area by Friday night had stalled over top of us leaving low ceilings and isolated thunder storms.  After waiting out a rain cloud that passed over the airport I launched into what should have been 2500 ceilings but soon found myself picking my way through scattered clouds as low as 1500ft.  As I crossed over the bay towards the Cape Charles VOR conditions began to improve and before long I was at 3500 ft heading north towards Salisbury.  Using my XM Weather capable tablet computer I brought up the radar picture and found an isolated thunder storm cell moving slowly towards Salisbury from the west.  I decided to land at Accomack and see how things developed before pressing on.  After an hour the cell had made little progress towards Salisbury and I decided to make a run for Salisbury with a plan B of diverting to Ocean City, 30 miles to the east of Salisbury, if conditions deteriorated.  Out of Accomack I was able to climb to 3500 above the scattered clouds at 2000.  Twelve miles out from Salisbury weather conditions worsened fairly rapidly.  The ceiling came down, visibility dropped and then a light rain picked up, the only good thing was that winds were light.  I was cleared for a straight in approach to r/w 5.  I was seconds away from diverting to Ocean City when the airport came into sight about five miles out.  It was a real relief, the landing was uneventful and I pulled into Bayland Aviation to determine my next course of action.  I had caught the very eastern tip of the cell that was slowly moving to the southeast of Salisbury, if I waited it out it would be around 7PM before it was out of my flight path.  Langley METAR was showing 1600ft ceilings and radar showed several small cells moving towards Langley from the northwest.  I did not want to try getting back into Langley with daylight running out so I called it a day and remained in Salisbury overnight.  The next morning found weather conditions much improved but winds were picking up fast.  With Carson as co-pilot we launched out of Salisbury around 7:40AM.  I activated my flight plan with FSS and called into Norfolk Approach for traffic advisories.  The wind was giving us an excellent tailwind with the GPS clocking a 130kts ground speed.  Norfolk advised me that winds were 010 at 13kts and to expect r/w 8 at Langley.  I started running the numbers in my head and realized that was going to require one heck of a crosswind landing.  I knew Newport News had runways much more favorable to winds out of 010 so I started preparing for plan B in case I could not land at Langley.  I pulled out the runway diagram for Newport News, copied the tower freq, and listened in on their ATIS broadcast.  Mentally I rehearsed crosswind landing procedures along with go-around procedures.  Contacting Langley tower I was given a left base entry to runway 8 and advised winds at 030 at 9kts.  That was a big improvement over the first report and I felt that conditions were now within my skill level.  Coming in to r/w 8 I kept flaps to 20 deg and tacked on an extra 10 knots to keep positive control over the aircraft during the settling in process.  As is usually the case when transitioning from winds aloft to surface winds things get a little squirrelly in the plane.  You get tossed around and the airspeed indicator needle likes to vibrate 10 kts in either direction.  Once into ground effect things calm down considerably as the plane settles.  Tracking the centerline in a slip we hit a small gust that actually raised the plane about 3-4 feet before settling back down.  We touched down and I immediately put the yoke into the wind.  We had made it home in 40 minutes, a new record!  j

[June 23, 2007]
Family Flying                                                    2.4

Eighteen months after receiving my pilot certificate I finally got Christina up in the airplane.  We flew to Salisbury to drop off Carson and pick up Madison.  We had a great flight if not a little rushed because the renter before us got the plane back late and we were racing the clock to return before nightfall.  Carson sat up front and got a little stick time while Christina sat in the back and read her magazine for most of the flight.  On the ground at Salisbury we did a quick hi-bye kid swap and were taxiing back out this time with Christina up front and Madison in the back.  We had a wonderful sunset landing (I do those a lot!).  Madison helped we refuel the plane before we put it to bed for the night.  Chris said she had enjoyed the trip.  I hope this opens the door for more trips in the future!  j

[June 18, 2007]
Birds, Haze, & Raptors                                     2.7

Another full day of learning behind the yoke.  Today's mission was to cross the Chesapeake Bay, practice landings at Accomack (MFV) and then head over to Tangier Island (TGI) for a stamp in the VA Aviation Passport.  From there it would be a short hop to Crisfield, MD (W41) to legally allow me to log the flight time as X-country and to shoot a landing at the shortest runway to date. 

Today was very hot (91F) and humid with no clouds, but plenty of haze with visibility at about 6 miles.  Before heading out I reviewed landing and take off distances of the 172R based on a temp of 35C, as well as short field take off and landing procedures.  All the numbers where well within the parameters of the shortest field on my flight plan.  The high heat’s impact on aircraft performance was evident in the climb out.  I picked up flight following out of Langley and climbed to 5,500 feet for crossing the Chesapeake Bay.  Climbing out the ground slowly disappeared in the haze below and I felt as if I was at 10,000ft not 5,500ft.  Before long I was in the middle of the bay with no shore or horizon visible.  I activated the AutoPilot to maintain straight and level flight but soon found the AP not tracking the HSI heading bug in HDG mode.  I disengaged the AP and hand flew keeping the majority of my attention on the instruments, minimizing distractions, and glancing out for a glimpse of the shoreline.  The coast slowly emerged from the murk and I picked up a northerly heading toward Accomack starting a 500fpm descent.

I conducted a couple of stop and go landings at Accomack before heading out to Tangier Island.  Tangier is a quick hop from Accomack and is covered by a restricted area that limits the ceiling to 3,500 feet.  One mile west of Tangier the restricted area drops to the surface for military operations.  This keeps GA aircraft east of the field.  I flew in at 2,500ft, dropped to 2,000 and over flew the field to scout things out and determine my approach.  With winds calm I decided on a left pattern entry for runway 20.

Tangier’s runway is ratty and uneven with grass growing up through much of the cracks in the runway.  If not repaired soon it will be unusable in a few more years.  Upon landing I bounced two or three times as the plane became airborne every time It hit one of the bumps in the runway.  Not one of my better landings but I was down.  I taxied to the equally neglected ramp and found another Cessna and a Bonanza parked but unattended.  A few people drove by in golf carts but other than that the place was pretty quite.  I headed out on foot to the Town Hall which was located just south of the airfield.  The town hall was nothing more than a small dilapidated one story shack.  The lady attending the desk inside called a man by the name of Don Thorne to bring the aviation passport stamp to the town hall.  I thanked her and waited outside in the stifling heat.  In a few minutes Don pulled up in a green golf cart.  When he arrived he promptly announced that he was going to have me arrested.  I asked “what for?”  He replied with a laugh “for waking me up from my nap!”  I got my VA Passport Stamp for Tangier but not before I was told there was a $5 landing fee.  This was the first time anyone tried to collect a landing fee from me and of all the fields I have landed at this was the last one I would pay money to land at.

I performed a short field take off from Tangier in an attempt to limit my exposure to the poor runway surface.  The Bonanza took off behind me and looked to head right into the restricted area, not sure if he knew something I did not, but he said he was heading back to Washington DC so who knows what strings he could pull. 

On my approach to Crisfield I encountered several turkey buzzards circling in my approach path.  I had to increase power to climb and avoid them which then required a steep descent to regain the proper glide path for runway 32.  At about 200ft I realized I was trying to salvage an un-stabilized approach to a short runway and initiated a go-around.  Unicom was on the radio asking if I needed fuel or anything before she went home for the day (it was almost 5PM), I said negative to the fuel and asked about current winds as I was unable to ID the fields wind sock on my fly over.  She reported no winds so I decided to switch up runways to avoid the birds.   I made a low approach into runway 14 dragging the plane in to touch down on the first few hundred feet of runway, quickly raising the flaps, and laying on the brakes, finally able to back taxi with only a few hundred feet of runway left.

Departing out of Crisfield I climbed up to 2500 feet and headed back into the haze crossing over the Pocomoke Sound towards Accomack.  Somewhere between Crisfield and Accomack I lost 1000 feet of altitude in such a gradual way that I did not even realize it until calling for Traffic Advisories and being told in a very tactful way that I was being tracked around 1500ft.  The controller asked me to reset my transponder and see if that would correct the problem which I complied with as I climbed back up to 2500 after realizing my problem.  At the time I thought maybe I had never climbed to 2500 feet after leaving Crisfield but when I reviewed the GPS data at home that evening it was apparent that I had indeed climbed to 2500 and then lost 1000 feet over the course of two minutes while out in the murky haze.  Even with visual contact of the ground, haze makes things look further away than they actually are and in this case making landfall did not help me realize what had happened. 

Crossing the bay once again with no horizon required me to fly almost entirely by instruments save for an occasional vessel on the water.  I was definitely on the edge of my comfort level but not in over my head.  I could feel movement sensations providing false signals to my body but I ignored them and fixated on my attitude indicator keeping the a/c level, on course, and on altitude.  With Norfolk providing traffic advisories I was not worried about bumping into anything in the murk.  Norfolk had me descend to 2,000ft and then provided a vector to steer me towards home.  F-22 Raptors were in the pattern preparing to land at Langley when Norfolk finally handed me off to the tower, several Raptors crossed above and in front of me.  The Raptors were placed on hold as the tower gave me priority to land on r/w 26.  This was a change from the norm.  It was a good flight, lots of radio work, short field landings and takeoffs, new airfields, and a little limited visibility flying to sharpen skills. j

[June 6, 2007]
Summer Flying Season Kick Off                       2.5

I think the good weather is finally here to stay so its time to start logging some hours.  Having flown so few hours over the last five months I headed out around 6PM to my favorite stomping grounds, Dinwiddie Airport, for some landing practice .  I flew four stop and go's and one go-around with no other traffic in the pattern, had the whole airport to myself just the way I like it.  With the sun slowing setting in the west I flew over to Wakefield for a full stop landing to grab a stamp for my Virginia Aviation Passport.  Wakefield was a ghost town as well.  I took off out of Wakefield around 8PM and decided to tool around on the west side of the James River to kill some time so I could land at Langley just as the sun was setting.  Sun set if obviously a very scenic time to fly and I enjoyed this particular sunset very much as I listened to the sound track of One Six Right being pumped through the Cessna's intercom system.  I practiced a 360 degree steep turn at 45 degrees bank (check out the vid here) and slow flight getting the plane down to a ground speed of 45 knots with the stall horn blaring.  I then headed over to Smithfield and descended down to 1000 ft to over fly the marshlands and the west bank of the James before crossing the river and heading back to Langley for a dusk landing that ended with the sweet sound of the Cessna's gear chirping as they contacted terra firma.  Happy flying!  j

[May 29, 2007]
Flight in a Waco Biplane


 Chris and I spent a much needed vacation in Key West Florida this week.  Of course I could not pass up the opportunity to take a short hop in a Waco open cockpit biplane!  I somehow convinced Christina to go along, her first flight in a small plane, that's right she has not agreed to fly with me yet!  It was pretty funny when we walked into the little office for the flight company and Chris asks the young guy manning the desk if the pilot has a lot of flying hours in the bipe.  He responds yes and asks if we are ready to go and takes us out to the plane.  It is then that Chris realizes that the young guy who looks like he is 20 IS THE PILOT.  I wish I had taken a picture of Chris' face when she found that out.  She ended up enjoying the flight and I now have a great argument that I make at least once every few days, "So you will go flying with some 20 year old kid in a 60 year old open cockpit airplane but you won't go up with me in a Cessna 172."  Of course you and I know this "kid: is a commercial pilot with probably ten times the flight time that I have but Chris' doesn't know that and it is great fun to tease.  Video of take off and landing here! j

[May 21-25, 2007]
Air Force Museum, Dayton and Batavia, Ohio.

Yes I visited and frequently order from the Great Satan of all FBOs...Sporty's Pilot Shop.  Let me give you a word of advice if you plan to visit Sporty's Batavia, Ohio headquarters, don't.  I was very disappointed to find the merchandise store inside to be the size of a living room.  If you want to make a purchase you look in the catalog, fill out a form, and the girl at the counter calls it into the warehouse.  I can look at the catalog at home!  Anywho I felt compelled to make a purchase so I bought "Multi Engine Pilot Flight Maneuvers" by Brad Deines.  Now there is a bright side to this story.  At Batavia we stumbled across a little museum tucked away on the other side of the airport called The Tri-State Warbird Museum.  This little gem had six military aircraft immaculately restored with work on-going at the site on a Corsair.


[May 5, 2007]
BFR                                                                     1.7

I took my biennial flight review today.  Weather was marginal with a solid stratus ceiling at 4000 feet, winds light, and rain forecasted for later in the day.  We took off and headed west with a light sprinkle greeting us on climb out, we leveled off at 2500 feet and went no higher the rest of the flight.  As we crossed over the James River it looked as if conditions were deteriorating farther west with visibility down to about 5 miles.  We decided to spend time on some PTS maneuvers and wait and see how the weather developed.  We started with a power off stall, and then a power on stall.  I was able to get the Cessna to fully stall both times and she stalled straight ahead with no tendency to drop a wing.  I moved under the hood for instrument work next, flying headings, conducting climbing and descending turns, and finally working on one minute standard rate turns using just the turn coordinator and the digital clock.  The latter maneuver is to be used by a VFR pilot who inadvertently flies into a cloud and needs to turn around and get the heck out.  By the time I came out from under the hood we were only five miles from the airport we had decided prior to the flight to practice landings and takeoffs at.  Somehow we had picked our way through the weather and conditions appeared to improve slightly.  We overflew the field at 2000 feet so I could get my bearings.  Winds were reported as calm on the AWOS but a nearby smoke stack showed winds out of the east so I choose runway 9 and entered the pattern of the non-towered field.  We conducted a normal landing, then back taxied for a short field takeoff.  By then a Cessna announced he was taxing from the ramp to runway 9.  A Piper reported he was inbound from the west.  This is typical for me, I usually show up at a field and it's a ghost town, by the time I leave it's as busy as Atlanta.  If you need traffic at your airport give me a call, I guarantee within 15 minutes of my arrival your pattern will be full of airplanes!  The next landing was a short field, by this time the other Cessna was holding short and ready for takeoff.  I brought the plane to a complete stop and I thought we would move off onto the first taxiway.  The CFI took control of the airplane by stating "I'll take the airplane", I respond "You have the airplane", he responds "I have the airplane."  This procedure is done in the air and on the ground and ensures that it is understood by all who has positive control of the airplane at all times.  He proceeded to turn 180 and back taxi down the runway.  This was a little rude considering the other Cessna was holding short for takeoff and I was waiting for him to blast us on the radio when I noticed the alternating landing lights of the Piper on a straight in final approach directly in front of us.  "You see that Piper coming at us?" I asked the CFI, he responded "I see him, nice landing lights."  So here we are back taxing on the runway with another plane on short final coming right at us and our only paved exit blocked by another plane patiently waiting to take off....hmmm how are we getting out of this?  Well the CFI shoe horns us into a small piece of pavement just off to the left side of the threshold and announces over the radio his intentions to sit tight until everyone else sorts this mess out.  The Piper lands and clears the runway, the Cessna taxies into position on the runway, my CFI pulls us out of our cubby hole and pulls in behind the Cessna on the runway.  This is another new one for me and I am half expecting that we are now going to execute a Thunderbird's formation takeoff.  It can't get any crazier at this point.  The Cessna ahead starts his roll and takes off.  I get control back of the airplane and am told to conduct a soft field takeoff which I do but climb a little too high out of ground effect before leveling off to gain air speed before starting the true climb out.  The CFI states "I'm happy so let's head home."  I ask if I can go back under the hood to log additional instrument time which he allows.  As we near the airport he tells me I no longer need the hood.  When I remove it visibility is down to 3 miles but we are able to get into the airport before visibility sinks below VFR.  Every flight is interesting and this one was no exception.  My BFR was signed off and I am ready to start logging some more hours in the coming weeks on what hopefully will be some memorable cross-country flights. j

[May 2, 2007]
Virginia Aviation Safety Week                                               

Coming Soon. j


[March 10, 2007]
March Crosswinds                                                2.2

Spent a few hours getting tossed around as I practiced PTS and did a touch-n-go at Emporia just for the x-country time.  Not a whole lot of fun, probably why I don't do a lot of flying in late winter, early spring.  Landing in a 12 knot crosswind at Langley made things interesting but touchdown was almost textbook.  I have my yearly Aero Club checkout at the end of the month, I think I'll stick to the simulator until then. j

[February 27, 2007]
Iraq/Kuwait Recon

Just got back from two weeks in Iraq/Kuwait to conduct a reconnaissance for an upcoming deployment.  Of course any trip half way around the world requires a lot of flying and I got my fill.  The flight to Kuwait via Ramstein, Germany was on a chartered Boeing 767.  Pretty uneventful flight.  After a few days in Kuwait we boarded a Japanese C-130 H model for the hop into Iraq.  The Japanese paint their C-130’s a baby blue color, between the paint scheme and the big red meatball on the side of the fuselage there is no mistaking who the plane belongs to.  The back ramp slowly opened up as if a large beast preparing to swallow its unsuspecting prey.  We clambered aboard while a few old paratroopers mentioned having many take-offs in a C-130 but very few landings.  I can count five such trips myself back in January of 1991.  No matter what country you are from airplanes and the procedures that go with them cross all cultural boundaries.  The two loadmasters methodically went thru their checklist as a forklift loaded the baggage pallet onto the aircraft’s back deck.  I sat on the left inboard side of the plane near the jump door.  Not much to see on the flight out as the C-130 only has a few port hole style windows in the cargo area.  The flight lasted about 45 minutes, as we passed over the border into Iraq we were told to done our ballistic protection vest (flak vest) and helmets.  Both loadmasters stayed glued to the rear windows looking for any tell tale signatures of a man portable AA missile launch.  We landed at an undisclosed location with a last second side step to a parallel runway.  The pilot laid on the breaks so hard you could smell burnt rubber in the cargo hold.  I never did find out why the pilot side stepped at the last moment.  We stayed at the air base for several days before completing our mission and heading back to the dilapidated old dusty shack that served as the Air Force’s passenger terminal.  The flight back was booked on an Army C-23 Sherpa.  The Sherpa is essentially a box with wings and two turboprop engines.  The engineers who designed the plane are not going to get any awards in the beauty category and I have to say it is the ugliest plane I have ever laid eyes on.  For those who have served in the Army this probable comes as no surprise.  The only redeeming quality of the Sherpa is that it has lots of windows so passengers can get some sense of what is going on outside the plane.  We back taxied the length of the runway and started our take off roll.  Within a few thousand feet we were off but we only climbed to about 100 feet off the ground and then proceeded to fly-nap of the earth for about 15 minutes.  It was a pretty amazing sight to behold as the desert wiped by our windows almost so close you could touch it.  I think we surprised more than a few Bedouins who I could literally see the white’s of their eyes and gaping jaws as we roared over them.  You can check out the video of the flight here.   I have all the respect in the world for the skill of those Army pilots.  After about 15 minutes we climbed out steeply to our cruise altitude for the remainder of the flight back to Kuwait.  We greased the landing back at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait and the most exciting part of my entire trip came to an end.  For the return trip from Kuwait City International Airport we flew commercial on the Dutch KLM Airbus 330-200.  We landed in Amsterdam about seven hours later, an airport I have been to before and one that is truly international with the sight of Boeing 747s a common occurrence.  From Amsterdam we boarded a Delta Boeing 767 for the trip across the pond, landing at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport (the world’s busiest airport) before hopping on an Embraer 145 regional for the short one hour hop to our final destination.  Total in-transit time from Kuwait to Virginia with stops was 24 hours.  I really dread the journey but I love the planes! j


[February 11, 2007]
10,500FT in a Cessna 172R, 100HR Milestone     2.7

Felt good to get back in the air after almost two months of very little flying.  I had a laundry list of things I wanted to accomplish on this flight.  First and foremost was passing the milestone of 100 logged hours.  Second was completing 40 hours of cross country Pilot in Command (PIC) time.  Why 40 hours of cross country time?  I am planning on attending a 7 day Instrument Rating school after returning from deployment next year and you must have completed 40 hours of x-country before attending the course.  The FAA requires 50 hours of logged x-country time as a pre-req for the instrument rating.  The school will get you 10 hours, but you have to come with the other 40 completed.  So mark that off the To-Do list!  If you are looking to gain higher pilot ratings and someday flying commercially I highly recommend examining the requirements needed now and working off as many as you can in your recreational flying as you build hours.  It will save you money in the long run and keeps you from burning holes in the sky just for the sake of burning holes in the sky.  For example, the Commercial Pilot rating requires a cross country flight of 300 miles.  In May I will fly VFR to Ohio with my Dad to visit the Air Force Museum.  The flight is 390 miles one way and will count towards the requirement even though it will be a few years before I tackle the CP rating.  Make every flight count!

Next on my To-Do list was experiencing the Cessna 172Rs performance near its service ceiling of 13,500ft.  My goal was 10,500ft and today was perfect for the attempt.  No clouds and the air was cold and thick, perfect for max performance from the Lycoming O-360 engine.  At 80kts I made about 500 fpm climb.  I went past 7000 then 8000 then 9000ft with little loss in performance.  I continued to lean out the engine as I progressed.  The Outside Air Temp (OAT) remained fairly constant at 23F.  Only at 10,000ft did the rate of climb begin to diminish to about 400fpm.  Once on top of the world, two miles above the earth, I cruised along for about 10 minutes.  I could feel the difference in breathing the thinner air.  I wanted to document the feat with a photograph but found my camera battery missing, still at home sitting in the charger!  About 30 miles from my destination I started down practicing some forward slips giving me descent rates of 1000fpm and making my ear’s pop.

I did a practice touch and go at Dinwiddie before moving on to Chesterfield.  Both airports were packed with GA traffic.  Apparently everyone else was taking advantage of the good (but cold) weather as well.  I flew a bomber pattern over Chesterfield before landing on r/w 15.  I shut down and got an aviation passport stamp before sitting down and assessing the flight so far and identifying things to work on.  It was apparent that two months was too long to not fly as my patterns were sloppy and my landings were not as precise as I would like.  I decided to focus on those items on the return to Langley.

Departing Chesterfield I returned to Dinwiddie to find things quieter than my previous visit.  Before entering the pattern I experimented with different pitch and power settings that would allow me to fly the pattern at 80kts with 10 degree of flaps.  I found 1700rpm worked the best.  With airspeed in check and the plane already partly configured for landing I found I could fly a tighter pattern and stabilize prior to short final whereas before I would enter the pattern at 100kts and would spend a good portion of the downwind trying to get the plane slowed down and partial flaps in.  The landings became much smoother and things started to gel.   I did three touch and go’s before departing the pattern back to Langley.

Next months flights will focus on fundamental maneuvers as I prepare for my annual Aero Club checkride at the end of March.  Oh I forgot to mention I also flew my radio controlled F6F Hellcat for the first time today.  Flew like a dream, very nice airplane.  You can view a picture of this plane in the Radio Control section of this web site. j


[January 12, 2007]
Flying the Diamond Katana 100                              1.3

Happy New Year!  I went out to KCPK today to familiarize myself with the Diamond DA-20 Katana 100.  This has been on my to-do list for some time so I took advantage of a day off at work to get this done.  The DA-20 is an interesting little training aircraft.  Its a composite built airframe with a Rotax 912S 4-cylinder engine under the hood.  It has a water cooling system, variable pitch prop, control stick instead of a yoke, and self regulating carburetor so there is no mixture control.  The nose wheel is not steerable and the seats are built into the airframe so instead of moving the seat forward to the controls you move the rudder pedals towards you.  Craig was my CFI and he was great to work with.  We sat down and discussed the differences in the airplane before going out and walking thru a preflight on N53HA.  Pretty standard preflight procedures.  We got in and started the engine, flipped on the avionics switch, and found my personal headset receiving radio traffic but not intercom.  Craig fiddled with the controls for awhile before swapping headphone jacks with me which solved the problem.  I immediately struggled with steering the aircraft using differential breaking.  I don't think I ever had my feet positioned correctly because my toes were always encountering resistance from above the pedal when pressing on the brakes.  I slowly made progress with the brakes and we made it over to the run-up area.  Two Cessna's were already there and two aircraft were in the pattern, pretty busy for a little airport in the middle of no where!  We went thru run-up procedures and taxied over to the hold short line.  We must have waited a good 10 minutes as plane after plane came in on final for r/w 23.  Finally we were able to squeeze in and take off.  Lifting off in the Katana was a new experience it was more like going up in an elevator.  With very little back pressure on the stick the DA-20 lifted off and rose into the air.  I had full forward visibility and felt like the plane was more in a level attitude and not a nose high climb attitude that I am use to in the Cessna's.

We leveled off at 2500 feet and went into PTS maneuvers, first slow flight with turns and climbs, then on to a power off stall and then a power on stall and finally a simulated engine out before returning to the airport for a standard landing on r/w 23.  The attitude indicator had been removed from the airplane for service so steep turns and simulated instrument were out of the question.  Landing was not as hard as I imaged though I did round out a little early causing us to drop onto the runway from about 4 feet or so.  Rounding out at the proper height requires very little landing flare which is great for me since I land fairly flat in the Cessna.

Overall I was impressed with the Katana.  It is very responsive to stick movement, the throttle maybe a little too much!  It's slicker in the air due to its contoured composite airframe so its small 100hp engine will get you cruising beyond the Cessna's standard 105kts with little effort.  The view from the bubble canopy and low wing configuration was outstanding.  On the downside the aircraft does have a feel of "cheapness" to it, it does not feel or look as rugged as a Cessna.  You can only seat two and storage area is limited to an area behind the pilot's head.

Craig said I did very well and that one more flight would get me checked-out in the Katana.  It was a lot to digest in one day but now the foundation of familiarity is there so building on it by chair flying the procedures for the Katana and reinforcing "switchology" through an FS2004 Katana simulator will allow me to be at the top of my game for the next flight which is currently TBD.  Not sure how often I will rent the aircraft considering its a good 45 minute drive to get to KCPK but it definitely is a change of pace from the Cessna and one I may partake in every now and then. j

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